Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Salt Tag

Ocean & Rain2

Tagged again. And, again, I'll put my own twist on it. (Just a little salt, okay?)

Al Hsu is talking about doing something meaningful with $100. One could say he's asking us to be the salt of the season the difficult places with love and compassion.

The question is what would you do with $100, if you could. Especially if you could team it up with other people's $100?

I would try to get a local dry cleaner to change over to wet cleaning (I've heard that these mom-and-pop shops don't always have the money to make such big changes).

Dry cleaning is so highly toxic...for the air we breathe, for the people who wear the clothes on which the chemicals persist. This is an issue that affects both rich and poor, though they don't often know it. And, oddly enough, it affects the poor because of location (more urban... air emissions) and the rich because of privilege (they are the ones wearing the dry-cleaned clothes.)

Yeah, I know. Maybe it would seem more vital if I bought 100 cups of soup for 100 poor people. I guess this is where we see how individual passions get us working on all aspects of life, each important in its own way.

Photo of watercolor with salt, by L.L. Barkat. Based on a little assignment from SoulPerSuit

Salt of the Sky (on my other blog)

Ode to Ironing

Monday, January 29, 2007

That Sin Thing

Recently, I got in a conversation with Andre Yee, where we tried to define sin. He had a good definition... it's the breaking of God's moral law.

Still, I thought it would be worth extending the conversation. So, I'm here to ask, what do you think sin is?

My basic definition is that it's when we show ingratitude to the God who created and sustains us. In other words, if I abuse or neglect myself or even elevate myself in certain ways, I'm not being grateful for God's hand in making and keeping me.

Preventing someone else from acting with gratitude (causing them to abuse or neglect themselves) would also be sin. (Interesting that the Sabbath laws originally provided for this... slaves and animals were also to be given a day off... "owners" who didn't go along with this were guilty of Sabbath-breaking, a high crime).

Anyhow, what do you think? What is sin? And let's see if we can stay away from theological terms, just for the fun and challenge of it.

Sculpture by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Class Consciousness

The Dolls

Overheard from outside the daughters' door: a tense moment between the dolls...

"I'm porcelain. You're just plastic."

Oh, how we do compare ourselves. Perhaps not always a bad thing. But surely not always a good thing either.

The Dolls photo (plastic left, porcelain right), by L.L. Barkat

Oh, and Speaking of Plastic

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Maturing on Tuesday

Charity recently shared that she goes to a farmer's market where they arrange tomatoes by maturity date. She bought a Tuesday tomato, because it was promised to be mature by that day— just the day she'd be needing it.

I marvel that farmers sell their produce this way. I also wonder what it would be like to know when a person might "be mature." Am I mature yet? How will I know when I am? And, most of all, will I be mature for the Tuesday that someone (or even me) needs me to be?

Photo by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Small Things

Silver Creamer

I thought this was an interesting convergence. Jesus and Flannery O' Connor. He said, she said.

He said, "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much." Luke 16:10

She said, regarding writing, "If you can't make something out of a little experience, you probably won't be able to make [something] out of a lot."

Perhaps they both mean, for better or worse, that people have an inner consistency that transcends context. If this is true, what does this mean for us on a practical level— as friends, spouses, parents, or writers?

(Hope you enjoy today's photo; I think Sonia made much of a "small" subject.)

Photo by Sonia.

NEW LINKS to this post:
Life is Just Life
Change & God's Words

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Day

Cello on Orange

How could
a letter
usher in a day,
deliver a cello
to one very
dining room?

And how
could a child,
afraid of strings
and wood
of just this shape,
now dream of
like this...

Just like this,
a letter
can make
a song.

Thanks again, MG. Today was the first lesson, and she was ecstatic.

Photo by L.L. Barkat.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


carrot garden

I could have tried to sneak out of one tag, or maybe even two, but three strikes and I’m in… thanks to Ted, Andrea, and Her.

Of course, each tag was slightly different, but I’m a streamliner, so I’ll do five-ish things about me, but they will be five odd things, and some will be things I thought I’d never say about me. (How’s that for fudging the rules?)

One-ish… I have killed a goldfish and considered taking the Empire State Building home in a handbag. Read about it here.

Two-ish… One of my emails accidentally inspired Juli to write an article… about Lauren Winner, Noah Levine, and me. She sold the article to Publishers Weekly.

Three-ish… I am growing carrot heads on my windowsill. They started out bald and boring, but look at them now (above). I think this proves that carrots have stem cells. Could we quell a huge debate with a simple orange solution?

Four-ish… Because I went out for an egg & cheese, I’m writing a book.

Five-ish… I once paid for an ice-cream sundae with 500 pennies. My future spouse was there and obviously ignored the implications for domestic life. I think people would buy fewer ice cream sundaes if they were required to pay in pennies. (It embarrasses future or present spouses.)

And, now I get to tag five people. (No pressure. I never liked tag in school, and if you don’t like it in blogland, that’s fine with me.) Charity Singleton, Mark Galli, Edward Gilbreath, Mark Goodyear, and Craver.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Creation Sabbath

Painted Leaves?
Since Charity has been talking about the Sabbath, and Al has been discussing creation care, I thought I'd put the two together in a post of my own.

I got this little brainstorm after writing Mud Marvel— a post on my other blog, that considers why you and I are not as impressive as a bucket of sea mud.

Anyway, to put Sabbath and creation care together, I started re-reading Redeeming Creation. And I found this great quote regarding the thoughts of Orthodox Jew David Ehrenfeld...

Ehrenfeld notes that an observant Jew would observe the Sabbath by more than resting and praying, and refraining from ordinary work. Three other aspects are carefully followed: creating nothing, destroying nothing, and enjoying the bounty of the earth.

To be careful that nothing is created reminds us that God is the supreme Creator. To be careful that nothing is destroyed reminds us that the world is God's creation, and not our possession to ruin. To enjoy the earth's bounty reminds us that God, not human invention, is the source of that bounty."

Wow. What would this kind of Sabbath look like, if we attempted to observe it even just a little?

Photo by Saima Barkat and L.L. Barkat.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Creative Pursuit

I’m trying an on-line bible study, through a group called Soul Per Suit.

To me, the genius of this study is that it combines a need/love to create with a need/love of the bible.

Rather than just answer questions, we’ll share (through a Yahoo group and a blog) our creative responses to the scripture— poems, creative writing pieces, collages, even dance choreography (I’ll leave that last one to the dancers).

Somehow, this makes me understand the genius of Judaism. I consider that its richness is partly found in its creative response. The design of the Passover meal, for example… or making a beautiful sukkah during Sukkot, or crafting a fantastic mask during Purim.

I think this is why my family is drawn to the Jewish roots of our Christian faith. There, we can see, smell, taste, touch, sculpt what is otherwise spiritually abstract. Faith as a creative pursuit.

"Meeting" painting by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Muffin Marketing

Muffins on Floral

I think I know Mark well enough to flip his Make Your Readers Love You post on its head. It’s true that good writing can be about good relationship, but…

Sometimes, writers are not terribly likeable. Nor do they necessarily like the people who read their words. Nor are they easy to work with. They just happen to write what people want to hear. And so, sad but true, sometimes writing is simply about good marketing and good connections.

I compare this to my recent muffin disaster.

Let’s just say the muffins had a very nice crust on the outside and a very moist inside— kinda like pumpkin pie. So what did I do? When my kids came downstairs I announced, “Pumpkin pie muffins for breakfast!”

My excuses-for-muffins hit the Barkat Times bestseller list, in two seconds flat.

Of course, I had to earn the Barkat family trust first, to pull this off. (Hey, Craver, does this make me a chef hypocrite?)

Photo by L.L. Barkat

NEW LINKS to this post:
Choose an Identity... Heather's sort of related idea that makes one think about "hypocrisy"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Life Design

Design signals intent.

That's what McDonough & Braungart, think when they consider the design of a cold, angular, grey place like Auschwitz — where the intent was death.

Conversely, they want to design for life.

A chemist and an architect, their company developed the first green roof for a building in Chicago. They created a factory with a tree-lined footpath down its inner middle. They set out to design an upholstery so safe you can tear it off your couch and put it in your compost, when you’re ready for a new look.

Design signals intent.

How have I designed my life? And you… yours?

For thoughts about a surprising design on God’s part, visit the post “Who Knew?”on my other blog.

Photo by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

NEW LINKS to this post:
Charity's Sabbath Design
The Donkey, the Horse & Old MacDonald

Friday, January 05, 2007


Last night, my eldest daughter was leafing through a real estate magazine. "Are there houses that look the same outside but are different inside?" she asked.

"Probably," I said.

"Imagine if all houses looked the same on the outside?" she continued. "Wouldn't that be creepy?"

I thought it was interesting that this made her feel squeamish... the thought of complete conformity.

And, then I remembered the discussion here yesterday about efficiency. It often relies on conformity— a much-hailed improvement on the "parts" side that made the Industrial Revolution quite successful. (Thanks, Ted G., for reminding me about the IR.)

Yet, conformity is also "creepy" in its way. Why is that?

Blue Noise photo by Sonia.

LINK to this post:
"Don't Conform to Platitudes Against Conformity"

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I'm all for efficiency. I like to get things done, and get 'em done well, without too much hassle.

Yet, I had to pause at this quote from Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things...

In a world dominated by, creativity, fantasy, enjoyment, and poetry would fall by the wayside, creating an unappealing world indeed. Imagine a fully efficient world: an Italian dinner would be a red pill and a glass of water with an artificial aroma..." (p.65)

In fact, in a fully-efficient world, no one would even need to read or think anymore. And I could put away my pen and my keyboard— except maybe if I were a copywriter for the We Will Tell You Exactly What to Think Bureau.

"World News" drawing by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Monday, January 01, 2007


With the turning of page 207, it has just been confirmed…

I am a person of slightly unusual literary taste. After all, over vacation, while my spouse settled into Michael Crichton’s Next, I sipped tea near the tree with Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength: An Anecdotal History of InterVarsity Press, 1947-2007.

The book came in a Christmas packet from IVP. I didn’t actually expect I’d read it, but the first page quoted Leszek Kolakowski. “We must absorb history … to know who we are and how we should act.”

That’s a rich statement, don’t you think?

Not that it would induce you to read to page 207, including all four appendices. But, it might set you to thinking about your own past, your history, or the history of the nation or the world… and it might invoke some interesting thoughts about consequent actions...