Friday, September 30, 2011

Chuy's Creamy Jalapeno Dip. Maybe.

Image via BBC News

Way back in the Miami Vice days of the mid- 80's, I spent plenty of time at the original Chuy's Mexican Restaurant in Austin, Texas on Barton Springs Road. I was working for the city Parks Department and our office was in Zilker Park, just up the road from Chuy's. Great margaritas. Fabulous chili rellenos- my favorite, though the Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom was pretty outstanding as well.

Anyway, Chuy's has this great Creamy Jalapeno Dip and you can imagine how delighted I was recently when I came across a recipe for it on 2 crafty r's. Now, this may or may not be the original recipe. I looked around a bit and some of the versions call for Ranch dressing, some for mayo (which I simply am not going to try because of my thing about mayo), and some call for tomatillos, which I might try because it's been so long since I've made anything with tomatillos. And to be honest, it's been a few years since I was in Austin and I just don't remember exactly, except that I liked it. So what the heck, this is the version I'm going to call home.

Gather up:

16 oz of sour cream
1 packet of Ranch dip mix
2-3 jalapenos, finely chopped (1/2 cup) *
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped*
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of a lime*
Milk, otional (I did not use since I like a thicker dip)

*I used canned jalapenos, though they aren't nearly as good, because I just can't be bothered with all the special precautions for chopping fresh jalapenos. I always forget and sear my eyeballs when I take my contacts out in the evening. An 8 ounce can equals 1/2 cup of j-peppers. I like garlic so 3 cloves it is. Finally, I used a couple squirts of bottled lime juice- not too much because it thins out the dip.

OK- now comes the really hard part. Pay attention here gang-

Mix the first 6 ingredients together. Add milk if you want. Serve with tortilla chips.

Whew! Take a break. Chips, dip, and a beer. Mmmmm- love me some Chuy's. This is best if you let is cool in the 'frig for a couple of hours so the flavors, especially the fresh cilantro, work together to create muy deliciouso happiness on a chip. And if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the original, real Chuy's dip is made with mayo--- please don't tell me.

Thanks for visiting today. Next time we'll do our birthstone for October. See ya then.

(Y'all have that Miami Vice theme song pounding through your head now, don't you?)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Bake Heaven

OK- I'm a sucker for chocolate cookies and bars. Honestly, cookies are my very favorite dessert. Right after ice cream. But ice cream is in a class all of its own and should always be understood, when speaking to me or to anyone from whom I am biologically descended, to be THE dessert of choice. But after ice cream, when we come back down to the mortal plane, are cookies. Homemade cookies- they must be homemade. Oh I'll snack on the occasional Oreo, Pecan Sandie, or the odd cookie made by Elves, but honestly, homemade is where I embarrass myself. Early in our marriage but far enough in for him to know my love of cookies, Big 'Un was totally astounded that I did not eat one single Chips Ahoy! from the bag he had brought home from the store. He loves those nasty things and thought he was going to have to hide them but, no danger there. I have no time in my day for Chips Ahoy! and most other cookies of that mass-produced ilk.

But these ....  oh ho ho, these babies are a little bit of no-bake heaven. Similar to the standard no-bakes (cocoa, peanut butter, milk, oats, etc), these sweeties come in bar form. I got this particular recipe from allrecipes but I've seen them around town in other places. Anyway, let's get crackin' so our lips can get smackin'

You'll need:

3/4 cup butter (allrecipes calls for 1 cup but I just can't do it.)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar- I like the dark kind
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups quick cook oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter- chunky or smooth but I like the chunky

Butter or spray an 8 x 8 dish.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in the brown sugar, vanilla, and oats. Cook for 3 or 4 additional minutes. Keep the temp on very low so you don't have any scorching. Press half of the oats mixture into the prepared dish.

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips and peanut butter, stirring every 30 seconds, until both are melted and smooth. In my microwave, this took a total of 1 minute 30 seconds. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust. Save "some" to spoon over the top, if you would like.

Sprinkle the remaining oats mixture over the chocolate and press gently to form a top crust. Now drizzle the reserved chocolate over the top.

Refrigerate for 3 hours, or as log as you can take it, before cutting into smallish squares ('cause yes, a little goes a long way).

Smack lips, lick fingers. Yum.

And just to share, the entire time I was trying to take pictures of the finished cookies, this is what I had to work around ...

... because she knew that as soon as I was done, she was scoring some No-Bake Heaven and apparently didn't want to have to flick her tongue out too far.

So hey, it's been fun today. I know it doesn't seem like it but I do eat healthy food. I mean, ice cream is packed with calcium!

Thanks for fluttering by today and I'll see ya again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The King of Butterflies

Image by Tim Hamilton via Flickr

It's been since July that we've taken a look at a butterfly so we're long overdue. We all know this beauty. The king of butterflies, as it's been called, the monarch. Or The Monarch, Danaus plexippus. The Monarch Butterfly was discovered and named in 1874 by Samuel H. Scudder and has become widely known for its incredible migration. But it isn't that simple, of course.

Image via Monarch Watch

Not all Monarchs fly to Mexico and no single monarch makes the round trip. Some make the trip and get halfway back before dying. Monarchs being their migration south in the fall, beginning in September and October (they're on their way!). Those east of the Rockies overwinter in high elevation mountains in southern Mexico. Those on the western side of the Rockies migrate to southern California, in the Pacific Grove area and there are even some overwintering sites in southern Florida.

To complicate things further, not all monarch butterflies migrate. It's complicated. But not. Stick with me. Each year there are four generations of monarchs. A generation consists of the egg, the larva, the pupae, and the adult. Once the adult lays her eggs, she dies and the next generation commences.

The egg stage lasts 3-4 days and is therefore the shortest stage in the life cycle, barring anything unfortunate. Once hatched, the monarch begins the larval stage by eating it's egg case, which is full of vitamins and yummy things, and then moves on to consume its host plant, the milkweed. It is a caterpillar and monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed. And they eat tons of it. This larval stage is further divided into what is called an instar. Caterpillars grow very quickly and soon outgrow their own skin. We do the same but just get stretch marks. The caterpillar molts, or sheds its tight, striped suit for a newer, more roomy skin and will generally eat the skin it just shed for more delicious butterfly nutrients. There are five instars. This stage lasts 10-14 days, after which it pupates and forms a chrysalis.

Image via How Stuff Works

A monarch pupae is a thing of beauty. The caterpillar twists around and anchors its rear to a secure, protected surface and begins its final molt. But this time a caterpillar does not emerge- it is the pupae.

Image via Science Photo Library

At first the pupae doesn't look like anything, really. The caterpillar's skin splits to reveal a green sac of ... something. But look closer ...

New pupae. After about an hour, the pupa will reshape into the classic chrysalis form.
Image via Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

... it shows signs of the life to come. It is still a bit of a mystery regarding what actually goes on inside the chrysalis. Polite society says "the caterpillar re-structures itself," or "re-organizes".  In fact, and I'll just say it with apologies to my squeamish readers, the caterpillar turns to mush. It under goes metamorphosis- a complete transformation. It is very vulnerable during this early pupal stage so if you happen upon one, please don't touch it or move it. Skilled lepidopterists can sometimes "thread" a fallen pupae and hang it again but that's a tricky thing to try. Just leave the pupae or chrysalis as you find it. Nature is a cruel thing sometimes and only about 2 out of 100 eggs actually become butterflies.

A gentleman named Clay Ruth has some really neat and informative videos of a caterpillar pupating and contracting. Click here and scroll down toward to bottom of the page for the links.

Image Source

The function of the gold spots on the chrysalis are another mystery though the two we see in the middle of the photo above will be over the eyes of the adult butterfly. Pupae do not see. These spots are actually refracted light from the layers of the pupae. But did you know, that in addition to being able to see hints of the adult butterfly on the chrysalis, you can also determine the gender of the butterfly that will emerge? Oh it's cool.

Image via Monarch Watch

In the image above, the chrysalis is turned so that the cremaster, from which it hangs, is on the left. At the top of the chrysalis (seen here on the right) are a series of abdominal rings and a row of matched dots. Below the last row you can see a small crease on the abdominal ring. The butterfly that will eclose from this chrysalis will be a female. Males do not have this crease. How cool is that?

Image via The Inside Story

Immediately before the adult emerges, the chrysalis will become clear.

So finally, the adult emerges. And ain't she a beauty. Or he? Now how do we tell the difference? In many species, butterflies, birds, whatever, the females are more dull in coloration and markings or are larger in size. Not so the monarch. Both are equally marked and colored- loud and proud. So ...

Image via Monarch Watch

Male monarchs had thinner vein markings and, more easily seen, a small black dot on each hind wing. This dot is actually composed of special cells that produce pheromones to attract the ladies.

OK- that's one generation. Now let's get back to the migration. In the spring, overwintering monarchs become more active, their circadian and biological clocks teased into action by warmer temperatures, longer daylight, and the position on the sun. Those in California begin to disperse on the western side of the Rockies. Those in Mexico begin their journey northward. At some point, about halfway or so, these butterflies will stop to mate and lay eggs. End of generation one. Generation two, once hatched, will continue northward and will eventually produce the third generation. Adults of generations one through three live from two to six weeks but the fourth generation is special. This generation of monarchs is in a physiological state called "diapause". These individuals are reproductively immature (the females do not produce eggs and the males have undeveloped reproductive organs). Blame it on hormones, because that's what it is, but lower hormone levels cause the butterflies to live longer. This flight will live upwards of eight to nine months and is the generation that will make the trip south. As fall approaches, the lepidopterian clock makes a tick and the butterflies begin to get a hankering for Mexican food. Fourth generation monarchs have been shown to have higher levels of magnetic materials in their bodies. The Transvolcanic Mountain Range in Mexico, which hosts most overwintering sites, has high levels of magnetic anomalies and this geomagnetic mumbo-jumbo may be one way monarchs are able to find their way to their centuries old overwintering sites, even though they've never made the trip before. That plus the solar-powered circadian clocks, the sun's position, and some good old-fashioned divine miracle dust get our friends to their Mexican retreat where they literally hang out for the winter.

Image via Denver Botanic Gardens

Monarchs don't actually hibernate. They are calm and still in the cooler but frost-free climate of the southern Mexico mountain range but do flutter about on sunny days to find water. They do not feed while overwintering but live on the stores of fat they have built up.

Image via World Heritage Convention/UNESCO

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the Oyamel Forest has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and contains over half of the overwintering sites of the eastern migrating monarchs and receives between 60 million and 1 billion butterflies as year. Oyamel Forest was not confirmed at the destination of migrating monarchs until the 1970s.

The Biosphere is a conservation area. Monarch numbers to the area have been slowly declining. The threat to monarch populations comes from loss of habit (here in the United States at a rate of 6,000 acres a day), genetically modified crops, increasing use of pesticides and herbicides, and illegal logging in the Oyamel Forest. It is a dangerous thing, patrolling the forest in order to stop illegal logging. Lives have been lost. Meanwhile, the small communities in the area have come to rely heavily on the tourist dollar as more and more people come to see the butterflies in their winter lodgings. This conflict between tourism and logging frequently pits neighbor against neighbor.

The Monarch Watch has tons of information about monarchs and has initiated several educational and conservation programs. These programs include the Monarch Waystation program for providing habitat (you can even become a certified Waystation), research such as Monarch tagging, and butterfly gardening information to name just a couple of the resources available on their site. They have also launched "Bring Back The Monarchs", a program designed to reintroduce 20 species of milkweed as well as native nectar-producing flowers.

White varient Monarch.
Photo by Lisa via Flickr

I love to sit out on the back patio on sunny autumn days and watch for the monarchs. They hurry past in little trains, like a flittering parade, on their way to Mexico.

Image via BBC Radio

I know, this post has been WAY longer than I ever planned for our butterfly visits, which are supposed to be brief little "Hellos" but monarchs are simply incredible creatures and the whole life cycle-migration thing is fascinating. We didn't even talk about milkweed or puddling!

Click on the "Bring Back The Monarchs" logo in the sidebar if you would like to find out how you can help restore natural habitat for the king of butterflies. Thanks for coming by today-- hope it was fun. See ya next time!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sapphires of September

Image via Simply Gemstones

Kashmir Sapphires
Image via Palagems

The Hall Necklace- 195 carats of sapphire
Currently at Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals at the Smithsonian
Image via DCPages

Image via GemSelect

Hey, wait a minute! What are those fancy colored stones doing in September's Sapphire post?

Well, it turns out that sapphires are composed of the aluminum oxide mineral corundum which comes in a variety of colors depending on trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium. But be careful now because corundum heavy on the chromium is actually--- wait for it ---- a ruby. So- sapphires can be almost any color, depending up the traces of other elements, unless they are red. Red sapphires are not sapphires, they are rubies. And then there is my very favorite gemstone (so far!) the Padparadscha sapphire, the drop dead gorgeous pink-orange gem in the upper right corner of the photo above.

So now you may be asking yourself if September's birthstone must be blue? In short- no, it doesn't. But blue has been the most popular color for sapphire. It is also the most common color of sapphire, which is why sapphires, no matter their color, are called sapphires, from the Latin "sapphirus" for blue though a few other sources attribute the name to the Persian word "safir", meaning "beloved of Saturn" Blue sapphires get their color from iron and particularly titanium. Sapphires in other colors are identified by that color: pink sapphire, yellow sapphire, etc. Except red sapphire because that's a ruby. Are y'all trying as hard as I am not to be confused?

Photograph of Sapphire under the microscope
Image via Molecular Expressions

Sapphires are formed when corundum crystals are exposed to high heat and pressure. They form in various igneous (cooled magma) or metamorphic (rock subjected to heat or pressure to such an extent that it changes form) rocks.


Sapphire bearing corundum
Both images via ehow

Corundum has a hexagonal structure and is second only to diamonds in strength. Because of this strength, corundum does not easily wear or erode and is often found in alluvial deposits. This means the stones, having been formed deep below the earth's crust and brought to the surface by volcanic activity, wash out in streams and other waterways, some that no longer exist. These stones are sometimes "cemented" to the existing matrix but mining this type of sapphire is difficult. Because of sapphire's specific gravity (measurement of density compared to that of water), they do not generally travel too far from their source in an alluvial deposit.

Worlds' largest star sapphire, the 536 carat Star of India. About the size of a golf ball.
Image via Weldon

Sometimes corundum will form with needle-like inclusions of Rutile. When these needle-shaped inclusions reflect light in the shape of a star, which appears to travel over the surface of the stone when cut. This is called asterism.

So where do we find sapphires? All over! Top producers of this gemstone include such places as Brazil, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Thailand, Madagascar and Australia.  Even good ol' Montana gets in on the act.

Image via The Natural Sapphire Company

For centuries, Sri Lanka has been the primary source for fine gem quality sapphires though Madagascar became the world leader in production as of 2007. Sri Lanka, where mining has occurred for over 2,000 years,  maintains strict regulatory controls over how and where mining may take place in order to prevent destruction of the land. Sri Lanka also monitors their workers to ensure that they receive fair treatment.

Myanmar (Burma), which produces some of the world's most beautiful rubies, also produces very fine sapphires. These stones tend to be very deep blue in color. As we  learned with Rubies, many countries have called for a ban on trade in Burmese gems due to human rights abuses such as forced labor and child labor in Myanmar.

12mm Kashmir Diamond Ring
Image via Better Than Diamonds

Then there are the Kashmir sapphires. Let me quote from The Natural Sapphire Company:

Kashmir sapphires were found in a very remote mountainous region of India in the late 1800’s. The stones were in most cases exceptionally fine quality. The color tone term “cornflower blue” was coined from these stones. The term is generally described as “velvety” or “sleepy” being that the color is very soothing and appealing. The deposit was exhausted by the 1920’s and there have been no new finds in the Kashmir area.

For this reason the prices for Kashmir sapphires have been wildly valued. Prices can be 10 times the cost of a comparable blue sapphire from another country.

Blue Sapphires, because they are more rare than diamonds, have long been given for engagements by royalty. Princess Diana's diamond encircled engagement ring, now firmly entrenched on Kate's finger, is perhaps the most famous royal sapphire engagement ring in recent years. Large sapphires are rare and often attract fame and myth. The largest star sapphire is the Star of India at an amazing 536 carats. Discovered about three hundred years ago in Sri Lanka, the Star of India was donated to the American Museum of Natural History by the financier J.P. Morgan. Later the infamous burglar Jack Murphy, Murph the Surf, stole the stone. Its recovery two months later only added to its fame.

And the lore, ah the lore. Ancient Persians believed the entire Earth was held in place inside a massive sapphire stone and that the blue sky was a reflection of sapphires. Buddhist culture believes that sapphires lead to prayer and in many religions sapphires represent the heavens and holiness. In the Middle Ages, sapphires were believed to ward off many diseases and ailments, and were seen as a symbol of purity.

21.55 carat rough cut brown sapphire
Image via IOffer

If you are a September baby, specifically a Taurus (though I strictly do not follow astrology) and you wear a sapphire, it is believed by some  that you will not only be protected from but also cured from mental disorders. For the rest of us, sapphires are said to protect the innocent,  bestow truth, promote good health, and preserve chastity.

Ancient Persians ground sapphire for use as an all purpose medicine and in the Orient, Saturdays were the day to wear blue, including blue sapphires which were believed to promote wisdom. Blue sapphire was also believed to promote sincerity and faithfulness as the stone would dim if one's spouse had been untrue. Tradition holds that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on tablets of sapphire. Blue sapphires were also believed to have gender, darker stones being female, the lighter stones being male. They were also believed to relieve mental tension and dispel depression.

Image via The Image

Pink sapphire is believed by some to enhance romance and relationships. Yellow sapphire supposedly enhances money-making schemes and gives leaders the ability to make right and wrong decisions. Oh? Let's pass some of those out! Yellow was also the color to stimulate intellect and remove toxins from the body. Green has been purported to stimulate the heart and therefore one’s capacity for compassion, loyalty, and trust in others.  They also enhance your ability to recall dreams. Purple sapphires improve meditation and are said to be effective in calming overwrought emotions while black sapphires help to build your career and improve your powers of intuition.

World's largest carved sapphire. Twenty-eight pounds,
about the size of an American football.
Image via Jewellry Monthly

When you're ready to go shopping, look for sapphires that are what's called "eye-clear" meaning no visible occlusions. Always ask to look at a stone of interest under a microscope and avoid those with deep occlusions that may reach the surface. Stones with these deep occlusions could shatter with hard impact. Sapphires are readily available up to 1 carat, larger stones being more expensive due to their rarity. Do not buy stones labeled "Specimen Grade" as these stones are of poor quality and have little value. Ask about any treatments to the stone. Most sapphires are heat treated to enhance color and clarity. The Natural Sapphire Company has extensive information on common treatment methods as well as some interesting before and after photos. Actually, if there is anything at all you want to know about sapphires, go to The Natural Sapphire Company. They even have a place to make your Wish List!  Natural, untreated stones are more valuable but also most costly as they are not readily available. This will generally mean that you do not want to purchase your sapphire at the counter of a department store as they generally do not have information specific to the stones you are considering. Oh! Did you notice I used the plural? Stones, not stone. Just a little slip there. Star sapphires should have a well-defined star and are generally cut in a dome shape (cabochon). The round or brilliant cut stone is usually more expensive than other cuts such as the pear or oval. As with the ruby, color is an important factor in determining value- avoid stones at either end of the saturation spectrum. Think of Goldilocks: Not too dark, not too light- just right.  Synthetic sapphires have been available since 1902. If a sapphire is labeled "created" or "cultured" it is not natural. Look for sparkle and fire. If it looks like glass it either is glass or not worth paying for.

Pink sapphire.
Image via Gem Select

So once you have your sapphires safely within your possession take good care of them. Because sapphires are so hard, they are generally very durable. Common sense tells us to avoid extremes of heat or cold as well as sudden impact. The old saying for jewelry in general goes "Put them on last, take them off first." Finish all of your primping, powdering, gelling, shellacking, and spraying before you don your gems. Best to take them off for household cleaning chores and things like swimming. Better safe than sorry. You can clean sapphires with warm water and mild dish liquid, using a soft tooth brush if needed. Ultrasonic cleaners can also be used. As with diamonds and rubies, store your sapphires in a separate soft cloth bag or in a separate compartment of a jewelry box. Because they are so hard, sapphires could easily scratch other jewelry.

Ready for a tour? Let's go...

Queen Victoria's Tiara, circa 1842
Image via The Dreamstress

Carved sapphire bat brooch. Sold at auction for $2,700
Image via Skinner Auctioneer & Appraisers

Natural (unheated) sapphire and diamond necklace. Victorian.
Image via Duke's Auctions

12-Ray purple star sapphire
Image via Gemology Online

Color Change sapphire.
Left- Incandescent light, Right- Fluorescent Light
Image via Professional Jeweler

Antique sapphire and diamond tiara. $100,440 at auction.
Oops- another tiara? I see a tiara only post in the future.
Image via Christie's

2 carat sapphire Edwardian Ring, circa 1910.
Image via Antiques Hot Spot

And just when I was beginning to think there were no sapphire butterflies, these lovelies came flittering in.

Image via Aspire Auctions

This one has only a smattering of sapphires but was way to gorgeous to leave out.

Enamel butterfly brooch with cab sapphire and old cut diamonds.
Image via Morelle Davidson Jewellry
Call for price. And if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

Multi-color sapphire and diamond ring.
Image via American Ring Store

Image via Perfect Jewels

OK- that's it. I can't take any more- too gorgeous. Bling overload!

Image via jzlikesab

Happy Birthday (some belated I'm sure- my apologies) to all of my September Butterflies. Like sapphires, you're each multi-colored and very precious.

And thank you all for visiting today. I appreaciate it.
See ya next time!

NOTE, 9/18/2011- After posting, I received an email from Anonymous with the following link regarding the Natural Sapphire Company, which is quoted in this post:

My Sapphire post went up on the12th. The above referenced post on The Natural Sapphire Company blog (find it under the "Company" tag) also went up on the 12th. Anonymous emailed me on the 13th. Pretty on top of things. The rebuttal post linked above is not dated as far as I can find and who actually wrote the rebuttal is not directly identified either. Not even when you send them an email via the "Contact US" tab on the page, which I did not do because, you know, who are they? Every other link on the other pages that I clicked on took me to Wild Fish Gems. I'm just sayin' what happened.

Anonymous wants us to be aware that there are some shenanigans going on over at the The Natural Sapphire Company. Apparently there have been complaints about credit card security, properly filling orders, stone substitution, doctoring photos, etc. I have been trying to figure it all out with some Internet research and, as with most things that hit the legal system, it's hard to do. Quite frankly, I do not have the time or interest in sorting out the legal troubles of the NSC. So let me say the following:

  • I have not done business with The Natural Sapphire Company and do not know anyone there. For that reason, I did not recommend doing business with the NSC in this post.
  • Business practices aside, the information about sapphires from the NSC appears to be legit. Since I am not a gemologist, I generally try to double check information so that it is correct for you. I stated that you should check out the NSC if there's anything you want to know about sapphires. That is not a recommendation to do business. Please let me know if you can verify information about sapphires quoted here from the NSC as not true.
  • I am not defending the NSC. Illegal activity by anyone should, by all means, receive it's just rewards. Anyone who purchases costly items (or any item) over the Internet is kind of taking a risk. We should all know that by now and I do hope that you are being cautious.  I would want to see my bling in person before buying, instead of trusting a photo, so sending off several thousand dollars over the Internet would never be an issue. As if...  I am, quite frankly, just a bit put out with Anonymous, whose email may or may not have been part of the smearing going on between the two parties- I don't know and have no way of finding out. That's the problem with signing things anonymously. I say "put out" the way a child who is having a good time playing would when reminded by a parent that bedtime is coming, that caution needs to be taken, that chores are awaiting, or sugar is not good for us. "Awwww Mom, we were just looking at the bling." If legit, I truly do appreciate Anonymous's desire to caution us, otherwise it's kind of a buzz kill.

So have a good time looking at the pretty sparkly things but do keep an eye on your wallet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

Image via Our English

I was at work that beautiful early autumn Tuesday. The skies were clear as crystal here on the east coast. We watched the events of that day unfold with our patients. Some of us gathered in one gentleman's room, watching the television and discussing how anyone could accidentally hit the Trade Center. We were hoping it was an accident. Then we saw the second plane fly into the second building. We just stared at the TV for some time, no one daring to be the one to say it. Then the patient said quietly, "I think I'm going to be sick."

One of our Vietnam Vets began having nightmares that night.

On Wednesday, as happened in so many places, someone called in a bomb threat to the building adjacent to ours and we spent the morning evacuating patients. We knew it was a hoax yet there's that tickle in the back of your brain that says "But what if..." so we evacuated patients to the offices and waiting area on the other side of the building. One patient, his room closest to the adjacent building, refused to move. He was depressed. He wasn't moving. Our Vietnam Vet began hallucinating.  A ninety year old cardiac patient began crying and having chest pains. "Why would someone do this" was all she would say for the majority of the day. She refused to be moved back to her room after the building next door had been cleared.

That afternoon I learned that I knew someone who had been in 1 World Trade Center.

On Thursday I sat in the Emergency Room with a long time co-worker and friend as she was told that her husband had died of a heart attack on the golf course. She physically collapsed, just like the Trade Center buildings. To say that week sucked is putting it mildly and yet I was unscathed compared to others.

Image via My Portion

I used to say, at the time, that I was so glad I didn't have to explain all of this to my daughter, who was a toddler at the time. This past week they have been discussing the attack during chapel, Bible, and geography at her school. She has been asking us so many questions, tough questions. I see her sitting, staring away, and when I ask her what she's thinking about she says "Oh nothing" but a question about the World Trade Center follows soon afterwards.

I wish I could make more sense of this, ten years later. It is so hard not to let your heart be consumed by fear and hate. But as a Christian my response cannot be hate. Nor can it be fear. It is a conscious choice not to succumb to these emotions because I have chosen to trust Him. God allows us to choose and of course He wants us to choose Him, to love him of our own free will not coercion or fear, because He loves us with a strength that is overwhelming and humbling. Because He gives us free will, it naturally follows that not everyone chooses Christ. There are other voices in the world to listen to- to choose- and because of that there is hate. We all deal with it. And because He has given us free will, He also expects us, each of us, to bear the consequences of our choices. Unfortunately, that often means that others bear the consequences as well.

It's tough, this deciding to believe and to trust when some things in life are clearly unknowable, illogical, and terrifying. It's tough to answer a middle schooler's questions. How many conversations have we had about this in the past week?  I can see the fear and puzzlement in her eyes. I can see her struggling to make sense of it. How do you explain? I take her in my arms and say, "I don't know honey. We know what God has told us and I believe He will get us there. And one day God will take us in His arms and tell us 'You're safe now.'"