Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Busting my Buttons

DRUM ROLL PLEASE..... I hereby would like to offer HUGE congratulations to a young lady I am extremely proud of. Jordan L. just completed her GED. She has big plans to move on to BYU Hawaii to study music. Look out world Here She COMES!

Jordan was one of my students when I taught GED. She was (and IS) smart, talented, and all around pretty wonderful. Students like this are a true joy to teach. For one reason or another, traditonal high school just didn't click with her. But once she got into my class, she really started to take off.

I only taught the class for one term, so I didn't get to see my students all the way to their graduations. But I just got an e-mail from Jordan tonight letting me know that she finished and thanking me for my part in her success. She said some really kind things.

This is just a part of what she said:

"I read a quote recently and it makes me think of you. Here it is: "We are each one of us angels, with only one wing--- and we can only fly when embracing each other----" I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for lending me your wing and helping me to fly! You told us that we can be whoever we want to be, and I may not know exactly "who" that is yet, but I do know that through Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ anything is possible. And through them I have hope, hope to KNOW that I can someday become the best "me" that I never knew I could be! YOU have helped me realize that hope. Thank you sooo much! You have, and always will have, a special place in my heart."

Man, it doesn't get much better than that.

On top of being very bright, this young lady has a marvelous voice and is very musically talented. Besides that she just has the sweetest spirit. I know she is going to accomplish great things. It's a good feeling to know that I was blessed with the opportunity to be part of her journey. You rock Jordan!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Different Worlds

Tonight my sweetie and I were watching a PBS special on the Kingston Trio. For him, it brought back many fond memories. He used to sing songs like "Where Have All The Flowers Gone", "Green Back Dollar", and "Tom Dooley" in high school assemblies in the early '60's.

Right about that time I was starting kindergarten.

So by the time I became conscious enough to pay attention to music, the hey day of folk tunes had come and gone. Oh sure, I was familiar with Peter, Paul & Mary and Joan Baez. But that wasn't what I grew up listening to.
During my teen age years I was listening to Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Cream, the Doors, Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath. My friends and I loved the song "War Pigs". If you ask my husband, he would say that was NOT music at all. We sort of grew up in different worlds.

He was in high school when Kennedy was assassinated. I was six. He was in college when we sent our first man to the moon... I was still reading Nancy Drew books and climbing trees. His computer classes in college used IBM punch cards that were sent to a main frame machine that filled an entire room at a different facility. I went in learning how to program DOS on a PC.

It's interesting being so closely bonded to a man whose whole world experience has been so radically different from my own. It's almost like I had married someone who was of a different nationality. Our frame of reference for what is cool, what is fun, and what is important very seldom fits on the same page. We've cancelled out each other's votes in most elections. We learned early on NOT to try buying each other clothing, music or books.

The nice thing about this relationship, however, is that we both have learned to appreciate many things than neither one of us would have tried on our own and we've developed a healthy dose of tolerance for respecting each other's view even when we disagree.

In our early days together his friends and family were all shaking their heads, figuring my man was going through some sort of middle age crazy to hook up with "that head-in-the clouds hippie girl" and my pals were wondering what in the world I was doing with some straight Republican cowboy with good manners when they knew me to generally have a strong preference for bad boys in leather on motorcycles who never called anyone Mame. Clearly, by most accounts, our being together made absolutely no sense.

But when I'm in the crook of this guy's arm I feel like all the planets have lined up and the universe is smilin' on my soul. After twenty five years of marriage we've learned to compromise and negotiate a plenty. Some of the differences have been quite humorous, and a few have caused frustration, disappointment or outrage. But through it all, there's never been any question that our spirits were meant to fill each other up.

If you've ever read Shel Silverstein's book The Missing Piece, that pretty much sums up the way he and I fit.

Our tastes and habits and opinions remain very, VERY different in many ways.

But I don't need a reflection of me to love.

I need someone I can appreciate, respect, learn from and play with.

I got that and then some. I'd say I'm one lucky lady to have this man in my life.
We've travelled the world together, shared heartaches and victories, and through it all continued to make each other laugh. I may never understand why he likes to watch professional bull riding or how he can stand surrounding himself with the stuffed carcasses of dead animals. He will in all likelihood never get it when I want to talk about existential angst. But he'll listen anyway. And he'll try. And sometimes he'll even give me the remote. What more can a girl ask for than that?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Twinkie Madness

I was cleaning out my pantry the other day and found an ancient twinkie way in the back, behind the pasta and legumes. I have no idea how long the thing had been there. Frankly, I don't eat 'em. Anything with a shelf life as long as a twinkie has sorta scares me.

But my beloved has a fondness for the cream filled cakes - he especially likes them as the base for strawberry shortcake. So I'm guessing this was a left over from the last time we had fresh strawberries. Frankly, that has been quite a while.

I was ready to just pitch the nasty thing. My sweetie, however, insisted it was still perfectly good, even if a bit on the smashed side. Afterall, the package was still sealed. He thought it would be wasteful to throw away perfectly good junk food.

We got int a long, convoluted, interesting conversation about comfort food in general, and the sort of mental / emotional associations we have with different types of food.

Twinkies have been around since 1933 and were named after a shoe company. As a major sponsor of the Howdy Doody show in 1950, the spongy little snack cakes became quite popular just around the time my darlin' man was attending grade school and would occassionally get one in his packed lunch on those few rare occassions when he did not go home to eat.

During the 60's when there were huge fears of a nuclear attack, many bomb shelters were built. Twinkies were one of the most popular items to have because it was said that they "stay fresh forever".

Far be it from me to play food police, but honestly, I have a difficult time seeing someone I love eat a twinkie.

This opinion was more or less reinforced when I read the recent article about the ingredients of Twinkies on MSNBC....here's just one brief excerpt:
To stay fresh on a grocery-store shelf, Twinkies can't contain anything that might spoil, like milk, cream or butter. Once you remove such real ingredients, something has to take their place—and cellulose gum, lecithin and sodium stearoyl lactylate are a good start. Add the fact that industrial quantities of batter have to pump easily through automated tubes into cake molds, and you begin to get the idea. Even so, it can be unsettling to learn just how closely the basic ingredients in processed foods resemble industrial materials. Corn dextrin, a common thickener, is also the glue on postage stamps and envelopes. Ferrous sulfate, the iron supplement in enriched flour and vitamin pills, is used as a disinfectant and weedkiller. Is this cause for concern? Ettlinger says no, though you wouldn't want a diet that consists solely of Twinkies. Ultimately, all food, natural and otherwise, is composed of chemical compounds—and normal ingredients like salt have industrial applications, too. Still, it gives you pause when he describes calcium sulfate, a dough conditioner, as "food-grade plaster of Paris."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Humor in a world of technological communication

I work in an environment where raging politics and conflicting personalities sometimes get tedious to the extreme. There has been some "stuff" going on lately that has had my nerves feeling just a bit ragged.

So I very much appreciated it when an e-mail was sent out to the whole campus with the following notice at the bottom:

IMPORTANT: This email is intended for the use of the individual addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is confidential, privileged or unsuitable for overly sensitive persons with low self-esteem, no sense of humour or irrational metaphysical beliefs. If you are not the intended recipient, any dissemination, distribution or copying of this email is not authorised (either explicitly or implicitly) and constitutes an irritating social faux pas. Unless the word absquatulation has been used in its correct context somewhere other than in this warning, it does not have any legal or grammatical use and may be ignored.
DISCLAIMER: No animals were harmed in the transmission of this email, although the yorkshire terrier next door is living on borrowed time, let me tell you. Those of you with an overwhelming fear of the unknown will be gratified to learn that there is no hidden message revealed by reading this warning backwards, so just ignore that Alert Notice from Microsoft. However, by pouring a complete circle of salt around yourself and your computer you can ensure that no harm befalls you and your pets. If you have received this email in error, please add some nutmeg and egg whites and place it in a warm oven for 40 minutes. Whisk briefly and let it stand for 2 hours before icing.

Gotta love it.... the actual message dealt with something that people are being rather prickly about. This helped keep it all in perspective and gave me a good laugh that was much needed.


I have finally finished listening to my latest unabridged book on CD – George Orwell’s 1984. It was not a “fun” book, but definitely gave me a lot to think about it. I’d read it the first time in my early 20’s. Both the world and my own individual perspective have shifted a lot since those days, so I thought it would be worth giving it another go to see what I think of it now.

My two favorite concepts from this book are “double think” and “double plus good quack speech.” I see lots of evidence of both of those in our current social arrangements.

I’m glad I hung in there all the way to the end of the book, even though at several points I wanted to bail out simply because the environment and characters being portrayed felt too dismal to spend time with. Even though it was an uncomfortable read at times (especially the torture scenes), there were several concepts in the book that were more than a little intriguing to consider.

The first time I read it many years ago I found the whole premise of the story to be absurd. I thought it was ludicrous to create a world where governmental officials would dish out preposterous lies totally counter to documented evidence and expect people to simply believe them.

Um…hmmm…… yeah, right. I’d say at this point that doesn’t feel so ludicrous.

I read a quote recently that said: “Intelligence is knowing you can only believe half of what you hear. Wisdom is knowing which half to believe.” (Anonymous)

That anonymous guy sure comes up with a lot of very cool phraseology.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Answer to Prayers

After some precarious days of wondering if he’d ever get a job, my #1 son is now gainfully employed. He scored a position with a major corporate law firm in Michigan where he will be working on the discovery team gathering evidence for some big deal law suit they are handling. The mix of relief and pride in his voice as we spoke on the phone tonight brought tears to my eyes. As a family we’ve banded together in prayer for weeks now, asking in faith that he might find a suitable position. This news came as such a blessing. The minute we hung up the phone my husband and I laughed and cried and then dropped to our knees to thank Heavenly Father for providing this opportunity for our boy.

As a parent, it has been extremely difficult watching him go through his tough times. Sadly, his marriage did not survive the struggle of law school and student poverty. His wife decided some months ago that she’d had enough and called it quits. Divorce proceedings are in the works, with them sharing joint custody of their 20 month old baby boy. That has been very painful all the way around.

During the last months before he graduated, he was in such an emotional tail spin trying to save his marriage with no success. He was truly devastated. We were very worried about him. Finally, however, he recognized that all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men couldn’t put the fractured relationship back together again. No matter what he did at that point, it wasn’t going to fix. That was a sobering time. But he got through it, picked himself up and started moving forward again.

Then came the anti-climax of graduation followed by the long bleak days of looking for jobs that did not appear. His credit was over extended, the bill collectors were calling and he was doing all he could do just to survive. There were times during that period when he got so overwhelmed and discouraged. He faced a lot of very lonely, bleak nights.

But the kid never gave up. Tonight he is excited about starting his new job tomorrow. Even though I couldn’t see his face, just from the inflection in his voice I could tell he was grinning from ear to ear.

I am so very grateful for this upturn in my son’s life. He’ll have a long haul ahead of him to carve his way out of all the debt he has accumulated and much healing to do from the shambles of his emotional life. But sustained by his faith in Christ and with the support of a family that loves him, I’m confidant eventually he’ll come through it ok.

Clearly, this job is a step in the right direction. For me, it very much feels like a direct answer to some fervent prayers.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Music feeds my soul

I mentioned in an earlier post that my husband just got a new guitar. He has several, including a decent 12-string, (an Epiphone which is sort of a poor-man's Gibson) and a Guild hollow body electric with a lovely sunburst finish on it. But his new toy is a Martin D-16GT. It's got great sound and he says the neck fits his hand way better than any of his other instruments. It has been wonderful hearing him play it.

My older brother is a professional musician in Boise. I grew up around musicians and started going to clubs to hear them play when I was fourteen or fifteen. (No one bothers to ask for ID if you walk in with the band carrying an amplifier).

I can remember long afternoons in Phoenix when Andy would drag me along from one pawn shop to the next looking for musical treasures. He still has a fondness for guitar shopping...even though he owns over 40. At this point he really can't justify bringing home any more, so when he found this particular instrument that had such a sweet sound he asked my beloved if HE might want it. I think Andy just couldn't stand to pass it up, and this way at least he'll still get to play it every time they get together.

My husband will never be a player on the level that my brother is. Andy has years of finger picking experience that my husband's fat cow-milker fingers just can't wrap around. Still, my darling husband has a fine singing voice, and his chord changes are smooth. He plays for a while just about every evening before getting ready for bed. As with most anything that is well practiced, his playing has truly improved over the years. Best of all, he's finally starting to learn a wider range of songs. Early on it seemed all he ever played were old Jim Reeves tunes until I was ready to hit him over the head with a cast iron skillet. Now days he's more willing to experiment with music I like - Neil Young, Paul Simon, Nitty Gritty Dirt band, Cat Stevens and others.

Over the holidays we got together in Boise at Andy's house with my oldest brother from New Mexico, who happens to be a drummer. Having both brothers and my husband all making music together was an amazing thing. Wayne's wife, Retta, played along on a drum of her own as well. She freely admitted that it was new to her and that she wasn't particularly proficient. But she loved the feeling of the percussion in her hands and enjoyed participating all the same.

I was awed by her courage. I LOVE music, but I stink at all attempts to produce it myself. I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and I have no natural sense of rhythm at all. The very idea of playing in front of others - even close family or friends -has been unthinkable. The prospect of exposing my mediocrity leaves me shaking with horror. This is probably compounded because my brothers both have very high standards musically. While we are great friends now, I took more than my share of ridicule as a kid growing up. Part of the end result of that has been that my fear of performing badly has been so profound I would never even pick up a simple tambourine or kazoo.
But as I approach my 50th birthday I've decided to change a few things. One is to give myself more permission to take chances and make mistakes. I don't have to master music to be passionate about the effort. At virtually ALL family gatherings in our tribe people pick up instruments and start jamming. Someone will be on a mandolin, or maybe pick up an auto harp and just start riffing out some licks. Only Andy has ever been a professional. But all the rest give their best efforts all the same. Except for me. I have hidden in the background or declared myself "audience" for as long as I can recall.

I've decided it's time to shift that pattern. So I've bought myself a new toy. Today I picked up a Doumbeck African Drum, made in Egypt. I was the winning bidder on e-bay. It should arrive in a week or so.
I have no illusions that I am ever going to be a great drummer. But with some practice, I will be able to hold my own at the next family jam session.
I'm tired of being careful and limiting myself to those areas where I've already demonstrated my expertise. I want to go out on a limb more often. I'm likely to crash and burn a time or two, but taking risks is the only way I'll ever learn or grow. I'm excited about this new venture. Who knows? Maybe I'll find a women's drumming group who can show me a thing or two. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Prayers for Amillia

I was blown away by the MSNBC story about the infant from Miami born after just 21 weeks & 6 days of gestation. Amillia Sonja Taylor was just 9½ inches long and weighed less than 10 ounces when she was born.
Sorta makes you rethink that whole question about when a fetus becomes a person, eh?
Ethically though, I am also troubled by the etreme measures people are willing to go through in order to create a new baby when there are so many thousands of babies alive today who have no one to love and care for them. This infant was conceived through invitro fertilization and then required hundreds of thousands of dollars of special care after birth. I'm certainly not suggeting the parents did not have a right to conceive a child of their own if that was their desire. I'm just raising the question about why so many folks are hell bent on perpetuating their own genes and chromosomes instead of lovin' on one of God's kids already here.

Monday, February 19, 2007


My brother and his wife came up this weekend from Boise to bring my beloved his new guitar. (my brother found a really nice Martin in one of the music stores in Boise - knowing my hubby was in the market for a new piece he called to let us know this one was pretty special and was priced reasonably. We sent a check in the mail and now it's here....perhaps more about that later.)

So last night we cooked green chilies and talked, made music, generally had a great visit.

Then today we headed over to Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, the Native American museum on the nearby reservation, adjacent to Wildhorse Casino.

Some "cultural interpretive centers" linked with Native American Casinos are little more than glorified gift shops. Tamastslikt, however, is the exception. It's really a very powerful place full of lots of significant displays and has been very well done.

It had been a couple years since the last time I visited the place so I expected there would be some changes, but I was quite astonished by how much they have added. Whether it be the information on the journey of Lewis & Clark, the history of Native American boarding schools, the impact of dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers or just the "day in the life" displays of tools, beadwork, etc it was all done exceptionally well.

I've been a museum junkie from way back and have been to my share of both big and small, grand and funky. This one is a real gem. For anyone travelling through Umatilla County, Oregon, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


*Note - I've made a couple corrections since this was originally posted.

Over on the website for St. Silouan Orthodox Church there is a powerful piece of writing by Fr. Seraphim Bell.

I am not Orthodox. (I'm active LDS.)However, I have come to develop deep respect for the Orthodox people that I know and have grown spiritually in my own tradition by the discussions I have had with them regarding their faith.

Lent is a very big deal to the Orthodox.

Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening. Then, throughout the entire forty day period the fast includes avoiding meat, meat products, fish, dairy products, and all sexual relations. Of course, in practice some are more dilligent in observing the fast than others, and there are exceptions made for children, nursing mothers or those with special health considerations. But more important that the "don'ts" of the fast are the sacred sacraments they will participate in - some daily - to give them spiritual strength to do the inner work of self examination and repentance that are such an integral part of the fast.

What impressed me the most about what Fr. Seraphim wrote was his emphasis on PREPARING for the fast that was coming up. He councils his congregation to look ahead to what is coming and make plans for how they can arrange their schedules as well as prepare their hearts to make this lent season more meaningful. I can learn from that.

What do I do on a personal level to fully prepare for taking the sacrament or attending conference? As I am going through my own Christian walk, what steps am I willing to take to prepare for the celebration of Easter as a holy commemoration of the atonement and resurrection rather than a day for chocolate bunnies and eggs?

I will not observe the same dos or the don'ts of Orthodox Lent. But I have made a personal commitment to focus some specific spiritual study and to tackle some areas of my own behavior & attitudes that need to change if I am going to fully walk my talk in trying to live a Christ like life.

Last year I attended Pascha services with my Orthodox friends and went to Bright Monday picnic. Both were very special. I also went to the service commemorating the life of St. Mary of Egypt, the first saint that I ever took any particular interest in and whose story taught me a great deal about repentance and forgiveness. I don't expect I'll be doing those same things this year. However, I will be thinking a lot about the meaning of my faith and what role it has in my life.

I know that there are some Orthodox people (Fr. Seraphim included) who would say that I am not Christian at all because I do not believe in a Trinity and I do not accept the Nicene Creed. Regardless of their opinion of my belief or practices, I believe that being a Christian is about making a personal commitment to accept the teachings of Jesus Christ as true principles and then to diligently do all I can to pattern my life in accordance with those teachings. I believe is is about accepting the Atonement as a sacred miracle that makes it possible for me to become dead to the "natural man" and to be renewed as a child of God.

When I hear the Orthodox choirs sing the line about "trampling out death by death..." or "Kyrie Eleison" in THOSE moments I feel a complete accord with them.

So even though my doctrinal beliefs are quite different from those taught in Orthodoxy, I am ever so grateful for all they have taught me and I look forward to this season of the Sacred fast of Lent as yet another chance to draw closer to the God that created me, to ponder and learn through promptings of the Holy Spirit, and to examine my life in a deeper, more signficant fashion that I ordinarily do day to day.

My prayers will go out in behalf of my Orthodox friends, and my desire will be that each one of us in our own way will know with more surety that we are beloved sons and daughters of God.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Am I a Snob??

I am currently enrolled in a leadership training program at a local college. One evening each week I go for seminars that are supposed to teach me how to make those tough power decisions, how to lead people effectively, how to craft policy, etc etc. The actual content of the classes so far have not really given me any new information, but I figured it would be worth participating in this program for the contacts I’d make and the networking I could do.

My current job goes away at the end of the grant period, so I know I will be changing positions sometime in the next year and a half. During that time I want to clarify my values regarding what sort of work I’d really like to do and get myself established in a work environment (and possibly a different community) where I can make a positive contribution and feel a sense of connection.

So when I went to my class Thursday evening, one of the specific outcomes I was looking for was to meet two or three people who might be a good resource for me to model or learn from as I sort out my future option. There were about 18 participants in the seminar sitting at tables that each held 3 people. I got there early, so I sat down in an empty room and looked over the materials as I waited to see who else would come.

As it turned out, the two other people who sat by me were both unemployed middle age women with limited educations who were taking classes in the hope of it helping them get work. Neither of them had ever held professional positions and their idea of what a “good” job was seemed to be light years different from my perspective. They were nice enough ladies. But they were clearly NOT the sort of contacts I had been hoping to meet.

Throughout the seminar I would catch myself looking longingly over at some of the other groups, wishing I’d sat in a different spot. There were plenty of movers and shakers in the room. Just not at my table. I stayed with those women and made conversation in a positive way. Yet I felt myself rather dismissing them because it didn’t appear that either one of them had much to offer me in terms of either mentoring or peer rapport, the things I was specifically hoping to get.

Ever since that experience I’ve been doing some self examination about my expectations and how I interact with other people. In my private social life I really don’t give a rip how much education a person has or what type of work they do. I have friends with GED and friends with PhD, and enjoy the company of folks across a wide spectrum of the socio economic ladder. So I don’t really think of myself as being a snob. What I look for in people I hang out with is authenticity, an open & curious mind, and positive enthusiasm for life. The more a person displays THOSE characteristics, the more I generally enjoy being around them regardless of what the details of their history are or what their current social position may be.

However, in this particular seminar setting, I paid big bucks to go get some professional training and networking opportunities. So in that context, I was looking specifically for how I could get the most return on my investment. I was more than willing to offer the knowledge & resources I had to others, but I also wanted a chance to find some value in return.

I never thought of myself as being a better or more important human being than the two women at my table. But, clearly, I felt like they were not even in the same league as me professionally. In that particular context they appeared to have nothing to offer. As such, I wanted to move on.

So why didn't I? I suppose I could have excused myself and moved to a different table. However, I sat with those two women through the remainder of the evening and was able to give one of them some tips about a couple different job opening that I knew of. Rather than finding a resource, I became a resource for someone else. That’s a good thing, right?

I suppose so, in a way. Still, I felt really disappointed about how the evening had played out. Beyond that, I cringed with dread as I was leaving when one of them said “see you next week, save us a spot, ok?” I have NO intention of sitting with them again. My rationale is that I want to sit with different people EVERY time so that I meet the widest range of people possible. But I know in my heart that had they been powerful movers and shakers I would have felt honored to be invited to join them again. So if I’m being really honest with myself, I have to admit that I was judging them negatively and planning to move away from them in the future based on their lack of education and professional experience.

I hate it when I catch myself judging people.

And yet…I am mindful of an experience I had when my sons were in middle school. They had a group of kids playing in the yard. A couple other kids I did not know showed up and wanted to play, My oldest son told them no, they could not participate in the game and they had to leave. I was very concerned about this so I called my son in to talk about it. I asked him why he wouldn’t include the other boys. He said “Mom, I know you are always teaching me to be accepting of other people, and that’s fine. But there are some people who you just don’t want playing in your yard.”

We had a long talk about that – who we have as friends and who we don’t and why. I’ve never forgotten that conversation. I’ve also never entirely come to terms with my own ambivalence over who I will include in my social circle and who I will not.

In my church congregation I can honestly say there is not one single person I would be unwilling to take a meal to if they were sick or to help in some other way if it were in my power to do so. Yet there are plenty of people I have no desire to be “friends” with. These people I greet in a polite manner, but keep myself somewhat aloof from. I can think of one particular woman who made overtures of trying to get to know me better when I first moved here. She and her husband have few friends and really seemed to want to get to know my husband and I as potential new buddies. I almost immediately sensed them both to be energy vampires, fearing if I spent any extended time around either one of them they’d suck the life right out of me. So I pulled way, way back. I’ve always suspected I may have hurt their feelings by my total unwillingness to be friends with them. I’m “nice” to them and always make a point of going over to shake hands and say hello. But I have no desire or willingness to include them in my personal life.

So what does that say about me?

The flip side of all this is my very vivid memories of moving into a community 2 moves ago where I was trying diligently to make new friends. One particular woman who I was eager to get to know better completely shut me off, telling me outright “I already have a circle of friends and I just don’t have time for another right now. I appreciate that you would like to get together, but I have to be very selective of the commitments I make so I really don’t have room in my life for what you want to do.” She did however accommodate OTHER people who came in new on the scene. Just not me. I remember how that stung.

I’m thinking of all this in context of who I associate with and who I do not. Our time and emotional resources are limited cups. We cannot possibly give everyone equal access to our schedules or our hearts. Yet what criteria will I use to decide who gets on the boat of my attention and positive regard and who does not?

There have been three particular people that I have really tried to “make friends with” here who I thought would be lots of fun to know, but who did not reciprocate. There are others who have reached out to me that I have deliberately withdrawn from.

What does it mean to “love thy neighbor”? Where does my social/spiritual obligation or opportunity start and stop?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Discovering Dr. Who

I am not much of a television watcher. We have the standard box, plus an obscenely huge big screen in husband's room with the aforementioned dead things on walls where I seldom go. I will do the occasional channel surfing, but I generally choose to read, write, or do other things on those rare occasions when I find myself with some discretionary time. I have no smug sense of pompous superiority about that (as I have sensed from some anti-TV folk). I merely have never developed much interest in TV.

The problem with satellite TV is that it just takes you twice as long to figure out that there's usually nothing but junk on. Also, I get very annoyed when even when I've chosen some reasonably tasteful programs to watch I get inundated with dreadful commercials like those of Smiling Bob promoting Enzyte for "Natural Male Enhancement" or "Girls Gone Wild" videos, interspersed with ads for shows like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" or "gay, straight or taken?" Thank you, NO.

Tonight, however, I spent a little time with the husband-person cuddling on the couch while he flicked channels. One of the choices that scrolled up was Dr. Who. I had remembered reading something about how Torchwolf was a major Dr. Who fan, so I thought I'd check it out.

OH MY WORD. What an interesting, quirky, bizarre show. The dialogue had me in stitches. I don't know enough of the background of the storyline to make heads or tails of it, and I'm totally unfamiliar with the characters. Still, it was a hoot.

I grew up watching hour upon hour of Star Trek and was a hard core Star Wars fan for years; I used to love watching DS9. I've been to a couple different Sci Fi conventions and have read dozens upon dozens of sci fi novels over the years. So shows with lots of strange aliens and space travel feel fun and familiar to me. But Dr. Who was different from the usual American space fare I've grown accustomed to. Maybe it's the British influence? Don't know. But the flavor is decidedly different, in a good way.

I still don't expect to spend much time in front of the boob tube, but this is a show I'd watch again.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Homemaking Meme

I picked up this Meme of domestic questions in alphabetical order over at Mimi's Bigger than a Breadbox blog...I thought it was sort of interesting so I decided to give it a go (with some minor adaptations).

A is for APRONS
Do you wear one?

YES. I have four or five folded on the shelf in my pantry. My favorite one is a bright blue paisly full body apron that my son made for me in home-ec class during fifth or sixth grade. Of course, I grew up in a world where boys took shop and girls took home ec, but he came of age at a time where the both genders were equally welcome in either class. I also used to have a really cool plastic pie server that he made in shop, (I guess learning how to cut and bend the acrylic was pretty cool) but it got left at a cub scout pot luck many years ago. I still miss it.

B is for BAKING
What is your favorite thing to bake?

My husband makes awesome applesauce cookies. He also makes great pies. I don't bake. In fact, I'd live on bag-o-salad and canned soup if weren't married to such a good cook. He rules the kitchen.

Do you use one?

Nope - I have a gas dryer. I did have a clothesline for a while in Arizona and also in Ohio. Maybe in Michigan? I love the smell of sheets taken fresh from a line. But the convenience of the drying definitely wins for me.

D is for DONUTS
Have you ever made them?

It has been MANY years - but yes; My husband has fond memories of the donuts his mom used to make when he was a little kid - usually whenever they butchered a pig and were rendering the lard. Makes my arteries feel thick just thinking about it, but from his accounts they were mighty yummy! These days if we want a sweet treat we stick to tapioca pudding.

E is for EVERY DAY
What one homemaking thing you do every day--

This implies consistency. I am probably the least consistent person I know. I go through binges where I am determined to make my bed every single morning when I get up. And then after a couple weeks I don't. I have periods where I wipe down all the counters every single evening and sweep floors so it will be tidy when I get up the next day. And then I don't. I never let things get truly out-of-hand to the point of living in squalor, but I admit that there are a lot of tasks that I am all too willing to skip for a day..or two....or maybe three? Of course, in my defense, it's just my husband and I here without other household polluters, so we generally don't make that much mess.

F is for FREEZER
Do you have a separate deep freeze?

Yes. Actually we have two - one upright in the pantry and then a big chest freezer out in the garage. Also I have one of those cool refrigerators with a BIG freezer compartment at the BOTTOM so it's not in the way when I open the main door of the frige. Ya know, while I'm thinking of what's in my freezer...I really do need to get some of that stuff cleaned out from the outside one. I think we still have some salmon and halibut left over from when we went fishing in Alaska and that was over a year ago. HMMMM.

The weird thing about the outside freezer is it occasionally has dead animal carcasses in it. EWE!!! Kinda gross, but my husband does taxidermy as a hobby. He's quite good at it, I just think it is very, VERY strange for anyone to want to decorate their homes with the stuffed heads or full bodies of dead fish or animals. It's pretty creepy when I go looking for a pot roast and pull out a dead pheasant or woodchuck or some other critter waiting to be stuffed.

In the family room (read husband's TV/game room) is the only place these dead things are allowed to appear in our household. They sorta give me the heebie jeebies. He has a deer, an antelope, a javelina, several birds and some fish. I tease him that on resurrection morning they are all going to leap from the walls and give him what for.

Do you have one?

Yep. I have this morbid fear of getting my hand stuck in it. I'm not sure why.

What is your favorite homemaking resource?

I have a whole stack of cook books and how to books and such....I generally ignore them all. I do really love my garden books though, and love peering through them this time of year while I plan out what I'll plant in the spring.

I is for IRONING
Love it or hate it?

Don't do it. Really. I own an iron. But I'm not sure where it is. I will iron a few specific pieces for hot dates or job interviews. The rest of the time I live with what I get by hanging things up promplty when they come out of the dryer. I've been known to re-wash an entire load that sat in the dryer too long and got crumpled rather than iron them. NOT my thing.

Where is it?

Um, this question is way to singular. For my house, it shoud read "where are they?"
One in the kitchen. One in the garage. Don't even ask about the junk shelf in my office closet. It's all good stuff, and just sort of random that doesn't belong anywhere else.

I just looked at the kitchen one. Wow. THAT's where my leatherman tool went. Whew! I had wondered.

K is for KITCHEN

How is yours decorated?

I have a long wood shelf along one wall with various things on it...Russian nested doll, antique jar full of old marbles, old glass insulators, antique flat irons, etc. Along the top of my cupboards there are nutcracker men, a model of the Mayflower, some fancy vases and various pretties. The walls are painted a light beige with white trim and we have cream colored ceramic tile - pale blue counter tops. It's a happy kitchen. (made all the happier because of my beloved does most the cooking!)

L is for LOVE
What is your favorite part of homemaking?

Relationship building. The house maintenance part is stuff that I do, but it's no life mission or anything. I don't despise it, I don't glory in it. It's just part of the process. I've lived in tiny simple houses and lived in big elaborate houses. The one we have right now is unquestionably way bigger than we need for just the two of us, but we both enjoy it a lot. I love the cozy feeling of security it provides. But it's just a house. I'd miss it, but I really could move away from it tomorrow if the right opportunity came up someplace else. When I think of HOME I think of the feeling I get curled up in the crook of my beloved's arm. Where ever that may take me is just fine with me.

M is for MOP
How often do you mop?

I clean the bathrooms, do the vacuuming, other sorts of tasks. Husband usually mops.

N is for NYLONS
Do you wash by hand or in the washing machine.

I had to laugh at all the vehement comments I read by other women about nylons. Actually I don't mind them. Hey, I remember the old garter belt days, and today's panty hose are a far cry more comfortable than those beasties!

I do mine by hand and then hang then over the shower curtain rod to dry. I have LOTS and I wear slacks much of the time, so I only have to do this about once a month.

O is for OVEN
Do you use the window or open the door to check?

I open the door.

P is for PIZZA
What do you put on yours?

We never make pizza. (Although I must admit that after seeing the scrumptious creation that Jacquandor made I've been tempted to try.) (Hey Kelly I can't find link to your pizza creation - where did it go?

Q is for QUIET
What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?

Make some noise.

Do you use one?

HAVE one. USE it is another story....

I've got recipes written on all sorts of odd scraps - envelopes, etc. They are in a fairly neatly stacked pile on top of my recipe books in the cupboard over the stove, with the recipe box on top of them. I use that random pile far more than anything in the box. I think my husband uses the box.


What type of dwelling do you live in?

Big old 2 story with wrap around porch. The guts of the house are over 100 years old, but it has been totally reshaped, remodeled, added onto over the years. It still has the charm of an old fashioned house with good bones, but fortunately all new plumbing and electric and a fairly new roof. I love my house!

Do you use a tablecloth? How about napkins?

We almost always have a tablecloth on. I use cloth napkins about half the time and paper towels when we are being extra casual.

Is yours organized or toxic wasteland?

Mine is rather schizophrenic. On one side it is quite orderly with various cleaning products neatly stacked in a plastic basket. On the other side is a haphazard accumulation of mason jars, bowls too big for the other cupboards, barbecue tools and whatever else I wanted to put away quickly.

V is for VACUUM
How many times per week?

Once for sure, more often only as necessary. This is a task I don't mind at all.

W is for WASH
How many loads of laundry do you do in a week?

Probably 5 or 6. I don't count. I usually do wash on the weekends, sometimes throw in a load during the week if I need to. With just the two of us it's not a big deal.

X is for X

Do you keep a daily list of things to do and cross them off?


Y is for YARD
Who does what?

My husband cuts the grass and will shovel snow on those few rare occasions we actually have snow. He also is in charge of the rototillers ( a big one and a Mantis) so he tills things up every spring. We mutually share the gardening and flowerbeds. We like working together out in the yard. I LOVE leaf raking the first three or four times...But by the time our giant maple trees finally get done I'm just sick of it.

Z is for ZZZZ's
What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?

I like to make sure the counters are wiped down and sink is clear before bed, if I think of it. If I don't, it's not the end of the world.

Ya know....Doing all this has really got me thinking about what sort of homemaker my mother was, and her mother before her.

My grandmother ironed EVERYTHING and was forever preparing big meals. She was never employed outside the home so with the exception of some volunteer work she did in the community her home and family were her whole world. Also, she lived in the same house for over 50 years - so she truly did define herself by that place.

My mother was overwhelmed by raising five rowdy kids so her housekeeping definitely took a backseat to monitoring our shenanigans. When I was younger, the house I grew up in ranged from clutter to squalor. Housework overwhelmed her. Later on after all of us kids had moved out things got somewhat better, but even then she seemed at a loss for how to deal with details of managing her home. Her famous line was "I'll put it in a box and sort it out later". After her death I had the task of dealing with row upon row upon row of floor to ceiling boxes out in the shed behind our house that she never had gotten around to.

As for me - I like things orderly. I keep most of the rooms fairly picked up. But I do not define myself by my role in the house. Part of that is because I also work full time and part of that is because I've moved so much that I no longer think of the place that I live as any serious sort of extension of me. It's just where we are for now.

Interesting how each generation of women in my family has had such a different approach and experience with this role we call homemaking.

Opportunity Cost

Tonight I was talking on the phone with my sister about all sorts of different things. She lives in Colorado and I'm in Oregon, so we don't see each other very often. But we stay in touch by talking on the phone pretty frequently, having these wild, tangential conversations while we cook. I was chopping bell peppers and boiling pasta on my end and she was browning pork chops and tossing a salad at her house while we talked about all sorts of topics, ranging from our kids to our siblings to world events.

Somewhere in there we got onto the subject of the media coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death. Now, don't get me wrong... It is sad anytime a young mother dies. I'm not saying it was unimportant or insignificant that this woman so suddenly left this world. But OH MY WORD why on earth has her death sparked such a media frenzy? We came to the conclusion that it was a toss up between the size of her boobs or the size of her bank account that held people's fascination. Also, my sister believes that people with normal, mundane, average lives take some sort of morbid pleasure in knowing that someone more rich and more beautiful was also more screwed up in many ways.

I'm not so sure about that. What is at issue for me is the opportunity cost involved in the media frenzy. There are only so many inches of newsprint in each edition of a paper. There are only so many minutes of airtime on every evening or morning news program that we watch. What OTHER events were occurring that we DIDN'T read or hear about because we were being bombarded with speculations over who will win the paternity lottery of all time to get to claim control of the estate to be inherited by one very rich baby girl?

In the Spring of 1980 there were a rash of destructive tornados that destroyed property and took lives that most Americans never even heard about. They were overlooked because on May 18 of that year Mount St. Helens errupted -

Every time we receive one message it means we are not receiving something else.

So Goodbye Anna Nicole. I'm sure your friends and family will grieve your loss. But as for me...excuse me if this seems cold and heartless, but can we please just move on?

Freedom & Fairness

I've been cruising the net looking for some quotes to use for my online classes.

This one rather struck my fancy: "You can't be free in a fair society." (no decent attribution given...but I found it HERE.)

That led me to thinking more about the concepts of freedom and of fairness.

I've always been of the opinion that life in not fair. Fair is a place you go to ride the rides that Beckett loves, eat junk food and pet goats. Fair in terms of justice is simply not something that I expect to occur in this fallen world.

Is it something to strive for? Oh sure. But it's a futile endeavor to achieve true "fairness" in most settings in my opinion. I'm more concerned with how we each choose to respond to the many unjustices that feel so utterly inevitable to me. There may be pockets of fairness here and there, sweet islands of justice in an otherwise very unfair world. But my experience has been that those are more the exception than the rule.

Then there is the whole concept of freedom. What is freedom? I know what freedom ISN'T, but I'm not sure I can clearly articulate what it IS. It's not being able to do what you want when you want (at least not in my opinion). To me, being free means being able to choose which set of responsibilities and consequences best fit my values and interests. No matter what I choose there will be restrictions and limitations of one sort or another. But being allowed and able to pursue the path of restrictions and responsibilities that I have the greatest affinity for is how I see freedom.

Which freedoms or "rights" it makes sense to sacrifice in effort to preserve/protect personal or national security is an issue that is increasingly complicated in this crazy world.

What freedoms are most important to you? What do you think is fair?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Chance Meeting

I'm in Portland right now attending a conference on Student Success & Retention. There has been some good information presented, but I'm just sort of going through the motions. I came to this same conference last year, and I saw how people came back from it with all sorts of ideas about how to improve things, but nothing much ever came of it. The culture of the college where I work is not very open to change. So I was feeling a bit cynical about the value of my being here.

When I was done with all the sessions I needed to attend for the day I grabbed a bite to eat and took a short break. Most of the others were planning to all go out to dinner together and maybe go do some fun things in town. I, however, had lots of work to do so I passed on the chance to go along. I came downstairs with my laptop to find one of the few spots where there is a decent internet connection so I could go online to grade papers from my two online classes. For the past three hours I've been tucked away in a quiet corner slaving away while everyone else was having fun. Sigh. The price of responsibility.

Then one of the hotel housekeepers came into the room where I'm working to check the set up for tomorrow's seminars. She was surprised to find me in here. She asked if she could get me anything, and then brought me a pop and chips. She was a really sweet woman who obviously wanted to do anything she could to make me comfortable.

We struck up a conversation and I asked her if she liked her job. One thing led to another and we started talking about hopes and dreams and what she would do if she could have any job she wanted. She got all bubbly and animated talking about how she is a real people person and likes working with people. However, she has never finished high school and now in her mid 40's feels like working housekeeping / laundry jobs are really the only options she has.

I encouraged her to consider going for a GED and taking some further education if she would seriously like to change her circumstances. She got very doubtful for a few minutes, saying she wasn't sure if she could do that. I told her how I had dropped out of high school at 16 and pretty much made a train wreck of my life prior to going back later for a GED and then on to college. Her eyes went all wide and she was stunned that this professional person at a conference for college teachers would ever have been a drop out.

I told her about some of the programs that are available for non-traditional students and resources available to help if she really wanted to do it.

It was like lighting a firecracker.

She got so excited to think that maybe it was not too late, that perhaps she really could still open up new avenues for her life. She asked if she could have my phone number so she could keep in touch with me to talk about this. I gladly gave her my contact information and got hers in return.

She gave me a big hug and then went on about her housekeeping duties. However, her step was much lighter and she was grinning from ear to ear and she gave herself full permission to dream big.

Right now I'm feeling pretty darned good about being stuck in this quiet corner to work instead of going out with the gang.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


We just got word that firstborn son has officially finished Law School.

This is a HUGE relief. It has been a long, expensive, bumpy road. It took him twice the standard time that law school is supposed to take - he's been at it for six long years. He wasn't able to go full time the whole time, and there were a couple terms where he crashed and burned with personal crisis and had to repeat classes. Then, the final hurdle was the major writing assignment which is the law school equivalent of a dissertation. Not all schools require this, but Detroit College of Law at Michigan State does. He struggled mightily with writers block, was overwhelmed by a failing marriage, and just wasn't sure how to get out of the pit for the longest time.

Twice we got our hopes up only to have them dashed to the ground...once because he missing a deadline and then another time when the earlier version of this paper was rejected by his major professor, so he had to go back to the drawing board and start all over. There was a point where we really wondered if he would ever make it through. But it's DONE now. He is an official J.D. I couldn't be more pleased.

Well, yeah, I could if the guy had a JOB. His brother jokingly says that the JD behind his name stands for "Jobless Dude". But hopefully now with the degree in his pocket he will have a few more options open to him. Problem is he lives in Michigan where the unemployment in all sectors is among the worst in the nation. He is still many months away from taking the bar exam (July) plus has absolutely no experience so he is not likely to get any real lawyer jobs at this point.... but in looking for run-of-the-mill-I need to survive sort of jobs no one wants to hire him cause they figure as soon as he DOES pass the bar he'll be gone. So he feels frustrated and trapped by that.

But at least he has indeed made it this far. I just have to trust that gainful employment will come. The race is on between the wolf at the door and his ship coming in. I'm praying with all my might that the ship wins.

Monday, February 05, 2007


I've discovered a new website that I think is a very cool resource. At eons.com you can make a LIFEMAP. This is a visual map of the important events of your life - whatever you define those to be. It could include academic, job, family, trips taken, or anything else that is of significance to you. You can upload photos, write little clips, etc to annotate. Today I spent most of the afernoon and evening on into the night working on this. I put WAY more photos and info on mine than I would ever choose to share publicly. But for my immediate family and friends it's a nifty little record of what I've been doing over the past 50 years. It's rather bizarre to play the slide show of photos and watch myself mature from a wee babe into the person I am today. I have all my elementary school photos from Kindergarten through 8th grade and then an ecclectic collection of snapshots and family portraits.

The cool thing is that the site correlates your personal events with things that were going on in the world at that time. So for every year of my life I can now see where I lived, where I was working, what trips I was taking, etc but also who was president, what music was popular, what scientific breakthroughs were happening, etc. It's facinating to me to see how my own personal history fits into the era that I lived....

Friday, February 02, 2007

Vista Upgrade Advice

I found THIS flow chart to help make the decision of whether or not to upgrade to the new Vista OS absolutely hillarious.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Situational Ethics and the Case for Torture

The essay that I have to analyze this week for my WR 122 class is actually a blog posting. Go figure. The piece in question is "Situational Ethics and the Case for Torture" by McQ over at the Q & O Blog. This posting is printed in my textbook along with a variety of others - Like John Ashcroft's testimony to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary extolling the virtues of the PATRIOT act and a piece on post 9/11 Racial Profiling.

My task for the class, as I've noted before, is NOT to argue the issues at hand, but rather to analyze how well the writers used evidence to make their points or to assess which specific rhetorical devices they use in effort to persuade.

It is an interesting exercise. It definitely helps stretch my capacity for critical thinking. Some weeks it goes smoother than others. This week I am in a "my dog ate my homework" frame of mind. But even when it gets tedious, I'm kinda diggin' the class. It exposes me to writing to think about that I probably would not have seen otherwise.

It terms of what McQ has to say....

Is there EVER a justification for torture? If you could save 5 or 20 or 300 lives by doing something abominable to one or two or three people identified as "terrorists" to elicit critical information, would that make it ok?

It seems to me the whole point of his posting is NOT about terrorism or torture at all. Rather, it is about principles. Do the ends justify the means? If you claim to believe in and support human rights can circumstances justify violating that principle?

The strength of McQÂ’s essay, IMHO, is his ability to clearly focus on issues rather than resorting to emotionally charged attacks, personal criticism or down right name calling which, sadly, seems to be so prevalent in the blogosphere. He shows a respectful engagement with others in dialogue, even when it is clear he disagrees with them.

I was exposed to this guy as a simple homework assignment. I can tell I will want to do more reading over in that direction as time goes by.


I found the following verse somewhat amusing:

When the moon hits your eye Like a big pizza pie
That's amore.

When an eel bites your hand And that's not what you planned
That's a moray.

When our habits are strange And our customs deranged
That's our mores.

When your horse munches straw And the bales total four
That's some more hay.

When Othello's poor wife Gets strangled in strife
That's a Moor, eh?

When a Japanese knight Waves his sword in a fight
That's Samurai.

When your sheep go to graze In a damp marshy place,
That's a moor, eh?

When your boat comes home fine And you tied up her line
That's a moor, eh?

When you ace your last tests Like you did all the rest
That's some more "A"s!

When on Mt. Cook you see An aborigine,
That's a Maori.

A comedian-ham With the name Amsterdam
That's a Morey.

When your chocolate graham Is so full and so crammed
That's a s'more, eh?

When you've had quite enough Of this dumb rhyming stuff
That's "No more!", eh?


This is the week my Intro Sociology class begins talking about social stratification. It's always interesting to hear what the students have to say about the division of "haves" and "have nots" in our society. Even though I teach the course online and never see their faces, I can get a real sense of them beginning to squirm with some of the discussion posting I read.

These are the questions we're working on this week:

WELFARE - Poverty in America is a serious social problem. Various explanations have been given for why there are so many poor in a nation as rich as ours. One perception is that our government’s welfare system has robbed people of their sense of self-determination, creating a generation of able-bodied people who expect a hand-out rather than being willing to work. Others claim that a just and compassionate government must provide a safety net for its citizens, particularly in light of the shifting economy, which offers so few family-wage jobs. Do you believe our current welfare system is more functional or dysfunctional for our nation? Why?

SOCIAL MOBILITY - To what extent to you believe it is possible for someone from a lower class background to move up in society to become upper class if he or she is determined to do so and works very hard at it? What factors would you consider most important if a person wants to shift his/her position in society? What factors might serve as barriers to such a change?

ABSOLUTE POVERTY VS RELATIVE DEPRIVATION - Because there is such great wealth in the hands of some in the U.S., and a great deal of commercial exposure to the range of material goods available, those who live modestly may feel poor even if all their basic needs are met. Different people have different ideas about what standard of living is “good enough” for them. What has had the greatest impact on how you feel about your own material circumstances in relation to that of your community and/or other family members? What factors do you believe have the greatest impact on whether or not a person will feel satisfied with what they have?

I thought I'd toss out those same questions here and see if any of my blogger buddies might care to venture an opinion.

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