Thursday, September 18, 2014

My love affair with biking



When my husband told me he was going to buy me a used bicycle, my response was "Don't waste your money!"

Frankly, I had no desire to ride a bike.  It has been more years that I would care to count since I had been adept at riding one (think: childhood), and I was more than a little scared of  how my not-so-graceful adult self would fare on a bicycle.\

Thankfully, he ignored me.


And I'm so glad he did...because this little mama has been the source of an enormous amount of fun, relaxation, exercise, and re-discovering one of the purest and simplest joys of childhood.

"It's just like riding a bike...you never forget how!"

Mmm-hmm. I'm sure you've heard that little saying before.

Well, yes and no.  The truth is...while your body remembers how to balance itself on a bicycle...this grown-up and significantly larger body had a hard time remembering just how to maneuver the contraption with confidence.

My first bike ride, together with my husband, was a disaster.

He had already been riding for several weeks, and even at its worst, his strength and endurance is way above mine.  And he's a natural athlete.  I'm...NOT.

It was one of the worst 55 minutes of my life.  I thought I was going to die.  And I was horribly clumsy and awkward...I kept thinking how my kids would have thought it was hilarious (they're not mean-spirited, but they enjoy ogling a train wreck as much as the next person.)

Practice makes perfect

I was ready to give up after that first awful ride.  But I didn't.  I purposed to take a short spin around my neighborhood every day until I had more confidence.  And you know what?  I finally did!


Riding my bike has brought me so much enjoyment this past summer.  Besides giving me much-needed exercise, it has helped me get in touch with and really appreciate beautiful parts of my city, like the ones depicted here, up close and personal.

Living in Northern Illinois, the day will come when I'll have to park my bike for a long hiatus.  I'll be sad when that happens...but I'll look forward to springtime and the first time I can take my trusty little blue friend for a spin again!

I took this one underneath "Symbol," a large metal sculputre that's supposed to be symbolic of our city.

The Sinnissippi Recreation Path, where I did the majority of my biking this summer

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Son of Hamas" Revisited: A New Documentary about an amazing book




A while back, I reviewed the book "Son of Hamas" on my book blog, Cindy's Book Club.

Now, Tyndale House informs me that there is now a documentary based on the book.  "The Green Prince" premiered September 12th in New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles, to "amazing reviews."

Scroll down for a trailer of the film.

But first, here's my review of the book:




It's rare that I step away from my beloved fiction to read a nonfiction book. Most often it's a biography.

Indeed, Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices is autobiographical, but it's a radical reading departure for me.

The Middle East and me

My life has been somewhat connected with the Middle East since I was a child and my parents were missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon.

My brother was born just a couple of weeks after my family was evacuated from Lebanon during the Six Day War in June of 1967.

(Ironically, my brother grew up to serve as a US Marine during the Gulf War, then as a contractor helping train Iraqi police and working alongside the military in Afghanistan.)

Just as I will never forget the beauty of the short time I spent in Lebanon, my heart is saddened at the ongoing violence and bloodshed in the region.

I guess those are the reasons I picked up Son of Hamas. I was intrigued by this story of the son of a founder and leader of West Bank terrorist organization Hamas.



Mosab Hassan Yousef

This from the book's website:

Since he was a small boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef has had an inside view of the deadly terrorist group Hamas. The oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member of Hamas and its most popular leader, young Mosab assisted his father for years in his political activities while being groomed to assume his legacy, politics, status . . . and power. But everything changed when Mosab turned away from terror and violence, and embraced instead the teachings of another famous Middle East leader.

Son of Hamas was not an easy read for me. I sometimes felt as if I were reading a history book and that I needed to focus to keep track of the various terrorist organizations and events, which sometimes seemed to run together.

But I wanted to read this book. My brother once shamed me because I couldn't name all the major terrorist organizations off the top of my head, despite the fact that I've worked in radio news for years.

I wanted to educate myself and delve into the inner workings of terrorism and counter-terrorism. Since Mosab ended up collaborating with Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet for several years, I was definitely able to do that.

Mosab characterizes his father as a kind, humble, devout man who mostly cared about the welfare of his people. However, it became increasingly hard for Mosab to reconcile his father's gentleness--the man literally was unable to kill a bug!--with a person who would encourage and countenance the killing of thousands of innocent people in the name of Allah.




The remarkable power of God's Word

The ultimate reward for sticking with this gripping and violent book was a revelation. I've always known this, but it's still amazing to see it illustrated so vividly: God's Word has the power to dramatically change lives and situations.

At one point, Mosab is invited to a Bible study by a British missionary. As he's always been open to learning about other religions, he decides to go, sort of on a lark.

To his surprise, he really enjoys it. He's given a New Testament, and since gifts are precious in the Arab culture, he reads it.


Writes Mosab:

"I began at the beginning, and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything he says is beautiful. I couldn't put the book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope.
Then I read this: 'You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy,' but I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven"(Matthew 5:43-45).

That was it! I was thunderstruck by these words. Never before I heard anything like this, but I knew this was the message I had been searching for all my life......."

There was no Damascus Road experience, but Mosab is ever more drawn to the God of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and eventually converts to Christianity.

I won't tell you anything else about the book, in case you decide to read it for yourself. If, like me, you're used to the entertainment of fiction, it may at times be a difficult read. But it's a remarkable one that will stay with you long after you close the book.

Trailer for "The Green Prince"



Find out more about "The Green Prince"  here

Thursday, September 11, 2014

15 Books That Will Always Stick With Me



I noticed something that's been going around Facebook recently.  People are "tagged" to list the books that have stayed with them, or stuck with them.

No one has tagged me on this, but I recalled that a few years ago I actually blogged about my own list.  So, ta-da!  Here it is again.

(I almost didn't list the Bible, because it's really in a category all its own, but no list of "books that stayed with me" is complete without it.)

1. The Holy Bible

 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12

It's a living thing.  It's unlike any other book that has ever written or ever will be.  

And now to ordinary, man-made books:


2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte--After loving this book almost all my life, I finally wrote a review of it here.   It's not "the mother of all gothic novels" for nothing. It has everything: romance, mystery, suspense, a dangerously attractive love interest and a heroine we admire and care about.



3. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte--Heathcliff is the ultimate bad boy that you can't help falling a little in love with (although, as I've matured, I see him much more as a villain than as a romantic figure.) Windswept moors, sobbing heroines--it's a mess, but you can't help being captivated.

4. Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot--The gut-wrenching true story of  missionaries killed while trying to give the gospel to a remote tribe.  Written by the remarkable widow of  one of the missionaries.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis---technically more than one book. (My favorite is probably "The Silver Chair")--I was avidly reading these books as a child, many years before the movie hype came along, and probably before many of you were born! Still, I continue to re-read them about once a year.

6. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott--Introduced me to the joys of fiction when I was a very little girl. Now, as an adult, it seems a bit quaint-- but I still love it.



7. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen--I've always loved the way Darcy and Elizabeth are inexorably drawn to each other throughout the book, despite ostensibly not being able to stand each other. And Elizabeth is one of the coolest heroines ever...feisty, funny and beautiful.

8. The Red Knights of Hy Brasil, by Christine Savery--This was a childhood favorite when I was a missionary kid in Beirut, Lebanon. I had lost it, but a few years ago I found a copy online, and yes, I do read it again occasionally. I also give this book at least partial credit for my lifelong obsession with Ireland, and desire to go there. I blogged here about finding the book after many years.

9. Not My Will, by Francena H. Arnold--I blogged about this book not too long ago here. Written many years ago, it still stands the test of time.

10. Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers--Showed me how really excellent, top-notch and absorbing Christian fiction can be...and the message has been literally life-changing for some young women I know.



11. The Atonement Child, by Francine Rivers--What would you do if you were a Christian college student about to marry a star preacher-to-be---and you were raped by a stranger?  And you were pregnant?  Rivers handles this question with unflinching real-ness.

13.Wisdom Hunter, by Randall Arthur-- Probably the most brutally honest look at graceless Christianity to date. Combines a fascinating story with vital spiritual insights.

14. The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom--This true story of a Dutch woman imprisoned by the Nazis for helping Jews is an incredible portrait of faith and grace.

15. Auntie Robbo, by Anne Scott Moncrieff--Another childhood favorite that I've found and bought again online. I blogged about it here.

The list could go on...and on...and on!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Some Gorgeous Heads of Hair

Cheating a bit, because this is from the archives of my blog. First posted September 6, 2011 as part of a bloghop called "Semi-Wordless Wednesday.--CS

Check out these luxuriant manes!



Taylor Swift




Rita Hayworth




Zoey Deschanel




Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton)




Jane Fonda




Rachel McAdams









Keira Knightley



Greta Garbo


Do you have a favorite???

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What I'm Doing With That China




In my last post, I talked about a set of china I inherited recently.  It had been my maternal grandmother's, then my mother's, but I never remember anyone using it.

I finally unpacked it the other day and saw that it's really beautiful.  It's a vintage set of Homer Laughlin American Vogue eggshell china in the Rambler Rose pattern.  It's not a complete set, but except for a few pieces, it's unchipped and in beautiful shape.

I posed the question of what I should do with it, and got some great answers:

From my cousin Joni: "Cindy, that china is absolutely breathtaking!! I think in this crazy, uncertain world we live in that you should USE IT on a daily basis."

From my cousin Kathy: "I agree- use it for every day - at this point in life every day is a special occasion!!! Enjoy!!"

From Kay:  "I'd use it. And if you want to keep a piece then put one plate or platter on the wall. Use the rest. It's beautiful!"

So I'm both using it and displaying it!

I cleared the odds and ends out of my little hutch and put the china in it.  I think it looks beautiful



I'm not using all of it everyday, but I've taken to having my morning English muffins on one of the lovely dessert plates.

And since there are only six dinner plates, I'm thinking of getting another couple of plates on E-bay.  I will definitely use it for company, special occasions, and any other time I want to.

It's too pretty not to enjoy on a regular basis.

I did find out that vintage china (this set was probably made around 1950) should not be put in the dishwasher or microwave.

Does anybody have any other advice for me about vintage china?  I'd appreciate any feedback!






P.S.  The little hutch also belonged to my grandmother.  It's not antique, but I think it's pretty.

I've been thinking about painting it teal or white.  But I also think it's really pretty just as it is.  I'd love more feedback on this too! Thanks!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What would you do with this china?

So, I've finally unpacked the china that originally belonged to my maternal grandmother.


This is what remains of the set of Homer Laughlin American Vogue Rambler Rose china.

The set originally belonged to my grandmother and was passed down to my mother.  My mom wanted me to have it, but for one reason or another, I never claimed it until after my mom's untimely death last November.

And just today, I unpacked it.



There are only six dinner plates, and two of the five remaining teacups are chipped or cracked. Otherwise, everything is in remarkably good shape.

I'm just not sure what to do with this lovely china.

Should I actually use it?  Should I just display it? (I do have a hutch currently filled with odds and ends of other dinnerware.)

Should I attempt to sell it?  Since my mom never used it that I can remember, it doesn't have a great deal of sentimental value attached.  But I'd rather keep it that not. However, I do see on the internet that there's a market for Homer Laughlin patterns.

Advice, please!











Friday, August 08, 2014

I Give Weird Nicknames (from the archives)

Okay, so I'm experiencing a MAJOR blogging drought.  But I've been blogging for over 10 years, so there's quite a bit of material locked away in that archival vault, right? And some of you may be new to my blog and never read some of this material.  So I'll be digging deep into that vault for the next few days...weeks?...and really hope you enjoy some of the old stuff.  

The following was first published in June of 2004


It's a compulsion. I can't seem to let people who are close to me just have their given name...I have to give them a nickname, and often it gets completely out of control.

For example, take my daughter Elizabeth. It started with me calling her "Lizzy Boo." Then, for some reason, it progressed to "Lizzy Boo, the Tiny Roo." Not content with that, I had to shorten it to just "Roo"...which then morphed into "Roony Toon." From there it became "Roony Toons Adventures" (yes, I know it's weird!!!), then "Roony Toons Adventures in Odyssey," then just "Odyssey." Oh, the Odyssey of a nickname! Nowadays, I will often say something like, "Roo, will you answer the phone?" or something to that effect, so I guess it's calming down. Although for a while I was calling her "Roo Paul," and she just put her foot down on that one. You have to draw the line somewhere!

My husband Doug was first "Dougie-Wuggie" while we were dating (please don't get nauseous...I know it's syrupy!) Then I shortened it to Wugs or Wuggles. Sometimes I even call him "Wuggles the Clown." He totally answers to Wugs, though, because I've called him that for years.

Sometimes, the nicknames stick. When were were very young children, I started calling my sister Lisa "Lido." I have no idea why...but now that's what I call her, more often than not. We both attended the same Bible college, and as others would hear me calling her "Lido," they picked up on it too. Soon, complete strangers were calling her "Lido"--which she wasn't crazy about. "Lido" was a pet name that should have been reserved for close friends and family!

Then there was my good friend and former co-worker, Joel Griffith. (Joel is now a staff writer at Slavic Gospel Association.) I found myself calling him "Joel," with the emphasis on the second syllable. That reminded me of a girl I went to high school with, whose name was Joelle Palermo. So I started calling him "Joelle Palermo," and that got shortened to "Palermo." Soon, just about everyone who worked at the radio station at the time was calling him "Palermo," and I even still call him that to this day...and he answers to i

Now, my co-worker Charmel is often called "Charmie"---thanks, of course, to me. It's caught on to the point that people even call her that on the air sometimes. (Actually, it started as "Charmie-Pooh." Yep. Really.)

Even the dog is not exempt. Our German Shepherd's name is Stormy, but for some reason I morphed that into "Stormcloud Trooper," and now, more often than not, I will just call her "Trooper." Smart dog that she is, she answers to either one!

Interestingly enough, given I'm the great bestower of nicknames, I don't really have one myself. Unless you count the fact that my real name is Cynthia and I'm almost never called that. Although, my dad used to occasionally called me "Cindoza," and my brother-in-law Steve called me "Cindinka." Come to think of it, my brother David has called me that too, and even "Dinkers" for short.

This weird nick-naming thing must be genetic. Apparently, Grandpa Garrett was a great giver of nicknames. And my sister Lido and I found out something really strange recently. One of the nicknames I had given Elizabeth at times was "Creekie May." (Don't ask...I have no idea why.) Come to find out, completely ignorant of that strange nickname, my sister sometimes called HER daughter "Creekie La Luna"!!!

I often call my sister Bev "Buv" because of the way a friend of hers used to pronounce it. And don't even get me started on all the strange nicknames I gave my brother when he was a kid. The one that has stuck through all the years is "Dave-o," which is useful to help distinguish him from my sister's husband, who is also a David.

As I re-read this before posting, I am once again reminded that I am REALLY weird. (sigh.)
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