Friday, January 29, 2010

JD Salinger

It's all over the news that JD Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, passed away.

My Google Reader is full of blog posts by people bemoaning his death and gushing over how influential Catcher in the Rye was in their life.

I can only scratch my head when I read things like that. Part of me wonders if the gushing is merely posing.

That's not a kind thing to think.

Yet....when someone says that Catcher in the Rye had a profound influence on them, or changed their lives, I can't help but wonder if I read a completely different Catcher in the Rye.

It's not that type of book, not a life-changing, inspirational, deeply affecting work.

It's a portrait of a teenage boy and his inner life as he careens around for a few days trying to get drunk and score with women and cement his image of himself.

What am I missing here?

How is that life-changing?

I'd really like to know how exactly Catcher in the Rye affected someone rather than read these vague, hollow phrases piled up like flowers at the grave of JD Salinger.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My grandmother seems to swing wildly between seeming as if she's on death's door and seeming as if she's just fine. I never know what I'm going to find when I visit her.

Today, while we were waiting for her lunch to show up so that I could help her eat, I asked her if she wanted me to read her paperback out loud to her.

She thought that would be a great idea.

Poor Grandma.

She missed all the sex scenes in her Trashy Supernatural Romance Novel.

I can't read the phrases "growing manhood", "scent of their lovemaking", and "burning lips" in front of my 86 year old grandmother....at least not without laughing hysterically.

Who'd have thought that I would have to censor my elder's reading material?

Everything Happens For A Reason...Part 2

I like to put the smackdown on people like Pat Robertson for their crazy, inappropriate notions when they invoke God's will as the reason for disaster. It's probably not fair of me, but I can't help it.

If I'm going to be perfectly honest, though, I can't really say that I don't believe in Providence, or Sacred Coincidences. In fact I can think of a few events in my life in which I would be dead without these Sacred Coincidences. To deny them or declare them mere happenstance would be almost sacrilegious to my being.

I couldn't utter the words, "I was just lucky," without feeling it a betrayal to God and myself. When moments pass through my mind in which I see the path that might have been, a cold chill settles over me which is then replaced by a feeling of immense gratitude. That gratitude is almost always directed towards God.

If I were completely consistent, I would deny these serendipitous moments possession of any intrinsic meaning.

Yet, I can't. It's impossible for me.

As I was thinking these things over, I couldn't help but think that everything may not happen for a reason, but that's not the same thing as saying that everything is meaningless. Meaning can be found in anything. However large or small a moment, however important or insignificant the times, there is always a place for finding purpose and meaning. It's not that God is causing A, B or C to happen, but that He is asking us what we will do with A, B, or C.

Maybe the best attitude to have is one of zen-like surrender, which doesn't fight against what is happening, but only seeks to react in a righteous way to it. Deep gratitude seems to well up in the hearts of those who understand the lack of control they have in a given situation. When you know you are at the mercy of Fate/God/Life/The Universe, and you surrender to whatever might be coming for you, you find the starting place for peace.

That sounds very Buddha-like... but it's no different than Paul learning to be content in all things or the lilies of the field being dressed by God. To worry about the "reasons" for some things is to lose a spiritual peace that is being offered to us.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Only The Names Change

In the middle of making dinner last night, I realized that the channel on the TV in the background was showing War Games. I left it on, reminiscing over the very young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and my eighties-era childhood.

The boys came in from outside and were instantly hooked and asked if they could watch the rest of it.

Coincidentally, we had just had a very long conversation about war, nuclear weapons, and the conflict between the US and Iran. They had picked up some basic ideas about Iran from snippets from the morning news shows that are usually on while everybody is getting ready in the morning. Having no concept of the Soviet Union, they mentally replaced that country with Iran as they were watching the movie. I had to explain that we were scared of a different country 25 years ago.

I realized that during the eighties the country was truly afraid of "global thermonuclear war" and that while we are definitely afraid of Iran creating nuclear weapons....it isn't quite the same as the interlocking conflict that was imagined between the two superpowers, the US and the USSR, during the several decades before the USSR disintegrated.

The world has become simultaneously scarier and less daunting than the "clash of the titans" scenario that loomed in the eighties; scarier because of the elusive nature of global threats, and less daunting because of the lack of organization and financial resources available to the enemy. Being small and agile makes for good secret ops, but doesn't lend itself well to total world domination.

It's comforting in a morbid way.

Health Care in the New Economy

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Friday, January 22, 2010

Treasure in Heaven....by way of these plastic buckets.

The Intuitive celebrated his 8th birthday about a week ago. He had decided that he wanted to go to a Christian concert that was being held nearby on his birthday. It was a major event and had several prominent CCM bands playing.

Winterjam--is what they called it.

The kids had fun and, more importantly, The Intuitive was excited and happy to be able to see "rock stars". The Intuitive's musical tastes lean toward metal/alternative/very loud.....and yes, he's only 8. I foresee this becoming an issue later. ;-)

Anyway....the kids were happy and thought the whole thing was awesome.

I held my tongue and later told DH that I was done attending Christian concerts. I just can't watch them anymore without cringing on the inside.

The weird combination of 40 year old men writhing on stages and trying to pump up the crowd and then attempting to make it a "God" thing.....I don't know....it's just become too much for me to handle and process without becoming sick.

The entrance fee was $10 per person. The venue it was held in can typically hold up to 21,000 people. I would say that 90% of the stadium was packed. 19,000 people in attendance=$190,000. Add in the VIP section that cost $50 a pop=another $5,000.

Add in the hawking of CD's by the emcee in between each band 1,000 CD's at about $10 each=$10,000.

Add in concert T-shirt sales...conservatively....1,000 at $20 each=$20,000

So, let's see....that puts the revenue at around $225,000....and that's probably a conservative number.

Imagine my shock when halfway through the concert the emcee announces that they going to taking up a "love offering" to defray expenses for meeting at this venue, which is larger than the venue they were at last year. He announces that he thinks that about $5 per person isn't an overly high expectation, but if someone could give more....like $20, $30, $50, or even $100 that would be awesome.

19,000 x $5=$95,000...+$225,000=$320,000

$320,000.....in one night....with constant hounding and guilt and manipulation.

$320,000 x 40 concert dates=$12,800,000.....that's almost 13 million dollars....and it's just a rough estimate.

Keep in mind that in between sets, "commercials" are being played promoting things like Camp Electric, a music camp for youth to train with CCM artists.....to the tune of $749-$799. According to the registration info that $749 gets a camper a room with three other campers. 4 kids in one room at $749=$2996 per room.

That doesn't cover airfare and transportation to the camp.

If Camp Electric isn't your style.....maybe you could take a cruise with other CCM groups to the tune of $1062-$6831 per person.

Perhaps it's obvious why I was feeling sick by the end of WinterJam.

There was a time when I would have thought something like WinterJam was incredible. I would have rocked out to the music and Amen'ed the manipulative speaker who WinterJam uses as their "pastor".

I would have thought it was all very cool and spiritual and motivating.

Now, it makes me want to punch someone in the eye.

While part of my frustration could be chalked up to simply being older, I think most of it comes from the sheer contrast of talk about God being mixed up in a never-ending, self-promoting, capitalistic push to sell CD's and concert tickets and worship camps.

Oh ...and speakers who use phrases like "that's wack" or "got hooked up" in an effort to seem cool annoy me. Plus.....those phrases are about a decade past being relevant. Teenagers don't use them anymore. And...if you're a middle-aged white guy....quit trying to appropriate urban, hip-hop lingo.

It's sad....really, really sad.

Miscellany

1. My grandmother has been moved out of the ICU, but will still be in the hospital for a while. I have seen her almost every day this past week and it's been hard to tell if she is improving....although today when I asked her if she felt any better, she responded,"Yes."

That was a first.

She still needs help eating and is too weak to do much, unable to bear her own weight, or even think about walking. This medical craziness has completely wiped her out.

I worry that she may never fully recover....but I am usually a medical pessimist...so hopefully she will prove me wrong.

2. I have continued running 2-3 miles several times a week. I had been hoping to do a 5K at the end of February, but I'm not sure my schedule is going to be able to fit it in. I have been working hard to improve my pace. I've managed to shave a little over a minute off of my per-mile average...but I still have a long way to go before I will feel like a true "runner". Right now I think of myself as a jogger with ambition. I'm aiming for a 5K on the beach in March. Maybe I'll be able to increase my speed even more by then. That's almost 2 months away.

3. Things are still dragging along with my father's house. Between the uncooperative weather and the crisis with my grandmother I am running behind schedule...again. I don't even know why I bother having a schedule. It only serves to mock me when I can't actually abide by it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My grandmother has been in the hospital for over a week, now.

She went in to have her gall bladder removed and things spiraled out of control, as they tend to do with elderly patients; a serious kidney infection, blood clots in her lungs, a heart attack that went undetected in the hospital until her enzymes showed evidence of it, and now kidneys that have stopped functioning....though they show signs of possibly recovering.

The first time I visited her in the ICU, she was completely wiped out. She didn't realize that I was there. Helpless to do much, other than ask the nurses to bring her an extra blanket when she complained of being cold, I sat and watched her in the dim light filtering out of the fluorescent bulb overhead.

I listened as she struggled to breathe, worried about her high respiration count, and worried that she might stop breathing. She has a DNR order, meaning that if she were to suddenly stop breathing, that would be the end for her.

I thought of the all the dinners I had eaten with her during my father's visitation weekends when I was a child. She taught me to love butter...the real thing. My mother's house only ever had margarine, or the yellow oily spread plopped into plastic tubs by industrial machinery. Dinner would always be big and wonderful and generously flavored with butter, only to be followed by a swirled, marble cake served with hot tea poured out of a tall, white, china teapot.

When my brother and I would visit my grandparents, my grandmother would set an enormous pile of Sunday comics that she had saved especially for me to read. I would sit and pore through each paper while she made dinner and my grandfather watched the Cubs lose, yet again.

For the last two days I have spoon-fed my grandmother jell-o and pudding and small puddles of hot tea. I've been happy to do it, because there is nothing else that I can do. I think about my father, her son, who isn't here to help his mother...and I know that I am there, not only for myself, but as a stand-in for the son who isn't here any more.

I feel the weight of that representation to her and my father's siblings. I am him...by proxy.

Familial duty. It isn't a burdensome weight, but it does feel a little strange to carry it, knowing that this crisis, and my father's absence in the circle around my grandmother's bed, is an unspoken sentence hanging in the air.

Right now, the doctors think her kidneys may be on the verge of recovering, though only time will tell. It's been the only hopeful news of the past week.

Still, after I fed her tonight, she drifted off to sleep and I sat like a watch-dog ready to pounce as I watched her heart rate linger in the 120's and occasionally spike up to 150.

Uncertainty lingers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Everything Happens for a Reason, Part 1

The Pat Robertson Brouhaha continues to both Brou and Haha throughout the internet and the world at large. Robertson's epitaph will undoubtedly refer to his death by Foot-in-Mouth Disease, a terminal case if ever there was one.

The question that is being asked throughout many Christian blogs revolves around whether or not God actively causes or allows disasters, such as Haiti's earthquake, as a punishment or judgement. Many of us, myself included, disavow the idea that events like Haiti's earthquake are any sort of divine reprimand or sign from God.

So where does that leave us? Do we deny the possibility that God could use death and destruction to achieve some sort of eternal purpose?

It puts Christians who want to view God's goodness as his Ultimate attribute in a sticky situation; if God doesn't interact in such a way with humankind, then we must explain most of the stories of the Old Testament in some way that isn't an avoidance of the idea of Divine Retribution.

One approach to take with biblical literalists/inerrantists would be to point out that in most of the Old Testament stories of God's divine judgement, people are warned beforehand. They are told of the impending doom headed their way, and if they repent of their wickedness, they are spared.....like Ninevah in the book of Jonah. I don't recall any prophets proclaiming that God was going to destroy a large portion of Haiti by an earthquake if they didn't break their supposed pact with the devil. It's only people like Pat Robertson, who like to play Monday Morning Quarterback, who make connections between disaster and God's judgement, at which point any message from God is moot.

A day late and a dollar short.

They might as well be reading chicken bones and tea leaves, because after-the-fact warnings are always based on speculation and trying to find reasons for things that have no discernible reason.

The Bible has competing themes communicated within it; one theme which confirms everything that happens as part of God's will, and another theme portraying God's will as less certain and changeable.

The idea that God fore-ordained everything, that He is in control of every action and every consequence, is at the heart of how the Israelites made sense of the world around them. If they wanted to know what God thought about something and hadn't felt that they had heard from Him, they would cast lots, consulting the Urim and Thummim to divine His will, or uncover information. If a husband was uncertain of his wife faithfulness, the priests would make her drink a special drink. If she got sick, or died, then that was proof that she had been unfaithful, if she had no ill effects, then she must be innocent of the charges.

A God who operates through the inference of disaster, lots, and poison drinks is the kind of God that operates the way Pat Robertson thinks he does. There is no difference between the two.

However, as Christians, we don't deal with God that way, and He is not said to deal with us that way. This is a break between the Old Testament portrayal of God and the New Testament portrayal of God. The Old Testament portrayal of God is of a God who is very precise and particular. He cares about details and ceremony and exactness.

Profaning God's holiness in some way, like accidentally touching the Ark of the Covenant, or burning the wrong kind of incense, or performing duties only meant for priests, resulted in quick deaths for the profaners, however accidental or purposeful their acts were.

But, in the New Testament, is that completely lost?

Maybe not. Paul talks about people dying for taking communion unworthily, and we have Ananias and Sapphira suddenly keeling over after misrepresenting the size of their donation, and Herod dying and being eaten by worms because he let people attribute God-like qualities to him.

The examples of Paul's unworthy communion eaters and Herod's death could possibly both be explained as early Christians reading into the events the idea that everything happens for a reason. Therefore, the conclusion they reach seems to fit within the overall view of a God who is in control of all things. However, this is a loose inference, not a claim of direct revelation from God. Paul frequently states conclusions based on his own logical if/thens without making any claim to have received a clear word or explanation from God.

While discussing those unworthy communion participants he writes:

1 Corinthians 11:18-19
18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.
Really? Why do there have to be differences among them?

This is a holdover of Paul's background beliefs. He makes no claim to knowing that the differences are from God. He just simply assumes that they exist because God must want it that way.

When trying to explain God's sovereignty, Paul uses his rhetorical skill once again:

Romans 9:19-24
19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

22
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
It's important to notice that Paul doesn't say these are the exact reasons that God has done certain things. No. Paul is simply arguing a point from what appears to be logical and consistent to him and his view of God. Once again, it's not a direct claim of knowledge about God's reasons, just a likely explanation in Paul's mind.

Yet....many people have taken Paul's strong opinions as direct communication from God, instead of simply taking them as an honest attempt by Paul to offer an explanation that makes sense to him and will hopefully redirect some of the problems the churches he is writing to are experiencing.

I'd liken it to what happens in life when we are discussing things we don't have an answer for. We comfort each other and propose theories about why such and such did, or didn't, happen to us. Maybe we lost our job because God has something better for us. Maybe we became sick in order to learn gratitude for the things we have in life. Maybe we missed that plane that wound up crashing without us on it because God has a plan for us. Maybe every trial we face is supposed to teach us a lesson of some sort.

These are the types of suppositions we all put forth in times of crisis, but we can never declare such ideas as completely true....and most of us would hesitate to put forth these speculations with any level of certainty.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ugh

Pat Robertson--always reliable for inappropriate, stupid responses to natural disasters.

Theology(not very good theology, BTW) divorced from compassion makes people say inhuman things.

I wonder if Pat happened to be in a horrible car accident and lost his legs, or had a house fall on him from a tornado sweeping by, if he would be so quick to assume that it was because God was mad at him and punishing him.

Where is that spontaneous bolt of lightning from heaven when it's needed?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti

Use Compassion International to donate to a disaster relief fund for Haiti.

$35.00 is all it takes to help provide a weeks worth of emergency supplies to a family.

Find a way to scrape that much together in these tough financial times and give knowing that tonight you have a place to live and food to eat, and you probably know where your family members are and whether or not they're alive.

Simple and Complex

Sometimes things I've been thinking about for a very long time, but can't quite find the words to articulate, are prompted by reading someone else's blog and commenting there. I'm like an enzyme; by myself I don't do much, but stir in the right ingredients and I actually find something to say or do.

What makes a religion become widespread? What makes it accessible and attractive to people? Why do some religions have memberships which grow into the millions, while others remain obscure and cult-like?

If one spends much time thinking about Christianity in comparison to other religions, trying to tease out its claims to exclusivity, comparing its beginnings to the beginning of other religions, one can quickly become discouraged by the similarities.

We can't simply rely on the argument that millions of people couldn't believe something that seems unlikely as a proof for our faith.

There is no good answer for why millions upon millions would believe that an angel appeared to Joseph Smith and gave him some golden plates, revealing "truths" about Jesus interacting with people in the Americas.

It seems preposterous and easily falsifiable. Where are these plates? Well, the angel took them back. What language were they written in? Reformed Egyptian, a language never seen or depicted anywhere else...except in Joseph Smith's mind. How did Joseph Smith know how to translate this unknown language? God magically revealed it to him.

It's preposterous. It's laughable. It's downright comedy gold. Yet, millions of people believe this and participate in a religion based upon the story of the golden plates.

Why?

Because Mormonism has enough basic "truth" in it for the average person to be persuaded that there might be something to it. A focus on family and service to the community, and a co-opting of most of Christianity's themes, make it accessible to people. People don't really worry about whether Joseph Smith was a big, fat liar if they are getting their basic spiritual needs met through a community of like-minded believers. Mormonism is simple enough to be appealing to people.

It's also complex enough to keep people coming back. Secret rituals, sacred spaces that one must be approved of in order to enter, and the highly organized, institutional nature of the Mormon church; all of them create a religion in which a person can spend quite a bit of time trying to obtain the next level of spirituality, the next level of approval by the religious leaders, and the feeling that they are actively going somewhere in their faith.

It "works" in some sense.

In order for something to be believed, in order for it to be perceived as True, it must be both utterly simple and very complex.

Scientology might be another candidate for the simple/complex concept. The unvarnished story of Scientology's underlying themes is as incredible and worthy of mockery as Joseph Smith's golden plates. Lord Xenu and the intergalactic battle that left behind disembodied "thetans" that invade our minds and cause us trouble, impeding our spiritual growth and success...are better suited to a comic book than to the real world. Yet, millions of people believe and participate in Scientology.

Scientology cheats in one regard that is similar to Mormonism; the holding back of "secret" knowledge until a member is deemed worthy of possessing it. It's not hard for people to believe crazy things if they are not told the nitty gritty details at the beginning of their faith. By the time they reach the proper spiritual level, they have been so encroached in the religion that it would be unthinkable to suddenly question the beliefs that have "worked" for them.

Scientology is "simple" in its belief that most of the trouble that we face as humans emanates from our mind and the destructive, negative thoughts we perpetuate. There is enough "truth" in that belief to appeal to people. Most people have the ability to recognize that they are frequently their own worst enemies. Scientology thrives on that simple "truth" and builds a complexity into it with all sorts of elaborations and secret knowledge. It keeps people coming back, hoping to obtain new levels in the religion.

The simple/complex principle pops up everywhere. Even the most uneducated person in the world understands gravity and what will happen to them if they fall off a ladder, and yet scientists spend their life's work exploring the ramifications of gravity on the macro and micro levels. The way gravity interacts with other forces is stunningly complex...but a five-year old doesn't need the stunningly complex explanation to know that the theory of gravity is "true".

The creationism/evolution debate is raging in faith communities because of the simple/complex concept. While creationism, on its face, may seem much simpler with its "God did it all in 6 days" answer, in comparison to evolution, I believe that creationism is failing because it is becoming much more complicated to believe in it. It isn't "simple" anymore. In order to explain discrepancies with scientific data, it has to posit scientific conspiracies and a God who wanted to "trick" us by making things seem older than they really are. Once a trickster God enters the picture, and the whole scientific community is viewed as a conspiracy-minded Illuminati, simplicity goes out the window.

Evolution, though complex, is also a simple enough concept that the general population can understand it and appreciate the "truth" of things changing and becoming new things....because our own lives, and bodies, are always changing. Evolution fits into concepts we already have.

Any "truth" that is really True must fit into the Simple/Complex category.

This comes into play in Christianity through our doctrine, what we believe, and how we approach finding the "answer" to something.

If we're trying to understand what Scripture says about something and our interpretation relies on an intricate, difficult to understand principle, then we need to re-think our interpretation. On the other hand, if everything gets boiled to down to "Be Nice", with no engagement of how exactly we do that in a complex, social environment, then that interpretation fails just as rapidly as the overly complex interpretation.

Often I read bloggers who are slightly snobby in their approach to Scripture, academics, and the right way to interpret a passage, sing worship songs and promote Christianity. They advocate that people should put in long, hard years of study before being allowed a public platform, or leadership, in churches or religious societies. I see their point and agree to some extent.

However, if a belief system operates at such a complex level that the novice can find no place to enter into it, no way to easily integrate it into their lives, then that belief system fails on a very substantive level. If only experts can apprehend a supposedly universal concept, then the concept must not be very universal.

If one has to learn Hebrew and Greek in order to properly understand Scripture and find the points of truth it holds, then it calls into question the idea that Scripture is meant to be understood and have an audience made up of common, average people. If one has to learn Hebrew and Greek, not to simply understand the text, but to better clarify details, fleshing out already established, simple truths, then one has found an approach that integrates the simple/complex concept quite nicely.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I deleted my last post yesterday because one part of it came off as more mean-spirited than I meant it.

chalk it up to a sarcasm fail.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Luxury of Non-Consideration

A couple of posts from other bloggers over the last week reminded me about the luxury of non-consideration that "normal" people have. One post revolved around the health care debate, and another post referred to Breast Cancer Awareness as being p0rnified.

Both bloggers were in good health and male....not that being male, in and of itself, will put someone on one side of a particular issue...though I think it had bearing on the second blogger's view of Breast Cancer Awareness.

I always find it ironic to read people who are in generally good health, with little experience dealing with doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, skewer any concept of universal or government-sponsored health care. Their declarations that the US form of health care is better than any other country's health care, their invocation of the "mess" of Canadian health care, and their general belief that everything in the US is peachy-keen seem born out of the good fortune of not having had to actually use the health care system as it is.

My point is not really about health care, but about how easy it is to form opinions and spout arguments.

The older I get and the more I learn....the less I "know".

Perhaps that's just the way life works. We're full of advice for parents and ideas about how to raise children until we actually have them and find ourselves swimming in the uncertainty and doubt that we ever had any clue about what we were getting into. We create political Utopias in our minds that could exist if "people just...a, b, c", ignoring the fact that "people" never "just...a, b, c,".

Maybe credulity and trust in our own views, formed without experiences, is a youthful hangover form childhood. Without first-hand knowledge to help us understand what we're talking about, we're left to imagine our imaginings as normative for everybody. We indulge in the unnoticed luxury of non-consideration...non-consideration of opposing viewpoints....non-consideration of how our views actually work out in the real world....non-consideration of what people who are not "normal", like us, are going through...and non-consideration of our blithe and empty comments.

It's impossible to consider everything and everyone. There is only so much empathy of which we can be capable.

But the over-used art of rhetoric and flippancy has got me down. Liberal, Conservative...I don't really care anymore.

The labels have lost their meaning in my mind.

Oh for reasonable, thoughtful people to rule the world!

If people would only just think about the issues with a little more thought!

misguided combinations

1. orange juice + freshly brushed teeth

2. chocolate + freshly brushed teeth

3. John Tesh


playing the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" on his radio show

....a song that is popularly believed by fans to be about masturb@tion....or about being completely strung out on heroin.

now that's just wrong! ;-)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Catching Up, Catching My Breath

The Holidays raced past me in a flurry of activity. I'm still scratching my head, trying to remind myself that it's 2010 as I write the date on checks and notes.

How can it be that a decade has passed since the turn of the century?

Christmas was spent with my in-laws, who spoiled us as always. The kids were loaded down with gifts, the extended family ate a lot of food and everyone was in a great mood. I also happened to turn 36, now closer to 40 than 30. If I live to be 72, I believe that would make me "middle-aged".

Joy.

To counteract my ruminations on getting older, I give undue weight to the meaningless comments of service people....like the waiter at Applebee's who called me "Miss" instead of "Ma'am"......or the Lowe's paint employee who asked his coworker to help "that young lady" over there because he was already helping someone else. And no...these men weren't 70 years old in which case any woman under 50 is a "Miss" or "Young Lady".

I tell myself that I must be positively radiating youthfulness at my advanced age!

The very fact that I am having this internal conversation about my age and actually treasuring these comments with a certain amount of self-satisfaction is laughable and wholly due to the mental deterioration that happens as we age.

It's all downhill from here! ;-)

Work has progressed at my dad's house. The bathrooms are tiled and the kitchen and front entryway also. Providence was with me as I was loading my tiny Corolla down with heavy boxes of tile. A man approached me asking if I was looking for a tile setter. I said maybe and he gave the number of his neighbors who needed the work and were really good. They came in, did the work for a great price and did it well.

DH and I painted most of the exterior of the house, though the cold weather interfered with us completing it. Apparently you're not supposed to paint if the temperature is below 50 degrees. Curse you Arctic Air!

I stayed behind at my dad's house when DH headed up to his Mom's to pick up the kids. The Rationalist had a science project due the first day back from Christmas vacation. His "group project" wound up being a solo project. He managed to take on the responsibility of doing all the work himself with minimal complaint. He's had his first lesson in learning that friends who are the most "fun" are not always the ones you want to do, or should do, projects with.

I had one of my tri-annual, follow-up appointments with my oncologist which put me in a foul mood, though nothing major happened. He's a bit of a cold fish, and while he's not terrible, I never felt very connected to him, or very validated during my office visits with him. I had contemplated looking for someone else before I went through treatment, but felt like I didn't have the time. I told myself that I was only having a short course of chemo, 3 months, and then I would be mostly done with him....I wasn't thinking about follow-up visits for the next 5 years.

Now, I regret not looking for someone else. He comes into the office, asking about how I'm doing, whether I'm experiencing side effects from the anti-hormonal medication I have to take each day. I tell him that, yes, actually I've been really struggling with several side effects, the worst being a period of severe depression at the end of September that really scared me.....simply because it seemed so out of character for me and wholly different from any other feeling of depression I had ever had. At the same time I was dealing with some other side effects that were actually causing me pain. I decided in October to go off the meds for 2 months to see if my symptoms improved.

They did....very dramatically.

I restarted my medication at the beginning of December in an effort to give it another try. I am supposed to take it for 5 years...a prospect which seems daunting considering that I haven't tolerated it well.

My oncologist stared at me blankly and said, "Well, at least I got you to do chemo." I'm not sure why, but this pissed me off immensely. The understated disapproval and general feeling of dismissiveness of my struggle with the medication as being somewhat "whiny" made me roll my eyes and simply wish for the office visit to end quickly.

I left wishing I had found someone a little more supportive and interested in my overall well-being way back in the beginning of this. It was discouraging, mainly because I have been feeling quite fabulous lately and as if I have put the whole "cancer" thing behind me. Visiting him simply dragged me back down to "patient" mode.....in which I have to obsess about my cancer stats, my risk of recurrence, and the unsettling knowledge that the only reason I go to the oncologist is so they can "watch" me....looking for anything that might be wrong with me....checking for tumor markers.

I'm so over it.