June 30, 2008

Grandma’s Funeral

David and I have just returned from a trip to Minnesota. David’s grandma passed away last Monday and we went to be there for the funeral on Saturday.

This is the first time we have been back to MN since we moved to Upstate New York. It was really nice to see David’s parents again, as well as his brother, uncles, aunts and most of his cousins. It was also refreshing to be outside of the almost anti-American, Ithacian atmosphere for a few days.

The trip was a bit of a whirlwind. I was able to see Heather and her baby Judah for a short visit.

meeting Judah

It was wonderful!! She picked us and Jon up at the airport on Thursday and brought us to her house where Dad Hjelle was waiting. I was able to hold Judah for a while. He was in such a great mood! Heather and I have been talking on the phone lately, so it was really nice to see her again.

At Grandma’s Mom, Dad, and Mom’s brothers and sisters-in-laws were going through Grandma’s stuff to see what should be done with it.

Sorting photos (Pat, Mom and Pat sorting Grandma’s photos.)

Closet Stuff (Marty, Dad and Dale cleaning out the closet.)

They were nice to let me join in when I could. There was a lot of stuff to go through, and a lot of stuff they didn’t need or want, I was glad to pick up a few things to add to the history of our family. I have a lot of keepsakes from my family, but less from David’s family.

The funeral was nice. I was very glad that Dale, Mom’s brother, shared some memories about Grandma since the pastor didn’t know Grandma very well. David and Jon played Amazing grace on their trumpets, and a trio sang “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

grandsons The grandsons were the pallbearers.

It was a good to be able to go. David and I were both glad to be there. Glad to see his family again. Glad to see the extended family. Glad to say good-bye to Grandma. Glad to know that someday, we will see her again.

Grandma (Photo taken July, 2007, our last visit with Grandma before moving to New York.)

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June 17, 2008

To kiss or not to kiss?

First Kiss

I was responding to an e-mail I received a few weeks ago and share the story of David’s and my decision not to kiss until our wedding day. I thought you might like to read it too:

David and I talked a quite a bit about the kissing thing. When I met him, “I kissed Dating Good-bye” was a popular book. I had just broken off a relationship that had been too physical, and I thought that if I didn’t kiss a guy, then we would be less likely to get into any other physical trouble too. So, I made a promise to God that my next kiss would be on my wedding day.

That was good for David. He wasn’t sure how to act in a dating relationship. He wanted to remain pure and keep the relationship pure. Waiting until marriage to kiss seemed like a good guide line to follow.

The reason I think it worked for us is not because we didn’t kiss, but also because we went slow in anything physical. Unfortunately, a person can have a goal to not kiss, and still get into a lot of trouble physically. We took things slow all the way around. It was months before we held hands, or hugged. I think that made the bigger difference for me. It forced me do what I didn’t do in previous relationships. We worked on communication. We talked a lot. Because of that, and because we desired to put God before everything else, we have a strong foundation in our relationship.

A lot of people didn’t understand our decisions, or even agree with it. That was ok. I know I needed it at the time.

That being said, I do feel I missed something in not kissing before being married. I thoroughly enjoy the ooey-gooey feelings. I missed not having that with kissing, since the first kiss was in public, and then we had our wedding night.

What I do wish we could have changed, if we changed anything, is that I would have liked to have our first kiss be a small peck type kiss by ourselves before the wedding, and leave it at that. But more important to us than the kiss was the promise we made to God, and that is why we didn’t.

Since writing this e-mail, I have had a lot of thoughts about how would we raise our kids where it comes to dating. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about setting guidelines, where should boundaries be, etc. In the end, all I could really rely on was that God is in control. I know David and I will desire to teach purity and good character to our kids, and maybe in that we will also give a few guidelines to help them out.

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June 10, 2008


Yup, that’s right. I failed. My qualifying exam for the Ph.D. program at Cornell, and, despite a hard year of work, I failed. (This actually happened in the end of May, but I figured it was still worth writing about.)

In some ways, it is actually relieving. Academia sometimes seems to be 90% trying to seem smarter than you really are. It’s somewhat nice to be relieved of some of that presumption.

In other ways, it isn’t surprising to me. I’ve never been very strong in long-term memory of stuff I’ve learned in classes, and undergrad engineering was four years ago. My work at Interstates was only tangentially related to engineering, and I hadn’t seen anything other than high school algebra for quite some time. It’s been a crazy year sometimes—trying to remember differential equations, linear algebra, basic physics, and much more that I learned once upon a time. Nonetheless, I’ve been able to remember a lot (by God’s grace), and ended up doing fairly well in my classes—even if I spent all my time on classes and little on research. Fortunately, that’s changed for the summer, and I can find out if I like research after all.

Also, fortunately, I get another chance. My advisor thinks I can pass next time, and I think so, too, with a bit of work. Unfortunately, it isn’t until January. That leaves more time than I’d like to have it hanging over my head, but that’s ok.

The most challenging part has been a conversation I had with my advisor about whether grad school was really my passion or not. I’m actually quite appreciative of his wisdom: he wants to make sure that I am spending my time in graduate school doing something that I’m passionate about. I don’t know if I am. I’m passionate about following Christ, but little else seems worth spending gobs of energy doing. We’ll see what this summer brings. At this point, I believe that God has brought me to grad school and back into engineering for a reason—but I know that it may not be the reason that I expected.

God is good, and I am trusting Him for all things. We’ll see what the future holds.

Speaking of trusting God, our mechanic just recommended that we junk our car and get a new one. Enough is wrong that his estimate for repair is to pass inspection. So we have some serious thinking and praying to do about that, too.

On a completely different note, I ran across two very interesting articles today. The first regards global warming. Apparently, a new paper proposes that clouds may provide essentially “climate control” that keeps the levels of warming from greenhouse gases in check. It is expected to be controversial, but I think it demonstrates that there is so much in science that we don’t really know. Ironically, science knows much more than most average people seem to thing and much less than scientists tend to insist.

The other interesting article dealt with something at least as controversial: evolution. Apparently, a guy has been watching bacteria for like 20 years (or 44,000 generations), and observed not just the usual micro-evolutionary changes that happened across all his bacteria, but also a change that happened in just one population—they gained the ability to metabolise citrate. I hardly know what that means, other than they can eat something that wasn’t useful for them before. The article notes that this ability used to be a way to differentiate this species from others. (Of course, I’m not sure that there is a good definition for species in biology.)

This is interesting to me, as I’ve realized that I’ve learned very little about evolution in my education. I’m having to learn: our lab does a lot of work with computer algorithms based on evolutionary ideas. And they work surprisingly well, even evidencing what I am rather forced to call “creativity.”

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying: I don’t know what to think about evolution. I don’t believe science just because it is science, unlike so many people around graduate school here. I know that science can be very biased, despite its best attempts at finding truth. But, I also know that Christians sometimes throw science out the door because it is “just science” or because “science is an enemy of religion.” I don’t feel that creationist, intelligent design folks, or evolutions have done a very good job on their debates about the topic: we don’t keep any distinctions between science, theology, and philosophy very clear.

That said, I am far more apt to believe in a six-day creation than I am in materialistic, naturalistic evolution. At the same time, however, I am starting to wonder if there is an option that does justice both to the Biblical text (without just reinterpreting words for the heck of it) and to whatever scientific evidence is truly credible (which may not even be most of it, I don’t know). I guess we’ll see if I have any new insights by the time I’m done with grad school. This should be interesting. :-)

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June 07, 2008

Much Mint


One of the delights I have found in our garden this spring is the presence of mint. I knew that whoever planted the garden last had planted a lot of herbs. I’ve always liked the idea of having a herb garden, but because I can only identify chives, I didn’t know what to do with everything that was already planted. This spring, after cleaning out the garden last fall, two of the herbs came back. Chives and mint.

The chives I knew. I have since learned that there are at least two types of chives, garlic and regular. The ones we have are garlic chives. They are a bit stronger than regular chives. I also have a bit of regular chives too, I picked them up from an empty lot down the road.

The mint was easy to identify by smell. Now that I know I have mint in the garden, I have been doing a little bit of research about it. Did you know that mint is good for digestion? There is a reason that restaurants give out mints after meals. I never knew that.

A neighbour that lives on our street also showed me where there is some spearmint growing in the back yard between our yards. Since no on is living there right now, I decided to help myself to a bit of it. I actually found two kinds of mint in the neighbour’s back yard.

Did you know that there are so many kinds of mint that even experts may have a hard time identifying them? That is because they cross pollinate so easily.

I also read that mint could help ease menstrual cramps. So I tried it this past month. I did help for a while, and I did take less medication, but it wasn’t the miracle drug I was hoping it would be. I’ll try again next month. Until then, I think I’ll learn how to use it in baking.

Here is one of many great web pages on mint: Herbalcuisine.

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June 02, 2008

Garden Photos

Here is a photo progression of what has been happening in our yard.


This is what the front of our trailer looked like the day we moved in. We hadn’t even been inside yet at this point.


Here is a photo of our garden in the winter, after we had pulled out all the plants in the garden. I was sad to pull out plants that I knew were valuable, but I didn’t know what they were or what to do with them. David convinced me to start from scratch in the spring.


Here is a photo of the fence Mindy and I worked on just before I went to New Brunswick for Dad’s birthday. Also, notice that the bush on the right is gone. David took it out for me so I would have more garden space for veggies.


Here I am wanting to plant the garden, but it’s still a bit early, so instead I am playing with a less expensive idea to redirecting the rain that comes off the front of the trailer into the garden (the broken pieces of pot under the hardest hit areas of run off). I’ve also built a trellis for my cucumbers or peas.


This is where the garden is at today.

*I added a bit of fun willow branches to the fence to make it more filled in.

*I’ve added a second trellis so the peas and cucumbers can each have their own trellis.

*I have Vinca (Impatients) planted in the long green planter on the ledge of the trailer. I also have Cinnamon Basil in the terri cotta planter.

*I have tomato and sweet basil planted in the bucket on the trailer hitch.

*The roses have been pruned and are growing like crazy, as well as the chives in front of the roses. Where David took out a bush, a root of the old rose bush that was also there is re-sprouting and growing.

*I planted a few marigolds to keep the rabbits out of the unfenced area.

*David helped me put up a little netting to keep the deer out, we used some willow branches for the posts.

*The part you can’t see yet is that all the seed are in the ground, and some a slowly coming up!

new garden

We also have official permission from the park to put in another garden plot. This past week David took out the sod and helped me plant a few flower seeds in this area. I received a lilly plant from the neighbour. The large yew was there and we just planted around it. The plants in the planters are mint, basil, and oregano in the planters on the sidewalk. Behind the yew bush I have Lemon balm. In the holes of the cinder blocks I have planted pansies. And the wine barrel has peppers, banana pepper and jalapeƱo pepper. The blue bucket is sitting there to catch the runoff from our gutters that don’t work. In the back I have a few wooden boxes that I hope to fill yet with onions and maybe potatoes.

And that is where we are in our gardening adventure. It has given me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction to be able to work so much with my hands and to work towards growing things myself. I’ve never wanted to be a gardener, but something changed over the past year and now I’m excited about it!

One last photo for you, of the new view from our front door. I have to put away the gardening supplies yet, but it is satisfying to be able to see a bit of garden from the inside of our house too.


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Inspired Creativity - Gardening

So, I started the post a few weeks ago, but for some reason I never posted it. Here is it anyway. It embodies my creativity spirts one and two.

“I’m not sure why, I think it’s spring, but I’ve been hit pretty hard with the creativity bug! A few weeks ago I was leaving the public library and a book caught my eye called You Grow Girl so I picked it up. I knew I wanted to do a bit of gardening this year. I’ve been thinking about it ever since we moved to a home with a bit of land. I so enjoyed making strawberry jam last year, that I can’t wait to try more things this year.

“My first inspiration has been to make a little fence around my garden. It was one of the first projects suggested in the book. It sure looked like fun, but was a lot more work than I bargained for! My friend, Mindy, came and helped me out evening and we got quite a ways done. I worked on it a bit more in the next few days. It’s not as high as I was hoping, but it will do for this year.

“I can’t wait to garden and watch things grown! I keep going out to see what other surprises keep popping up in my garden. So far the roses have been leafing beautifully, and the chives are coming back, as well as the mint. Can’t forget those dandelions either.

“I hope to plant cucumbers, peas, carrots, tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce and some flowers. Those are the seeds I have right now at least. Alas, I was told the day to start planting here isn’t until May 21st, I have to wait longer! I did start my green peppers today though, inside, and a bit of spinach too. I am so excited to see SOMETHING grow that I couldn’t wait any more. I am probably late on my green peppers though, I couldn’t decide if I should start them from seed or buy them in plant form first. I’ll try the seed and see how that goes.”

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