Thursday, May 23, 2013

what's happening around here? why it snowed this morning, thank you very much

I've been working on a post since Sunday and still can't figure out what I'm trying to say, so I'm bagging it for now and doing an update.

Anybody have a good book recommendation?  Anything except not depressing.  Actually, I don't think it's lack of a book that's the problem-- I have stacks of them around, another dozen or so on my Kindle, and I brought home six from the library yesterday.  I just can't settle on anything.  I've been re-reading old favorites, which is fun but not very satisfying.  I signed up to take two six-week online courses, one on PHP programming and one on copyediting, and I just finished the first week.  They're both interesting.

Job news:  the community college decided it didn't need any new teachers this fall, so that's out.  But there's still a chance that I could teach one or two non-credit continuing ed classes, so I turned that application in last week.  You had to completely map out the course in the application, with lesson plans and reading lists. It was a blast.  I suspect I had more fun thinking it up than actually teaching the course will be (if they even accept my ideas).

I did "What's Happening in YA Lit" (four weeks, 90 minutes each) and "The Art of the Short Story: The American Short Story since 1900" (five weeks, two hours each).  Since I have nothing else interesting to tell you, here are the proposed reading lists.  The idea is there will be a "required" reading assignment (as required as anything can be in a non-credit class), and several suggestions for people who have already read the required one or who want more to read.  Let me know if you have other reading suggestions.

YALit:  Week 1 (discussion), Week 2: [Realistic Fiction] The Fault in Our Stars (req), other suggestions: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, The Perks of Being aWallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Looking for Alaska by John Green. Week 3: [Fantastic Fiction] Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (req), How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger.  Week 4: [Non-Fiction, Humor, Graphic Novels]  Teen Angst? Naaah by Ned Vizzini (req).  Additional suggested books: Non Fiction- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Last Breath by Peter Stark, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, Following Atticus by Tom Ryan, They Call Me Coach by John Wooden, The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw. Humor-Dave Barry Slept Here by Dave Barry, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.  Illustrated novels- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Maus series by Art Spiegelman, Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.

Short Story:  Week 1 (discussion)  Week 2Discuss three short stories from acknowledged masters of the form.  Possible selections include “Roman Fever” by Edith Wharton, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, and “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield. Other possibilities include Faulkner, Fitzgerald, O’Connor, Katherine Ann Porter, or Richard Wright.  Week 3:  Discuss three short stories published from 1950 to 1990.  Possible selections include “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.  Other possibilities include Alice Walker, John Cheever, John Updike, or Tobias Wolff.  Week 4Discuss three short stories from the last twenty-five years.  Possible selections include “People Like That are the Only People Here” by Lorrie Moore, “Travels with the Snow Queen” by Kelly Link, “We Others” by Steven Millhauser.  Other possibilities include Junot Diaz, Amy Hempel, Molly Giles, or George Saunders.  Week 5: Montana Writers “Wild Plums” by Grace Stone Coates, “Days of Heaven” by Rick Bass, “Wilderness” by Rick DeMarinis, “Ranch Girl” by Maile Meloy.  Other possibilities include William Kittredge, Thomas McGuane, David Long, Melanie Rae Thon.
I'm doing OK re: Cinder but waves of sadness still catch me by surprise 2-3 times a day.  We've had beloved pets die twice before, so I thought I knew the drill and it wouldn't be so bad.  And it's not as bad as it was the first time, with the border collie who was our first child.  But still it's worse than I was expecting.

The snow in the post title has already turned to rain, but it was pretty dang depressing to wake up to snow falling this morning.  I don't think the temps got below 32, though--at least I sincerely hope not since we have all kinds of flowers and veggies planted now.

Oh, and an update on John Shore (the blog I mentioned a couple of posts back).  I thought if I was going to directly address his blog in my post, I should let him know, so I sent him a brief e-mail.  He actually read the post, and wrote back to let me know that he does have a good understanding of the Evangelical mind.  So, I thought I should pass that along.  Since I only know my own (formerly) Evangelical mind, and since I left it behind I'm by definition atypical (thank God), it's entirely possible that he has a better understanding of it than I do.  But then he wrote a post this week (about how logical Christianity is) that was so smug and weird that I'm considerably less enamored of him already.  I still love the discussion in the comments on several posts, though, so I will probably keep reading.  Everybody deserves an off day and a boring/strange/weird post or two, as this one certainly attests.  Hugs to everybody, and if I don't get around to finishing that post by tomorrow, have a great holiday weekend.

Monday, May 20, 2013

a break in our regularly scheduled programming....

(Trigger alert:  Avoid this if a sad pet story is not what you need today.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

me and Mr. Shore

I've run across a blog by a guy named John Shore, which would probably only appeal to a niche interest group, but I guess that's the way most blogs are. Mr. Shore is Christian, enthusiastically so, and also married and straight. Lately he has been writing quite a bit about the illogic of Christians opposing homosexual love.  He has an interesting point of view, and I love reading it.

But I don't think he gets the Evangelical mindset.  He didn't grow up as an Evangelical, he converted to Christianity as an adult.  He seems to think that if you point out the logical fallacies in Evangelical thought, they will realize the error of their ways and lighten up.  But that's not the way most Evangelicals think.  For most Evangelicals, the fact that homosexuality is defined as a sin at some point in the Bible (any point) is enough.

They don't want to discuss it, think about it, or question their own assumptions and biases. In fact, in their minds, to do so would be moral weakness.  If their arguments are illogical, they will simply tell you that what seems illogical to human beings is not necessarily illogical to God ("Because that which the world deems foolish in God is wiser than men's wisdom" 1 Cor 1.25).  Their arguments don't have to make sense, because that would be relying on the human intellect instead of relying on faith in God's Word, and in their opinion, God's Word says that homosexuality is a sin.

All they need is to be able to point to a verse that says that backs up their belief --and in spite of what most liberal Christians want you to believe, there are verses that say that homosexuality is a sin (try Romans 1.26-27, or 1 Corinthians 6.9-10, for example). And that's all they need.  God said it, I believe it, that settles it, a favorite Evangelical phrase goes.  It's maddening and infuriating, because exactly what "God says" is often far from obvious (and has to do as much with what they've been taught to believe as it does with what the Bible actually says), but that's the way it is.

I haven't read everything he's written, but Mr. Shore seems to argue that Bible doesn't really say that homosexuality is a sin. I think that's the wrong way to approach it.  Evangelicals love to get nit-picky about what Bible verses say, you'll never convince them that way. They'll just get more and more stubbornly attached to their interpretation of exactly what the Bible says in verse x, y, or z.  What might work instead is examples of faithful, committed Christians, who go to church and participate in outreach and ministry, and study the Bible and pray, but don't believe in shaming, judging, or condemning other people because their sexuality doesn't match up with traditional heterosexual norms.

Actually, I think we should meet the madness head-on. Yes, the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, but I disagree. I am a Christian and I do not think this is a problem. God gave me a brain to use and I'm going to use it, and it just doesn't make sense that God would have a problem with monogamous LGBT couples.  

But then.  I started looking up verses in the Bible for this post, and you know what? Mr. Shore has a point.  I hadn't done this in a long time--looked up all the references to homosexuality in the New Testament (I'm not worrying about the ones in the Old Testament, because if we have to follow Old Testament law, we're all in trouble.  Read Galatians if you think Christians still need to keep Old Testament law.)  Those two passages (Romans 1.26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6.9-10) are really the only problematic ones if you ask me, and as plenty of other people have said, Jesus never mentions it at all.

The rest of the references could very well be about sexual promiscuity or unspecified "unnatural" sexual acts rather than about gay-ness.  It says a great deal about homophobia in our culture that it is possible to see the words "unnatural" and "unclean" and immediately assume that they refer to homosexuality.  But the Jews probably had a far wider definition of those words, especially "unclean."  There were many ways you could be unclean that have nothing to do with homosexuality--by violating certain dietary restrictions, or having sex with your wife while she was menstruating, for example.

So this has been sitting in my draft box for a month now because I didn't really come to any conclusions, it ended up with me just thinking out loud. (Well, the internet equivalent of thinking "out loud.") I have no idea what the best approach is.  But there are going to be several of these this week (I hope), not necessarily about homosexuality but about Christianity--some of them inspired by further reading of John Shore's blog--so here you go. I know for those of you who aren't interested in Christianity this and some of the others this week are going to be far more information than you want, so feel free to tune out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

more than you wanted to know....

Well, I am chatty Kathy this week.  What happened?  Last week I almost decided to stop blogging, this week I can't shut up.  You know what?  I just decided to chalk this up to menopause.  I'm still close enough to it that I can blame the emotional rollercoaster on hormones, right?  RIGHT?  *grabs poor defenseless reader by the lapels and glares*  ummmm, yeah. Right.

OK, then.

Moving on.

So I overcame temptation this week and did NOT buy a new book.  The rules have evolved since the last time we discussed this (my new year's resolution to not buy any new books in 2013).  I bought a couple of guide books for Southern Utah before we went on spring break and decided that the resolution only applied to fiction.  And I bought two kindle books-- one to support a friend of a friend's newbie writing career, and one because it was an author I like and it was on sale for ninety-nine cents.  But other than that, I haven't paid money for any books this year.

Until yesterday, when one of my online acquaintances announced the book for the online book club she hosts at her blog every month.  It's one I want to read, and I enjoy participating in her monthly discussions.  Then two or three people chimed in saying that they loved the book (Hi, Karen!).  So there I was on Amazon with my finger hovering over the "send to my kindle" button.

But I resisted.  I may still give in (I've already made it far longer than I thought I would on this resolution), but I decided to at least wait.  That's one of the keys to dealing with temptation, you know.  You don't tell yourself you can't do it, you just tell yourself to wait.  I'm on the waiting list at the library for a copy, and the date of the discussion is still two weeks away.  We'll see.

In other news.....  I went to see Lynne, my alternative medicine friend, and she said to just give in to the tiredness and let my body rest.  Everybody needs a break sometimes, she said.  She also pointed out that I'm probably still recovering from three years of hyper-stress because of grad school.  So I will try to stop berating myself for not being particularly productive, effective, or useful, and relax.

And we're blaming this all on hormones, anyway, right?

I googled around and found this creepy Chatty Kathy commercial on youtube.  How did any of us who were kids in the 60s turn out sane?  *insert horror movie music* OR DID WE?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

mother's day hike

The advantage of living here-- we could do this leaving at 2:30 in the afternoon and be home by 8:30, including stopping for root beer floats and burgers on the way home.

a river moving in you

I've been thinking lately about joy.  I let joy leave my life, and for the past couple of months, I've been working on getting it back.  I'm not miserable, and I'm not depressed.  I'm still doing what I need to do, getting things done, taking care of my family and our animals and putting one foot in front of another.  But there hasn't been much joy.  This is a work in progress, I have no great conclusions to pass along here.  Just several random thoughts, plus some quotes I found on The Google, and a hope that you will pass your ideas along to me.

an aside: since like everyone I did a mini happy dance when hyperboleandahalf reappeared on my feed, I want to say that none of this applies to someone who is truly depressed.  After reading her description, I don't think I ever have been.  If you are, you have my sympathy, and you can ignore this.

I think joy is different than happiness.  Happiness comes when things are right, everything's coming up roses, you get a book contract or a promotion to the job you always wanted or a raise.  Or you're on vacation.  All it takes is a blow, something that goes wrong, vacation ends, to turn happiness into sadness, grief, or pain.  And that's as it should be--the circle of life and all that.

But maybe joy is something different.  It springs from life itself, from the gift of being alive, waking up to another day, a whole new world every single 24 hours.  I think it has something to do with gratitude, with acknowledging that gift.  It's #2 on the list of fruits of the Spirit in St. Paul's letter to the church at Galatia: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." It seems to me it should be something that bubbles up of its own accord if we can manage to get out of its way.

If that's true, it should be possible to feel joy even when things aren't right, when things aren't going your way, when getting through the day feels like pushing Sisyphus's boulder up a hill.  But I certainly haven't been feeling it lately.

Maybe part of it is slowing down, noticing.  Colors, sounds, spring.  The world is coming to life around me as I sit here typing in front of an open window.

Maybe part of it is taking a vacation from cynicism, from that dry, dreary, unshakeable belief that if anything bad can happen, it's going to happen, to me, at the worst possible moment.  Because this is demonstrably not true.

Maybe part of it is lowering the bar on our expectations.  We're Americans, we have a tremendous sense of entitlement. We believe that we're entitled to a great life, 100% health, a good job, a nice house, a car to drive, a happy childhood safely tucked away in our memories. We believe that we deserve ease, comfort, spa treatments, and chocolate for dessert.  So we're not only disappointed but angry when things don't go the way we want. In much of the rest of the world, I suspect that three meals a day and a roof overhead is cause for contentment.

Maybe part of it is not taking the burden of changing the world too seriously.  It's not like any specific one of us was given the job to change the world. Maybe each of us can let go of the burden now and then.  We can  do our part, and then let other people take over when we need a break.

Maybe part of it is developing a more robust sense of self, and also a healthy respect for the person I am.  That way I wouldn't be dependent on the people around me in order to be able to be myself.  I'd like to be able to say that I am who I am no matter what's going on around me.  (cue Popeye.)

Maybe part of it is taking that most difficult step of faith and believing that we are just fine as we are, without any changes.  I think part of my lack of joy recently has to do with realizing that I'm never going to become the amazing person I wish I was.  I'm 51, almost 52.  If it was going to happen, it would have happened by now.  But the flip side of that is that by concentrating on that amazing person I wish I was, I miss the amazing person I am right now.  If change is going to come, it needs to be motivated by joy, not the deadening belief that I'm a disaster and I'll only be a worthwhile person if I change.

I spotted a book on Paperback Swap a couple of weeks ago that may help:  Second Innocence: Reconnecting with Joy and Wonder.  Haven't read it yet, but I will pass along any gems of wisdom.

Some thoughts from others:
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.  --Rumi

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. --Thich Nhat Hanh

"joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed."  Kahil Gibran

And I found out that line I passed along last week is from Teddy Roosevelt:  "Comparison is the thief of joy."

Monday, May 13, 2013

blog update

Hi, y'all-- I have a couple of posts that need to go up but that probably aren't anything that you will find interesting (like how to get from Dulles to the Convention Center in Washington) (see? I told you), so I'm going to back post them just to get them up.  Feel free to ignore.

Also, I need to go back and add labels to a whole bunch of posts.  I thought that I could do this without republishing the post (on my end, it's just a matter of clicking in a checkbox), but the last time I did it, I noticed it popped back up to the top of my feed in Feedly.  So, massive apologies, because when I get around to doing this there will be a flood of a dozen or more old posts, which are absolutely unchanged except for the labels.  Sorry!!  I will try to do better at remembering to label them when I originally post them.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

how to get from Dulles into Washington, D.C.

This will probably not interest my regular readers a bit, so my apologies.  But for an airport as large as Dulles, it was surprisingly difficult to figure out how to get from the airport into the city.  Even though I googled it ahead of time, I ended up just poking around Dulles after I got there until I figured it out.  So I decided to write it out in the hopes that it will help out someone else.

I saved almost $200 by flying into Dulles (IAD) --which is about 30 miles from Washington, D.C.  But the savings would have been practically wiped out by taking a taxi into the city for $70 each way, as most sources recommend.  (Taking the taxi would be a bargain if you could split it up between 3-4 people, because you don't have to worry about switching between buses, trains, etc. and presumably the taxi would take you exactly where you need to go.)

So:  In the baggage claim area, follow the signs to the Washington Flyer Bus.  They're not exactly prominent, but if you're looking, they're not hard to find.  You follow a ramp up to Door 4, where there is a ticket counter so you can buy a ticket.  You can buy a one-way ticket for $10, or round-trip for $18.  The bus comes about every half hour.  The bus was a big, clean, uncrowded tour-type coach.

The Washington Flyer Bus will deposit you at the West Falls Church Metro Station, which is on the Orange Line of the Washington metro subway system.  If you are planning to ride the Flyer bus back to Dulles again at the end of your trip, note where the bus drops you off.  There is no ticket desk for the return trip, you just get on the bus when it pulls up and pay when you get back to Dulles.

The metro is pretty easy to figure out if you have any experience with public transportation.  There are route maps and automated ticket machines inside the metro station--you can pay with cash or a credit or debit card.  I needed to get to the convention center, which is the Mt. Vernon Square metro stop.  At the bottom of the route map sign, there is a list with the fare to each other stop from your current location.  You add a dollar to that amount and that's how much metro fare you need to purchase.  I had to ride the orange line to L'Enfant Plaza, then switch to the green line to Mt. Vernon Square.

Total expense for getting into the city: less than $14.  The downside:  it took an hour and a half from the time I got on the Flyer bus.  Note-- if you're going to be using the metro frequently during your trip, you can get a credit-card-like smart card, which saves you the $1/trip surcharge for using a paper card.  If you're a complete newbie when it comes to public transportation, the metro website has lots of information for how to get around, try starting here.

Someone on the flyer bus told me that there is also a public transpo bus 5A that you can catch from either the L'Enfant Plaza metro station or the Rosslyn metro station to Dulles, but I didn't find out about it until too late to do it.  Also, there are shared vans that you can use --there's a desk just outside of baggage claim, but since I didn't use them, can't comment on them.  The method I've described above worked just fine, though, and was pretty cheap.  It just took awhile.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

sneaky chickenz

The number of eggs we've been getting recently has really dropped off, but since we had way more eggs than we needed anyway, I wasn't really worrying about it.  Turns out that they've been laying, just not in the coop.  Look what I found this afternoon when I went to drag out the pots for my flowers:

Silly chickens.

I spent the weekend in Washington, D.C. with my mom and my sisters--we had a great trip.  But I've spent the week catching up.  Back soon.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

nostalgia for the second wave

The history of feminism is usually defined by waves:  the first wave was the era of the suffragettes, women fighting for the most basic rights--the right to vote, to own property, to hold a job; the second wave was the feminism of my college years, the era of fighting for equality--a woman can be just as good as a man at anything she wants to do; the third wave started somewhere around the 90s, and acknowledged that women's rights come in all different sizes, shapes, colors, races, and ethnicities.

In the 80s, we were all about getting rid of the trappings of femininity that had limited what we could do--the traditional women's roles of cooking and housekeeping and raising children took up so much time that you couldn't do anything else.  We were all about convenience foods and day care and streamlined plans for cleaning the house (or not cleaning at all) because suddenly there was a whole world of things we'd rather do--write a software program or go for a hike or become a potter or work overtime to advance our careers.

All the old female pastimes seemed like a cage that was designed to hold us back.  We wanted to be taken seriously, because we hadn't been before; we wanted to be judged on the merits of what we could do, not on how we looked or what we wore or (worst of all) what our husbands/bosses did.  We wanted a level playing field with the men.

The obvious outward sign of this was clothing.  When I was in early grade school in the 60s, girls were still required to wear dresses or skirts to school.  The boys could run around the playground, hang from the monkey bars, and slide down the slide, but if you were wearing a dress, there were serious limitations to what you could do.  Some of us figured out how to wear shorts under our dresses (Danskins were perfect because they fit snugly and didn't show), but even then you ended up with a bunch of fabric wadded up around your waist that boys just didn't have to deal with.

So when the second wave came along, most of us were overjoyed to switch to jeans, pants, gauchos (remember those?)--anything that didn't restrict our movement.  Skirts and dresses became something that you wore to weddings, funerals, and job interviews.  High heels were seen as a torture device designed by patriarchy to keep us looking good but unable to move. Fussy clothing--ruffles, lace, bows, puffs-- UGH.  I wanted nothing to do with any of it.

So it was with a great deal of surprise that I and many other second wave feminists watched the third wave take up girl-y clothing and make it into its own kind of power.  Girl power, grrrrl power, however you want to spell it-- you had the Spice Girls wearing 5-inch platform shoes and even though they were all adults, being unabashedly girly.  Manicures that had to be fussed over, mini-skirts that kept you from being able to lean over, stiletto heels that would break the ankles of lesser humans--instead of signs of weakness and subservience, these became signs of female power. We can kick ass and look good doing it.  We bring men to their knees.

There were, of course, many great things about this.  First of all, it meant that this generation of women could take it for granted that they would be taken seriously, which is is something so profoundly wonderful that it brings tears to my eyes to think about it.  They could wear flirty, feminine clothes, dress like an eight-year-old, a vamp, or a diva, and it didn't even seem to occur to them to worry that someone would ignore them or accuse them of sleeping their way to the top.

And there were lesser positives, too-- when I was in high school, having your bra strap showing was enough to send you red-faced and embarrassed to the restroom to stow it away again.  By the mid 90s, camisoles were designed specifically to show your bra strap, and underwear came in vivid colors and animal prints--the whole intention was for it to be seen.  And it was lot of fun to play dress-up and feel powerful doing it.

But there were also moments when I just shook my head--like one time I was wandering around the women's clothing section at REI and came across a bunch of tops intended for rock climbing that tied with a bow in back.  Seriously?  How can you be taken seriously as an athlete if your clothing ties in a bow? What if it came untied and presented a climbing hazard?  But of course times had changed.  No one thought about it like that anymore.  I can already hear how a third waver would respond:  Just because I climb with the guys doesn't mean I have to look like one.

Recently I've wondered if things have finally come full circle.  I've been increasingly disturbed at the pictures that women post of themselves--or parts of themselves.  Cleavage shots, shots of their butts, torso shots where their only coverage is an arm across their breasts.  It's the same thing of course-- women feeling powerful in their bodies, and proud of how they look--and there's nothing wrong with that. I will admit to some prudish, eyebrow-raised reactions, but usually even I can tell that this isn't about prudery.

But it has struck me recently as a little odd that we've gone in the past thirty years from women being outraged that they might be judged for their tits and ass to now being insistent on being judged that way. If you use a cleavage shot as your profile picture, it almost demands that people see you as a pair of boobs.

It's not an observation that they would appreciate.  They see it as a claiming of their own power to be able to revel in looking good.  But as a former card-carrying member of the second wave, it just strikes me as odd.