Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday's Weekly Update

Charlie Crist....The news story regarding his paternity has, for the most part, fizzled out. Unless something shocking and CSI-like happens-such as stealing clipped fingernails from the governor's mansion for a DNA test-we probably won't hear much more. I did read over at Smashed Frog that when he signed the termination papers, it clearly stated that he denied paternity. I haven't read or heard that anywhere else, and since Smashed Frog is not part of my normal blog-reading repetoire, I am not sure about the reliability of the info.---- *update*I just tried to find the post on Smashed Frog that I had read before. I keep getting a Not Found page from Blogger. The post must have been deleted. So, take what I wrote with a grain of salt.

My Time-Impaired Son...missed another day of pre-K today because of his inability to get ready in the morning. I am really pulling my hair out on this one. Getting ready for school is only one way that his time-impairment manifests itself. He also takes forever to eat, get his shoes on, and any other thing that isn't interesting enough for him. He is so sweet and charming, but this is KILLING me! There has to be some way to get this child to move without my voice reaching jet-plane decibels.

Introvert?....I had posted that I was going to get out more. I have started attending a women's Bible study at my church on Thursday mornings. I had actually started going just before the Holidays, but then it went on hiatus until after the New Year. I missed the first two sessions out of laziness and other things cropping up that had to be dealt with.(and yes, I just ended my sentence with a preposition...I'm a bad English major!) However, I have enjoyed going and will continue to attend. It's nice to get out and talk with real, live people that aren't related to me.

My Husband is Cute!...I'm just throwing that in there because he reads my blog every day, and I wanted to make him smile. Yes, that's sappyand not especially blog-worthy, but you can gag on the sweetness factor safely out of my earshot.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Flowers

My husband went on a snack run the other day, one of his favorite occupations, and brought me back some beautiful flowers. Awww.....isn't he sweet? I just wanted to give him credit where credit is due. Thanks hon!


P.S...that's my photo of the actual flowers. Don't reproduce it without giving credit for it. Thanks!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Google, Page Rank, and Other Things I Don't Understand

Although anyone who checked out my profile could put two and two together, I haven't talked about my business website, Earthen Vessel Designs, since I first began this blog. This is my personal blog and I didn't want to spend too much time hyping my business, or providing too much information to prospective customers who might be turned off by my opinions.

Last week, I was really excited to see that Google had increased my website ranking from a lowly 1/10 to a 4/10. Considering that I have minimal technical skills and have slacked off over the last few months, as far as linking to other sites and purposely promoting my business online, I was pleasantly surprised-that is, until I tried to show my husband. When I pulled up the site, it was back to its lowly 1. It reminded me of that old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the singing frog will only sing in front of its owner. My excitement crashed into disappointment.

However, the next day it was back to a 4 and my ego was a little less bruised. I started to pat myself on the back, thinking how I must really be doing a great job to be awarded with a higher percentage of green in my Google toolbar. Then, I felt dumb that it only took some more green pixels to brighten my day. Is that really all it takes to make me happy-a few crumbs from Google's plate, and I am giddy? Wow. I really need to set higher goals.

Shortly after my business website was upgraded, I noticed that this blog also went from a 0 to a 3. Wow, I really am something! I wasn't too surprised. After all, I waste a lot of time commenting at other's blogs and participating in a few forums, so I do get more traffic than I had realized or could judge by my comments section(thank you sitemeter). But then came the kicker. My business blog, which is really more like an abbreviated newsletter, was also upgraded from a 0 to a 3.

Now, my ego was once again deflated. After all, I only post there every 4-6 weeks. I think I recently got one comment on that blog, my first after 5 months. So, my business blog, which I hardly ever touch, is on equal footing with the blog that I frequently update and into which I put more effort.

Google, are you just messing with my head or what? How can I make any sense out of your page ranking logic, and should I even put any faith in it at all? I really think the whole ranking process is something akin to the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz-lots of smoke and flash, not much substance.

On another note....

I installed sitemeter to my site to get a feeling if anyone actually bothers to read my, sometimes, voluminous blog. It has been interesting to see how people find my blog, and where they're coming from. It has also pointed out to me that Google doesn't accurately report my click-thru traffic in its Query Stats. I have had several people come to my blog through Google searches that don't show up in my Google webmaster account.

I encountered this same issue through the host for my website, Earthen Vessel Designs. Part of the package my hosting service offers is statistics on traffic and page views. But, I put sitemeter into that site because I was just curious to see where people are coming from, as far as geographical location. That site receives quite a bit of interenational traffic, more than I had previously realized. However, when I compared my sitemeter stats to the host's stats, they were way off. Trying to sort through the discrepancy that each service is providing me is like putting together a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that is uniformly black. Did I happen to mention that I hate jigsaw puzzles? I love Sudoku, hate jigsaw puzzles.

Perhaps, it is all in my head. Maybe, I really live in a virtual world that wastes my time in order to keep me from creating a revolution of some sort in the real world, a la Matrix. Of course, if I do wake up to the real world, how will I know what my ranking is? Will there be a little green bar somewhere to give my life defintion and purpose? And, how many pixels will I have on it?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Just For Fun

"Don't anybody mess with my toy......and that means you, Lady!"(see below)

My mom's dog, the giant Rottweiler, loved "playing" with Tink over the Holidays. Really, I think she wanted to eat her...all in fun, of course.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Charlie Crist, Adoption, and Legalities

here in Florida...

Yesterday, the story broke that there is a seventeen-year-old girl whose biological mother, Rebecca Townsend, has claimed that Charlie Crist, Florida's current governor, is the girl's biological father. The adoptive parents believe that it could very possibly be true, but they are more concerned about their daughter's well-being and privacy. They are not pushing for DNA testing.

The Tampa Tribune has reported that Townsend was in the process of a divorce in 1989 when she became pregnant. She claims that Crist is the father.

Crist has claimed that he is not the father, but that he signed an affidavit terminating parental rights to the child simply so the child would be able to be adopted.

In all of the coverage of this story, on the local news and in the paper, all of the speculation has revolved around whether or not Crist is the father. Will he take a DNA test? Is he denying paternity? etc.

I have yet to hear anyone touch on a much more important question, which is: If Crist knowingly misrepresented the facts on an affidavit, isn't that perjury? If he is not the father, then someone else was denied parental rights without proper legal proceedings. Only parents can terminate parental rights.

The current Florida adoption law does allow biological fathers to fight for retention of their parental rights, when the biological mother is desiring to put the child up for adoption. If the father makes no claim on the child, ignores the proceedings, and generally seems to have abandoned the child, adoption proceedings can take place without his consent. This means Townsend could still have put her child up for adoption without having a father officially fill out an affidavit terminating parental rights. Taking this route would take more time, but allows for a biological father to begin efforts to retain his rights.

According to information found at http://www.adoption.com/, Florida adoption laws state that consent must be issued by:
Statute 63.062
  • The mother
  • The father, if the child was conceived or born while he was married to the
    mother or he has otherwise established paternity
  • Any person entitled to custody
  • If parental rights have been terminated, the adoption entity with
    which the minor has been placed.

Parental consent is not needed when:

Statute 63.062(1)(c)

  • The parent has abandoned the child, which may be established from marginal
    efforts to assume parental responsibility.
  • Parental rights have been terminated
  • The parent is mentally incompetent
  • A guardian or custodian is found to be withholding consent
    unreasonably.

Is Crist isn't the father; ethically, we have some serious issues to discuss. First, we have someone who is well-versed in Florida law making a false affidavit. Secondly, there is an unknown biological father who, presumably, never had the opportunity to know about his child, or to have any choice as to whether he would have parental rights to it. It is deceitful and possibly illegal.

These events occurred over seventeen years ago. I have no idea what the adoption laws were like in 1989; and, I am sure that the statute of limitations for any criminal, or civil, illegalities has lapsed by now. Crist needs to address these issues. Continued stonewalling will only hurt him and fuel media speculation.

If Crist is the father.......

Although, I would personally be disturbed by a professional man in his thirties choosing to put his child up for adoption when he had the means to support it, that is a personal choice that he made which should not affect his career. It is more noble to give your child to a loving family, than to urge a woman to abort it. So, really that is a non-issue for me. The sticking point would be his repudiation of the child if he is the father. That would seem callous and unnecessary.

In this day and age, lying about past experiences is always much worse than admitting the truth. It would be very simple for Crist to say that the story is true, that it was a personal and very private decision, and that he would appreciate the public's cooperation in respecting the privacy of this seventeen-year-old girl. He would seem honest, forthright, and sympathetic if he handled things in a sensitive and humble manner. He would do well to take action in this manner if he is the father.

I am sure that this story will continue to play out in the following days and weeks. It is obvious that someone is lying. Either this woman is blatantly lying, which could be the case, or Crist lied about his paternity so many years ago.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rant Against The Powers That Be.....

Dear Blogger,

Please, tell me why you hate me so?

Have I not been a good little blogger? Haven't I commented, linked, blogged about the miscellaneous thoughts within my head, and faithfully used your site?

So, why do you torment me when I try to comment? You make me retype all those word verifications repeatedly before accepting my comments. When I do comment, I have no power to edit my miscellaneous slip-ups. People will forever think that I am a bad speller and even worse grammarian. How will they be able to tell that I won all my elementary school spelling bees?

When I try to surf through miscellaneous blogs, you dump me repeatedly into "lookuplive"-a search engine in which I have no interest. Next, you mock me by sending me to "the bestestblog" whereupon my browser gets stuck in its nether world, refusing to let me go forward. When I finally get back to surfing, "Hot Bikini Girls" seem to repeatedly show up.

To add to my pain and suffering, when switching us all over to the "new" Blogger, you've replaced our template code with stuff that I really don't understand; widgets, b-stuff, etc. Now, I feel helpless and useless. The small amount of html, that I thought I knew, seems weak and puny to me now.

Also, you frequently screw up my formatting when I post pictures. You give us options when we're uploading, but they are really just a cruel joke. Even when I carefully format my text, you randomly jam it all together into some big block of stream-of-consciousness writing like Ulysses. I am not James Joyce. Please keep my paragraphs where I put them, and don't randomly space some of my text as 1.0 spacing and other portions as 1.5 spacing.

I hope you are satisfied with yourself. You've broken my heart. I think that we need to see other people.

Yours truly,

Frustrated Blogger

Victory!

Yesterday, I complained about my time-impaired son and the struggle we have to get ready each morning.

Today, he was ready and had completed all of his tasks by 7:30!

The Heavens were opened; the Hallelujah chorus poured out; and sunshine, rainbows and ponies filled the land.

Let's hope this is not a one time thing

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Good, Evil, And The Garden Of Eden...Part 2

The tipping point in Eve's battle boils down to what she came to believe about God.
Eve gave into her desire to eat the fruit because she had begun to consider that God might not really be so good. The Serpent implied that God was a liar, who was also selfish, being sure to hoard all the power to Himself. To take that step toward oblivion, Eve had to cast all of her past experiences with Him in a slanted light. All His motives and actions must have been scrutinized through lenses of suspicion. Why else would she not call Him and ask Him in person about the claims of this strange serpent?

Well, if you believe someone is a liar, trying to keep something from you; you certainly don't want to ask them and alert them to what you're planning to do. Surely, they would simply lie to you again and then remove the opportunity that is currently before you. Perhaps, that is why we don't see Adam and Eve finding God and asking Him outright.

Genesis 3:8-13

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" The man said,"The woman you put here with me-she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

We know that God was an active force in the garden. He walked among the garden. Adam and Eve were able to communicate with Him in a very personal, face to face way. It should have been easy for them to find Him. And yet, the fact that they make no effort to seek Him out speaks volumes.

It is no different than having a gossip tell you that a close friend has betrayed you and secretly mocks and despises you. We are so prone to believe evil of others. We avoid that friend, store up bitterness against them, and begin to actively dislike them. Later, we tragically discover that everything we were told was a lie. Now imagine being the friend; not only were you slandered and reviled, but one of your closest friends actually thought you were capable of such things. How might that friendship work out in the future? Not too well, I'm guessing.

Many people have a vague notion that there might be a God somewhere out in the vast Universe. Believing that there is some kind of God might be a first baby step in being open to faith. But, what's more important than believing that there is a God is what you believe about Him. Are we quick to cast aspersions upon Him in the face of difficulty? Do we believe that He loves us, or that He secretly is a selfish God, trying to interfere and keep us from a great time? Eve had to choose, and so do we.

I still have a few more tangential thoughts, but it's late.

Part 3 is coming soon....

Switched at Birth?...

I am a very punctual person. If I have to be somewhere at 8am, I am there at precisely 8am. I think that at birth I was given a special fairy gift for time management. It has always amazed my husband that I can wake up 30 minutes late, find a way to get everything done, and be out the door at the time that I would normally leave. I know how long it takes to get two boys ready, what traffic is like at a certain time of day, and how much time I will waste standing in line at the grocery store.

So, how is it that I can have a child who seems to have no concept of time whatsoever? Time for my youngest is nonexistent. He lives in some zen-like state of unhurriedness. If the house were on fire and the smoke alarms were blaring , he would probably stop on the way out of the house, looking for his favorite Hot Wheels car. This would remind him that the race track was in his room and he should probably get that too. Once in his room, he would remember that he left his little plastic lizard in his bed. He would pick it up, hear the alarms again, head towards the door, stop in his tracks, and then begin looking for that Hot Wheels car that he forgot to get. Maybe, if I was lucky, he would remember to get out of the house before the smoke inhalation got to him.

Every morning, my son goes to a local pre-K program for three hours. In order to be there by 8:30, we need to leave by 8:15. This should not be a difficult task considering that both of my sons are awake at 6:30 and eating breakfast by 6:45. That leaves approximately one and a half hours to eat, get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds and the youngest has to feed the dog. That seems like plenty of time doesn't it? Even if the list is long, he should be able to accomplish at least a few tasks by 8:15 right? Nope.

Each morning it's the same. He finishes breakfast quickly enough, but the he spends the next hour becoming distracted, playing with toys, and doing just about everything but get ready. We remind; we nag; we beg; we plead; we eventually yell and it's all for naught. We threaten to make him pay money out of his allowance for not doing his chores, which upsets him, but doesn't seem to actually motivate him. He eventually gets things done, but only after a great deal of aggravation.

Today, I'd had it. I called him to me and asked him to tell me the list of things that he needed to do. He recited them quickly and easily. I told him that I wasn't going to yell at him, or tell him, over and over, to do things anymore. It was going to be up to him to get himself ready. If he wasn't ready by 8:15, then he was going to miss school. He said, "OK, " and immediately scampered off to get dressed, which he actually did right away. It was 7:25 and things were looking good.

By 8:00 he hadn't done a single thing more.

It took all my strength not to chide him, remind him, or give him a hint that he was running out of time. After all, a lot can be done in fifteen minutes; maybe he would glance at the clock and get motivated.

He did eventually get motivated. At 8:12, he realized that his time was almost up. He raced to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, hurriedly made his bed and came up to me to say he was ready. It was 8:17. He still hadn't fed the dog and didn't have any socks or shoes on. I wanted to be merciful, but I knew that if I was, I'd pay for it tomorrow.

"Sorry, " I told him. "It's past 8:15 and you haven't finished. You'll have to miss school today."

This, of course, started the water-works. It lasted about 5 seconds. Then he looked at me and said in a very sweet, happy voice, "Can you play Candyland with me?"

AAAARRRRGGGHHH! Does nothing make an impression on this child! I am just hoping that 5 seconds of frustration will be enough to help him remember to get ready tomorrow, otherwise I am going to have a DNA test done to prove that he is biologically mine.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Good, Evil, And The Garden Of Eden..Part 1

Genesis 2:15-17

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man,"You are free to eat from the any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."


Genesis 3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?' " The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat from fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves."


There's a lot going on here. First, we have the serpent who begins the conversation by baiting Eve into a discussion about the forbidden tree. He knows what God said, but first he must get Eve to become mentally engaged in the debate. So, he purposely misstates God's rule. Eve eagerly corrects him and then goes further by adding.." and you must not touch it, or you will die."


We don't know why Eve added that last part. Had she come to believe that merely touching it would kill her? Had she misunderstood what Adam had told her about the tree? We'll never know, but it probably became an important issue as she moved further towards the fall. The mishandling of God's word and the addition of a little superstition and legend can be very destructive.

Imagine Eve as she approaches the tree. She is intrigued, fearful, probably shaking from the adrenaline that is coursing through her veins as she takes one step closer to a tree which is so deadly, merely touching it would kill her. She gazes at it for a few minutes, contemplating the risk, the words of the serpent ringing through her ears. She reaches out, head turned away, eyes closed, and quickly pokes the tree with her finger, pulling it back rapidly, expecting pain, fire, a shout from heaven and is met with only silence. Nothing happened. She looks herself over, examines the immediate area, listens for disaster and hears only the birds chirping overhead. Nothing. She thinks, "Maybe this serpent was right. I touched it and nothing happened." Suddenly doubt grows and the serpent looks a little wiser than he did a few minutes ago.

Once the fruit is eaten their eyes are opened and they are filled with shame. I have often pondered why their first response is to clothe themselves. God made them naked. Being naked is not sinful. It was just the two of them in the garden. Perhaps, it is human nature to try and fix a spiritual problem with a physical solution. They felt naked because they had something to hide. They had learned what doing wrong was. They had learned what it feels like to be on the other side of a wide gulf. Covering their reproductive areas might have made them feel secure, regardless of how ridiculous that sounds. It is like the two-year-old learning to play hide and seek who thinks that if he stays in plain view, but covers his eyes with his hands, then he is invisible to everyone else in the room, because he can't see himself.

I also wonder if they covered themselves because sin is a very intimate act. We do it in secret and it usually involves very strong emotions. Often the bible uses the word "know" to convey sexual relations between men and women. After all, if you've seen someone naked, you really do know them better than someone who hasn't.(unfortunately that's not always the case in our current society) I should check and see if the word "knowledge" is coming from that same root. Pleasing, desirable, these are words of seduction. Eve was being seduced.

Anyone who has been a christian, for any length of time, can find these moments in their lives. Hopefully they are few. But, even low in number, they forever alter us. Moments when we have stood at the edge of a cliff, pondering how long it would take to fall and whether climbing back up would really be that big of a deal, leave an indelible impression. We peer over the edge, look back at the uninteresting place we currently occupy, and slowly inch closer to the precipice. Sometimes we jump enthusiastically into the gulf. At other times, we just fall off out of the impetus of our lives heading in the wrong direction. We know there's going to be a big crash at the end, but feel unable to fight the gravity of our circumstances pulling us down.

If you have had one of those moments where you have betrayed God, yourself, or someone close to you. If you have done something of which you never considered yourself capable, then you know what I am talking about. Even if it only happened once, you are left with an unmistakable, lingering taintedness in your soul. You can recover, find your way back, but once you've seen the dark places of your soul, you can never forget it. The mind only acquires knowledge; it never releases it.

The act of choosing to eat the fruit was probably the real source of The Fall. I guess it is possible that God could have supernatural fruit with incredible properties, but I think the key lay in the actions of Adam and Eve. When you have acted on an impulse, you can't travel back in time and take it back. They very act of disobedience was, in itself, the lesson. How disappointed and filled with shame were Adam and Eve after eating the fruit and realizing that they had listened to some idiot serpent? Their eyes were opened, not because of the magical properties of the fruit, but because they realized that they had sold out their fidelity to God for a morsel of food. They had believed that God was being stingy and deceitful with them and so had rebelled, only to discover that is wasn't true. They had learned to believe evil over good. They had learned to trust themselves and not God. They now knew what evil was, because they had just engaged in it.

more tomorrow......

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Freak-O-Nomics...the review

This past Christmas, while trying to figure out what to buy for my father-in-law, which is always something akin to having a root canal with no anaesthesia, I decided to get him a book. I had been contemplating the book Marley and Me by John Grogan because my father-in-law has a soft spot for retrievers. I thought he would enjoy an entire book about a man and his dog. But, at the last moment, I chose to get him Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Through a turn of events, too boring to record here, I eventually wound up with two copies. I miscellaneously gave the second one to my oldest brother.

Before I actually wrapped the books, I leafed through a few chapters and was interested, but also felt bad about reading a gift before I gave it someone, and more truthfully, I just didn't have time to read it. I don't know if they read it yet, although my brother seemed interested, or perhaps was just feigning interest. I really need to call him because the first chapter is a comparison between school teachers and sumo wrestlers and the various ways they can game the system. My brother was a teacher and is now a school principal. I wasn't sure if he was going to be offended or interested...probably interested....I hope. :-)

Anyway...(and yes, I realize that merely typing the word "anyway" as a segue shows a lack of writing skill and the creativity needed to flow from one paragraph to the next seamlessly...but....anyway)

I picked up the book from the library this past weekend and read it from cover to cover in one night. I found it simultaneously thought provoking and disturbing. If you haven't read the book, it would be too much for me to go into sufficient detail to convey all of the writers' points.

One chapter deals with the theory that crime has been on a steady decline since the Nineties as a result of legalized abortion. Basically, the premise is that the majority of the children who would have been born to low-education, low socio-economic mothers would have made up a burgeoning criminal class which, up until that point in history, had been growing and causing crime rates to skyrocket. The elimination of these children created a void of would-be criminals whose lack of presence began to be felt at about the same time that they would have become teenagers. So, approximately thirteen years after Roe v. Wade, the crime rate begins to drop.

"Since 1985, states with high abortion rates have experienced a roughly 30 percent drop in crime relative to low-abortion states." -Freakonomics-Levitt and Dubner-pp 141


Earlier in the book, we are told that just after abortion had been legalized, conceptions rose by 30% while the birth rate declined by 6%. (Freakonomics, 139) So, my question would be: if the birth rate declined by only 6%, are we to believe that this 6% percent of the population would have been responsible for 30% of the crime rate listed above? I would be curious to know what percentage of the population contributes to the overall crime rate and if this holds up. That is also assuming that the entire 6% drop would be solely made up of poor, uneducated women who felt they couldn't provide for their children. Surely, some of the 6% drop would have come from a new, overall acceptance of abortion by the average woman during that time period. So, how much of that 6% fits the statistics?

I don't doubt that abortion has had some effect on criminality, but I do wonder how much of an impact it has had. I read the chapter on this subject several times and never found out by what percentage the overall crime rate had declined. There were plenty of comparisons of early legalizers to late legalizers, but no overall numbers. I thought that there should be.

Also, the authors are careful to note that a stricter justice system, and more criminals in prison, also contributed to the lower crime rate.( Freakonomics 123) So, considering these various factors, how much of the argument is hype and interesting discussion, and how much is tangible? I am still thinking this one through. Maybe I will e-mail Levitt and ask him to clarify! :-) Of course it would be funny if he actually did.

BTW...I am pro-life, so I have some bias in this regard, and even if it were true that abortion does lead to a lower crime rate, that in itself is not a justification for abortion. Less crime does not equate to more goodness.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Miscellaneous Updates

I know that all two of my avid readers(my husband and me) are desperate for me to tie up the loose ends in my blog. So, here is the resolution of most of my blog cliffhangers.

The John Scalzi Book....I decided not to read it. I was too busy preparing our house for the youngest's B-day party that I didn't feel like making myself read a book that starts out with an anal probe.

The Virgin Queen....I did watch the second half, but passed out for the last fifteen minutes.(@#!$*) They postponed the timing of it a half an hour later than it was supposed to be. I was exhausted from cleaning all day before the birthday party and then actually hosting the party. I just couldn't keep my eyes open.

The Hippocampus....I had wondered about the study on amnesia and the imagination and whether that correlated to the same issues with Alzheimer's. I discovered that the hippocampus is often one of the first areas to be affected by Alzheimer's and that it does cause similar disorientation. Wow....I actually proved one of my meandering thoughts is correct! My next thought about this: if someone has really great spacial abilities, does that translate into them having a better, more accurate memory and perhaps even more creativity?....I am going to check that out later.

The Excellent Life....I skipped church Sunday morning in order to finish getting ready for the party. My husband came home grinning and told me to guess what the sermon was about. Excellence, of course! See, it's like God didn't want me to go there and have to cringe, sigh and mentally criticize the message.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Amnesia, Imagination, And The Structure Of Memories

National Geographic has an interesting article on amnesia's effect on imagination . Apparently, people who have suffered amnesia also have difficulty envisioning future scenarios and imagining simple scenarios, such as lying on a beach. Spacial context, generally thought to arise from the hippocampus, seems key to this inability to remember and imagine. The amnesiac patients studied had damage to their hippocampus.

It does seem to make perfect sense. After all, memories are fluid imaginations of past events. Each time we recall a particular moment we are vividly imagining the location, sights and sounds that accompany it. In some sense, we are recreating the memories anew at each recall.

It would be interesting to know how this would correlate to those with Alzheimer's. So often, advanced Alzheimer's patients can become lost and disoriented. I wonder if the same inability to remember new information and to envision oneself in a particular location is related to the hippocampus in the same way as it is in this study on amnesia.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

People..people who need people....

I used to think that I was an introvert; not the too-afraid-to-speak-up kind of introvert, but someone who didn't always seem to fit in, in a vague sort of way, a squarish peg in an almost round hole, close to fitting, but still not lining up in quite the right way. I loved to have time to myself to read, listen to music, think my own thoughts. I would even go to the movies by myself, if I really wanted to see the movie. People, who needs 'em? I could be socially comfortable in large groups, but I didn't usually prefer it. Dinner with some friends would always win out over a large party.

After almost seven long years of being a stay-at-home/working-at-home mom, I have come to realize that isolation has taken its steady toll upon my psyche. Days pass with conversations that revolve, almost exclusively, around the subject of why sticking a fork into an electrical socket is not a good idea and how if I hear one more rude tone of voice spoken in my direction the sky will fall down upon someone's head. After many looks of stony silence are issued and general order is restored, I then get the privilege of re-telling, in gory details, the day's misadventures to my spouse as an explanation for my grumpy demeanor. Isn't he lucky not to miss out on anything? After all, we wouldn't want him to feel left out of the joys of raising children, would we?

But, back to my original premise.....

I used to think that I always felt emotionally fatigued simply because I was never truly alone. I would wake up to children crawling into my bed at 6:30am and, from that point forward, be "on-call" for the rest of the day. My time was never truly my own because, even during nap time, there is always the uncertainty of how long the nap will last, and if it would be deep enough to warrant the ability to start on a noisy home renovation project uninterrupted. I told myself that once they were in school, and my time was my own, I would feel much better and be re-energized.

The problem is; it hasn't happened. My youngest started attending a pre-school program last fall that gives me about two and a half hours of uninterrupted time alone each day, and I still feel somewhat adrift.

Staying home presents unique challenges. One of the greatest is the constant need for self-motivation. Your schedule is wide open and it's up to you to figure out how use it. When inspiration and motivation are wed, it can be a very empowering and wonderful thing, but when they divorce you're left with apathy and a rut bigger than the Grand Canyon. It can be exhausting to try and make yourself be productive when you have used up all your at-home adrenaline. With no one else around to make you laugh, give you an encouraging word, or plop some piece of busy-work in your lap, it is very easy to slide into a slightly depressed, dissatisfied state. You wonder about your purpose in life, you feel guilty that you're not doing something "more productive," and generally feel isolated.

Now, with so much time alone, I realize that I miss people. I can be funny (really, I can!) and I miss taking part in conversations and saying something particularly witty. I miss the silliness that happens in the workplace with co-workers that you have known for some time. I miss being able to have tasks that are easily identifiable, readily accomplished, and obvious to quantify, as opposed to my nebulous task of raising good, intelligent, productive human beings. How will I know when I accomplish that task? By the time they're old enough for me to evaluate my success in that arena, the damage will be done and I will have no recourse to fix the various mistakes I made. Ah, the uncertainty of it all.

So now, on all those personality quizzes that I have taken over the years, I think that I will have to change my classification. I like people. I need people. I have been a closet extrovert all these years.

Well, I'm coming out of the closet baby! My new goal for 2007 is to find meaningful ways to be involved with people outside of my family and to start having fun again. That may not seem like a big deal, but as adults, making new friends is quite difficult. Without the common bonding experiences of school, work, and having children, meeting new people is no easy task. I am going to think of different ways that I can step out of my little box and reach out to the world I have been mentally secluded from for so long.

Maybe I'll come up with a plan of action to post later on. Until then.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Happy Birthday!


My youngest turns 5 today! We had a great birthday party on Sunday to celebrate. Lots of his friends from VPK came and a tremendous time was had by all. Happy Birthday cutie pie!




Friday, January 12, 2007

The "Excellent" Life--rough draft

Lurking within the theology of evangelical Christianity, a beast roams about looking for its next victim. Once within its sights, the animal wastes no time pouncing upon the helpless soul, strangling the life-breath out of it, and slowly gnawing on its bones. This creature is subtle, manipulative, and elusive.

Excellence

I have heard the word uttered from pulpits and written in devotionals. It has been touted as a witnessing tool, sure to win wayward souls. It has seeped into the collective consciousness of the church, permeating leadership talks and women's ministries. And yet, this vague concept has led to more disillusionment and lack of joy than any worldly temptation.

When I first became a follower of Christ, I was just turning seventeen. I was a junior in high school. It was a beautiful time as I realized Christ's love for me and was filled with the devotion that comes from a radical, inner transformation and the experience of actually sensing God's presence in a very real and tangible way. It was an incredible experience.

I devoured Scripture and listened to Christian radio and sermons, awed by the new concepts I was hearing and understanding for the first time. It was a divine revelation.

New to Christianity, I wanted to be the best Christian I could be(and I still do). I pruned things out of my life that were destructive, I learned to forgive people who had inflicted deep wounds to me and generally lived in a happy state that I had never before experienced.

At some point, the concept of "excellence" slowly began to creep into view. When attending youth meetings, we would hear about how our good behavior and grades could be a witnessing tool to lead others, maybe even teachers, to Christ. They would be impressed by the difference between ourselves and those who didn't know Jesus and want to know more about Him. We should try our utmost to live excellent lives as a way to reach others. Well, of course, we wanted to lead others to Christ.

And so, this subtle message has begun to be imbued, in different methods and expressions, within countless forms. As wives and mothers, we are to raise our children in an "excellent" way. Our children should have manners and be obedient and respectful. Our homes should be warm, welcoming, and spotless. As workers, we should be diligent, hardworking, good employees. Our bodies should be physically fit and toned, because, after all, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. As believers we should have a specified bible study time, preferably in the morning , every day. Any excuses are merely temptations from the Enemy.

When your goal is excellence, your destination is usually failure. Despite what countless books and people tell you, there is no special elixir for an "excellent" life. There are certainly some good pointers out there that can help life run a little more smoothly, but nothing is going to brat-proof your kids. Dishes are still going to pile up, with food adhering to them like some sort of mutant superglue that was created in a lab experiment gone awry. Fights will ensue between spouses. You will gain those ten extra pounds from the Holidays. You will miss more morning bible studies than 8:00am classes in your freshman year at college. And, after all these unfortunate circumstances befall you, you will label yourself a failure in the greatest magnitude.

Attending church will leave you feeling as if you don't measure up, rather than feeling as if you worshipped the one true God. You will compare yourself to other Christians and wonder why they seem so spiritual and you're just trying to get to the end of the day without strangling your kids. All because someone passed along the devious lie that somehow you are supposed to be "excellent" in all you do.

The truth is that many places in Scripture actually do exhort us to be excellent. In fact, Colossians 3:23-24 reads: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
1Peter 2:12 reads: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us."
However, the concept of excellence is always linked to spiritual matters. We are to live good lives spiritually. We are to treat people with respect. We are to avoid evil. We are to love others. We are to excel in our relationships with others and with God. There is no expectation of material and physical excellence.

So, tune out the voices that have sneaked into your life through tapes, books, and maybe even your own church, whispering about three steps to a better life through time management and household organization. Focus on God and the people He's given you to love. The rest is just a hiccup in life that does nothing more than annoy and interfere in the life you really can lead.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Overheard Conversations

Oldest son to Youngest son about a book he read concerning wolves:" Wolves are dogs."

Youngest: "No, they're not."

Oldest: "Yes, they are...right, mom?"

Me, as I am working in the kitchen, only half listening: "Yes, wolves are wild dogs."

Oldest: "Some kids at school do this!" He sticks his hand up his shirt, into his armpit and tries to make noise, laughing the entire time.

Youngest laughs along.

Oldest: "Pit bulls are a kind of dog, but they are also a part of your body."

Youngest: "No, they're not."

Oldest: "Yes, they are...right, mom?"

Me: "Huh? What are you talking about?" I slowly connect the dots between the wolves, dogs, armpit noises, and pit bulls, thinking he is referring to "armpit" but doesn't quite remember the word.

Oldest: "You know..." as he lifts up his shirt and points to his chest," pit bulls...the things that babies drink milk from on their moms."

Me, laughing hysterically:"Oh...you mean NIPPLES!"

They crack me up!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Winding Down After Much Work

This past weekend was spent painting, re-screening, and laying down new indoor/outdoor carpet on our screened back porch. We are exhausted from all the work.

Sunday night, despite my tiredness, I turned on the TV and vegged out for a while. I was pleasantly surprised to find, The Virgin Queen, on PBS. I thought it was great. The lead actress, Anne-Marie Duff,does an excellent job portraying Queen Elizabeth. She's very believable and authentic in the role. The costumes are sumptious and beautiful. The characters are well developed, and the intrigue of 16th century politics is woven into the story in a unified way.

My only criticism is that the film would have benefitted enormously from several hundred more extras in the coronation scene. It would have been great to see Elizabeth exit into streets overflowing with masses of people cheering. Instead, I think their budget only allowed about fifty.

I can't wait to see the second part which is airing Sunday, January 14th.

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Thoughtful Husband

When hubby went to the library this past week, he picked up a science fiction book for me just to be kind and thoughtful. He knows I like to read science fiction and saw this book on the shelf where they feature new books that have just been acquired. How sweet of him to think of me!

Later on that night, after the kids were in bed, I figured I would start reading a few pages. I opened the book, read the first two paragraphs and made sure to let my husband know how much I appreciated this great, literary treasure. It reads:


"Dick Moelller didn't know if could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.

Moeller nodded absentmindedly at his assistant, who placed the schedule of today's negotiations in front of him, and shifted again in his chair. The tissue surrounding the apparatus itched, but there's no getting around the fact that a ten centimeter tube of metal and electronics positioned inside your colon, a mere inch or two inside your rectum, is going to cause discomfort." -The Android's Dream-by John Scalzi


Gee, thanks for the good read Hubby!


It seems this tube is some sort of alien communication device that uses gas emissions to communicate with another alien species. I gleaned that useful piece of information from the next two paragraphs in the book. I could not make this up if I tried.


So now, dare I plunge further into the depths of this book? (no pun intended) Or, should I assume that any book that opens this way could be as stinky as its first premise?


I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Speaking For God

I was still thinking about the whole Pat Robertson thing, mulling over what to do with the pronouncements that come so easily from the lips of those in Christian circles. It has always disturbed me. I remember hearing one miscellaneous preacher talking about how the Bush compound in Maine had been badly damaged by a storm at about the same time that Bush(senior) had pushed through some policy that wasn't as positive for Israel as this preacher apparently thought it should be. He said that it was God's punishment.

I remember laughing and saying something rude to the TV. If that was his version of God's judgement he serves an inept and bumbling one. If God really wanted Bush punished I am sure he would no longer be alive. Some storm damage, that was probably covered by insurance, would hardly seem like a sign from heaven.

Truthfully, by blaming God for every negative outcome, we make Him small and weak. We portray Him as nothing more than a schoolyard bully that is more interested in I-told-you-so's than in reaching out to this world.

I do not prescribe to the clockmaker approach to God that views Him as some distant third party, that made us and has no further interest in us. He does interact with this world and in the personal lives of His people. The disconnect comes when we think that we know everything that He is up to. We become arrogant, putting our words and ideas into His mouth. We assign Him a political party, clothe Him in our own vestments, and limit his movements to a few strict dance steps. We so often go beyond what is written for us, directly disobeying 1 Corinthians 4:6b.(...."Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over another.)

The God I know is a vast , unfathomable, creator of the complex, neverending, mysterious universe. He knows each atom He has created. He knows what the inside of a black hole is like. He knows each protein strand in my DNA. He knows me even better than I know myself. He stoops down to my lowly estate and chooses to call me daughter.

He is in control and his plan is much bigger than what we can see. He works in ways that are incomprehensible to us. He is the God of Job 38-41. The only response we can have to Him, during times when we have presumed to explain Him and His ways in our limited, finite methods, is the same as Job's : "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked 'Who is this that darkens my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you and you will answer me.' My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:2-6)

Later, God responds to some of Job's friends, who have interpreted Job's horrible circumstances as punishment from God for Job's sins. He says, " I am angry with you[Eliphaz] and your two friends because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (Job 42:7) They have to make sacrifices to God and have Job pray for them. After fulfilling these requirements, God says that He will not deal with them according to their folly. He is merciful even in the face of being libeled and smeared by others.

So, even when I get irritated by people who should think before they speak, I must extend mercy to them and ask God to help me not harbor resentment against the foolish things that people say. I am sure that I have probably said stupid things too....as hard as that is to believe. :-)

May God teach us to weigh our words carefully.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I surfed over to http://www.foxnews.com/ to check out the news. I had been busy all day with the kids and cleaning up all the mess from having multiple family visits during the past couple of weeks. There had been a snippet of something about Saddam's execution being shown on YouTube, but before I caught what the jist of the story was, the anchor had moved onto something else.

What caught my attention first was this: Pat Robertson's prediction.

And, so we have yet another inflammatory prediction by a Christian leader. During the year of 2005, after all of the hurricanes of 2004 and Katrina in September, many Christian leaders pontificated about God's judgements against the US. They did the same thing after the September 11th attacks and various other disasters and shocking circumstances.

The problem with most of the interpretations of these events is that they come in hindsight. Throughout the Bible, God always forewarns of disaster before it actually happens; in some cases, hundreds of years before they happen. He does not speak to his children after it is too late to bring about a different outcome.

Predictions of specific disasters always hinge on an if/then prophecy. He proclaims the upcoming wrath, describes why it is coming, and allows plenty of time for repentance and change. That is the whole point of a doomsday prophecy, to motivate people to action. If He simply wanted to wipe people out, He would. Why go about confusing things and wasting time with wrathful proclamations? The story of Jonah is a perfect example of this method. Jonah is sent to Ninevah with a simple, terrifying message:"Forty more days and Ninevah will be overturned."(Jonah 3:4)

This caused a huge panic in the people. They fasted, prayed, turned from their evil ways and escaped God's wrath.
"When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."(Jonah 3:10)

I would be wary of anyone reading God's specific will into situations after they have occurred. If they possessed such great wisdom and understanding, then we should have heard from them before anything actually happened.

Back to Pat Robertson...

Here we have a prediction of future events. Not being one who wants to taunt what might actually be God speaking to Robertson, I won't out and out deny the possibility. However, I would say to him, "What's your point?" I mean, if you're going to make vague predictions about US terrorist attacks that could easily be lifted from a "24" script, then you'd better have something more to go on then,"Oh, by the way, millions are going to be affected." If God is speaking to you about something, He usually has a greater purpose than letting us know that we might want to pick out our caskets now.

The use of vague fear is repulsive and demeaning to the message of Christ. We know that there are going to be disasters. We know that terrible circumstances will only worsen before His return. He has already warned us and told us to be ready and prepared for such events.

Our preparations are not to consist of underground bunkers and ten years worth of baked beans. There aren't enough generators in the world to provide a peaceful heart. We are not to run from one panicked state to another, living on the adrenaline of imminent danger.

Death is coming for everyone; it might happen in a nuclear attack or falling off a ladder while taking down the Christmas lights. We are not to live in fear, but in faith. Our preparations should consist of a heart for spreading His message of reconciliation to Him, forgiveness for sins, and hope for a glorious future.

If someone is insistent on inciting anxiety and worry, I would avoid them.

Chess

One of my oldest son's gifts from his grandparents was a used, wooden chess set. They also gave him a cute software game that teaches the basics of chess in a very novel, simple way.
He has great fun "training" to play King Black in the final phase of the game. I have been surprised at how quickly he has picked it up. We have already had several chess matches and he has even won once! Just what I needed; something to make him even smarter and more strategic!