Archive for April, 2010

I had several random thoughts today, which would be better suited to Twitter. Except I can’t be bothered to open my Twitter account. I miss the friends who have migrated over that way, but when I try to read it I get anxiety attacks. You can’t avoid politics on Twitter, really.

But I need somewhere to say these things and get them off my chest. So back to the blog it is, even though none of these is earth-shattering.

  • I think pinecones look like pieces of poo.   I can’t ever stand when people decorate with them because there you are looking at beautiful greenery and ribbons and candles and then–VOILA!–a prickly piece of dried feces is sticking out of it all.   On a related note, I should probably throw away my Christmas issue of Good Housekeeping.
  • I’ve written before about how some people on the Facebook games find stealing fun and others find it annoying or bothersome or wrong.   On an interesting (to me only, perhaps) note, I’m starting to notice that it’s as much a sociocultural thing as individual preference.   The folks from the Pan-Asian countries seem to get the biggest hoot out of stealing and causing injury to neighbours’ property, while the Americans from the Midwest and South enjoy those aspects of gaming the least.   It makes me wonder about how traditional roles of religion, politics and culture have shaped those dynamics.   (Yes, I am currently playing a couple of games which originate in China or N. Korea and consequently have a high number of Chinese and Korean players.)
  • House is getting more tedious by the week.   This past week they tried to treat a woman for Ankylosing Spondylitis and when that was ruled out they then fumbled around until they got to Sarcoidosis.  Genius Dr. House suggested they ‘Treat for Sarcoidosis’.   Having been suspected of being afflicted by both of those diseases and therefore researching them thoroughly, I happen to know that the treatment for both diseases is virtually identical.  Treating for AS will also treat for Sarcoidosis.  And RA.  And about 19 other auto-immune diseases.   But the show’s writers seem far more interested in speculating about whether or not these various reprehensible and shallow people will have sex with someone they shouldn’t be having sex with.   It’s more boring than looking at paint chips in various shades of cream.
  • I hate trimming my toenails.   It’s gross.
  • I think my dog tries on my clothes when I’m not in the room.   My mother always told me I should put my clothes away.   I think she thought it was just the tidy thing to do.   She didn’t realise that my clean shirts would one day be in danger of being an Eskie Plaything.
  • Caramel is one of my favourite things to eat.   And I have a dream of making the ultimate caramel sauce.  But when I look up recipes they are all boring and straightforward.  Sugar, butter, cream.   You’d think, with as wondermous as Caramel is, that the recipes would be more alchemic than that.

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Any Wednesday

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything other than emails that I’m not quite sure if I still can write.

Part of me misses writing the way a new vegetarian misses well-cooked meat dishes. I miss the flavour, the sense of fullness, the memory of the way my life was when I did that thing I no longer do.

It’s not that I’ve stopped writing or given it up to save the planet–although perhaps there is something to that. It’s more that I’ve not been able to carve the time out of my day. That is not a good thing–it’s a sign of giving in to that old lack of discipline. I know that and I’m writing here to remind myself aloud that I know that. I’m a craven thing.

One of the reasons, though, that I haven’t carved out that time is that when it comes to blogging I am not really sure what it is I want this blog to do. When I first started it all those years ago it was my bully pulpit. The one place where I got a chance to uninterruptedly get all my thoughts out into public and chew them over. And my thoughts were mostly about politics. Those that weren’t about politics were about other things I find equally irritating. Like that woman who came to the Koi Chinese Buffet in a bikini barely covered by a semi-transparent white swim coverup. Her under-five-year-daughter bounced behind her in the line grunting and pointing and foodstuffs she wanted, her naked baby feet slapping the tile floor of the restaurant in eagerness. I know I’m a libertarian, and at heart I don’t think it should matter what another person wears to a restaurant. But I also must admit that I neither want to see a slovenly woman semi-naked while I eat, nor do I want her child imitating monkeys three feet from my table.

But that’s the thing about me. I realise that this blog for a long time was the place I voiced my displeasure with this or that thing. And for those who only knew me from here I got a reputation–well-deserved–as contrary, crochety and grumpy. And I am those things for the space of the 500 words or so it takes me to vent about it. Then it’s over and I move on with being a generally okay person who isn’t all that bothered by the world. Most of the time. But that then leaves a blog that reads like a litany of tirades.

Not that such things don’t make fun reading. For example I am currently beyond in love with Flavia de Luce and her similar ways of seeing the world. I know many people hate cozy mysteries and the quirky British villages where they’re inevitably set. But me? I’m all about Bishop’s Lacey and the strange people there, as seen through the eyes of an 11 year old genius chemist girl who also happens to be quite a good detective. Seriously. Both The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie and The String That Ties The Hangman’s Bag are books I wish I’d written. They’re books I want to start reading over again as soon as I’ve finished them. And I didn’t mean to plug them, but while I’m here talking about why I haven’t written I have to admit in part that it’s because when I read books like these I think there’s really no point in bothering. Someone has already done what I wanted to do and done in better. Of course, this late in the human experience I suppose that can be said about just about anything. Except maybe murder. Perhaps that’s why some serial killers do what they do. They want to be the first nutbar to peel back the skin of someone’s belly and plant sunflowers in the duodenum. At the very least I doubt it’s ever been tried.

At this point I’m just content to pat myself on the back for generating more than 500 words when I had no idea what I’d say upon opening WordPress. (Hence the generic title. Were I titling it now I’d call it something better and more relevant, like “A Belly Full Of Sunshine, Naked At The Buffet.”) So I’m back off to my heating pad, bed and Kindle, with the repeated realisation that it really was sporting of That Divine Being to at least give me technology in exchange for my ruined health. God took my cow, but gave me magic beans. Rather nice beans, actually.

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I never did read this book, as I am instantly suspect of any book with “pray” or “prayer” in the title that is also on the New York Times best-seller list. Prayer is too personal and mystical to be a commodity.

I just now watched the trailer for the Julia Roberts-starring film because it was part of a deal where I got paid to do so. And I find myself staring cock-eyed at the computer screen in a sort of wonder.

After watching the trailer I looked up the book just to be certain. And sho’nuff, it’s true. It IS a book about a woman who finds inner peace by eating what she wants, learning to pray and learning to be open to sacrificial love. Mmmm-hmmm. Yes, it is. And it’s a best-seller.

Because I guess if this is your life and you are some sort of bi-coastal bluestocking who takes this journey in exotic places it is worth a bestseller. It’s a story of note. But if you are an ordinary woman in Tennessee who has always lived this way, for whom family, food and communion with the Divine are a basic way of life–then Jamie Oliver starts screaming about how you have a crappy lifestyle, are too fat and must be shamed into oral submission.

You see, I’m from the farm people of the Midwest. I’m just two generations removed from the sort of folk who get up at dawn to gather eggs from chickens, run a combine in the fields and have a big noon meal they call ‘dinner’ to fuel up for an equally busy afternoon. After the sun sets and the cows are milked they have some soup and toast and play a game or watch tv together. On Sundays they go to church. Every other day they read their Bibles and pray.

Eat Pray Love is a way of life to us. For my grandparents it was all they had–apart from the land and the animals that required constant tending and care. It was the way of life my parents brought with them to us. We didn’t have cattle and our garden was small, but we prayed every day, loved each other fully and ate well to sustain the day.

On the many diets I’ve been on before I gave up that false religion there was always much talk about how to fat people food equals love. It was said shamefully, eyes cast down. How dare you find love in food?!? Over the years I’ve realised that the food itself is not love–never thought it was–but the preparing and sharing of that food is an act of communion, a tribute to the gluing-together of lives with real, abiding love. Food is an expression of care. And that is no bad thing. Even a bought-on meal is acquired with money earned through labour. When you share those meals with people you care about you are partaking in something great. And you don’t have to go to Bali to do it.

I am constantly amazed over these last few years at how people removed from the Midwest Way “discover” it out there somewhere and write bestsellers preaching its veracity. It’d be cute if it didn’t point to a larger sadness in the world that needs someone louder than Jamie Oliver to fix it.

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Light Syrup

My parents came to dinner this week. This is no small feat, considering that it is a seven-hour drive between our houses.

I marvel often at how perfect my life is–but perfect in an off-center kind of way. As the four of us sat around my dining room table and enjoyed good beef, asparagus and twice-baked potatoes I thought how much of my life is as I always wanted it. Not how I pictured it, but how I felt it should be.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be different things. A writer, a psychiatrist, a housewife and mother. I wanted to have my own sno-cone machine. I wanted to be able to drink Cokes with every meal and to stay up as late as I wanted. And of course I’m a writer because that is most definitely something you ARE as opposed to something you DO. The actual writing of things is a craft, but the personality is as much a part of you as your lungs and saliva. Being a writer means that I get to practice psychiatry for imaginary people, and while it doesn’t pay as well as the more popular brand of shrinking, it also didn’t require eight years of medical school. I have an ice maker that makes too many ice cubes and the Cokes I drink with dinner add to my insomnia so I’m not only staying up as late as I wanted, I’m staying up even later.

But I married the man I loved when I found him early. I gave up some things to do it but I don’t regret it in the least. Because loving my husband is my favourite occupation, my favourite pastime, as much a part of me as my writing.

Why am I going into all this pap? One word: The Duggars.

Before my parents got here I was watching some old episodes of However Many Kids And Counting. I go in spurts with that show; I won’t watch it for months and then I’ll raid the TiVo and breeze through a dozen episodes and counting in one sitting. Why I picked this week to do that, I’ll never know. Maybe because Easter always reminds me of family things.

Anyway, when I was really young, back in the early ’70s, I wanted to be Michelle Duggar. No joke. I wanted to be a good Christian mommy with at least 8 kids. I wanted to wear the prairie dresses and the waist-length Modest Woman Crowning Glory hair. I think in the evangelical culture of the 70s that was our version of the Hippie Commune. So anyway, whenever I go through a spate of Duggerviewing I feel these pangs of envy and inadequacy. After all, there are all those Bible verses that talk about how having a bajillion children is an imprimateur from the Heavenly Father, a stamp of approval and a sign of wealth. And there are all those other Bible verses that talk about the shame of barrenness. As a barren woman how am I supposed to feel? Like a well run dry, a tapped-out mine, a withered husk. Meanwhile, Michelle Duggar sits in a chair in a rented house, hooked up to a machine milker. Not unlike a dairy cow. Her mother in law spends the entire day doing laundry and her younger babies are reared by her older children who are in turn reared by computerised homeschooling lessons. None of them have ever read To Kill A Mockingbird. None of them have ever seen The Godfather. (There’s another close family with a lot of kids who all live together set apart from the outside world.)

I honestly don’t know how or what to feel about the Duggars. I write about it on occasion because I wrestle with it. Am I less of a woman because I’ve had no children or am I a better woman because I haven’t had more children than I can afford? Am I a better steward because I haven’t wasted the life of a child by refusing to allow them the opportunities to be the most they can be by seeing the world and finding their own place in it? Is it selfish to keep having children because they are a glory to you, even though the life they have is complicated by being lived in a zoo, having to earn their own keep by performing for the cameras?

I’m a libertarian. At the root of it I believe the Duggars should do exactly what they want to do. But as a barren Christian woman I do have thoughts about how my life looks when held up to the funhouse mirror of theirs. I honestly don’t know the answer. Like light syrup the Duggars confound me. Can you be both a responsible Christian parent AND have two dozen children? Can you be syrup and yet be not sugary sweet?

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Last Friday I watched the Twilight movies with a group of friends. I’ve tried now twice (unsuccessfully) to read the books, but since so many of my friends are so deeply enchanted by these stories I felt I should have a passing knowledge of them. During our video party last week I finally put my finger on what it is about these stories that bothers me so deeply.

And yes…this IS a Good Friday post.

All stories are driven by tension and concluded by resolution to the tension. That tension can be a physical or mental journey, the search for a killer, the search for a lover. The main tension driving the Twilight stories seems to be born out of everyone’s desire to communicate as little as possible while still seeking the outcome they desire. The drama comes from people, vampires and werewolves not being upfront about their personal agendas.

As a direct, plain-spoken person I find this horribly frustrating.

My courtship with my husband lasted seven weeks. There were indeed moments of “does he like me?” but I put paid to that by simply saying “I think I’ve got a crush on you. How do you feel about that?” He felt just fine with it. Since then, we’ve had twenty years of marriage marred only on a few occasions where we stopped communicating.

There are lots of ways for bloggers to memorialise Good Friday. We can focus on the pain of sacrifice, the gift of God’s love. And I have done that happily in the past. But those are all discussions of the journey. Of things which have already happened. It puts the events of that first Good Friday firmly in the past. Like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, focusing on the event as an historical occasion makes it just that. History.

But the fruit of that sacrifice–the gift–is not merely what we were told it was in children’s Sunday School. Yes, we get to go to Heaven because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But that is only the smallest part of the gift.

We now get to talk with God. Because of the magic of Jesus’ blood sacrifice, the barrier between us as humans and God as our creator, lover, author and friend has dropped. Our lives don’t have to be a frustrating dither of wondering what God thinks or why God did this or that. We can ask for ourselves. We can talk with God. We can come to know God and God’s mind. There doesn’t need to be any dramatic tension, any unresolved question. By the time we make it to Heaven, it should be like a trip to visit an old friend whom you’ve kept in touch with via email. The point of Good Friday isn’t just eternal life. It’s eternal conversation with the Divine.

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I’ve had The Help lingering on my Kindle for a few weeks now, and finally decided to dive into it this morning, as I was growing very tired of the stilted language in Ben Hur. (That’s a post for another time, and one I need to write…about my relationship to General Lew Wallace and the long shadow it has cast over my lifetime.)

In the very first pages of The Help, we meet a loathsome character called Miss Hilly, an embodiment of everything I’ve come to hate about the South since moving here 20 years ago. She’s a well-to-do wife of a man of means (or so it seems thus far) who has too much time on her hands. She uses that time to meddle in the affairs of others, assuming that her social standing gives her leave to interfere. When we first meet Miss Hilly she’s in the throes of trying to pass some fancily-named city ordinance that would insist on Coloured bathrooms in all private homes which employ Negros. (Using the parlance of the time.) Miss Hilly is very convinced that she’s doing the right thing for the health and safety of the community. She is completely unaware of her own bigotry and ignorant of the lack of scientific basis for her claims.

Shutting off the Kindle and diving back into the choppy waters of my real life I see that the fury over the Fat People Suck , er, Obesity Task Force is still going strong over at Aunt B.’s. I’d commented there yesterday, but found myself too lathered up to linger. Today I employed my mad google skills to read up on the well-meaning but cruel people who are behind this sickening waste of grant money.

I found a woman who I’ll call Miss Hilly Two. She’s on this project. She’s also on several other silly projects of similar ilk around town. Save this building, save that pony, etc. She gets noticed, gets her name on letterhead. She’s the exact opposite of me, the Hermitage hermit who wants to be left alone and to leave others alone as well. I think I may know her from a previous job but I’m not 100% sure, because there are no photos of her that I can find. If she is the same woman she was anorexic when I worked for her. So that’s another irony right there.

My problem with all the Miss Hillys of this world is that they are arrogant, assured of their own rightness but deeply hurtful. BUT THEY DON’T CARE WHOSE FEELINGS THEY HURT BECAUSE THOSE PEOPLE DON’T MATTER TO THEM. They have a hierarchy of persons in their mind. If you don’t rate, it doesn’t relate. The South is peopled with Miss Hillys. Of course I should add here that perhaps Indiana has its own Miss Hillys and I just moved away too young to encounter many of them. Regardless, I don’t care to be prejudged by these needlenosed women and their Junior League agendas.

Fat people are fat, and if that could be changed don’t you think we would have done it by now? Creating an underclass of fat people solves nobody’s problems but the Miss Hillys of this world. And it Helps no one.

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Someone I know very well has gone and done a stupid thing.

It’s the latest in a long line of stupid things this person has done, stretching like a sticky taffy of wrongness across the last twenty years, picking up the dirt and lint of consequences.

Now, as a professed libertarian, I generally don’t care about other people’s stupid decisions. Smoke ’em if you got ’em. You know the probable consequences. Gamble your money away–if you can’t afford something else, I guess that’d be your deal.

But this person’s stupid decisions never affect just her. They affect her very ill mother, her very ill children and her (now) very ill husband. But she still, for whatever reason, keeps making these decisions over and over again. And then asking for help when it goes bad.

When the first stupid decision came up 20 years ago, we said what we thought. And were ostracised for years. Now we’ve been gradually trying to make peace and smooth over the openness that fractured the relationship all those decades back. We’ve said nothing about the subsequent stupid decisions, even as we were approached repeatedly to help smooth over the consequences.

Now here we are again. Another stupid decision has been made. And we haven’t said anything. And we’re being asked why we haven’t said anything. And It’s taking everything I have to not come completely uncorked.

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