Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"..the remains of a fine woman..."

"Yes, there are the remains of a fine woman about Ruth." Pirates of Penzance

So says one of the pirate's, Sam when asked by Frederick whether Ruth is pretty or not. Frederick hasn't seen another woman's face since he was mistakenly placed as an apprentice to the Pirate King by his nursemaid, Ruth, at 8 years old. Fred is now 21 and Ruth 47. This is one of the pivotal points of the farce..Ruth is now a plain middle-aged woman and Fred is looking for a pretty wife.

I used to think this such a funny line, but not so much any more. Perhaps because it has been several years since I've realized it is more true than funny. Our culture isn't nice to middle-aged women, thinking them mostly to be pitied, ignored or laughed at. Mostly ignored. I tell my husband I've gradually become the invisible woman. Totally unseen in shops, restaurants, and elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily think Ruth a suitable spouse for Frederick, even in fiction. But if the situation had been a man of 47 and a woman of 21? Of course it wouldn't have been thought so unthinkable as to be immediately funny to everyone. "Wink, wink, nod, nod, say-no-more, say-no-more." We all get the absurdity of a handsome young man marrying a plain middle-aged woman.

"There are the remains of a fine woman....." Honestly, it's a little harder to laugh at this when you feel the force of the truth in it all too well. There are many things I like about getting older, and maybe even wiser, but what time does to the body isn't one of those things.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lifting the Curtain

I had an epiphany today. I realized that as a "good Christian," I'd basically rewritten 14 years of my life, from age 14 to 28. I'd taken the R and X-rated truth and made it PG for the benefit of my family and friends. I quickly picked up on the expectations that if there were egregious sins in my past they weren't to be mentioned except obliquely, and then only to "give my testimony" about how God saved me from my wicked ways.

I complied. I was ashamed, even horrified, by my past. I buried it and praised God for forgiveness and another chance. But midlife reevaluation has hit and now I realize something. I hate having almost a third of my life hidden behind a veil, shut away even from me. No one really knows me, because what I went through those years is an important part of who I am. Along with the things I did that I really do regret, there are some gems. There are relationships that may not have been good choices, but were, and are, sweet memories. I've hidden almost everything for years in fear that anyone who knew what I was really capable of would reject me. All those Christians would be horrified. And I think there is truth in that fear.

I'm not interested in bragging about indiscretion or flaunting sinful behavior. And I would be more than sad to see my children making the decisions I made. I'm not glorifying or rationalizing. What I'm doing is saying is stuff happened, and it's part of who I am.

I started talking to Will about it all when a song on the radio brought back a long-forgotten memory. The memory was so powerful that it overwhelmed me, and I felt like I was shaking for several days. One of the reasons I was so shaken by it was that even though the memory should have made me feel sorrow at my actions, it only made me feel pain and a longing....a longing to remember more.

The memory was from about 30 years ago. I was 22 and had been in an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive marriage for almost three years. My husband, Dennis, was a racehorse trainer and we were stabled at Timonium, outside of Baltimore, MD. I remember it was spring and beautiful...everything smelled fresh and new. One day when I was holding a horse for our farrier, Peter, Dennis asked him if I could stay with him for the weekend. Just like that. Like I was a pet dog and Peter was going to dog-sit. Peter had been flirting outrageously with me for months, but that was par for the course at the racetrack. I was female...that was the only criteria needed for every male to make a pass at you. Pete didn't hide it from Dennis, and it didn't matter 'cause Dennis considered it a joke, or some sort of backhanded compliment. But Dennis wanted to go away for a long weekend with the owner of our racehorses, supposedly to an auction, but most likely just to party. We only had one vehicle and our apartment was 45 minutes from the track. I needed to be there each day to take care of the horses, so Dennis needed to find a solution. Pete was his solution.

Pete said sure, and I said nothing at all. Pete was a nice guy, late 20's, good looking and fit. He also drank all day from a flask of vodka and orange juice. I still remember how he always smelled..of horse, leather, vodka and orange juice.

After I finished with the horses the day Dennis left, I climbed into Peter's Volvo wagon and we drove on out to his place farther in the country. I don't remember feeling anything in particular. Perhaps I was even glad to be somewhere else for a change, for Dennis to be gone. Pete and I never even talked about it, or acted like I didn't always go home with him. I know we had a good weekend. We were at the racetrack every morning to work, and spent every afternoon together. I slept with him at night. He packed a lunch for us one day and we drove to a beautiful spot by a creek and we ate lunch and talked. On Sunday, which was Mother's Day, we helped Pete's family deliver flowers around Baltimore. That lunch and the time at the florist shop made something snap inside of me. I felt like I'd been drugged and had finally awakened. I knew I didn't have to live the way I'd been living.

When Dennis returned he picked me up at Pete's house. We all went out to dinner like it was the most normal thing in the world. Pete didn't ask me to stay, although he would have let me if I'd wanted to. I didn't want to. He was sweet, but he had a drinking problem. Plus he worked at the race track, and I was beginning to understand I couldn't stay there forever.

Pete and I remained friends, and he even recommended me as an exercise rider to the owners of Right Pot. But by the end of that summer I had decided to leave the track. Four months after that, Dennis and I officially separated. Within a year after that weekend, I was divorced and never saw Pete again.

I don't plan on dragging up episodes from my past private life for all to dissect, but at the same time I am not going to deny that they exist. Many of the memories really are painful, with no real redeeming sweetness. Maybe only Will will hear about who I was, and how that affects who I am. He assures me he'll love me just the same, and I believe him.

I really am thankful for the chance God gave me for a new life with Will. And by the way, the song that sparked the long-buried memory was Make a Memory by Bon Jovi.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My sister-in-law named 2009 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail

Cathy Walters- 2009 Teacher on the Trail

My wonderful sister-in-law has been named Iditarod's 2009 Teacher on the Trail. It's an amazing amount of work, but she's so excited about the challenge. She'll spend a month in Alaska next winter before, during, and after the race. She will be flown in a small plane from checkpoint to checkpoint throughout the race, where she will file reports for teachers and students across the country to use in "real time" during the race. Throughout this year Cathy will develop curriculum and other classroom materials for use in schools across the country.

I can't tell you how proud I am of Cathy. She's always been a loving, funny, special person, and I'm so happy she's getting this once in a lifetime chance and recognition for how fantastic she is as a teacher.

You can also see a short video of her on the main Iditarod page.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My new musical find

Meet Marc Broussard....

I can't seem to embed the video, but it's worth following the link....

Monday, June 30, 2008

Surprise! Obama's true colors emerge.

While John McCain is trying to shore up his support among conservatives by reversing himself on tax cuts, off shore drilling, and immigration, Obama has joined the "business as usual" politics with his rejection of public campaign financing and his "ruthless aversion to American Muslims." (William Falk, The Week July 4-11) According to Falk, at a rally last week in Detroit, Obama aides made two scarf-wearing Muslim women leave their seats, lest TV viewers see them in the same picture as the candidate.The NYTimes reports Obama has canceled or turned down all speaking engagements with Arab-American groups, and asked the only member of congress ever sworn in on a Koran, Keith Ellison, to cancel a planned speech on Obama's behalf.

Jay Newton of says Obama is walking a thin line. He skyrocketed to the nomination by casting himself as a principled outsider. Lately, though, the Democratic nominee has been acting like everyone else in Washington. As Richard Cohen of the Washington Post put it, instead of being the agent of change, "it's difficult to recall of a time when Obama has ever alienated his liberal base or took any real political risk."

David Brooks of the NYTimes said when Obama somehow made his "cutthroat political calculation" to reject public financing "seem like Mother Teresa's final steps to sainthood," he couldn't help feeling a little awe. This guy is good. "Even Bill Clinton wasn't smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics."

So there you are, folks. Vote for Obama if you agree with his (very liberal) economic, social, and political agendas. But don't fool yourself and think he's somehow going to "change" how politics is done. He's a politician playing the same games as all the others. His nebulous, feel-good messages of change and hope are just so much campaign fodder. McCain, who at this point really is sticking with public financing, is probably going to lose since he will have less than a third of the money that Obama will now have to work with.

Obama has shown his true agenda, and he's now going to probably win because he isn't willing to play on a level playing field. It's now "do anything to win" and then rationalize that it's for "the good of the people."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Treading water in the Tiber

Well, everything is on hold again as far as joining the Catholic Church. (I'll try to get back to my story of how I got here..where ever here is...soon.)

We tried to figure out the logistics of how to join the RCC, but it didn't come out satisfactorily for me. We try to go to both churches each weekend, but the truth is Will really has to juggle to make it to mass each week, and in the Catholic Church that's a problem. I realized that I didn't want to join the church until I could mean what I promised, which would include trying my best to attend mass weekly. Right now I can't make that promise. I realized that I am too tied to the church we've been going to for years. I want to be part of that community for my kids' sakes. I enjoy the community and friendship, too, of course, but mainly I want the kids to know I'm in solidarity with them. I realized my joining another church right now, and splitting my time between them, was too much.

I support Will's decision to join the Church, and I want to continue to go with him whenever I can. Someday I will join. But right now I don't want to make any promises that I can't keep, so here I am, in the middle of the Tiber, treading water! Indecision, or in this case the decision not to make a final choice, is not a comfortable place for me, but it just might be where God wants me right now. I've always been the type to want the answers NOW, to have my life planned out with no real uncertainty. Are you laughing?? Yes, well, God chuckles at that, too, I think. In fact, the idea that there is no good answer right now is probably God's answer for me.

Maybe I'll slowly find God on His terms instead of being handed some prepackaged set of beliefs given by someone else, or lots of someone elses. I don't like not knowing what God expects, and not having any boxes to check or lists to cross off. Right now I'm not comfortable. I worry. I wonder. I fret. What should I do, where should I go, what should I believe, is this true, or is this Truth? I believe this mid-life crisis of faith is designed by God to shake me up and get me moving. God seems to do "uncomfortable" well. ;-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama gets the nod...

It's been a long fight in the democratic primary, as you all know if you haven't been doing research on Antarctica. But it's over. Obama makes history as the first African-American candidate for president for a major party.

This time around history was going to be made one way or another. A woman or a black man, either way it was going to open doors and, hopefully, open a few mids. That's good. I am truly pleases that women and minorities are being taken seriously in this country. I only wish I could support one of them.

But I can't.

I'm glad that this day has come, and we are taking new steps into a future not based on gender or color. I'm going to take that step boldly and say that I will not vote for someone, anyone, just because they are black or are a woman. As many news anchors commented, the actually positions held by Clinton and Obama are indistinguishable, and on too many levels those positions are untenable for me.

Obama's campaigners may all dance around to strains of "We Are the Champions" today, but what is at stake here isn't an ideal, or a feeling, or a vague sense of "change." What's at stake is the future of our country, and I honestly believe Obama's economic plans are disastrous. I think his plan to pull the troops out of Iraq without adequate regard to the safety of that country is unethical. I think his words are big and his plans are small. I think he is a talker instead of a doer. And he has no real history of "crossing the aisle" and working on compromise. This "agent of change" that has so many people excited is going to be one more polarizing politician.

My money and my vote will go to the one candidate that actually does have a history of being different, a maverick, and agent of change, and an aisle crosser. John McCain.

In November if Obama loses to McCain I'm sure the U.S. will get all kinds of harassment and censure from Europeans on how we are backwards and unable to vote a black man into office. That, of course, will only show their own bias. Are we suppose to think about skin color or not??? But if McCain wins it will be because this country really is ready for change... a change from polarizing politics to real solutions.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A few wedding pictures!

If you click on the picture you will get a larger image. The two bridesmaids are my two younger daughters, and, of course, Will is walking Hannah down the aisle. I'll post more pictures soon!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Wedding Weekend- Saturday Morning

Our plan was to pick up the photographer (Olivia) at 8:30 Saturday morning, so I set the alarm for about 6:30. (The photographer is the daughter of a friend of mine who is apprenticing in photography.) I woke up before that, but felt so tired I couldn't drag myself out of bed right away. The morning's activities looked daunting to me, and I wanted to delay getting started! However, I finally did rouse myself to action, and after a cup of coffee, got the kids up. Hannah was already up after getting only 3 or 4 hours sleep. Will, Hannah, and I had all made "What To Take" lists and after each list had been consulted, we managed not to forget anything at home. I call that a miracle, especially considering we had all of the bride's stuff, the dresses, shoes, etc, for both bridesmaids (my other two daughters) and for myself, as well as make-up, hair stuff, bouquets, table decorations, rings, homemade candies, cupcake stands, and more. It all made it!

We picked up Olivia about 10 minutes late, and got to the restaurant a little later than planned, but no harm done. We dumped all the dresses and paraphernalia at a "sister" restaurant next door since we would all be dressing there, and took the rest of the wedding stuff on to The Red Room, where Hannah was getting married. The groom and groomsmen arrived in a timely fashion, as well as the flower girl and the pastor, Jimmy Chalmers. (Jimmy wrote a short piece about the wedding on his site yesterday.) They did a quick run-through of the wedding, and then we "girls" retired to get ready.

Hannah and the bridesmaids walked up the aisle to Pachalbel's Canon, and the whole wedding went off smoothly, even though the grooms ring was still sitting in a box next door at the other restaurant! The pastor, my daughter Rebekah, Hannah, and Erik all pulled off a convincing pantomime, and no one knew until afterwards that no ring was actually there for the ceremony! The service took 12 minutes. Afterwards, the guests talked outside in the beautiful weather while the chairs were removed and tables set up, and while photographs were taken.

Speaking of photographs, I honestly don't have any. Not one. We'll be getting some, of course, but over the whole weekend we did not personally take ONE photograph. I was too busy! I'll try to post some as I get them from friends and family (and photographer!).

We had a tight budget for this wedding, but it was intimate and beautiful none-the-less. the bride made all the floral decorations herself from silk flowers, including all the bouquets. She made her necklace and earrings for the wedding, as well as her sister's earrings. A good friend made hundreds of molded chocolate candies for the wedding as a present, which we placed in small bags around on the tables as eatable decorations. The bouquets were placed in glass vases filled with glass stones on a square of mirror for table centerpieces.

For a wedding "cake," we opted for cupcakes in decorative wire cupcake holders, and a small (8") round decorated cake for the bride and groom to cut. We had 4 dozen yellow cupcakes with white buttercream icing, and 4 dozen chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing. The cake was chocolate with a basket weave design in white buttercream. The cake "basket" was "filled" with decorative yellow icing roses on top. We taste tested cakes from several area store bakeries, but no "wedding" cake makers because of the cost. We picked a local food store called Lowe's Foods. The 8 dozen cupcakes and 8" cake together cost us about $70. The least expensive wedding cake we could find for 100 people was $300, most were close to $450.

What we did pay for was great food and great service at The Red Room. We payed for the party, and it was well worth the expense! In my opinion, the food was a much better place to put the money than fancy decorations or over-priced cakes.

The wedding started at 11:00 a.m. and the reception was over by 2:00 p.m. Later I'll make a short post about our fun-filled Saturday afternoon and evening with family.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Wedding Weekend- Friday Evening

The last week leading up to the wedding was exciting and tiring. On and off Tuesday and Wednesday I had a few min-panic attacks. I felt stressed with all there was to do, and all the unknowns surrounding the wedding details. By Thursday, however, I felt much calmer. There were still unknowns, and still lots to do, but I felt more excitement than stress. I kept checking things off my list and seeing it all come together. By mid-afternoon on Friday, the house was ready, the food was ready, and all the paraphernalia for the wedding had been gathered. Just in time for the out-of-town guests who started to arrive.

Most of my entire family arrived from out of town, coming from the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, and as far away as Oklahoma. Will's family came as well, from Virginia and Ohio. All together we had almost 30 people arriving Friday afternoon and evening ranging from 2 years old to mid-70's. I planned food that could stay out and be snacked on all evening, and had a cooler full of drinks on ice.

Friday evening was full of catching up between family members, and making new acquaintances between families. There was always some group telling stories and people laughing so hard they were gasping for breath. As hostess, I stayed busy and didn't have as much time to just sit as I might wish, but it was fun to be an "observer" of this wonderful group of people. I was struck again by how blessed I am to be surrounded by such loving and open people as my family and Will's family. How can anyone be so doubly-blessed?

Erik and his two close friends (and future groomsmen) from Oregon stopped by for a while, and then went off again to see Iron Man and try not to stress over the wedding.

All the guests had headed to their hotel rooms by 10:00 pm or so, and Will and I cleaned up some before getting everything organized for the morning. Then we all went to bed, except Hannah, who I think got very little sleep!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rant against DirecTV

I will make this as short as possible.

In late March we signed up to switch from cable tv, cable internet, and digital phone to Verizon phone (land line), Verizon DSL, and DirecTV. The monthly savings were significant (>$65 a month). We knew the internet would be somewhat slower, but that seemed okay.

It's been a nightmare.

First the internet connection crawled. We weren't getting the 1.5 Mb promised. In fact, at one point we were getting less than a third of that. Will finally got that fixed (hour-long service call later, after I'd already spent an hour earlier in the week). (Head's up: 1.5 Mb isn't fast enough for 8 computers, especially when you have several teens downloading games and videos.)

But the frustration over slow internet is nothing compared to what we've been through with DirecTV.

Short version:
April 8th- satellite installed, good signal. Signed the contract.
April 20th (or there about)- signal starts breaking up....losing channels.
May 1st (or there about)- no signal on any local channel. Almost all channels have deficient quality and pixilation problems.
May 9th- Technician comes out and says we have "no line of sight" since the leaves have come out on the trees. (Are you getting this??) He may be able to get a line of sight if we agree to put it right smack on the front of our house, but he can't promise how long that will last since the signal would barely be making it over the tops of two sweet gums in our back yard. If they grow any, the signal would be lost. Plus, it would be on the FRONT of my house.
May 9th- a few minutes after the tech left- called DirecTV with this information, asking to cancel service since we have no lone of sight. But guess what? If we "break" the contract we signed, we have to pay them $480. Even if their technician is the one who screwed up and placed the satellite pointing through bare trees that got their leaves two weeks later. Since there was a line of sight when the dish was installed, the contract is valid. We lose $480.

Keeping the dish is no option, since we aren't getting service. We'd do better with an antennae.

I am ashamed to admit I totally lost it with the service rep on the phone. I was screaming at him. He hung up on me.(He was being an arrogant jerk, but.....) I called back and talked more calmly to another rep. She said she'd "appeal" the action with the "back office." We should hear in about two weeks what they decide.

I call it fraud. BTW- the tech that was here today said he's going on all kinds of calls in the past few weeks moving dishes for people who had their dishes installed in the winter when there were no trees. If your are out of warranty, the service call is $80. DirecTV is making money by duping ignorant customers.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'll be back after the wedding!

I probably won't get around to Part 3 of Dog-paddling Across the Tiber until sometime after the 17th. It's not so much that I don't have time to type, but I don't have time to think.

The week after the wedding should be a quiet one. I'll plan, Lord willing, to continue then.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dog-paddling across the Tiber Pt 2

About the time I started reading all about Catholicism from a Protestant point of view, my family left the very reformed church we'd been attending. The church had sapped all our joy (this had something to do with the leadership, not just the doctrines), and we felt in need of healing. We started attending a local PCA church where we knew the pastor. He is a wonderful man who preaches a great sermon, but my family didn't seem to fit into the church. It was as much us as anything, I know, but we couldn't quite make it work. Out of 400-500 people, we were only one of four or five families to home school. Also, with five children, we were the largest family in the church.

About a year later, my oldest daughter wanted to go to a youth group at a non-denominational church called Grace Church. We had friends there, and my daughter knew at least 6 other teens going to the youth group. She didn't know any at the PCA church we were attending. The new youth group was a large, active one, pulling youth from several churches around the area, some too small to have their own groups. It had a nice balance of public, private, and home schooled teens.

One Sunday Will and I brought the family to Grace, mostly to see who was influencing our daughter and to let them know we were around and involved. The service was primarily divided into worship time (lots of singing) and sermon time, with communion in between. It was very different from the Presbyterian services we were used to, and that's probably one reason it appealed so much. We continued attending Grace Church after that, and, as a family, we're still there.

But I wasn't being idle in my research of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Some of the books I read about this time include:

Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Divides and Unites Us

Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" by Karl Keating (The book that mainly prompted the email to John Holtzman. Keating is not a winsome writer.)

Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy
, At the Corner of East and Now, and The Illuminated Heart, all by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

I also read parts of Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian by Jordan Bajis and a short biography of Pope John Paul II. Will read The Evidential Power of Beauty by Dubay, and we both read books on church history. But mainly I read articles and books by Protestants about what was wrong with Catholic (and EO) beliefs.

Next I'll talk about how the faith journey of a friend challenged me to give Catholicism an honest look.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Is Wright looking for "revenge"?

This Op-Ed was in the NYTimes today.
April 29, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
The Pastor Casts a Shadow

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.

Smiling, cracking corny jokes, mugging it up for the big-time news media — this reverend is never going away. He’s found himself a national platform, and he’s loving it.

It’s a twofer. Feeling dissed by Senator Obama, Mr. Wright gets revenge on his former follower while bathed in a spotlight brighter than any he could ever have imagined. He’s living a narcissist’s dream. At long last, his 15 minutes have arrived.

So there he was lecturing an audience at the National Press Club about everything from the black slave experience to the differences in sentencing for possession of crack and powdered cocaine.

All but swooning over the wonderfulness of himself, the reverend acts like he is the first person to come up with the idea that blacks too often get the short end of the stick in America, that the malignant influences of slavery and the long dark night of racial discrimination are still being felt today, that in many ways this is a profoundly inequitable society.

This is hardly new ground. The question that cries out for an answer from Mr. Wright is why — if he is so passionately committed to liberating and empowering blacks — does he seem so insistent on wrecking the campaign of the only African-American ever to have had a legitimate shot at the presidency.

On Sunday night, in an appearance before the Detroit N.A.A.C.P., Mr. Wright mocked the regional dialects of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. I’m not sure how he felt that was helpful in his supposed quest to bring about a constructive discussion about race and reconciliation in the U.S.

What he is succeeding in doing is diminishing the stature of Senator Obama. A candidate who stands haplessly by as his former spiritual guide roams the country dropping one divisive bomb after another is in very little danger of being seen by most voters as the next J.F.K. or L.B.J.

The thing to keep in mind about Rev. Wright is that he is a smart fellow. He’s been a very savvy operator, politically and otherwise, for decades. He has built a thriving, politically connected congregation on the South Side of Chicago that has done some very good work over the years. Powerful people have turned to him for guidance and advice.

So it’s not like he’s na├»ve politically. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Forget the gibberish about responding to attacks on the black church. That is not what the reverend’s appearance before the press club was about. He was responding to what he perceives as an attack on him.

This whole story is about Senator Obama’s run for the White House and absolutely nothing else. Barack Obama went to Rev. Wright’s church as a young man and was blessed with the Christian bona fides that would be absolutely essential for a high-profile political career.

Faster than anyone could have imagined, the young Mr. Obama became Senator Obama and then the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then came the videotaped sermons and the roof caved in on Rev. Wright’s reputation. Senator Obama had no choice but to distance himself, and he did it as gently as he felt he could.

My guess is that Mr. Wright felt he’d been thrown under a bus by an ungrateful congregant who had benefited mightily from his association with the church and who should have rallied to his former pastor’s defense. What we’re witnessing now is Rev. Wright’s “I’ll show you!” tour.

For Senator Obama, the re-emergence of Rev. Wright has been devastating. The senator has been trying desperately to bolster his standing with skeptical and even hostile white working-class voters. When the story line of the campaign shifts almost entirely to the race-in-your-face antics of someone like Mr. Wright, Mr. Obama’s chances can only suffer.

Beyond that, the apparent helplessness of the Obama campaign in the face of the Wright onslaught contributes to the growing perception of the candidate as weak, as someone who is unwilling or unable to fight aggressively on his own behalf.

Hillary Clinton is taunting Mr. Obama about his unwillingness to participate in another debate. Rev. Wright is roaming the country with the press corps in tow, happily promoting the one issue Mr. Obama had tried to avoid: race.

Mr. Obama seems more and more like someone buffeted by events, rather than in charge of them. Very little has changed in the superdelegate count, but a number of those delegates have expressed concern in private over Mr. Obama’s inability to do better among white working-class voters and Catholics.

Rev. Wright is absolutely the wrong medicine for those concerns.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dog-paddling across the Tiber Pt 1

This is probably a lousy time to start blogging on my journey toward the Catholic church, with a wedding looming on the horizon and all. But, as with many things in my life, I'll do it even though it doesn't make sense. Please forgive me if I disappear around mid-May.

Part of the reason I want to write about it now is to help me think again about the whole process. I admit to some cold-feet, some hesitation. And yet...I can't see myself not taking this step. It is not only the next natural step to take, but it's the one that I want. But this isn't an easy decision. If it was easy, I might actually be more wary of making it, wondering what I was missing in the big picture. At this point in my journey, however, I do see the "warts and all" of the decision, and choose to make it anyway.

I don't have the best memory, so I won't get all the pieces of this puzzle right. I'm sure I'll leave something out (lots of somethings, actually), and get some chronology wring. But I'm sure of the beginning, so I'll simply start there. The whole thing started with homeschooling my children, and my oldest daughter in particular. For her 10th grade year she and I studied Church History using Sonlight's curriculum, and rest, as they say, is not only history, but it is my present and future.

We were pretty dyed in the wool Calvinists at this time, attending a church that practiced the Regulative Principle (anything not explicitly commanded in worship is forbidden). I might add, that the year of study, which included a study of the Westminster Confession, did nothing to shake my daughter's faith or her beliefs. For me it was the beginnings of an earthquake, one slowing forming cracks along fault lines I didn't even know existed in my faith and beliefs.

That year had me reading books on Eastern Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and more. The books, and the questions in the study guide, led to some honest wrestling with beliefs I'd always accepted at face value. What did the early church really look like, where did we get the Bible, and could there be some solid basis for the "different" doctrines of the EO or RC churches? I saw for the first time the sweep of history, the early origins of beliefs and practices I had been taught were late additions of a corrupted church. I was so angry I wrote a long, complaining email to John Holtzman, the author and publisher of Sonlight curriculum. (It says something about the small size of the company that in those days Holtzman freely corresponded with many users.) John and I carried on an intermittent conversation about what was "safe" and proper for good Protestant kids to be reading and learning. (Even with my own hesitations, I never stopped my daughter from reading any of the books or delving into the questions. Like I said, she wasn't struggling with the new information, I was.) One thing I appreciated about the Sonlight curriculum is it never let you get off easy. There were few pat answers on any level, and difficult books and information were never withheld simply because they were difficult. Holtzman stood by his choice of books and questions. We need to believe because we believe, not because we only know one side of the story.

That study of church history sent me scurrying to find reassurance in my Protestant, and particularly reformed, belief system. Over the next few years I read all kinds of books on understanding Catholicism, but only those written by Protestants.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

About those superdelegates

I'm not the most savvy voter in the world, I'll admit, but I don't think I'd ever heard much, if anything, about superdelegates before this winter. I didn't always vote republican, either. In fact, I was a teenage campaigner for McGovern in 1972, even before I could vote. At any rate, I'd never heard enough about superdelegates for them to get much under my attention radar. They are now.

Would someone like to explain the concept to me? Where did it come from, and why does it still exist? It amuses me that many people who would like to get away from the electoral college are members the party that has the superdelegate system. Can anyone spell "ironic"?

Here is a little piece of news from today about superdelegates: the undecided ones, currently numbering approximately 250, don't feel bound by the primary votes, or the number of delegate a candidate already has.

About 250 superdelegates have told the AP they are undecided or uncommitted. About 60 more will be selected at state party conventions and meetings this spring.

AP reporters across the nation contacted the undecideds and asked them how they plan to choose. Of those, 117 agreed to discuss the decision-making process.

_About a third said the most important factor will be the candidate who, they believe, has the best chance of beating Republican John McCain in the general election.

_One in 10 said the biggest factor will be the candidate with the most pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses.

_One in 10 said what matters most is who won their state or congressional district in the primary or caucus.

_The rest cited multiple factors or parochial issues.

And this quote amazes me:

Many of the undecided superdelegates say they don't want to be perceived as elite insiders, cutting backroom deals to select a nominee. But that doesn't mean they're ready to forfeit their status.

"The way the system is set up, the superdelegates are able to weigh in because we are the most experienced people in the party," said Blake Johnson, an undecided superdelegate from Alaska. "We are the ones who have been part of the party the longest and keep it running on a day-to-day basis."

Can anyone spell "clueless"?

I'll make you a little wager. If Clinton gets the nomination based on superdelegate votes, we'll see an outcry to change the system before the next election cycle. If Obama wins the nomination the superdelegate debate probably won't get much attention.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Well, I'm still here...

It seems I can post and everything. The Road Runner account was turned off last Saturday, but Blogger seems to think that's just fine. I have to sign out of my new Blogger account and sign into this one in order to post or respond to comments, but that's okay.

Not that I have much to say these days. Actually, I have a lot to say but I never seem to have the energy to articulate it. Like, I am still wondering about the validity of "super delegates" in the Democratic primary process. What part of "let the people decide" did the Democrats miss? If the super delegates are suppose to vote the "will of the people" why have them? If they are there to make the final decision, why have the primaries?

Not so sure about "winner take all" of the Republican primaries, either.

There are other things on my mind. I'm still getting ready for a May 17th wedding and trying not to stress. I'm concerned about the future financial stability of my daughter and new husband, as well as the future anything for my 19 yr old son. Well, he's got a real nice girlfriend. I'm working towards joining the Catholic church in July. That's a biggie.

It seems like every conversation these days turns to how to live out your faith...really live your faith, as in get your hands dirty, sacrifice your time and energy, and stop thinking just sending a check's gonna do it. I'm still trying to stand unnoticed in a corner so no one picks me for any of those jobs. Sorry God, but I'm feeling paralyzed right now. Even thinking about what and where I could help gives me an anxiety attack. Don't know why. But I'm putting off figuring out until after the wedding.

And there's more. I'm thinking all the time. Worrying more than I should. Having long monologues in my head about this and that, and never having the energy to write them down.

But I'm here. I'm reading other people's blogs. And I'm thinking and wishing something good and relevant and insightful would pop into my head so I'd have something interesting to post. Until then, expect more cat pictures.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A "just in case" solution...

I just started a new blog in case I can't keep posting to this one.

Copy this url:

and keep it until I know for sure this blog is going to stay up. If I disappear, you'll know where to find me!


Blog future unknown....

For the handful of faithful friends who read my blog: I wanted you to know I'm not sure what the future holds for this particular blog. I've changed my email address, and it seems that this blog is inextricably linked to the old address. I can't keep the old address because that, in turn, is inextricably linked to road runner, which we are discontinuing. I've managed to change my email address on my profile, but not the "username" which is the old address. Confused??

What I'm hoping will happen is Blogger won't notice that the old addy isn't functional anymore. I'll have to use it to log in, but other than that all updates and notifications ought to go to my new address. That's the plan, anyway. If that doesn't work, I might just fade gracefully into the sunset.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Our Advanced Drama class made this video...

So Long Self

The Advanced Drama team at our home school tutorial made this music video to Mercy Me's So Long Self. I think they did a good job.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

My theme song

With the spiritual turmoil of the last couple of years, I find this simple song expresses where my heart is.

Jerusalem, My Destiny
I have set my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny.
Though I cannot see the end for me
I cannot turn away.

We have set our hearts for the way;
This journey is our destiny.
Let no one walk alone.
This journey makes us one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How McCain needs to campaign against Obama

If Obama is the Democratic candidate, there is, imo, only one way to win against him. No, it won't be to go negative as Hillary has. Maybe that will work for her, who knows, but it won't work for McCain. I think a negative campaign by a Republican against the mild-mannered Obama will be a disaster.

And McCain doesn't need to harp too long on the experience factor. Everyone knows how long McCain's been around and how long Obama hasn't. People aren't too sure long experience in Washington is such a great asset, anyway. One of the things McCain has going for him is that he's been a maverick; he's been different. Harping on Obama's lack of experience may end up hurting McCain in the long run, since he needs to look "fresh" and different than the present administration. So a few reminders of experience should do the trick there.

What McCain needs to do is tackle the issues. Over, and over, and over again. Simply line up the issues and show where they differ and how he (McCain) is going to achieve his goals. The reason this could work is simple. When all the dust has settled and the stirring oratories are getting less fresh and effective, people are going to realize Obama is simply a very liberal democrat of the old school.

I once thought Obama was a lightweight on substance. I've read through pages and pages on his website and now know he has very definite ideas about the changes he wants to see. (He's still weak on details, especially how you pay for all this stuff, but he's got definite goals at any rate.) The problem, at least for those of us on the conservative side of the spectrum, is that he holds the same agenda as every liberal for the past 40 years. The failed policies of Carter. The "government as nanny" policies of Clinton et al, and the liberal social agenda of Ted Kennedy. All rolled into one.

In the end, many Republicans who have been sickened by the present administration may very well wake up to the fact that replacing one political extreme with the opposite isn't going to change things the way they hope. Things will still be hopelessly deadlocked and polarizing politics will continue to reign. I think some eyes will open to the facts of national security, immigration, our moral duty in Iraq, the idiocy of turning health care over to the government, and all the other issues that Republicans tend to feel strongly about. People are going to take another look at McCain. Yes, the Bush administration has screwed things up royally, but what we need is a concerted effort to come together in the middle.

So McCain needs to show America exactly what Obama is. A nice, well-spoken, passionate, and very liberal, Democrat. Nothing more, nothing less. Not the "enemy," not evil, not anything except wrong on where this country needs to go. We don't need to go off the cliff on the other side. We need to find common ground. I believe McCain has the potential to do just that, in fact has already proven he can. With someone in the White house willing to work on both sides of the aisle, maybe we can truly get something done on these issues.

I hope Republican, and independents and moderate Democrats as well, can see the need for a moderate in the White House and give McCain a chance. And I hope McCain can see that his best bet to get there is to simply lay the facts out and let the people decide.

And even if McCain doesn't win, America will benefit greatly from a campaign run on the issues instead of negative emotions.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The role of government

This election year has caused me to ponder a lot of questions about the true role of government in our daily lives, as well as their role in national and international affairs. Here are random questions and thoughts, which may or may not make sense.

* Ours is a democratically elected government of a pluralistic society. That means, in part, that no one part of society gets special treatment.

* So what role should that government play in things such as protection of one segment of society from abuse of another? Obviously, we've decided no one should discriminate on the basis of race, creed, or sex. Who decides what constitutes "abuse" of one party by another?

* Can it be argued that the government's job is to see to the welfare of the country? At all costs? At some cost? In other words, can't it be argued that if it is in the country's best interest to protect it's oil supply, it should do so?

* Who decides what's in the county's best interest? The voters? A 51% majority? The courts?

This is what is stumping me, but I'm not able to articulate it well. I've been reading how the government shouldn't legislate "morality." You can't force people to make what other people think are the "right" or moral choices in life. Abortion, homosexual rights, and stem cell research are just a few examples. But at the same time, social justice issues are seen as the proper domain for the federal government. Welfare, food stamps, child care, health care, education, head start, etc. We've tried affirmative action as well as other social programs to level the playing field. Isn't that legislating morality, too?

Is the job of government to ensure their international trading is "fair" trade? If we say it is in the best interest of any country to deal compassionately with other countries and peoples, aren't we making moral judgments and therefore asking our governments to legislate morality instead of ensure the safety and survival of the country? What about illegal immigration? Should we possibly weaken our defenses and drain our resources by dealing "compassionately" with those who have come here to seek a better life? Perhaps immigrants are making the country a better place, but I think it can be argued rather effectively that that's not a universal truth and there are real and costly problems involved. Should compassion for an individual (or even many individuals) dictate national policy? Should it dictate how everyone must deal with something like this on a national level? Isn't it best to accommodate the needs of the many, not the few? Isn't that legislating morality?

It just seems we want to pick and choose what we see as the legitimate moral grounds for the federal government. Most, if not all of you who read my sporadic blog should know me at least a little. Yes, I have a conservative bent in politics and social issues. But I'm letting my mind run here, and I want help thinking through this issue of what is the legitimate role of government and who has the right to chose which areas the government meddles in, and which it doesn't?

Here is a concrete example. Should a government be compassionate at all costs? Isn't it the federal governments' primary job to secure our borders and to keep our country safe? If you don't see that as a primary function, what do you think the primary function is?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Our Moral Duty in Iraq

This article is bang-on, in my opinion. From America: The National Catholic Weekly

Our Moral Duty in Iraq

How would U.S. withdrawal affect the Iraqi people?
By Gerard F. Powers | FEBRUARY 18, 2008

Last year 14 Catholic Democrats sent a letter about Iraq to the U.S. Catholic bishops. After citing church leaders’ just war arguments against the original intervention, Tim Ryan, Rosa DeLauro, Marcy Kaptur and their colleagues concluded that it is time “to seek an end to this injustice.” They urged the bishops to support their efforts to force a withdrawal of U.S. troops as a way to “bring an end to this war.”

If it was immoral to intervene in Iraq in the first place, is it immoral to stay? Even Hillary Clinton, who supported the intervention, has claimed that Barack Obama is inconsistent because he opposed the intervention but later supported funding for U.S. troops to remain. Clearly, the ethics of intervention and the ethics of exit are related. The widespread, and correct, belief that the original intervention was illegitimate, the lack of broad international support and the failure to tie the toppling of a brutal regime in Iraq to a realistic and clear post-intervention plan have contributed to the debacle there. That said, as Bishop William Skylstad, then president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, emphasized in November, the focus now should be “more on the ethics of exit than on the ethics of intervention,” for the two, while related, are distinct. A just war can lead to an unjust peace; less often, an unjust war can lead to a just peace. Today’s challenge in Iraq is to ensure that an unjust war does not lead to an unjust peace.

Many in the antiwar camp fail to acknowledge that the United States bears a moral burden to help Iraqis build a just peace, a burden made heavier precisely because the war is unjust. As an uninvited occupying power, the United States has assumed a whole set of moral obligations to promote the common good of the Iraqi people until Iraqis can take control of their own affairs.

Legally, the United States is no longer occupying Iraq, but by almost any measure Iraq is a failed state. Morally, therefore, the United States retains significant residual responsibilities to Iraqis. The Iraq intervention may have been an optional, immoral war; but given the U.S. government’s shared responsibility for the ensuing crisis, its continued engagement is not an optional moral commitment.
What Matters Morally?

Others calling for U.S. withdrawal acknowledge the ethics of exit, but give too much weight to an ethic of efficacy (Is U.S. intervention working?) over an ethic of responsibility (What do we owe Iraqis?).

Boston College School of Theology & Ministry: An int'l theological center preparing leaders for the church in the 21st century.

Efficacy must be part of any moral analysis of Iraq. At a forum sponsored by Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture and Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, the ethicist Michael Walzer, a vocal opponent of the Iraq intervention, argued that “we are consequentialists for the moment. Neither staying on nor leaving Iraq is a categorical imperative” (see

Unlike many in the debate, Walzer is clear about the breadth of moral obligations that exist in Iraq and thus the range of consequences that matter morally. According to Walzer, “We have to figure out a strategy that produces the least bad results for the Iraqi people, for other people in the Middle East, and for American soldiers.”

Arguments for withdrawal tend to give most weight to what is good for U.S. soldiers (and, I would add, U.S. interests). It would be morally irresponsible not to take into account legitimate U.S. interests, not least our moral obligations to the small percentage of Americans who are helping to shoulder the burden in Iraq, and the moral costs of spending more than $2 billion per week on the war while other pressing needs go unmet.

Moral clarity about what we owe ourselves is often not matched by moral clarity about what we owe Iraqis. The Catholic Democrats and presidential candidates who rally antiwar support by equating a withdrawal of U.S. troops with “ending the war” in Iraq define the “ought” mostly without reference to the Iraqi people. Proposals to de-authorize and stop funding the war and to set strict timetables for redeployment might “end the war” for Americans. But would they end the war between Sunnis and Shiites? Would they end the insurgency, the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks or the widespread criminality in Iraq?

The moral question, then, is not the one put by Senator John Warner to Gen. David Petraeus: What policies and strategies will best serve U.S. national security interests? Rather, it is: What policies and strategies will best serve the interests and well-being of the Iraqi people?
What the United States Owes the Iraqis

When U.S. obligations to Iraqis are taken into account, they are often defined in a minimalist way, such as: combatting terrorist groups in Iraq; training and equipping Iraqi security forces; providing reconstruction assistance; pressing Iraqis to meet benchmarks for political “reconciliation”; taking in more Iraqi refugees, including those who have supported U.S. efforts; protecting the Kurds; and deterring Iranian aggression or regional instability. These are legitimate goals, but they do not seem commensurate with the magnitude of the needs of the Iraqi people, especially for security.

Despite the fact that ensuring order is the primary responsibility of an occupying power, the Bush administration did not make protecting Iraqi civilians a priority until the “surge.” The leading Democratic presidential candidates are clear that protecting civilians is not a U.S. obligation, despite abundant evidence that Iraqi security forces cannot do it alone. The inadequacy of such minimalist goals is clearer when tied to early deadlines for withdrawal. Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, argues that such deadlines would force Iraqis “to look into the abyss” of a civil war. Would proponents of this high stakes game of chicken be so confident of its efficacy or be so willing to impose the burden of moral risk on a long-victimized Iraqi people if their calculations began with a more robust understanding of U.S. ethical responsibilities to Iraqis?

Despite the obvious difficulties involved, the original U.S. objectives of building an Iraq that is “peaceful, united, stable, democratic and secure” are closer to what the United States owes Iraqis than are the minimalist alternatives. I would state the U.S. responsibilities more robustly than the Democratic presidential candidates have outlined or the Bush administration has pursued in practice. There are four: (1) not to end all political violence, but to ensure that an Iraqi government can maintain a reasonable degree of security for the whole country and minimize the threat of chaos or civil war; (2) not to impose a Western-style democracy, but to facilitate establishment of a stable, fairly representative government that respects basic human rights, especially minority rights; (3) not to promote a U.S.-style capitalist economy, but to restore Iraq’s infrastructure and a viable economy that serves Iraqi needs, not U.S. interests, especially not U.S. oil interests; and (4) not to stay without the consent of a legitimate Iraqi government, or, lacking that, the United Nations.

Even if one accepts this understanding of U.S. obligations, isn’t there a time when our obligations expire? Last October, a House resolution concluded that, “after more than four years of valiant efforts by members of the Armed Forces and United States civilians, the Government of Iraq must now be responsible for Iraq’s future course.” Such a short timetable seems less the product of a sober assessment of what it takes to succeed in the daunting nation-building project the United States has undertaken, and more a reflection of the lack of patience and long-term commitment to deal with the aftermath of interventions that is often evident in U.S. foreign policy. Had there been a realistic plan in Iraq, would it be reasonable to expect a stable, united Iraq with an agreed constitution, a revived economy and a respected and effective government that could survive on its own—all that in five years? The fact that Iraq is a mostly failed state wracked by violence is not an argument for withdrawal, but evidence of just how far the United States is from meeting its moral responsibilities.

After almost five years of multiple U.S. missteps, misdeeds and miscalculations, serious doubts arise about whether the United States has the capacity, the competence, the moral credibility or the confidence of the Iraqi people needed to do a better job. The United States has seriously failed Iraq; but past failure need not beget future failure, nor does it absolve us of our obligations. Given what is at stake, the Bush administration (and its successor) must do more to put Iraqi interests first, to commit the necessary resources (especially for protection of Iraqi civilians and for reconstruction), to engage Iraq’s neighbors and the international community, and to pursue new approaches that offer a better chance of meeting U.S. obligations. Those calling for an “end to the war” also have a heavy burden. They must show that, despite the U.S. obligations and the risks associated with failing to fulfill them, there is nothing more that can be done.
Has the Burden Been Met?

Many believe that the burden has been met. How can the United States continue to be held responsible, antiwar advocates ask, when Iraqis remain mired in sectarian conflicts born of ancient hatreds? Iraqis ultimately are responsible for resolving their deep divisions. The United States, however, is hardly a disinterested humanitarian entity, offering what Fouad Ajami has called the “foreigner’s gift” of freedom. Instead, the United States supported Iraq in its war against Iran and during Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds. The United States devastated Iraq during the 1991 war and the ensuing embargo, overthrew its government in 2003 and displayed gross negligence and incompetence in dealing with the aftermath. The U.S. role in Iraq might not be “ancient,” but it is a part of the “hatreds” there.

Decoupling the United States from Iraq’s hatreds is a complex matter. A precipitous U.S. withdrawal could end the war for the United States, but only for a while. Many analysts warn that a spiral of violence that could fill a vacuum left by an ill-timed U.S. withdrawal might necessitate a reintervention by the United States on humanitarian and security grounds. If the United States were not already in Iraq, there would be a clamor for humanitarian intervention to end the strife, which the World Health Organization estimates killed 151,000 Iraqis between 2003 and June 2006. One cannot criticize the United States and the international community for not intervening to stop the sectarian strife in Darfur, while insisting that disengagement is the appropriate response to sectarian strife in Iraq (strife which, unlike Darfur, is both a direct and indirect result of U.S. actions).
The Best Antiwar Argument

Paradoxically, a failure to take seriously the distinction between the ethics of intervention and the ethics of exit, and to give an ethic of responsibility proper weight in the moral analysis, could undermine the original moral case against the war. The legitimate desire to end U.S. military engagement in a costly war with no end in sight has led many antiwar advocates to embrace a type of moral reasoning that is all too similar to that which they rejected when it was used by the Bush administration to justify the war. The Bush administration discarded traditional just war norms and launched a preventive war on the grounds that it was necessary to protect U.S. interests. Opponents of continued U.S. involvement must be careful not to discard norms governing U.S. responsibilities to the Iraqi people on the grounds that U.S. withdrawal is necessary to protect U.S. interests.

The Bush administration’s case was based on best-case scenarios: a preventive war would prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, and Iraq would quickly become a model democracy in the Middle East. Opponents countered that war in the world’s most volatile region would unleash the kind of uncontrollable, unintended consequences that have, in fact, ensued. If such realistic assessments of the risks of negative consequences were a reason for opposing the original intervention, they should also be a reason for opposing too rapid a withdrawal. Hopes that things could not get worse in Iraq might be tragically misplaced and deadlines might backfire. Reliance on best-case scenarios got us into our current predicament; it is not a strategy for getting us out of it.

The strongest argument against the Iraq intervention was that preventive wars are wars of aggression, which often become wars of occupation. And wars of occupation often degenerate into wars of repression, as the occupier resorts to indiscriminate and disproportionate force, emergency measures (even torture) and other heavy-handed tactics to pacify a resistant population. Wars of occupation, moreover, invariably involve a sustained, extremely difficult, long-term commitment to nation building that is at odds with U.S. political culture. Holding the Bush administration to this high standard of moral responsibility—rather than suggesting that responsibilities to Iraqis can easily be overridden by U.S. interests and by calculations of necessity and efficacy—would help hold the line on preventive war in the future.

Given the fears generated by terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, such preventive wars will remain all too tempting and all too easy for the United States, if it is not required to bear the burden of what it has wrought.

The best antiwar argument must address two moral failures in Iraq, not just one: it was immoral to intervene; in the ensuing nation-building process, the United States has failed the Iraqi people by willing an end (a peaceful and prosperous Iraq) without willing the means to achieve it.

A preoccupation with what is good for U.S. troops and U.S. interests, coupled with speculative, short-term assessments of success and necessity, could compound this double moral failure. Those who say that it is too late and too costly to fix what we have broken must not forget what we owe Iraqis, lest they too readily impose on Iraqis alone the risks of a serious humanitarian, security and political crisis if the U.S. withdraws too soon. The antiwar position must find a better balance between an ethics of efficacy and an ethics of responsibility, between meeting U.S. needs and interests and Iraqi needs and interests. Some might still conclude that strict deadlines for withdrawal are called for. I doubt it. But at least then withdrawal would be pursued, not with self-righteous calls to “end” an immoral war, but with a deep sense of anguish, remorse and foreboding over our nation’s failure to live up to its obligations to the Iraqi people.

The moral question is: What policies and strategies best serve the interests of the Iraqi people?

Gerard F. Powers, director of policy studies at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, is a former director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama- let's all get a grip here

From this week's The Week magazine

Obama: Is he the second coming of JFK?

“The arc of Barack Obama’s rise has passed through three distinct phases,” said Shailagh Murray in The Washington Post. First he was the intriguing newcomer. Then he was a serious challenger. As he continues to battle
Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, inspiring crowds and preaching the politics of hope, Obama has entered phase three, with some Democrats proclaiming him as the spiritual successor to one of the Democratic Party’s greatest heroes—John F. Kennedy. Like JFK, said Eileen McNamara in The Boston Globe, Obama “was a relative unknown only four years before he boldly sought the presidency.” Like JFK, he’s got youth, vigor, and eloquence. His endorsement by two of the country’s most famous
Kennedys last week cemented the comparison. “There was a time when another young candidate was running for president and challenged America to cross a new frontier,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy. JFK’s daughter, Caroline, declared, “We need a change in the leadership of this country—just as we did in 1960.”

Oh, please, said Sean Wilentz in the Los Angeles Times. Sure, Obama has JFK’s optimism and charisma. But in terms of credentials, there’s no comparison. “By the time JFK ran for president, he had served three terms in the House and twice won election to the Senate.” A decorated World War II veteran, he closely studied foreign affairs, and served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Obama’s eight years in the Illinois legislature and uncompleted single Senate term can’t hold a candle to that record. His lack of experience calls to mind what another great Democrat, Harry Truman, advised JFK when he ran in 1960: “May I urge you to be patient?”

Kennedy didn’t heed that advice, said David Brooks in The New York Times, and neither should Obama. Another Clinton presidency would only plunge us back into the political bitterness that began with the culture wars of the late 1960s. Obama, on the other hand, promises a return to the nonpartisan idealism of Kennedy’s New Frontier. He’s calling America to take “the high road,” to transcend differences, to embrace service instead of selfishness. At times, said Evan Thomas in Newsweek, Obama does have an almost
eerie ability to channel JFK with speeches that “make audiences weep with longing and nostalgia” for a less cynical age.

As an Obama volunteer myself, said Robert Baird in the Chicago Tribune, I find this generational nostalgia more creepy than moving. Kennedy was elected nearly a half-century ago, and the youngest people to have voted for him are now 68. Marketing Obama as the candidate of the future by linking him to the past is more than a little ironic. Besides, being likened to JFK isn’t necessarily flattering, said Froma Harrop in The Providence Journal. Kennedy was, at best, a very flawed president, given to reckless behavior and mistakes borne of inexperience and youthful arrogance. “The more we learn about his Camelot, the less perfect it sounds.”

Still, the media really loves the idea of Obama as the second coming of JFK, said Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post. Chalk that up to a serious case of “Kennedy envy.” Today’s young journalists know that the country was in thrall to JFK’s charisma and his wit, and they’re thrilled at the idea of covering an Obama presidency. Those same reporters and pundits, on the other hand, are thoroughly sick of the Clintons. Let’s all please remember that this election, like all elections, is about the future, not the past, said Ellen Goodman in The Boston Globe. “It’s not about who will be the next Kennedy, but rather the next president.”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Recycling Myth- a Swede reveals the other side

This is an interesting read:
The Recycling Myth

I love reading the "other" side of the "accepted wisdom." Not that I'm against recycling, but I like to see issues discussed completely.

If your interested, you can google the results of a new European study that says biofuels are a losing proposition. Duh!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tiger by the tail!

Wedding bells are in the air and that means I'm up to my eyeballs with fittings, decisions, flowers, caterers, swatches, decisions, cake, photographer, hotel reservations, and did I say, decisions?

My daughter and her fiancee set the wedding date (May 17th) early in the fall, but she went into denial mode and didn't do much of any planning until after Christmas. The only thing we had settled was who was performing the ceremony. (Hi Jimmy!)

Last week we finally settled on a place (don't wait until the last minute for this one...not many options left), a caterer (God bless him, he was the one who found us a venue), the DRESS (major time expenditure for that decision), the mother-of-the-bride's dress, the bridesmaids' dresses, and the photographer. We still need to actually decide on the menu for the reception, the seating arrangement (it will be tricky, the place is small), and a cake. Our to-do list includes getting reservations for several out-of-town guests, the wedding bands, printing the invitations, getting all the addresses, sending the invitations, buying the flowers and making the bouquets and flower arrangements, deciding on who is making the cake and what kind of cake, among others.

What else is on my plate? We need to buy a used car for the boys to use. We have the funds now, we just need the time to search one out and test drive. I have to decide on the new biology text for the homeschool tutorial before May. Then, once the wedding is past, I need to prepare lesson plans for at least the fall semester. We're also making plans to do some structural changes on the house to accommodate the newlyweds if they need to stay while Erik goes to school. We hope to do some of the work ourselves, if possible, but will need to get someone for some of the work, and to advise us. Plus, I really want to have the house looking nice and the yard planted with flowers before the wedding since there will be lots of people in and out that weekend.

In the meantime I'm still driving my kids all over the place, trying to homeschool two, and teaching one class on Fridays. In other words, none of my regular jobs have stopped or lessened.

But weddings are good things, and honestly, I'm getting so excited! My oldest daughter is getting married, and my younger daughters are the bridesmaids. How can a mom not be bursting with pride?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crazy for God

Today I finished Frank Schaeffer's book about growing up in the shadow of his famous parents. As I've read the book, it stirred-up many emotions and conflicts. One part of me was saddened by the revelations of the "feet of clay" both Francis and Edith Schaeffer hid so well from public view. Part of me cringed at Frank's, well, frankness, about his life, including more details about his sex life than I really cared to know. Another part was shocked by the revelations Frank made about the evangelical rise to power in the U.S., and the role he and his father played in it. Part of me was nodding my head and wondering how so many Christians in this country came to be so completely duped by the power-hungry, exclusivist, narrow-minded, greedy "Christian" demi-gods posing as leaders. Part of me saw myself and my faith journey all tied up in that "plastic Christian" world of evangelical super-stars. And part of me wondered how much credibility Frank Schaeffer had left, and how much I need to take with a grain of salt.

The Author's Note:
I'm sure I have placed some of the events in the wrong years or have written that something happened in one place when it happened in another. this is a memoir, not a biography. To footnote this story or to have done research into dates and places and to correct the chronology would have been to indulge the conceit that my book is objective history. It is not. What I've written comes from a memory deformed by time, prejudice, flawed recall, and emotion.

Several places in the Schaeffer repeats this in some way or another, just to let us know he knows these are his experiences and memories, and not rigid history. I appreciate his confession and the recognition of this often over-looked truth. On the other hand, the book is still mostly written as a fact-filled look at not just Frank's life, but at the characters of many evangelical leaders. Because of that, I find myself keeping some of his observations at arm's length. I don't doubt the very negative opinion he has of James Dobson, among others, is true to his experience. I simply reserve the right to nuance Frank's view with the experiences of others.

Frank Schaeffer's book is an important read, even if it isn't always pleasant or comfortable. It will make many people mad. It will help other's feel vindicated. It will confuse some people because they will try to be like Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, who tried to find a way to make both Darcy and Wickham come out virtuous in their conflict. The problem is, there is no completely virtuous character in this book, or in real life. Life is messy, and Crazy for God shows one person's life at its messiest.

The look at the pro-life movement and how the Democratic Party blew the chance to gain credibility when it hardened its stance on abortion was fascinating, and perhaps some of the best information in the book. The look at how pro-life ended up a Republican party plank is so informative. Especially considering this was a "Catholic" issue for so long and most Catholics were Democrats.

How am I feeling now after I've thought about the book for a while? I don't know where I am theologically, but I know that even if I agree on specifics (like the sanctity of life) evangelical leaders don't speak for me anymore. This book only confirmed what I've been seeing for a while. Along the way someone (more than one, of course) co-opted Christianity, narrowed its scope, set the rules in stone, and built walls to exclude people and concentrate power...all in the name of "purity" and "godliness."

So take a deep breath and plunge in. It's not so much refreshing as cathartic.

On another note: I don't know much about writing, but I found Franky's book to be unevenly written and unnecessarily confusing in its timeline. It somehow fits his volatile personality. ;-) I plan to get some of his fiction to see how that reads.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Catching up...

Well, if anyone is still out there reading, I thought I'd catch you up on a few things in my life. First off, I'm failing at my New Year's Resolution to write more! ;-) Oh well!

My teaching duties (one class, one day a week) started back on the 5th of January. the past two weeks I've been teaching my class (middle school Life Science) and substituting for the teacher in the middle school Physical Science class. It's been fun. I taught most of the students in that class last year, and will probably have most of them in Biology next fall. The double preps have taken a bit more time, especially since physical science (in this case light, color and color mixing) isn't my area of knowledge. However, it's been fun to rediscover it all.

I'm also in the process of finding a book to use for my high school Biology class in the fall. The book we've been using is 7 or 8 years old now. It was published before the Human Genome Project, so I want something more up-to-date. I am looking at two possibilities right now, neither which totally thrill me. When i settle on a book I need to start prepping for the fall-- reading and making class notes, and developing my labs to go with each lesson. Hopefully I can use a lot of the labs I have now.

We decided to adopt a cat from a rescue group in our area, and ended up with two! They are both adults (1 yr old and 2 yrs old). One is a a solid grey with a white bib, several white paws, and a cute little white "comma" that goes over his nose. His name is Jasper Darlington Higgins IV. The other is a soft grey tabby with buff (very light orange) markings, plus a white bib and white toes. His name is Fiddlesticks. (If you have ever read The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, you'll recognize the names as two of Morwen's cats.) Jasper has big round amber eyes, while Fiddles has slanted, almond-shaped eyes.

Both cats have been living in our bedroom since Sunday afternoon. They are good cats, but we haven't gotten a great deal of sleep. They're exceptionally sweet and affectionate. They purr when you look at them! Unfortunately this means that at 4 a.m. they're ready to snuggle and be petted, so they wake us up. I'm hoping we can let them have the run of the house soon.

They are "bomb-proof," meaning they don't get upset about much. They showed slight interest in our dog, and have been totally nonchalant with our resident cat, Neko. Unfortunately, to date Neko is anything but nonchalant about them! He is one angry cat. When he sees them (which has been rare, since we're trying to introduce them slowly), he puffs all his hair out to twice his normal size. this is impressive, since he is already a really large cat, weighing in at 15.5 lbs. The two cats we adopted are about 8 to 10 lbs. (In other words, normal cat size.)

Cookie, the dog, is great friends with the cats now. She was incredibly interested in them, but mostly I think she wanted to be where the action was. She always stays in my room with me when I am working or watching TV. So when the cats came, she didn't want to be left out in the hall. I think she decided that getting along with the cats meant being with us.

Yesterday was my anniversary! (24 years) It was a really busy carpool-and-school day, so we didn't celebrate, but Will brought me a card and a stuffed Beanie Baby race horse! :-D Hannah and the kids bought us a beautiful bouquet of roses. I was so surprised and pleased. This coming weekend Will and I have tickets to an art exhibit (Landscapes int he Age of Impressionism), and plan to be gone for the weekend. Our next door neighbor gave us a gift card this Christmas good for several area restaurants. Will and I plan to use that next weekend as well. (I take care of their animals when they go out of town, so this was a "thank you" gift.) We plan to take in at least one movie, too.

I'm reading Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer and enjoying it. He shoots from the hip, but doesn't pretend that his views aren't biased. I am enjoying his sometimes brutal honesty, but I am also enjoying the obvious love and respect he had for his parents, too. I plan to post some quotes from the book if I have time. Having been to Swiss L'Abri in the mid-70's, I am very aware of the atmosphere and attitudes he describes.

We've been working through some of the videos we got for Christmas. Most are re-watches, like Transformers, Harry Potter 5, and Stardust. But I have a few that I've never seen, so I'm looking forward to those.

I hope you're year is going well so far!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolutions??

I've never done New Year's resolutions. So maybe I'll try to come up with a few this year.

This year I want to:

1. Figure out how to work my digital camera: how to upload pictures so I can share them. Maybe do the 365 Photoblog. (Although I need to get on with that if I'm going to do it!)

2. Spend more time listening to music. I've had a great time the last two days uploading several dozen CDs onto my iPod, and even buying some new ones at B&N or on iTunes. I'm rediscovering old favorites I hadn't listened to in years (like Led Zeppelin) and trying on some new ones (like Bush, Cake, and Death Cab for Cutie). It's so much fun.

3. Get more exercise. 'Nuff said.

4. Spend less "screen time" in the evenings- watching TV or on my computer. Read more and spend more time with the kids. (Although that may mean learning to play Wii games, and more screen time.)

5. Read the Bible. I've joined and online group reading through The Bible in three years. The plan is to read a selection each month and then ahve a day for discussion. I'm hoping the slower pace and the accountability will help me stay on track.

6. Read more. I've slacked off in the past two years and I'm not sure why.

7. Pray more, even if it doesn't look like my former idea of prayer.

8. Get involved in some real, tangible ways of helping others.

9. Try and stay within our budget.

10. Be flexible about my life. I want to try to hold plans loosely so that changes don't throw me for a loop.

11. To do a better job writing down my thoughts instead of keeping them in my head. Writing them down takes more discipline and time, but I think it will be well worth it.

That ought to keep me busy for the next year! We'll see in a year how I've done.

Happy New Year!