Saturday, June 30, 2007

I'm sure I'll make the time to get it all done...

It's the end of June and I feel like I haven't accomplished much with my summer so far. I keep waiting for things to slow down so I can get something done around the house, but "slowing down" isn't happening. Our "regularly scheduled" events finished at the end of May, but somehow "not so regularly scheduled" events have more than filled up our time. I keep waiting for the down time that obviously isn't going to happen. Or at least, isn't going to happen unless I make it happen.

The pool has been open since the end of May, but we've been once in three weeks. That's nuts. Part of that was a week of on-and-off stormy weather, but not recently. Recently it has been driving one child one place and one child another. Or going out of town (or getting someone else ready to go out of town). Or just keeping up with house, laundry, and groceries. (Oh! But I actually have cooked this week...four days in a row! ) I feel like I'm going to scream if I can't get some "summer" done around here, but at the same time the kids seem somewhat restless and want to spend their summer time doing something!

Oh, I did do one thing for myself last week. I spent almost half of one day trying to find clothes that fit me. No luck. That's a different post altogether. Spending the day shopping did not make me feel refreshed. Nor, unfortunately, did it make me feel like I got anything done.

What is it I want to do this summer? Well, I want to spend time at the pool with my kids and friends, I want to read a few good books, I want to watch a few movies, I want to organize books so I know where things are when school starts in the fall, and I want to finish the upstairs work we started last summer. The work in the house is the most involved, requiring sanding of all the doors, priming and painting, and painting all the trim. We need to replace the carpet and the floors in both bathrooms, but money may not hold out for that this year. Maybe next year.

How am I going to make it happen? Well, as soon as I get back from my trip this week, and get my son ready for a mission trip to Peru, and drive my other son to his drama camp, and my daughter to camp, and get ready for my son's girlfriend to spend sometime with us in August, and plan next year's biology class, and help the person who is taking over my Life Science class, then I'm sure I'll find the time to watch those movies and read those books and, oh yeah, do all that sanding and painting! :-D I love summer!

See y'all after the Fourth! Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Romantic nostalgia

We all do it. We romantize the past, demonise the present, and proclaim prophet-like doom on the future. Even the most entrenched modernist and post-modernist gets caught in the trap of "tsk, tsking" about the state of things and wishing to bring back some aspect of the past, sure that that was better than this.

If only we had Mom-and-Pop stores again, serving us within walking distance, knowing our names and asking after our children! If we could walk to work! If only we didn't make such a large "footprint" on our environment!

The problem is, we tend to overlook how we've individually benefitted from all thes changes we say we hate. We also tend to over-simplify the answers, over-demonized the busineses involved, and maybe we even use our indignation to stop further action. We can feel good about not shopping certain stores without looking very deeply into the whole picture.

What's the whole picture? Let's first look at where we live. Let's say I move out of the suburbs so I can grow some of my own food and look at something other than my neighbors yard. Great, right? Well, yes, as long as I don't then travel two or three times as far to do the things I need to do, thereby burning all that fossil fuel. How much have I shrunk my environmental "foot" if I'm now traveling two or three times as far to buy groceries, go to the doctor, go to church, visit friends, see a movie, or take my kids anywhere, or better yet, to avoid the local big-box demon?? Hmmm.

Or say I start buying fruits and vegies at the local farmer's market. For me, that's a 20 min drive as opposed to a 5 min drive to the grocery store, where I'm going to go anyway for the other things I need. And, of course, the farmers have all driven in to set up their stands. Okay, so the food hasn't traveled from California, and I agree that's a good thing. But it isn't totally benign, either. Most of these farmers have traveled 30-70 miles to get here, usually in trucks or vans. Add the gas from all the vendors and gas from all the customers, and....well, you do the math. Add to that that I will pay almost 2x the price for the vegies and fruits and, economically speaking, it's not a slam-dunk.

Don't get me wrong, I try to go as many Saturday mornings as possible. I enjoy it and the food is good. But I'm not going to pat myself on the back or think I'm making some socially meaningful choice here. Personally meaningful, perhaps, but socially? Questionable.

Yes, I think big agribusiness has a major problems, but let's change the bad laws, not demonize the industry. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking we are living more morally because we don't buy Pop-tarts. It's much more complicated than that. And to be socially meaningful, you need to do more than eat locally. You need to look at what the poor and working poor really need from us and go from there. I'm not sure they'd thank you for undermining the flow of convenient and inexpensive foods. Not many poor/working poor are buying at the farmer's market, even though they live the closest to it. Part of that might be lack of education on health and nutrition, but the majority of that is economics.

And lets look at housing. Where do most of us live? We probably live on what was once farmland. We enjoy our house and our neighborhoods, but perhaps lose sight of the fact that cows once pastured there, crops grew, or small furry animals frolicked int eh woods that once flourished. Someone plowed under paradise so we could have a house. Not only that, they plowed under paradise so we could have relatively inexpensive houses. Now, tell me, why are we so upset when we see more developments going in? Do we want to horde for ourselves the right to own a house? Or to work in a prosperous area which attracts even more people to live there? I don't like to see the woods cut down any more than the next person, but let's face it, who am I to say the landowner doesn't have the right to sell, or the builder to build, or the buyers to buy and raise nice little families there? Isn't that what I want? Just because the farm that was plowed under to build my house happened 40 years ago doesn't change the fact that it happened, and I'm benefiting from it.

Of course I could move farther out, but we've covered some of the environmentally unfriendly aspects of that already. And we could also cover the needs of the poor here. Remodeling cute little craftsman homes isn't an option for them. Moving out to the country isn't either in many cases. We may feel virtuous fighting another housing (or shopping) development, but let's be honest about who we're helping here. It's a little like banning CFC's an denying the developing countries access to cheap and efficient refrigeration just because we can afford the more environmentally-friendly expensive stuff.

I haven't even gotten into the whole big-box, little-box, chain store aspect. Let me just say Ikea is a big-box chain store. How do you think they can offer the good deals? Because they're nice people?? Oh, and can someone explain why I should pay 50% more to support a local business that can't buy in bulk and can't employ more than a few people and probably can't afford to give them any benefits at all? Just because they exist?

And that leads me to why we have all these large stores....they save us money and we like that.

Just in case you think I'm a total troglodyte, I was in Asheville, NC this past weekend and enjoyed walking around the downtown with my extended family. Asheville is a unique and enjoyable town, in part because they allow very few chain stores or restaurants in the downtown area. I like that. You get unique shops and interesting restaurants. You also get very expensive shops and restaurants. Asheville can do that because the base population in the area has the money to support the stores. that isn't going to work in most towns because the people that need to be served by the downtown shops can't afford it.

There are many problems that are better dealt with by looking forward and shouldering the challenges, not by looking back and wishing we could turn back the hands of time. Better food supply, a hard look at farm subsidies, better education on nutrition and food, perhaps tighter controls on junk food, perhaps better laws on zoning and urban sprawl.

And let's remember, we've all benefited from the low cost of living our uniquely American economy has produced. It's not perfect, but it got this way for more reasons that just shady politics. Our economy got this way because it gave convenient, low priced goods to millions of people across a huge geographical area. It got this way because, for the most part, it's worked.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The unreal real...

In his book, Mediated, Thomas de Zengotita talks about the overload of information and compares it to "The Blob." It swallows all the sharp edges and reduces things to soundbites and 15 second video clips. It lives on reflexitivy...making everything about us. We are all like method actors in our own lives, and in the lives of others. We deal with 9/11 or Katrina or the VT shootings by being so supersaturated by constant barrage of information that we must deal with it in a way that dulls the edge of the realness, the pain, and discomfort. One way to do that is to make real events unreal and live events non-live. We see video clips of the World Trade Center collapsing and we watch a movie by the same name. We see "live" video coverage that happened in the past, so it's not not technically "live. But it is...but we detach. It's a movie, no, it's real...and the movies are more real than the live TV. I'm confused, are you? The Blog has rounded the edges and absorbed the thing outside it. The event is covered, analyzed, dissected. It becomes representational. And the Blob moves on to the Next Event that can be absorbed.

Of course we know the difference. When we think about it. When we take the time to separate how the real and the unreal effect us dozens of times a day. When we think about it and analyze what we are seeing and feeling. But in the mix we usually don't.

We can't get outside The Blog, so it's hard to really look at. It's the state of our world. Watch The Queen, and you see our mediated world in action at the death of Diana. The people became part of the play. Reflexivity ruled the day. We are part of the action, the purpose, the meaning. The mourners took control and wrote the script, and the Death of Di becomes an Event-Story. The Queen capitulates to the nation of mourners who were taking the Event-Story and making it as much about them, their grief, as about Di.

Read the book. It doesn't provide "answers." There are no answers. There is reality, and we need to be aware of what our world is really like. It's a very interesting world!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Teens and books- a great post....

Please take a look at this post on Teen Literacy Tips on (Nick runs another blog I read regularly called The Literary Compass.)

The Bookcase in the Sky: A Morality Tale for Teen Literacy Teachers

The Literary Compass

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


For the past, oh, six or seven years I've spent most of my "socializing" time on the computer building a community with a couple dozen other women, mostly on one forum. I know I've mentioned that before, and even blogged a bit about friendships, online and otherwise. I'm about to do it about friendship, that is. So if you're sick of the topic, skip this entry and pray I have a brainwave in the next day or two and post something you find more interesting. Otherwise, read along while I try to figure out how relationships work.

While I've been building a virtual community, I've had surprisingly limited sustained contact with "real" people. I have two friends I see and talk to regularly, and then a small group of friends I chat with at church or when dropping one or another child off at an activity. There are several women/couples I enjoy and have sometimes said I'd like to know better, but I rarely follow though. Quite frankly, I haven't really wanted to make the time investment. Having a couple (with children) over for dinner means not just the dinner, but all the cleaning and straightening that goes with it (and in my house that's a daunting task at times). Our house is a moderate size and rather full. There isn't a great place to have people visit, especially since our family room pretty much is taken over by computers and a TV that is there more for Xbox than actual viewing.

But the physical inconvenience is only part of it (although a big one for me right now....but that's a different blog). The big commitment is the emotional one. Getting involved in someones life takes time and energy. Time is a premium with me and energy is even more precious. I find that with kids, homeschololing, teaching, being a friend/spouse, running a home, and dealing with pre-menopausal issues, I am simply tired a lot of the time these days. But part of it is not the physical tiredness, it's the tiredness that goes with being around people all the time. People and clutter. I feel like my senses never get a rest. There is always sound and sights and people and demands, or not even demands, just desires...children's desires to be with me, to talk to me, ask me questions, seek my input, share a funny story, or have me kiss away a bad day. I wouldn't trade it, don't get me wrong. I don't want sympathy because I have a house full of people I love. Far from it. It's just that I realize that I don't have much left for the rest of the world. And for a life-long extrovert, this is a new experience.

Perhaps this is why I've loved the online community so much. My extroverted need for people and expression is at least partially fulfilled, and yet I can fit it into my time, at least most of the time! Yes, there have been challenges, sadness, loss, conflict and more. No relationship, irl or online, is without the challenges that make the relationship worthwhile. But online relationships, at least for me, have been somewhat easier than the face-to-face ones. Why? I'm not real sure.

Yesterday I spend a nice day with a friend going through her room of homeschooling material helping her sort, cull, and organize. I didn't convince her to get rid of much, but at least it's more organized and she knows what she's got on her shelves. We had time to talk about a lot of things, and friendships were one of them. Her experiences have reminded me why I haven't felt the energy to pursue more irl friends. It can be daunting.

I want uncomplicated friends. Uncomplicated in that they are secure in who they are and who I am. I don't want people to be possessive of me or my time. I don't want friends to get hurt because I chose to vacation with this family or go to lunch with that friend. I don't want to be a friend like that, either. I want to be kind to people , and not worry about who is talking to whom, or if I'm getting enough attention from anyone in particular. I've made a lot of mistakes as a friend. In fact, this lady I was with yesterday and I have a long, and not always happy, past. But we've grown and learned from mistakes, and probably that's why we ended up talking about it all yesterday. We don't have any pretenses with each other any more. We've pretty much seen the worse and we've forgiven and moved on. Some days I'm so glad to be 50+ and not 25!!

I feel like I'm re-entering the local "friend" scene after years of self-imposed hermit-hood. I'm already wondering of it's worth it. The renewed contact comes with having children who are more involved socially and can't really be avoided. However, few people around here know me as well as my online community of friends. As I navigate the local minefields of relationship, I am ever more grateful for the very real bond I have with so many here in cyberspace.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I hate ivy

I thought I'd share with you how much I hate ivy. It's nothing more than kudzu with a good publicity agent. It grows over anything, destroys siding on your house, refuses to die, even when sprayed by all those chemicals I never admit to using in my yard, and it refuses to be pulled it without a herculean effort!

Did I say I hate it? I've been trying on and off for 10 years to rid my yard of ivy. Anyone who plants ivy on purpose should be shot. No trial. I have almost given myself heat exhaustion and who-knows-what-else today trying to pull up the ivy along my north wall.....again. It had grown six or seven feet under the siding of the house. It is separating the siding from the outer wall, and it has invaded the crawl space through the vents.....10 or 12 feet into the crawl space. Why? I don't know. It's dark in there. Ivy is stupid and it just grows. It doesn't know how to do anything else. Just grow. Up walls, under walls, through walls, into crawl spaces, over fences, over other plants, over any toy or gardening tool left for more than 10 minutes. I worried about the children when they were small. My kids have never been very active, and I wondered if they staying in one place too long if I would ever find them again.

I wish I had taken pictures of it before and after. Only I'm not to the "after" stage yet. I'm in the almost after stage, which is where I've been for years. I hate ivy.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Further thoughts on yesterday's blog...

My blog yesterday was sort of long and rambling, and went "off point" more than a few times. That's partly the way my mind works and partly because I was interrupted numerous times and the TV was on. :-D

I don't have a problem with the concept of "home church." I understand the desire and even the need for a community and support network, as well as a place where people help you grow in your faith and stay accountable (although "staying accountable" is a nebulous term which I'd like to explore deeper someday). My question is, why is there this concept that the only right way to "do church" is to be anchored in one, and only one, group of believers? Maybe there is huge scriptural support for it, but I don't think there is, at least not direct support. I honestly think it is a child of the Reformation. Before that, for good or ill, you were a member of the "church universal."

I'm not saying everybody needs to go worship at multiple churches. But I am suggesting that there is something amiss with the mentality that makes not belonging solely to one church body somehow wrong or even sinful. Yes, it can be a challenge to form community at more than one church, and not everyone is going to want to even try. At the same time, it's not impossible to do. And, to be perfectly honest, attending a single church for years doesn't guarantee community. A person , or family, may make friends and enjoy attending church functions yet still not really establish that sense of community or belonging. It's happened to us more than once. It can, in fact, be very difficult at times to break into an established church community.

Our family has attended Grace for almost 7 years. Even though we know people, we've taught Sunday School, Will was a Youth Leader for 4 years, and I've been active in other ways, we struggled to feel like we have a real community there. We don't see anyone outside of church functions except one family. Sure, we could have been more involved and made a bigger effort, but with five children and homeschooling, I didn't have the energy. In the past year, our situation has changed, and interestingly enough, I've become more involved at Grace even as we've widen our circle to include Saint Thomas More. I'm doing more with the Moms at Grace and my children are getting more involved in church groups and activities.

Our community at STM is different. We'll more than likely meet people as we join in their many outreach functions or special groups (like the JustFaith group for social justice or the group that studies Catholic doctrines in depth). Our closest group of friends there at the moment are the other RCIA members and the RCIA director and his wife.

The third church we are associated with is a small group of led by a dear friend of ours. It has a "church without walls" feel to it. We are behind this group because we believe in what they are doing, which is putting legs on the gospel of Christ. Faith is doing, not just speaking, and they believe in doing. The church is going to find ways to meet the needs of the poor in their community, even if they don't know how they're going to do it yet. For example, they are dedicated, through networking with other believers and agencies, to feeding a set number of children this summer who would otherwise go hungry without the school lunches they receive during the year. Our semi-regular attendance (probably only once every month or so) is because we love the people and want to be involved in what they are doing, even if our physical involvement is limited due to time and distance.

Lastly, about regular Sunday attendance. I think there are many benefits to regular church attendance. It is a pre-set time when many people get together, therefore making it an ideal opportunity to regularly connect with those people at one place and in a relatively short period of time. That's a huge benefit in our busy lives. Also, it's a time to be exposed to the same thoughts and therefore be able to discuss and interact on those common experiences. Sort of like being on a forum together and all reading the same book or watching the same movie. But worthwhile as it is, it isn't the only way to get regular fellowship with other believers. Right now my future son-in-law works almost every Sunday, so his fellowship of believers consist of our family and the CD's of sermons he gets from his church back in Oregon sometimes. However, his limited exposure to "church" doesn't mean he isn't growing or getting fellowship. Ideally he'll work out a schedule and be able to plug in somewhere someday, but until then, he isn't an apostate or a backslider, nor is it that he doesn't care, as many assume.

I hope these thoughts help clarify my meaning. It's a fun topic to think about!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

God is bigger than your church...

Most church-going Christians in our country are satisfied with one church. In fact, it is such a given in our society that each believer have a "church home" that most people look at you either with disbelief, or worse, when they find out you go to more than one church. I was jokingly going to write a blog about how most people are happy with one church, but we go to three. Then I got to thinking. Why is it that we as Christians are so bound to the "one church for each person" model?

Don't get me wrong, I understand the biblical admonishment not to neglect "assembling together." I honestly feel that as Christians it's important to have a fellowship of other believers for comfort, community, support, and accountability. Many believers think that means a "home church" or fellowship, and that is certainly a legitimate way to interpret it. But is it the only way to interpret or fulfill the admonishment?

It occurs to me that this is very likely a result of the Reformation and the splintering of the Protestant denominations. When the Catholic Church had a virtual monopoly on Christian houses of worship in western Europe, there wasn't much point in shopping around. There was one "Christianity" and you, as a Christian, belonged. You belonged in Paris and in London, Madrid, Rome, and everywhere else. If you were traveling and Sunday came along, you went to the nearest parish. You knew the drill, and it would all be in Latin, just like home. You knew when to stand, kneel, cross yourself, how to respond even if you'd never been there before in your life. I assume you would have been allowed, and even expected, to take the Eucharist if you were baptized.

I'm not here to argue the rights or wrongs of the Reformation, I'm just thinking (at this point) about some of the ramifications. After Luther nailed his suggested reforms to the Wittenberg door, the Protestant Reformation was on its way. After splitting with Rome Protestants decided not to stop there. They kept splitting. I'm also not going to argue about how many denominations there are in the world today. I've read Catholic assertions of "over 30,000" and Protestant rebuttals that there are less than 8,000. I've also read the Protestant claim that if we use the same separation criteria to look at RCC churches that they use to look at Protestant churches, we'd come up with over 2000 Catholic "denominations" as well. So if we drop all the micro-separating of both groups (Prots and Catholics), we end up with 6000-8000 Protestant denominations, up from one originally.

What I do want to talk about is how that splintering into different denominations has affected how we go to church. If you are Presbyterian, you will probably pass by anywhere from 5 to 10 perfectly nice churches on the way to yours every Sunday morning. There is the Baptist church on the corner, as well as five more in the next five miles, and then there is the Methodist church, the Bible Church, the Lutheran Church, and several store-front independent and/or charismatic churches and the new church now meeting in the local elementary school.

We all know why we, as Christians, drive past many churches on the way to our home church. It's because of doctrinal and style differences. And these differences cause some fierce loyalty issues. Our church home is part of our identity, and we are protective of that. When someone "rejects" our church for another, we can feel personally rejected. It's bad enough when someone looking for a church decides ours isn't "the right one." But it's worse when someone who has been at the church for years decides to leave. If you leave a church you can expect to encounter not only sadness and some hurt feelings, but sometimes real hostility as well. Especially if you are changing denominations.

It's not our preferences in doctrine and style I wonder about, it's that fierce loyalty. Our family drives past a lot of churches, too. But what about that loyalty? Aren't we all the family of God? Aren't we all Christians?

And why do we think we each have to go to only one church in order to do it "right"? Those Baptists over there are good brothers and sisters in Christ, but we don't want our Reformed community members worshipping there! Heaven (!) forbid! We all need to be "planted and grow" in one church. Church hopping, or church shopping, is seen automatically as something weak, sinful, and lacking in character. Why?

It is grounded in the bloody differences in the early Protestant church, of course, where sect members fought each other and died to preserve what each saw as the hard-won "truth" about Christianity. This established what is effectively a mentality of "every denomination is an island." We mostly now agree to disagree without bloodshed, but we remain distrustful, none-the-less.

But could the problem today be partly because churches have become businesses? They are businesses at the very least in the fact that they employ people, take in money, and disperse money. Since not only the programs and missions, but the church staff, require a fairly hefty intake of funds, it seems logical that churches would want to attract new members and keep the ones they've got, especially the faithful tithers. And I think you will find that most of the fluctuations in church membership numbers are due to "moving sheep" not new believers. All the churches are drawing from the same pot, so to speak. So perhaps we discourage those moving sheep from roaming. Maybe we build fences to keep them in and post Danger signs all around the perimeter.

But what about the people like us, who go to several churches all at once? People simply don't know what to do with us! Worshiping with different communities of faith, different styles and doctrines, different beliefs and practices, should make us stronger, not weaker. It should make us closer-knit, more understanding, kinder. We should be able to see more aspects of God's greatness when we expose ourselves to more varieties of how His people worship Him.

I understand the desire to have a close knit community, for your children to have friends they grow up with, and for you to have support and people who've known you for years. I want that, too. But what I'm beginning to see is that you can achieve that in a variety of ways, and some people might find that regularly going to several churches is one way to broaden and deepen that community, not make it more shallow.

I haven't always seen the strengths, but I thank God that my family has had this opportunity.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I had to share this link....

People need to "walk the walk" if they are going to be the spokesperson for a cause.

Check this out at Snopes:

NOTE ADDED: I think I've fixed the link now. If not, you can go to the main site,, and search for "Bush House."