A Lego Reformation

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation. This is kind of a big deal for Lutherans, the followers of Martin Luther’s teachings. To celebrate the anniversary my church held a Reformation fair during Sunday school. I was asked to create a Lego mosaic of the Luther rose that could be assembled during the event. I jumped at the opportunity. Of course I’d jump at just about any opportunity to work with Lego!

I wasn’t the first to attempt such a feat. A quick internet search came up with this design which is amazing…and a bit expensive. I’m all about go big or go home but when the church is footing the bill, I must take a more practical approach. Instead of the 5×5 32 stud base plates I scaled the design down to 3×3. Keep in mind these baseplates alone cost $7.99 apiece.

I searched online for a good picture of the Luther Rose that I could use to create my pattern and found one easily. In the past I used a program called Legoaizer to create patterns for mosaics. I simply import the image and the program does all the work. This time, however, I wanted to limit the number of colors and edit the design. I couldn’t do that with my program so I was stuck…for all of a minute. I also dabble in cross stich and last year I downloaded a program called PC Stitch that does the exact same thing for stitching as Legoaizer does for Lego mosaics. I imported my image and set the parameters and there was my rose! PC Stitch let me edit individual stitches or in this case Lego studs to the colors and configurations I wanted. Here is the final pattern!

The biggest challenge to a project like this is coming up with the actual brick. It’s difficult to calculate how much of any one size and color pieces needed unless I broke down the pattern as such. I knew the kids who would be assembling this wouldn’t want to be slowed down by having to following a pattern so closely. I had to guess. I spent several days sorting bricks in my private collection and when I came up short, I went to BrickLink for the rest. I guessed I’d be short on some things but I didn’t want to over order parts, again to keep costs low.

I did all the work in black. By having the outline done, the kids could grab the right color plate of any size and get to work without much instruction, and they needed no instructions! Needless to say the project was a huge success. I ended up being short on the white pieces at the fair but thankfully I had enough spare parts at home to finish the rose.

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Changing Hearts, Changing Minds

When was the last time you changed your mind about something? I’m not talking about something to wear or about something to eat; I’m talking about a conviction or a strong belief you once held that changed over time. As a child I used to believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and Freddy Krueger. I don’t believe in those things anymore (mostly). What caused me to change my mind? Empirical evidence! I was pretending to sleep one early morning after I lost a tooth and I felt a hand reach under my pillow. A quick glance and I saw my mother instead of the Tooth Fairy. I saw my parents load stockings after church one Christmas Eve, so there went Santa. The jury is still out on Freddy Krueger.

When it comes to things like politics, religion, and social issues when was the last time you had your mind changed? Do you admit to having an open mind? A lot of people seem to think they’re pretty open unless you talk to them about politics, religion, or social issues.

I consider myself fairly open minded. I’ve changed my beliefs over time on issues such as capital punishment and premarital sex. I can’t say that on those two topics it was any particular argument that won me over to the other side. Life experience and a greater understanding of the world changed my perspective on those issues. But that’s not to say they couldn’t change again with the right arguments and evidence.

I really want to know what it takes to change hearts and minds in this country. There’s no question we’re living in very hostile times at least ideologically speaking. Household conversations have to be censored to avoid arguments between family members with opposing political views. Where once we could discuss our difference of opinion openly, it’s now considered inappropriate to talk about things that might be controversial. God forbid we should offend someone with a mere difference of opinion.

I’m fairly rational even in situations where emotions can take over. My head and my heart talk to each other but most of the time my head does the decision making. For that reason, facts and well supported arguments work well in changing my position on an issue. Yelling at me, insulting my intelligence, or removing me as a Facebook friend do nothing to change my opinion, many have tired. I suspect those methods don’t work on anyone yet I continue to see them employed.

I genuinely believe I am an open minded individual and I encourage those with differing views and opinions to speak up and challenge my beliefs. However I am beginning to feel like I am a minority in this way of thinking. Lately I’ve found that many people prefer to only associate with those who share similar convictions and thus avoid conflict. I can certainly understand that position. There’s a great deal of comfort in surrounding yourself with what is familiar. But I’ve learned that when you stick with what’s comfortable, you don’t grow and you don’t learn. If you aren’t doing either of those things, then what is the point of existence?

Issues like same-sex marriage, the second amendment, and abortion are very emotional issues where the convictions of both sides run deep. Not all of the issues we face have right answers moving forward. In the end we have to find a balance we can all live with but how do we do that if we can’t or aren’t willing to talk to each other?

This country is not perfect and it never has been. Yet I’ve always felt we have been moving in a positive direction. Sure we’ve stumbled a few times but we always got up and moved forward. I can’t say that now and I’m deeply concerned this country is beginning to reverse course. Now more than ever we have to seek to understand why people hold the convictions they do. If a conviction is held based on false information, that information must be set right. If a belief on a social issue is held because of a religious interpretation, we must shore up the separation of church and state. We must engage our family, friends, and neighbors even though it’s uncomfortable. We have to find a way to keep moving forward.

So I ask you, you many few who read my platform posts: How do we change the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans so that each of us has a fair shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

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I have been focusing on writing extensively of late and part of that includes writing scenes and short stories based on prompts I’ve found online and in books. The following prompt is from Writer’s Digest:

Prompt:  A Broken (Deadly) Resolution—Only two weeks had passed into the New Year and Tim had already broken his first resolution: Don’t kill anyone. Write the Scene

The following is what I came up with:


Tim sat anxiously, beer in hand, as the clock began its final countdown. It had been a tough year for him. Not again, not in the New Year, he thought. This year would be different, this year no one would die by his hand.

Two Weeks Later

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Tim exclaimed.

He walked in circles, his hands pulling at his hair as he tried to figure out what to do. He passed a small metal trash can by the door. He kicked it hard. Unfortunately it didn’t fly into the middle of the room like he was expecting. Instead it hit the cabinet, bounced off, and collided with his right shin. He reflexively pulled back as the can rolled between his legs. Unable to maintain his balance, Tim went tumbling to the floor. This time, the trash can did fly out spilling its contents all over the fallen man who had just broken his New Year’s resolution.

The door to the quiet room opened.

“Doctor Brady, you’re needed in OR two,” the nurse said.

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Seattle Museum of Flight

Back in 2012 I began searching popular wedding venues in Seattle for my upcoming nuptials. I stumbled across the Seattle Museum of Flight and I knew that was the place for us to say “I do”. Before then I had no idea Seattle had such a museum.

Yesterday my husband and I returned to the museum. We try to go at least once a year and see what’s new. Last year we spent quite a bit of time in the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing of the museum. This exhibit features aircraft from both WWI and WWII. I really enjoyed our visit last year and learned a lot about how aviation changed warfare. This year was almost a struggle however.

As I walked though the vast quiet cavern that held war machines of the past, I felt unsettled. So many people died in the two  wars that should have ended all wars. There’s no question the Axis Powers needed to be stopped. There’s no question Hitler was responsible for acts of evil on a scale most of the world had never seen. My grandparents generation had reason to fight, to rally together, to die for a just cause . What the United States was able to accomplish in military buildup between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the end of WWII is staggering to say the least. Every single American did their part to support the war effort and because of that, victory was all but certain.

Today we live in a world that is technically at peace on a scale never seen in human history. But I don’t feel the peace my grandparents fought so hard for, not anymore. I feel a tension, a shift in direction, a reversal of course in the cause of peace and I wonder if America will once again be called to set aside their very lives in a war effort. I hope we can turn the tide, right the ship, and continue to find peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the problems facing our world. I want to believe the last great wars are behind us but I have a feeling we as a nation are coming to a crossroads. I have no faith our current leadership will make the right choices in stemming the tides of war.

We wandered over to the Apollo exhibit where I was sure my mood would be uplifted as space exploration has been a passion of mine since I was eight years old. I marveled at the Saturn V engine on display. I enjoyed seeing the standby Viking Lander on loan to the museum. I loved the lunar rover Boeing built for the later Apollo missions. Yet I couldn’t quite shake my melancholy as the accomplishments in space travel today can’t seem to compare to those of the late sixties and early seventies. We won the first leg of the Space Race and we should be leading the race to Mars. The final frontier has a way of bringing mankind together. How far could we go if we spent half as much on our imagination as we do on weapons of war?

As we continued through the rest of the museum I began to wonder what it would look like fifty years from now. Would there be a WWIII exhibit? Would there be a section dedicated to the Korean War, parts I and II? Will there be an exhibit dedicated to the first human Mars missions? I left the museum with a lot to consider and maybe that’s what places like this are supposed to leave you with.

The Seattle Museum of Flight has a lot to see and I would encourage anyone local to plan a visit in spite of my somber mood! They have an airpark where you can walk through an older Air Force One, a Concorde, and a 787 Dreamliner. It’s kid friendly and the gift shop has lots of cool inventory.

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Walk the Walk

This Saturday I will be walking with Team Toby at the Puget Sound Heart and Stroke Walk. Thousands will gather rain or shine and take a three mile trek around Seattle to raise awareness for Heart Disease. I think everyone knows someone affected by heart disease but it wasn’t until March of 2013 that my eyes were opened to an entirely different world.

I received a phone call from my sister that fateful March day. Her unborn son had just been diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. I had no idea what that was or what it would mean for him but I knew it didn’t sound good. I went to work learning what I could while packing up my things in preparation to move back home and help her out.

Prior to Toby, my understanding of the human heart was limited to almost nothing I could remember from my high school health class. I quickly learned heart defects were more common than most of us probably realize. Nearly one child in every one-hundred is born with some kind of heart defect. Fortunately most aren’t life threatening and many don’t require any intervention. Unfortunately some go undiagnosed and by the time they are discovered, the damage is done. How many of us have heard stories of the high school football or soccer player falling on the field, never to get up again? In most cases, CHD or a congenital heart defect is to blame.

Thankfully in the case of my sister and Toby, he was diagnosed in time for palliative measures. HLHS is a condition in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped. In effect, Toby was born with only half of a heart. He had his first open heart surgery when he was five days old. His heart was stopped, he was placed on bypass, and a surgeon delicately began to manipulate the defective organ in such a way to keep him alive. The procedure was called the Norwood and it was only the first in a three stage series of operations Toby would need.

Research continues to find the cause and cure for congenital heart defects but research needs money. People give money to the causes they care about and the causes that affect them most. CHD is a cause that affects so many yet doesn’t get the funding it needs. I walk to raise awareness for children like Toby who live with broken hearts. Will you walk with me?

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About a Girl

A Recap of The Orville Episode 3

When I first heard about The Orville I was super excited. The trailer made it look like a series version of my all-time favorite movie ‘Galaxy Quest’. It would be a space adventure but it wouldn’t take itself too seriously; after all Seth MacFarlane was behind it. But after watching episode 3, “About a Girl” I am simply blown away. ***Spoilers ahead, read at your own risk!***

The first thing that struck me about the episode was who directed it, Brannon Braga. He was an executive producer on Star Trek: Voyager. It wasn’t long before I noticed how the musical cues seemed Trek like in theme and tone. Even the shooting style of the episode screamed Star Trek (the 1990’s style not Kelvin). As for the story, I never thought MacFarlane would jump into something so controversial, especially for a show that’s advertised more for humor than drama. In fact, the episode’s humor felt almost out of place against the high stakes drama involved in the storyline.

Orville’s second officer Bortus and his mate Klyden just had a child. The only problem? It’s a girl and Moclan society doesn’t accept females. Initially both Bortus and his mate want an operation to change their daughter into a son. Their human counterparts aboard the Orville are shocked at the mere suggestion and after a little bonding over beer and an old Earth movie (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) Bortus has a change of heart. This leads to a tribunal where first officer Kelly Grayson must defend Bortus and his daughter against the Moclan status quo.

The episode brings up issues about gender choice versus culture and equal rights for women in society; and there is absolutely no subtlety about it. There is an attempt to play down some of the heavy drama with the use of humor. Grayson uses Orville’s human pilot as an example that not all men are smart. “The tribunal must acknowledge that there is no valid claim for gender based superiority,” Grayson argues.

As far as I could tell, the bias Moclan society has toward woman only seems to apply to the Moclan species. Grayson, a human woman, seems to have no trouble making a case during the tribunal. She appears to have the respect of the Moclan legal system. Grayson calls Orville’s security officer, a Xelayan female, to the stand and there is no objection to her testimony. Yet at the end of the episode when Captain Mercer finds a Moclan woman to testify, there is chaos in the courtroom. When it turns out that female is actually the Moclan’s greatest writer; those gathered react in stunned silence.

If this had been Star Trek, I believe the outcome would have been different. The testimony would have worked in favor of Bortus and his daughter and the child would grow up free to choose her gender. But Orville is not Star Trek and in the end, the entirely male jury sided with Klyden and the sex change operation was carried out. There were no jokes in the end, no way to make light of that outcome and I am grateful they didn’t try.

All this from a series that’s supposed to make fun of traditional space adventures! Nearly everything about The Orville feels like Star Trek including the use of social commentary. In a time when so many different issues test our faith in government and each other, it’s nice to see a TV show shine a unique light on difficult subject matters. I look forward seeing more of what MacFarlane and The Orville have to say!

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What is right about bearing firearms?

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:  A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In 1791 the bill of rights was ratified to the constitution. At that time we had no army. In fact, the framers of the constitution felt that maintaining a standing army would be a detriment to democracy. History had shown that armies had a tendency to over through the governments they were sworn to protect. But today is not 1791 and we do maintain an army and were we to draft a new constitution, we would never allow the people such a right as the second amendment.

Guns were simple tools in 1791, a necessary tool used during the American Revolution. The common folk needed guns to fight in the militia because the government didn’t provide them. In that context, the second amendment makes sense. The people need guns to protect America because America uses militias to fight wars therefore, the government shouldn’t infringe on their right to have firearms.

But we don’t use militias to fight wars today, we have the most advanced army in the world to do that. Guns aren’t simple anymore. Like America, they’ve grown in size, scale, and lethality. Weapons of war are not meant to be wielded by civilians, they’re meant to be used in the defense of one’s country. They’re made for one thing: the killing of humans.

Now I’m not saying we should do away with the second amendment entirely. I think hand guns serve a vital purpose in personal defense. Hunting rifles also serve a useful purpose. These weapons, while they can certainly kill humans, don’t produce the level of carnage we’ve seen in places like Orlando and Las Vegas.

Because assault rifles are available to pretty much any American who wants one, our movie theaters, schools, and night clubs have turned into battlefields. I don’t believe that’s what the framers of our constitution had in mind. Hand in hand with the right to bear arms must be the responsibility that right entails. It is not unreasonable as a civilized first world nation to restrict the kinds of firearms available to the common man.

I realize that changing gun regulations isn’t enough. The people who have committed the acts of terror we are seeing in our country are broken. To fix the problem with guns we must also address the mental health issues faced by so many of our countrymen. Help needs to be made available for the broken among us and we as a people need to exercise compassion when someone needs mental help.

The purpose of our laws and our government is to act in the service of the people. We want to feel safe in our homeland and I imagine very few people in Las Vegas felt safe when the bullets started raining down on them. Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. It’s time for real sensible change where firearms and mental health is concerned. Too many have died under the misguided principal written into our constitution. It’s time we the people demand that weapons of war remain only in the hands of those men and women in uniform, trained in their use, and who have taken an oath to defend our country.