2 ways to deal

There are two ways to deal with a cold Monday with a broken computer, a sick husband, and a general presence of grumpiness.

The first:


Or this:


Just dance, people. It’ll warm you up!

It’s also the anniversary of Lucy first pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Coincidence it falls on a Monday? I. Think. Not! (Well, actually, it is a coincidence, it just seems very appropriate today.)



I can do this?

MTG has been ill since Thursday evening, but this was a softball tourney weekend, plus the regular stuff, and we had a craft date with friends, so I did some extra hustling. And we realized after the 30 minute drive home that we forgot the fancy (and not ours) camera at the ball park last night, so that was fun drive back while praying hard that the park gate hadn’t been locked already. It wasn’t, thank you, Jesus.

I also have two hard deadlines tomorrow and really ought to get school stuff together for tomorrow so my children can be educated. Plus I have to go over The Iliad books 13 through 16 with the girls tonight, a.k.a. two days after I was scheduled to do it. We’re already ridiculously off schedule. Then there’s the other stuff: the cleaning and organizing and making appointments and paying bills and general stuff of life that must be done.  I can do this. No problem.


If you need me, you’ll find me  curled into a ball, weeping. At least in my head.


I wish I were a dog. Or at least had a dog’s life. Or this dog’s life, anyway.

Snuggled Jack

Chain, unbroken. Also: to-do list, uncompleted; school work, ungraded; body, unbathed; and house, uncleaned. But the #%*! chain is unbroken.

Fine Arts Friday: Dark, beautiful, and cold

Astronomy is one of our families hobbies, and tonight we’re going star watching with a group of middle school students, so I thought I’d share some of the resources we’ll be using to take them on a tour of the night sky and sky-watching tools in general. (Note: if I don’t post after this, know that I froze to death tonight.)

We’ll have a couple of telescopes and some binoculars for the kids to look through, but one of the great things about astronomy is that you don’t have to have the special equipment to start. You just have to have some patience, a spot away from bright lights, and a head that swivels up. Actually, if you don’t have that last one, you can lie on your back and you’ll be set. Want to know what you’ll see when you look up? Skymaps publishes free monthly star maps that show what you’ll see shortly after sunset. It lists the things you can see with a telescope, with binoculars, and with the visible eye. At the top right of the map, you’ll find the time the map is valid. For November, it’s 8pm at the beginning of the month and 7pm at the end of the month. It’s for 40° N, and we’re about 7 degrees further south, so it’s not exact, but it’s a good place to start.

For the exact view of your own personal night sky, Stellarium is a perfect tool. Actually, Stellarium is my favorite astronomy tool, period. It’s a free(!) computer program that you can set to your location. It has various tools, including the sky lore of many cultures. It’s easy to use and you can adjust the time so that you know what to look for if, for example, you want to watch the Leonids peak Monday and Tuesday night.

Stellarium also has a phone app, which I have come to prefer over Google Sky Maps, which is great in theory. It is suppose to be a “point your phone at the sky and the GPS coordinates will show you exactly what you’re looking at.” Unfortunately, it tends to be off just enough so as to not be helpful unless you know what you’re looking at already, and then what’s the point? Far better to know your cardinal position and become familiar with noticeable stellar landmarks.

Stellarium nov 14

With a good sky map or Stellarium, you can usually find your way around the sky from there. And every time you find a new star or galaxy or constellation, you’ve added to your own personal toolbox of landmarks. For example, the five visible planets are usually easy to spot. Mars is the only one currently visible in the evening sky, but the students will easily be able to spot the red planet setting in the Western Sky at around 7 pm. Jupiter is visible before dawn. Venus–both the evening and morning stars depending on her mood, er position–is currently indisposed, but she’ll be back in the evening sky in December.

Once you start looking up, you’ll find you want to know more. Fortunately, astronomers are incredibly generous with their knowledge (see: Stellarium) and there are more free resources than you can shake a stick at. I subscribe to the Earth and Sky newsletter and get a head’s up on what’s up for that night and instructions on how to find particular stars. I found another great tool for beginning stargazers, the One Minute Astronomer. He has a free book(let) to get you started on reading star maps.

In addition to finding a few stars and constellations tonight, we’ll tell the students where they can watch for the Leonids meteor shower when they peak Monday night and Tuesday morning. (Mom! I have to stay up past midnight! It’s for science!) The Leonids “come from” the constellation Leo, which will be in the Eastern sky. You don’t actually have to know where Leo is to watch for meteors, just look Easterly. Earth and Sky has a great article on viewing tips for the Leonids.

Happy stargazing!

Screw your courage to the sticking place

My friend Erika Franz tipped me off to this amazing video series, C.S. Lewis Doodle.  (The embedding feature is disabled. Do check it out.) I haven’t watched them all yet, but I’m impressed with with what I’ve seen so far in the two from The Screwtape Letters. Those videos use the amazing radio theater production, which is now on my wishlist.

Which made me think of my favorite quote from Screwtape and one of my favorite quotes of all Lewis’s works.

Courage lewis

The full quote is even more powerful, and more challenging:

 “This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world–a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”

 We are all “good” until the rubber meets the road. Then we find out who the righteous really are.

Memory endures

Are you a fox or a hedgehog? A fox knows many things and a hedgehog knows one thing well.  My grandfather was a foxy hedgehog. Or maybe a hedgehoggy fox. He had a wide variety of hobbies and interest, and he did them all well. He was a photographer, a genealogist, a gardener, a collector of cameras and books and other items, a candy maker, a poet, and Santa Claus. He sang folk songs and told stories. He volunteered at his church and in his community, and loved and supported his family.

Forget hedgehog or a fox, he was a just great man.


How great a man? He grew cotton in his backyard in Odessa, Texas. That great.

Grandpa Woolf would have turned 83 today. I miss many days, but I miss him a lot today. My grandfather made candy every Christmas, from pecan pralines to Martha Washingtons, and of course fudge. So in honor of him, we made fudge.

grandpa birthday

My grandfather has been gone more than  six years now. Although my girls knew him, the boys didn’t have that opportunity. That’s one of the hardest things about missing him: that they won’t know what they’re missing. But I sing them the same songs, tell the same stories, and share the same faith so that they will learn of him now and recognize him on that forever day that we meet again.

Happy birthday, Grandpa. Thank you for the legacy of fudge and songs and love.

They all said yes

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for the military family reunion videos. I tear up every time. One of my most vivid memories is of my brother holding his six-week-old daughter for the first time. If for no other reason than the fact that they are separated from their family and friends in order to provide for our defense, we owe veterans and military members our thanks. But of course, they do more than just leave their homes. They put themselves in harms way so that their homes–our homes– might remain safe.

There is a tendency by a certain segment of the population to get a bit huffy on Veteran’s Day. They begrudge the attention and the “hero worship” as they dub it given to the men and women who stand in defense of our country. A hero denotes something extraordinary, and so yes, I grant you that military service alone doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a hero. But their ranks include some the most heroic people ever to walk the earth. And if you want to find a hero, you’ll certainly be more likely to find one among a group of vets than almost any other group of people I can think of.

But the percentage of heroes isn’t really the point of Veteran’s Day or honoring veterans in general. The reason that we honor our veterans is that they all said “Yes” when asked to stand in defense of their country and countrymen. We recognize their sacrifice–of leaving home and family, putting themselves in harms way, losing friends and sometimes limbs.

I also admire veterans because they have been through a crucible and come out stronger. If you look at organizations like Team Rubicon, you can see not only the skills that have been developed through their service, but the character and passion that are channeled into their communities when they leave the service. For many veterans, their service gave them something extra–a something they pour back into their communities for all of our benefit.

If they had just left family and friends in order to serve, that would be enough reason to say thank you.

If they had just stepped up to a job whose inherent definition is “possibility of being killed or seriously injured,” that would be enough to say thank you.

If they had just pushed themselves to become the finest fighting force the world has ever known in defense of our country, that would be enough to say thank you.

If they had just served their time and then returned home to quietly build families, communities, and a country, that would be enough to say thank you.

But they’ve done all that and more. And so for all of these reasons, we owe veterans our gratitude and respect. So thank you. I can’t say it enough and the words are rather inadequate in comparison to all you’ve done, but thank you.

Proving the saying true

Marine Corps Memorial Inscription

The saying is “There’s no such thing as an ex-Marine.” I’ve had the privilege of knowing several retired Marines, but I’ve never met an ex-Marine.

Major “Fox” Sinke proved that saying true when he went to stand guard at the National War Memorial in Canada where Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was killed on October 22.

According to The Marine Corps Times,

“Sinke is a decorated veteran who did tours in Vietnam and received five Purple Hearts. When Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian service member, was shot and killed last month while guarding Canada’s war memorial, Sinke felt obligated to honor the fallen hero.

“The murder of the young Cpl. Cirillo was so despicable and craven that I just couldn’t find it within myself to do nothing,” said Sinke, a dual Canadian-American citizen.

So Sinke, who lives in Canada, donned his Marine uniform and sword and went to the memorial to stand guard on Friday. He told local media that he came to pay tribute to fallen comrade in arms and he wanted to show that Canadians will not be intimidated.”

Happy birthday, Marines. God bless you.

Happily celebrating destruction


I was fifteen when the Berlin Wall fell. I remember watching the newscasts. At least I think I remember watching, maybe I’m remembering watching them in school after the event. But I’m pretty sure I watched it on the evening news. Everybody watched the evening news in those days, if you can believe that. My high school years saw the end of the cold war and the beginning of U.S. Wars in the Middle East.  Actually, the high point of my political formation includes the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square, the first Gulf War and the first World Trade Center attacks–a rather volatile period. No wonder I think we’re all doomed.

The phrase “Berlin Wall” brings to mind the image of one wall–albeit a large and imposing one. But “the wall” was actually three walls, guard towers, and other barriers that kept a city imprisoned for 28 years. A veritable no-man’s land between communism and freedom. (About 200 people died trying to escape over the wall to West Berlin. None died trying to go the other way.) Twenty-five years later, the wall has been down almost as long as it was up, but the effects of that long separation remain. The Washington Post published a series of maps that show the differences that remain between East and West. I wonder if this will be a permanent cultural separation. Slavery and oppression have a deeper and more lasting impact than I think we want to admit.

berlin demographics

But today we celebrate the triumph of freedom, and pray for it to succeed everywhere in the world.


A PSA to big brothers and sisters everywhere.

Be kind to your younger siblings.

Do not make them ride in the hatchback of your 1985 Mustang.

Do not go along with your friends when they tell your kid sister she was a Cabbage Patch Kid my parents bought for me who came to life, and we couldn’t return her to the store.

When they dress up in Wonder Woman Underoos and cowboy boots and close their eyes and cover their ears and spin around singing “Wonder Woman!” at the top of their lungs, do not consider it free entertainment for you and your friends.

Why? Because they’ll post this on your Facebook page.

civil war weeping angels

Thanks a lot, sis. I’m never blinking again.

In related news, Think Geek hates Christmas.

An in related related news, my sister is really adorable, and I love her, despite her Facebook cruelty.

(For all my non-geek readers, a short explanation of the Angels. Spoilerish if you think you’ll ever watch Doctor Who.)

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