Friday, September 30, 2005

Game called on account of... smog?!?

What would be a beautiful view of the San Fernando Valley from the 210 Highway -- if the smog didn't blurrify everything into an indiscriminate and unhealthy haze.


All right, now we've seen everything. In Michigan, sporting events are regularly cancelled because of weather: lightning, tornados, heavy snow, ice storms. But what could possibly get in the way of outdoor sports in California? Perfect weather, year round, right?

Well, last year we found out that games can get cancelled because of... record flooding. We're talking century-level records here, as the water gushed out of the sky for weeks, gushed down the mountains, turned the streets into rivers, and soaked the soccer fields into mudpits.

Today, as we anticipated another great Saturday of AYSO soccer, we got a call informing us that all games and practices are cancelled for the weekend because of... air quality. Yes, that means smog. Particulate matter. According to the National Weather Service, children should not breathe outdoors in the San Fernando Valley this weekend. They certainly should not huff and puff through soccer matches. Read that again: it's not safe, where we live, to breathe the air outside.

Don't believe it? Check this out. See the red "unhealthy" level? That's our alert level this weekend.The current pollution levels may have something to do with the acres of scrub fires burning right now uncontrollably in the hills around us. The pink-orange glow in the evening resembles, sort of, a Michigan sunset. But "fire season," as they call it here, isn't the only issue. There are also the 16 million smog-producing SUVs zipping around on LA's highways. And the Santa Ana winds that make the Valley feel something like the inside of an oven with a fan.

Sigh. Now what do we do? Play CandyLand indoors and bake cookies to comfort ourselves till the smog lifts?

Thank God for netflix.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fall Festival

We Rienstras, for obvious reasons, have a soft spot in our hearts for beasts with the blessing of a big schnoz: Aardvarks, Proboscis Monkeys, and of course, Elephants.

So imagine our delight when we arrived at the church compound yesterday for the annual Fall Festival, and found that instead of pony rides, our 'animal trainer to the stars' friend Glen had brought this wonderful creature for us to enjoy.

(Notice, by the way, the sky. Yes, it was positively dreary in Sun Valley yesterday.)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Litmus Lozenges and Church Music

Our whole family saw the movie Because of Winn-Dixie last Saturday night. It's a sweet movie, thankfully populated by something other than Disney's clever kids and clueless parents. One key element in the film is the "Litmus Lozenge," a type of hard candy invented by a battle-scarred Civil War veteran who found a way to distill both sweetness and sorrow. It's described as having a "melancholy" taste.

Anyway, at church on Sunday the prelude was a jazzy version of "Jesus Loves Me"-- a piano, soft drum kit, bass, and a soprano sax. The soprano sax in particular was beautiful, and I asked the kids about it in the car later. We agreed that the addition of the sax made the song sound like a Litmus Lozenge.

Then later in the week I was asked to adjudicate a contest for new worship songs. As I played through the entries on the piano, I kept noticing how the addition of one note in a chord could change its flavor entirely - and thus that of the entire piece. In one song, after a fairly interesting verse, the chorus begins with an "Alleluia"-- on that chord I wished the composer had added an E-natural to his F2 chord, thus making it an Fmaj9.

I wonder if all our alleluias in worship -- at least until Christ's return -- should be sung with a hint of melancholy, like the Litmus Lozenge.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Letting Go - A Good Dog is Hard to Find

Last night I went to my sister Rachel's house to offer consoling support as she made the difficult choice to put down her dog of 12 years, Odie. The poor animal had cancer throughout her body, and though she had stopped eating, had already lived a week past the vet's most optimistic predictions.

After a fine day of chasing squirrels in the park, Odie sat on the couch in her own home, surrounded by soft music, warm candlelight, and people who loved her. The vet was compassionate and considerate, and when the time came, Odie drifted off as peacefully as can be. Interesting how in so many ways this pet's death was much 'better' than the deaths of many people in our society. Of course, some might suggest that the death, brought about by some drugs, was premature; that's a blog entry for another occasion.

What I found most interesting was how we make use of the gifts God gives us. Odie's life was a gift to Rachel. Rachel made good use of it, she held on to it with love, but loosely when the time game to let it go. And Odie's death, too, it seems to me was a gift. It was a difficult thing --but anytime death intrudes in a dramatic way in our lives, we have the opportunity to find out something important about the preciousness of life; and perhaps we are motivated to make changes, to live differently. It reminds me what the Misfit says in one of Flannery O'Conner's great short stories: "She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It could be WAY worse...

Was feeling a little down, anticipating the mid-month financial whoosh (the money whooshes in and whooshes right back out...), when I found this site.

Feeling pretty darn well-off now.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Mission Accomplished

For the past weeks we have been a family at war - with the ant population of Sun Valley. But starting today, we would like to announce the cessation of normal combat operations. We're putting away the Comet and the bay leaves, and the Raid, too. Last week we were about to issue a press release, and have a photo-op with Debra on the kitchen deck with a grand "Mission Accomplished" sign behind her. But then an insurgency caught us by surprise in the sink area, and in one bedroom. Since then we've been persistent in our work. And it's hard work. There are no more signs of the little bug(ger)s. So, we plan to keep some ant traps out, but we're confident that the insurgency is now in its last throes.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Turning Forty

A poem by Kevin Griffith...

At times it's like there is a small planet
inside me. And on this planet,
there are many small wars, yet none
big enough to make a real difference.
The major countries - mind and heart - have
called a truce for now. If this planet had a ruler,
no one remembers him well. All
decisions are made by committee.
Yet there are a few pictures of the old dictator --
how youthful he looked on his big horse,
how bright his eyes.
He was ready to conquer the world.