September 27, 2008

The Presidential Debate

My husband has a degree in political science with an emphasis on international relations. He has been a wonderful help to me in understanding the politics of elections. Last night, we sat down to watch the debate. About ten or fifteen minutes into it, Abe turned off the TV and we made love instead. Politics makes great bedfellows.

Who won the debate? Oh hon, I did.

Squir— uh, Rodent!

(My thoughts are running a bit on the light side these days. When I get back to Deep Thoughts, you’ll be the first to know.)

The other morning, when I was watching the Rodent of Unusual Size on the neighbor’s lawn, a rodent of normal size came scampering up. We have four kinds of squirrels in our back yard, probably because we have a slew of black walnut trees. Big fox squirrels, gray squirrels, tiny red squirrels and chipmunks enjoy the banquet our trees provide. This year's weather gave us a bumper crop; there are over a thousand of those heavy green tennis-ball things in our yard. (The walnuts are inside.)

This fox squirrel came bouncing onto the lawn with a walnut, looking for a place to bury it.

He found a spot near the groundhog’s burrow. I wonder if he’ll ever find it again.

It has been determined that squirrels have no idea where they’ve buried their nuts. (If you go for this cheap joke setup, I get ten percent.) Apparently they find their buried treasure purely by accident, smelling them out if they get close enough. That’s why we have a tree growing a foot from our mailbox. Oops! Missed that one.

The squirrels are a major source of entertainment and exercise for our dog Sophie. Every time we let her out into the fenced back yard, she runs the perimeter, barking at each spot where she has ever seen a squirrel. First that corner, then the two trees, then the back spot, on around the yard. Sometimes she does the Pepe LePew bounce on all fours, looking for potential victims. Having run her course, then she can get down to business doing her business.

Sophie actually caught one once, briefly. The fox squirrels like to tease her, coming down the trunk to taunt her with chatter and tail-tossing. One got too close to the ground and Sophie lunged. It squealed in her grasp and she let go in surprise. That was enough to encourage her for a lifetime. She investigates every tree, and we have forty trees in the back yard.

We can’t even say the word “squirrel” in her presence; she runs to the back door and barks like crazy. We have to say “rodent” instead. It’s ridiculous, speaking in code around the dog. But she brings a joy to the household that has been wonderful to have, especially this year.

Here’s Sophie, exhausted from her efforts to keep the yard squir rodent-free. (I've been told she looks exactly like the Simpson's dog, Santa's Little Helper.)

September 24, 2008

Dashboard of Doom

The world has one less spider in it tonight. You're welcome.

I was driving in the dark to pick up my son when a small spider started climbing up the windshield in front of me. INSIDE THE CAR. While continuing to drive, I kicked off my left shoe, picked it up and started swatting at the thing on the glass. It dropped to the dash, so I pounded it into oblivion. I clicked on the ceiling light when I came to a red light. Yeah, that sucker was arachnopaste. Victory is mine.

Instantly I thought of Java and her recent entomological adventure. The timing is...interesting. Is this a sinister plot? Have they targeted our group of bloggers? Be very careful.

No accompanying graphics. You're welcome.

September 23, 2008

Worst. Lyrics. Ever.

Responding to a part of Tornwordo’s latest post, readers are commenting on misunderstood lyrics. This got me to thinking about lyrics that I wish I could say were misunderstood. Or that could be rewritten well enough to make sense. There are a number of songs I could list, but I thought I’d leave that up to you. Here’s my vote for worst lyrics ever written, to a melody comprised of two notes.

"Horse With No Name" by America

On the first part of the journey 

I was looking at all the life 

There were plants and birds and rocks and things 

There was sand and hills and rings 

The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz 

And the sky with no clouds 

The heat was hot and the ground was dry

But the air was full of sound


I've been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain 

In the desert you can remember your name 

'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain

La, la ... 

After two days in the desert sun 

My skin began to turn red 

After three days in the desert fun 

I was looking at a river bed 

And the story it told of a river that flowed 

Made me sad to think it was dead 

(Maddeningly inane chorus)

After nine days I let the horse run free 

'Cause the desert had turned to sea

There were plants and birds and rocks and things 

There was sand and hills and rings 

The ocean is a desert with its life underground 

And a perfect disguise above 

Under the cities lies a heart made of ground 

But the humans will give no love 

(There's that chorus again)

What’ve you got?

September 22, 2008

"Westley, What About the"

"Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

Westley would be wrong. This guy comes out from the hedge next door every evening at dusk.

Update: He was out again this morning. Here's a better shot.

September 20, 2008

Recommended Reading

Meet Timbo, a blogger who lives in Washington state. He’s a writer and former trucker whose blog captured me almost two years ago. His writing about life is eloquent, but when he writes about people, he sings. He offers beautiful pictures that speak of his love for the western mountains and the open sky of the high plains. Take a look at his blog, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, where this view from his house is one of dozens of gorgeous photos.

You can read his book Graced By Amazing online. The first thing I ever read of Tim’s writing was Chapter 4 of this book, “Cody,” a vivid portrait of a man of the West who lives on his own terms. Enjoy.

Postscript: With Cody's permission, Tim wrote a followup story that revealed "the rest of the story."

September 19, 2008

Avast, Matey!

It be Talk Like a Pirate Day!

If you don’t be seein' it that way, then you be havin' an aye problem, ye bilge rat.

September 15, 2008

Stole-n Identity

Last week I had lunch with a man who is a former pastor and currently a mental health counselor. I know him from my work at the AIDS support center. Jonathan is intelligent, kind, and gentle; and he was willing to talk with me about my current journey in leading my church to be open and affirming.

He happens to be gay. I say it this way because in the big picture of who he is, being gay is so far down the list that it loses significance. Or at least it should. He left the ministry when he realized that he could never be true to himself if he stayed. Chalk up one more loss to the misguided interpretations of Christians.

“Gay pastor.” When have you ever heard any pastor described as straight? As such, does a pastor’s sexual identity have any impact on the call s/he has to serve God? Is it any business of mine or yours?

During the Welcoming Church conference I attended in August, we were shown a display of pastors' stoles. A stole is a slender scarf of decorative fabric which is draped around the neck and worn over a robe. It lends identity to the event and to the pastor. While most are commercially made, many stoles are custom made with special significance to its wearer. All of them are beautiful for the meaning they carry.

The stoles we saw are a part of a larger, permanently mobile display called “Shower of Stoles.” Each of them comes from a priest or pastor who has either been defrocked or is in the closet due to sexual orientation. We were invited to select a stole and wear it for the duration of our conference in honor of the clergyperson who could not.

I chose one that looked identical to those worn by pastors in my church. Attached to the underneath was a pocket which contained a story about the stole I wore. I repeat a portion of it here:

“After 32 years of faithful ministry to this church, I am not about to start answering questions that should never be asked in the first place.

…I will never openly lie about who I am, but neither will I fully reveal the truth about me and risk losing the ministry to which I have devoted my life.”

What a terrible choice to have to make. What an injustice that a man or woman called to serve must do so in secrecy or not at all. Jonathan chose truth.

He was gracious in helping me take more steps in my journey. One of the stumbling blocks I will face further down in this process is having small groups form to discuss how to be welcoming. We will need input from the LGBT community for several reasons, not least of which is to put a “face” on the community. Since I am unaware of a single out person in our congregation, where am I going to find these individuals?

Jonathan gave me the names of three churches in our city, three different denominations, which enjoy primarily gay congregations. I will be approaching their senior pastors to “borrow” some congregants for our small groups. I find it fitting that this might be an ecumenical process possibly involving four different denominations. God welcomes all.

September 13, 2008

This Just In

An aerospace engineer apparently got tired of people stealing his lunch out of the fridge, so he invented an anti-theft ziploc bag that has a mold pattern printed on it. Genius.

September 12, 2008

They're Baaaaaack

Warning: Geekspeak ahead.

The bookmarks, that is. Thank you, God. They returned when I finally managed the Safari upgrade. And yes, they're backed up now. I copied every bookmark to a Word doc and emailed it to myself. I can click from the doc to access the websites on any computer. If you haven't done this yet, DO IT NOW.

Looks like my pet Powerbook needs an overhaul. I had another kernel panic episode in spite of my reinstall and upgrades. That means it's a hardware i$$ue. Do you suppose it has anything to do with my dropping it to the floor from my lap a couple of weeks ago?

Lucky for me, Abe got a new company computer and is no longer using his iBook. Unlucky for him, his new laptop is a PC. I can no longer be his tech support. I'm a blue belt in Mac, but I know nothing about Windows. He's on his own. (That is not a good thing. This is the man who is so nontech it made my daughter want to cry. He has other qualities that more than make up for it.)

Everyone's out for the evening, and I have time alone. I had dinner by myself at Bravo with a glass of wine. Life is good.

September 11, 2008

Where Were You?

I was home, doing laundry in the morning. I had to wait for a load to dry, so I turned on the Today Show. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were talking about some breaking news about a plane crash in Manhattan. I sat down to watch what was going on while I waited. A plane had crashed into a building only five minutes earlier. As I continued to watch, I saw the second plane hit.

Oh my God.

Speculation mixed with reports as I sat glued to my television in the living room. After the first hour, I was already thinking about whether we would be downwind if terrorists hit the VX depot somewhere in the western part of the state. (VX is the most lethal manmade chemical weapon on the planet. And yes, we are downwind of westerly weather patterns.) Abe was on the road in southern Indiana. Where would I need to drive if I had to evacuate my family?

I sat for four hours in front of that TV simply to determine if it was safe to leave my two children in their schools. I watched in numb horror, alone in mute witness as people jumped from the towers before the buildings crumbled in billowing clouds of dust and ash.

Shortly after the first tower collapsed, my daughter called me from middle school. She wanted to know what was happening. The school had canceled statewide exams in the middle of testing without explanation. I found my voice, but not easily, and tried to explain that I had just seen thousands of people die. She was puzzled about the obvious impact the events were having on me, and I told her that she would be able to talk to me about it later.

At 12:30, I decided the kids were best kept where they were for now. I left the house, emotionally exhausted from the horror of it all. I needed to get away from the images. All I could think to do was go find some lunch. I’m in the middle of the biggest shopping district in the state, but the streets were almost empty. Those cars that were present were driving under 30 miles per hour, just like me. We all kept our distance from each other, moving in slow motion.

I stopped at my favorite sandwich shop at the height of lunch hour. The parking lot was empty. The shop is owned by a Middle Eastern family, and they looked quite wary when I walked in.

I asked, “Do you know what’s happening?”

The cashier nodded yes, her eyes big with fright.

I asked gently, “Are you okay?” and she relaxed a little and nodded.

“Yes, thanks.”

In subsequent days I would see people look inside the store as they approached, see the staff, and turn around and leave.

My children came home on their buses. My daughter had watched events unfold on the school TVs in every classroom. My young son had no idea that anything had happened, and it gave me the opportunity to frame it properly before he saw anything. We limited TV coverage quite a bit while the kids were home. I remembered the laundry the next afternoon.

It was in subsequent months as people everywhere were questioning the value of their careers and their purpose that I realized that not once had I questioned my own place. As I thought about it, the unconscious knowledge came to the surface: I was where I belonged.

Where were you when it happened? (If your answer is a post, include a link in your comment.)


I’m not feeling especially eloquent right now, although I can think of a whole slew of words I’d like to use. I’ve been having kernel panic issues with my Powerbook, so I reinstalled the OS from the disks. I still need to update the OS and my browser but it quits before I can do it. I backed up all my music, pictures and writing. The big deal? I’ve lost ALL my bookmarks that took years to collect. I had copied and saved all of my blogger bookmarks (Yes!), but I don’t have any of my shopping, entertainment, travel or reference URLs. When I try to save a site in my address bar, Safari won’t let me do it. Shit. I’ve been at this almost all night. I’m going to bed.

September 7, 2008

What I Want

While I like to think that I am flexible—don’t we all?—there are certain aspects over others that will draw me to someone like a stellar body to a singularity. Freud asked, “What do women want?” He never found his answer. Here’s my short list.

A university-sponsored test called Signature Strengths says that my top strengths are curiosity and the love of learning. No surprise there. My husband often will tease me with mysteries, knowing it will make me crazy until I discover the answer. Cliffhangers drive me wild. (Some blog authors employ this with great and cruel success.) The challenge is issued and the game is afoot; I have a need to know.

Learning is a party for me. There is an opiate quality to the discovery of something new. It’s like adding yet another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of life. I have come to understand that some things that I don’t care for are usually those things I know little or nothing about. The greater understanding I gain, the more acceptance I maintain. For me, knowledge brings peace.

It is an honest and open heart that moves me. I’m not talking about only pain or anger, although they are sources of connection for all of us. But there is community in joy as well. Witnessing the delight of a newly-discovered love or the assurance of a deep and abiding friendship can illuminate my heart anew. I share the excitement of enthusiasm and the ache of disappointment in almost any arena. It is not things that join us in community; it is shared experience and emotion.

I am inspired by excellence in anything that improves the human condition. It can exist in a single word, properly placed. Excellence that brings me closer to truth is a spiritual experience that centers me and connects me to everyone. It’s awkward to describe but incredibly powerful to experience.

In my humble opinion, a day isn’t complete without laughter. We all work hard; but what’s the point if you can’t have fun?

People know me by my laugh. With my old boss, we had such a great time at our weekly meetings that we were asked to close the door. So we did, and we continued to hoot and holler our way through work. We had a blast. A sense of playfulness keeps you young, I think.

While laughter comes easily to me, it must be earned. I am bored to tears by shock humor; it’s the lazy way to get attention. Anyone can do it. Don’t be mean-spirited, either. Humor’s target should be glad to hear it. I enjoy a good turn of phrase that shows intelligence. And if you surprise me with an original way of thinking or a new way to look at something, I will laugh out loud. I hope the neighbors don’t mind.

I love to be surprised because patterns are incumbent to human nature. My concrete linear mind works in such a way that I try to anticipate what is next in movies, literature, music, systems, conversation, and so on. Understand that there is a great deal of comfort to be found in patterns, knowing what to expect. But when something takes a left turn without using a blinker, it catches my attention. While occasionally it is cause for confusion or frustration, many times it is a source of joy. A new way! I want to examine the permutations of possibility: Why did it happen? Where does it lead? Can it apply elsewhere? My mind is off and running, and we are back to learning. Another party!

This all sounds so self-serving. But what I want for me I want for you, too. I want to share what I love; and to give any one of these to you is a privilege. If I can teach you, move you, make you laugh or surprise you, I have succeeded.

September 4, 2008

Family Update

Ben is doing fine. (Thank you for asking.) His dry sense of humor is alive and well. A couple of weeks ago he greeted Abe at the car with a slew of water balloons. It was a riot watching them run all over the front yard. Abe was soaked.

I smiled thinking about it until a few days later when Ben lobbed a water balloon at me while I was sitting at my laptop. I was apoplectic until I caught it. He had put it in the freezer until the ice was about a quarter inch thick and drained the rest of the water with a pin prick. Nicely done. Perfect size and weight for giving your mother a heart attack. I’m planning revenge as we speak.

Yesterday, Ben asked if it cost extra to send “kissy-puppy icons” with a text message on his cell phone.

Wait. What? “Kissy-puppy icons?!”

“Well…yeah. See?” He proffered his phone to show me an animated big-eyed puppy pursing its lips.

“Oh. My. Gosh. You are so in love.”

He just smiled. He spends pretty much every waking minute at his girlfriend’s house.

School’s something of a challenge, especially with an inflexible math teacher, but Ben’s dealing with that himself, asking the administration to make it right so he can learn. You go, boy.

We’ve had a couple of dustups about limits, but we’ve talked them through, which is new for our family. Still demanding raising a teen, but these are standard challenges.

Sheba’s taking the year off from school. She’s found an apartment in the same college town and her roomie is her former college roommate. She’s looking for a job, which isn’t easy in a town filled with students who will work for minimum wage. Let’s wish her luck.

Things are looking normal, which is such a gift these days. Normal—but never boring.

September 3, 2008

Free Freedom

Isn’t this a tad redundant? Aren’t all public lands sites where one can express oneself freely?

I hadn’t seen this kind of sign before. It’s situated at Newfound Gap, the peak of the drive through Smoky Mountain National Park. No one felt especially moved to express themselves at the time, perhaps because it is placed right next to the bear-proof but not bee-proof trashcans. I wonder what circumstances arose that required such a sign in the first place.

September 1, 2008

Cultivated Reading

For the past month or so, I’ve spent my Sunday afternoons reading in the park. Not just any park. It’s the grounds of an art institute, populated with artworks and gardens by the river.

Seeing the flower photos offered by fellow bloggers Greg, Jeepguy, and Joe inspired me to seek out a garden, a place where I could have calm after a busy Sunday morning. Now, instead of time alone in a chilled restaurant with loud piped-in music, I sit on a bench in dappled sunlight by the river.

Let me show you around.

Sidewalks and crushed shell trails meander through the grounds and under the trees. One of the biggest installations on the property is a structure that is made of woven vines.

Wander into the shade behind the huts to find “Twisted House.” I like the whimsy of this piece.

At this point I continue past a deck to benches on a secluded stone patio by the river. I sit here to read and listen to the water. Several kinds of bees buzz into flowers in pots and flowerbeds. (Last week a large grasshopper landed smack in the middle of the page I was reading. He didn’t stay for long.)

After reading for an hour or two, it’s time to go. I take the long way back to the car, meandering past more art pieces. This is a chair. Sort of.

Bubbles made of vine in all shapes and sizes perch in a dozen trees.

The “Imploding Sphere” sculpture looks better from a distance.

Small sculptures are planted in the gardens with the flowers.

In the parking lot, a pergola is lined with flowers and decked with globes. These globes contain deep-timbred chimes, each one singing a single warm tone in the breeze.

It is a lovely, peaceful way to bridge between a busy day at work and duties that await at home. Thank you, gentlemen, for showing me a new way to recharge.