Bono and a Christmas Miracle (a bedtime story)

Several weeks ago Dave and I went up to Whittier Area Community Church to watch a video of an interview with Bono that they were showing. Their goal in showing it was to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis in Africa, and to fundraise for a cause they'd decided to support, which was to build a hospital in Malawi for children infected with the AIDS virus. The church had pledged to give $160,000 toward this cause.

The interview with Bono was really interesting. I've been a U2 fan for as long as I can remember, and I always liked that Bono was a believer, although I've never really had a very clear idea of what, exactly, his theology is. After watching the video, there is no more doubt in my mind. He basically preached the gospel right down the line and talked a lot about faith and its importance. It was cool to hear him professing Christ in no uncertain terms, because it's so rare that you see someone with real, practiced Christian beliefs in such a public and popular position. He has such an influence on pop culture and it's exciting to see him use it for something that's truly good.

I also loved hearing him talk about what's going on in Africa and why he's so passionate about the plight of those affected there by AIDS. There is so much violence and ignorance involved, and most of the victims are innocent: women who are raped, babies who are born with the virus. He spoke at length about how these are the people that Jesus is talking about when he talks about "the least of these," and how we are commanded to help them. He seemed to have his facts all straight and wasn't just another famous person championing a cause because it will boost their popularity. He really knew what he was talking about.

One thing that Bono said that I really liked was that Christians and the church need to get behind this cause regardless of the political aspect. That's something that I've thought about a lot lately, how we, as Christians, sometimes turn our backs on something that's right simply because it's high on the liberal agenda. We need to take care of our earth, to help the poor, to feed the hungry, because those are the right things to do. I'm preaching to myself, here, because I forget that the bottom line of these actions is not the liberal agenda, the bottom line is grace and compassion and love.

When we talked to the pastor of the church after the video was shown, he didn't seem very confident that the money they'd pledged would come in. He said they were praying for a Christmas miracle. They got their miracle in a big way. Instead of raising $160,000, they raised $518,702.88.


Merry Christmas!

It's been such a busy two days for us, I feel like this is the first time I've gotten to sit down since early yesterday morning. But it's been so much fun. I will have to write all about it tomorrow, because right now I'm so tired I'm about to fall over. So I'm headed for a hot chocolate-scented bubble bath (thanks Nathan!) with a new book (thanks Mom!) and a diet Coke (thanks....myself!).

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!


One down, four to go...

I finished my first book for the winter reading challenge! My first choice was Like Water for Chocolate, and I liked it. I love chicano/mystical realism lit, so it fit the bill. Unfortunately, I've read a lot by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and he's the absolute best in that genre (in my opinion, anyway), so the rest kind of pale by comparison. But it was a fun read, and now I have to move on to another of my picks, all of which are more serious and harder to slog through.

I know it seems kind of funny that I've only managed one book in the month since I started this. But I got sidetracked. It was my mom's fault! I saw, in early November, that she'd borrowed the last Mitford book from someone. I haven't read that one, and I intended to steal it from her, read it in a couple days, and return it before she noticed it was gone. But in order to read that one, I had to read the first six books again because it had been a long time and I didn't remember them well. So I read all six of them, and then decided not to borrow the book after all, since I'm hoping Santa will bring me my very own copy.

So then I was all ready to move on to my challenge books, starting with Looking Backward. And I read the first few pages, but it got so political so fast that I was disgusted and put it down. And then my fingers accidentally brushed against a copy of Animal Dreams, and then I accidentally picked it up and read the first page, and then I accidentally read the whole book again. That whetted my appetite for a good down-home read, and I picked up both Standing in the Rainbow and The Bean Trees, and am currently devouring them both at a more or less equal rate. So, overall, in the last month I've read eight and a half books, but only one of them was one I'd never read before. Which forces me to admit that I'm failing the winter reading challenge. But I will keep on trying. Though I'm strongly inclined to replace Looking Backward with The Kiterunner.

I have this whole set of thoughts concerning Looking Backward and why I can't get into it. The idea (a book written in 1888 and narrated by a man who's been catapulted into the year 2000 and is looking back over more than a hundred years and talking about the changes) is really intriguing. But the whole thing seems so silly because a guy writing in the late 1800s couldn't possibly imagine the changes that the 20th century would bring about. Anything that he could have dreamt up would be child's play compared to what actually happened. Maybe I'm predicting the book incorrectly, and it's not the author's fault that he had no way of forseeing world-wide wars, the internet, and AIDS, but in this case the truth was so much stanger than fiction could be, and I no longer have a lot of interest in this book. Anyone read it? Am I totally off? Or should I just shut up already and go read the stupid book?

Double the pleasure, triple the fun

Josiah David (left) and Sophia Grace (right) were born to Brian and Ashlee yesterday evening in Phoenix. They are both healthy and doing well - I got to hear one of them crying on the phone! Aren't they cute? He is my first nephew, she is my eighth niece. You can read more details about them and see more pictures here. Welcome to the world, kiddos!


Christmastime is here...

And in honor of that, and because I still can't bring myself to put forth the effort to write something original, here is a meme that Christi sent me. Enjoy, rip off, and post on your own blog so that we can all find out some stuff about each other.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa doesn't do jack around our house....mommy and daddy wrap them and put them under the tree.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Colored lights for both. It's tradition! A couple years ago my dad bought some white icicle lights for their house, and my mom and I wouldn't let him put them up (even though I don't live there anymore). We finally compromised and he put up both sets. :)

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
When I think of it....

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Usually about the 1st of December. This year we started late.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Gotta go with the turkey.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I've always loved the Christmas Eve service at my church. It's at 11:00, so when we were little it meant that we were up REALLY late, and by the time we got home it was after midnight, and I thought it was so fun to wish everyone a Merry Christmas before we went to bed.

8. When did you find out about Santa?
I never believed. But I loved Christi's answer on this one, which was "Find out what?"

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
I never used to, but now our little family does all of our gifts on Christmas Eve since we're with both our families all day on Christmas.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Different every year. This year it's pretty simple, just lights and a few vintage looking ornaments, because I finally found frosted pinecones!

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?
Love it, but that's probably only because we don't get any here, so it's a treat when I get to play in some.

12. Can you ice skate?

13. Do you remember your favorite childhood gift?
I had lots. Cabbage Patch Kids, clothes, a bike...but the best one, I think, was the two 5-subject spiral notebooks my parents got me the year I was 12, because one of them became my first journal, and started me on a 14 year habit of journaling that benefitted me greatly.

14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Pumpkin pie.

15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
When we were little we'd get up super early and go get our stockings, then take them in on my parents' bed and open them. I'm planning to keep this going with Judah this year.

16. What tops your tree?
Nothing at the moment. I'm looking for a cool star to use.

17. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
Giving. Don't I sound so unselfish? But I love receiving too.

18. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
My favorite carol to sing is O Little Town of Bethlehem. Or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but only if it's Christi and me singing it, and no one's listening. And I have a horrible, irreverent weakness for Cartman's version of O Holy Night. Oh, and I love The Holly and the Ivy, and Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella as performed by Manheim Steamroller.

19. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yum, but one a year is about all I can take.


Music from a vanished civilization

The other day I was digging around my music collection and found a copy of Dido's second album. I'd never actually listened to it, and it's pretty good.

I bought the album in the summer of 2004 on Phi Phi Don island in Thailand. Six months later, almost to the day, the island was under water, part of what got completely destroyed by the tsunami. The CD stand where I bought the album is no longer there, and the guy that sold it to me is, most likely, dead. His music stand was right on the beach. It's a sobering thought, and I don't think I'll ever be able to listen to that particular album without feeling sad about what happened.


Yay! A meme!

Just last night I was thinking, "Man, I hope someone posts a meme soon, because this blog really needs some beefing up and I just don't have anything to say at the moment." And then, lo and behold, Barbara saved the day! With a word association meme. I can't promise that these will be the first things that come to my mind, because generally if I try that it looks something like this: Food: construction site. And while I can see the association there (because isn't that all CalTrans does? Lean on their shovels eating Subway sandwiches?) it's not really representative of what I think of food. But the things I put will be CLOSE to what came to mind first. Here we go.

1. Yourself: procrastinating (because I'm not putting up Christmas decorations like I should be)
2. Your spouse: love
3. Your hair: looking okay at the moment
4. Your mother: best girl friend
5. Your father: smile
6. Your favorite item: bathtub
7. Your dream last night: can't remember
8. Your favorite drink: diet coke
9. Your dream car: Nash Metropolitan (with a teardrop trailer would be sweet!)
10. The room you are in: my living room
11. Your ex: in Pakistan
12. Your fear: rejection
13. What you want to be in 10 years: a better person
14. Who you hung out with last night: Nathan and Judah
15. What you’re not: a work-ahead-of-schedule type
16. Muffins: corn (from Mo's)
17: One of your wish list items: a new black wool coat
18: Time: enemy
19. The last thing you did: gave Judah a bottle
20. What you are wearing: my favorite jeans, pink tank top, pink sweater
21. Your favorite weather: the half-clear after a storm
22. Your favorite book: Animal Dreams (at the moment)
23. The last thing you ate: cake
24. Your life: comfortable
25. Your mood: hopeful
26. Your best friend: generous
27. What you’re thinking about right now: how the new melter I just put in is giving me a sinus headache (but it smells really good)
28. Your car: which one? Mine? The Mustang? Powerful.
29. What you are doing at the moment: killing time
30. Your summer: just long enough
31. Your relationship status: stable and happy
32. What is on your TV: a show about trains sitting on the bottom of the ocean (no, really)
33. What is the weather like: windy and sunny
34. When was the last time you laughed: after lunch when Judah was jumping up and down and making pig noises


Pale blue

Not deep, dark, murky blue, but just a little blue. That's how I'm feeling at the moment. We're in the process of looking for a new place to live. We need a bigger place, as our family will hopefully be expanding at SOME point (no one freak out on me here, this is definitely NOT an announcement). But we're looking to the future, and I'd rather not move pregnant again, especially not eight months pregnant like last time. So we're looking for a three bedroom, ideally on one floor, somewhere in Brea or Fullerton or Placentia. Something like that. We'd like a house or a duplex. We've found a couple of places so far that fit the bill, one in Orange and one in La Habra, both for reasonably good prices. The rent on the one in Orange is $1700/month, which is only slightly more than we're paying right now for our two bedroom townhome. It's nice. But it's a rental. And that's what has me feeling down.

My parents bought their first home, which they're still living in, when they were in their mid-twenties, for the outrageous amount of $25,000. My brothers are both homeowners in Orange County, having reached the home-buying stage before the market went through the roof. Nathan and I hit the home-buying stage a couple of years ago, when things were already completely out of control. And now it feels like we're stuck. We've never wanted to go the condo route, preferring to buy a house that we could potentially stay in for a long time. But we've realized that at this point we'll probably have to start with a condo, if we ever reach the place where we can afford to buy anything at all. We looked around at places to buy about a year ago, and what we found is that if you're looking for a three bedroom condo in any kind of a decent area, you're going to shell out a cool half million, at least. And that seems impossible to us. I talked to a realtor a while back and he told me that you can expect to pay about $650/month for every $100,000 you borrow on a home loan. That would mean making a payment of over $3,000 every month. Which we can't do. There has to be some other way. People are still buying homes around here. How are they doing it?

When I was growing up, all of my friends lived in houses. I didn't know anyone over the age of 30 who lived in an apartment. And it's hard for me to realize that the norm is changing. We grew up in a time when people could buy houses. I always thought that by the time I had kids, I'd own a house too. But that's not really the norm anymore. Our complex is crammed full of kids. And their parents are doctors, lawyers, business owners, tech guys. It's not like we're low income.

I'm trying to look on the bright side, and most days it's very bright. Even though we can't afford to buy, we can afford to live in a really nice complex, with great features (crown molding! walls that aren't standard-issue apartment white!), in Yorba Linda, for pete's sake. We have some friends that own their own homes, and our apartment is bigger than their places. So I guess for right now I'd rather have more room than a deed. But still, I sometimes feel like we're running uphill, and sliding down faster than we can gain ground. Especially when we realize that we could pack up and move to Montana and buy a mansion on 50 acres for less than what Nathan makes in a year. It's tempting sometimes. It really is.