When Daddy gets home.

I was working with a child yesterday who has a language delay and somewhat limited vocabulary.  We were working on creating mental semantic webs for words by generating items in categories.  We had gone through a few – name three things that live in the ocean, name three things that are blue, name three games that you play with a ball – and were on the last category – name three things that make you happy.

Her adorable little face puckered with concentration.

“Uh.  Uh.  Candy!”

“Good!” I said.  “What else makes you happy?”

Furrowed brow and deep concentration.

“Um.  Uh.  Oh!  Cookies!”

“I like cookies, too.  One more, now.  What really makes you so happy?”

She was quiet for a moment, and then her face lit up like the sun was shining on it.  An enormous smile blossomed and she began to wiggle like an excited puppy.

“When Daddy gets home!”

Tears stung my eyes at the simple sweetness of her response.

The long broken arm of human law.

Today I sat on a jury, the first time I’ve ever had to do so.  The trial has concluded and the judge instructed us that we are free to discuss the case with whomever we please now, but I’m still going to be vague on personal details so as not to harm the defendant’s reputation any more than he himself has already harmed it.

Last Friday I had to go to the county court for jury selection.  The defendant was charged with drunk driving, so naturally the prosecutor and defense attorneys probed us for our beliefs about things like whether the government should have the right to set a legal limit on body alcohol level, our feelings about the police, whether we ourselves drink alcohol and so on.  The gentleman seated next to me worked for the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and when asked if he agreed that the government had the right to set the body alcohol limit at 0.08, he said, “No.  It should be 0.  Our research indicates that any alcohol impairs driving ability.”

Needless to say the defense asked for him to be excused, so the judge thanked and excused him. I thought, “Gosh, that guy sure has strict ideas about alcohol and driving. Seems to me like most people can handle having one drink when out to dinner and then driving home.”  But now I sort of see his point but for different reasons.

I’ll give you the short version of the story – if you’ve ever sat on a jury for a criminal trial, you know these things are not exciting events like on TV that wrap up nice and neat in an hour.  They go on and on and on while the lawyers ask what to the lay person appears to be a large number of very stupid questions (“Trooper, we see in the dashboard video that you are writing something in a notebook.  Did that pertain to the subject you were placing under arrest?”  Uh no, shucks, that was just my grocery list, sir.) but no doubt they have their reasons for doing it like that.  Still, at one point even the judge encouraged the prosecutor to sort of, you know…skip ahead a bit, brother.

Basically, the defendant was a young guy from Chelsea who went to a tailgate party before a U of M game and had some drinks.  Apparently he had a buzz going and walked around Ann Arbor with some friends for awhile before driving home.  He got pulled over on the highway for a burned out headlight even though he was driving just fine – not speeding or swerving or anything like that.  When the state trooper pulled him over, he smelled alcohol on one of the passengers and had the driver exit the vehicle.  What started out as a warning about one burned out headlight turned into a criminal investigation.

The trooper claimed the driver failed the field sobriety test, but the dashboard video does not support his claim.  The video shows the young man being compliant and passing the FST; conveniently, the trooper had no audio because the mic battery was dead and he did not replace it.

The trooper arrested the young man and took him to the county jail, where the young man consented to take a breathalyzer test, which showed his body alcohol level to be 0.09 with a margin of error of 0.01.  The legal limit is 0.08 or above.

The entire thing was kind of sad because the young guy testified that he felt fine and thus assumed he was okay to drive.  The dashboard video of how he was operating his vehicle and how he performed on the FST supports his claim that he did not feel any intoxication.  Without the breathalyzer data, there would have been zero evidence of intoxication.  It’s surprising that the trooper arrested him, given how not drunk the young man seemed.  It’s a shame about that one headlight.

We the jury of course really had no choice but to find him guilty.  It bummed us out badly to do so, though, because we all agreed that who among us had never had to make the determination that even though we’d had a couple of drinks, we felt fine and were able to drive with no problem?   None of us had ever taken a breathalyzer test and had no idea what a 0.08 feels like – how do you know if you have an elevated body alcohol level if you feel just fine?

And because the law allows you to drink some amount of alcohol and still drive, you either have to carry a portable breathalyzer with you or use a subjective “How do I feel?” test to determine if you are probably within the legal limit.  This young man said he felt fine and I believe him.  I believe probably nearly anyone who felt as he obviously felt would have deemed themselves able to drive.  Yet he was in violation of the law.  It turns out your feelings aren’t really a very good indicator of what you should do in some circumstances.

Which takes me back to the recommendation that the guy from U of M Transportation Research made: set the legal limit at 0.  I sort of now agree with that; if everyone knows ahead of time that any alcohol in your system makes it illegal to drive, then we can feel justified in convicting anyone who has had anything to drink because they will automatically know for sure that they shouldn’t be driving.  But as it stands right now, people are told they can drink some amount of alcohol and still drive, which causes me to have sympathy for those who are convicted even though they felt and behaved as if they had not been drinking. How would they really have known they shouldn’t be driving?

So why do we allow people to consume some amount of alcohol and then drive?  Isn’t that terribly unfair to expect that people will just somehow “know” what their body alcohol level is?  I think it is unfair and so did the rest of the jury.  As we sat chatting and waiting for the bailiff to take our verdict, an older gentleman and I decided that it’s probably due to lobbying by the alcoholic beverages companies and the restaurant and bar associations that the law allows for some alcohol consumption before driving.  So what if it means that once in a while, a young man will have his life ruined?  There’s money to be made on booze!  And you can’t make money if people are hesitant to consume your product because they might end up with a criminal conviction and a suspended license, can you?

We returned to the courtroom and the judge asked our foreman to read the verdict.  I kept my eyes fixed on the judge though they were blurred with tears; I couldn’t look at the young man, who works at the local lumberyard here and has a new baby with his girlfriend, the same girlfriend who was the passenger who smelled so strongly of alcohol in the car that night, as the foreman said we found him guilty of driving while intoxicated.

The defense attorney demanded a jury poll.  We each had to say we agreed with the verdict.  It was kind of hard to get the words out because while I agreed that the verdict represented justice according to the law, I now believe that the law itself is unjust in allowing people to drink and drive.  It caters to the booze purveyors and sacrifices hapless and foolish young men.

We returned to the jury room and the attendant brought us each an envelope with forty dollars in it.  The four young men pocketed their cash and departed.  The older gentleman and I sat a moment talking quietly together and then took our envelopes of cash over to the defense attorney and his client who were taking care of some paperwork.  I tried to give it to the young man, but he just stood looking at me like I was nuts and did not take it.  Come on, I silently pleaded, take it and absolve me of this guilt I feel.  The older gentleman took my envelope and his and gave them to the defense attorney and escorted me out onto Main Street where smiling people were visible through the plate glass windows of Smokehouse 52 happily sipping their beers.  The older gentleman gave me a hug, wished me well, and we walked off in our separate directions.

Why Christians need to be able to spot manipulation in the opposite sex.

Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye — or perhaps another body part.

  • Donald Trump, in The Art of the Comeback

Ha!  I think we may have found our answer to my previously asked question: Why did the boys like dizzy girls and not smart girls?

Actually, I don’t agree that all smart women decide to act feminine and needy to get what they want from men, but he is correct that this behavior is part of the possible feminine repertoire, even if some women choose never to use it.

But why do some women choose to use it?  Is it because they are “killers”?  I don’t know, but I suspect they are probably using it because they have found that this behavior works.  It gets them what they want because some (many? most?) men like it and respond to it.

This is the same reason why I have very little sympathy for the feminists who are flipping out about the pick-up artist lecturer Roosh V coming to Canada; “game” is a male behavior some men use for getting what they want.  If feminists don’t want men to act like pick up artists, then instead of mouthing some “sex positive” bull pucky about how empowering casual hook-ups are, they ought to encourage women not to respond to this kind of behavior by giving men who use it what they want.  Similarly, if men don’t like women putting on a feminine and needy act to get what they want, they shouldn’t be so quick to respond to such women by giving them what they want.  If you don’t like some particular behavior, don’t respond to it and teach your children to spot and avoid it as well.

Why do Christians need to learn how to spot and avoid these behaviors?  Shouldn’t they just “know better”?  The reason I think we need to teach this is because men were designed to desire sweet, submissive women who will be good helpers (“I will make a helper suitable for him”); putting on a needy act simulates being a sweet, submissive helper.  Similarly, women were designed to desire a strong, dominant man who can take care of his family; using “game” simulates that.  If we don’t teach our young people to recognize when someone is really making a genuine effort to be a sweet, submissive woman who would make a good helper or a strong man who desires and is able to lead a family, they will be more likely to be tricked by women who are acting needy to acquire resources from a man or men who are using game to acquire casual sex from a woman.

On the importance of listening.

Listening to your husband is a very good idea.  I know this.  It’s just that when I’m reading something, I very much dislike being interrupted.

I was engrossed in some post or essay, I don’t even remember, earlier this afternoon when my husband came in.

Him: “I’m working on fixing that chair, but I need to go to the hardware store for a dowel.”

Me, not looking up from what I am reading: “Oh, okay.”

Him: “I (something something) and took a bucket to wash out the pond dye from the pedal boat.”

Me: “Good.” (Back to reading)

Him: (words, words, that I’m not listening to because of the important thing I am reading, so important I cannot even remember what it was): “…and put the bucket over the hole.  I’ll get some yellow jacket spray while I’m at the hardware store later.”

Me, annoyed that he won’t stop talking while I’m reading: “Uh-huh.”

You do know where this is going, don’t you?

An hour later…

Me to him: “I’m going out to pick some zucchini and weed the garden!”

Me to myself once I get outside: “Now what is this bucket doing here?  Is this the bucket he used to wash out the boat? *sigh* Why can’t he ever pick up after himself?  I’ll just pick the bucket up for him and put it away.”

And that is what I did, with a martyred sigh…I picked up that bucket and started to walk..and then run toward the garden as rather suddenly liquid fire began to rain down upon the back of my right leg.

I ran into the house screaming, “Help, help! Aghhhh…”

Luckily my husband is a better listener than I am and came to my rescue.

So now I am sitting on the couch with a baking soda poultice and an ice pack on my red, swollen leg…


…sharing this helpful bit of painfully-gleaned wisdom with you while my husband is at the hardware store buying a wooden dowel for the broken chair and yellow jacket spray to take care of the nest in the hole in the ground over which he had placed that bucket.

Always listen when he speaks.

Skills are best learned before you need them, and patience is a skill.

I tapped a maple tree this year because I wanted to practice a skill I had been reading about: how to produce homemade maple syrup.  I tapped when the book said to – late February/early March – and I got…nothing.  A week later I got a few drips.  A week after that I had a little more than a half gallon, which I cooked down but ended up with maple sugar taffy by over-cooking it.  I figured it was all a good learning experience, pulled the spile out of the tree, washed all the equipment and stored it away.

Yesterday afternoon I was walking down past that maple tree and couldn’t believe what I saw:

sap 2sap 1

The entire front of the tree is covered in sap, which is running freely out of the tap hole!  B-b-but…it’s almost April!  Sap isn’t supposed to start running now!  The books said so, and I already washed and stored all my equipment!

The skill I lacked was patience.

And real-world knowledge, as opposed to book knowledge.  Even though the sap was “supposed” to run earlier, it didn’t.  Who knows why – probably because of the extremely cold winter.  But I learned several more lessons, which I’ll share here in hopes of helping someone else avoid the same mistakes:

1. Knowing how to read conditions is vitally important when it comes to producing a yield. Nature doesn’t read books; it produces when the conditions are right, not when the time table in the book says it is supposed to.  I need to learn to read the conditions for maple sap production.

2. Patience is a skill even more than a virtue.  I wanted my sap right now, and when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t willing to wait and see what happened.  Also, I’m struck by the fact that one of my first reactions was that something might be wrong with that tree, that it might be pest-infested and that I’d better get someone out to spray it with pesticide.

Writing for Permaculture News, Leanne Ejack discusses the need for patience:

…permaculture is founded upon patience. Permaculture is about working with nature and allowing time for nature to work herself out. Permaculture can be frustrating for many people, because there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions to problems. Permaculture is about setting the seeds for a permanent system (think: permanent agriculture = permaculture) that will manage and sustain itself for years to come. Our severe impatience drives us to get in with the tractor and chemicals, blast everything out to bare soil, and plant a monoculture of the desired plant we want. We want these plants to grow fast so we can begin harvesting straight away and make more profit. The more the better! This is a ‘trophy hunter’ mentality. But this type of system requires constant management and constant artificial inputs from fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other manufactured chemicals.

Permaculture, in contrast, is about the maximum amount of output with the minimum amount of work and input. In order to create something that will last and be sustainable, the key is patience, patience, patience! But patience is such a hard quality to cultivate in us ‘instant-gratification’ humans. Therefore, incorporating the practices of permaculture requires a complete change in mindset and attitude. It is not just a method of farming, it is a belief system and lifestyle.

The permaculture method of farming is the wheat we can extract from the chaff of their “belief system”, which tends toward pagan spirituality.

3. Skills are best learned before you have a critical need of them.  My family isn’t counting on that maple syrup for our livelihood or our survival, which makes now the perfect time to learn by trial-and-error and repeated attempts.  Maybe the food supply will never be disrupted and I’ll never “need” this skill – though it’s still a nice one to have – but if I ever do need it, I’d rather already have the skill acquired.

Writing for Molly Green Magazine, Patrice Lewis from Rural Revolution has explained the importance of learning food production skills before you desperately need them:

…it’s important to learn stuff NOW. Remember, preparedness is a three-legged stool: supplies, community, and knowledge. You might have all the supplies in the world, but without the knowledge of how to use those supplies, they’re almost useless.

…This means testing your theories, supplies, and equipment; and it means learning how to do things by alternate means. And this must be done before things hit the fan.

In the face of natural or societal disasters, you are going to be stressed, scared, desperate, panicked, and unfocused. If you think you’ll suddenly have the leisure to learn the intricacies of cooking from scratch, growing a one-acre garden, canning green beans, or plinking at targets, think again. Because make no mistake: all these skills take practice.

…you need to go through trials and errors and the initial failures at a time when those failures won’t mean the difference between life and death. Then you need to learn what works for you. For some things, like a garden, you only have one chance a year. Get it wrong and you have twelve more months to sweat and plan before the next try.

My advice to readers is to make this the year that you grow something – anything – useful, even if it is just a little backyard garden or a window box of herbs.  But in seeking to obtain a yield of the fruit of the land, let us remember together that we need first to seek the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23


And as we wait patiently for our earthly yield, we also wait patiently for the return of Our Lord:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7


Gammas and shrews really aren’t that humorous.

I’ve been trying to understand for a while why some men will play at being the weak and foolish sidekick to the strong and competent female.  Even worse is when a man fakes fear of his woman to get a laugh.  You’ve all seen this, right?  It’s not just on TV; I’ve seen guys do this in real life.  Is it supposed to be self-effacing?  Humorous?  It really isn’t all that funny.  It is embarrassing for others to witness.

A while back I snapped this picture of a sign for sale at Hobby Lobby:

Beware of Wife

I suppose it’s supposed to be funny, but there is a passive aggressiveness to it, too.  Would the woman whose husband bought this sign and hung it up feel pleased or embarrassed, I wonder?  I don’t think having a sign like this even in jest says anything very positive about either the wife or the husband.  It implies that she’s a shrew and that he’s a snarky, passive-aggressive Gamma.

And then today while waiting for a prescription to be filled at the pharmacy, I was browsing idly in the gift section and snapped a picture of this placard:

He Rules the Roost

Again, I’m sure it’s supposed to be funny, but what kind of person would really buy this?  If the husband bought it as a joke for his wife, it reeks of passive-aggressive resentment and if the wife bought it herself, it says shrewish rhymes-with-witch.  Neither is particularly funny.

You know what these supposedly funny signs imply?

They imply that:

a. the husband doesn’t love his wife and

b.the wife doesn’t respect her husband and

c. humor is their weapon of choice to communicate their hatred and disrespect for one another while maintaining plausible deniability about what they’re doing.

Don’t ignore warning signs.


Why do people so often ignore blatant warning signs, either metaphorical ones or real ones?

Consider, for example, the Dexter Underpass:

Image Source: Historic Bridges

“The bridge over Dexter-Pinckney Road was designed in 1890 by Frederick Blackburn Pelham, the first African American to graduate from the University of Michigan in engineering. But it might never have been built if Warner’s cow hadn’t calved on Sunday morning, March 20, 1887.

When Warner didn’t show up for church, his parents, Dennis and Martha Warner, became concerned. That afternoon they walked from their house in the village toward Charles’s farm, which he had taken over from them years before. As they began to cross the tracks, the Michigan Central’s Limited Express roared around the curve at forty-five miles per hour. Dennis Warner made it across, but his wife did not. “Mrs. Warner evidently became slightly confused, hesitated an instant, and just as she stepped from the track was struck by the pilot of the locomotive, throwing her head against the cylinder, crushing her skull and killing her instantly,” reported the Dexter Leader […]

The accident cast a “pall of gloom over the entire community,” reported the Leader. After the funeral, held at the Congregational church on Fifth Street, townsfolk began petitioning the railroad to build a bridge at the crossing. At the time the Michigan Central was making improvements all along the line, and the railroad assigned Pelham, a young civil engineer whose specialty was bridge building, to design new bridges over the road and over Mill Creek. Both elegant stone structures are still there, the latter behind the fire station at the end of Warrior Park.

[…]The Dexter underpass was the most unusual of the twenty bridges that Pelham designed in Michigan because of its skew arch, a design used when bridges are not perpendicular to crossings. Before putting in the stone arch, the workers dug under the rail bed and put in a temporary wooden frame…Stone bridges were the best available at the time for durability, strength, and easy maintenance, but only wealthier railroads could afford them.”

As you drive toward the bridge from either side, about a mile out you see a sign warning you that there is a low bridge ahead. Then, half a mile out you see another sign warning you about the low bridge ahead. Then, as you approach the bridge…well, here is the picture I took from my minivan earlier this evening:

Dexter Bridge

Image source: The Sunshine Thiry Blog, 03-06-15



That’s right, there’s a third warning sign, and the height of the bridge is prominently displayed on the underpass as well. Nevertheless, driving home from a church event last Saturday, we came upon this:


Image source: The Sunshine Thiry Blog, 02-28-2015


That’s a semi truck wedged under the bridge, with an enormous tow truck backing up to it. The fire department was out there, too; my youngest daughter wanted to know why the firemen couldn’t spray soapy water on it or spread peanut butter around it like you do when you get gum stuck in your long hair.

Lest you think this is a one-off occurrence, here are pictures of a few other recent similar events at the Dexter Underpass:

2012.  Image source: The Ann Arbor News



2014. Image source: MLive

Warning signs are there to help you avoid catastrophe, not to be a wet blanket on your super fun life.  But it’s like people just refuse to listen to warning signs on principle now.

“I’m offended you’d even suggest that I might want to take another route around that low bridge! Low bridges are a constraint on my freedom! I shall plow right through, mind over matter! I just gotta be free to be me and do what I do, and I’m a high-overpass kind of a person!”

It never ends well; man-(or woman)-versus-reality contests usually don’t.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.