52 To Do – Top 10

January 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

When I tell people about my blog they always ask what my favorite week has been. It’s always hard to pick a favorite but I can name my top 10. If you’re looking for some fun, interesting things to try out for 2012, here were my favorites from this past year in no particular order:

1. Learning to roast coffee – If you claim to love or live on coffee, this is something you have to try. Unfortunately for those who live in apartments where it’s hard to get outside this may not be ideal for you (there’s smoke). Sweet Maria’s has a great starter kit for $45.

It will seriously become your favorite cup of coffee. Ever.

2. Ice fishing (or something that seems completely out of your range of possibility) – We spent the day with friends trying something none of us had ever tried before. While we didn’t catch any fish, we did arguably have the best laugh of 2011.

Getting out and doing things I’d never done before to embrace winter made a huge difference living here in Boulder.

3. Researching my ancestry – I definitely looked at my life differently after understanding more about where I came from. Plus it is a great thing to do with your family. I spent the week with my family going through old pictures and hearing old stories, many I had not heard before. It was a nice way to spend time together.

It was good to get my parents to talk about what they remember. I only wish my grandparents were still around. I have so many questions for them.

4. Churn homemade ice cream with friends – I bought a hand churn ice cream maker (White Mountain 4 qt. hand crank) and this proved to be a fun summer activity with friends. If you do get the hand churn one, you pretty much need the extra help since it isn’t easy!

My friend Jess (who also accompanied me on lots of blog adventures) gave me a great ice cream recipe book that did us right. It was a toss up between the goat cheese ice cream and the roasted coffee ice cream (we of course used fresh home roasted coffee for that) as to which was the best.

5. Learning about wine – I owe a huge thanks to my friends at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder. James Beard award winner, Bobby Stuckey, welcomed my project early on letting me shadow his amazing crew of sommeliers on what it’s like to live for wine. I’ve made lots of new wine buddies through Frasca and the Boulder Wine Merchant. With more Master Sommeliers per capita than any city in the U.S. Boulder is a good place to be to learn about wine.

6. Hike a 14er – In 2011 I officially became a Coloradan by climbing my first 14,000 foot mountain with my friend Alicia (another partner in crime with many blog projects).

You likely won’t have mountains like that around but maybe there’s another physical feat to try that makes you equally feel a part of where you’re living. Boston marathon? Rowing the Thames? Surfing in Santa Monica?

7. Learning how to knit – This was a favorite for multiple reasons. I gained a new skill that is incredibly relaxing. I made some beautiful cowls that served as well-received holiday presents and to top it off I made a new friend in the process.

I also found a gem of a local store (Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins) where I will continue going for yarn and pearls of wisdom from the fantastic crew of ladies that work there.

8. Shooting a gun – I will likely never own a gun but I am glad I learned how to shoot one this year (target range only). It is an experience you could never understand without actually doing it. I now know just how powerful and dangerous they are.

It was something totally foreign to me and outside of my comfort zone, but I felt like it was something I should try once in my lifetime. Plus it was a great way to spend the afternoon with my husband and his twin brothers in Portland.

9. Pasta making – Pasta is one of those staples around the house and making it yourself is not only easy but worth the little bit of effort. The difference in taste is amazing.

I’ve continued along with it and for New Year’s Day dinner tonight I’ll be making some homemade orchiette I learned to make from Brian, another Frasca friend.

10. Reading about philosophy and religion – One of the best outcomes of the year was learning to think for myself again. It was a great exercise to dust off some books on philosophy and religion and to challenge my thinking in that regard a bit again.

It’s easy to get caught up in day to day issues and worries and can be enlightening to realize we’re just a blip on the radar when it comes to humanity. We are trying to answer many of the same questions people have been trying to answer for centuries.

More Questions Than Answers

December 25, 2011 § 3 Comments

“The first of the soul’s needs, the one which touches most nearly its external destiny, is order.” – Simone Weil

I am ending this week of looking at religion with more questions than answers. My belief is that in order to believe or reject something you must first know something about it. That will be my obligation for now. I’ve read about Islam, Christianity, Confucianism and Buddhism. I still have more to read up on the Yoruba Religion, Judaism and Daoism. I’m halfway through Christopher Hitchens’s treatise on how religion poisons everything (some light Christmas reading).

The one certainty I am leaving this week with is that religion is one of the great conversations, if not the greatest conversation of mankind. I may not have solidified my own beliefs, but it is fascinating to see how mankind has weighed in on the subject over time.

The more you learn, the more questions arise:

How can “scientific atheists” be atheists when no one has technically disproven the existence of God? Shouldn’t God still be a working hypothesis? What is their closest hypothesis to disproving God?

Can the fact that man has used religion for man-made evil be sufficient evidence God does not exist? or that religion should not exist?

What separated philosophy from religion given their “prophets” arose around the same time? How were Socrates and Aristotle that different from Siddharta and Confucius?

How does each religion account for “thisworldly” vs “otherworldly” concerns?

How does religion differ when you go from fundamentalism to mysticism?

Would we be better off without religion? Would I have been better off without religion?

Why are some aspects of religion about self-reliance while others are about reliance on God? How is it that these evolved within each religion?

I didn’t expect that I would come to any definitive conclusions at the end of this week, even with the tradition of Christmas tugging at me. What did happen is that I stopped looking at religion as something that can be lumped together and then either fully embraced or written off. Rather than believe in this or that, I am now more interested in learning as much as I can from what each has to offer, including what the atheists propose.

God has been identified in philosophy, psychology and religion as Logos, meaning Wisdom or Truth. If I have any means for making a decision for myself about God’s existence then it would make sense to make it my aim to gain as much knowledge as possible. I have some interesting reading to continue.

What Do Others Believe?

December 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Religion is one of the great intellectual debates. Even the most hardcore atheist, Christopher Hitchens, who preferred “antitheist”, devoted much of his life to the study and debate of religion before he passed away last week. Even if you don’t believe in God or one particular religion, it is a fascinating subject you could spend your whole life learning about.

It’s easy to chalk all of the religions up to largely having the same end, and roughly the same means to that end. There’s the commonly cited analogy of there being different paths up the same mountain. This week I want to understand the differences more clearly. I came across a book called God is Not One by Stephen Prothero I’ve been reading.

He covers the 8 “greatest” (most impactful) religions of the world and discusses what drives each one , what they entail and why it’s important to understand they are different.

As with many other factors that make people different from one another, religion often leads to stereotypes. He begins the book talking a little bit of the stereotypes of the Western world of all Muslims being terrorists. I was catching up on the new Showtime series Homeland  last night with the my dad and that stereotype was what provided one of the important twists in the show. The writers knew people would be duped into believing the POW would be the terrorist because he had been converted to Islam.

It made me think of my own impressions of the various religions. When I look at the list of of the 8 Prothero covers in the book, my impressions range from some familiarity to stereotypes to absolute ignorance. If these are the main religions driving the behavior of others in the world right now, I could definitely use more education.

To give my initial impressions in one word:

Islam: strict
Christianity: sin
Confucianism: being
Hinduism: polytheistic
Buddhism: enlightenment
Yoruba Religion: no clue
Judaism: guilt
Daoism: harmony

As I continue along learning more about these this week, it will be interesting to compare notes to my initial impressions.

What Do I Believe?

December 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Religion has been an intermittent part of my life. As a kid in Pennsylvania I went to Sunday school now and then. When I was 11 we moved to South Carolina, an epicenter where the effects of religion were harder to ignore. Jim and Tammy Baker lived in our neighborhood for a time. I attended a class in middle school devoted to Bible study (which has now since been moved off the premises).

In high school my parents started attending a local Presbyterian church and my sisters and I attended the youth group there. It was probably the closest I’ve come to indoctrination into a church. We were good friends with a lot of the kids that went there. I still felt different in my Faith and I’d say it was more of an education in Christianity than a true belief.

As much as I was never drawn in by religion, nor was I repelled. Religion has never kept me from living my life they way I’ve seen others experience. I’ve known couples who have parted ways because they couldn’t reconcile their Jewish and Catholic faiths. Another friend, now an Atheist, grew up going to Jesus camps in the Midwest that made him feel his homosexuality was a sin. I’ve never had my faith question who I was.

Despite my tepid experience with Christianity, I have experienced Faith. It has been through people I have known, especially my grandmother. She was someone who lived with faith as an integral part of her life. Yes, she quoted Bible versus now and then and opened dinner with a prayer, but it wasn’t the strictness of it she conveyed. She was someone who lived with a sense of peace that is what I associate with Faith. She was of the world rather than trying to control it.

If I had to I would classify myself as Agnostic in the sense of one who doesn’t believe we have the capacity to prove or disprove the existence of a God. It’s been awhile since I have given it all much thought, so this week I’d like to explore a few things:

1) Learn more about the debate on the existence of God (understand the Atheist point of view & what Science has to say about it these days)

2) Learn more about the key religions that rule the world (I really know nothing about Islam or Buddhism other than the general sense). Religion plays such a huge part in what happens in the world around us so I think it’s important I understand what those religions represent

3) Contemplate my own Faith. My answer when asked about my stance on religion is that I’m agnostic but I think I can clarify that further.

Family and Faith

June 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Looking back at all the pictures of my ancestors this week, it’s been striking see physical traits that have been passed down. My dad looks just like his great grandfather. You can see expressions and bits and pieces that resemble the rest of my family now. Aside from the physical traits, I’ve also been able to see the invisible traits, in particular, Faith. Above is a picture of my maternal great grandfather’s Bible he used as a Baptist minister in a German enclave in Pennsylvania.

Supposedly he wanted to be an actor back in the Austro-Hungarian empire but it didn’t pan out. He was a restless soul who needed an outlet. An opportunity presented itself to immigrate to the US to study in the seminary. Who knows if he only saw it as an opportunity to get closer to an acting dream at the time. What we do know is that that decision fundamentally changed his life. Not only did he adopt a new country but a new way of life. He became a minister, married a wonderful woman and had nine children. My mother is pictured on my great grandmother’s lap:

I wish I could have known my great grandfather. What struck me was just how much everyone who knew him loved him. Beyond the walls of the church and preaching of doctrine he lived his Faith in a way that had a lasting impact on others. My mother remembers going around with him to bring food to people in their community who had nothing, even though he had little himself, mainly living from their garden and animals they kept.

What was interesting in hearing my mom talk about him is how much it reminded me of how I felt about his daughter, my grandmother (below). She was also just a loving, generous person who always thought of others. She would literally shop for Christmas presents year round for every person she knew. She was someone who I always felt so much love from when I was around her. I used to think it was just because she was a fun, kind grandmother. It struck me though listening to my mother that what I also may have been experiencing was being around my grandma’s Faith. She would always say she wanted to be like her dad was with his Faith and how he was toward others. From what I experienced and from observing how others felt about her she succeeded.

Religion is something that’s come in and out of my life over the years. I didn’t go to church that often as a kid but became more involved when we moved to the Bible Belt. I fell out of the practice of going to church and reading the Bible from my mid-20s on. I especially remember traveling around India one Summer feeling conflicted about the idea one religion could be more valid than another. As I’ve slowed down from working all the time to living in a beautiful place like Colorado, it has reminded me of that sense of peace I felt being around my grandmother.

My mother & sisters and I often say we hope to be like her in our own lives. Maybe what that means is to live with a little Faith. This week, I’ve definitely grown to appreciate what’s gotten me to where I am in a new light. I look at my great grandfather coming to the US with nothing, raising 9 children in such a happy home. I look at my grandmother who raised my Mom while my grandfather was away in WWII, not knowing if he’d ever come back. It is so clear to me now that they had Faith.

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