21 December 2006

2006 in review

I was just reflecting on this year and reading back on some of my blogs, thinking about my goals from the beginning of the year and seeing if I accomplished any of them, and generally pondering the meaning of 2006. This was partly brought on by preparing my first ever Christmas letter which I finally got sent out this morning. It was also brought on my searching for pictures for the letter. Furthermore, I realized that after tomorrow I will be AWOL until the new year, so this is my official new year's entry.
So, above all I think 2006 for me was about purging--getting rid of things i didn't need and evaluating very carefully what I consider a necessity versus just clutter I keep to make myself feel better. I realized most profoundly this year that the stuff doesn't make me feel better--it makes me feel worse--and to get rid of all of it clears the head and opens the mind.
2006 was also about getting Prairie Soap House up and running. My goal for the year was to begin selling publicly by the end of the year, and I was ahead of that goal by four months. I also got my tax permit, my business permit, and my record keeping basically in order. I wrote a ton of new recipes and found a lot of new customers. It feels really good to know that I actually moved forward with some area of my life that was important to me and that I did everything I set out to do. It also makes me excited and nervous for 2007--to decide which direction I want to take the business and what types of risk I am willing to bite off and try to chew.
We were fortunate enough to complete our home remodeling projects this year. It was a huge challenge spatially, relationally, physically, and mentally to do this remodel, but I think the fruits of our labors are found not only in the house, but in each of us and what skills we have acquired. I think there are always going to be things that I want to "do" to the house. Next year I want to tackle the radon problem, fix our cement issues, put some finishing touches on the land scaping, and most importantly: save money. That way next time we have a major project coming up (i.e. emminent roof replacement or exterior painting) we won't have to take out a loan.
There were some funny things that happened to us in 2006. I always have my adventures (like the time I washed and dried the rice buddy--I am still to this day finding rice in my clean laundry). I think my favorite adventure this year by far was getting to vacation on Maui. Even now it just seems like a dream that we were ever there. I definately want to go back so I am not so much in shock this next time and so I can actually absorb it.
I guess another adventure has been learning to balance life with extra jobs and responsibilities since i started working at the pastry shop and for the chamber chorale. This was an unplanned-for twist to the year, and one that I think in the long run is really going to benefit us financially in the future. Even now I can feel the beginnings of the "getting ahead" feeling financially--and this make the stress and exhaustion worth it at least for the time being.
Babies. Everyone decided to either get knocked up or produce offspring this year. This was all the more evident to me as we started getting Christmas cards with everyone showing off their little ones--it is so much fun! Just off-hand I can think of Jodi & Todd, Kristi & Trevor, Ben & Christina, Michaela and Travis, Becky and Jason. And mostly importantly, our bestest friends in the world, Matt and Dana, are going to have a baby next May (go Muletron!!!). Furthermore, my sister-in-law and bff, Stephanie, is also pregnant. We, however, did not produce offspring and do not plan on producing offspring anytime soon. And for the time being we are still okay with that. There are still a few couple-friends of ours hanging out in the land of the kidless (thanks Joel and Melinda!)
There are always those goals you have in mind that you don't accomplish. For me that #1 item is always weight loss. Well, I guess I did lose weight when we went to Maui, and I think I had gained most of it back by the time we returned. I think now that the house is officially purged I can focus more on some personal purging--including weight loss. I always start out the year with a major cleanse--and this year I am going to go deep straight to the fat burning organ--the liver. Couple that with a good long month of fruit, vegetable, and green tea cleanse, and I think my pancreas and other organs will be thanking me. It isn't so much that i eat badly, but more that I work at a pastry shop as one of my three jobs wherein I have little time to cook healthfully at home and end up more often than not just grabbing whatever I have time to stuff into my mouth. So, that means left over pastries, ice cream, calorie-expensive salads, etc, etc. To help offset this, I have asked my sister, (who is now a certified personal trainer) to invent new ways to torture me. And she has come through with flying colors. I have added extra cardio to each day of the week and also added in a lot more strength training (including some gut-busting new ab routines). Nonetheless, this activity has not curbed the weight gain and my fat pants didn't even fit this morning. Therefore, I have officially declared war on fat, and will be starting my new year's cleansing EARLY this time. I don't really know why my body hates me so much--why it does this even though I do my best to be healthy--but I intend to do something about it.
So, I guess that brings me to looking ahead to next year. Besides the often-quoted resolution to lose weight, I want to lose debt. We have too much debt (yeah, I know--who doesn't). The debt keeps me from doing things I want to do with my life (kind of like extra weight keeps you from doing things you want to do). I want to banish the debt. Obviously working three jobs is one way to tackle this problem. I think that this is my primary focus for 2007.
The third focus would be to figure out what to do with myself musically and creatively-speaking. I made attempts at this in 2006, none of which were successful. Recently I attended a middle eastern dance workshop where the teacher was selling an old book called The Artists Way (Julia Cameron, author) and it is about "recovering your creative self."
Yes, that is what I need to do this next year, actually--recover myself. Recover my body, recover financially, and recover emotionally and spiritually as an artist.
So, there you go. 2006: the year of the purge. 2007: The year of Recovery.
It sounds hopeful, doesn't it?
I guess the point is that for me it isn't fear that holds me back--it is left overs from other phases of my life--mostly things I did to myself, some things that other people did to me. Finding a way out of those bad habits and destructive patterns is what recovery is all about, I think.
So, those are my reflections on the past year and my thoughts looking ahead to the future. 2006 was a good year. It was filled with some surprises. It had some tough times, just like any other year. 2007 looks challenging from the get-go, but challenge is what I thrive on.
So, Merry Christmas to you all--I hope your 2006 year-end is blessed and that your 2007 is even better. Happy New Year!

05 December 2006

1 in 10 to the 157th power

A professor by the name of Peter Stoner has been able to use probability to figure out some very interesting things about Jesus. And since He is the reason for the season, I just thought I'd point out this factoid: There are many prophecies written about the Messiah in the Old Testatment prophecies. Peter Stoner took just 48 of these (there are many more than that, by the way) and determined the probability of one person fulfilling these prophecies (which Jesus did). And the number is:
1 in 10 to the 157th power.
10 with 157 zero's behind it.
That is one heck of a fraction.
This realization was very comforting to me in light of a conversation I was overhearing at a coffee shop last night. A table of three people were sitting there bashing Christianity and people who believe in God. Well, maybe they weren't so much bashing as they were raising themselves above the level of just "belief" to being people who need to come to things rationally.
I'd say that 1 in 10 to the 157th power is rational in the sense that the number was arrived at rationally, through science and math, through the laws of these areas of study.
Anyway, the one kid was making the point that you can believe anything and it doesn't make it true. He could hold a belief that there are white asparagus growing on the moon. But that is not rational to believe. And he was making the correlation between this and belief in God.
It is a) astounding to me that the world is becoming increasingly hostile to those who hold religious view and 2) insulting that the "scholars" seem to think that those of us who do hold beliefs have no reasons for believing them--that we've never thought well, never studied, never pondered, never looked for evidence (because there must not be any, you know). However, I can find nothing BUT good reasons and rational ones at that, to believe in God. But I hear things like this all day:
"Oh, you're religious? You believe in God? Well, I am so sorry that you are too stupid to think for yourself. I am sorry that you are not like me--enlightened enough to not believe in something as archaic as a supreme being. I'm sorry that you find it so easy to ignore science and rational thought. You are a danger to society and should be stopped."
This is the vibe that I get from most people my own age in the circles I tend to occupy.
It is annoying. Actually it is beyond annoying. Did you know that in Holland they are considering outlawing burkas? And there are people in our own country (The Free Thinkers) who want to outlaw all outward expressions of religion. It sounds innocuous until you realize that means that churches wouldn't be able to have crosses on them. Houses wouldn't be able to put up Christmas lights. You wouldn't be able to have the fish on your car if you wanted it. If you were a Wiccan, you wouldn't be allowed to wear your pentagram necklaces or get religious tattoes that were visible. Graves wouldn't be able to have any religious markings on them. Even on your own property, if it is visible to others, you would not be able to display any outward expression of whatever faith you hold.
My question is this: what is so threatening about all of we religious people? What is so threatening about expressions of faith? [By expression--I mean an outward sign. I don't mean proseletyzing on the street corner, I mean a cross on a church. To me, these are two different things. If the cross offends you--don't look at it. If the burka annoys you, look the other way.]
We are loosing our hold on freedom of speech and freedom of religion in this country because we have a whole generation of young people that truly believe we should never do anything to offend someone else. Thereby, we should remove anything at all from public viewing and life that may possibly offend someone else. And this would ultimately include religious expressions.
Another point: There are some very prominent atheists in our culture today that would have you not be able to teach your children your own beliefs. One of them, Richard Dawkins, states that parents who are "brainwashing" their children with religious belief from birth until the age of consent are just as dangerous as the militant Muslim sects. So, you would no longer be able to instill morals or faith within your own child--the flesh of your own flesh--the thing that you created and brought into the world. Instead, all religion would, by law, be removed from all parenting, and the child would find it's moral imperatives from The State rather than his or her parents.
You think that maybe this is a far left- little held view. Well, I tell you that this very view I heard last night coming out of the mouth of a 22-year-old or so young man. He thinks it is wrong for anyone to try to influence anyone to believe anything--especially parents to their children.
Which is ironic, because in saying this, he was influencing those to whom he was speaking.
And the thing I think is most sad about this is him. I am sure he was probably raised with some kind of world view in his family--whether it was every verbalized or not. And now here he is at the age of consent, re-examining those very beliefs. Yet he does not have faith in others to be able to do the same--to re-examine the beliefs they were "brainwashed" with as a child to determine if they flush out in adult life. Oh, the irony.
Well, I guess if they want to label me fanatic, that's fine. If they want to assume that I am not smart, not rational, heretical, they'd be wrong, but they'll think and say it anyway. But 1 in 10 to the 157th power is rational and scientific enough for me to take the "great irrational leap" into faith. And if in our quest to never offend someone we are going to remove all color, conversational, and culture out of our culture, then I don't want it. Go ahead and offend me. Disagree with me. Show me something different than what I think. But don't take all belief out of culture. Be brave enough to live with disagreement and dischord--and to react intelligently instead of going into a sort of cultural denial. This is what it takes to have a free society--a society with diversity, color, interlude, life.