Barbara's Random Thoughts

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How do YOU arrange your books?

I'm going to be a book geek for a minute here. Humor me.

I really enjoyed this post from Sheila as well as the article she linked about arranging and displaying your books. I love this passage from the article:

An alphabetical arrangement, especially for poetry, seems unsatisfactory. I become rather sentimental as I arrange the books. I recall a good conversation I had with my father about Whitman and DH Lawrence, so I put these two next to each other. I remember a wonderful essay by John Bayley comparing The Eve of Saint Agnes with The Dead, so I put Joyce and Keats side by side. After Saul Bellow died, a friend told me she had put my novels next to Saul's in her bookcase, to help him rest in peace. It was the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me. Another friend organises her bookshelves according to which authors she believes would have liked each other best. But that kind of ordering, for me, feels wildly presumptuous.
I love the idea of arranging books according to author compatibility! I once split my fiction collection into separate shelves for classic and contemporary because there were some hilarious author juxtapositionings that I just could not let stand.

Isn’t it in High Fidelity where the John Cusak character obsessively reorganizes his albums over and over according to different organizing schemes? Sometimes I feel like that about my books. Every once in a while, I just have to reorganize under new guidelines. Usually because my collection outgrows the shelves, but this always leads to new organizing principles.

My current organizational principle is alphabetical by author within category/genre. (Well, except for the hardbacks lined up on top of a couple of bookshelves, which are arranged more by size and weight in order to keep them from falling off the ends. And my corner bookshelf is purely arranged for looks.) I have one bookshelf devoted to children’s books, one for classic fiction, one for contemporary fiction, and one with a shelf each for Biblical/Christian living books, poetry/drama/short stories, and lit anthologies/other textbooks. There are also random other smaller categories with a shelf of their own within the above bookshelves: fantasy/sci-fi resides on the bottom shelf below contemporary fiction. Books I intend(ed) to read this year have the top shelf above contemporary fiction. Biography & random nonfiction has its own shelf below classic fiction. And I have various hardbacks scattered here & there around the house because they look nice.

Some of my divisions are completely arbitrarily designated. Classic fiction, for my shelving purposes, is defined by anything pre-1950. I decided on this date purely because dividing it this way allowed for the right number of books to fit on the shelves I wanted to put them on. And there are books that can be categorized in different ways, so those get shuffled back and forth between categories according to my space needs. The Chronicles of Narnia, the Green-sky trilogy, The Dark is Rising books--all can go under either children’s or fantasy, the two categories I find myself blurring most often.

I also confess to something else the article comments on: I totally check out other people’s bookshelves. I love seeing what books people own, because I feel like it tells a lot about a person--for good or ill. Sometimes I have to be careful to not be a literary snob and jump to conclusions about people’s lack of books or their ownership of certain books. (I remember wondering about Sonia when I saw she owned the Left Behind series. Heehee.) And I feel I've found a kindred spirit when I peruse someone's shelf and recognize books I’ve read, books I’ve been meaning to read, other books by authors I already love.

All this reminds me of the opening pages of Calvino's If on a winter’s night a traveler, where he talks about making your way through a bookshop...oh, shoot, I'll just quote it because I love it: have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven't Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn't Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages,
the Books You've Been Hunting For Years Without Success,
the Books Dealing With Something You're Working On At The Moment,
the Books You Want To Own So They'll Be Handy Just In Case,
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.

Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time To Reread and the Books You've Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It's Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.

And he goes on, but I'll stop here.
| posted by Barbara | 11:18 PM |

Face transplant

This really kind of creeps me out. (And it also reminds me a bit of a character in the Thursday Next novels.)
| posted by Barbara | 7:52 PM |

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Have you ever?

I've seen a lot of these "have you ever" memes floating around, but I had fun with this one, so I'm posting it. (Found here.)

Smoked a cigarette or tried it: No. But I have an amusing picture of me holding a friend's cigarette in such a way that it looks like it's mine and I'm ready to take a drag.
Crashed a friend's car: No, just my own.
Stolen a car: No.
Been dumped: No.
Shoplifted: No.
Been fired /laid off: No. Wow, all these no's are getting boring.
Been in a fist fight:, but I remember punching a boy in the stomach when I was in primary school. Oh, wait, two boys, on separate occasions. Sadly, I can't remember why.
Snuck out of your parents' house: Nope. Snuck in, perhaps, after curfew, but not snuck out. =)
Been arrested: Nope.
Gone on a blind date: Kind of.
Lied to a friend: Yeah, probably.
Skipped school: I was home schooled through high school, so this only really applies to college for me. Still, I never skipped a class until my 4th year of college, and that was so I could help Laurie when she was freaking out about her Seminar presentation. Ah, English Seminar.
Seen someone die: No.
Been to Canada: Yes.
Been to Mexico: Yes. I think.
Eaten Sushi: Yes.
Met someone in person from the internet: Haha...kind of. Does bubbs count as "the internet"? If so, then: David and Julie.
Taken pain-killers: Yep.
Had a tea party: Does it count if it was a tea party with dolls when I was little?
Cheated while playing a game: I always used to cheat when playing solitaire with real cards. So unethical of me. I just couldn't be bothered to re-deal the game when I got stuck. I was only cheating myself!
Fallen asleep at work: Um, no.
Used a fake ID: Nope.
Felt an earthquake: Of course! My family moved to La Mirada just before the big Whittier quake in 1987. Welcome to California! I always thought earthquakes were fun when I was a kid.
Touched a snake: Yes.
Been robbed: Not really, though I had to cancel my credit card earlier this year due to a mysterious string of charges that were not mine.
Petted a reindeer/goat: Yes. Isn't that what petting zoos are for?
Won a contest: Yep. I won 2nd place for a story-writing competition in top year at St. Audrey's (can't be bothered to figure out what American grade-level that translates to). Won 2nd place for a piano competition once...5th or 6th grade, I think. And 2nd place for a poetry competition in grad school. I see a pattern forming here...
Been suspended from school: No.
Been in a car accident: Yes, two--one as a passenger, one as the driver (I rear-ended someone and totally took out the front end of my car, while the other car was fine. That led to a car-less summer for me. Very sad.) As a side note, my former car (the Geo) has been in two accidents without me--it got hit twice while parked. Poor, departed Geo.
Had braces: Nope.
Eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night: Nope. I'd be far more inclined to eat a ton of salty-type snacky stuff!
Witnessed a crime: I don't think so.
Swam in the ocean: Of course!
Sung karaoke: I think the only time was in jr. high, at Forest Home one summer, together with a bunch of girls from my cabin.
Paid for a meal with only coins: No, but I have paid for stuff at K-Mart with only coins. Late night trip to Super-K, accompanied by Heather and her piggy bank. That was awesome.
Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose: Heh, no, but my brother tried to remedy that this weekend. He was unsuccessful.
Been kissed under mistletoe: Nope.
Crashed a party: Does Biola's senior banquet count? In '98, Kristy was graduating and I was not. I went to the senior banquet anyway. Another friend was SO annoyed with me. She wasn't graduating either, and her date PAID for her to go...but I just showed up and walked in with Kristy, and no-one cared. That night was so much fun! Kristy, remember kidnapping Tim?
Worn pearls: Yes.
Jumped off a bridge: Nope.
Ate dog/cat food: Heehee. Yes, when I was really little. My mom tells this story about being on the phone, watching helplessly from just out of reach as the cat went after the meat defrosting on the counter, and I went after the cat food.
Kissed a mirror: Nope.
Glued your hand to something: No.
Done a one-handed cartwheel: No.
Talked on the phone for more than 6 hours: Nope. I've hit the over 2-hour mark a few times, but that's the closest I've come.
Didn't take a shower for a week: Nope. There were some days-long stretches of no showers when I traveled through Europe on bunches of overnight trains in a row, but not a stretch as long as a week.
Picked and eaten an apple right off the tree: Yes. (Did this with tangerines on Sunday!)
Been told by a complete stranger that you're hot: Hahaha. This summer, in Kibby's (AWESOME chip shop in Chepstow) there was an old man in front of me in line, who wouldn't stop looking at me and telling me how "lovely" I was. Just...ew. Compliments like that from old men (especially when accompanied by a British accent calling you "love") can actually be sweet. But not this guy. He WOULD NOT STOP staring at me, and it was creepy.
| posted by Barbara | 11:33 PM |

If I could write I'd set all the words free

(The only relation that the post title really has to anything is that I got a Sam Phillips CD in the mail yesterday, and I can't get track 11 out of my head. I love that opening line. I'm also fascinated by the fact that I'm SURE I've heard her songs on Gilmore Girls. But I digress.)

Last night there was a worship night at church, which I wasn't going to attend until Elise talked me into going to the planning meeting on Sunday night. Somehow I also got myself talked into bringing my violin last night: "You're going to bring your violin, right, Barbara?" Me: "Uhhhh...." (Why can't I just say no to stuff?)

So I came home from work last night and dug out the violin, played a bit, then laid on the floor and wallowed in feeling mediocre. I knew it was petty at the time. But, yeah. Lack of creativity, lack of ability, lack of discipline, lack of sheet music = Barbara feels stupid.

I brought the violin anyway and played a bit last night, though not well. And somehow, I enjoyed it. I had this weird sense of joy even in the midst of completely butchering "Come Thou Fount" at the end of the night. The butchering is not to be blamed entirely on my wouldn't-stay-in-tune D-string, but at least I can kind of point a finger at something other than myself. (And I can also hide at the back of the room in the dark and hope other people don't notice me.)

Besides my violin-playing self-consciousness, last night was a great time of worship. I don't know if I'll ever understand what it is about music that can be so powerful. But I love it. Joining together with church family last night, to meet with God and to worship in community, was a wonderful thing.
| posted by Barbara | 7:06 PM |

Monday, November 28, 2005

Not really a surprise.

The fifth season will be the last for Alias. It's been going downhill since the third season, and since they took away my Michael Vartan, there's not much left. But I'll still miss it.
| posted by Barbara | 11:20 PM |


Quotes from the nieces this weekend:
Hannah: "I'm thankful for my whoopee cushion that I use to fart the neighborhood." (This almost tops her thankfulness for "walking bacon" a couple of years ago.)
Rebekah to Emily: "Smack my butt, it'll make you feel better."

Other fun times:
Realizing where I get some of my compulsiveness, while watching my brother separate Waldorf salad into categories: eating all the celery first, then the apples, then the grapes. This led to a discussion of how we both like to separate M&Ms and gummi bears by color and eat them methodically. Hey--we're compulsive, we're family.

Watching my nieces as they all gathered around a roly-poly Rebekah had captured. They watched it crawl around, they poked at it, they were fascinated. Then their little brother walked over and stomped on the poor thing rather emphatically. Rebekah cried, and my sister and I had to stifle our laughter. Sadly, we weren't very successful. Heartless people we are.

I was impressed by the fact that the drives to/from included just minor traffic (with the exception of the 152, which we shall refrain from discussing). The trip down via 5 south took a little over 7 hours, and coming back up 101 with Elise took a little under 8 hours--really not too bad for Thanksgiving weekend. And I must say that yesterday, it was wonderful to take a long drive with someone whose taste in music blends so amazingly well with my own. =)
| posted by Barbara | 10:14 PM |

Saturday, November 26, 2005


My niece Emily turns 10 today. TEN! Aaa! We'll celebrate tonight at my sister's with cupcakes & other goodies.

And a belated happy birthday to my Welsh little sister Jude, whose birthday was on Thanksgiving. I get to see her in another month and a half when she comes out to CA for Heather's wedding. Woohoo!

I would post pictures, but I'm at my parents' on a very slow connection. So maybe later.
| posted by Barbara | 10:41 PM |

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Headed home

I'm driving down to SoCal today to spend Thanksgiving with family. I can't wait to see these adorable children:

Along with the rest of my family, of course.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.
| posted by Barbara | 7:21 PM |

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sometimes there are jokes you just can't share except with family.

I realized this anew on Saturday in the middle of one of Ken Bailey's lectures. I won't even attempt to explain the family joke, or even what it was that reminded me of it on Saturday. Because you probably wouldn't find it funny even if I did explain.

But I had to do more than just laugh under my breath during the discussion of Luke 4. I went home that afternoon and emailed my parents about it. "Not Luke 4." Yeah, I just said you wouldn't get it.

One of the more enduring jokes in my family is referenced by the simple non sequitur: "Gold; Republic of South Africa." Again, don't ask.

All this to say, it'll be good to see my family for Thanksgiving this weekend. Pin the Tail on the Turkey, here I come! What, you've never played Pin the Tail on the Turkey? Weirdos.
| posted by Barbara | 3:07 AM |

Monday, November 21, 2005


I've been feeling like I should catch up on blogging about what I've been up to. But then I thought--hey, I don't need to write here about every single thing I do, you can darn well ask me yourself if you really want to know what's up! =) But here are some weekend thoughts anyway...

Yesterday I ran the "church gauntlet", as Karen calls it--met Sonia at ALCF for the 8:30 service, then went to PBC for the 11:15 service (with brunch at Hobee's in between!). I got to hear Pastor Paul preach this time, and his sermon was about giving God the praise that He is owed. I think the ALCF service put me in a good mindset for worshipping later at PBC. We had communion, and I started thinking afterwards about the many different levels of meaning that communion can have. Growing up, I always thought of communion as very much a time for repentance, for examining your heart before God. But the last few times we've had communion at PBC, I've been struck by how it's also a time for fellowship and for thanksgiving. Yesterday was a communion of thanksgiving for me.

This was a busy weekend, with lectures at PBC on Friday & Saturday, seeing HP with Lucinda on Saturday, and seeing Pride & Prejudice with my roommates last night. But all of these things offered great times of hanging out with good friends. Something else I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving week.
| posted by Barbara | 10:05 PM |

On fictional characters

From the introduction to one of my favorite children's books:

While I know her almost as well as I know myself, she is Emily's friend, not mine, and she lives in a world I write about and watch, but cannot enter. I tell myself that her world would not exist if it were not for me. After all, her poems are written down in my handwriting. They are written from her point of view but I think up the words. Yet I have this eerie feeling that Kate might have found somebody else to write her poetry down for her if I hadn't been around. I am often asked if the characters in my books are "real." My answer is, "They seem more real, to me, than you are." This is particularly true of Kate.
--Jean Little
| posted by Barbara | 9:25 PM |

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fiction, nonfiction, and authorial intent

(I'm continuing to finish up these previously-started posts. I wrote the bulk of this quite a few months ago, as the beginning refers to a sermon back when Scott was preaching on the Psalms.)

On Sunday, Scott used a Van Gogh quote in the sermon, something Van Gogh had written to his sister. I can't find the quote, or really remember it accurately, which is frustrating me to no end. But in it, Van Gogh was pointing out differences in their purposes for reading--he said that his sister reads for information, and he reads to discover the author's intent. Scott used the quotation to make the point that in reading Scripture, we should be seeking for God's heart, not just for information. And yes, that's kind of the point (for the Christian, anyway) in reading the Bible. But the quote started me off on a mental tangent about reading.

Then I came across this and this.

So here's another mental tangent on reading and authorial intent. =)

From that second link:

I think it's because i don't like the idea that someone is telling me a story. Yes, of course, whatever you're reading, it's been filtered through the lens of someone else's mind, and picked up an amount of distortion and aberration along the way (unless, of course, the author has an infinity corrected mind), but with fiction, that's somehow more upfront - the whole point of the work is that it' made up. With non-fiction, you at least have a chance of recognising and compensating for the failings of the author, but in fiction, the author's word is law; if something doesn't make sense, i just have to accept it and move on. I really don't like doing that.

The thing is, I feel the opposite about fiction and nonfiction. To me, with fiction, the author's word is never law. (Actually, I feel like the author's word is never really law in any situation...though there are other issues at play with that in regard to Biblical interpretation. Shall I dig out that paper I wrote in college about literary criticism and the Bible?) With nonfiction, the author is supposed to be telling the truth and you're pretty much supposed to take it that way. You can agree or disagree, whatever, but the narrative voice is straightforward. With fiction, not so much. Fiction is much more unstable in this.

"...stories don't tell you how things will turn, really...Paintings and stories are different. Paintings are steady, unchangeable; stories convulse and twist in their revelations."
--Gregory Maguire, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

One of the things that's so interesting to me about fiction is that there are so many viewpoints to consider. There's the viewpoint of each of the characters, as well as the viewpoint of the narrator, and the (probably somewhat veiled) viewpoint of the author behind the scenes. All of these add up to what the author is trying to say, which may or may not be what I want to get out of the story.

I believe pretty strongly that authorial intent should not be the primary concern, especially in reading fiction. Though I believe it should be taken into account, and it is certainly valuable to explore, there is so much more to get out of a story than just the author's agenda.

Reading between the lines is often much more interesting--looking for the author's agenda and evaluating it, evaluating the motives and agendas of the characters, evaluating my own agendas in reading. All of this becomes even more interesting when the book is a first-person narrative, and you have to evaluate the reliability of the person telling you the story, reading between the lines to see their world through eyes other than their own, even though you're only being presented with their world through their perspective. Billy Pilgrim, Humbert Humbert, and Lucy Snowe are some of my favorite unreliable narrators. They're so much fun to try and decipher.

And this is why fiction is so much more interesting to me than nonfiction. In addition to my preference for just being told a story...there are so many more levels to fiction, and that makes it so much more fun.
| posted by Barbara | 7:55 AM |

Quote for the day

"Many times people imagine that poets wait for some splendid experience to overtake them, but I think the tiniest moments are the most splendid."

--Naomi Shihab Nye
| posted by Barbara | 1:45 AM |

Do I just use big words?

My boss looked at me oddly today when I used the word comeuppance. He asked if it was a Briticism. I usually assume that's the case when I use a word or a turn of phrase and get a weird look. (This is why I was paranoid about using the word "garage" for most of 4th & 5th grade...I couldn't remember which pronunciation was the British and which was the American.)

But a few weeks ago, someone commented on my use of the word "vacillating." And then I noticed myself saying something was "repugnant" during a lunchtime conversation. I don't think this is a result of living in England as a child. Maybe I just use big words.

Stop looking at me funny!
| posted by Barbara | 1:37 AM |

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Trading My Sorrows

This post brought to you from Barbara's archive of half-completed posts.

My first introduction to this song was when our church choir did the worship musical Jesus, the One and Only at Easter one year. Our music directors picked a song from the musical to begin using in worship about a month before the performance. And guess what song they picked? Sigh. This tends to happen to me. The song I like least will end up getting highlighted in some way. It's as if it's planned. Hey, Barbara hates this song; let's beat her over the head with it!

I made my dislike of the song known. Paul and Sarah laughed at me and used it anyway.

The arrangement of the song used in the musical called for a soloist (Paul) and a trio. One of the women in the trio got sick about a week and a half before the performance. Paul asked me to take her place. Very funny, Paul. I told him I wasn't sure if I could pull it off...I might have trouble memorizing the words. Repeating "We say yes, we say yes, we say yes..." eight million times might just be beyond my memorization capability. He laughed at me and I sang with the trio. Yet again, Barbara's least favorite song rule comes into play.

In the middle of all of this, Paul was going through some intense cancer treatments. He was weak enough that he had trouble standing to direct the choir for more than a couple of songs in a row. Sarah stepped in when she could, but there wasn't any way Paul was giving up directing the musical. That was Paul for you.

One of my most vivid memories from those two nights of performances is of Paul singing that solo on Trading My Sorrows. I still can't stand the song. But I can't shake the memory of Paul standing there, weakened from his cancer treatments, and still singing strong: "I'm trading my sickness, I'm trading my pain, I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord."

Its endless repetitions aside, I've always felt that the style of this song trivializes the words. The words talk about sorrow, shame, sickness--and yes, about trading those for the joy of the Lord--but the reality of those things are trivialized by the happy, peppy, sing-song tune. But that night, those lyrics meant something, coming from a man whose body was being ravaged by an aggressive cancer and the side effects of equally aggressive cancer treatments.

So now, thanks to Paul, I can't hate the song without reservations. Because it will always remind me of him and of his courage to face whatever came his way with faith and with boldness, for God's glory.
| posted by Barbara | 9:44 PM |

Romeo, Romeo...

This is quite possibly the most awesome literary adaptation ever.

(Totally stolen from Sheila.)
| posted by Barbara | 7:07 PM |

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Something that made me smile hugely today.

When my friend Hannah closed an email to me with: "Love you a million road trips to John's Place."

Not that anyone will get that reference but the "A's"...none of whom read this blog as far as I know...but yeah. John's Place!! And here are the "A's" pictured below...yes, it's a dumb name, but we're silly that way. I've been friends with these girls for 10 years now. Kinda hard to believe it's been that long since our FC Concert Choir days.

Posted by Picasa

This summer at Hannah's goodbye party: Corina, Sarah, Barbara, Hannah, and Melinda. (Now you know why we refer to ourselves as the "A's.")
| posted by Barbara | 1:42 AM |

Monday, November 14, 2005

Friendship divorce revisited

(starting in with the somewhat-stale posts, because I'm busy...)

I've mentioned this idea before--how there's no socially acceptable protocol or vocabulary for ended friendships. An ended relationship is more easily explained: "We broke up." But "We're not friends anymore" somehow isn't as easy. I once wrote a not entirely non-autobiographical short story on breaking up with a friend, entitled "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time." Looking back, I think the title might have been the best part of the story.

I've recently come across a couple of books that deal with the concept of ended friendships. I kinda want to check these titles out, as this is an idea that fascinates me...probably due to the aforementioned ended or desired-to-be-ended friendships in my past.

The Myth of You and Me

The Friend Who Got Away
| posted by Barbara | 8:51 PM |

Friday, November 11, 2005

In process

I have this document on my computer entitled "blog." Every once in a while, something will occur to me that I might want to write about, and I'll type it in there. I get farther with some potential posts than others. I noticed today that I have quite a few partially-formed posts in varying stages of completion, none of which have yet seen the light of the actual blog. They even have (at least working) titles:

Some of these have been hanging around for a while. Maybe I'll post some of them one of these days. (And maybe my blog-writing process is more of a process than I thought it was.)
| posted by Barbara | 10:28 PM |

I don't know why I'm doing this.

Probably because I CANNOT concentrate today. The lack of concentration does not have anything to do with the subject of this post, just so you know and so I don't get comments asking me if there is "someone special" in my life. I'll get enough of those questions when I'm at GHBC at Thanksgiving/Christmas. Ok, then.

I came across this on one of my favorite reads today: "What constitutes sexy in a member of the opposite sex?" So, here you have the list on what makes a guy sexy--from this girl who makes boring sexy.

Wit. Ability in verbal repartee is way up there on my list (see, it's at the top!). A healthy dose of sarcasm/dry humor is also appreciated.

Leanness. Lean is probably my ideal body type. I'm a small girl myself, so that may be part of it...I don't want to be dwarfed. Not too tall, but lean and maybe a little lanky/long-limbed.

Blue eyes. Green works, too. Beautiful eyes get me every time. Add to that a smile that lights up the eyes, and that can totally melt me.

Dark hair. In combination with fair skin and those blue eyes, preferably.

Self-assured. I don't mean cocky. Definitely not cocky...but comfortable with being himself, not focused on what he can do so people will like him. A kind of quiet confidence, someone who doesn't have to be the center of attention.

Glasses. I love a guy in glasses. Maybe it's the bookish/intellectual connotation.

Hands. (Yes, he must have hands. Ha. Sorry.) There's something about hands. Strong, but a little slender, with sort of long fingers. And certain gestures...I don't know if I can pin this one down, but there's something about hands that attracts me.

There's also something about the way a guy's arms look in long-sleeved t-shirt. Not a baggy shirt, mind you...a little more fitted.

The back of the head. I don't know why. I love it when a guy's just gotten a haircut, and the hair on the back of his head is all short...and I have to restrain myself from running my hands through his hair. Kristy can attest to this--she heard all about the obsession I had in college with the back of a guy's head.

A guy doesn't have to fit all of the above--I've been attracted to my fair share of non-lean, non-bespectacled, non-dark-haired guys. But put all of the above in one guy, have him pay me a little attention, and I'm gone.

Of course, there's more to attraction than finding someone sexy. Faith is the top deal-breaker for me (as in, deal's off if we don't share a common faith), that's just taken for granted. I was going to say that doesn't so much play into the sexy, but then that line from Raising Helen popped into my head: "I'm a sexy man of God and I know it." A line that doesn't fall under my definitions of witty or self-assured (notice, cheesy is not on my list), but there you have it anyway. I'll stop now.
| posted by Barbara | 2:33 AM |

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It's Lucinda's fault.

Tomorrow night is my book club. On Lucinda's suggestion, I've been slogging through this. And I have this to say:

Dialogue should be indicated with more than just capitalization and commas. Sentences should end before you feel like you're going to die because you haven't taken a breath for a page and a half because the sentence just keeps on going.

I will finish the last 60 pages tonight if it kills me. We'll discuss it tomorrow night. And for our next discussion I am insisting that we read children's/YA fantasy. Because I AM THE LEADER, dangit, and I don't care if Saramago won a Nobel Prize, we're gonna read a kids' book.
| posted by Barbara | 2:19 AM |

Monday, November 07, 2005


I wonder if blogging is reinforcing poor writing habits for me. One of the reasons I started blogging was so that I would be writing more. And that's still a good thing. Writing helps me think things through, and it's been good to share my thoughts here, sometimes interacting with others about those thoughts, and sometimes just getting them out of my head and onto the page.

But I'm realizing more that blogging has made me a lazy writer. Or rather, I tend to be a lazy writer when I blog. When something's kicking around in my head and I decide to blog about it, I type up some thoughts (perhaps not always fully formulated), and then I post. And then I re-read and think, wait--I don't think I was done with that. For me, blogging is a weird combination of writing, journaling, and just thinking out loud. Whereas with other writing, I pore over it a lot more--rewriting, editing, refining, rethinking. Something I should do more of, in general. But then, that process ends up leading to a lack of content here as I self-censor more. Ah, for balance.
| posted by Barbara | 8:02 PM |

Of music and law and grace

I discovered this week via an email from that Derek Webb has a new album coming out in December. I did some poking around on the web and found that has a bunch of mp3s of some songs off the new album (recorded at a couple of recent concerts). So I've been listening to the new stuff quite a bit the past couple of days...and pre-order, here I come. (I have also concluded that I must get myself a Sandra McCracken album as well.)

I really like Derek's music. When he was with Caedmon's, I found that usually the songs of theirs that he wrote were the ones I connected with most. So although I was sad to see him leave Caedmon's (and still miss him there), I was excited about his solo stuff. His lyrics have been the subject of some controversy, I guess...but that's one of the things I enjoy about his music. His lyrics challenge me and make me think more deeply about the issues and ideas he writes about, whether I agree with him exactly or not. Anyway, I came across these lyrics for one of the songs off the new album, and it dovetails nicely with some of what we've been discussing lately in YAF during our study of Romans.

A New Law
Derek Webb

Don't teach me about politics and government,
Just tell me who to vote for.

And don't teach me about truth and beauty,
No, just label my music.

And don't teach me how to live like a free man,
No, just give me a new law.

I don't want to know if the answers aren't easy,
So just bring it down from the mountain to me.

I want a new law, I want a new law.
Just give me that new law.

And don't teach me about moderation and liberty,
I prefer a shot of grape juice.

And don't teach me about loving my enemies.

And don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit,
No, just give me a new law.

I don't want to know if the answers aren't easy,
So just bring it down from the mountain to me.

I want a new law, I want a new law.
Just give me that new law.

Cause what's the use in trading a law you can never keep
For one you can, that can not get you anything?

So do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid.
Oh, do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid.

These lines really get me:
And don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit,
No, just give me a new law.

I don't want to know if the answers aren't easy,
So just bring it down from the mountain to me.

It's so much easier to be told exactly what to do and what not to do. It's so much simpler to follow blindly without understanding. But that's not the point--that's not what the Christian life is about. It comes across that way so often because we get caught up in following rules instead of following the Spirit. I'm the kind of person who likes to follow rules. I like to know what's expected of me and then meet those expectations. But it's not about me and what I do.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.
(Rom. 3:21-24)

Righteousness apart from law. It's a concept that I don't know if I can get my head around. Because it's not something that I do, and I like to do stuff. It makes me feel good about myself and feel this false sense of how great I am. But ultimately, I can't do enough, and that's what this whole righteousness from God thing is about. I love Romans 3:24--the verse that so often gets left off with the popular memorization of Romans 3:23. We are justified freely, by grace, not through anything we do.

We are set free from the old law, free to obey through the power of the Spirit working through us, instead of our own inadequate efforts. Easy? No. But better.
| posted by Barbara | 1:51 AM |

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Gunpowder, treason, and plot

In honor of Guy Fawkes Day, I offer you these pictures of one of my favorite mugs, purchased at the Tower of London shop.

This summer, there were signs up all around the Tower about a special exhibition commemorating the 400th anniversary of the thwarted Gunpowder Plot. Given the current events in London at the time, I couldn't decide whether the all-caps tagline of "Terrorism in 1605" was timely or tasteless. I think there might have been cries of insensitivity if these signs were up anywhere in the U.S. right around the time of a terrorist bombing. But in London, it seemed that no-one batted an eye--which was somewhat refreshing.

Anyway, happy Guy Fawkes Day. Go make yourself a bonfire and burn someone in effigy.
| posted by Barbara | 12:41 AM |

Thursday, November 03, 2005


I have GOT to stop eating Snickers for breakfast.
| posted by Barbara | 7:47 PM |

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I love my little brother.

Eric's not really my little brother. We're not actually related, but for years now, he's been my little brother. More specifically, I call him the annoying little brother I never wanted. He's also one of the few people who are allowed to call me Babs without getting smacked.

I got to know Eric on the first GHBC mission trip to Porthcawl. We couldn't stand each other. We did skits for the kids every morning, and most of the time Eric didn't know his lines. I got so frustrated with him--his was pretty much the biggest part in the skits for the week. I was tougher on him than I should have been, and he really didn't like me.

Until the day trip in the Land Rover. The five "young people" on the team all crammed ourselves into the back of a Land Rover for the Saturday trip to what Heather and I now call the fake mine. The ride there and back and the day in general was spent laughing and hanging out and having a really good time being together. We made fun of Eric as he dripped ice cream all over himself: "Uh,'ve got ice cream on your...cross." Heather and Eric got blue and red tongues from slurpees and made faces at the car behind us. We made fun of Louis when he fell asleep on the way home. And Eric repeatedly told the 7-foot fireball story: "Dude, you made a 7-foot fireball in Wales." Eric and I bonded that day, and we've been good friends ever since.

A couple of summers ago, our mission team was doing one of those things where you sit in a circle and everyone encourages each person in turn. I hate those things, because I always get self-conscious as people say nice things about me. I would much rather avoid being the focus of attention. Anyway, that day Eric talked about our friendship and how he appreciated how there was this unspoken bond between us...we don't usually talk about it, but it's always there. And it's true--sometimes Eric and I just get each other and we don't have to say anything about it.

So I found it to be very uncanny when I read this blog post of his today.

See, yesterday I sang with the worship team at PBC for the first time. And this was a much less high-pressure thing than Eric's solo...but I was still quite nervous. I've been out of worship ministry for a while now, and it's become an area of quite a bit of insecurity for me. So I was struggling with the conflict between my desire to serve in doing something I love and my worries about my own (in)adequacy. I was annoyed with myself for being so concerned about what other people might think of me, for my worries about not being good enough.

Somehow in all of this nervousness leading up to Sunday, the whole theme of the service didn't sink in until I was in the middle of it. The service was focused on how our adequacy comes solely from Christ. The worship songs, the sermon, all were focused on God's strength working through us and his sufficiency in our inadequacy. Add to my thick-headedness, the passage Steve preached on was part of the chapters I had been studying the afternoon before: II Cor. 2:16-3:6. So there I am singing about how I can stand in no other strength but Christ's, and it's like...oh, HELLO Barbara, yeah. This is what it's about.

It amazes me how dense I can be sometimes, and how many reminders it takes for God to get my attention. And then I got a nice reminder again this morning, via Eric, of how God works in our weakness with His strength. Thanks, little bro. =)
| posted by Barbara | 2:37 AM |

Halloween party

My luminaries turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

Living room decorated for the party. Notice the chair full of costume supplies for the un-costumed guests.

There were creative costumes...'s a pirate and...Monoman!

"I'm a Scantron" came with Little Miss Smarty-pants

Beauty pageant?

There was pumpkin carving...

...and an impromptu game of basketball involving stuffed pumpkins and a toilet seat. (And John Singer Sargent.)

Roommates: Harriet the Spy, Raggedy Ann, the runaway bride, and Miss Matched.

I'm not sure what we were doing in this picture, but I like to call it: "You. Out. Now." End of party.
| posted by Barbara | 12:15 AM |