There and Back Again, Sort Of

From inside on of the hobbit holes, on locatio...

From inside on of the hobbit holes, on location at the Hobbiton set, as used in the Lord of the Rings films. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mixed emotions would be one way to describe it. Ambivalence would be another.

Yes, we’re going to see Peter Jackson’s rendition of The Hobbit, and I’m a little nervous. No, nervous isn’t really the right word. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do really want to see the movie, but I’m expecting to be disappointed. Believe me when I say that, having read The Hobbit, I really think there’s no way Peter Jackson can do justice to is, given his reputation. That’s not good. At the same time, this movie (like his previous trilogy covering The Lord of the Rings) will certainly expose more people to J.R.R. Tolkien. That is good. Anything that gets people reading is good.

In a way, what we’re doing is interestingly evocative of The (real) Hobbit. Bilbo was pretty nervous about starting on his journey, and so am I.

The Weekly Yumster: 30 December 2011

Milwaukee 014Reporting from Milwaukee this week, we found ourselves at the amazingly wonderful and well-nigh irresistible Peter Sciortino Italian Bakery. They haven’t changed a bit since I was last there, over ten years ago. Thank God, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.Milwaukee 011

Sciortino’s carries the full complement of Italian baked goods, from delicate cookies and hearty yeast breads, to luscious cannoli. Everything is super, and the place looks and smells delicious. I got a dozen cookies and figured that would be more Milwaukee 012than enough to be satisfactory.

What I don’t remember from the last time I was here was a display of gelato—a dozen delectable flavors in all. Sooooo hard to decide… Peach mango won the Milwaukee 013day—though any would have been excellent.

Next we stopped at Glorioso’s Italian Market. Though we only needed butter and eggs, it was SO HARD not to walk down each and every aisle, so varied an intriguing was the selection. However, lest we come home with pasta in unpronounceable shapes, and sauces of indeterminate usage, not to mention pocketbooks of flaccid emptiness, we quickly left. I’ll have to make a list first, next time.

Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two part article/review of Rob Bell’s newest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, and if you haven’t read yesterday’s entry, you need to, otherwise this will seem disjointed and probably make no sense.

Definition of GoodnessCase in point:
In the realm of public opinion, there are so very few people who fall so strongly in the good camp that I can only (easily) think of one: Mother Teresa. Most people would think of her as having been so astonishingly good that it’s entirely possible that she is provided as an illustration next to the entry for goodness in a dictionary. However, at one point Mother Teresa mentioned that she was sure that there were good Muslims and Hindus in Heaven. At which juncture some people promptly decided that she was obviously in league with Satan.

As Rob Bell might put it, “Huh?
Mother Teresa.
In league with Satan.
And you know this.

It strikes me that it seems as though many Christians (especially those that call themselves Evangelical—an adjective that strikes me in much the same way that church signs like “Church of the One True God” do—what other kind is there?) like the idea of the title of this book, but they don’t like the practice of it. I think they really believe that love does win, but deep down, they seem like they don’t like it. Most of the people who vehemently disagree with this book seem to be deeply disappointed that being a Christian isn’t like belonging to a very exclusive country club, and that somehow, a sort of Wal-Mart Heaven isn’t what they had in mind. It sort of seems like, well, once everyone can afford to carry a Coach handbag, they’re not going to be cool anymore. If well, just anyone can go to Heaven, we’re going to need to find a different place.

Sorry, but that place sounds like Hell.

Rob Bell’s idea of the generosity of God’s love and the inclusivity of Heaven is one I like. Of course, I’m one of those people who found the gleeful dancing and “he’s-roasting-in-hell-now-just-like-he-deserves” attitude exhibited by some people who call themselves Christians after the death of Osama bin Ladin to be distressing and/or sad. I’m not saying that Osama bin Ladin was a good man. What I am saying is that I can’t believe that anyone who says they believe in Jesus and want to be like Him believes that the same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem is actually excited about the eternal damnation of anyone, even if that person is (was?) named Osama bin Ladin.

Please note that I am not saying that Osama bin Ladin is in Heaven. What I am saying is that I believe no one is beyond salvation. In Matthew 24:35,36, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away….But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Now if Jesus Himself doesn’t know the date of the end of the world, how can it be that the average man on the street knows the eternal destination of a specific person? So as to Osama’s status, I just don’t know.

What I believe, and what I see Bell saying is that if Osama bin Ladin is in Hell, God didn’t send him there. God doesn’t send people to Hell. People choose that for themselves. I’ve chosen it for myself from time to time, and I’ll bet you have, too. No one wants to go to hell, even for five minutes. But we do.

But if Christianity is about anything, it’s about hope. So when someone says that some specific bad person is definitively in Hell, I think they must have a finger on the pulse of a god that I don’t recognize, and not Jesus, who is definitely the God of Hope. How can anyone know what happens in the eternal moment (where a thousand years are like a day, and a day is like a thousand years) that happens between when a person is still alive and he (or she) has died? Has hope also died? Apparently so, for some people. But my vision of God is bigger than that. And so, I read, is Bell’s.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this. After all, I am a Catholic.

Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part I)

If you haven’t already figured it out by some of my earlier blog entries, I’m a Catholic. Depending on which school of thought you fall in, that usually (but not necessarily) makes me one of the following:

Love Wins by Rob BellGiven these possibilities, my review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived will probably just serve to cement your point of view. In my experience, most people prefer options that reinforce their currently held opinion, regardless of what it is.

When I first ran across this book at the store, my only thought was, “Hey! I didn’t know he’d written another book. Cool!” So I bought it and read it over the course of a couple days. (It’s not a hard book to read, and I could’ve finished it in one sitting, but I was working on another book at the time, which is all too common for me.) I found it well-reasoned, thought provoking, and ultimately, exciting! One of the things I like most about Bell is his willingness to admit that while he might not have all the answers, he’s not afraid to ask the questions.

So imagine my surprise when I posted a brief entry last night mentioning it, and found that there were no less than approximately fifteen thousand separate articles I could’ve used as “Related Articles” that reference this book and the astonishingly strong reactions it’s provoking among some members of the Christian community.

I’ve decided not to reference most of these strong-minded articles. One, because they’re really easy to find on the Internet. Two, because all the ones I’ve read so far completely miss the point of this book, which is, oddly enough, the title.

Because I’m a Catholic, I’m pretty used to being the subject of intense opinion and curiosity. (Maybe it’s because I’m open minded and approachable, and generally come across as an intelligent person with a sense of humor. I don’t know.) There have been people who have asked me, in all honesty and without a hint of sarcasm, why Catholics worship statues. (We don’t.) I know, for a fact, that there are people who believe Catholics worship Satan (we don’t) and are all bound for a justly-deserved hell. (We aren’t. Well, maybe some of us are. But not me. Oops. But not I.) And there are people who believe that if we only accepted Jesus as our personal Savior, we’d finally come to realize that the Protestants are right. (We won’t.) And naturally, there are people who just don’t care about that sort of thing. (I, however, do.)

What’s interesting about most of these reviews is that they seem to completely miss the point of this book. (It really makes me wonder if the writers have actually read Love Wins.) One reviewer basically said that because the book didn’t have copious footnotes and could be read in under two hours, it basically wasn’t worth it, theologically. (Point of reference: the Bible doesn’t actually have any footnotes, and the entire Gospel of John on CD clocks in at only a little more than two hours, and that’s because it’s being read aloud. Hmmm….) Another writer said that if Jesus wasn’t really the only way to get to heaven, and if everyone really does a “get out of jail free” card, then why not live a life of unbridled self-indulgence?

After a thorough reading and re-reading of this book, I can not, for the life of me, see how Bell is saying that what amounts to using people for personal advancement, defrauding the poor, or engaging in wild sexual abandon, is okay with God, and He “lets you in” anyway. What I do see is that Bell’s view of salvation is a lot more expansive than that of a lot of conservative, self-proclaimed Evangelical Christians.

Stay tuned, because I’m nowhere near done with this.

Getting Organized!

A Manchester pail closet, with a cinder sifter

Image via Wikipedia, of something no one should have to do: sift cinders!

Ever feel like you’re drowning—in possessions? Well, that’s happened to me. I have a little apartment, so maybe it’s not like an episode of Hoarders, but it’s not pretty. And ever since my daughter came home for the summer from college, it’s even less pretty!

I knew that things had gotten bad after last winter’s spate of depression, but once the apartment reaches a certain point of messiness, it’s hard to dig out. There’s just no place to shuffle things around. I envy people with a garage and a mudroom. I have no where to keep my houseplant supplies like fertilizer except in the coat closet. But then where do I keep the coats? I do have an outdoor closet that I keep pots and things in. I did just get that reorganized with some help from a friend.

But it has reached critical mass. I got rid of 10 fruit boxes of books, which I took to Lowry’s Books and More in Three Rivers, MI, and I took what Tom Lowry didn’t want to Paws & Claws in Howe, IN.

SidetrackedBut now it’s down to business. Well, down to business tomorrow, that is, since today is Sunday and I believe the level of work I’m talking about constitutes the kind of menial labor that is not encouraged for Sundays.

I use a combination approach to gettingSink Reflections things done. I really like these systems, they work, and it’s not quite so hard to get back on the wagon once I inevitably fall off, which usually happens every winter. I long for the winter where I stay on track! My first choice is Sidetracked Home Executives(TM): From Pigpen to Paradise, which is great, and doesn’t require a computer, which I think is a nice tool, but what happens when you’re off line. I don’t like having to check my e-mail for housekeeping reminders. The next is a refinement of SHE, which is FlyLady. She does have a book, Sink Reflections, but her real niche is the web. I do like her approach.

And for all the paper, which is a bigger problem than it should be, I am going to try a program by Heidi DeCoux called the Fast-Filing Method. I used to be a good file organizer when I was a secretary, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that the kind of files one keeps at home are far more complex than the kind of files used in an office.

I’ll keep you posted on how things are going. But I’m NOT going to do before and after pictures, because even I have some sense of pride, and Sophia would have a cow if I put pictures of the apartment, as it stands, on line.

The Weekly Yum-ster!

True Lover's Farewell

This week’s successful forays into the realm of dining excellence included:

And this CD (pictured at left), The True Lover’s Farewell: Appalachian Folk Ballads by Custer LaRue is excellent listening music for cooking—and eating!

Spinach Pesto:

  • Lots of clean, fresh spinach (at least a large colander full), stems removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, cut in several pieces
  • small handful of pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • pinch salt
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • zest of 1 lemon


Place a few spinach leaves, the garlic, nuts, basil and some of the oil a food processor container. Cover and puree until leaves begin to look crushed. Continue adding spinach leaves a few at a time with small amounts of oil to blender, using a rubber spatula to help to combine pureed mixture. Add Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Cover and process until spinach pesto mixture is relatively smooth. You may need a little more oil, and adjust seasonings to taste.

Yummy, yummy!

Editing, Writing, and Proofing—Oh My!

Term-Paper-Under-Construction3I’ve been called upon to do one of my favorite things: proofread my daughter’s final papers for school. I really enjoy this. She’s a great writer already, so reading her papers is a pleasure, especially compared to the writing of other students, regardless of their level of education. I’ve honestly been quite surprised at the dismal writing that most students offer their professors.

Today, she is finishing a paper on gender roles and stereotypes as demonstrated in Junot DíazThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Jhumpa Lahiri’s unaccustomed Earth, both of which I have read. (Great books! I was pleased with both, especially Oscar Wao, since I work with Hispanics.)

Sophia reads me sections of her paper and asks for advice about word choice (“Mom, what’s another way to say, ‘provocatively’?”) or phrasing (“I don’t like how this is worded. Can I say this a different way?”), though most of the time she’s right on the money. She writes thought-provoking papers that inevitably raise questions, and I like that.