Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Angst?

Usually at this time of year I am bursting with resentment and rebellion against the entire culture of Christmas- the music, the decorations, and most especially the consumerism that defines the months of November and December in America.

This year I feel curiously detached.

Still, I feel it is my duty to complain, so I’m trying to work up some Christmas angst. I guess I’ll have to revert to my standby gripe: Why is it that a holiday that is supposedly meant to commemorate the birth of a man who was born, raised, and murdered in abject poverty, celebrated by spending billions of dollars, mostly on gifts exchanged between people who barely tolerate each other and don’t need anything anyway?

Of course, Christmas was never really about Christ (in case you didn’t know, he never even hinted that we are supposed to center a holiday around his birth); it was about the Church sanitizing the yule festivities that had been celebrated in honor of the winter equinox- which is, in my opinion, a wonderful thing to celebrate, considering that it marks the beginning of daytime lengthening once again. Oh, I can’t wait!

I’m not saying we shouldn’t commemorate Jesus’ birth. I just think that if we’re going to, we should do it in a way that honors his life, rather in a grumpy, harassed, gluttonous way. Maybe we should have a big dinner and invite only people who are too poor to reciprocate our invitation (didn’t Jesus actually tell us to do this on a regular basis anyway?). Maybe we should take the money we use for presents for people who already have so much stuff they have to rent PODS and give it support starving families (there are plenty to pick from). And maybe, instead of giving material gifts, we can forgive those relatives that drive us batty, we can say some kind words to our children/parents (oh, that’s a hard one!), we can go and clean our friends’ houses (hint hint)- basically, we can celebrate in ways that are meaningful, rather than simply contributing to this cultural mess of consumerism that has brought us nothing but unhappiness and stress for years.

Hmm. Still don’t feel much angst. Oh well. Maybe some egg nog will help...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 : Moroccan Imports and Customer Abuse Center

Seriously people.

So, we ordered a sink (just the vessel, not the cabinet or faucet or anything- only the sink bowl) for our master bathroom from a website known as $160- not cheap, but not outrageous either. The estimated shipping cost was another $22- which also was not cheap, but not outrageous either. When I ‘checked out’ I expected the actual shipping cost to end up much higher (just had that gut-feeling) but no, the total was around $182. Confirmation page said $182. Confirmation email said $182. All’s well.

Until I get another email- sorry, that was the wrong shipping cost. Website didn’t know to add another $30 to the grand total.

I emailed back. My confirmation email said $182, and I asked them to honor that price.

They sell these sinks for $250, they said. That’s a fair price, and the shipping cost is actually $52. They were giving me a deal for the $160 + $52.

Whoa, we thought, what’s up with this? They advertised $160 and then gave me a shipping amount of $22. We thought they should stick with that, even if they felt they were getting ripped off- shouldn’t you think about that BEFORE you advertise a price? So, we said no, our confirmation email gave us a total of $182. They need to honor that.

That’s when the customer abuse kicked in.

She called me. The owner called me. And started spewing stuff at me. Like, she was just trying to do the right thing for these poor Moroccan families who aren’t being helped by their own government. Like, she was a small business and I didn’t understand shipping costs. She isn’t rich, she isn’t Target, you know. It’s just her and her husband and they live in this tiny house and... well, I gently- honestly, I was trying to be very calm- I gently explained that once you check-out, that’s it, rates can’t be raised. She retorted that it wasn’t confirmed until she okayed it herself...I politely asked where on the website it stated that, and she angrily accused me of harassing her. What?!? Whenever I tried to defend my position she would interrupt and continue spewing out reasons why the shipping cost had to be changed. She declared that we obviously couldn’t do business together (duh), so eventually I said fine, but I was going to have to let people know about this. You can imagine her reaction to that... I simply (still calmly, amazingly enough) said that I thought people should know how justmorocco does business. And she hung up on me.

Honestly, if she had apologized, explained nicely... I would have been happy to work out a compromise with her, or even paid the amended rate. But my conscience won’t allow me to let myself be abused.

At least at Home Depot I just get ignored. Not insulted.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Yes, another post in which I pick on the modern Western schooling establishment

It’s my favorite thing to do.

Yesterday the kids spent the day at home with David, who is frantically trying to finish our master bathroom before the holidays. While he was available for emergencies and had them all help out at times, for the most part they were somewhat on their own during the afternoon & evening.  They did fine.

But I’ve noticed a trend after days when he and I are around, yet not able to give the kids a lot of attention. The boys (who are older) cope beautifully. They can entertain themselves, keep out of trouble, so on and so on. The girls, however, have major flashes of insecurity over the next several days.  They are whinier and more demanding, pick on each other, talk back to me... and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that the one day of minimized attention has depleted their emotional reservoir, and they need it built back up by the normal routine of their parents (specifically, their mother) being more attentive to their behavior.

Now don’t get me wrong (for those of you who don’t know me)... I do not IN ANY WAY let my children hang on me all day (shudder).  I’m not talking here about allowing my girls to demand constant attention for every little moment of their life. But I recognize that they have a level of emotional need that simply can’t be met without someone who is at least available for them on a very consistent basis. Even if it is only to shoo them away :)

So all this makes me wonder... what happens to girls like this in a modern classroom setting, where there are but a few adults for a multitude of children? How can they possibly be getting their emotional needs met in this kind of situation?  Especially considering that many times when they go home, they then have homework or sports, so the time when they might be getting attention from their parents is further restricted.

A lot has been said and written about how modern schooling affects boys, but it is typically assumed that girls fare better in this same situation. I think this is a real misconception- for while girls may have the appearance of doing better- being able to control themselves better, getting better test scores, needing less chemical restraints, etc- I think there is a subtle damage being inflicted upon our girls that is evidencing itself through addictions, obesity, depression, troubled relationships and a scad of other woes related to our emotional instability. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Surreptitious Vegetarianism

Yup, we are taking the plunge. Well, more like stepping into the 2” kiddie pool section that gradually slopes into infinity. 

For years, David and I have been wanting to decrease our beef/pork intake and have a more vegetarian diet. I do love animals, and I love eating them (even our foray into poultry raising hasn’t changed my opinion of chicken- yummy. Now I just think- yummy, and dumb. And poops a lot).  So our interest is less to do with concern for animal welfare* and more to do with health. 

We mentioned the idea to the kids awhile back and their instant response was dismay and denial. So we dropped the discussion and I simply changed the menu. Thus far, they haven’t noticed the change. It probably helps that the money I usually spend on meat was channeled into healthy and fun snacks. Their astonishment at my unusual snack-generosity has distracted them from the missing element of all our recent dinners. I am not trying to deceive them, I am simply amused at how long it will take any of them to notice. By that time, it will be too late.  

We will continue having poultry occasionally, as well as eating meat when we go out or visit people for dinner. (Please let us know if you plan to serve steak. We will be right over.) And I don’t intend to transfer our meat-dependence to carbohydrate-dependence: the plan is to actually eat a lot more vegetables. Hopefully, in the long run,we’ll lose some weight, improve our digestions, and torment the children. Ah, the small joys of parenthood...

* I actually am very concerned with the mechanized slaughter and poor health conditions that produce most of our meat.  I do not believe it is right that we raise animals in such way- a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal (Proverbs 12:10). However, honestly, my family’s health is simply a greater concern.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To those Drivers on the Road Last Night

I’m writing you a message to remind you of some of the basic rules of driving, which obviously, you’ve forgotten:

1. Passing: It’s a difficult and complicated routine. I’ll walk you through it, step by step. First, turn on your blinker. Your left blinker. This should be done sometime well before the point at which you are riding my bumper, and you should slow down enough that you are NOT riding my bumper. Now, once you check to see that the LEFT (not RIGHT) lane is clear, you gently move into the LEFT (not RIGHT) lane, gradually pass me, turn on your RIGHT blinker, then move back into the lane in front of me- making sure that there are SEVERAL car lengths between us. You never, never, ZIP AROUND ME AS FAST AS YOU CAN IN THE RIGHT LANE AND THEN BARELY SQUEEZE IN BETWEEN ME AND THE CAR THAT IS IN FRONT OF ME. 

2. Exit ramps: Another difficult concept. Exit ramps are used when you are leaving the highway. Therefore, you move into them as you are about to leave the highway, and YOU SLOW DOWN. That’s right, there is a speed limit posted on the exit ramp. YOU NEVER, NEVER, GO 70 MILES AN HOUR ON AN EXIT RAMP. That is illegal.

3. Speaking of illegal, the posted speed limit is exactly that. A limit. Not the minimum, but rather, the maximum. Do you understand those large words? If I am going the speed limit, I am not going ‘too slow’. I am going just the right speed; in fact, if I go any faster, I would be breaking the law. Did you know that?

4. And speaking of laws, the pedestrian always has the right-of-way. No matter how much you honk, I will not run over the pedestrian that is crossing the street. That would also be illegal.

Thank you for taking my brief driving course, and if you forget these simple rules and once again endanger the lives of my family, I’m going to follow you home and beat you to death with a Missouri Drivers’ Guide.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Letter I wrote to Mother Earth News

On the topic of population control

Population control is indeed a quick, easy fix to our planet’s problems- and quick, easy fixes are hardly ever the best. Let’s think about the facts. In the last hundred years, both Chinese and Americans have severely decreased the size of the their families; in those same hundred years, both Chinese and Americans have exponentially increased the amount they consume and pollute. Raising one or less children is not the answer. Raising responsible children is.  One king can consume more than one thousand of his subjects. What population control may do, in the long run, is leave the earth with one million selfish, wasteful, lazy inhabitants who bring more destruction than the 6.7 billion of us did- simply because there are so few of them, and they think their actions won’t matter. Let us learn to live responsibly, to respect the resources and beauty around us, to respect our neighbors, and respect ourselves. This is a truly ‘sustainable’ lifestyle.

And more thoughts that I did not include in the letter for brevity's sake, but which you must put up with because a blog is about someone running their mouth off anyway:

My mother grew up in a family of twenty, on a small farm in Puerto Rico. Their carbon footprint was pretty much nil. What they didn't grow or trade for, they didn't use or eat. They consumed less & polluted less than the modern suburban family of 3. It's just so easy to shout at other people 'You're the problem!  Limit your family size! Reduce your usage!' without making changes in your own life. Is population control really about what's best for us as human beings and what's best for the creation, or is population control about wanting to regulate other people so we can have the freedom to do whatever the hell we want and not worry about the consequences? Considering the ingrained attitudes of most Americans (even 'green' Americans) that we 'deserve' this or that and we 'need' this or that, I believe the whole debate is more about protecting their own lifestyle rather than really loving other humans and loving the planet.

And I won't even begin to discuss the inherent racism and elitism that is the unspoken backbone of any kind of population control discussion....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Sheik, a review of the original ‘romance’ novel from 1919

Oh, my dear God. I could go on for hours. I will try keep it short.  Personally? I think the author hated thin, strong-willed women, and she wrote an entire novel to prove that beautiful, independent women really should subjugate themselves to strong, violent men. And I am certainly not a feminist- though after reading this, I may have to rethink that. 

The plot of the book is simple. Powerful man (the Sheik) sees beautiful, independent (and dumb) woman, powerful man kidnaps said dumb woman, powerful man repeatedly rapes said dumb woman with the intent of ‘breaking’ her and then casting her away, powerful man and dumb woman somehow fall in love. Romance? Shudder. Well-written? At some points- but mostly, ick. The reasoning given for the Sheik’s behavior is weak- his Spanish mother was somehow mistreated by her English husband. Sniffle. Let’s go rape a woman to make him feel better.

I am very anti book-censoring, but if I ever feel like burning a book, I will find a thousand copies of this book and build a huge bonfire. 

But... reading this book did make me think. About why a woman would like this kind of story, and find it romantic.  About how this story has impacted women through the decades, and how it has affected the romance market of today.  I see traces of this idea through many novels (hmmm, can we say Twilight?) that are geared towards girls and women: the concept that somehow, a man who loves you will dominate your life and hurt you but hey, that’s ok, because it’s romantic. How many women have stayed in abusive relationships simply because they think somehow their tormentor will eventually reform and fall in love with them?  How many girls have sought out the dangerous man and been terribly hurt because they believed that to be more 'romantic'?  

I also have been comparing it to earlier romances, like the Bronte sister’s and Austen’s novels. The heroines, while in some ways following the traditional path of education and marriage that was acceptable for their time period, also exhibit strong characters and refuse to be mistreated. I simply can’t imagine Elizabeth Bennett meekly apologizing to a man who shot her horse out from under her, as happened in the Sheik.  So it makes me wonder what happened in the hundred years between Austen and the Sheik, and then in the hundred years since the Sheik... is this progress?  I'm sorry, I'll take Jane Eyre any day over this misogynist cesspool.  And the biggest insult is that all this 'romance' is written by women, for women, and of women.

Ugh. I’m still shivering in horror.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

a lovely day of memories; or, why I love my neighborhood, and sometimes even my children

This is the kind of day I hope to look back on when my kids are grown and I need good memories of their childhood.

First I would have to skip the early morning, since it was miserable.  So let’s pretend the day started at 10 a.m., when we walked to the garden... and even though it is August in St. Louis, the breeze was almost too cool for my t-shirt and shorts.

One of our eccentric neighbors was out watering his pretty corner garden. We chatted and he invited me to speak at his garden club. Everyone is suitably impressed with how wonderful our community garden looks and wrongfully attributes that success to my gardening skills. Hah.  It is the mercy of God, people, the mercy of God. I am an infamous (I love that word) plant murderer.  

But I digress. How lovely to speak with an eccentric neighbor on a beautiful summer morning!  We walked on to the garden, where a pleasant young Hindu man requested permission to take pictures for his Wash U architecture class.  Of course I encouraged him; it all felt slightly surreal.

The children then helped me harvest tomatoes and watermelon and zucchini and hot peppers- Malachi commented that it was one of the best days we’ve had at the garden. We left burdened with one of Stuart’s watermelons and a couple pounds of extra tomatoes to gift to the rehab house located on our block.  Carrying a watermelon 5 blocks is always quite an experience! On the way home we noticed several more neighbors leaving the cafe that is preparing to open in a few days. We ascertained they were giving out free samples; how could we resist? More neighbors walked in to help with some work and the children and I all drank our respective lattes and java chip fraps (yum; this is a deliberate plug for the Urban Studio Cafe) and more chatting with neighbors followed. We plan to go back and help them clean up tonight if necessary.

Fresh watermelon, interesting neighbors, free samples... yes, a morning to remember!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the guilt of a (homeschooling) mother....

David says I need to update. And, as a good wife, I will of course obey my husband (snicker).

I am nervous about starting school this year.  I think a lot of things play into my nervousness: all 4 (four!) of the kids will technically be of school-age, so there will be a lot of attention-juggling. I will be using a couple different curriculums than I’ve used in the past, so that’s another stress, and we are SO SO busy- yet another stress.

But mostly I think my nervousness is due to that perpetual feeling of inadequacy that seems to dominate my role as mother/teacher.  Objectively, I know that my kids are smart (or at least smart-asses), they are maturing well, they are learning, they have friends, blah blah blah.  But emotionally I face continual questions: Are we doing enough? Am I too easy on them? Too hard? Too bitchy? Am I spoiling them? (yes; they think Grandma making them put ice in their warm sodas is pure abuse).

Each year I strive for change, and each year I feel like I end up in the same pattern of disorganization and laziness- I don’t give the kids enough review work. I don’t test them enough (ok, I don’t test them at all). They complain too much about their assignments.   I don’t follow through on things. School is boring, when it could be so much more interesting. I should just unschool. Heck, I should enroll them all in a 'real' school. A boarding school, that is, in Switzerland, where they don’t take crap off nobody.

I find in situations like this that the best thing to do is move forward, plan in one hand and credit card in the other, buy what I need to buy, plan what I need to plan, and remember to roll with the punches rather than trying to perfectly anticipate every trial the year will bring.  Most of my problems come from being too uptight and needing too much control.  The children will learn & grow; I’ll survive; we’ll have good days and bad days; and another year will pass. 

And on days where I have no hope at all... I’ll brew another pot of coffee and cancel school in favor of a good book. Hmmm... makes me wish for a lot of bad days....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A long and rambling post about our youth group's trip to NYC

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t start this off by saying that Grace and Peace has the BEST YOUTH GROUP EVER! Those kids just thoroughly impressed me- I’ve never been with a group of teens like this: they didn’t complain, they cooperated with whatever we asked them to do, worked hard, and they threw themselves into enjoying our trip. Wow!

So then... NYC. Yes, we drove. Yes, it’s a long trip. We talked, we sang, we played goofy roadtrip games, and we slept (a lot). Not to mention all the potty stops (can someone please invent a steel-bladder insert for long drives?).

Speaking of stops, Carrie Swarthout is the official ‘Starbucks spotter’ of the century. Thank you, Carrie.  You are my hero!

And the 6 days we spent in New York... I think highlights are more appropriate than a blow-by-blow account.

-We helped our friends, Michael and Roseann Kytka, run a Vacation Bible School at their church in Queens. Mostly neighborhood kids, mostly bilingual, lots of Asians. All the kids just lapped up the attention that our group and the other VBS helpers deluged upon them.  They were so cute!  

-And speaking of cute, one of my 3-year-old students only spoke Japanese. It was fun trying to communicate with her and see her eagerness to learn and participate despite that sturdy language barrier. Her mom was just like all those sweet, female anime personalties that you think really don’t exist: eager to serve, always positive & cheerful- I’ll miss her!  She thought I had moved to NYC and was disappointed when she found out I was leaving.

-The best, best BEST part of the city (in my humble opinion) is Chinatown. Oh my, what fun. What great food. What cheap Chinese souvenirs. Yes, we bought swords, dresses, scarves, bags, whatever else we could get our hands on. I told the kids that of course, it’s all just made in China.... so if I could move anywhere in NYC, I would pick Chinatown. 

-The next best part of the city is the Guggenheim. A museum in which you cannot get lost; it is built in a spiral form, so you just keep walking up, darting off into small ante-rooms that are loaded with exceptional artwork. I bought a t-shirt for me and Malachi, who also fell in love with the place.

-I saw Michaelangelo’s first painting (at the Met). Creepy and excellent. Demons tormenting St. Anthony.  Also a bunch of Bacon’s work, also creepy and excellent.

-Riding the subway is another thrilling experience (yes, I’m easily thrilled). Seriously, it’s a blast for a girl from a ‘big city’ that has no decent public transportation. We actually had a mariachi band follow us on to the train one day and begin to play, walking through the cars and collecting cash. SO COOL!

-Mac Store is as cool in person as it is in pictures. No, we didn’t go inside: the crowds were deadly. Plus, I knew we would never be able to drag the kids out. Better to window shop there and then do the actual buying here.

-David wants to move into the Met and the public library. I just want to see MoMA and Starry Night. 

-We skipped Starbuck’s in Times Square to go to Juan Valdez’s Cafe in Times Square. It was good.

-5th Avenue and Times Square? Overstimulating. Neat to see, but... just not my thing.  Carissa and I ate breakfast at Tiffany’s.... well, we ate granola bars outside the doors.  Is that close enough?

-Coolest thing in Times Square? NYC shut down a street and people bring their lawn chairs to watch the crowds and just relax, while everything around them moves in technicolor top speed. What an odd juxtaposition!

-Only really bad experience: Katz Deli, in Soho. Good food, overpriced ($16 for an ordinary-sized Reuben? WTF?) and then the manager tried to rip us off even more. Long story; I cried, we prayed, we managed to get out for only $250 rather than the $450 she was going to charge us for 14 freaking sandwiches, a few pickles, and 10 knishes. We drank water, btw.

-The Artwork! The Architecture!  Everywhere! Not quite like Chicago, but pretty impressive nonetheless. Even the graffiti is good (unlike St. Louis).

-New Yorkers are a sad bunch of people, chasing money, exhausted, commercialized, over-sexed and under-joyed. They all seem to despise their great city while also loving it. The large exception to this are the abundant immigrants, who were friendly and apparently happy. The people we talked to pretty consistently said that NYC is a huge step up from their previous country. Ouch.

-Ok, I have an embarrassing admission: I appreciated getting back to the Midwest. The rural folk we stayed with in Indiana were the first people I had met all week who were into natural living- composting, fresh food, healthy meat, etc. Again, the New Yorkers are just way too busy to be concerned with those small details.  New York, at least on the surface, struck me as the bastion of Mainstream American Culture. Ugh.

I’m glad I finally got to see this great City. It was a wonderful experience and I hope one day to go back. But honestly... it isn’t even close to my favorite place in the world. However, I really did feel that we brought a little bit of light and joy into a place that is filled with darkness and depression, and that, more than anything else, made it a worthwhile adventure.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another unschooling victory

I was feeling disappointed this morning that my children don't share my exuberance for gardening. People ask, "Do the children help you with the garden?" and I have to be like... well... yes, but often reluctantly, and usually for only a short period of time.  But I quickly came to my own defense in this mental conversation I was having: we garden a lot. I just can't expect my children to jump up and down with enthusiasm when I'm asking them to pull weeds in 98 degree weather. In fact, I can't expect them to jump at all, when it's an exertion just to breathe.

And... the reality is, my kids also now know a lot about raising their own food. We have had very little formal instruction time, but simply being at the garden, helping the other gardeners (always much more interesting than helping mom), watching other gardeners, and just experiencing the daily life of a garden has taught them more than I could ever do from a textbook or even an enriched classroom environment. They have seen the process of transforming sad-looking soil into lushly growing, healthy, yummy food. Perhaps they couldn't pass a written test (especially if perfect spelling were required) but I am confident that any one of them would be able to create their own garden and help others do the same. And, well, they have: Stuart has a watermelon patch in one of the community beds, Anastasia has a 'secret' (weed) garden here at home, plus numerous cacti. 

Learning by doing... it's the way to go!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What we can learn from the gay marriage movement

This is pride month, and in St. Louis, gay couples are celebrating by getting married. No, gay marriage is not governmentally recognized in MO: these couples are simply finding a religious official who supports them, and they have a ceremony. Easy as that. I don't know their hearts; I don't know how long they'll stay together, or if it's going to matter in their relationship if they do or do not have a document with a legal seal on it, but it seems to me a much better way to approach the whole issue than throwing hysterical, politically-charged fits about it. There is this sense that emanates from a good portion of the homosexual community that what they are seeking is everyone else's 'approval'- that somehow they have to legitimize their lifestyle through the acceptance of the rest of the world. Anything less than that is somehow hatred- even though I treat my queer friends just like I do everybody else, the fact that I may have a difference of opinion somehow makes me homophobic.  So it is good to see people simply living their life as they believe is their right, without demanding the 'approval' of the majority of the voting community. 

How does this apply to the Christian community? Really, I believe we are often the same: throwing politically-charged, hysterical fits to be 'accepted', 'approved', 'normal'. Anything less is somehow hatred.  If people treat us in the same crappy way they treat everybody else, but they choose not to wish us Merry Christmas, suddenly that means we are hated and the target of persecution (try living in North Korea and THEN let's talk about Christian persecution....) But American Christians seem determined to politically demand acceptance and approval by the culture. The irony of this... much more so than in the homosexual community... is that PEOPLE, WE FOLLOW A MAN WHO TOLD US WE WOULD BE HATED! Sorry for shouting, but come on!  What did you think you signed up for, a trip to Disney World? Yes, even though we give away more money than the rest of the population combined, yes, even though we run orphanages, build hospitals, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, champion the imprisoned, and are basically just nice people across the world, we are HATED. Why? Well, duh, people in general try to hide the fact that they are inherently lying, greedy scumbags, and as soon as a Christian walks in the room, boom, the game is up. Hate is an obvious consequence of convicting the world of its sin. So what should we do? Demand that our country 'return to being a Christian nation' so we can feel nice and comfy and never offended, or continue to live our lives as we know is right, doing what we know is right, and accept the consequences of our lifestyle?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sick Day

An official sick day for mommy here at the Holden House. Not that it makes a huge amount of difference; I basically have to do the same stuff I do everyday, I just have an excuse to moan a bit more, and sit at the computer instead of doing more housework (like cleaning the gross bathrooms). The kids are cranky that their friends didn't get to come over because I'm sick- since, of course, it's my fault that I had to BBQ last night and sit next to a smoker at Stuart's baseball game and thus developed a severely sore throat- and also overly excited because of the week's activities. But they're not handling it too badly and have kept themselves somewhat occupied and have also refrained from major skirmishes with one another.

Sick days always remind me that my worth does not arise from my productivity.  I love to LIVE life; to be involved and busy and full of fire. But that is in some ways diametrically opposed to Jesus' teaching that 'he who wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'  Good thing to remember on days like this!

Friday, June 5, 2009


Selfishness seems to have become hip at our household lately. It has slowly been building over the last several weeks... more focus on 'getting what we want', leading to more complaining, more whining, and finally a LOT more squabbling. I've done scads of threatening and punishment to little avail- I think because overall, the children have a difficult time understanding the subtle wrongness of selfishness. It's not like slapping someone or stealing their money. It's not breaking a direct order from mommy or daddy ('don't be selfish' is a bit too nebulous for elementary-aged children). And while they perfectly understand the concepts of loving your neighbor and treating others like you want to be treated, let's face it- getting our own way just seems much easier and certainly much more fun.

I've cancelled treats, taking away privileges, kept track of misbehavior and things have certainly improved. There seems to be more of an awareness of the issue. But still, it has been rearing its ugly head much too often. "No, you can't have that toy, I might play with it someday." "I'm going to keep singing this song just BECAUSE it annoys you- no other reason necessary!" "I'm not going to be happy with any meal except one that I choose myself, and it has to be something nobody else in the family likes!" 

You get the point.

So today, finally, finally, there seemed to be a bit of a breakthrough- an epiphany moment, when the light bulb flashed above the heads and they realized the full hideousness of selfishness. Suddenly the reason for all my anger and punishment broke through the thick skulls of my stubborn children- because they were, collectively, on the receiving end of someone else's selfishness. A seemingly minor selfishness, but nonetheless terribly painful for all involved. My children asked me 'why? Why would someone do something like this to us?' and I could answer, 'Selfishness, nothing more and nothing less. Simply because this person wants what they want, nevermind if the cost is everyone else's feelings.'  This person's actions weren't the terrible sins that we tend to gasp over. There was no rape, robbery or murder. Just simple selfishness, but that was enough.

Will this mean the end of squabbling and complaining? I could hope so, but I know better than that! Will things improve? I think so.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Expounding more upon the previous post

With the new responsibilities of this new position of mine (community garden coordinator) I have faced a whole slew of new insecurities. I would have said- and have said- that I posses a plethora of self-confidence and have conquered my fears of failure. So I was completely unprepared for the onslaught of anxiety that has overtaken me the last few months.  

What all these fears- will seeds germinate? Why aren't they germinating? Now they've germinated- why aren't they growing faster? Oh no, bugs. What do I do? and so on- what they all boil down to is, as I said in my last post, I am not the one in control. In other areas of my life I can at least pretend to control things. I can 'do my best'. I can learn. I can BS my way out of a paper bag. But this project produces tangible evidence of my abilities (or lack thereof) and is VERY much dependent on numerous factors that are simply out of my control.

So what can I do? I can fall back on the faithful excuse that so many other Christians have used throughout the ages... if it doesn't work out, it's all God's fault, anyway.  No, seriously, I just repeat this to myself every day: One man plants and another waters, but it is God who causes the growth. With this realization my fears fall away... as do my pride and my self-glorification. 

And, in case you were wondering, the American Botanist Society has taken me off their list of 'Most-Wanted Plant Murderers'.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The garden had some tragedies.  First were the cucumber beetles, which destroyed my hard-earned zucchini seedlings. I tried two different plant-based sprays to no avail, and am purchasing something stronger (yet still organic) for the next batch of squash seeds I hope to get in the ground on Thursday. 

Then the birds hit. Half of my tomato seedlings are gone without a trace, a stick and a pot the silent testimonies that Once, A Plant Was Here.  Most of the hot peppers seedling ended up as food for the 'birds of the air'. Grrr.  A scarecrow now stands in the garden; will he keep the birds away? I don't know yet.

Amidst these tragedies, I know that there are many more victories than losses. Romaine and mustard greens are thriving, turnips and cilantro, basil and mint... and I have more tomato plants, more pepper plants, and always more seeds. But why is it my thoughts are more discouraged than encouraged? Why does one negative outweigh all the positives? Or perhaps the rude reminder that this is all out of my control, that all my hard work and great methods are really insignificant- gardening, like so much of life, is a matter of patience and faith.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Only on a Monday

Stuart was innocently brushing his teeth. Malachi, who was making up interesting lyrics for the Sound of Music song "Do, a Deer, ray, a spot of golden sun, etc.", and I were putting away laundry.  India stood at the bathroom door, complaining that she needed to use the potty.

I should have been a wise mother and instructed her to go downstairs to the other potty. 

Instead, Stuart was a kind older brother, and stepped out of the bathroom, toothbrush and toothpaste in hand. Brush, brush, brush.  Malachi keeps singing, I keep folding laundry. Finally, Stuart mumbles through a mouth full of toothpaste: 'India, I need to spit. Are you done?'

'No, I'm going number 2.'

We collectively groan: 'Why didn't you go downstairs!?' Malachi keeps singing.  Stuart is getting desperate, and I send him downstairs to spit. At this point, Malachi starts singing, '2, a 2, a number 2' .  I should have been a good mother and told him in no uncertain terms that we do not sing about excrement in this house, but I was laughing too hard to say much of anything. India hears the commotion and yells from the pot: 'Stop joking!  This is serious!' which of course sends me into gales of more laughter. Malachi can't think of any more words for his song, so he just keeps repeating: '2, a 2, a number 2', and poor Stuart treks upstairs from spitting and rinsing.

Moral of the story: Oftentimes, doing the right thing (like sharing the bathroom with your little sister) leads to insanity and more work.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I really should be washing dishes...

.... but the housework won't go anywhere, and David took the kids shopping so I can get some rest (but really, I just got a bunch of paperwork done, which was very necessary, and comparatively restful... yea...)
We are running this weird fever, which seems to be hitting one family member at a time for about 2 hrs, leaving us exhausted, headachey, and then much better within a short period of time. WTF? Whatever. It's a good excuse to stay home tonight and get that desperately needed 'rest'. Despite the appeal of pioneer life- that rugged individualism, that self-sufficiency, that organic, healthy, macho life-style- I like not having to continually labor just to make it through to the next day. Yes, I complain about the industrial revolution, but I must admit that it's pretty freaking awesome to be able to read Japanese comics from across the world, translated, the same day they are released.
I have no idea where this post is going. My fever must be affecting my brain processes. Well, anyway, I have been able to get a few paintings done lately, and my Facebook buddies have been very supportive and encouraging so I actually feel motivated to do some more. But first, I have to clean off the table so I have space, and before I clear off the table I have to do the dishes... back to where I started... 

Thursday, April 30, 2009

American Individualism?

As I experience different areas of the world and of my own city, I am often struck by one similarity that seems to cross every culture except America (and perhaps Western Europe): the ubiquitous mobs of family groups. 

Puerto Ricans, Middle-Easterners, South St. Louis Bosnians- they travel in age-defying herds. Sometimes segregated by sex, sometimes not. To me, it's a wonderful thing to see all the generations loudly and openly interacting- the parents not acting like the children are a burden, the teens not acting like they're too cool, the grandparents shuffling along and realizing they're the most important person around (and the rest of the group acknowledging that reality).

I really don't want to rant about how, despite our frequent shouts about emphasizing the family, we continually deconstruct the family through almost every institution we have- the very fact that we have to 'emphasize family' shows that we don't, indeed, emphasize family- but I just want to know how we got here? These other cultures are our heritage; we were melted together from the hispanics, the Africans, the eastern and western Europeans, the Asians- and all these cultures, for the most part, still expect to see children with parents, grandparents with children, aunts and uncles with everyone else. When did we lose that? Was it the industrial revolution (my personal scapegoat for most of America's ills)? Was it the very act of crossing the ocean, then crossing the prairie, that demanded rugged individualism and a split from the security of family?

There are some good things about us being this way... the boldness to make decisions, despite what our family and friends think, for one. But I believe we lose a lot when we further separate ourselves into generations, as well as ethnicity and economic station.  It's just one more barrier that we build between ourselves and the people around us- which in this case, are our past and our future.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Afternoon, fading rapidly into evening

Listening to the Psychedelic Furs and frying up quesadillas for dinner.  I've been cranky today; I'm not sure if it's a result of my too-high expectations for the day, or if the children really have been awful. Or both.  And I shouldn't say awful- it's rare for my kids to be horribly misbehaved for long periods of time. Demanding? Yes. Quibbling? Disobedient? Lazy? Yes, yes, yes, and thus my crankiness. And tonight our prayer group meets at our house, so we have to at least pretend to clean, and not-just-pretend to clean out the 'gagsome' (Malachi's adjective) chicken coop. (Oh, I can't wait until those fowls are outside!)  Anyway, we won't get much praying done if we're passing out from the overpowering smell of three half-grown chickens.  Lord knows we all need prayer, too. I could use an entire prayer group devoted just to myself, in full-time supplication that I keep my mouth shut, stop judging everyone, start cleaning my house, stop worrying about money... so cleaning the chicken coop it is.  Thankfully, God's ears are open despite the stench. It is only our own shortcomings that necessitate the removal of all distractions so we can take a few moments of our lives and concentrate on something outside of ourselves. And chickens are a serious distraction... BAWK! B-GAWK!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Something Deep

I feel like I should post about something deep. But nothing is coming to mind (my hair is deep blue now; does that count?)  David at this point will throw in a bawdy comment, but I'll ignore that.

The kids and I are on a two-week school break and I am trying to get everything done that I've neglected for the two previous months but instead am just digging myself in deeper (there, something deep is mentioned again!) to the black-hole known as my 'to-do' list.

That could be something deep to talk about... why Americans are so caught up in productivity, getting things done, racing from place to place as quickly as possible so they can have more, do more, be more, probably from an innate desire to find meaning in life when they really believe themselves to be nothing more than random acts of chance... while merely perpetuating the cycle of meaninglessness and producing some decent cups of coffee (there's something to be said for that, now that I think about it.)  But I just don't feel much like analyzing and criticizing tonight, so I'll ignore that train of thought. Besides, it would be hypocritical of me, considering how many years I've worshiped the gods of productivity and efficiency. How much time I've wasted, accomplishing rather than enjoying! Rushing instead of appreciating!  Blogging instead of cleaning!

So... nothing deep tonight. I look forward to starting school again next week.  I miss it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Everything my kids know, they learned from the Far Side

Stuart impressed an adult yesterday. This dad at a birthday party, while the cake was being prepared, yelled out 'Let them eat cake!'. Stuart started laughing hysterically and said, 'That's mean!' He and Malachi then went on to call for a guillotine.  The dad was flabbergasted that Stuart had caught the reference, and thoroughly impressed at how smart all those homeschooled kids are (though he didn't state that directly, I just know that's how he feels ;) I, of course, kept my mouth shut, since I knew that Stuart's awareness of the French revolution has nothing to do with intense and demanding history courses for elementary-aged kids and everything to do with his passion for the Far Side.
You've maybe seen it... Gary Larson's typical chubby, pointy-headed woman being led to the guillotine, surrounded by an angry mob, and she's yelling out: 'I said let them eat cake and ICE cream!' Stuart read this and was like, huh? Mom, what in the world is this talking about? So we had a nice little discussion about the grisly period of time known as the Terror, and being an adolescent boy, he was all over it. '50 people a day!? Oh, wow, can I build a guillotine?' Yea. If you've had an adolescent boy, you understand. They just love gore. The end result? Stuart now understands subtle party references to Marie Antoinette.
Of course, I'm going to let everyone keep assuming that it's my adept teaching style that causes my children to be so smart, while amassing large quantities of Far Side, Calvin and Hobbs, Non Sequitur.... who knows, maybe I'll even start my own homeschool curriculum, based entirely off comics!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Pitter-patter of little carbon footprints

Because of our interest in, ahem, 'unique' organizations we receive literature/updates from a wide variety of fringe groups that are scattered across the various points of the political spectrum. I noticed years ago that the alarmist-type groups all really have the same basic tone: send us money now, or the world will end. Or... call your politician now, or the the world will end. Or.... drown yourself in the Mississippi now, or the world will end. The only true difference is the particular issue that is going to cause this world-ending catastrophe: the impending ice age (you old folks will remember that particular fear), pornography, the extinction of a certain tree frog that lives only on one acre of land in South-eastern Asia,  the destruction of the family because of day-time soaps, and so on and so forth. 
Population growth is a big one for all these various political-spectrum points. On the one hand, I read Rushdoony ideas about how Christians need to have huge families so we CAN TAKE OVER THE WORLD HAHAHA!  Which actually raises an interesting point, since the other side of this issue is the zero-population growth crowd, who is going to breed themselves into extinction, deliberately. Oh, please don't leave us with just the Rushdoony dudes!
I have lots of opinions about both sides of this argument with which I won't bore you, but I do feel the need to point out that our our family of six has less of a 'carbon-footprint' than Al Gore. Part of the reason for this is that yes, we do care- very  much- about being good stewards of our resources, but mostly it's because we live very frugally and don't give a flip about what the neighbors think (sorry neighbors, it's true). Mowing? What's that?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a normal day here at home

We actually had a somewhat normal school day today.  At breakfast we chore-swapped, which led to mass confusion after breakfast as everyone  (including me) tried to figure what we were supposed to do, when we supposed to do it, and where the hell the cleaning supplies were??  I eventually gave up trying to clean the bathroom and just took a shower.  
School started at 8:42 a.m. on the dot. We sang Jesus Loves Me, much to the older kids' annoyance (I love torturing my children like that).  India, however, was thrilled.  Spanish followed (Yo uso una falda negra.) then bible reading (death, destruction and warfare), and Little Britches. If you have never read Little Britches I highly recommend it; it's a hilarious and sincere autobiography of a boy growing  up on a ranch in the early 1900's.  History continued with a brief account of Teddy Roosevelt from our textbook and a discussion of monopolies and social change (the more stuff changes, the more it stays the same... comparing the previous turn-of-the-century America to current turn-of the-century America is very interesting).
Snack break consisted of the kids eating cheesy crackers and fruit with me running around trying to clean up a bit and sending off a bunch of emails. Then back to the books... spelling, writing, journaling, editing. Everyone kind of doing their own thing. Lunch followed; roast beef sandwiches and oranges. The kids then took turns playing pointless computer games while I continued housework... oh, the drudgery...
We sprinted down to the Garden for a few moments to see how the transplants were faring- very well, thank you rain-  then came back to our own garden. Fed Ex had arrived with our Japanese Maple and butterfly bush, so our science today consisted of planting!  Woo hoo. 
Finally there was math; some group work (4 times 0 equals 0; 4 times 1 equals 4...) followed by individual assignments. And now here I am, chilling at the computer before starting dinner, while the kids decompress after all that intense learning!
So that's a somewhat normal day looks like... it happens about once a month, in between soccer, gardening, grandma's house, play dates and other 'real-life learning experiences'.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another homeschooling post

Ok, this doesn't need a lot of commentary from me. I'll just open and close with a few statements... this weekend in St. Louis is a homeschool conference, and a few 'real' teachers happened to see the flyer about it. These are some of their responses, as reported by an undercover homeschool supporter:

- These people are dangerous when they get together for their own conferences.
- They shouldn't be allowed to assemble
- Can't the city/state government ban their get-togethers?
 Homeschool parents belong at a Home & Garden Expo not an Educational Expo
- What do they talk about at the Expo since they are not REAL teachers?
- Why is it called a Home Educators Expo since they are not educators?
- What would curriculum vendors attend something for homeschoolers?
- Why would colleges ever pay to exhibit at a homeschool convention?
- Dr. Wile and Dr. Guffanti are probably fake doctors
- The Expo speakers and attendees are all right-wing fanatics
- The curriculum at these homeschool fairs is outdated and archaic
The Homeschool Clinic is for people that need to be cured of homeschooling
- There would be no variety in a homeschool Variety Show
- Homeschool parents are not qualified to discuss special needs.
- After the Expo, homeschoolers will go back to their bunkers

Maybe they should be comedians instead of teachers, eh?

So let's just talk about diversity, open-mindedness, and inclusiveness here. Or... let's not, and then maybe we'll be 'true' American teachers. 

Yes, I'm aware that there are many teachers that do not share the above view points. In fact, despite the fact that I am a narrow-minded, right-wing, outdated homeschooling fanatic living in a bunker, I actually think that the category 'teachers' includes a wide variety of people with a variety of lifestyles and philosophies, many of whom do a fine job educating the troublesome lot of miscreants they are handed each year. 

Oh gosh, I'm just ROFLMAO thinking of myself as a radical right-wing bunker person... sorry this blog post is abruptly terminated due to gales of laughter engulfing the blogger...  

Monday, March 23, 2009


Recently,  I've been starting all my blog posts with 'recently'.  This is what happens when you never update (bad Veronica).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"If they bring home one more coloring sheet, we're pulling them out!"

Recently a friend of mine did me a huge favor- she enrolled her homeschooled kids in a good public school.  This social experiment on her part saved me the trouble of doing it myself, as I can now glean all of her newly-acquired wisdom about education in America. Or, at least, in South St. Louis County.

Her husband was the one pushing for this social experiment. He had never felt comfortable with homeschooling and was unsure why his wife insisted on it.  After almost 5 successful years of their children learning at home, he finally talked his wife into trying the local public school, so they signed up their 9 year old twins for the winter semester.

Oh my, the kids had fun. They quickly made friends and were endlessly distracted at school by the parade of plays, recess, snack breaks, and so forth that make up 4th grade in South County. The school worked hard at integrating my friend's children into class and school culture with a 'no tolerance' position on bullying or teasing.

So... I asked... why are you guys going back to homeschooling now? Because the dad was insisting: "If they bring home one more coloring sheet, we're pulling them out!"  Because while the parents were pleasantly surprised at how much the kids enjoyed school, how nice one (just one) of their teachers were, how nice the school was, they were even more horrified at the actual education the children were receiving. Coloring sheets in fourth grade? Social studies programs that consist mostly of  'Indians lived in tents and wigwams' with a diorama thrown in for good measure? Simplistic math two years behind what their children had already mastered?  But the kids were learning- that boys don't play with girls, that parents shouldn't be around much, that old friends are supposed to bullied and that learning is dull. The kids who had loved to read before going to 'school' suddenly stopped reading, only a couple weeks into the semester. But even beyond all that- what the entire family learned was the point of schoolwork: not to get the right answer, but to give the answer the teacher was searching for, whether right or wrong.  They learned that grades and doing well on standardized tests are the true goals of education, and that analyzation or application get you big fat 'F's.

The kids now have mixed feelings about coming back home. What nine year old doesn't want to hang around with their friends all day?  But I hope they have the maturity and intelligence to understand their parents' decision and even appreciate it in the long run.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Recently I walked into a grocery store, right behind a young black man. He had on a grey sweatshirt, hood pulled up over his head, hands in his pockets, backpack on his back. It was a middle-to-upper class store, in a middle-to-upper class, progressively-minded neighborhood.

I watched the expressions on the shoppers' faces.

Lowered brows. Stares. Craned necks.

I walked up to my young friend, who was actually shopping with me.  I had been delayed while getting a cart and he had entered the store ahead of me.

I watched the faces again, as realization spread across them: Oh, he's with that white woman (little do they know). Everyone visibly relaxed.

This isn't the first time this has happened- I've had almost the exact experiences with several of our young, black male friends, and I have to wonder: how does this affect them? I need to ask, but I'm almost ashamed to.  What is like to be assumed guilty before any crime is even committed? What is like to be seen as only a statistic?  To be the media's favorite target? 

By the way, the young man I was with that night is one of the humblest, most pleasant people I know, and I can only pray that God will keep his heart from bitterness as he lives his life among such prejudice.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Simultaneously Counting My Blessings and Updating My Blog

I am actually determined to update my blog more often. I am just amazed at how quickly time passes... has it really been almost two weeks since my last update? Well, anyway.

As I think over this winter that now is rapidly moving into Spring, I have to shake my head and say: wow, we are blessed. Things aren't always perfect (to say the least) but our lives are interesting and full of goodness- and change.

David has recently been working with Sylvester on some artistic endeavors. This has been a great opportunity for him to use some talents he hasn't had a chance to exercise in a long time, not to mention just having a great time with that enormous goofball Sylvester (and no, that's not a reference to Syl's girth.  I swear.)

Charlotte is half-way thru her senior year... wow. She has been in numerous art shows this year, and been recognized in several for her excellent work.

I have gotten a job (because I didn't have enough to do already). This was partly because of the real possibility of David's company crumbling (it's going through Ch. 11) and partly because the job is really perfect for me- coordinating a community garden in our own ghetto- I mean- formally blighted urban area.  It's mostly management, which is my strongpoint, and can include my precocious children.  Plus, what is better in life than gardening!?

School is going great too- the kids are at a point where they hardly complain about anything I ask them to do, and frequently teach themselves. Even India is learning to read with hardly any effort on my part.  The kids are getting along well (typical sibling stuff but nothing too insane) and maturing well. 

I feel very unworthy of these many blessings.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

an unpleasant incident

Really I should blogging about our chickens.

We have chickens. Two died, three survived, one may be beheaded (if she turns out to be a boy)...


What I'm really going to blog about is an unpleasant shopping experience.  I went to Sam's yesterday and picked up just a couple things (an oddity in life; Sam's is usual an expensive endeavor) and was waved into the 'customer service' area because of long lines at the checkouts. A few seconds later I was rung up and preparing to pay. I handed the assistant two bills- $100 and $1, and then started searching for some change (never a fun prospect).  Finally I found a quarter, and then the woman waiting on me asked for a dollar. The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Me: I gave you a dollar.

Her: No you didn't.

Me: Yes, I did.

Her: It's just a dollar. Would I try to rip you off for a dollar? Would I risk my job for a dollar? It's just a dollar ma'am.

Me: You're right, it's not a big deal (hands her another dollar). But I did give it to you.

Her: No, you didn't.  It's just a dollar, I wouldn't take a dollar.

Me: Fine, it's just a dollar, not a big deal- but I gave it to you. (as I clear my stuff from the counter)

We both see the dollar on the countertop.

Her (as she picks up the phone that wasn't ringing): See, there's the dollar. You didn't give it to me.

Me:(seriously pissed by now) What's your name?

Her: (no response, pretending to talk on the phone)

Me: What's your name?!

Her: (gives name reluctantly) It's just a dollar, ma'am!

Me: You're right, it's just a dollar, but you didn't have to argue with me about it! (walk off)

So I made the obligatory call today and explained the situation to the manager, who of course immediately knew the employee and said this was a repeated issue. Which made me feel even worse, because she'll probably lose her job. Over a dollar.

And it was just a dollar. But that wasn't the problem. Nor was the problem that 'the customer is always right' or that I want my boots licked. I am glad I called the manager, despite the fact that it was uncomfortable and I didn't want to get somebody fired over the dollar. Because I may not always be right, but I am always a human, and I believe it is not unreasonable to ask that workers actually treat me with a measure of respect. That they don't act like it's an enormous inconvenience to wait on me. That, perhaps, they admit that they might be wrong, or at least kindly inform me that I was wrong.  

Overall, I think I would rather deal with chickens.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Enjoying my Kids

It's hard to admit this, but one of the biggest difficulties for me & motherhood is just enjoying my kids.  I can 'do' for them everyday, all day long, but enjoying them takes an emotional commitment that I'm just not always up to.
I can have fun with them- that's slightly different. That's laughing, teasing, playing- and enjoyment is part of that. But I'm talking about just deriving joy from their BEING. Not getting instantly annoyed at Anastasia's drama, but appreciating it as part of her personality (within boundaries, of course).  Listening to the way India phrases things rather than immediately correcting her English. Relishing Malachi's obnoxious sense of humour. Watching Stuart pass into puberty. Taking the time not just to be with the kids, or teach the kids, or do for the kids, or be ANNOYED by the kids, but to take joy in them too.
This is important to me because I know someday soon my kids just won't have time for me. Oh, I know they'll still love me, I'll still be mom, and hopefully be very much a part of their lives- but let's face it, how much time do each of us devote to our moms? I want to relish these years so that when I'm lonely and missing them I don't have to look back and regret all the times that I was impatient and distracted and just plain bitchy.
Having said all that, there are times when survival is the only realistic goal, and they are lucky they don't get yelled at and locked in their room for a million years! People- myself, my children, and 6 billion others- are just flipping unbearable at times. And I can easily admit that!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Messiah

I watched/listened to the inauguration yesterday, impressive in many ways. It has been encouraging to see the nation unite behind a multi-racial man; truly we have come a long way.
I have, however, been simultaneously disturbed at the messiah-like worship I hear coming from so many different people. I don't know that Obama himself is encouraging this- all I know is that humans want a king. We always want a king.

Obama may make a good- even a great- president. I don't know yet, and truthfully none of us will know for another 20 or 30 years. History takes awhile to make those kind of decisions. But I do know that he is not my messiah.

My messiah doesn't promise material prosperity. He seems to rather not give a damn about it, actually, and allows many of his supporters to live in abject poverty. He does, however, guarantee that 'it is well with my soul'.  And for those of us who do have material goods? It is our obligation to share. (Spread the wealth?)

My messiah's health care plan includes whatever disease necessary to keep me humble and obedient. Oh, crap, what am I going to come down with next?!

My messiah's education reform only seems to fund the School of Sorrow. 

My messiah says that earthly change is an illusion. What has been, will be again. There is nothing new under the sun. True change originates from the Holy Spirit.

My messiah's retirement plan is His eternal presence.  Until then, we work like dogs.

My messiah has one job for us all- to spread the gospel and glorify Him. Ok, two jobs. No, three jobs... my messiah has three jobs for us all: oh, nevermind.  Well, many of his faithful followers dig ditches or depend on miracles.  What about creating some jobs here, God??

And above all, my messiah is not a politician. Never cared what the people thought. And never made promises he is not able to keep. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Sensucht is the German word that C.S. Lewis used to describe joy- not lasting happiness, as some people define joy, but rather the deep longing for something beyond ourselves... that often fleeting, melancholy awareness of the supernatural. That brief knowledge that our temporary problems and occupations are shadow realities; they only mimic and distract from the vast reality that is all around us, greater and deeper and truer than we can comprehend.

The smallest things can pierce our heart with this kind of joy, and they are usually different with each person. For C.S. Lewis, the Nordic mythologies were a great source of joy. For myself, it is often the clear night sky, with a bit of crescent moon hanging in it amidst the scattering of stars. Sometimes it is a song- Pink Floyd, oddly enough, and Starflyer- or even a certain word or phrase. It is the most wonderful of feelings, the presence of God that can shake through me at the oddest moments from the oddest sources... and it leaves me longing for more, longing for the day when joy is all I know.