Monday, January 25, 2010

Sorry Iowa is Closed - Come back tomorrow

Saw this on Twitter - it's true. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Quick Lesson on Spirals

Okay - kids - the Winter Olympics are coming up 

and I know a lot of you folks are big figure skating fans every four years.  I thought I'd help you occasional skating fans by explaining some things so that you might understand the results a little more.

Today we will discuss spirals.   

Most people think of spirals as the arabesque position - although in skating your back is flat - one leg the ice (knee slightly bent) and free leg extended straight behind you.  

In order to pass a test with a spiral or have it count in a competition your free leg must be at least hip level but of course nowadays most girls and ladies hold their leg much higher.

However what makes a spiral a spiral is NOT the body position but the edge and pattern on the ice.  

When done on a correct edge, the tracings on the ice will make a "spiral".   It is important to skate on the EDGE of your skate, not the flat.  So when you watch the skaters do not be distracted by gumby-like flexibility - first look at their FEET.  Are they on an edge?  Are they skating on a curve rather than a straight line?  Skating is not gymnastics on ice!

Nicole Bobek in the 90s was the first to hold her free leg so high as to nearly be doing the splits.  However, her spiral was spectacular not just for the position, but her edge and the speed and  length she held the spiral - clear around the rink.

 All skating is either done on an outside edge- where you lean to the outside of  your skates or on an inside edge where you lean to the inside of your skate.  

It is VERY important in skating to learn this inside/outside edge concept right away because it is one of the basics of skating.

In this picture of Nicole she is on the outside edge - look how much she is leaning That is the kind of lean you want to see in a spiral

In this picture of Michelle Kwan,  she is doing an inside-edge spiral.  Again, see how much she is leaning.

To compete with Nicole, Michelle Kwan worked on her flexibility and soon she was holding her leg just as high and upped the anti with her "change-edge" spiral.   She would start on an inside edge and then switch to an outside edge.  Now all skaters are expected to have the flexibilty to hold their leg that high and to do change edge spirals.

This is Emily Hughs' spiral.  She has a very bad position, she is leaning way too far down and forward.  This is a common mistake of beginners, because you will try to lean forward to get your leg up higher instead of working your butt and back muscles.  

This move is VERY hard on the back.  I'm really surprised no one has corrected on this.

Here is a picture of Sasha Cohen showing a very good back position although when she started she would lean very far forward.  

She also does not always have the best edges but she has such good body position nobody notices, which annoys the heck out of me.

But because a spiral is about the edge, not the position you will see other positions in a spiral sequence --like this "Y spiral"  by 2006 Olympic Champion Shizuka Arakawa of Japan.  

Again while you maybe amazed by her flexibility - look at the lean and edge - that is what make that a good spiral sequence.  Very often you will see all sorts of contortionists 
on flats or wobbly edges.  That is NOT skating.

And speaking of contortionists - you will see this position - called a Biellmann after Denise Biellmann who would spin in this position.  

She did not invent the position, show skaters had been doing it for years but she was the one that introduced it to competition in the 80s.  So now every little girl has to learn to grab her skate while doing a spiral.  
It's not pretty at the lower levels let me tell you!

My lovely daughter competing at Intermediate at the Upper Great Lakes Regional Competition in 2007.  She has a lovely spiral.  

You will also see this position - called a "fan spiral" done skating backwards where the leg is lifed and held in front.  This is an excellent position by Sasha Cohen.  

Done well, it's spectacular, done by most skaters looks like, well I'll just say it-- a dog taking a pee.

And this what a 52 year old woman who doesn't do much off ice stretching looks like doing a spiral.  You laugh but I worked really hard to get it that good and I'm pretty darn proud of it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Remember the Animals

If you have a little money left after giving to Lutheran World Relief for disaster relief in Haiti, please give a little more for the animals.  It's not a matter of choosing, God gave us these animals to care for and they depend upon us.  They need our help too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I went to the eye doctor today.  My eyesight has really deteriorated and I put it off all last year because I had so many medical expenses (including my daughter's trip to the emergency room with a kidney infection) I had used up my medical allowance.  So I was really looking forward to getting new eye glasses and improving my eyesight.  

I have always been VERY nearsighted.  Like I cannot get up and go to the bathroom without my glasses.  And then when I was in my 40s I couldn't see up close either.  That seemed really unfair to me.  I  took having to get bifocals very hard..  

It seemed like both the nearsightedness and the up close problems had gotten a LOT worse in the last few months.  So I'm expecting a new prescription and everything will be fine.

Instead the doc says about the near sightedness "I'm afraid we can't improve that anymore."  WHAT?  And the up close was only a tiny improvement.  "Oh" she says cheerfully,  "You have some cateracts in both your eyes.  That's normal with aging.  It will cloud your vision a bit.  We don't have to do anything about it yet."

That was easy a young and perky doctor with either perfect eyesight or perfectly fixed eyesight to say.  

Yes I know I have to put it all in perspective.  I can still see.  I can drive.  I'm in pretty darn good shape for a 52 year old and there are enough people who say "Really you are 52?  No you aren't that old" that I think it's not just flattery, I still look young.  And I am grateful that when the time comes, I will be able to have surgury to remove the cateracts.  But still.

It's just that my arthritis is coming back in my knee and it's not only painful to walk, it's painful to skate which really is worse.  And I was so sure they could get my eyesight back to normal.  What I fear I am seeing clearly is my future and I don't like it.

Maybe I should eat some more carrots.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Almond Trees, Crocus and God's Sure Promises

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree.’* 12Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching* over my word to perform it.’
Jeremiah 1:11-12

In English this passage from Jeremiah doesn’t make a lot of sense.  But the word for the flowering almond in Hebrew is “watch”.  So God is playing a little word game with Jeremiah.  There are actually a lot of puns and plays on words in the Old Testament.  The almond tree flowers in early spring.  When you see the almond tree flower, you know that spring is coming.  You can count on it.  Like the crocus here.  They may be buried in snow, you may still be wearing your boots and coat but when you see the crocus, you know that it will not be winter forever.  Spring will come.  The crocus and flowering almond are signs of that promise.
In the same God’s promise of his love and care and redemption can be counted on.  Although we look around and see injustice and pain and darkness, God is with us and watches over us. We can count on that as sure as we can count on spring.


Every winter and summer I do a 5-6 week bible study.   It's not ongoing so that people don't feel like that have to commit to coming every Sunday night for their rest of their lives.  Even I would find that daunting.  It's good for me because it makes me really get into a book of the bible.  I did Revelation a couple of years ago and learned a LOT.

This winter I'm taking on Jeremiah.  I love Jeremiah.  I relate to Jeremiah.  Nobody listened to him.  Nothing changed because of him.  He didn't "turn his church around".  He didn't grow his church. 
He whined a lot to God about how hard his job was and God told to shut up and get on with it.  And he did.  He stayed on target.  he loved his people.  He was often discouraged but he did not despair.  

Everybody likes to point to Acts where the church grew daily and everybody listened to the apostles and were brave and nobody whined as the ONLY model for ministry.  But I think more often ministry is like Jeremiah.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A summer leftover

I was taking pictures of the frost on the grapevine in my backyard and I noticed this nest.   I think it was a pretty good spot because even my cats didn't notice it when they were out last summer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Don't Listen to me I'm always wrong when it comes to skating

Back in the 90s I thought Synde Vogel was going to do better than Tara Lipinski. What do I know?

Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett are the new Pairs Champions.  Poor  Keauna McLaughlin,  and Rockne Brubaker were just not able to pull up enough to assure themselves of one of two spots on the Olympic team.  Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig came in second but they are not assured a spot on the team.  A USFS committee will take other events into account and it's possible third place Rene Inoue & old fart John Baldwin (who some believe were undermarked and deserved second place) may be named to the team.

Of course all the sponsors who made deals with McLaughlin and Brubaker and plastered their picture everywhere are not happy with the results.

Reminds me of 1994 when Campbell s made a deal with Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski and Nicole Bobeck and there was some question as to whether or not Bobeck would make the team but she managed to pull it off at Nationals, although she fell apart at the Olympics.

Tomorrow night it's the men and I made it out like this was all between Johnny and Evan but did not take into account last year's champion and current leader after the short  program, Jeremy Abbott.  I will not make any predictions.  Don't want to jinx it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Figure Skating Championships this Week

The US National Figure Skating Championships are being held this week in Spokane, Washington.  There is more interest than usual because this is where we will find out who will probably go to the Olympics.  A lot of people are Olympic Figure Skating fans only.

The first event will be Pairs....a weak area for US skaters.  That's because our pairs do not stick togther long enough to learn how to skate as one.  As soon as the girl is no longer about a fourth of the size of her partner she's dumped for a smaller girl.  And why is it always the girl's fault for being "too big" (over 90 lb is considered "too big" for a typical female pairs skater) --why isn't it the guy's fault for not working out to be strong enough to hurl her around?

So the Pairs short program was this afternoon and favorites  Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker had a disappointing skate and are currently in 5th place but I think they can pull up to win or at least place second to make the Olympic team.  I almost feel like I know these two.  They Broadmore Skating Club in Colorado Springs and my daughter used to skate at a compete there --so we cheer for their skaters.  Also my daughter's former coach is friends with their former coach. 

Old fart John Baldwin and his partner Rena Inou are still in contention in fourth place.  They wowed crowds at the last Olympics four years ago with the first throw triple axel ...but I don't think we are going to see that again.  I think that second spot is wide open.

Men - we can send three men this year and it is going to be a fierce fight between Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir, both of whom are strong contenders for gold at the Olympics My favorite is Johnny but he's such a head case.  I hope he finishes second so he will go into the Olympics with a little less pressure as the underdog.  Be prepared to see lots of references to Evan's girlfriend Ice Dance Champion Tanith Belbin so you will all know that *he* is the straight one.  Not sure I believe it...but this is figure skating ... I don't care who you sleep with!

That third spot is wide open to a lot of also-rans who will not likely make the top ten at the Olympics.  

Ladies (that's right they are called "Ladies" not "women" in Figure Skating)  Astounding that after dominating Ladies Figure Skating for generations, this Olympics we can only send  two women.  The number of people a country can send to the Olympics is based on how well the skaters did at last years World Championships.  And our ladies did not do well last year.

There's a lot of talk about 2006 Silver Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen coming back.  I predict she will pull out of Nationals, but even if she makes it, she will not be on the Olympic team this year.  I predict Alissa Czisny will have a bad short program, but redeem herself with a beautiful free skate and win the title...but will not even finish in the top ten at the Olympics.  She has never skated two clean programs.   I'm gonna go with Rachael Flatt being number 2 and she will make it to the top ten at the Olympics.  Maybe even be in the final group.  That girl doesn't know what pressure is.

Dance - thanks to five-time champions and 2006 Olympic Silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto we get to send three dance teams to the Olympics.  Number two will be Meryl Davis and Charlie White  I haven't followed dance enough to say who will be number three.  But both our top two dance teams will be in the top ten at the Olympics.  Maybe another medal for Belbin and Agosto.

Let the games begin! 

US Nationals TV Schedule (my time- Central)

Sat.  Jan 16   3:30-5pm      NBC    Pairs Freeskate
Sun.  Jan 17   3:30-5pm     NBC    Mens Free Skate
Sat.  Jan. 23  3-5 pm         NBC    Free Dance
Sat.  Jan. 23  8-10 pm        NBC    Ladies Free Skate
Sun.  Jan. 24 3-5 pm          NBC   Exhibitions

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ELCA Seminarian Ben Larson believed to have died in Haiti

President Duane Larson of Wartburg Theological Seminary has sent the following message:
Wartburg Theological Seminary Student Believed to be Dead in Haiti
Message from President Duane Larson:

I am so sorry to have to share this news. I have just spoken with Benjamin Larson's mother, April. It is believed now that Ben has been killed in the Haiti quake. Both Jonathan Larson and Renee Splichal Larson are together safely. They were in the same building as Ben when the quake hit. They made it out, eventually found each other, then returned to St. Joseph Guest House in the attempt to rescue Ben, to no avail.

We understand that Renee and Jonathan will return to the U.S. this week.

We so grieve with his parents, April and Judd; for Renee's loss of her husband; Jonathan's loss of a dear cousin, for our loss of a beautiful friend. Ben's baptismal light burned so brightly in our community and for all who came to know him. We grieve the loss of so clear a proclamation, with eyes twinkling, of Christ's love, compassion, and humor.

I will keep you informed as we learn more. And we continue to pray. With Ben we claim that the Lord of hosts is with us. Would that the Lord "satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love" (Ps. 90).

May Christ's peace be with us,
Duane Larson

Four Wartburg Students in Haiti During Earthquake

Ben Splichal Larson, Renee Splichal Larson and Jonathan Larson are M. Div. seniors who were spending their J-term in Haiti. Ben and Jonathan were invited to teach lay leaders and Renee was interviewing people in Haiti as part of a thesis.
Sara Thomson, Wartburg Theological Seminary Intern, and the members from Trinity Lutheran Seminary who are with a project of her congregation, Abiding Hope - Littleton, CO, are indeed safe and accounted for in Jacmel, Haiti.

  We grieve with the Larson family and with the Wartburg Theological Seminary community. "Rest eternal grant him, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him."

Gifts for Haitian Relief can be sent to

Lutheran World Relief -
Haiti Earthquake
P.O. Box 17061
Baltimore, MD 21298-9832

Online gifts can be given here: 
Haiti Earthquake Relief

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hilary of Poitiers 367

Some people think that biblical scholarship can be a challenge to your faith.  I find delving into church history much more challenging.   Particularly the whole Trinitarian/Arian controversy.  Really one could argue that it was the side with the monks who beat up the most monks or paid of the emperor was that was responsible for our current trinitarian doctrine.

Eventually I came to the conclusion the right side won.  Or the side closest to the truth won.  But I REALLY think Arius gets a bad rap.  He did not deny the divinity of Christ.  He was just trying to conserve monotheism and the  integrity of God the Father.  I like to make conservative "traditionalist" go crazy by reminding them Arius was the conservative in the controversy.  They don't like that but it's true.

All this to say Hilary was on the "right" side. Got himself exiled for a few years when his side was out of favor.  That's what's also so disturbing about this controversy.  You had years where one side was in favor and then the other side.  Some like Hilary stuck to their guns but others switched sides according to what was in favor.  Did they switch sides to save their jobs?  Or were they just folks who trusted others to tell them what to think?  Or were they like me at some synod assemblies.  I listen to one side of the argument and say "well that makes sense, I think you have a point" only to hear the OTHER side and change my mind again?   There were good arguments on both side of the Trinitarian argument.  And dubious arguments on both sides as well.

But I think Hilary was a beautiful writer and share this prayer with you that is quoted in Pfatteirchrs' "New Book of Festivals and Commemorations"

Almighty God and father, I regard it as the chief duty of my life to make every thought and word speak of you.  The gift o speech which you gave me cannot have a more noble use than to serve you….That is what I desire to do.  But I need to pray for your help and mercy so that when I spread the sails of our faith you will fill them with the breath of your Spirit to drive us onward.   I need not be afraid.

In our need we will ask for what we lack.  We will study the writings of your prophets and apostles with unflagging attention and knock on the doors where meaning is keep.  But it is for you, Lord, to give when asked, to be present when we seek you and to open when we knock.

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Really COLD HERE!

17 Below I'd like a little global warming please and thank you.

You know what I hate? When my glasses fog up and then it FREEZES!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What did Mary and Joseph DO with all that Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh anyway?

I stole this picture from my friend Meredith Gould's blog. Check out how she explains the difference in size of her figures.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ranch Enchiladas

A few years ago I figured out how Applebees makes their sauce for their "Fiesta Lime Chicken" -which I love. It's just ranch dressing mixed with salsa. Sounds gross but it's really good.

So the other night I made my version of Applebees Chicken (marinate boneless skinless chicken breasts in Tequila and lime juice for 1/2 hour - pan sear just to brown, put in a pan, cover with the ranch-salsa sauce and shredded Mexican cheese that you can buy in the store. Yes, I buy those bags of shredded cheese. I HATE shredding cheese!
Bake at 350 about 35 minutes. )

So I had some leftover corn tortillas (why can you not buy less than about 50 of them?) and leftover sauce so I thought - why not enchiladas?

I got about a lb of chuck beef and rubbed it with kosher salt, ancho chili powder, cumin, and pepper -threw it in the crockpot with some water and sliced onion and about 2 TB of molasses.

I learned this trick from my Mom and we are not Mexican but if you try to roll up corn tortillas they will break so I just fry them in just a little olive oil until they have brown spots and they are nice and soft and easy to roll. Put a little beef and that store bought Mexican cheese in, roll in up and put a bunch in a pan. First pour a little of the juice from the beef all over the enchiladas, the ranch-salsa sauce, then more of that cheese. I like to sprinkle ancho powder and Mexican Oregano on top because it looks pretty. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes. It's very good!

You can also make this with shredded chicken, just cheese, or even hamburger if you don't have time to fiddle with the shredded stuff. Sometimes I will just cook up pork roasts, beef roast, and chicken and freeze it so I have shredded stuff. It's all good with barbecue sauce for sandwiches. Made pork barbecue sandwiches for my daughter's graduation party and it was quite a hit.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

R.I.P. Mary Daly

So far - this is the only one who has noted the passing of feminist theological giant Mary Daly: A Life Lived OUT loud

She and Rosemary Radford Ruether really opened my eyes when I was in seminary to how far outside the box you could go. I couldn't quite go where she went but I really appreciated that she was willing to take on Christianity and claim the gospel for herself and other radical feminists when so many others could find nothing but misogyny and patriarchy in the Christian Story. May the angels welcome her and may she find the freedom and liberation and peace we all long for.