Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Project 40: November

I gave up on the novel at about 17,000 words of action-less crap that even I didn't want to read. I would rather read what other people have written. Maybe I should practice writing more...
“Doctor Who: Festival of Death” by Jonathan Morris
Now THIS was more like it. I’m glad to see that all Doctor Who books are not as boring as the first one I read. Right from the beginning, there’s action, danger, paradoxes, lives to be saved, and K-9! It involves the 4th Doctor (played by Tom Baker on the show) who’s really a goony absent-minded professor kind of hero (my kind of hero). The Doctor, K-9, and Romana have to save a ship of people from zombies created by “The Beautiful Death,” a tourist experience where participants actually die and then are brought back to life. Zombies, guys! There’s also some other weird timey-wimey stuff on account of the Doctor and Romana going back in time several times and bumping into their past selves. A+

“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K Dick

A friend of mine has read a lot of Philip K. Dick, so I thought I’d hit up the future on my sci-fi kick. Rogue androids in the future pose an apparent threat to humans, and they aren’t allowed on Earth (mass exodus to Mars, radioactive dust on Earth, that old story). The search for the missing androids didn’t interest me as much as the view of the future as a time when humanity is so difficult to define, and status is placed on people and things in such a strange way. Officer Deckard is a bounty hunter who wants to get the bounty for a bunch of androids so he can buy an animal in a world where real animals are status symbols. Deckard is afraid to admit that his sheep is electric because he doesn’t want anyone to look down on him. Isodore is a “chicken-head” who’s been brain damaged by the radiation and unable to flee with the rest to Mars. He tries to help the fugitive androids hiding from Deckard because he lives all alone and just wants companionship. I watched the movie Blade Runner, based on this book, right after I read it, and it left something to be desired because it didn’t even focus on some of my favorite things about the book. A-

“The Anubis Gates” by Tim Powers
This was another NaNo recommendation. An English professor is invited to speak to a group of high-paying time travelers who go back in time to see Samuel Colridge speak. Then when they go back to the site where they are supposed to make it back to the 21st Century, he is kidnapped and chased around by a sorcerer and his clown friend. It gets kind of hard to follow because there are a lot of new or body-switched characters coming in every few chapters. There wasn’t very much focus on the time travel aspect, just a bunch of weird stuff happening while everyone chases everyone else. I think it could have been more pulled together. C+

“The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells

This book was short and sweet and in that high style of writing that makes you feel like you’re reading something really important. The Time Traveler visits the future and sees what becomes of the human race after several thousand years: it splits into two species, the child-like people of the light, and the terrifying Molocks of the dark. All the Time Traveler wants to do is get his machine back! It’s short enough to read in a few days of bus rides, but I felt it was satisfying as a whole story. A-

That makes 39. I think I'm going to make it, kids!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Project 40: October

In preparation for National Novel Writing Month, I stocked up on a bunch of sci fi. Man, I love science fiction. I don’t think people realize how monumental it is to DREAM into the future. I mean, how would we have reached the moon without Jules Verne? Seriously.

“The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury
It took me a couple of stories to get into this one, but once I was able to follow the timeline, I kind of caught on. My favorite story was “Usher II,” where a man builds a mechanical house of horror based on Edgar Allen Poe stories. The book is a collection of stories, so they’re not all that cohesive. The Martians are different in nearly every story, but if you’re going through a timeline and assuming that Mars is a big planet, that’s not too hard to get past. After “Something Wicked This Way Comes” though, I was expecting to be drawn in a little bit more. B-

“Out of the Silent Planet” by CS Lewis
I think this is the first in a series, because it kind of ended like part of a series, which I generally don’t like in books. I like the way it was written though, with a sense of wonder of being on a new world, and the setup for a mythology comparing the Earth to other planets who have a connection to God (CS Lewis isn’t all that subtle) is pretty fascinating. B+

“Doctor Who: The Adventuress of Henrietta Street” by Lawrence Miles
I haven’t been obsessed with a TV show since the X-Files, and even with that, I lost interest after David Duchovny left the show. Now, I’m really really into Doctor Who. So I was excited to read one of the novels because hey, the show’s so great and action packed, the books are bound to be as well, right? Bzzt. Not this one. Within the first 30 pages, I wanted to put it down. I was very disappointed. It was written like it was trying to be a historical account written several years later, except that all of the events “are not clear.” So there’s very little action, just a bunch of things that “might have” happened, but “it is not clear”. Most of the novel involves whores sitting around a brothel for about six months while the Doctor doesn’t do anything because he’s sick. I ended up finishing it, but barely. D+

“Time and Again” by Jack Kinney

This one was recommended by some people at the NaNoWriMo forums when I asked for novels about time travel. Sy Morely is an artist who is chosen by a government agency to participate in a time travel experiment. These experiments don’t involve a machine or anything. The person has to immerse themselves in the time period of their assignment, and then travel back in time through self-hypnosis, and somehow, they “break through” and actually participate in past. Sy goes back to 1880s New York. It’s a very romantic view, because the characters take walks in the park during the winter, with horse drawn carriages and everything. There are a few action scenes involving the nefarious fiancé of the woman that Sy falls in love with in the 1880s, which was bound to happen, but most of the book was an elegant portrayal of the past. I was expecting a little more substance, but it was still a fairly good read. B

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Era

Barack Obama won the presidential election.

Time to get busy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

And an island never cries

I'm in a pretty big funk. You might call it depression (but funk is hipper). I don't feel like eating, and for a couple days there, I just felt like doing nothing but crawl into bed and cover up my head. I felt spaced out at work and ignored people at home. Tuesday night found me hugging myself on the floor in my room crying my eyes out and trying not to be loud enough for my coworker to hear me. It's numbness and sadness I've only felt a few times in my life.

I feel like I've failed on account of my loneliness. I was supposed to live and work at this house for single mothers for a year, and I expected it to be hard, but I wasn't prepared for how trapped I would feel. I'm not required to be at the house all the time, and I'm not even required to be there all the time that the residents are there, but some fights have happened when I haven't been there, so I'm paranoid to leave my coworker home alone with the residents. As a result, I don't get to see my family very often, and I've hung out with a friend once since I started working in July. So I'm quitting in January or as soon as we can find a replacement. I want to move back to Springfield and be available to my family and friends again.

Last year, I felt like my family demanded a lot of my time. I did a ton of volunteer stuff, and it seemed like my grandparents wanted me over at their house any time I wasn't doing something. Now I miss it. I had a night off a few weeks ago, and I spent it on my grandparents' couch after the presidential debate. Last year, my grandpa drove me crazy with his cranky attitude, picking on me and my grandma and bashing of my religion. Now he doesn't ever want to leave his house except to do the same things he does everyday, ride his bike and see his sister in the assisted living place. All the other time, he sleeps on the couch and reads the paper over and over.

Most of my friends don't know what I'm doing. I can't go to nighttime events because I'm stuck at the house. I'd invite people over, but I'm always afraid that something crazy is going to go down, plus it's not very exciting here. My church is going to start gearing up soon (we've been in an antsy stasis phase for a while and I'm itching to start doing stuff instead of talking about it) and I want to be available to help out.

Maybe I'm running away. I guess I'd rather be a chicken than keep working and be bitter and lonesome. I don't know how I'm going to afford moving out...room and board was free while I worked here, but I was also only working my school job part time, so I'll be bringing in about $600 a month until I find another job after I move out. Which means no apartment complex will take me. Which means I'm going to have to either find a room in a house, possibly with strangers, or try to get into affordable housing through St Vincent dePaul. But I'd rather worry about money than not be able to help my grandparents or see my new baby cousin or have a Fairytale Theater marathon with my best friend or fix the ceiling in the tiny maybe-church space.

I was all about jumping in and serving God with people who are different than myself. But it's not very fulfilling when the nature of the service is to be cut off from your community. Maybe some people are Lone Rangers like that, but I can't function that way. I hate to admit that I NEED.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Project 40: September

“Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin” by Myra Friedman
I’ve wanted to read a biography of Janis Joplin for a long time, since I’m a big fan of her music. I love that she wasn’t traditionally beautiful, but still made it as a star. This was about as good and detailed a biography as you can get. Myra Friedman was a personal friend and publicist to Janis, so she saw everything that went on while the band was on tour, as Janis went on and off of drugs, in and out of love, everything. She doesn’t try to make Janis a victim of drugs or fame or a bad childhood or anything. She recognizes the places where Janis chose to act a certain way towards people and chose to be involved with destructive behaviors over which she had a great amount of control. The whole book shows a Janis Joplin who needed to be loved, a very insecure young woman with a lot of talent and a lot of fear. The book got a little colloquial at odd times, but I was ok with that. A-

“Lost Horizon” by James Hilton
I had a bit of a hard time with this book. It wasn’t badly written; it was just kind of boring. Four foreigners are kidnapped and taken to the Himalayas, but they don’t seem too bothered by it. Then they come to the city of Shangri-La, and it’s all well and good. Oh, but they can’t leave. But only one man knows that. The story of the city is kind of interesting, but I expected the whole book to be a little more spectacular from what other people have told me about it, and I was super disappointed in the ending. C+

“The Bonesetter’s Daughter” by Amy Tan

I think my friend who recommended the chick lit books also recommended this one. But I actually liked this one! It’s told in two parts, the first focusing on Ruth, a Chinese-American woman trying to handle her aging mother, LuLing. Ruth thinks that her mother has Alzheimer’s Disease; she gives her wrong age at the doctor and pulls out a picture of her childhood nursemaid and claims the woman is her mother. While searching her mother’s apartment, Ruth finds a stack of memoirs, written in Chinese by her mother. She has them translated, which becomes the second part of the book, the story of LuLing’s life in China. I picked this book up at just the right time, as I’m trying to figure out my part in my aging grandparents’ lives. A

Friday, September 5, 2008


A lot has changed since I left the sticks. I lived my whole life in a town of 250 and went to school in a town of 400. We didn't lock our doors (well, until my house got robbed, probably by my parents' students). I never locked my car at work, and I always left my keys on the passenger seat. I and all the kids that lived there never had the option of going to a different school. When we went to the local store (there was only one) we bought our snacks from Jerry-Bob and Crystal's parents. When we went to Henry's, Henry made our hamburgers and fries, and his son was in my class. I worked in the diner owned by one of my parent's former students who babysat me. Everyone knew everyone else.

But now, I don't know the store clerks. I go to Winco and there are a thousand lanes to choose from, so I never see the same person. The pharmacist isn't my math teacher's sister like where I came from. I don't have a favorite restaurant or coffeeplace where "everybody knows your name." Even though we give Oregon hellos (a little dip of the head) on the street, we're mostly invisible.

I don't like that, really. It would be impossible to know everyone in this city, but I wish I did so I could give a genuine hello. How do you get to that point in the second (or third) largest city in Oregon? Pick a small place and get to know everyone well or go on a get-to-know-you spree and find out every name of every cashier in Eugene? I'd probably have a heart attack from anxiety because I'm nervous around people I don't know, but wouldn't it be worth it?

I think it's especially important to show respect and caring to janitors, bus drivers, servers and cashiers because there's little prestige that goes along with those jobs. I just wish it wasn't such a big job.

Library quote

I write a letter to the Eugene Weekly about a month ago. It was an open letter to the teens who hang out downtown, about not accepting the bad view that adults have of them. It was titled "Prove them wrong" and it's now on a huge poster in the window of the Eugene Public Library on the corner where the teens hang out. I don't know how long it's been there, and I didn't even know it had been published, but it's exciting to me!
You can read it here.

I feel a little bit strange about the location, because it's in an obvious place that teens hang out, kind of a "behave or get out," but I did mean for people to read it, and if they didn't pick up the Eugene Weekly then, they'll be sure to read it now. I hope teens and adults read it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Project 40: August

“Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Shaw
This book was a lot more focused than Shane’s last book, The Irresistible Revolution, which was also great. In this one, he and Chris Shaw look at the incompatibility of Christianity with empire and war, right down to saying that Christians should not be in militaries. It might rub some people the wrong way, and I’m not sure I’m completely convinced of their interpretation of Romans 13, but it was thorough, full of art and color and gave me a new respect for the movers and shakers and peacemakers in the history of Christianity. A

“Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer

A friend read the first page of this novel in a Russian accent in the back of the car, and that’s how I heard about it. It’s pretty wonderful. A Ukranian young man and his grandfather escort a “young rich Jew from America” around the country on a search for a woman who supposedly saved his grandfather from Nazis. They’re searching for a town that was totally destroyed, which is really heartbreaking, but most of the novel is lighthearted, going back and forth between Jonathan’s (the American) family history and the farcical journey around the country, narrated in hilarious broken English by Alex (the Ukranian). Read it! A

“God Speaks Again: An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith” by Kenneth E. Bowers
I had a friend in high school whose family was Baha’i, and other than knowing that their leader was the Baha’ullah, I didn’t know anything about the religion. I’ve learned tiny bits about it since then, but when I recently went through a spiritual reevaluation, I figured I’d put a little more effort into it. This book is very thorough on the life of Baha’ullah, less so on his son and great-grandson who became successors of leadership after his death. The book is also fairly clear in stating that Baha’is believe that Baha’ullah, Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses are all chosen “mouthpieces” of God who give humanity the proper word of God for the time period, and that Baha’ullah was the most recent. In other parts of the book, I felt like the author had the space to make a compelling argument of proof on a subject but chose not to. It’s clearly a labor of spiritual love on the part of the author, not just a cut and dry history and list of beliefs, which I can appreciate, but in the way he writes, it’s sometimes not as substantial as I’d hoped. It lives up to its title, though, and I guess that’s all you can ask for. B-

“Buddha, Vol. 3: Devadatta” by Osamu Tezuka

This volume didn’t have as much condensed material as the last two. Siddhartha is starting his monkly quest, and is confronted with more temptations of power, especially where he’s trying to withdraw from violence. He joins up with a monk who’s all about putting himself through suffering, and also gains a disciple in a snot nosed little boy. There’s a subplot of Devadatta living in a state between animal and man, which is interesting and heartbreaking and repulsive all at once. I feel like it was a setting-up book, so I didn’t give it a real great score. B-

“Locas: the Maggie and Hopey Stories” by Jaime Herdandez
This is a huge volume of a bunch of comic books mashed together. It’s about two Latina girls who are into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Oh, and hanging out in their underwear a lot, like when fixing cars. It’s a wild and crazy life, kicked off with a story about Maggie doing a mechanic job in a foreign country that involves dinosaurs and a rocketship. Nearly every older woman in the book is a female wrestler, and there are a lot of love lessons from which no one learns. The two main characters separate for a while, and I found myself frustrated that they weren’t reunited until the end, when the author tries to pull a deus ex machina and then changes his mind, which was lame. I still rooted for the characters. B-

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The intolerable other

I wrote a few months ago about the kind of person that would make me cringe the most if that person showed up in my faith community. Well, I found another kind of person, and I live and work with her. Awesome combo.

Here's the deal: I live and work in a house for single mothers who are trying to get their lives back together. There are rules and chores and so far, the two residents haven't stepped up to them. So every time the residents are out of earshot, or something new happens like someone calling to say they're going to miss curfew, my coworker crabs about it, but even worse, her tone makes it seem like it's my fault. I tried to tune her out, because I'm not going to be able to change someone that's older than my mom. But tonight I couldn't handle someone crabbing at me that much and I told her that I wished she wouldn't complain like that because it brings me down. Now she's pouting.

It's harder to be tolerant of differences when you're supposed to be on the same team. I thought the hardest part of the job was going to be the residents. Maybe I just screwed up something by not stuffing things down and keeping my mouth shut. I don't know if I have all that theoretical Christian patience. But I have to, or this job is going to be hell. Hell in my own house.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


The news about John Edwards' affair bums me out. When things falter with Obama, I could just reassure myself that he was not my first choice. Man, I believed in that guy. I thought he was honest and genuine, but if a person can't keep a promise to just one person when they're suffering from a potentially fatal disease, how can that person keep promises to millions of citizens. Even more, if a person lies about his or her personal life to the public, how is the public supposed to trust him or her to tell the truth about public matters? I feel let down, and I'm not even married to him.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Project 40: July

I've got three books that I started in July, but I'm halfway through all of them. I'll see you next time! (I've been watching Reading Rainbow lately)

"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

I found this one kind of uncomfortable to read. Old Humbert Humbert has a thing for little girls, falls for one in particular named Lolita, moves into the house as her mother's boarder, marries the mother so he can continue to be close to Lolita, then when the mother is conveniently hit by a car after she discovers his pedophilia, he takes Lolita on the road and makes her his lover. She's a typical precocious teenager though, and doesn't really fit his ideal of a little lover. I thought this was going to get better or he was going to get caught, but it never happened. I'm not really sure what the point was, to gross out the reader with reserved erotic descriptions of 12 year old girls or to make you identify with a pedophile or something in between. I might be interested in reading some literary study on Lolita to see what other people think about it. It's not explicit, and the coy way he dances around sexuality is actually kind of poetic, so I give Nabokov points for that. I would recommend this book only to people I thought were mature enough to handle the subject matter. B-

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel

This book was easy to get through, and I finished it in a day full of plane delays. A zookeeper's son from India, Pi, is moving with his family and a ship full of zoo animals to Canada when the ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific. He's set adrift in a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan, and, he finds out a few days later, an adult male tiger named Richard Parker. The hyena dispenses with the zebra and orangutan, and Richard Parker takes care of the hyena. Pi realizes that there's no way to get rid of the tiger, so he has to survive by keeping Richard Parker alive and happy. He survives in the ocean for 227 days. The survival story reminds me of Robinson Crusoe in its detail, and I really believed it was a true story as told to the author by Piscine Patel until I did a little Google research. So Martel made all that up out of his own imagination. Sweet. The first part of the book was also kind of interesting to me because Pi is a very religious boy who practices a combination of Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, and is told by his spiritual leaders and family that he can't have it all. His answer is that he just wants to know God. Fair enough. A

"Buddha, Vol. 2: The Four Encounters"
In the second book of this series, Siddhartha battles heartache, royal responsibility, and a few pretty fearsome foes. He begins to feel a pull to become an aesthetic monk and forsake his comfortable lifestyle near the top of the caste system. The storytelling is really effective, and I definitely understood the complicated choices that Siddhartha has to make between family, love, responsibility to his people and the spiritual life of denial he believes he should practice. A

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Eugene Scene

Here in the Eug' we're having a little issue. More than one downtown shop owner has complained of "street people" and teenagers peeing, defecating, and writing obscenities and racial slurs on their shops. The proposed solution? Greater "crackdown" on loitering teenagers and dirty old homeless people and the right to BAN certain people from the downtown area without conviction of a crime.

I'm only kind of torn on this. I really do agree that peeing and writing the n word on shop is threatening and totally inexcusable. But that doesn't mean that you can take away people's right to be in public spaces. If there are benches in front of the library, they're meant to be SAT ON. If there are tables in Kesey Square, they're meant for people to gather and enjoy the space.

What it comes down to is that the people with money and influence don't want to look at undesirables. The ability to banish people from downtown would really only apply to teens and homeless people. Can you imagine a downtown guard asking a group of greyheaded old ladies to move along from the benches in front of the library? Can you imagine a bunch of soccer moms with kids in tow being told they can't gather on the sidewalk while they give their toddlers organic Cherrios? It wouldn't happen.

Teens are threatening to respectable folk because those people know that they haven't given them the respect they deserve as human beings. They've been written off on account of their age, expected to make trouble, and what young person fighting for acknowledgment of their worth is going to want to smile and be sweet to people who make them feel like criminals?

My suggestion is not to be afraid. Carry your toddler into the library, right past the congregation of teens, and smile. Wish them a good afternoon. Compliment their mohawks. I don't care as long as you show respect. I feel that people on this side of success in their lives don't recognize their responsibility to be the bigger person, not in a "better than you" or "more right to be here" kind of way, but recognizing that some people have growing to do. Please realize that respect should be given unconditionally, no matter if the person is a shop owner, professor, homeless person, or teen.

Teens, prove them wrong. Prove your right to be in public spaces by resisting the urge to puff out your chest and claim your territory. That goes for everyone. Don't abuse your right to public spaces by claiming them as your own. Downtowns should be places for everyone who shows respect, and that involves sharing. You learned it in kindergarten. Can't we just share downtown?

Friday, July 25, 2008

This is weird and really personal so don't laugh

Do you believe in prophetic dreams? With everything pregnant happening around me, I had a weird dream, I don't know if it's a prophetic dream or not. I dreamed I was pregnant and ready to give birth. There was no father around, but my family was all around me, and some friends. The high school pep band, which consisted of Mr Breon (our janitor) and Lynn (my childhood babysitters husband, both of whom actually were in the pep band) played music for me outside the hospital window. I told some friends who were sitting around on a sidewalk that I was about to have a baby, but they seemed disinterested. But no matter what I did, the baby didn't come. I walked around and my water had broken, but it didn't come. I was upset that everything happened too fast for me to have any choices about how I wanted to give birth. I hadn't had any ultrasounds or anything. I think I wanted to name the baby Danny.

But the birth just wouldn't happen. What does that mean? There's something waiting to be birthed out of me and it's not happening. There's something inside of me, an idea or a dream or something that I'm supposed to be a part of, something big, but it's not happening o matter what I do. My friends and family are mostly supportive, but some are suspicious.

What is my baby? What am I waiting for?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wear your religion on your chest

A few weeks ago, I went to Cornerstone Festival, a huge Christian music festival in Illinois. I was already cranky from the emotional things I was going through, and then...I went to the merch tent. Coming at me from all sides were tshirts that read "ABSTINENCEISAWESOME" and "I love my future wife" (tempted to get that one), booths for Christian colleges that promised the tools to win souls or get a degree in "Worship Leadership," and a general black hole of creativity in design and thought that proclaims "Christians are to rip off every worldly trend, slap a smarmy saying about abortion on it and in so doing fit into the box that we have created for you that makes you look like an even BIGGER asshole than the guy at the entrance holding a sign and passing out Chick Tracts."

Why am I a Christian again? Oh yeah, the monsters! (Thanks Otto Nobot!)

No really, what gave me a little hope at Cornerstone that Christianity isn't just a boxed in money market were the people who reminded me that human beings are gross and monstrous and we're ALL like that. Christians aren't special by nature of their sexual mores (they just would rather not talk about it) or their appearance or their GODAWFUL music or even by nature of their religion, because God is for everyone. I don't know if God wants everyone to become a Christian or not, but I think he loves people who aren't Christians just the same. What gave me hope was knowing that in little pockets of the world, there are Christians who believe in doing good unto everyone instead of being self-righteous. There are people who walk Palestinian children to school so Israeli grownups don't throw garbage at them. There are people who take in seven teenage skaters into their houses like they're their own kids. There are people who put the money that their churches generate into paying an acquaintance's medical bills instead of building a mahogany pulpit for the church.

I think that things like saying thanks to God and valuing life and saving sex for marriage are right and good, but there's so much more that Christians are responsible for. If someone gets some kind of spiritual nourishment out of the church with the mahogany pulpit, God bless 'em, honestly. But if your entire faith is based on rubbing it in someone else's face that you're saved and he or she isn't, then it's not really following Jesus' example. That's what the Pharisees were doing and Jesus made no bones about how pointless it was.

So Cornerstone made me throw up in my mouth a little. All this has probably been said on the blogosphere before, and I really don't mean an ill will toward anyone. It's saddening to think that this might be all that Christianity is cracked up to be, and I'm not feelin' it. I was much happier to get back to Eugene and the Country Fair, where the jugglers didn't have any self-righteous agendas, the women didn't dwell on causing their brothers to stumble over their painted breasts (although literally...), and pregnant mothers celebrated the life inside their bodies with decoration rather than preach to the choir about how awful abortion is and leaving it at that.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Transcontinental Failroad

The next few entries are going to be about things I was thinking about on my two-week vacation to North Carolina/ Illinois.

I was prepared for the most awkward trip of my life. Not only would I be road-tripping to the midwest with my old boyfriend, the soon-to-be wife, and the converted Muslim brother, but I'd be seeing my ex for the first time in four years, the last time being when we broke up (it was mutual). A lot has happened in four years, and my ex is practically a new person. How so? My old boyfriend is a transsexual person in transition to becoming a full-time woman.

Note: If I try to do pronouns, I'm going to get them wrong. I know it probably hurts my ex's feelings that I can't get them right at the moment...the last time we saw each other, there was no problem saying he/him, and the nature of our relationship makes it difficult for me to make the switch right now. So in the interest of not hurting anyone's feelings and protecting confidentiality, I'm going to refer to my ex as X (get it?) and use the neutral pronouns ze and zir. It might be a little cumbersome, so sorry.

I was expecting to see X at the airport in the full makeup and inserts that we'd talked about before, but on the way to the airport, ze had to visit relatives that don't know about ze's transition, so I saw the same old person that I'd known before with slightly longer hair. When we went out to lunch the next day, X got "girled up" and the waitress referred to the three of us (me, X, and fiance) as "ladies". I expected it to be harder at first, but I actually thought that ze was pretty brave, getting out there and being zirself.

It got harder later on, when I was surrounded by three couples, one married, one engaged, and one in which the boyfriend had moved out of state to be with his girlfriend. The last good relationship I'd had was with X, and four years of insecurity weighs heavy on a person's heart. I probably got all that mixed up with X's transition, and took it out on zir when we talked later. I'm resistant to any kind of change, and everything around me was a whole hell of a lot of change.

It bothered me that I was bothered. I'm the last person that should be a jerk about being supportive of a queer friend. I was confronted with issues of sexuality I hadn't dwelt upon for years. Before X and I started dating, I came out as bi on the message board where we met, and ze was the most supportive person through the whole thing. That's the only group of people, beside a few select individuals who have ever known. I'm comfortable with myself these days, and I don't like to make a big deal out of it, but I also haven't had a date in close to three years, so I don't even know how I'd react if I was particularly into a girl. It's not even like 50/50 attraction, more like 85/15, so she'd really have to be some girl to catch my attention.

X has had the benefit of being pretty involved with a trans group this past year, and I wonder if things hadn't worked out the way they did, if I would have benefited from involvement with an LGBTQ group. Near the end of my year at OSU, I got really involved and made really good friends in the Rainbow Continuum. I didn't even have to come out to them. No one cared if I was queer or an ally, and they were really respectful of everyone. Then I moved to U of O, and everything was different. I was living in a Christian women's co-op associated with a Conservative Baptist church, and the LGBTQ group was a lot more in-your-face than I was ready for. I had to make a choice, and since I don't like to make a big deal out of my bisexuality anyways, it's not the most important part of myself to me, I chose to hide it.

Bi Christians are like the worst of both worlds. In the gay and lesbian community, bisexual people either don't want to admit that they're really gay or they're just bi because it's cool. Oh, and they're total sluts too. In the Christian community, queer people in general are the ultimate sinners with the agenda of afflicting everyone with the gay. And they're total sluts too. I'm celibate by choice, and the pressure of the "sexual" part of bisexual kept me out of the queer community too.

I'm not ashamed of having dated a trans person even if ze wasn't transitioned at all at the time. I knew about zir feelings, but at the time it was no more than "sometimes I think it would be better if I was born a girl" and at 19, I didn't take it as seriously as I should have. X taught me to question the gender roles that I'd been indoctrinated with through all those marriage prep groups also known as youth groups (high school and especially college). So maybe I'm a jerk who can't use X's desired pronouns or chosen name right now, but I'm a jerk who's trying. Our friendship is important to me, and even though it's difficult, I'm fighting it out with myself.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Project 40: May/June


“The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd
I think my grandma must have given me this book to read a couple of years ago, because it has her name in it. A teenage girl, Lily, runs away from her abusive father with the family’s black housemaid, Rosaleen, after Rosaleen gets thrown in jail for trying to register to vote in Georgia in 1964. They run to a bee farm run by three black sisters in South Carolina, following Lily’s hopes of learning more about her deceased mother. It’s a great story with a lot of heart, but not written with a real mushy, sentimental tone. It was enjoyable to read. A


“Light in August” by William Faulkner

I followed up a book set in the South with another. I’d read Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” and loved it, so I had high expectations for this book. Conclusion? The book was entirely too long. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, maybe I would have liked it more, but because the author jumped around so much in time with lengthy and (I felt) pointless histories of each peripheral character, I got worn out by the end. It started out great, but dragged by the middle. C+

“The God of Small Things” by Arundati Roy
This was the second time that I read this. The first time was my sophomore year of college in an honors lit class. I liked it then, and I ran out of books to read at my parents house, so I started it again. It's probably one of my favorites, just because the language is so great. The story is set in India and follows the Kochamma family, especially the fraternal twins Rahel and Estha and their mother. There are a lot of Indian caste politics involved, as well as dysfunctional family dynamics. I think what I like most is that the kids play with language, spelling words backwards and reconfiguring them the way they actually hear them, like singing "Rejoice in the Lord Or-rol-ways" A+

"Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis
I was supposed to have read this book for a class on historical fiction. Yeah, I never did that. It's a pretty good book, although the pacing sometimes gets a little boring. The story jumps from the 21st century, where Oxford historians send students back in time for research, to the 14th century, where one such student has been "dropped" during Christmas. The first third of the book is kind of frustrating because Kivrin, the student, can't understand the contemps she meets because of a malfunction in her translator, and it gets old. Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, a mystery disease is complicating EVERYTHING! Other than that, it's a pretty interesting and intense book. I'm a big fan of stuff about time travel, even if it's just to one place and time. B+

"Buddha, Volume One: Kapilavatsu by Osamu Tezuka"
A graphic novel about the life of the Buddha? I'm there! Since it's a graphic novel, it goes super fast. It's not completely serious. Tezuka throws in some jokes about turning water into coke and draws himself into a few frames. It ends with the birth of Siddhartha, and I'll probably try to read the rest of the series to decide whether they all tell me what I want to know about the Buddha. I think for people like me who are just trying to get an idea about Buddhism, it's probably pretty decent. Stay tuned. For now B+

"Two Truths and a Lie" by Scott Schofield
This is the script for a one man show about the life of the author, a female to male transsexual. It's mostly in a lighthearted tone, with sit-com like recollections of involvement in debutante balls in the South when the author still identified as a female lesbian. There are few pictures to help you figure out what's actually going on, but it's short enough to read in an hour in the car, which is what I did. B+

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cleaning out the closet

This coming weekend I'm moving to my fourth residence within a year. I hate moving with a passion. Last time was a little easier because I only lived in the place for four months and most of that time I knew or hoped that I'd be moving out, so I just never unpacked my boxes.

I heard somewhere that every six months you should clean out the closet of what you believe, to see if you really believe it or if you're just going along with something because it's easiest. I think I'm overdue. So tonight, as Eminem says, I'm cleaning out my closet. Do I still believe in God? Yes. Do I believe that what Jesus taught is good and true? Yes. Do I believe that Christianity is the religion most suited to carry out those teachings? I don't know so much.

For the first time since I've been a Christian, I'm ok with looking at the beliefs of other religions without a Biblical screen. I don't feel like I have to block out everything that isn't Christianity as a cult. It's scary, like free-falling through the world of religion kind of hoping I'll land firmly on Christianity because it's a big organized religion and that makes things easier. But I'm frustrated with the lack of unity in Christianity. Jesus, why didn't you explicitly say that all peoples are equal and that God is for everyone? Baha'u'llah did a much better job, and his religion has pretty much stuck together so far. Maybe I ought to give it a couple millennia, except then, according to him, there will be another Mouthpiece of God to fill his shoes.

So with a spiritual chip-tossing, a move that's kind of contingent on landing safely back at Christianity, and a beyond complicated trip across the country, I spend most of my time in a mental daze. I wish I could unpack these boxes already.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Food crisis and grade schools

I went to get groceries today, including a loaf of bread. I noticed that the price of the brand of bread that I normally buy had gone up 20 cents since the last time I bought groceries. There's that domestic food crisis pinch.

I don't really understand all this. I don't know enough to know the reasons for the "crisis" and the conspiracy theorist in me thinks it could be everyone talking about a food crisis so much that it manifests itself.

All I know is that the school where I work has a deal with a nutrition company that requires that every student take an entree and a milk, even if they don't want it. Sometimes there is not a vegetarian option. I don't know what would happen if a student was a vegan and refused to take both. What really kills me is that even though the students aren't allowed the choice of leaving the milk, once they touch the carton, it's "contaminated" and they have to dispose of the milk. That means I watch the lunch aids open 20 or so milk cartons (just in the lunch period that I'm there) and dump them out into a bucket.

I understand that they're trying to get the students to eat healthy and get all their nutrients and calories, but it's still bogus. I'm writing a letter to the school district.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Barack my state!

Looks like Obama is going to win in Oregon. Turns out that party switch at the last minute wasn't all that important, but I wonder how many Oregonians did the same. 2%? 3%?

Now, how about this delegate/ super-delegate business? Would a party really nominate someone based on important people in the party than the popular vote? Sounds kind of like the electoral college to me, which some people think is outdated. This politics stuff is too complicated to me. I just want to make a positive difference in the world.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plastics make it impossible

I just watched a good chunk of This piece about plastic in the ocean. (Warning to viewers: there's quite a bit of R rated language, so take care where you view it. Also, I just skipped the parts where they were on their way out to sea, part 2 to about part 9.) The crew went out searching for a "garbage island" the size of Texas. What they found were billions of tiny pieces of plastic floating in the ocean, squeezing out life so that the samples that the researchers were gathering had a ratio of 1000 to 1 plastic to sea life. That's disgusting. That's unacceptable. God help me if I ever buy anything in a plastic bottle again.

Don't you dare tell me that plastics make it possible.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Feliz Cinco de Mayo! (In an hour)
It's not Mexican Independence Day, but the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, and is now a general celebration of Mexican history and culture. In honor of my Mexican brethren and sistren, I give you a picture of Cesar Chavez
An American of Mexican descent, he was an activist for civil rights, particularly for farm workers. (I don't agree with everything the UFW did regarding illegal immigrants during Chavez's leadership, but the dude stuck by his convictions.)
also, a piñata
When I DJed at the college station at Oregon State, we had a Cinco de Mayo party. We had a piñata, but nothing to hit it with, so we hit it with our fists. We were THAT hardcore. Then we watched some hip hop music videos and "El Mariachi" while eating Taco Bell. Best party ever.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Project 40: March/April

I only finished one book in March because I didn't really feel like reading, so the last two months are combined.

“Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew” by Ellen Notbohm
This is kind of a primer to get you started or remind you of things that are useful when interacting or living with or raising a child with autism. And they are good reminders. The downfall of this book is that it was written by the mother of a child with autism who, instead of writing a full story about her child, threw in tidbits of how her wonderful son overcame the challenges of autism to do this perfectly normal thing and that amazing thing in the middle of general tips to all parents and teachers. It kind of rubbed me the wrong way because it felt like “Ten Things Ellen Notbohm’s Child Wishes You Knew” at times. C+
“Catch 22” by Joseph Heller
It took me a long time to get into this book, which is unfortunate for me, because it’s a long book. I know that getting frustrated with the characters was probably the whole point of the story, and in that way, Heller accomplished his goal, but it still took me a lot time to actually want to pick up the book and read it. There are a lot of storylines that stop before the punchline and start several chapters later, stop again, and are resolved somewhere unexpected. It takes some getting used to, but it’s not a bad book. A book about despair, futility, bureaucracy, death, war and prostitutes can’t be all that bad. B

“Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference” by Shannon Daley-Harris and Jeffrey Keenan

Like “The Green Book,” this gives lists of suggestions to play a small or large part in ending world poverty. The approach is based on the UN Millennium Development Goals http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/. I felt that it had a good mix of domestic and international focus, and kept a positive, yet realistic perspective on the prospect of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The authors clearly believe that people of faith can, should, and do play a big part in addressing poverty, and give many suggestions that are specific to faith communities. The way the topics were split up made it a simple and quick read. B+

“Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s” by John Elder Robison
This is an excellent memoir of a man with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder. What I liked most about it was that he had a mostly nonchalant attitude about totally awesome things that happened in his life, like inventing flaming and exploding guitars for KISS as a technician and designing games for Milton Bradley. He keeps this up for the whole book, except when he talks about his son and his second wife. Then his tone changes into a child-like language, like a kid pretending to be an animal, and it’s a little weird. Some readers might have heard about John Elder Robison before. He’s the older brother of Augusten Burroughs, author of “Running With Scissors.” A-

“Songs of the Gorilla Nation” by Dawn Prince-Hughes
This is a not really excellent memoir of a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. I read on the book jacket that Prince-Hughes worked with Jane Goodall, of whom I’ve been a big fan since I was little, and I was excited to read about a scientist who was as obsessed with gorillas as I had once been. Her writing language disappointed me. It was SO over the top, I almost wanted to stop reading. When she described root beer as “the dark liquid, like some ancient sea,” I threw up in my mouth a little. Apparently, everything she experienced as a child was SO AMAZING that it required extra similes and metaphors. It got a little better when she dropped out of school and her wild and crazy life took over the story. Then it got worse when she started romanticizing about the gorillas she worked with. Meh. C

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rev. Jeremiah Wright

I'm going to post the link to the Bill Moyers Journal interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright because the more people that see it, the better understanding people will have of who he actually is and works for rather than the image he's got because of a seconds of video of one of his sermons that got passed around without the full context. When I saw this on Friday, my view of the man was completely changed. I thought he was a fanatic too. I'm as guilty as the next person at jumping to conclusions. Here's the link Bill Moyers interviews the Reverend Jeremiah Wright

Friday, April 25, 2008

I did it

I registered with the Democratic Party. Am I a sellout? Maybe. I just know that I want a stake in who will be the next president, and the Oregon primary is actually going to matter this year. I'm going back to being unaffiliated as soon as the primary is done. Oregon's so silly. They actually have an Independent Party, which is only a few years old, and it's different from being unaffiliated. I guess it gives a foundation to run for people who aren't Democrat or Republican, so I support what it's trying to do. Do any other states have an Independent Party?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The future of ladies

I wonder how the world will change as we put more effort into the education and empowerment of ladies young and old. I'm reading a book about ending poverty, and it gives a few suggestions for organizations to support that pay for school specifically for girls in poor countries. Will all this attention to girls create that much change, or should we not also put equal effort into teaching boys and men to respect the authority and personhoood of ladies?

We can teach girls all the sexual safety tips in the book, but what will change unless boys are taught that it's ok to wait and it's not ok to pressure or use violence against a partner?

We can teach ladies that if he's "just not that into you," then he's not worth it, but will we still end up settling if no one teaches men to care enough to call?

We can teach ladies how to balance work and motherhood, but how much more would it mean in a mother's life if boys were taught what's expected of them as a mate and father?

Will this happen automatically? As girls and ladies become stronger as a species, will boys and men be forced to acknowledge their power or will they try to undermine it? Will they sit around wondering what happened to the dominion they expected?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Love one another and the other

My faith community did an exercise on Sunday. Since our church body is about 13 people total, we're pretty much all on the same page. We read Acts 4:32-35
"All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God's great favor was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need."

Then we talked about what could/will most likely happen when our community grows and the kind of people that we would be most uncomfortable with start showing up. Everyone thought about their "profile" person, the one who encompasses all that stuff that makes our skin crawl. One person said that hers would be a KJV only reading, know-it-all fundamentalist, the kind of person that would enter a community like ours to tell us how wrong we were. One person said that hers would be a person who legitimately needed help from others, but sucked the life out of those who tried without a commitment to change from the person who needed the help.

Mine would be the person who co-opts all the time in Bible study to recite an unrelated miracle story that they'd read in a forwarded email or Chicken Soup for a Grandmother's Soul. The kind of person who gets super emotional about a person's goods or bads or slight interest in Jesus and pushes a bunch of Christianese down her/his throat. That or the person who would come in and impose a church standard on the community: "Why don't you have the American or Christian flag on the stage? Why don't you have a stage? Where are your bulletins? Why don't the pastors wear suits and ties to preach? Why do they ask for input during "sermon time? How dare you "allow" a woman to be a pastor!"

We read the beginning of Acts 6:
"But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. Those who spoke Greek complained against those who spoke Hebrew, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers."We apostles should spend our time preaching and teaching the word of God, not administering a food program," they said. "Now look around among yourselves, brothers, and select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We will put them in charge of this business. Then we can spend our time in prayer and preaching and teaching the word."

Kinds of people we don't want to be around will inevitably get here. And our loving response can't be to run. I don't like that there are types of people that I don't like. I want to cherish the people that annoy me as this fascinating and important person in my life. After we stewed on all that for a while, we participated in communion by breaking a piece of bread and imagining that as we did it, we were sharing in the experience with our "profile" person. It's a lot to reconcile, and that's probably the point.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

RIP Charlton Heston

Now we can have your guns. I bet Moses is like, "Dude, WTF? Dramatic much?" I remember watching Ben-Hur when I was a teenager and not being able to sleep for two nights because I was afraid of lepers. I was a very nervous child.

I may not agree with the NRA on...anything, but their president sure was a badass.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ba-rock my world

On Friday evening, I stood in line for more than 3 hours to see Barack Obama speak at the University of Oregon. There were so many people that my friends and I didn't get in, so we were diverted to the turf field behind Mac Court. The Senator came out onto the field to speak to us for about 5 minutes before he went into the arena, at which point my friends and I bolted back to my old co-op to watch the speech on TV. They were going to have the audio from the speech played out on the field, but the system was set up so poorly that we could hardly hear the Senator when he was out there.

But now I can say that I've seen a presidential candidate speak. I hope that I can say I saw a future president speak. The back of his head, at least. I don't regret all that time that I spent just waiting, but I probably would have regretted it if I hadn't gone. It didn't change my mind much just to see the back of his head, because I already support his message and would vote for him if he were the Democratic nominee (my first choice was John Edwards, but alas and alack!).

Which brings me to a dilemma of principles. Should I register for the Democratic Party so that I can vote in the primary or stay non-affiliated? (For effect, I wore a sweatshirt that said "Independent" to the Obama speech) When I registered to vote at 18, I sought advice from my teachers. One, a fellow Christian with a son in the National Guard, said that I was a Republican. The school librarian, a non-religious woman who I respect very much said that I was a Democrat. I researched each party carefully, even scouring the Pacific Green website and the Socialist Party USA website. The conclusion that I came to was that I didn't align with either party, so I registered non-affliated. I've taken a lot of pride in not being beholden to a political party, but I'm not sure that it's worth it. I don't plan on being a career Democrat, because I want to make sure that I'm not tempted to put too much energy into campaigning for individuals (policies, maybe). But Oregon is one of those "blue states" and Clinton family love runs strong here. Would being able to vote for Barack Obama be worth compromising my independent principles? Of what value are those principles anyway if I don't do everything in my power to change the state of the nation?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Give me my money back, you Senate!

I'm happy to announce that the Biden-Lugar amendment to the 2009 International Affairs budget has passed. What's that? Here's the skinny:
President proposes International affairs budget with an increase in poverty-fighting aid
Senate lops off $4 billion
Smith and Durbin propose amendment to restore $2.6 billion to the budget
(this is where I learned about it on Sunday, when my faith community took time to write letters to Senator Wyden)
Renamed Smith-Feinstein amendment
Senators Biden and Lugar propose $4.1 billion be added to the budget
Amendment passes! Huge victory for the fight against poverty!

The point: Write your elected officials! Keep tabs on issues that are important to you through your favorite blogs and WRITE LETTERS.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Grumpier Old Men

I'm going to get a little personal here. I live in the same town as my grandparents, and they're one of the reasons I decided to stay in the area after college. They helped me out a lot while I was in school, and even let me stay at their house for several days while I nursed my broken toe. I love them dearly, but there's something you must know:

My grandpa is a jackass.

It appears to be a life-long problem. If there is something that he can pick on Grandma for, like leaving a bottle of olive oil on the counter, he'll do it, and then not stop. "You have time to go to Al-Anon and Red Hat Lady parties, but not time to put the cap on a bottle and put it in the cupboard," he says. Then again 5 minutes later. Then again later in the afternoon. Then again when someone new comes to visit. I nearly broke down last night because he was viciously harassing me for not knowing when the last time I changed my oil was. He told me that he was going to have to call my parents and tell on me, a 23 year old adult who can change her own oil. It was the dumbest thing to pick on me for, and he wouldn't quit.

I got off work early that day and came over just to see them. I come over because they're my family and I want to spend time with them, and I'm also really lonely at my empty house. I don't go over there to get my weekly ration of verbal abuse.

Grandma goes to Al-Anon, and that apparently helps her deal with him. I don't have those tools. Last night, I just did not have the ability to handle something so stupid. I just left. I don't want to go over there again, because I know he'll berate me for being so sensitive, and then we'll be back where we started. I'm really the only grandchild who regularly comes to visit. Why does he pick on me? What am I supposed to do or say? How do I love someone who drives me away?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Project 40: February

(for some reason I decided to punish myself for being single by reading chick lit in the month of love. Gag.)

“Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story” by Rachel Kadish
A friend recommended this to me and I couldn’t even finish it. 30-something literature professor in Manhattan swears off love, but oh, wait! She falls for some random guy whose only apparent quality is that his eyes twinkle. It’s all written in present tense, like a trashy detective novel or cyber porn. No thank you. F-

“Not Even Wrong” by Paul Collins
This book was really awesome. As a special education aid, I’m always looking for ways to self-educate about the mental conditions I see in my classroom. The book is an autobiography of a father and his son with autism mixed with history. It goes back and forth between the time that the author and his wife are first finding out about their son’s autism and the history research that the author does, mostly in Europe. It has lots of fascinating stories about people with autism from days past. I highly recommend this to educators or anyone who knows a person with autism. A

“The Brontë Project: A Novel of Passion, Desire, and Good PR” by Jennifer Vandever
It’s nearly as bad as its title. Slightly more tolerable than “Tolstoy Lied,” and recommended by the same friend. 28 year old literature grad student in Manhattan gets caught in a whirlwind of lovers, movie deals, and a fellow grad student who lives the celeb high life and wants to make “Princess Diana studies” a legit area of academia. The characters and plot are way far-fetched and if I hadn’t picked it up at the time that I was couch ridden with a broken toe, I might have put it down. So it goes. D+

“Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s use of language in this book just sucks you right in. I read the prologue one night right before bed, and got really excited about reading the rest of it. The story is about two boys, Jim and Will, and their run-in with a mysterious carnival that rolls into town at the wrong time of year. The main thing that drew me in was that he had these two young characters who encountered everything you ever feared as a child (or an adult), and the fearless vs. fearful exchange between them or within the individual. It’s not a “horror” book in the sense that there’s blood and gore or something out to kill them, but it’s intense enough from beginning to end that most people would call it a scary story. I loved it. A

“The Green Book” by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen
This was one of those tempting “new books” at the library. I was kind of disappointed in it. The book is simply a list of things that you can do to be more environmentally friendly, but I noted that it wasn’t too environmentally friendly that you necessarily had to drastically change any aspect of your life. To make being green seem hip, they interviewed several celebrities who talked about how they act “green.” It’s a good starting point though, if you’re not from a generally environmentally conscious area like I am and want to be aware of your impact. Another good point was that each suggestion was accompanied by a statistic like “If everyone in the US declined their receipt at the ATM, it would save a roll of paper that would wrap around the earth X number of times.” Kind of neat. B-

Monday, February 18, 2008

Project 40: January

I set a goal this year to read 40 books by year's end. I figure this is as good a place as any to keep track of them all. I'll post them by month, so here's January's:

“Salvation: Scenes From the Life of St. Francis” by Valerie Martin
I admit it, I cheated a little with this one. I started it on December 31st, 2007. I had started reading “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” and found it sweet but a little uninteresting. “Salvation” turned out to be an intimate, dramatic recounting of similar events in “Franceso’s” life, starting with his death and moving backward in time. Martin’s style really drew me in, and I’m glad I read this version of the saint’s story. A

“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I cheated a lot. I started this one early in 2007, maybe even before, read a lot over Spring Break, then put it down for a long time. I shouldn’t have done that because I lost a lot of momentum and picking it up again was difficult. The first part of the book was really intense and sucked me in, but after a bunch of characters got added to the mix, I had a hard time keeping all the Russian names and nicknames straight. It also dragged quite a bit in the last quarter of the book. I don’t think I got what people are supposed to feel about Raskolnikov. I just like books where people go crazy, and this was one. B-

“God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” by Kurt Vonnegut
“Slaughterhouse Five” is one of my favorite books, and a fellow English major recommended this one. It was a good read, without much of a purpose, but that worked well. The tangent bios about related characters were sometimes funny, sometimes sad. There were a couple of parts that made me chuckle out loud. It’s a quick read; I read all of it minus 15 pages in a Saturday after I’d finished “Crime and Punishment.” A-

“Where Have All The Flower Children Gone?” by Sandra Gurvis
Written by a former flower child (apparently). It contains interviews with Vietnam era radicals, hawks, doves, vets, squares, and anyone in between. The author makes an attempt to show all sides of events like the Kent State killings by interviewing National Guard Members, students, and faculty, for example, but she stuck in a few snide personal comments that I found kind of annoying and cheap. I liked the many perspectives that she offered and that she included “Where are they now?” paragraphs. B

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hooray Democracy!

I'm all giddy about sending my senators, Smith and Wyden, love notes assertively worded emails regarding the upcoming Senate vote on Bill S. 2433, the Global Poverty Act. This is where I first learned about the bill. This is the text of the bill itself. The gist is that it demands a plan from the President for achieving the UN Millennial Development Goal of reducing the proportion of people in the world living on $1 a day. Learn about it! Write letters! If a wannabe socialist can participate in democracy, so can you :)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

You've got work to do

Last night, I watched the movie Amazing Grace. It chronicles the efforts of William Wilberforce, British Member of Parliment, to abolish the slave trade, and subsequently, slavery as a whole in Britain and its empire. At the beginning of the movie, Wilberforce has a crisis of conscience: to follow God, or continue on his career track as a politician. He goes to his childhood minister, John Newton (the former slave trader who wrote the song, Amazing Grace) for advice. When Wilberforce suggests that he might leave politics to lead a more spiritual life, Newton tells him, "Wilber, you've got work to do." A meeting with Christian abolitionists confirms that he can "do both;" he can serve God and work in government at the same time. Wilberforce sets the legal proceedings for abolition of slavery in motion, passing the Slave Trade Act in 1807 and barely living to see slavery abolished in 1833.

Now, I've been stewing over the appropriate mix of politics and faith (different from politics and religion) for a while now. I've given up on my 2004 dream to become president and I've tried not to get too wrapped up in the 2008 election (see this post). But after seeing the potential for a person of faith like Wilberforce to do God's will through politics, I've changed my mind about staying out of it. It's ok to be involved in a worldly system for godly purposes. What would have happened if William Wilberforce had not taken advantage of the opportunity he'd been given to make a difference in the British slave trade? Slavery might have gone on for many more years.

Whenever there is injustice in the world, it is right and good to take whatever moral means necessary (legal and illegal if it comes down to it) to right it. (Bombing abortion clinics and taking hostages would definitely NOT fit into the "moral" category.) There is still illegal slavery going on in the world, and by God, I intend to work to right it. Getting hooked up with Free The Slaves is the first step I know to take. Writing my senators and congressperson is another.

I don't necessarily agree with all of the things that William Wilberforce did in his life, but if a person can run himself ragged and spend every waking and sleeping hour pouring effort into justice for humanity, then I can too. God help my parents for having such an idealist child. And maybe I'll get nothing done in my lifetime to fix the list of things that I keep in my wallet, but at least I'll be able to live with myself. I've given up on public office, but who's to say an ordinary comrade can't make a dent?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?

I recently watched the documentary Sir, No Sir!. It's about the GI anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. I don't think I've given serious thought to the idea that those who experience war would be the most qualified or passionate opponents. It didn't occur to me, even though now it's obvious. The GIs they interviewed said that the dichotomy between opponents of the war and soldiers just wasn't there. Most of the stories about hippies spitting on soldiers at airports and calling them baby-killers were totally fabricated, but now history has made us believe that it's the hippies' faults that so many Vietnam vets went crazy after they got back, not because combat is a trauma, not because it was policy to kill villages of civilians, not because a person could possibly see "the enemy" as human and they had to face the moral tempest that comes along with that. And, according to this movie, most of the GIs in Vietnam WERE opposed to the war, or at least the way it was executed. I'm not saying that it's the soldiers' own faults for going over there. I understand that no about of mental preparation could prepare a person for the kind of action Vietnam soldiers were forced to take, and even those who volunteered couldn't have foreseen the horrific things that actually went on there.

One of my friends at Hosea is going back into the military. I asked him why he would do it. The path he's taking guarantees that he'll see combat in the Middle East (for the second time). He said that it was so his father would look at him with respect. He's homeless right now, and he says he can't get a job. I asked him "What if you had to kill someone?" He said, "When it comes down to that, it's a choice between me and the other guy, and I'm going to be the one going home at the end of the day."

I can't help but believe that there are things going on in Iraq that are being suppressed. I don't believe that Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident, just like the My Lai massacre wasn't an isolated incident. I've learned this from interviews and speeches from former and AWOL soldiers. In March, a Winter Soldiers public investigation is taking place in Washington to expose the realities of the Iraq War. I hope that it doesn't just get shoved into a 3 inch blurb in the National News section.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Time: An all too common story

When did 24 hours get so short? Probably when I started working full-time. It's kind of distressing, really, how little time I feel like I have all of a sudden. In theory, I have Mondays and Tuesdays to myself after work, but the reality just isn't so. There are friends that want to hang out (and I want to see them, of course) and errands that need to be run and groceries that need to be purchased. Last year, when I worked part time, I spent nearly every afternoon with my grandparents. Now I'm lucky if I get to see them on Sundays for family dinner (which I haven't been bringing food to because I didn't have enough time to cook).

Some of my time is taken up by volunteering. It only works out to about 6 hours out of my total week, but it's dark by the time I'm done at this point in the year, so I feel like I should be done for the night. But honestly, I would feel like I was doing nothing for the world if I didn't spend those six hours giving my time and trying to get to know teens. I'm trying to start a love revolution here, and the days just keep getting shorter.

I'm finally starting to feel that American Way time crunch. Just how IS a person supposed to work full-time and still change the world in other ways? How are relationships supposed to function in an era of leaving one job to work another across town? How do families with young children even survive? I don't marvel at it; I think it's dysfunctional. But how do you argue with the way things are? I always thought that people who had to "pencil in" quiet time were complete basket cases whose lives were too busy. Now I put my schedule into my cell phone calendar. How can a person hear a still small voice above the sounds of other things demanding attention?

This is why I relished those 5-10 minutes of "open worship" at Friends Church. Once a week, I breathed. Usually, there was just enough time to break through feeling guilty for letting another week go by without a conscious attempt to listen to the Spirit before the sermon would begin. Maybe I should have gone to the Friends Meeting, where it's all open worship. Excuse me, I'm going to go breathe.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet?

I'm reposting this rant about a Holman Bible ad by my friend Karlene because it's kind of incredible that anyone would think this is okay. And her husband thought it would be a good idea to jack up the Google count on Holman Bibles with it. Read on.
Holman Bibles for the Poor

Once in awhile something comes along that is truly appalling. Today’s rant is inspired by a full-page magazine ad for Holman Bible Outreach International. The middle third of the page is a photograph of an obviously impoverished, partially clothed, very young child, standing barefoot in a gutter, poking at the garbage on the ground with a plastic fork. The big headline at the top of the page reads, “We publish BIBLES for people who can’t afford SHOES” (emphasis theirs).

wow. Where do I start? What is this little child going to do with a Bible? He or she is too young to read and probably will never get an education. Do they expect people who can’t afford shoes to be excited about getting a book they can’t read? Maybe they could find some string and tie the bibles to their feet? They can’t eat bibles, and this child is obviously hungry. They can’t seek shelter in a bible, though it’s obvious this child has no place to live. There is an adult sleeping on the sidewalk in the background. How do people who read and study and translate the bible come to the conclusion that all those verses in the bible about God’s concern for the poor mean the poor need bibles?? Do they honestly think that, lacking food, clothing, shelter, and education, that what the desperately poor of the world really need most are bibles??

The small print says in part, “From the streets of Bangkok to the back roads of rural America, people are hungering for the bread of life. And we’re bringing it to them with bibles and scripture portions…”

I looked up Matthew 25 in the Holman Standard Version online. The words of Jesus there do NOT say, ‘When I was hungry, you published me a bible. When I was thirsty, you published me a bible. When I was naked, you published me a bible. When I was sick, you published me a bible.’

I was startled to see this ad in Creation Care magazine - an excellent publication for Christians who care about the environment that was gifted to us from a friend. The Holman ad seems very out-of-place here. Even if I did not already dislike the Holman translation because of its history on the gender translation issue, this ad alone would ensure I never purchased one.

It seems that there is a wonderful awakening beginning to emerge from N. American churches who used to be ignorant and apathetic to the plight of the poor, but who are beginning to come alive with a passionate, active response to global and local poverty. I pray that this is not a passing fad, but a renewal that will grow and spread among God’s people. And I honestly pray that the well-intentioned folks behind this Holman ad will adopt a more holistic understanding of what it means to bring the bread of life to the world’s impoverished people.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Money money money by the pound

At church meeting yesterday, we went through a checklist of "survival skills" for living in poverty, middle class, or upper class. There were things like "I know what to do if I can't pay my bills" or "I know about credit rates and annuity" or "I know where to sign my child up for scouts." I realize how little I know about life in ALL of those categories. I know next to nothing about money, and I'm not sure that I need to. I just pay my bills out of my checking account, auto-pay my student loan and keep a certain amount of money in my savings account. My dad wants me to get invested in a mutual fund, but I keep stalling because money in many different places freaks me out.

I really want to live in a house with a bunch of people and be able to offer spare rooms to homeless people that I know, but I can't do that when I rent because it's generally not allowed. So someday I'll have to look into buying a house. I don't know the first thing about buying a house. I don't have any credit because I've never had a credit card, so I don't think I can get a house loan. How does a person even buy a $100k-$200k house? Do they take out a loan and cut a hugeass check or pay in installments? What the hell is a mortgage?

Loving Absolutely

I just watched the movie "Rize," a documentary about clowning and krumping, styles of hip-hop dance. Even if you're not a fan of hip-hop, you really should watch this movie. It made me think about God and love. A lot.

The style was created in South Central LA, where broken families, drugs, gangs, and violence are an everyday reality. What really got to me is the way the leaders of the clown groups and krump groups took on younger dancers as their own families when they had none to love and care for them. One clown, Tommy the Clown, would get on their cases about hanging around gangs, getting into drugs, or even not doing their homework, and they respected him enough to follow through with it. He also wouldn't let them dance with him if they didn't keep themselves in line. It was all so positive and meaningful and no doubt has really saved lives from gang violence and drug addiction. And it's something I admire, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it.

At church today, we went through a chart that compared the "rules of the game" for poverty, middle class, and rich culture. One of the first things listed was "possessions." Under "poverty" possessions meant people, relationships. I definitely saw that in this movie. When there was no security for life or money, the clown groups and families cared for each other like it held their cells together. Will I ever be able to understand or fulfill that for others? My middle-class family was pretty unaffectionate. My parents emphasized independence. As a result, it takes me a long time to feel like I can depend on someone or like I want them to depend on me. I don't want to resign to the idea that I'll never love like the family I had didn't. If the love of God is in my heart, than the love of people can surely be in there as well. If God has the power to change lives of drug dealers into hip-hop clowns, God can change an icy teachers' daughter into someone who loves like breathing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sustainable living

I went to hear some speakers at Friends Church talk about simple and sustainable living as inspired by John Woolman's Journal. First they did a skit of John Woolman meeting with a Southern slave owner and talking about respect for God's creation, and explored how it was inconceivable to someone who was so used to/dependent on that lifestyle. Then they did a skit of "Joan Woolwoman" meeting someone new at Yearly Meeting and talking about changing how you buy your food (non-locally produced food creating pollution and certain imported goods produced through slavery). It got me thinking about some ways that I want to feel spiritually at peace by changing my lifestyle.

I figure I'm solely responsible for global warming with all the frivolous driving that I do by myself. Really, who needs to go to Fred Meyers at 10:30 at night for tweezers? I just moved to a place where I can walk to work, which is fantastic, but I still have to drive 2-3 days a week because of time constraints on where I have to be right after work. I think I could attempt to force flexibility into at least one of those days. There's also a busline close to my house, and I want to commit to riding on Thursdays when I have weekly activities that I could easily get to by bus.

I just moved, and in moving, rediscovered how much JUNK I have that I don't use. I need a garage sale real bad. Some friends recently said that they need to do the same, so I hope we can do it together when the weather gets nice. It causes me a lot of anxiety to know that I have lots of stuff and some people have nothing. My best friend from high school has reduced his possessions to a backpack of stuff and I'm extremely jealous. He's not even a Christian, much less a Quaker! I've got a long way to go.

My eating/buying habits
I have a moral crisis every time I go to the grocery store. Is it local? Is it organic? Can I afford it? Do I just really really really want some chocolate right now? I've stopped eating candy for the most part because I found out how bad it was for me, but there's a bigger picture than just the chemicals that get into my body through my food. There's the environment and workers of the world to think about. Am I making my food and clothing purchases in love of myself or in respect of others and God's creation? I think I should. I also want to start growing my own herbs for cooking and tea. Yum.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Voting: Christian duty or not at all?

With the 2008 election ramping up, I've been thinking about voting. There are some circles of Christians who feel that voting in any election is confirming your citizenship in that country instead of in the kingdom of God. It's something to think about. For a while now, I've tried to think of myself as a citizen of the world, with all people as my comrades. When we studied the beginnings of communism in my Western civ class, Marx and the others thought it was a bad idea to think of communism as a nationalist movement, but that instead communists should think of all other communists as citizens of the same government. (I rue this day in which I have summoned the name of Marx in a blog post!) This closet socialist likes that idea. (Is the FBI going to come knocking soon?)

When I vote in an American election, am I isolating Christian brothers and sisters in other countries? Do I make a bad Christian anarchist because I submit to this government? Am I not putting my faith in God and his people to be independent hands of Christ? On the other hand, if I don't vote, am I doing a disservice to the people that could be helped in America by government programs on account of my vote? Going further, is it my Christian duty to encourage people to vote a certain way because it will serve poor people or foster children or elders, which I believe Christ would have done?

Jesus didn't live in a society where most of the people he talked with would have had the option of voting. He just said to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's. Is this democracy thing something that Christians are supposed to get involved in? I've tried to stay informed on political events. In 2004, I started to be a talk radio junkie, and I still am. But should I be? In 2004, a friend called out her fellow Christians and said that if we put the effort that we spent on politics into serving Christ, how much the world could change. That's been bugging me.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New Post

A new post for a new blog.