Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dribble, Shoot, Score

I signed the boys up for their first sports experience--basketball.  They are in a 7-8 year-old division and practice starts this Saturday.  Unfortunately, they don't have a coach.  The response to the program was greater than expected, and there are more players than there are coaches to coach them.

The head of the Recreation Department has sent out pleading e-mails begging for volunteers.  

As of today, there still wasn't a coach.

Guess what I get to do for the next two months.

That's right...Me.....I get to be a basketball coach. I know practically nothing about basketball.  I know what a free throw and a three-pointer is.  I know that you're supposed to dribble the ball and shoot it at the basket.

That's about it.

I am not completely an idiot when it comes to sports.  I played volleyball in high school.  My brother played football and wrestled. I've attended many sporting events, so I get the general idea. I just don't know if that's good enough to qualify me to be in charge of something.  

Now, I have about a week and a half to learn all the rules of basketball and figure out how to teach 4 kids, 2 of which are mine, the basics of basketball.

Pray for me!  I could use a miracle or two.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Run, Fatgirl, Run

This past May I received a treadmill for Mother's Day.  I wanted it, so it wasn't some horrible, back-handed way for DH to tell me I needed to lose weight.  Although, last night he rented a video entitled, Run, Fatboy, Run, because he said it reminded him of me.  mmmkay.  Thanks for that, Dear One.

Actually, the reason he said such a dangerous thing, after he prefaced it with the obligatory, "Don't take this the wrong way...", was because I've decided to run this 5K, in Tampa, at the end of February. I'll give DH the benefit of the doubt and assume he was referring to the running part of the title and not the "fat" part. Hopefully, he values his life enough to never declare such a thing to me.

Anyway.....now I'm in training for a 5K.  I've managed to work myself up to a respectable 2.4 mile jog with no walking/stopping.  I only need to add .7 miles more to make the distance for a 5K.  I have 9 weeks, so I think I should be able to do it, even if I'm only running 13/14 minute miles.  According to my age category, which is a lot higher now that I am officially 35, the average time to finish is 38 minutes.  I'll have to get a lot faster to make that.

Endurance, I can do...speed is not really my strength. 

 I guess it gives me something to aim for.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Funny is....

Watching a 38 year old man trying to rock out with his kids' Dance Dance Revolution Wii game.

Hilarious.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is more beloved by me than Christmas Day, even though tomorrow is my birthday. The anticipation, the preparation, the feeling of excitement; they all combine to put me in a mellow mood of general well-being.  It's quiet and stress-free.

When I was growing up, my holidays were always split between my divorced parents. Christmas Eve was spent with my father and his extended family.  There would be mountains of food, many cousins my own age, and the contrast of a warm fireplace against the backdrop of a black night illuminated by crunchy snow and icicles.  My brother and I would be returned to my mom late at night, simultaneously sleepy and hyped up on sugar with tons of presents piled in the back of the car.

The next day we would wake up, open our presents with my mom and then head over to her family's house.  Christmas Day was an all-day event with more food, games, running around the farm and the Cliff's notes version of a family fight and reconciliation.  Every year there would be some drama, but it always seemed to get wrapped up before the day was over, usually over a game of Pictionary.

Both gatherings had at least 30-40 people at them. It was chaotic, loud and a lot of fun.


There won't be 30 people here today.  I have a turkey brining in the disinfected sink.  I have a pumpkin pie going into the oven.  Later the kids and DH are going to make a fancy punch for the punch bowl.  There will be no lunch, just spinach dip, french bread, shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers, and cookies.  

We have more food then we can eat.  We'll stuff ourselves and then play board games.

Later we'll attend a Christmas Eve service and then bring our sleepy children home, bundle them into bed and relax by the light of our Christmas tree.

Anticipation. The quiet moment before the day begins. The silence before the baby's cry.

May we enjoy the day wherever we are found.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Field Trip


Last week I had the privilege of chaperoning the Intuitive Monkey and his class to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.  

The tour was sort of boring and over the heads of the 20 first graders who comprised the tour guide's captive audience.  The tour guide spent 10 minutes talking about the cost of a suite for 5 years, and contract details when it comes to the upcoming Super Bowl.  The kids just wanted to run on the football field, but weren't allowed to. Bummer.

We did get to enter the stadium through the Bucs entrance.  Here we are making our triumphant entry.


The kids traipsed up and down the stairs, sitting in the fold down seats, pretending they were watching a game.

Their favorite part was exploring the Buccaneers' pirate ship. Monkey was about to be keelhauled for being a lily-livered landlubber.
Everything went well even though the tour guide tried to fake us out by taking us to a generic locker room and proclaiming it was the actual Bucs locker room....without any actual equipment, name tags, personal touches, or lockable lockers.

Sure Mr. Tour Guide...we believe you.  Next thing you'll be telling us that you had the Monster Exterminator out to clean up the place before the Super Bowl.

White lies not withstanding, the kids ran through the locker room and stood in amazement at the shower room that could hold them all...and not one kid turned a shower knob on.  That's nearly miraculous.

A fun day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monster Exterminators

please hold off on throwing the rotten tomatoes at me...

The Christmas season always brings some moments of conflict for my children. We have never promoted Santa in our holiday celebrations, partly in an effort to keep the holiday focused on the birth of Jesus, and partly because we never felt comfortable in feeding them the elaborate story of Santa, complete with fake gift tags, reindeer hoof marks, and cookies and milk.

I know...we're mean, awful parents destroying our children's childhood moments.

throw tomatoes now.

The conflict comes at school when our children encounter other children who whole-heartedly believe the myth promoted by parents, teachers, and just about every grown-up they encounter. We've had to remind our children that it's OK if other people like to pretend there is a Santa. We've also had to instruct them not to argue with the other kids in their classes about the non-existence of the chubby one. They understand and usually keep mum about it.

Santa is harmless enough.  It's a once a year ruse meant to make the holiday special to young children. I understand the desire to indulge and by no means think poorly of other people who plunge headlong into the story.

The question becomes, for me, at what level does fantasy go from harmless to counter-productive in raising our children?

In our area there is a business, very much like this one, specializing in selling monster sprays, guaranteed to eliminate any scary bogeymen under the bed, hiding in the closet, or lurking behind doors.  You buy the product, go monster-hunting with your child and spray the monster repellent everywhere that your child is fearful.  

This is an old parenting trick that people have decided is a money-maker.  You gotta love the entrepreneurial spirit--fake products for fake problems with people willing to pay for it.

As if buying monster sprays seems a little strange, though maybe understandable if you're trying to calm a very young child, the local business goes to much further lengths to relieve a child's fears.  Parents can hire an actual "monster exterminator" to come to the house.  He brings exterminating equipment, complete with pesticide tank and sprayer.  He'll interview the child, go from to room to room spraying everywhere the child tells him to.  He'll leave an invoice and guarantee of monster protection.

While detailing this new business on the 6:00 news, a mom smiled sweetly as her earnest child recounted his scary stories to the exterminator, nodding approvingly through the entire process. Her child seemed to be about 7 or 8 years old, in the same age group as my children

So sweet....right?  Hire an actor to come to your house and help you fool your child in an effort to make them feel better.

I found it a little disturbing on several different levels.  

By the age of 7 or 8 children are pretty smart.  They like fantasy and imaginary stories, but they're not dumb. They are more than capable of piecing together their parents' foibles and figuring out some basic things about human nature. Hiring a "monster exterminator" is an easy way to lose credibility in their eyes.  Surely, the next day their children will be telling their friends about their experience and getting some strange looks and outright denials of the existence of "monster exterminators".  

Monster extermination becomes a deception that will be hard to maintain without extensive corroboration from neighbors, grandparents, and other adults in the child's life. When it comes to Santa, such a framework exists.  The majority of the American public plays along and reviles those who crush a child's belief in him.  When it comes to the monster exterminator, no such framework exists. A child will soon find out the truth.

Discovering that Santa isn't real can be a disappointment to a child, but usually they aren't upset about it; they are getting gifts, after all.  Normally, kids are very pleased with themselves, and their detective skills, when they find out their parents have been playing the role of  Santa. While realizing their parents haven't been truthful, they recognize it as good fun and not malicious deceit.

On the other hand, a child who is troubled enough to need a monster exterminator has an invested interest in making sure his problem is solved. His peace of mind is relying on the "fix" from the exterminator. Uncovering the truth about the exterminator, and the trick his parents took part in, would have the potential to bring back the fears with which he was already struggling, and would add a helping of mistrust of his parents, and adults in general, to the mix. If grown-ups will go to such lengths to make believe about something so important to him, how can they be trusted?

As the story wrapped up, I laughed to myself as I thought about the whole enterprise.  I wondered how different we are as adults. Thinking of the many superstitions people hold, the popularity of psychics, people rearranging their houses according the principle of feng shui, the popularity of books like The Secret....a never-ending list of  products and practices aimed at solving human fears and worries with fake solutions.  

Our capability for well-meaning self-deception is high.

There's something to be said about paying money for relief from our fears.  The link between money and religion has always existed.  Perhaps, because the things that we value and intrinsically desire are worth much more to us than our material goods.  Peace of mind is more valuable than gold or diamonds. We are willing to sacrifice for the contentedness of the soul.

The monster exterminator is simply a childlike manifestation of the adult witch doctor or curandera.

Our capability for well-meaning self-deception is high.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Devil in the Details

Dear Costco,

I have been a member at your super, giant-size store for at least 6 years now.  I pay my $50 membership fee every year. I dine in your food court. I am nice to the sample ladies and only ever take one sample...even if it's something really yummy. I return my shopping cart to the designated area when I am finished shopping.

I have been kind and thoughtful to you all these years.  

You can imagine my surprise at your passive aggressive attempt to push me to the limits of sanity.  

First, you replace your normal milk containers with mutant-shaped containers that leak every time you pour from them.
  
Need a tablespoon?  It spills.  Need a cup of milk to drink?  It spills.  Need to pour milk into the little kitty's bowl? It spills.  It leaks.  It dribbles.  It drips.  It slops.  It splashes.  

Every. Single. Time.

For months I stopped buying milk from you, so annoyed with your "new", "storage-friendly" containers that I was willing to pay an extra $0.50 at a normal grocery store.....you know...the ones that don't sell 5 pounds of bacon as one unit.

Now, as if making the task of pouring milk sheer hell wasn't enough, you openly mock me on the container.
 

TILT AND POUR SLOWLY--it says.

Gee, I never thought of that.  It never even entered my cerebral cortex to try that.  Tilt.....and pour....slooowwwly.  Hmm

How did I manage to make it all these years without my milk containers instructing me in the proper physics of milk, surface tension, and gravity as they all work together to bring me a tall glass of milk?

Thank you for pointing out the error of your customers.  Now, instead of simply thinking you came up with a crappy design, we can rest assured that the fault lies squarely with us and our inferior milk-pouring skills.

Yours Truly,

Terri

Christmas 2.008


This year's Christmas tree:


Here...have a cookie.  They're from my grandma's recipe and they are the most fantabulous sugar cookies ever made.  Honest.




typos, comma explosions, and comma droughts

yeah..they're everywhere in my blog posts lately. What can I say....I'm careless and lazy, lately.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Love Song for Gamers




It all makes sense when you've played MarioKart, or watched your children play MarioKart for hours on end.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Blast from the Past

In an attempt to eradicate a pile of boxes that has been sitting in the middle of our bedroom floor, some of which have been there for at least 5 months, I plunged into sorting things out. One of the boxes was from my dad's house and contained old photos and mementos.  I had glanced through them initially after bringing them dome, but hadn't gone through them in detail. While doing so, I came across a great treasure; a letter from our sainted Uncle Leo, relating some of the family history. 

My maiden name is a very Irish name.  My great, great grandparents  both emigrated to the US at about the same time, around 1881-1882. My great, great grandfather came from Ireland, while my great, great grandmother and her family came from England.  

My grandfather, John S. McC-- had bright red hair and icy blue eyes, the stereotypical Irishmen, with a fiery temper to boot. He was a tragic figure.  His mother had died within a month of his birth during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.  His father remarried shortly after her death.  Thus begins the story of the abusive stepmother and never-ending tragedy that shaped my grandfather's life. Many of the twists and turns his path took would make for an interesting novel, or sweeping movie, but that's for another time.

In the midst of my grandfather's story, and consequently my father's story, was the figure of the almost mythical Uncle Leo. Uncle Leo was the savior of my grandfather and his family on multiple occasions. Uncle Leo took my grandfather in when his own parents were ready to ship him off to a home for boys. Uncle Leo provided a place to live each time one of my grandfather's schemes fell through.  Uncle Leo was a place of refuge when my father decided to leave California--the most recent place my grandfather had dragged his family--hop on a bus, and head back to the Midwest, leaving behind nothing but a note, amounting to "see you later", for my grandparents. Uncle Leo helped out my mother when my parents divorced. Uncle Leo was a devout Catholic. Uncle Leo took care of his mother, the matriarch of the family, until she passed away at 95.  

The stories go on and on. 

I had an image in my mind of a long-suffering, mama's boy (meant in the best possible way) who was more saint than human, possibly quite virtuous but also boring. Not having any memory of him, because I was so young at the time, I had only stories by which to know him.

Reading his letter to some distant cousin of mine researching the family tree was a revelation. Uncle Leo was funny and colorful.  While recounting the family history, he would add little asides, or comments about the supposed truthfulness of the stories or his interpretation of the meaning of the family legacy.

On the superiority of the Hall-McC-- genes and the impending downfall of western civilization  at the hands of hippies and those without short haircuts:
Because of his efficiency and the industry with which he pursued his trade, he worked a long life(retired at 70) and provided a fairly large family with a good home, good living conditions, and good education, which it is doubtful he could have equaled in any other country.  If you want to verify that, take along look at his progeny. All the way through you will not find one hare-brained, long-haired hippie. [in reference to the Hall line]
Any 16 year old boy who left Ireland due to oppression(religious) and came to "free" America where in the short span of 20 years(1882-1902) did all of the above sure as hell must have been "efficient" and "industrious" while keeping his hair cut short. [in reference to the McC-- line]
On the "weird ideas" of having relatives, presumably male, attend the birth of a baby.
If your educated prof. thinks his or any other relatives presence in the delivery room, through the aura of love they might project from their nervous, fidgeting bodies would enhance the chances of survival for the infant being delivered, he is less than a half-wit.
On the truthfulness of my great, great, great grandmother McC--'s claim to be a daughter of the Colman mustard family in England, with a knighted father no less.
(This I heard but found a little hard to swallow. Who knows?)
He describes why a little later on.
By the way on the back of the lot where Tommie has his shop, Great Grandmother McC-- had a chicken coop.  One Sunday morning when I was three years old I went down to see her and she went out to the chicken coop with a grrrrrreeeaaatt biiiiggg butcher knife--chased the hens around until she caught one, brought it up to the back door and gripping its body between her knees, proceeded to saw off its head and dropped the squirming bloody necked body in a bucket to kick out its last moments. She had it for Sunday dinner. Hot diggity; what a gal!

You know, it just might be that that is the reason that I never could quite swallow that story about her being a well-bred gentlewoman--daughter of old Knight of the Garter--Colman.
On the family line and his place in it.
In 1895, May 13 they had their 1st son--John
---1897, June 13  -----------------2nd --Frances
---1899, Mar. 18------------------3rd--Stupid [Leo labeling himself...not sure why]
---1900, Oct. 20------------------4th--Thomas
This must be getting monotonous.  No daughters????
On his apparent inability to keep a job.
From 1916 to 1929, [he would have been 17-30 years old] when I left McKeesport, all through the roaring twenties I changed jobs so many times that it is hard to keep things in perspective.  Your dad can probably tell you more lucidly about those years than I.
My image of the man has changed quite a bit.  

Instead of wondering when this "pious" man was going to officially be beatified, I wonder what exactly he was doing in the roaring twenties during his prime. 

I wish I had more documents like this revealing the personalities in my family tree, rather than just letting me know someone's birth and death dates.

Fascinating stuff.

Christmas Adventure....blog draft

Yesterday we braved the 68 degree weather frigid cold and marched into the Lowes parking lot wilderness to strap a Christmas tree to our car's roof cut down a tree and drag it home through the blustery wind.

Things went smoothly until we encountered a mean woman who tried to steal our tree a vicious grizzly bear, hungry for human flesh. We let her have the tree that was really ours threw several rocks at the grizzly, smacking it square in the eye and sending it running off defeated and in blinding pain.

That'll teach that woman that we're nice people who let other people walk all over us that grizzly bear that we are a fierce, courageous tribe. 

Friday, December 05, 2008

Music and Musician's Personalities

While getting ready this morning, I was listening to pandora.com again. I've had fun creating new stations and letting them play in the background. I experiment and wrack my brain to remember songs or artisits that I love, and then I plug them in to see what else gets grouped with them.

I'm very predictable. 

Most of my stations consist of singer/songwriters with an acoustic rock/folk sound. In CCM I usualy wind up with Sara Groves, Rich Mullins, Jennifer Knapp. In secular music I gravitate towards Bonnie Rait, Natalie Merchant, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer.  (and Michael Buble....though I hate to admit it. Makes me feel like a schoolgirl.)

As John Mayer sang heartbreaking lyrics in the background, I wondered how someone whose personality I find so annoying could be so talented and make music that I love.  I have to overcome my disenchantment with his sometimes vulgar attitude in order to appreciate his music.

We assume we know musicians through their music, especially in the singer/songwriter category.  They frame intimate feeling, dripping words full of meaning into our ready ears. They express the emotions welling up inside of us that never found phrasing on our own lips. They tap the well of universality, pouring us a drink and inviting us to partake with them.

It's a heady illusion....and such a disappointment when they act like people we hardly know.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Intersecting Thoughts

I've been reading through the book of Matthew over the course of the last few weeks. Because I haven't picked up my Bible in many months, I decided to start with the gospels, the core of the Christian faith. I've read them many times along with all the other books in the Bible. Some stories I could quote in my sleep, others I re-read with a little surprise, thinking,"Oh. I forgot about that."

The Assistant Village Idiot has an interesting post titled Understanding Jewish Thought, wondering how it may influence our reading of Jesus. It's a good read.  I commented, and only later realized that my comment seems more confident and final than I really meant for it too.  I could add more, but I tend to ramble when I'm thinking things through as I type comments, so I restrained myself from going on and on. 

While reading this morning, I was near the end of Matthew and the Passion.   I was struck once again by the wording that Jesus uses when he explains things to his disciples.  Many times, after getting the point of what he's saying, I find myself wondering why exactly he said things that way.

Today's example occurs when Jesus is being arrested and Peter strikes the high priest's servant, cutting off his ear.

Matthew 25:52-56

52"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

 55At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Most people would read that and go on about how God fulfills his word, or how this is proof that Jesus is the Messiah. I read it and think,"Is this an example of God conforming himself to the expectations of humans?"

Jesus consciously avoids doing things that would contradict previous prophecies, which implies  the possibility existed that he could have done things differently. Did he submit to the prophecies because that is what God declared, or because of the expectation that God's people had?  As an adult deals with children and uses the examples they are familiar with, did God condescend to enter the story that his children had narrated according to their human understanding of Him?

Some would say that makes God subordinate to the human will. I would conjecture that it makes him a cooperative creator, using whatever means necessary to communicate.

A further example of this cooperation:

While in a debate with the Pharisees, Jesus discusses marriage and divorce.

Matthew 19: 3-9

3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

 4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'[a] 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'[b]6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

 7"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

 8Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

So....Moses incorporated regulations allowing for divorce into The Law, what Jews considered the very Word of God, yet Jesus says this wasn't really from God, but from Moses as a concession to human conditions.  

a little head-spinning...no?

These are only a few examples.

As another intersecting thought, Greg Boyd has a post about unfulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament (HT: Randy from the BHT). Greg Boyd is an open theist, who advances the theory that God allows humans to exercise free will and works within the circumstances that arise from humans exercising free choice, rather than dictating history and actions to humanity.

These tangential thoughts bring to me an image of God condescending and submitting Himself to humans throughout Scripture, and in our lives.  He pursues us, many times on our own terms, in ways that we understand, and through methods we'll accept.

amazing.

thoughts?



Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Entitled..who me?

If everyone has a disorder, than can it really be called a "disorder"? According to this article, 1 in 5 college-age students have personality disorders.  That's 20% of the population's young people.   The percentage goes up to 50% if substance abuse is considered:

Counting substance abuse, the study found that nearly half of young people surveyed have some sort of psychiatric condition, including students and non-students.


Is this a result of over-diagnosis, or are young people more prone to these disorders than past generations?

If half of a group has a "psychiatric condition" how do we delineate what normative behavior is?

I often wonder how much of our labeling of mental issues is based on an assumption that being happy and contented with one's life is a normal state of being.  Is it possible that we are so disappointed with life's tragedies that we plunge into an emotional abyss every so often, and yet somehow think it's abnormal to feel that way?

At times, it appears as if our society is uncomfortable with the suffering and depressed.  We like to cheer each other up.  We hope for tragedy to pass us by, or at least pass through quickly if it must come our way.  We worry when people we know mourn, or don't bounce back immediately from circumstances.

Perhaps, we don't recognize that a portion of the disorders, psychiatric conditions, and depressive episodes which are diagnosed are, in some sense, "normal".  

Are our expectations too high when it comes to "normal" moods and mental health?


Spiritually Dry

I haven't posted about our family's church search in quite some time.

We had made the decision to leave Mega-Mart Evangelical Church in January of this year. One month later I received my breast cancer diagnosis. Things got a little hectic as our family kicked into survival mode.

We visited several churches at first, but eventually decided to stick with a small United Methodist church once my diagnosis and treatment options became more complicated. Circumstances weren't optimal for carefully finding a church home.

At first, this seemed like a wise choice. We settled into this small church and enjoyed not having to think about the whole thing for a while. Our kids acclimated and seemed content. DH and I, on the other hand, struggled with attending. The actual content on Sunday mornings left a lot to be desired. The preaching was "bible lite"; not much substance and a few worn-out cliches.

That sounds really harsh, and maybe it is. The pastor is a nice enough person. It's not a lack of sincerity that undercuts his teaching.

Still, the superficiality of the messages seemed to run through the entire church. We tried several times to integrate into a Sunday School class with depressing results. The people were very nice, but no one had leadership of the class. The entire hour would be spent chit-chatting or debating about whose turn it was to lead that morning. No one was prepared. No one wanted to be prepared.

That happens from time to time in any church. Here, it happened on multiple Sundays. The class was floundering. 

The most excruciating moment for me came during a particular Sunday morning service.  The pastor was sick and the worship leader/music director was giving the message.  I squirmed in horror while he related an old urban legend, which he received as an e-mail, as proof of God's control and care of the universe--The missing day/hour of earth time.  

What could be worse than promoting a completely fictitious story from the pulpit?(ok, atheists/agnostics, I don't want any jokes about how that happens every Sunday.)

sigh.

As we have wrestled with what we are looking for in a church, I have been having my own spiritual upheavals.  Much of my thinking about what the purpose of a church is, and what one should expect from church, has changed. I find myself leaning more and more towards a sacramental view of communion and baptism, and away from the purely symbolic view that my Baptist/non-denominational background has taught me.

This is not particularly new to me.  I have always thought that more emphasis should be placed on these two rites, than what is traditionally done in evangelical circles. I just didn't know what to do with my thoughts about it, or even realize that some of my beliefs were affirmed in more liturgical churches.

Not proudly, I will admit that I always viewed liturgical churches as dry, dead, and probably liberal. They were probably barely even Christian.

Someone should have slapped me with a cold fish.

Liturgy can be dry.  It can be boring.  It can be rote.

When approached with faith, it can be extremely meaningful and worshipful.  

Now I have two sides of myself in constant debate.  My non-denominational, evangelical ways have been so ingrained in me, that even as I reject a portion of them, it is painful.  My leaning toward a sacramental, liturgical view of things is requiring a major paradigm shift.  I am left somewhere in the middle trying to discern which path to take.  

It's uncomfortable and a little breath-taking all at the same time.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

This post is a day late, but that's a good thing.  It means I am actually living life as opposed to simply blogging it.

I have much to be thankful for, even in the midst of a difficult year.


First, the minor things:

I am thankful that I'm done with chemo and was able to skip radiation.

I am thankful that my hair is growing back.

I am thankful for this time of year in Florida....bye bye heat and humidity.

Now the most important things:

I am thankful for my family.

  • thankful for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who helped us through this difficult time.
  • thankful for my children who weathered things well and showed compassion for me when I wasn't feeling well.
  • thankful, most of all, for my husband who lived up to his marriage vows in an incredible way. As life has continued to unfold for us, I am thankful that we found each other and have stuck together for 11 years.  I grow to appreciate and love him more every day....except for when he forces me to watch inane Jackie Chan movies--there are some things which go beyond the bounds of love.  

There are endless things for which I should be grateful. I don't always recognize them at the time. May God help me to remember the unexpected graces which come my way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm Too Sexy For My Church

The imonk has a devastatingly scathing piece on Ed Young's 7 day sex challenge, Leaving Lust Vegas.
He's right on target.  

Monday, November 24, 2008

They Start Off So Young Nowadays

This past weekend was spent with my in-laws.  I had arranged for us to have a family portrait done to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, so our immediate family and my sister-in-law's family went up to visit and prepare for the photo shoot.

My mother-in-law, being the wonderful grandma she is, decided to get a few games for the boys to play while we were up there. She picked up a checkers game from a local garage sale in her retirement community.

After unpacking the game, The Rationalist came up to me with a couple of checkers in his hand.

"Why do these have pictures of clothes on them?" he asked.

"Huh?"

"Look...they have shirts, pants, underwear, bras.....why are there pictures of clothes on the checkers?"

"Uhhh....I'm not sure.  Bring me the instructions."

He picked up an old, withered paper and brought it over to me.

Strip Checkers--it read.

My mother-in-law is corrupting my young children.  

Those retirees.....you never know what they're up to in their Active Adult Communities.


Monday Blahs

I've been feeling a little like Charlie Brown lately...disappointed, dejected, exasperated with people and the world. Around every corner lurks some new problem or obstacle for me to deal with, and I have had enough of it already.  I want to take my toys and go home, because I am so done in dealing with reality.

I was out at my dad's place this past week, scheduling home inspectors, pest control, electricians, and contractors.  It was a two-day marathon session full of bad news and decisions I don't want to have to make.  My fact-finding mission brought me facts I was none too pleased to hear.

My home inspector, a very nice, thorough man, was the first person with whom I had made an appointment.  My dad's house needs some repair. One wall had an obvious moisture problem that was going to need to be fixed.  My dad also had some termite bait stations scattered around the home.  I needed to know exactly what the condition of the house was before proceeding.

That first appointment set my mood for the next week. 

My dad's house had become a nice snack for subterranean termites. The inspector had found evidence of them in almost every exterior wall, two of which were in very bad condition. He also found evidence in the attic.

The only way to find out how much damage they have done to the house is to rip off all the drywall and look at what's behind it.  If they have destroyed much of the wood framing and studs--the actual structural portion of the house--it will have to be replaced.  If it's really bad, the two bathrooms in the home will have to be gutted and then completely redone after the repairs have been made.  They are back to back on one of the heavily infested walls.

This could cost, in a worst case scenario, up to $30,000.

That news, having settled firmly into my mind, has put me in a foul mood.  It isn't about the money, but about what I know lays ahead--choosing a contractor, prolonged construction, and numerous trips across the state to deal with this.

With this in the foreground of my mind, multiple occurrences are conspiring against me in the background.  Our car has been having trouble for almost two months now.  We have dragged it to the mechanic numerous times with no luck in getting it ironed out. Most recently, we think  the problem might be solved, but now there is a new "clunking" sound that has spontaneously appeared in a completely unrelated part of the car...just 2 days after getting the car back.

While visiting with my in-laws, I had to field questions about why I "think Obama is the right man for the job."   This was funny only because I had never confided that I had voted for Obama in the first place.  My silence on all the Republican gong-sounding must have given me away. It's very ironic, considering my vote for Obama wasn't an enthusiastic one, and I almost forget that I voted for him when I am in political discussions. 

Then I had to listen to how this current economic crisis has nothing to do with Republicans, but with the policies created by Democrats many years ago...yada, yada, yada. Before exiting from the political discussion I merely added that our current crisis is not a Democratic or Republican crisis, but an American problem.  We buy things we can't afford.  We send out stimulus packages and bailouts because we think we're entitled to live this way without repercussions. Democrats and Republicans alike shared in this downfall.  After stating this, my father-in-law spoke out,"It's not my problem.  It's not because of me," which is true, but missing the point of the collective problem we're facing.

I was annoyed at being dragged into pointed conversations by people I otherwise love and respect.

I'm worn down from this past year and my tolerance for life's annoyances is at an all-time low. That, added to the fact that Saturday was the anniversary of when things started to go downhill for me, has made me emotional and easily offended.  

I'd like to crawl into bed and sleep for a couple of weeks.


Peanuts

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It grows back....slowly.

My hair has finally started to grow in.  It's grayer, thinner and still patchy in areas, but it's there.  

Today I decided to be brave and venture out in public without a hat and do my best impression of Sinead O'Conner.







I'm trying to force myself to get used to it.  We are having family photos done this weekend and I'm going au naturel.....no hats, scarves, wigs.

Maybe I'll keep it this way. 

I'll save thousands on hair care products.


Oreo Cookie Blues

Goofing around with pandora.com, I came across this song on the Stevie Ray Vaughan station I created.


Too funny.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Music Genome

A new site that assembles a playlist of music based on an artist or song of your choosing.


HT: my hubby

update...fixed the link

What Now?


Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

The money quote is at 2:06...had me laughing out loud.

Watch 'til the end to get the funniest parts.

HT: http://bobhyatt.typepad.com/bobblog/

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lawyer Jokes Lived Out

Because my father didn't have a will, we had to hire a lawyer to help administer his estate and file papers in Probate Court.

He seems nice enough.  I didn't have any negative feelings about him when we met with him.

One of the things about which he spoke to us concerned my dad's bills.  He instructed us that we were not to pay them.  He would put a legal notice in the paper and creditors would have 3 months to file a claim for payment if anything was owed to them.  After the 3 months were up, they were out of luck and not entitled to payment.

It seemed clear enough.

I wasn't too worried about any of this because my dad had no real debt. He had a few credit cards, each with less than $500 dollars on them. He used them for gas, buying auto parts online, and purchases at department stores. He would pay the balance off each month.  I had been through all his papers and knew there weren't any unknown creditors out there.  Plus, my dad had already disclosed as much to me in conversations about his upcoming retirement and financial plans.

This issue has created a slight disagreement between my brother and I.  His view was that if the credit card companies didn't contact us in those three months, too bad for them.  My view was that dad had purchased, received, and used goods that were now in our possession.  It would be wrong to knowingly not pay them.

The point is moot if the credit card companies respond to the public notice.

Where all of this gets interesting is in further conversations I have had with the lawyer.  In clarifying various things, this subject came up again and I listened as the lawyer described, unprompted, multiple ways we could get out of paying these bills.  He would wait until the third month of notice before sending specific notice to the creditors we knew about.  Specific notice is legally required.  When he sent that notice, he would send it to the address listed for payment, which is not the same as the address that companies use to handle all other information regarding an account.  By the time the notice got to the right person, they might have lost a couple of weeks time to process a claim, and might not even make one in time.  

Presto Change-o...not required to pay.

I sat silently while I listened to not only this, but to further plotting of ways to get out of paying them if they actually filed a claim.  The lawyer said he could object to the claim, and unless the amount owed to them was significant, the creditors would likely write off the amount, wanting to avoid spending money on legal proceedings in order to obtain a few hundred dollars.  It would a wash to them, financially.

After this long, unasked-for speech, the lawyer added, "Not that we would try to cheat anyone out of what they are owed."

"Really?  Because that's exactly what it seems like you just spent 5 minutes describing," I thought.

It made me extremely uncomfortable and further reminded me that not everything "legal" is morally right.

I didn't remember until I was off the phone, and thinking all this through, that in Florida an attorney's fees are directly tied to the value of the estate they are probating.  It's a specific percentage, after all the debts of the estate have been paid.

The lower the value of the estate, the lower the value of the percentage.

Can we say conflict of interest?

The people in charge of notifying creditors are people who stand to profit if the creditors fail to act in a timely manner. And, apparently, it is a common practice to try and make them fail.

Now, I have to decide if I am going to simply ignore my brother and lawyer and pay the bills I know about.  I want to.  I feel it's the right thing to do.

In broader terms, I think about our country's current economic crisis and how lawyers and bankers finagle rules to get what they want and create huge messes.  I think about people who are irresponsible, take out loans they can't afford, and wind up declaring bankruptcy, or going into foreclosure....creating problems for their banks and neighborhoods. Everyone passes the buck from one place to another and then wonders how we got here.

It makes me upset. It makes me frustrated that our society has a gaping void in the "personal integrity" department and it continues to get larger.

sigh.

enough of my rant against the establishment, society and people in general.

Turns of Phrase

My favorite song lyrics right now:

Hope has a way of turning its face to you
just when you least expect it.

You walk in a room, you look out a window
and something there leaves you breathless.

You say to yourself,
"It's been a while since I felt this 
and it feels like it might be hope."   

Sara Groves--It Might Be Hope

Tell me what you know
'bout God, and the world and the human soul

How so much can go wrong 
and still there are songs

Sara Groves--In the Girl There's a Room


I can't help it. I'm a Sara Groves addict.  I would inject her intravenously if I could.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Death and Taxes

I've been knee-deep in managing my father's estate for the last several weeks.  

Although I have three brothers, only my oldest brother is a "full" brother and the son of my father.  My other brothers are technically "half-brothers", but I don't really think of them that way. 

Because it's just the two of us, and I happen to live here in Florida, I was designated as the personal representative of my father's estate. I'm in charge. I'm The Decider, if you will. 

This doesn't present any major issues. My brother and I are on the same page, and there are no petty clamorings for possessions or money. My father had no will, but he did have a fairly straightforward financial situation; no debt, a paid-for home, a paid-for car, and some money in the bank.  

Oh...and one very large plasma TV....that just so happens to be dominating our small living room right now.  When I brought it home, the kids were initially thrilled to have the chance to play their video games on it. After just a few minutes, The Rationalist hit an undercurrent of my unexpressed feelings:

"This is Grandpa's. How come we get to take it?  Isn't that like stealing? It doesn't seem right to take someone else's things."

I explained things to him and he understood, but I apprehended the sentiment. It is a weird sensation to profit from someone's death; to have a checking account that is fuller than it has ever been; to use a prized possession that is only yours because someone else has ceased to exist.  It seems scandalous, somehow even a little like grave-robbing.

It's even harder when I think that my father's hard work and thrift is so quickly divvied up between us.  I know that's just the way life is.  I know that my father wouldn't begrudge it to us, but it's still strange.

As I've worked through the process of emptying his house, changing things into my name, and making plans to renovate his property, I can sense the primitive urgings that people have always had in relation to their dead.  I wonder aloud if this is what he would have wanted as I move his things around.  I know he can't hear me, but I still do it.

The natural inclination to save personal items important to the person who has passed seems unavoidable.  I have no pyramid to store his things for the after-life, so instead they come home with me, littering my house with unneeded clutter, resembling some dusty inner room full of cat statuettes and libations for the dead.

The urge is there.  It affords me a greater understanding about cultural traditions such as the Day of the Dead, relatives setting up memorial altars and photos of the departed. Perhaps the physicality of the assembled objects fulfills an unconscious need to connect with those who are gone. It's preservation.  

The body disintegrates and fades to nothingness when left to its natural course, leaving little to show for the person who once was there.  All cultures attach great importance to the way a body is treated after death, with many viewing an improper burial as a great dishonor and indignity.  

I felt that primitive urge also.  Like the Greeks in a Homeric epic, I mourned the indignity to my father's body, though I knew he was no longer there. I couldn't escape the compulsion to view the state of his body as something shameful and embarrassing. 

It makes no sense, logically.  The ceremonies and remembrances are for the living, not the dead. Yet...I was surprised at how easily those thoughts and feelings could be summoned.  

Suddenly the Aztecs didn't seem so strange and the Egyptians seemed like kin. 

Thursday, November 06, 2008

President Obama

Now that everything is said and done, I look forward to seeing what will happen in Obama's presidency. I'm just relieved to have the whole election behind us.  

Ultra-conservatives are dressing themselves in sackcloth and ashes, bemoaning the doom of America. 

Ultra-liberals are crying and shouting with joy at their supposed messianic figure.

I'll be happy with something in between the two perspectives.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

Thank God it's almost over!



After dropping the kids off at school, I went to my polling place and voted. When I arrived, there were about 200 people standing in a line that wrapped around the building and ended about 100 feet from the entrance.  I know it was 100 feet because there were people handing out campaign materials near the end of the line.  I intended to confront them about it, because it is usually illegal to campaign at the polling place, but just as I was about to say something one of the campaigners warned another one to stay behind a certain point. The police had told them they could legally go no further than 100 feet from the building.  

The mood of the voters was quiet and introspective.  Very few conversations were taking place. People seemed generally patient, not complaining about the wait. Very serious.

Up until this morning I wasn't sure who I was going to vote for in the presidential election.  I had gone back and forth numerous times on Obama and McCain, both of whom have positions I love and hate, both of whom somewhat annoy me. Even as I stood in my little red, white and blue voting booth made of plastic dividers, I hesitated before marking my ballot.  I voted for everything else on the ballot and saved the presidential vote for one last consideration.

After taking a deep breath, and hoping I wouldn't eventually regret my decision, I voted for Barak Obama.

It was a difficult choice for me, most importantly, because I am pro-life. I don't like Obama's position on abortion.  I don't agree with it.  I would love to have a more pro-life candidate win.

John McCain is definitely more pro-life than Obama, so I could have voted for him on that issue.

Why didn't I?

McCain lost my vote for a few reasons.  He lost my vote by trying to make Bush's tax cuts permanent.  He lost my vote by resorting to extremely negative attacks on Obama, rather than telling me what exactly he's going to do for America.  He lost my vote because I refuse to choose him out of fear of a terrorist attack.  Fear-mongering is not a tool by which I wish to be motivated.

Ultimately, tossing aside my fears was the only way I could stomach voting for Obama.  I had to censor out the hype about how absolutely disastrous it would be if one candidate won over the other. That tactic is tired and played out.  Could bad things happen to the US because of whom we elect?  Yes, but that cuts both ways.  I can just as easily see McCain getting us into an unneeded war with Iran as I can see Obama being perceived as weak by terrorists.  Which is worse for the US?  

So, in the end, I cast my first vote for a Democratic president.  I have occasionally voted Democrat in local elections, but usually go Republican.

Here's hoping I won't regret the next four years if Obama wins.

On the upside...if Obama is truly awful as a president, maybe we'll get some great Republicans running in 2012.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Halloween!


No wonder they fight sometimes; the conflict between the force and the dark side must be resolved.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disgustification

I am overcome by the heebie-jeebies and it has nothing to do with Halloween.

Last night I was treating an area on the dog that she had scratched into a raw, oozy mess.  She does this every once in a while, and I wind up tormenting her by holding her down to clean the area and then subjecting her to wearing a shirt that covers the swollen mess, preventing her from continuing to scratch at it.

Poor thing.



While cleaning her wound, I noticed a small, brown freckle off to the side of it, near her belly. It wasn't just any freckle. It was a moving freckle--a tiny, mobile freckle with tiny, minuscule legs.

ick.

I tried to remove it, thinking it was a flea, but this freckle wasn't coming off the dog.  It was a tick, and it had already started its meal.  

Freaking out, and suddenly feeling very itchy, I started going over the dog and found several more, barely visible, ticks.  Despite the fact that it was midnight and I had been planning on going to bed, the next hour was spent bathing the dog, throwing out her bed, stripping the bedding off our bed, which she had just been laying on for hours beforehand, and pulling at least 30 ticks in various stages of engorgement off of the dog.

I shudder just retelling it.

I applied Frontline Plus, which prevents flea and tick infestations, all the while kicking myself that I hadn't been better about regularly using it on her.  We've had her for over three years and this is the first problem we've ever had with fleas or ticks.  I let myself be lulled into thinking we didn't need to use it.  Foolish me.

Now, I am completely grossed out and investigating how many pounds of chemicals I need to buy to de-tickify our lawn and home.

And I still constantly feel itchy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pure As The Driven Snow

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

I have to say I was a little surprised by this one.  Not that I regularly curse on this site, but I thought there might have been some commenters in the past that have.  Or maybe a post or two in which I might have used even a tiny swear word.

But, I guess not.

When I was a kid, from about the age of 11-14, I went through a phase where I thought it was really cool to swear. Whenever we weren't around adults, my friends and I would use the most foul language we knew. Really foul. Sailor foul. Still-can't-say it-on-TV foul. We would take the long way home from school and make up new words to use, combining several four-letter words into one supercalifragilistic swear word.

I don't know why.  Maybe we were bored.  Maybe it was an easy way to rebel without actually doing something very serious. Maybe the adults in our lives were a horrible influence on us. Maybe we watched too much cable TV.

The funny thing is that I eventually completely dropped swear words from my vocabulary.  I was 14 and entering my sophomore year in high school. It occurred to me that swearing made me appear to be something I wasn't. I wasn't a dangerous, bad-girl, smoking cigarettes in the bathroom kind of person. I wasn't a punk anarchist, even if I did own a Violent Femmes album. 

It didn't fit me.

I also realized that swearing profusely alienates people.  It makes people uncomfortable.  They aren't sure what to say or how to react. They wonder if you might be a little off-kilter if every sentence is punctuated with f**k.

So bye-bye went my potty mouth.

Raising kids has taken the parsing of words to a whole new level.  What words, or expressions, do I let my kids use?  I know some parents who discourage all substitutes like "darn" or "heck" or "crap". "Darn" doesn't bother me. "Heck" is something I could tolerate, but I don't encourage. "Crap"....well, that just seems crass to me.  

What's funny is that a verboten term in our house is the word "stupid".  It's not allowed.  We don't call things or people stupid, or even dumb.  I would rather hear my children curse than use that word, especially if it's directed at somebody. It is so belittling and full of contempt. 

We also avoid the term "shut up".  See above paragraph for the reasoning.

This has led to some interesting encounters.  My brother and his wife, both Christian and conservative and not too different on issues than I am, allow their children to use "stupid" and "shut-up", but not "darn" and "heck". My kids respond with shock and horror when their cousins call something stupid, or say that they're doing something stupid.  

I guess that's the natural course of swearing.....offending people with words that mean nothing to us, but are shocking to them.

Anyway....feel assured dear reader. 

0% swear level on this blog

0%...as in, not once....ever.....like, since I created this blog over two years ago.

It's about damn time I was recognized for something. 

;-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

I approve this message

Dear Obama and McCain,

I realize Florida is a battleground state.  Things are always close and unpredictable here, election-wise.  We have young people, old people, rich people, poor people, military people, Jewish people, Christian people, Muslim people, black people, white people, hispanic people--just about any kind of people you could imagine live here.

So, I understand why you find it necessary to bombard us with ads on the TV, Radio, and in our newspapers.  I understand why your poll-takers incessantly call my house.  

However...you are driving me absolutely crazy.  I'm to the point where I don't like either one of you very much.  If I saw you on a crowded street, I'd go the other way.  If I were waiting at the bus stop with you, I'd let you have the bench and stand off to the side, pretending to be interested in the traffic patterns.  

You see....I'd be afraid that I'd have to listen to one more speech from you twisting, spinning, and distorting half-truths at the expense of the other person.  It might make me lose my breakfast.  It might make me run screaming into the night to hear one more attack, rather then hear a single pronouncement about what it is either one of you is planning on actually doing if you are  elected.  And, I'm not talking about the crazy stuff you promise to people that you have no ability to truly accomplish...seeing as you will belong to the executive branch of government, and not the legislative branch.  Veto power is solely a reactive power, not an initiative power.

You have truly turned this election into a thing of dread. Rest assured, whoever I finally pick, it will be with great reluctance and reservation.  You have sucked the joy of voting right out of me.  You have ruined the words "maverick" and "change" for me.  I'll never be able to watch Top Gun, or carry extra coins left over from breaking a dollar, again.

Oh and can you please tell your supporters to stop pulling crazy stunts, and brain-washing young children to sing your praises in cult-like fashion?



It's really starting to get on my nerves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

post of the day

I haven't read dangerous idea in a while. 

I went over this morning and found a post that reflects how I have been thinking about this election, in regards to the abortion issue, and whether Christians are bound to vote for a particular candidate.  There isn't a direct link, perhaps because of the hateful responses Reppert has received from certain bloggers, but it's the first post on his blog: "The One-Issue Abortion Vote".

It's a good post, but the comments are long and weighty, so you might want to set aside some time to read them if you're interested.

Now I remember why I linked to that blog in the first place.....good food for thought, and a different perspective.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"After School Special" moment

The Rationalist brought home a field trip form last week.  Because I'm not working this year, I was happy to offer to be a parent chaperon.  

"Oh neat, I can go with you on your field trip this year!"

awkward pause

"Do you want me to be a chaperon?"

"I don't know. Will your hair be back by then?"

"Uh....considering it's only a few weeks away, probably not. Why?"

"Well, I don't want you to go if you're bald."

"Why not?"

"It might be embarrassing. What if everyone says, 'Hey J--, your mom is bald?' What if people laugh at you?"

"What if they do?  Do you think your friends are that mean?"

"I don't know.  I just don't want them to see you bald."

"Well...I always wear a hat when I'm not at home."

"But what if it falls off, or the wind blows it off?"

"I don't think that's going to happen. Listen, if being embarrassed is the only reason you don't want me to go, that's not a good reason.  There will always be people around who can be mean and make fun of you, or anybody else, for no reason. If you don't do things just because you're afraid that someone might try and embarrass you, there will be a lot of things you'll miss out on in life."

thinking about it

"OK...you can come....just don't wear your Scottish hat.  It looks goofy."



Goofy's a little harsh....don't you think?






Dad, Part 2

I spent this past weekend going through my dad's house.  Because of the way things unfolded with his death, dealing with his house has become a major issue, requiring special cleaners and the need to get rid of most of his furnishings. By the end of the day movers had removed 90% of his furniture, and the house was practically empty.

Except for the garage.

The garage is full of tools, cables, air compressors, vehicle lifts, a mostly-finished rebuilt motorcycle, and more chemicals  than China could hold--spray paint, paint thinners, oil, transmission fluid, gas, anti-freeze and many more that I have no idea what they're for. Something auto-related, I am sure.

The garage, because it is sealed off from the house, has no odor that needs to be dealt with. Instead, I walk into it and I smell my dad as I remember him.  The combined perfume of all those chemicals, a metallic tinge and the scent of rubber hoses and tires.  It's not a bad smell, but the unmistakable perfume of a mechanic's habitat. 

I've smelled that scent since I was a little girl--usually when my dad had us for his visitation and he would take us by where he worked.  My brother and I would put our hands in the vise he used and twist it until we couldn't stand it anymore. We would bring magnets and play with the fine, metal shavings left over from rebuilding engine parts.  We would lay on the flat scooter thingy(the name escapes me), that mechanics use to get under cars, and push off across the garage floor.  It was probably dangerous for us to be there, but we had fun.

All the while my dad would be under the hood of a car, peeking his head up now and again to talk to us.  He would usually have to shout over the loud tape player which seemed to only accept tapes from The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Meatloaf, or....get ready for this one....Conway Twitty.  CONWAY TWITTY. Most of you probably have no idea who he was. A very corny country singer whose songs are all of the "loving and losing" genre.

Going through my dad's things has led to some surprises, and some laughs. When we went to his workplace to go through his toolboxes there, we came across three bags of silverware---real, silver-plated, old, silverware.  They were mixed in with wrenches and sockets. No rhyme or reason to it.  I asked my grandmother if she'd given him any family silverware. Nope.  So why was it there?  Where did it come from? Why did Dad have it in his work toolbox? 

It will remain a mystery.

As I went through his dressers, I would come across those cheap eyeglasses they have at the drugstore.  There must have been at least 10 pairs of them. I think he would buy some, they would get misplaced or covered up by the messiness of his room, so instead of looking for them, he'd just buy another pair.

I found multiples of things like that consistently. Flashlights.  Scissors.  Remote Controls. 1,000 pens.  Unused notebooks. I think his absent-mindedness about where he put things must have been the source of the repetitiveness of these items showing up in every corner of the house.

Going through his things hasn't been traumatic in any way.  

I've saved things that were signature "Dad"--like the two Indian-ish throws he used on his sofa, so he wouldn't get grease all over the couches.  I washed those and will be sending one to my brother.  

I saved two small ziploc bags of "gems"/shiny rocks that he dug out of the earth with my brother's family, this past summer, during one of his vacation weeks.  I have all of the pictures from his childhood, and the ones he had from our childhood. I have his baptism certificate from a Catholic church in Pennsylvania--another mystery considering my grandparents were most definitely non-believers in every way. Perhaps the Irish-Catholic, extended family exerted some influence there.

I'm doing OK with things most of the time. The first week after his death was so busy dealing with the memorial service, cremation, and making arrangements to deal with his house, that I would/could only mourn in brief moments when my mind wasn't occupied.  The day after his service, when the craziness had subsided, was the hardest.  I had nothing to distract myself from his passing, and finally was able to simply miss him.

Now, moments come and go of sadness.  Usually, the sadness comes not mainly from his passing, though I wished it hadn't happened, but from the knowledge that he had died alone and not been found right away.  It's nobody's fault, just a culmination of bad timing.  Still, I wish he had been at work, or out somewhere, so that someone could have attempted to help him, or at the very least saved him from the indignity of being left alone after he passed.

The sadness also comes in wishing I had said more to him over the years.  I don't have any major regrets, I just wished I had praised him more for the good qualities he had while he was here.

Maybe that's the take-home lesson.  Compliment people while they are still here, instead of saving it all up for their memorial.  Let them know what you have learned from them, while they can be encouraged by your words, instead of only wishing you had said it.

I'm going to work on that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dad

On October 1st I received a call that no one ever wants to receive.  It was the police department from my father's town. He had passed away in his home. 

I had called him twice that week and he never called back, but then I remembered that he was supposed to be on vacation, so I didn't worry when I hadn't heard from him.  He never showed up for work after his week off, and after 2 days, his employer contacted the police department to check on him.  It wasn't like my dad to miss work, especially without calling. He was a reliable, dependable, hard-working mechanic.

He was supposed to retire in the next few months and had grand plans for his retirement.  He was moving to Alabama.  He was teaching himself to repair motorcycles. He had already mastered the automobile, becoming an ASE Certified Master Automotive Technician in every conceivable category.

It was a sudden and unexpected death.

My dad wasn't a perfect man.  He had his issues.  He could be crusty, cantankerous and gruff.  If you had 13 items in the 10-item checkout lane, he'd probably give you a hard time.  If you drove slowly, he was probably calling you a whole host of names you'd never heard before.  He could be downright hilarious when ranting in his sarcastic, yet not too caustic way.  He made people laugh.  He was one of those people other people call, "a character".

I knew all of his strengths and weaknesses. I knew his flaws and quirks.....a combined experience of time with him, stories from my grandmother and my aunt and uncles...and sometimes even from him, when I could get him to open up about his early years and the hurts he lived through. I knew more about him, and what made him tick, then he probably knew.

Because of that, I knew underneath that prickly exterior was a soft heart.  He would visit and wrestle with his grandchildren.  He would go to the beach with us when we would visit him. Every card he ever sent me was sentimental....at least twenty lines of Hallmark poetry across pink paper and contained in gold, foil-lined envelopes.  His Christmas cards were always portrayals of Mary and Jesus, even though he didn't believe.  He knew that my brother and I did.

As I sifted through my memories of him while planning his memorial service, I realized that my father had never yelled at me.  My parents were divorced when I was only two, so that removed some opportunity for irritation towards me, but he saw us regularly for his visitation. In 34 years, I don't recall a single incident in which he expressed anger towards me.  He saved that for that outside world.

He loved his mother and siblings, especially his oldest brother, Mike.  Mike was his best friend and the bond between them was strong.  I was always glad that my father had him to rely on for companionship, because my father had lived alone for many years. Mike was a constant in my dad's small circle of relationships.

My father wasn't a perfect man.  He wasn't a perfect father....but he was the only father I had.

I'll miss him.










Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Second Coming

I would have thought that was going to happen before we ever had an I-Mac in the house.

One more thing I was wrong about!

We have a sleek I-Mac sitting in front of me this very moment.  The keyboard takes some getting used to.  It doesn't have that loud clicking sound of a traditional PC keyboard, and the actual board is extremely thin.

It's cool!

I'm back online in style, and DH finally has the computer he's always wanted....an early birthday gift to himself.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dead Computer

At the library.

Our Computer was pronounced dead last night at 8:16pm.

Computer, we knew ye well.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Undecided

Politics, politics everywhere....

So my support forum is all abuzz about last night's campaign. They are mostly Obama supporters, so there is a lot of McCain bashing going on. There are Republicans on the forum, but most of them steer clear of the political threads.

Then Assistant Village Idiot has a ton of posts about last night's debate which are fairly objective in their views. Then I read this quote:

"Democrats are going to vote for Obama, Republicans will vote McCain, Undecideds
are obviously not paying attention."


Like a stake to my heart....I say.....like a stake to my heart.

I am paying attention. Really I am. The problem is that I used to vote based solely on themes like this:



Which is not to say that I'm Catholic, because I'm not, but that being pro-life has made me choose some candidates over others with that issue as the deciding factor.

I am pro-life, but I have "lost the faith" in that as a deciding factor in this election cycle. I don't ever see Roe v. Wade being overturned. I don't believe that Obama and McCain are going to do anything striking in regards to abortion. The next few years are going to be overshadowed by the wars we're involved with and the financial mess our country is facing.

So...how does that impact my vote?

I like McCain's focus on cutting spending. I hate his willingness to even talk about going to war with Iran. That saber-rattling from him, and the administration, drives me crazy. We have enough on our plates to deal with...trying to intimidate a maniacal leader in Iran seems like waving meat in front of a starving cougar. It just feeds into Ahminejad's,"America is out to get us!" propaganda.

I like Obama's willingness to try diplomacy first.

On the other hand, I watched an interview in which Obama was asked why, specifically, he should be president and be the right person to deal with our current crises. He fumbled around, started going off-topic, and the interviewer called him back to the original question. Obama paused and said that he felt he was good at getting people to come together and work on things.

I felt like I was watching a job interview for middle management: "So, Mr. Obama, why should Acme Enterprises hire you? What are your strengths?"

I was not impressed.

McCain doesn't want to raise taxes and wants to make Bush's cuts permanent. I'm not usually for raising taxes, but this doesn't seem like the right time to make those tax cuts permanent. We have to get income from somewhere to pay down our debt and fund this bailout.

Obama wants to raise taxes on every family making over $250,000. He says that 95% of families will have relief.

That doesn't make sense. Most families that make $50,000 or less, which I would think are the vast majority in America, don't pay any real income taxes.

Ask me how I know.

I know because we do our taxes each year ourselves, and we fall into that category. By the time one takes standard deductions and factors in various credits for having kids, the amount owed is $0, and there is usually a refund involved.

Not that I'm complaining or anything. :-)

I just don't buy the smoke and mirrors of "relief for working families".

So...yes I am undecided. There are serious issues, more than the ones I have mentioned, that I care about which are not fully represented by either candidate. They are equally important to me.

It's not that I am not listening...it's just that I don't like what I am hearing.