Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Big Apple

I might be taking a trip to NYC for a long weekend. I'd be there for about four days and the stay would last through New Year's Weekend. I have never been there before and am so excited about the possibility. So, any suggestions for places I must see or things I must do? I want the full New York experience, so I plan to get mugged on my first day there...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Only 27 Days Until Christmas!

The countdown is upon us. I am so excited! I love this time of year and I just want to soak up every possible moment of the holidays. Alas, it will probably fly by like every other year. Here's my list of things I want to do as part of the delights of the season.

  1. Bake Christmas cookies to share with friends
  2. Join family in the quest for beautifully lit and decorated houses
  3. Make egg-nog
  4. Wrap each gift with lovely paper and ribbons
  5. Stand under some mistletoe!
  6. Sit by the fire and read a good book
  7. Give an unexpected gift to a stranger
  8. Watch as many Christmas movies as I can

Which leads me to another important list: the best Christmas movies! People, if you haven't seen the movies on this list, you need to!

  1. It's a Wonderful Life (predictable and cheesy, but truly a wonderful movie)
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (I wouldn't touch him with a 39 and half foot pole!)
  3. A Christmas Carol (do yourself a favor and watch the 1951 version with Alastair Sim)
  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (and they were sthore afraid)
  5. The Muppet Christmas Carol (the best post-Henson Muppet movie)
  6. Miracle on 34th Street (give it a chance)
  7. A Christmas Story (FUUUUDDDGGGEEEE!)
  8. Elf (Bob Newhart as a tiny elf and Will Ferrell as his huge adopted son, classic!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Call Me Lawrence

I got something in the mail yesterday...it was junk mail addressed to "Lawrence Johnson". Splendid. People already have a difficult time simply pronouncing my name (it's Law-ree, not Lorree) and I have already been dubbed "Larry" by the inimitable Bailey. So why not go ahead and throw Lawrence into the mix? Lawrence E. Johnson. Makes me sound like a middle-aged black man.

In other news...I paid $1.98 per gallon for gasoline this morning! Now there's something to be thankful for. ;)

Monday, November 21, 2005


Been listening to my iPod Nano and keep coming back to this song over and over. It is such a beautiful and powerful description of self-sacrificial love.

Bring Him Home
~From Les Miserables

God on high hear my prayer.
In my need You have always been there.

He is young, he's afraid.
Let him rest, heaven-blessed.
Bring him home, bring him home.
Bring him home.

He's like the son I might have known if God had granted me a son.
The summers die one by one. How soon they fly on and on.
And I am old and will be gone.

Bring him peace, bring him joy.
He is young, he is only a boy.
You can take, you can give!
Let him be, let him live.
If I die, let me die.
Let him live.

Bring him home. Bring him home.
Bring him home.

God can take and He can give. The fact is He took my sin by giving the life and blood of His own Son, all so He could bring me home. Thank you Jesus.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Oh Baby It's Cold Outside

And inside. My office is freezing! I am wearing my wool coat and hoodie and would have mittens on if I were able to type while wearing them. My boss says I look like the Unabomber. I am the only woman in the newsroom right now. Everyone else is in shirtsleeves and feeling comfortably cool. I am the only one in danger of developing pneumonia or frostbite. I may have to bring my space heater and electric blanket to work next week. Perhaps drastic measures will wake them up to the extreme working conditions.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Is There a Prophet in the House?

I am not making any of this up.

I had a dream last night. Actually it was early this morning just before I woke up. I don't often remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me and was actually a bit disturbing. Here's what happened.

I was in my house with several other people: some church friends, some co-workers. I was standing next to the window and looked out to see a swarm of huge bees flying toward the house. They started bumping into the window and next thing I knew they were dislodging the glass from the seal. Several people walked up to see what was going on. It was very odd.

Then someone walked outside and when they opened the door a whole group of bees swarmed inside and started attacking us. Several people were stung and fell to the floor, other began grabbing objects and warding off the bees. I found a big, heavy object and crushed a whole posse of bees. It sounds funny, but it was actually very upsetting. Then the bees disappeared. They simply vanished.

We regrouped and started to talk about what had happened when I noticed there were new people among us. People that none of us knew. Strangers. They acted like they had been there the whole time. Then the really weird stuff started happening. The strangers held a council and took over. Then people that I knew started joining them. It was sort of like a benign version of invasion of the body-snatchers. People were being turned into the strangers. I was brought before the council and questioned and somehow I could see inside them. I could see past the mask of human form and inside was something evil.

Then I woke up.

I awoke before the alarm, so it wasn't a noise that awakened me. I was very disoriented and couldn't remember what day of the week it was or figure out what time it was. All I could think of was the evil inside the strangers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Being a List of Questions Compiled by the Work of Divers
Post-Modern Divines and Edited by Christopher Alexion.
Q1. What is the chief end of humankind?
A. Humankind's chief end is to promote world peace and enjoy it forever.
Q2. What rule do we have to direct us how we may accomplish this peace?
A. We have but one rule, and that is we have none.
Q3. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His design to Bless America.
Q4. Are there more gods than one?
A. There is but one only, though the term includes all religions.
Q5. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. As many as we want there to be.
Q6. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are the contingent purpose according to the counsel of our will, whereby, for our benefit, He will make all our favorite sports teams win.
Q7. How doth God execute His decrees?
A. God executeth His decrees in the work of watching us exercise our free will.
Q8. Where and how is God to be worshipped?
A. He is to be worshipped at the Washington National Cathedral, in the name of the Father, Mohammed, and Jesus Christ.
Q9. What is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt make no Absolute Judgments.
Q10. What is the second commandment?
A. The second is like unto it: Thou shalt accept all views as thine own, and be not Bigoted.
Q11. Are we ourselves Bigoted in our thinking?
A. Not at all.
Q12. Not at all?
A. No.
Q13. Not even a little bit?
A. No.
Q14. No?
A. Absolutely not.
Q15. What is the only redeemer of postmoderns?
A. The only redeemer of postmoderns is the Lord High State, which though the coercer of men, condescended to feel our pain, and so was, and continueth to be, coercer and pain-feeler, in two distinct natures, and one administration, forever.
Edited for length
Q22. What is the true method of politics?
A. The true method of politics is, to take a position that avoids all extremes, even as this catechism is neither Larger nor Shorter but Medium-length.
Q23. What is the duty of civil government?
A. The duty of civil government is, in matters important, clemency; in matters unimportant, severity; in all things, neutrality.
Q24. What is the principal threat to neutrality in the civil realm?
A. The principal threat to neutrality is Religious Extremism.
Q25. What is Religious Extremism?
A. Religious Extremism is, the view that certain absolute truths exist independent of the minds of men and women, that if something is true, it is true, and that A and not-A cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense.
Q27. By what means may we defeat Religious Extremism?
A. We may defeat it by allowing it to make no Judgments in the civil realm.
Q28. Is this itself a Religious Judgment?
A. Nope.
Q29. Not at all?
A. Not at all.
Q30. Art thou sure?
A. Absolutely.
Q31. Though the aforementioned Extremism is a vicious crime, does this imply that there is no place for religion?
A. No, for there are the Liberal Churches.
Q33. Wherein consisteth the worship of Liberal Churches?
A. Liberal worship consisteth in tolerance, affirmation, lighting of candles, experiencing of religious experience, and the consumption of Goodies.
Q35. What are the seven deadly vices?
A. The seven deadly vices are, Intolerance, Bigotry, Logic, Extremism, Sexism, Smoking, and making Sin-judgments.

Monday, November 14, 2005

O the Weather Outside is Frightful (i.e. HOT)

But the red cups at Starbucks are so delightful. I LOVE the red cups. I walked into Starbucks last Friday and saw the holly berries and decorations everywhere and a little thrill of excitement went through me as I realized I was about to get my first red cup of the Christmas season. I took a picture of my red cup, but something is wrong with my computer and it won't recognize my digital camera right now, so I "borrowed" a picture off the Starbucks website. Check this out. Too cute. Doesn't it just make you feel warm and fuzzy? Todd sent me a text message on Sunday morning, it said..."The red cups are at Starbucks...". This text message alone is enough to demonstrate how Todd is a supremely cool and awesome person. Red cups make me happy.

Cause for Concern?

Every year the Better Business Bureau puts out a list of charitable or non-profit organizations that meet their standards for financial accountability. I was reviewing both the national and local lists and found some troubling listings. There are four possible classifications "Meets Standards for Charity Accountability", "Did Not Meet Standards", "Under Annual Review" and "Did Not Provide Information." According to the BBB, those who do not meet the standards are probably ethical, accountable organizations that were likely disqualified for a simple reason such as having less than five board members or not conducting annual audits. The logic is that if an organization goes through the entire process of BBB review and submits all requested materials they probably have nothing to hide. The list of greater concern is those organizations who refuse to provide information. The BBB sends a request letter with the forms and makes several follow-up phone calls and if the non-profit still does not respond, the BBB considers that a red-flag.

That's all a lot of background information to get to my main point. The list of organizations that chose to not provide information included Inspire! Women, Focus on the Family, Joyce Meyer Ministries, Crisis Pregnancy Center of Houston, Living Water International, Texas Right to Life Committee, National Coalition of Prayer and the Presidential Prayer Team. I am not saying any of these organizations is practicing unethical behavior. But it does make me curious why they chose not to provide that information. It also concerns me that the message sent by the BBB is that these non-profits may be hiding something or mismanaging funds. Financial transparency is so important and I hope these organizations will reconsider their decision and submit the necessary paperwork to undergo review.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Home Schooling Exposed Part V

Missing out. We're all familiar with the concept. We've all had times where we heard about our friends going to a movie without us. Or a group goes on a vacation together and you're not able to join them. That feeling of being outside the circle, not part of the "joke" or just disconnected in some way.

As a home schooler I definitely experienced the "missing out" complex from time to time. But not in the way many might think. I felt like I was missing something because I was always at home with my parents and didn't get to "escape" to school like most people. I often felt I was missing out on the dating experience (I was so naive).

For home schoolers a big factor in this feeling is where you live. For all those people who home school in the rural areas it is much more difficult. There aren't that many other home schoolers around you to act as support groups and there aren't as many activities. For these families it is so vital to be actively involved in a growing fellowship of believers. Participation in church events and groups provides much of the social interaction that's necessary.

For families (like mine) who home school their children in a big city, the possibilities are almost limitless. There aren't many chances to feel like you're missing out when you grow up in Houston. This area has one of the largest, most active and most innovative home school support organizations in the country. There are field trips, mission trips, organized sports, co-op art classes, chemistry and biology labs, a home school choir, a home school theatre camp, an actual prom including a night cruise on Lake Conroe and a dance/dinner, real graduation ceremonies with key-note speakers like Alan Keyes and many other activities.

So to conclude my five part series, I would like to say that home schooling is a great endeavor. It is difficult, tedious, sometimes overwhelming and costly, but I believe it is worth it. I loved the experience and hope to be able to share the same thing with my children if God so chooses to bless me. I enjoyed this conversation and welcome your comments.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Home Schooling Exposed Part IV

Home Schoolers and Socialization, an oxymoron you say? Au contraire. The myths and stereotypes surrounding home schoolers and their social skills are staggering.

For those of you who know me personally, let me pose a simple question to you. Have you ever considered me socially awkward? Ever thought "gee, Laurie needs to work on her interpersonal communication" or "Laurie's group behavior is seriously strange"? Of course not! As the great Toddatello once said, "Laurie, you are not just cool, you are supercool." I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but to demonstrate that being home schooled does not equate to being a social outcast who can't function in normal behavioral situations.

Here's the deal. There are all kinds of people in the world. Some have great social skills, some manage to get by and some are considered socially awkward or socially dysfunctional. The same is true whether you're educated at public school or at home. Sure there are those home school kids who can't carry a conversation. But there's a heck of a lot of people who went to public school that can't successfully put five words together. Now some people will say that home schooling doesn't provide sufficient socialization opportunities. I say that's bogus! The reality is schools offer a false social setting. There are no other places or situations in which a person is placed in a room with 30 other people the exact same age as them for eight hours per day. That's not a "normal" social situation. Normal social settings involve people of all ages and backgrounds interacting at various levels and depths. Schools foster a pack mentality. Peer pressure is perpetuated when your entire social circle consists of a couple hundred 14-year-olds who watch what you do, say and wear every day of your life.

As a home schooler, I had to learn how to behave socially with all kinds of people. There were toddlers and youngsters running around, older teens, parents, grandparents, wealthy families, poor families, single-parent households, children raised by grandparents, single adults without families etc... I literally remember interacting with all of those people through my church, home school group, relatives and hobbies. When I was in middle school it was just as easy for me to play with a six-year-old as it was to carry on an intelligent conversation with a retiree. Although I certainly preferred hanging out with my friends who were my own age, as any child does.

The next (and final) home schooling post will answer Arshunda's question on whether I feel/felt like I missed out on anything. If there are other topics I should address let me know.

Freakin' Sweet!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Home Schooling Exposed Part III

Troy brought up some great points in the comment section, namely that it's not home schoolers who should have to defend their position but rather the public education system. Before I go any further I want to say that this discussion is in no way intended to be a rant against public education. I simply want to demystify home schooling and provide greater insight into the arguments and truths of home education.

Which takes us to the second half of my last entry: concerned conservatives. My parents fall into this group. These people usually home school their children not because they want to remove them from society, but because they want them to understand society from a completely Christ-centered perspective. My parents could choose exactly what doctrines to teach me. I never grew up being confused about the disconnect between a created world and the Big Bang theory. I never had to struggle with how to reconcile "alternative" lifestyles. I was never exposed to the idea that it was "normal" to disrespect adults, to use profanity, to start dating at age 12 or to explore my sexuality/drug interest/independence etc...

My parents never shielded me from those things. On the contrary, they spoke openly and frankly with me on a variety of topics and reaffirmed God's truths and exposed the enemy's lies. I know Christian families can put their kids in school and still teach them these things. But you have to realize the kids spend 8+ hours per day surrounded by people who are teaching them lies. Children often end up confused about the truth and begin to question authority. Doubts creep in when your stuffy old parents tell you one thing and your cool friends and favorite teacher tell you something completely different. I never had to deal with that. I was taught to rely on God's truth alone and test all other ideas against it. My mother consistently taught and corrected me using scripture. How many public school teachers teach and rebuke their students with scripture? It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized how much scripture was hidden in my heart as a direct result of the hours spent with my mother.

Home school families are also much more likely to reinforce God-given roles for men and women. A significant part of my education centered around womanly pursuits. I was taught how to maintain a household, sew clothing and quilts, cook and bake (even homemade bread!), plant flower and vegetable gardens, care for young children, and budget for a family. Sure public schools provide home ec classes, but I got to learn all of that from my mother! We spent hours together deepening our relationship while pursuing domestic excellence. I learned all of those things and still managed to be an independent-thinking, college-educated, career woman. A woman who loves her job but has a deeper desire to be a wife and mother. I fit into the culture, but I'm not defined by it. Again, please don't hear me wrong. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to pursue a career. I also don't think a woman is less of a woman if she doesn't know how to sew, cook etc... But I can't deny the value of being blessed with those skills as an overflow of my home education.

More to follow next time about home schoolers and the "S" word: Socialization!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Listenin'?

An update on the Christmas shopping post...the cool snap is in a temporary holding pattern which means I am still in the festive mood. I went shopping on Tuesday and completed about half of my Christmas purchases! Still have some family members to buy for and a few stocking stuffers, but almost everything else is done.

Next project: Christmas cards! Don't worry, I'm not mailing them any time soon. But I can at least get a jump start on writing and addressing them. Now you know why I wanted your mailing address a couple weeks ago... :)

Home Schooling Exposed Part II

In response to my 2.3 readers I am addressing the social aspect of home schooling. This requires a little bit of delving into the home school family psyche. Generally there are two types of home school families: the radical, hyper-conservatives who want to shield their children from the world and the concerned conservatives who want to have greater control over the education and moral upbringing of their children. *Nota Bene: there are liberal home schoolers, but it's a much smaller group.

Remember the weird home school kids? The ones who dressed funny and spoke in really long, very grown-up sentences and talked about politics and who never watched TV or Disney movies and who weren't allowed to listen to "secular" music? Those were the offspring of the hyper-conservatives. The girls often wore only long skirts and sleeves, music with a syncopated beat was banned, Disney's Bambi slept with girlfriend Feliene and they clearly weren't married etc...

This group of home schoolers had very good intentions. They hoped to maintain their kids' innocence and purity. They wanted to create a separate, holy nation. They had lofty goals to go back to a simpler way of life. There's nothing wrong with fresh-ground wheat for the home-baked bread and colorful calico for the hand-sewn skirts. Many peoples and cultures have sought to create Utopia. Unfortunately, reality gets in the way. They forgot the command to be in the world, but not of the world. They tried to have it both ways: separate from the culture and society, but still be a successful witness to the lost. They forgot that Jesus lived amongst the people, he dressed like they did, talked like they did, showed up at the same parties and marketplaces, ate the same food, drank the same wine (yes, I said it) and counted IRS men and prostitutes among his buddies. Christ was counter-cultural while remaining in the culture. He never ran away from those in the world, He embraced them, died for them and rose again to redeem them.

Many of the radical home schoolers ended up disillusioned and frustrated and left behind a bad impression for all those on the outside looking in. Their children had a hard time relating to the rest of their generation and an even harder time maintaining their Utopian habits when forging their own lives upon reaching adulthood. For those of you who only knew these home schoolers, you would be right in thinking "it just doesn't work."

This post has become really long, so I will wait until tomorrow to talk about the other set of home schoolers, the concerned conservatives. Keep your comments and questions coming, I love hearing other ideas about home schooling!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Inner Sanctum: Home Schooling Exposed

This is a topic I have been wanting to post about for quite some time. I'm not sure exactly where the discussion will go, but I would love to hear your responses and questions regarding the issue. Just keep it friendly please.

So for those of you who don't know, I was home schooled my whole life. My parents made the decision to teach me at home when I was two. This was back when home schooling was mostly an "underground" effort. At that time, parents could be investigated for keeping their children out of traditional schools. My mom had to worry about taking me out in public during normal school hours because someone could "report" her to CPS. Home schooling wasn't illegal, it was just regarded as suspicious. My parents were literally on the cutting edge of the home school movement. They helped form and lead the Southeast Texas Home School Association (SETHSA) which is now a huge support group for families in the Houston area.

I often get asked about why my parents chose home schooling. One reason is they were new believers (saved when I was about a year old) and were passionate about their new Christian walk. The other reason is there were lots of changes in the public education system at that time where alternative theories about science, religion and family life were starting to take root in the schools. My parents decided to sacrifice a second income and teach me at home based on Christian principles.

This leads into one of the arguments/excuses against home schooling: "We can't afford it."

The truth is just about anyone can afford to home school. The problem is a lot of people don't want to afford it. Staying home and teaching your own children (whether the mom or the dad is the bread-winner) often means giving up the new car, the bigger house, the expensive vacations, the trendiest clothes, the newest "toys", the fancy restaurants and the monthly spa visit. It means giving up a lot of the luxuries that the world tells us are necessities. My parents sacrificed an upwardly mobile lifestyle in exchange for a warm (smaller) home filled with the sounds of children playing (instead of cable tv) and home-cooked meals (instead of take-out) and weekend camping trips to the beach or forest (instead of DisneyWorld or Europe).

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with those other things. They are great and I am so glad that some families get to have those experiences. But they are luxuries and if those things are the only things holding someone back from considering home schooling I would advise some self-examination and priority-checking. You might come away reaffirmed in the decision to make those things a part of your life because you want your children to experience those things. You also might come away with some different ideas that you never considered before.

I'll leave things there for now. More posts on living the home schooled life will follow. Let me know what you think and if you would like me to address any particular aspect of home education.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Yay! The holidays are here! Woo hoo! Ok, ok...I know it's only November 1st, but this chilly snap in the air makes me want to start my Christmas shopping. They're already playing gift-giving commercials and I was in a store last Friday that was playing Christmas music. That's right, Christmas music on October 28th. That's a bit much. But we're into November now, it's justifiable. I am going shopping this afternoon when I get off work. Got to take advantage of this cold front while it's here. Don't worry...I'll bundle up. Brrrr.