Saturday, January 31, 2009

Doing less

I've tried to live very prayerfully these last few months, more like the way I've always wanted to live. Even with a flexible schedule, it has been difficult. 

This is partly because I pray very slowly. This is partly because I fall asleep very easily, especially at some of the more standard prayer times -- early morning, late evening -- as well as after lunch. And this is partly because I do too many other things. 

This woman's thoughts about choosing what is best reminded me of these things I already knew. She (and the author she quotes) so perfectly describe my tendency to distract myself with fun and useful things, causing me to miss out on God-time, which is so vital and so much better. 

Ahh. I've been living life for 25 years now, but I'm still not very good at it!


Come this morning, the tubs in our kitchen had accumulated a few days worth of fruit skins and vegetable peelings. Normally they would have gone out to the compost bin earlier, but the bin is in the yard's icy patch, where our southern fence blocks sunshine in the winter. Several days after the storm, our bin still looked something like this. 

Coolest compost bin on the block

Well, I finally went out to wrestle with the ice today. A chunk fell off the lid, landed on the ice next to the bin, and shattered into a dozen pieces! Then the pieces slid down the little hill of our yard, making happy twinkling sounds along the way.

You can imagine how the rest of the ice on the lid met its end after that

It was really great.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The sunlight lingers longest in the office. I like to be there in the evening to enjoy it.


It caught our lamp

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pirmais sniegs! (A.K.A. SNOOOOOW!)

Joe was so stressed by the drive in the snow yesterday, he missed the turn to drop me off at home. So I had an extra-long walk near the center of town just as it was turning extra-beautiful, and I went back for pictures while doing errands later on.

Alas, this former train station has become a museum.
Can you see the seagulls on the roof? 

While schools to the north were cancelled, ours stayed open because the weather report didn't call for much here in Charles County. The flakes started coming down quick just as school buses and commuters hit the road, and though a bunch of kids had exciting mornings when their buses crashed, no one was hurt in those accidents.

The snow seems to bring out the good in the neighborhood. I saw kids and not-kids having a snowball fight, and then a huge bunch of guys playing football. One of them lobbed a snowball at me, but it just missed.

Here are some more pictures.

The other side of the old train station. 
The only train that comes by is the coal train going to Joe's plant.

No train this Tuesday, though.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Simply living

When I started college, my plan was to take off some year to be a missionary, spreading love and help and perhaps even the peace of Christ someplace it was desperately needed. But my grandmother got sick, and I realized that I -- not just anyone, but I, Daina -- was needed at home. I stayed, taught Latvian school religion class, and looked for a job in the area instead. It was all much less of a leap, but perhaps a better fit for my God-given talents.

I thought that I might someday live in a commune, but instead God led me to marry Joe, who is not the commune type at all. So we live in our own house, though we hope to have all kinds of people in an out of it in time. (We are still working on this.)

I always thought that I would live in a house of mis-matching silverware, but Joe really likes the matching stuff, and we got a set for Christmas. It looks very nice. We gave away most of what I had before, though I kept a few of the most beautiful pieces, the old ones decorated with hearts or stars or curlicues, for when I have lunch by myself. Joe and I hope to get much use out of what we have.

I am trying to live the life God would have me live, one based on prayer and good works. I fail miserably sometimes, but in many ways things are going in the direction they should. But I never cease to be amazed at how different this life is than the lives I have at times envisioned.

This article in the Washington Post Magazine, A Not-So-Simple Life, was really interesting to me, and not just because the main subject once thought of becoming a nun but didn't.  She too wants to pour herself out, but has taken the route I once thought I  might, instead of the route I have taken now. 

The online chat that followed the article was perhaps even more interesting for me. The members of The Simple House talk there about something I first read about in the words of Mother Theresa. The lovely old woman who did so much for the poor of Calcutta and the world noted that in the United States, a rich country, the need for material things is often eclipsed by a need for love, especially among the loneliest of the elderly people, those who cannot leave their rooms and have few visitors. But this need is everywhere, in every neighborhood. It inspires me to read about people stepping out to address that poverty of love.

By the way, I've hung out with the nuns mentioned in the article -- on a Friday, pizza night. They're a lot of fun!

Friday, January 23, 2009


I stopped by the Amish market in Burtonsville when I was visiting my parents today. We needed apples, and I haven't been able to get any at the farmer's market in La Plata.

I bought one bag of golden delicious, which were on special, and another of "scratch and dent" apples that looked really good for supposedly being bruised. Mmm, pink lady apples might be my favorite.

The sweet girl at the stand was picking out the nicest golden delicious she could find. I told her they didn't need to be perfect, but she said, "I want to give you some nice ones!"

On a whim, I stopped by the bulk foods section, where I found some savory, one of my favorite herbs. Now, this might not seem like a big deal to most people, but since my rummage-sale spice rack ran out of savory, I haven't been able to find any in the supermarkets. And this savory cost about the same per pound as most grocery-store herbs cost per ounce! I got a decent sized tub of it.

Then I got to spend time with my grandmother! What a great day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Maybe it really WAS a million

At first I thought the huge flocks of birds around here might be flying south, but then they stayed around well into winter.

So the local paper ran a handy column explaining what's going on. Apparently some birds just like to hang out in enormous flocks in the wintertime!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Evening activities

Many of the people who have visited have commented on the number of candles we have around, especially in the living and dining area. We happen to have a lot of pretty candle holders, so we like to keep them out.

We use the candles pretty often, but the lights are usually on, too. Well, Joe decided to see whether all of the candles together would be enough to read by. So we turned out all the lights, and he read The Raven, Annabel Lee and other selections by Edgar Allen Poe. 

It seemed lighter than this once our eyes adjusted.

It was a great evening.


It seems like a good day to sing songs out of that little patriotic section in the back of the hymnal. Here is a song I found not long ago in a 1965 edition I bought at a thrift store. It is now one of my favorites among the national tunes. 

The tune my hymnal suggests is Hyfrydol, but Austria (as at this website, which will cause your computer to sing) may go with it even better. Fittingly, the song's inspiration came in Chicago.

Not alone for mighty empire, stretching far over land and sea,
Not alone for bounteous harvests, lift we up our hearts to Thee.
Standing in the living present, memory and hope between,
Lord, we would with deep thanksgiving, praise Thee more for things unseen.

Not for battleships and fortress, not for conquests of the sword,
But for conquests of the spirit give we thanks to Thee, O Lord;
For the priceless gift of freedom, for the home, the church, the school,
For the open door to manhood, in a land the people rule.

For the armies of the faithful, souls that passed and left no name;
For the glory that illumines patriot lives of deathless fame.
For our prophets and apostles, loyal to the living Word,
For all heroes of the spirit, give we thanks to Thee, O Lord.

God of justice, save the people from the clash of race and creed,
From the strife of class and faction, make our nation free indeed;
Keep her faith in simple manhood strong as when her life began,
Till it find its full fruition in the brotherhood of man!

By William Pierson Merrill

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coming home to something

In York,  I was so impressed by the old houses with Christmas candles in the window that I got some for own and put them up in my apartment. I was almost never home by dusk, though, so I put them on a timer.

It was so nice to open the apartment door and see a warm glow through the curtains. It made me feel like I was coming home to something, even when I lived by myself. I kept them up all year.

We have them here set up here in La Plata, too. 

They're especially nice on Mondays, when I get back from Bible study late, but while Joe's still out at his Monday evening activities.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Raising children

This is one of the best posts I've read in a while.

Most of you have probably read the estimates that put the cost of having a child at more than $200,000 each over the course of a lifetime -- which seems mind-blowingly high. When you break it down, it seems more manageable, but still high: more than $11,000 a year per child spread over 18 years.

Of course, there are plenty of families out there that have a combined income of less than $40,000 a year but have managed to raise three or four or more happy and successful children. (Okay, maybe the DC-oriented people reading this don't know many such families, but I'll get to that.)

In the post above, Trent from The Simple Dollar explains why his family's per-child expenses will likely never come near the estimate. He looks at not only the costs of having children, but also the benefits -- such as tax benefits.

Of course, Trent lives in rural Iowa, and I'm not sure TOO many people reading this are. (Though Meaghan's close!) I'm pretty sure anyone in the DC suburbs would have to pay significantly more for child care, for example, in addition to housing costs that would probably give most Iowans nightmares. But the post and the following comments make two great points:

There are financial upsides to having children, and
Costs vary for every family

In DC, I imagine the average cost of raising children is even higher than the nation's average. Of course, incomes in the area are higher, too.

But averages are one thing, and individual families another. I have no idea what it cost my parents to raise us, but I am pretty sure they did not pay for child care after I was about a year old. Then they bought a house big enough to have my grandmother come live with us, and that grandmother watched us most of the time. The other grandmother filled in when the first one took trips, and one day neither was available, so we had to go over and hang out with the next door neighbor's grandmother.

That's not possible for everyone, and there was a cost (the house), but it shows that there are all kinds of possibilities available. And every family's budget is different. My parents did pay for us all to go to summer camp year after year after year, which was definitely not a mandatory expense, but one that changed our lives.

I've been thinking about this sort of thing over the couple days because of this interesting column about how rising and falling demographics are projected to affect the world in coming years. In a few decades, the U.S. is expected to be the only industrialized nation in the top-12 most populous nations. I guess being the only developed nation with replacement-rate fertility trends will do that...

(I hear there is more to child-raising than financials and demographics, though. I smiled this morning when I read someone's Christmas break recap, and event number one was: "Watched one of my sons give another of my sons a package of stink bombs for Christmas, and realized, in a very horrible moment, that absolutely nothing good can come of this.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I have the gold and the incense...

In a typical night-before-Latvian-school scramble, I'm trying to figure out what item, already located in my own house, most resembles myrrh, which Wikipedia describes as a reddish-brown resinous material once used for embalming.

Quite a gift for an infant, eh?

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's

The most exciting part of my New Year's Eve was probably chasing the dollar that blew out of my pocket in the 30 mph+ winds. At first, the dollar was just a few steps ahead of me, so I didn't think anything of following it, but pretty soon I abandoned my cart and chased it all the way down the length of the shopping center! Whee, it was stuck in a little eddy, mingling with a lot of trash and leaves.

Joe and I stayed up till midnight, but just barely, and not really by design. It was quiet and nice.

Meanwhile, having regular company is doing wonders for the neatness level of our house.

I know I'm a day or so late, but Happy New Year, everyone!