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Archive for January, 2013

I know it happens occassionally, that one person’s tastes won’t line up with another’s. Whenever it happens with me and books, however, I always feel embarrassed and wrong-footed.

There is an author in a particular genre that I used to read heavily but now only read occasionally. (Rediscovering the joy of epic fantasy has really eaten into the time I once gave elsewhere…) In conversations with other genre fans this author’s name has come up repeatedly as a sterling example of the genre exceeding its mandate. Whenever people write off the genre as “just Genre fiction” the ardent supporters reply with this author’s names and one or two of her titles that back up their claims.

I hadn’t read any of her stuff–see above re. epic fantasy–but then when I needed a genre break a few days ago I took the plunge and downloaded samples of the two titles everyone raves about.

I find them to be horrible. The samples I read were difficult, mannered, overly-constructed. They sounded like something a novice writer in the throes of adolescence would churn out after a steady diet of soap opera viewing.

So now I’m disappointed on two fronts. First, I’ve saved these books for a rainy day, as it were, thinking “well, if I’m ever in the mood for a good read in that genre again, I can always count on Book A and Book B.” Now I feel my secure wall of TBRs shifted by the loss of two sturdy bricks. Worse, however, is the feeling that I’m missing something. There must be some gene I don’t have or some day of class I missed that keeps me from loving these things that everyone else just adores.

I know that every book I love unreservedly has its detractors. Reviewers on Amazon complain about Patrick Rothfuss’ Name Of The Wind being too long, spending too much time on plotlines the reader doesn’t care for. My husband hates everything that flowed from the pen of Charles Dickens in spite of the fact that A Tale Of Two Cities is one of the greatest books in the universe. I read it first as a young girl and was indeed Recalled To Life.

So yes, I know that there’s always a hold-out on even the most wondrous of literature. I guess I’m just embarrassed when that hold-out is me.

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A few nights ago, for some complicated reason, I got an itch to watch thirtysomething. I haven’t seen an episode for years, and so I fired up the video player and dove in. Last night as the wind whipped around my house and the world banged against my hermit crab shell I spent three hours curled up with Gob in front of the happy Christmas lights watching.

The show first came out when I was a Junior in High School. I had just gotten my driver’s license, was just getting started in life. The people in their mid- to late-thirties seemed like an awfully remote constellation. Like a constellation they hovered over while I figured out where I was going to college (even though it was a foregone conclusion there was some usual drama with visitations and interviews), that I couldn’t be with my high school boyfriend forever, that I really loved legal theory and wanted to be a lawyer, that I was leaving home for the first time. They were still hovering when I fell in real love, got engaged, got married.

I come from a big, close-knit family and have a habit of latching onto surrogate families in TV shows and books to round out my complement of people. The thirtysomething crowd was the first of several TV clans that I folded into my own life. They were also a shadow play of married people who were not my parents and like any idiot I spent a lot of time assuming that life actually looked like their world.

It freaked me out last night to realise as I started the Pilot episode that I am now OLDER than everyone on that show. I’ve passed that point in my life while they’re still stuck there like the dying stars on the edge of the galaxy.

When I used to watch the show in syndication back in the 90s (It ran on Lifetime…naturally) I’d get all envious that I didn’t have a circle of friends and a pile of nice clothes and a job that made sense and a happy baby whose life all the adults revolved around.

I said yesterday on Facebook that Covetousness was one of my big sins, and I’m not kidding. I spent years coveting the lives and posessions of other people. I didn’t realise until rewatching the show last night that as God has worked on me about healing my spirit of envy and coveting I have become a content person. Well, scratch that. I did realise I was content, but I didn’t realise how much my envy for make-believe people had played into my DIScontentedness.

It’s funny, because as I write this it occurs to me that I don’t have a pile of nice clothes because I’m comfortable in sweats and jeans and t-shirts and I’d rather spend that money on books. I don’t have job at all, really, unless you count keeping my family together and happy and whole. I don’t have a baby. And yet I’m ridiculously happy. Beyond happy, I’m content. I do have the circle of friends and I value them dearly. If you’re reading this you are most likely in that circle.

Where am I going with this? Well, I guess the thesis of this post, novelly stuck at the end, is that I gave up on the Circle Game. I may be captive on the carousel of time, but I don’t have to ride the painted pony that goes up and down like everyone else’s. I can stand on my own two feet, wincing at the arthritis and wobbling with the motion. But I’m happy doing things my way.

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This is a day for rumination. It’s gray and humid but it’s warm and so you’re left with a feeling of being stuck in the door between Winter and Spring. Imbolc is coming and I sense its nearness like the warmth from a teakettle just coming to a boil. It sits in that doorway between winter and spring, and celebrating it is the centuries-old way of washing away the gloom of winter with new hope.

Nowadays Pagans and Wiccans and Celtic historians are the pretty much the only ones who celebrate it; Roman Catholics ran it through the syncretism machine and it came out the other side as St. Bridgid’s Day. Protestants and Anabaptists don’t really celebrate it, although I maintain they do without knowing. There’s always a big party with an abundance of food and friends, a contest of skill and feats of strength, music and lights. It’s ostensibly about the Super Bowl, but I usually find that it’s about that small part inside all of us that moves in rhythm with the Holy Days. Deep in ourselves is that desire to celebrate, to feast, to welcome hope.

So why do I notice Imbolc at all, and isn’t it very witchy of me and sort of not Christian? Well, my take on the matter is this. I think “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” God created us to enjoy celebrations, and for a Christian to overlook Imbolc is particularly sad. The very name of the festival is from Old Irish term for pregnant lambs.

It’s a whole holiday celebrating the hope of new life and the birth of the lambs. So on Imbolc those of us who follow Him are well within our faith to be celebrating the Birth of The Lamb Of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Pagans and Wiccans point to Groundhog Day, which is always on February 2, as the “new Imbolc” and strictly speaking I guess that’s true, seeing as how Imbolc is 1 February on the calendar. But I sure don’t think it’s an accident that we have ended up finding an excuse for a big party within a week of that date. I think our hunger for feasting, for gathering with friends and loved ones, for lights and music and the carefree spirit is all a hunger for our return to God and the souls who’ve left us.

So I’ll celebrate the Festival of The Birth Of The Lamb happily and with the joy of hope.

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I’m writing about Downton Abbey today. It’s a sad obsession, really.

But if you’re a bookworm who loves the show, check out today’s review at Book In The Bag.bookworm

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I’ll start this by saying that I’m as down as I’ve been in awhile. I had two events scheduled that were getting me through some dark days–two gatherings with friends. I’m now missing both of those because of The Way I Am. And it is very difficult to not be angry when that happens; you can be angry with yourself for not being tougher, at God for whatever you want to blame God for today, at the weather for being ugly. But I decided a few years ago that anger is too dangerous to spend at random, so I’m very careful about when I allow myself to go there. And now is not a time to go there. So now I’m going to do this Count Your Blessings thing, but it’s not counting my blessings because I think that’s fickle. Because really, in the long view, curses are blessings as well. When you count the things that only appear to be blessings at the moment you cheat yourself. (I just typed “yerself”. What?!?)

Anyway, since it’s Friday and I’m the Magpie who loves Shiny stuff this is an ode to wonderful things, to shiny things.

I stuck fake gems and sparkly monkey stickers all over my Kindle case. It was an inexpensive case–not one of those $50 leather deals–and I got tired of trying to figure out which end was which. So now I know right off. Also, I love fake gems, I love monkeys. I love sparklies. I love being different, and having unique twists on things. I like people to be able to look at all the Kindles piled up at my parents’ house and automatically say “that’s Kathy’s.” Of course I’d rather they not call me Kathy.

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Bullet Points

It is what it says it is. Some random thoughts. Many of which may be about guns.

• I know that we Second Amendment advocates are passionate, and in the face of threats (real or perceived) we’re being a bit more passionate than usual. Still and all, though, I have to say I’m really super disturbed at the number of Facebook postings I’ve seen where SAAs are rejoicing over someone shooting someone else. They’re posting a lot of news stories where someone robs someone else or rapes them or tries to do one of those things. And luckily (?) the victim is armed with a gun and shoots the perpetrator. The story gets posted and the comments come rolling in. “Good for her!” “That’ll teach so and so to rob a Marine’s Wife!!” On and on. Why are we acting like this is a happy occasion? The victim still has to suffer the violation and then the complex feelings that pile on top of that when you shoot someone. It’s not easy-peasy pulling a trigger on another human being. Even if they live you’ve crossed a line within yourself. And that’s not even getting to the fact that another person is wounded or dead. Sure they were doing something awful. But are we celebrating their injury or death just because we feel like it makes some point? I’m all for guns as defensive tools. But I’m not kidding myself that a gun as a defensive tool is anything other than a regrettable last resort.

• Why do I feel like the queen of Concern Trolls lately? It seems like half of what I do anymore is to tell people on my ostensible plank that they need to reassess their strategy. I don’t like doing it. I’d rather be productive, but it sure feels like everyone has abandoned reason for madness.

• Speaking of that last line, I sure am getting tired of people quoting Tolkein. It seems so…it reminds me of a geekier version of women who wear those sweatshirts they make themselves with cute sayings from Winnie the Pooh or Argus posters. “Hang In There” with the kitten clutching a limb. It’s so ersatz as to have lost all point. Tolkein may be a fine story-teller but he’s not King Solomon.

• I’m starting to really lose patience with everyone whose writing these stories about other people and their church attendance or lack thereof. It feels like I’ve seen three dozen of them in the last nine weeks and they all are full of confirmation bias. If they are in a church where they are happy, employed or both they see all the leavers as entitled whiners. If they are not in a church they see all the church people as self-involved hypocrites. KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER. If you feel so called to worry about it, worry about the specific people who don’t show up for your Sunday School anymore or who aren’t at the other end of the pew any longer. Pray about it. Stop generalising about what is a very personal choice with many layered reasons. It’s like speculating on why people don’t have sex. I can tell you right now that the attitude on both sides isn’t advancing the cause of the Cross at all. It’s just fighting over which of the Seven Churches in the Seven Letters you are a part of.

• The dogs like Downton Abbey. Both sighted boys (Gob and Quinn) can’t get enough of it. They especially like the oldfashioned automobile sounds. I don’t claim to understand. I just roll with it. I will say that now that I’ve finished Series 3 I’m bursting to have Stateside people to talk about it with. My British friends are over it, all talked out. My Americans haven’t caught up yet. If you’re spoiled on Series 3/ Season 3, drop an email to k.coble@comcast.net . I must chat.

I’ve run on too long now. Some of those bullet points turned into essays. Sorry about that. I gotta go. Gus is trying to eat some spare keys.

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I have female friends of whom I think very fondly, whom I hold dear. I enjoy them because they send me emails about medieval history. I enjoy them because they send me links to CakeWrecks and come over to my house to hang with me when I can’t go about the countryside the way I used to before I became the me I am now. I enjoy them because they remember the days when we named our fetal pig ‘General Math’ after our most hated class. I enjoy them because they remember driving home in the spring sun with Amy Grant cranked loudly. Angels were indeed watching over us.

I still don’t understand the concept of Girlfriends. That female friend whom you call every day no matter what. The woman whom you’d spend more time with than your spouse if you could. The person whose home you go to in the afternoon and whom you then text all evening. The person whose legs you shave, and who shaves your legs for you. (I am not exaggerating. I’ve seen it happen.)

Every now and again one of my female friends or acquaintances will fall into one of these Boon Companion relationships, and I always feel wrong-footed by it. It strikes me not as bad or wrong but as so wholly unfamiliar that I can’t really fathom it. It’s odd, because I can fathom lesbians and lesbianism. I understand that. But this sort of halfway, where they’re both married to men and yet married to one another in an emotional sense is something I’m trying to wrap my mind around.

My sister has two co-workers who are in one of these relationships. When one transferred to a different department, the other spent days in serious despair to the point where the rest of the team thought she might need a sedative. She eventually contrived to have their boss move her to the other department along with her Girlfriend. Now they’re having a joint baby shower because they contrived to get pregnant together.

I don’t get it. Perhaps it’s one of the side-effects of my personality. I’m introverted anyway, and more analytical than some. I’m not terribly comfortable with signs of affection with anyone other than my spouse. So I guess it’s just not on the cards for me to get that kind of relationship.

Funnily enough, I did have that kind of relationship at one point in my life. I met Jacqui at the end of 5th grade and up through 7th grade we were inseparable (except that she was a year ahead of me.) Literally inseperable. We loved Star Wars and D&D and wrote our own role-playing game. We spent hours watching Dr. Who and she kindly put up with my infatuation with Tom Baker. Every Friday night we went to the mall. Every Saturday we went to the Library or to the movies. Years later she announced that she was transgendered and changed her name. So I suppose in retrospect I can’t count it as a Girlfriend relationship at all.

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Wow. I’m sitting at my desk during one of the umpteen periods of letting the dogs run wild out back and it occurs to me that I think I used to be able to string words together in some sort of sensible order.

Now I’m lucky if I can get all the grammar correct in a basic sentence. Caught myself saying “who” instead of “whom” last night and was really embarrassed. At least it was only Gob who heard me, and either way he wouldn’t tell me “whom” or “who” he was barking at, so I suppose it doesn’t matter all THAT much.

The dogs keep chasing one another under my desk. That means that my speakers come unplugged, and when that happens I can’t write. I’m so jacked into the artificial typewriter sound that I’ve loaded onto my mac (which, yes, I just typed “mack”…if that doesn’t prove my case…) that if the clackety goes away I can no longer compose a sentence.

I wonder if it’s a form of self-hypnosis, that noise that I require to write. It’s either that or the fact that I started writing on my mom’s giant monster of an IBM Selectric when I was some young age and don’t really know any other way to do it. I am bemused by the authors who gush over the mysteries of writing longhand; I have been known to do it but to me it just feels more like filling in a form at the doctor’s. Typing is writing to me. It’s how I work best. It’s unfortunate because with the arthritis I should be quite happy with some Dragon Talk program (or whatever it’s called) but I cannot do it. I would be the world’s lousiest oral storyteller. I just need the typing. It’s my crutch. Anyway, it doesn’t make much difference now that my rambunctious lot have discovered how to kick my crutch out from under me.

I really wonder how Sarah did it. And I understand now more why she laughed when the God person told her she would have a baby. I’d laugh too…a laugh of unhinged frenetic madness. It’s exhausting enough having a puppy at 42. Having a baby at whatever age she was–I can’t imagine it. I don’t want to imagine it.

When I went to the doctor’s office a week and a half ago I ended up watching a young boy while his mother finished up her business with the office financial aid person. It occurred to me for the thousandth time that if I had been granted human children I would have made an okay mother at times. Perhaps once infancy was done. Oh, I’m fine with babies, but I do better when I can engage with a human.

Or with a dog, really. I’m getting on much better with Gus. Not that we ever didn’t get along, but now that he’s hit the 12th week mark and is more than a chewing and elimination machine we have more interaction that doesn’t consist solely of the words “ow” and “no”. Which is good and bodes well for the longterm prospects of our relationship. Although if he doesn’t stop chewing that squeaker in Gobie’s dragon I may go nuts. Excuse me. Time once more to parent.

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A couple of days ago I wrote about being the Fiction Theology Police. It’s not a popular position nor, according to many of my writer friends, a necessary one.

Last night on Facebook someone posted a link to a very useful list of Clichés Christians Should Avoid. It was a good list and pretty much everything on it I agreed with. Then in the fine print I came across this:

even if you buy into the concept of substitutionary atonement

Now, in case you don’t know what “substitutionary atonement” is, it’s the teaching that Jesus died to pay for the sins of the world. It’s pretty much the whole point of being a Christian. If we Christians didn’t believe THAT, we’d pretty much be free to be any other religion in the world.

I did some looking into it and discovered that the author of the piece is a member of the Emergent Church and that many members of the Emergent Church deny the teaching of substitutionary atonement. In other words…Jesus did NOT die for our sins. Because, in their view, that would make God a bully who is incapable of forgiving without hurting someone and that’s just not who the loving God is!

I’m still incredibly sad over this; I know a lot of followers of other faiths who think that the whole Jesus Dying For Sins is anything ranging from stupid nonsense to outright heresy within their own faith. As Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Pantheists, Pagans, Jews, they’re wholly in bounds to have those feelings and to disagree with the Christian teaching.

But if you claim Christianity as your faith you are calling yourself a Follower of Christ. A follower of Christ who denies the central loving and miraculously triumphant sacrifice of Christ is following a kindhearted but crazy man out of some compulsion I cannot fathom. Why would you follow Jesus and yet refuse to acknowledge him as the Lamb of God? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

And yet, there it is. Thousands of people who claim the label “Christian” and move through the world as such–and yet deny one of the central points of the Christian religion.

When I say I’m the Theology Police, this is what I’m talking about. If you hand me a book written for Christians as a fictional entertainment and yet have the story deny Jesus’ death and resurrection, I’m not going to say “well, that’s okay. It’s fiction.” I’m going to say that that book cannot be called a book for the market segment of Christians. There are some historical examples of this type of policing. One excellent book–The Last Temptation Of Christ– and one much more ridiculous book–Gwen Shamblin’s follow-up to her Weigh Down series–were denied places in the Christian marketplace because they had teachings that were not theologically sound.

That’s what I’m trying to clarify with this post. Books with all ideas can and should exist. That’s how we find out about the ideas and test them and test our own ideas against them. But if they clash with things we as Christians hold dear they can exist outside the shelter of Christianity.

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I have never ever been embarrassed to be a pro-Second Amendment advocate. To me it’s far from something that should cause a person shame. After all, guns are a necessary tool and pastime for a lot of people. It seems naive for folks without an understanding of a way of life to say “these are antiquated and unnecessary!” I mean, personally I think baseball is antiquated and unnecessary but I’m not going around trying to make it illegal, trying to make everyone turn in their bats and bases and sixty-feet-six-inches measuring tape.

But now, since “Sandy Hook” or “The Newton Massacre” I’m seriously wondering about some of the folks who are sharing the pro-gun bandbox with me.

Let me be very clear right now. If you think that that murder of innocent people going about their day in an elementary school was either staged–with no one actually dying–or orchestrated by President Obama/the CIA/Homeland Security/the NSA/the Democratic Party you have optioned yourself out of any responsible conversation about the issues of media responsibility and government-ordered disarmament*.

The media did really screw up with Sandy Hook coverage in the first 24 hours. They all admit this–print and television news coverage both online and in traditional outlets. They got names wrong, occupations wrong. In fact nearly every fact of the shooting was initially misrepresented.

Yes, this is cause for outrage and says an awful lot about how news works now and should be a good lesson in why it’s not the worst thing in the world to avoid immediate news coverage. I have done for years and I’m actually happier for it and much more well-informed.

These errors do NOT mean that everything was made up, or that there was confusion before the official press release on Oval Office Stationery hit the news desk. The fact that there are people who want to believe this is understandable. I’d rather believe that people didn’t actually die. I know that some people have spent 8 years with entertainers bombastically declaring to them that President Obama is evil. They’ve invested so much of their lives in that lie that the idea of him masterminding this horror seems perfectly in line with their assumptions thus far.

But it’s not the belief of a well-ordered mind. It’s magical thinking. And it’s ridiculous.


*I no longer say “gun control”. That’s a spin term that makes it sound nice and neat. Disarmement is the legal term for what is happening–registering private weapons in databases and seizing those weapons is disarmement.

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