Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Shock and Awe

Being home during the day has given me plenty of opportunity to be shocked by things in the media. This isn't including the sparks between Star Jones and the View. It does, however include Martha Stewart. I was toggling between The View and Martha's show when I hit the "Ask Martha" - you know, when studio audience members can ask her questions and glean pearls of wisdom. Now if it were me, I'd ask her how it felt to be a scapegoat sacrificed to get the media's focus off of more powerful men. But it wasn’t me, so someone asked her what her least favorite household chore was. Cleaning gunk out of the oven? Getting rid of nasty soap scum? Organically killing garden slugs by hand? No, it was delegating jobs to others! What the heck?!? She would rather clean the grease bunnies from under the fridge herself instead of kicking back and playing Dance Dance Revolution? She is either a big fat liar or a maniacal control freak. Either way she has a serious problem and needs to come over to my house and learn how to relax a bit. (Or if she has an uncontrollable need to clean my house, I will willingly delegate any job she is compelled to do.)

The other shock I has this week was more of a personal revalation. I was listening to NPR on Sunday, experiencing a driveway moment, when I discovered some hardness in my heart. The piece was on an amazing support orginization for released sex offenders that has radically reduced recidivism (70% lower repeat offences). In Ontario a group of Mennonites have taken seriously God's command to love the unlovable. Their motto is restorative justice, and they truly live out the Christian belief of unconditional love and forgiveness—tempered with foreboding. In the Gospels Jesus shocked and offended people of the church by hanging out with the untouchables of the day - hookers and organized criminals. Sex offenders are untouchables in my mind. My heart says these people have destroyed the lives of innocents at such a deep level that nothing less than castration and separation from society is what should happen to them. But these Mennonnites are living out God's word and helping there to be fewer victims as well as reaching out to people who need God. They do this by instead of pushing the men away from society; they hook them up with an accountability group that will monitor where he is as well as how he is doing so he refrains from situations where he may be tempted. Please check out this web cite to read about this Courageous Community: Circles of Support and Accountability

On a lighter note, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed the movie Cars. I am in love with Mater the Tow Truck - as in Tow-Mater. Grab a kid and enjoy a fun afternoon with Pixar.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

Monday, June 26, 2006

hoping for a summer draft

I am sitting outside on a bright summer morning enjoying my lovely yet scatterbrained garden - at 6:30 AM on a day when I do not have to go in for work (and the only kid I have at this point is my 36 year old husband who is totally capable of getting his own breakfast). And why, you may ask. Because this will be the only time before 11:00 PM when it will be less than a bazillion degrees outside. So if I have any hope of breathing fresh air it will have to be now.

Sometimes I have these random thoughts run through my head - like why does our society deify entertainers? Is it because we have no royalty and therefore have to create our own? Or who gets to decide what fashion trend is happing for the coming year; I mean really who has all that power and why is it them. Don't they have anything more real to do other than to decide that this year teal is the new black? And who was the first person to figure out that artichokes are delicious to eat, I mean they are not particularly easy to figure out. But did you know that they are the buds of a fine, purple flower? I found this out when I forgot one that I had picked. Even though it was left at the bottom of a bag, it found nourishment somewhere to bloom before totally dried out.

Finally, I truly hope this heat goes down soon. My Sweet and I are quickly going through the list of places that have both free Wi-Fi and air-conditioning. And the thermometer is creeping up, so I need to go inside now.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Find The Theme If You Can

Today I have a lot of random things I have going through my mind to put down on paper (so to speak). I do not know if there will be any big connecting point, but by the end of this column, who knows.

I have been carpooling to a conference with a bunch of people I didn’t really know, and they fascinating. I have gotten to know a man who calls himself a Left-wing Bible Thumper. LWTB prefers to wear organic cotton, peppers his speech with Yiddish or Greek mythological vocabulary, and rides his bike the 20 miles to work rain or shine. He is one of those rare people who is a critical thinker, who does his research, has strong opinions that he is willing to share, however he is never pushy and actually has two way discussions. He has also published several books, one of which is said to, “resonate with theological mischief, moral depth, and literary joie de vivre,” (I had to look it up, and it means a hearty joy of living – I love this and must find a way to incorporate it even more in my life!)

When I was camping with My Sweet, we had nightly campfires, usually fueled by downed pinecones. Usually they got so hot the tips got so hot they were white. In the deeper crevices were canyons of creamy crimson. It made me think, “The people who made those fake frosted trees back in the 60’s, this is what they should have been going for.” There is something innately beautiful about contained danger., immense passion. To me this is what Christmas is about, immense passion contained and beautiful.

Summer Solstice: Week my Grandpa and his Honey came out from Arkansas to visit, so we were all together and telling family folklore. However, I can not tell you any of these because we, my sister Lucy Van Pelt and I, are going to use some of them in my Dear Sweet Mother’s birthday game, so you will have to wait until next month.

Well, that is all I have time to say right now. Well, actually I have the time, but my butt is asleep so it is time for me to go.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Air That Angels Breathe; or Reviving an Egyptian Mummy

I am burned, blistered, and smell of smoke. My shoulders are sore, knees are scraped, and my feet may never forgive me. Man am I totally loving it. Yes, I have been camping with My Sweet at Lake Tahoe. Mark Twain, in Roughing It , described campin at Tahoe like this:

"Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? -- it is the same the angels breathe."

Our first day there My Sweet and I went on a truly gorgeous hike from our campground to Emerald Bay, very aptly named for the pure turquoise and blue of the bay's water. Because of this years late spring weather, we were there before the flowers were budding, but to balance this there was a remarkable lack of flies and mosquitoes. The hike was true to its label of moderate (we have been fooled by outdoorsy ranger types before) and skimmed the lake's edge. The trail ended at Vikingsholm a "cabin" that was built after the fashion of Scandinavia. I just love when there is a way to give props to my Viking ancestors. Go Norway!

On our way back, I kept thinking of the song lyrics, "But I would walk 500 miles/And I would walk 500 more/Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles/To fall down at your door" But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, after walking 10 fantastic, soul invigorating miles, there is no way on God's green earth that I am going to walk 100 times that for anything less that the salivation of an entire continent, and I am talking a really populated one, you know with China and India in it. During the last half mile or so, My Sweet, who whenever I ask him what he is thinking answers "Nothing", decides to suddenly get philosophical. I know he had a lot of time on his hands while he rested, waiting for me to catch up, but jeese Louise - the last stretch of a wonderfully long day of constant movement, all I am pondering is if the cold beer at the camp is 15 minutes or 30 minutes away.

Before I sign off, I have to comment on the wildlife here. These animals are fearless! Down at the beach I saw a goose come up to a pudgy little toddler and with bill aimed tell the hapless child, "Your gram cracker or your life!" Another time we had a dive-bomber blue jays spear the heart of our butter cube. But my favorite animal show was this chipmunk who decided to check out what we had on top of our bear canister. Now these are huge metal canisters over five feet tall that were designed so that bears would not attack your food supply, and to keep out other critters. Well this little feller grabbed on to the lower part of my bike chain, hoisted himself up to the top part of the loop, scrambled to the seat, and then after a moments consideration hurled himself towards the top of the canister. On his first attempt he could not get a secure grasp after his leap, and fell to the dust below, but this did not dissuade him. He made the same grab, hoist, scramble, and lunge again and made it. I almost wish there had been more up there than a bottle of oil and drying dishes.

Well, I have to go. My Sweet says there is something exciting happening in the World Cup right now. And the U.S.A. is playing Italy, so I had better go and cheer them as much as possible.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Where All The Women are Strong and All the Men Goodlooking

This ending of the week was dedicated to things I love to do that others may consider dorky, borderline fogeyish.

It started on Thursday when I attended a yuppie version of a Stars Hollow moment (quintessential small town quirkiness that can be found anywhere if you look for it). My Dear Sweet Mother, Refreshing Sunshine, My Sweet and I went to a gala hosted by the local National Public Radio, celebrating the opening of A Prairie Home Companion. The crowd would never have been mistaken for 50 Cent groupies - or Swtichfoot fans for that matter. I am sure that we will show up on one of NPR's PR material to prove that people less than fifty years old really do listen to them. There were two people who were probably younger than us, but with their preppy striped skirts with lmatching waistcoats and no nonsense haircuts, they were early twenty-somethings with forty-something souls. The others in the audience were sixty-somethings with fourtish-souls, so it worked out well.

This extravaganza included a wonderful homage to a PHC/Midwestern spread - complete with noodle hotdish and jello with fruit. They also were sure to include servings of powder milk biscuits and ketchup, two fictitious sponsors of the PHC radio show. And of course there was a raffle (very Midwestern) and an auction (very NPR). The raffle was a hit, mostly because Refreshing Sunshine won something. For a buck a shot you have a chance to win something kind of cool for next to nothing. You gotta know the value of a dollar, so what's not to like about a raffle.

The auction, on the other hand, did not go over so hot. Granted the auctioneer admitted that she was not a professional, but she as an NPR professional should have known how hard it is to get people to donate hard earned money, especially people who listen to radio shows that revel in Midwestern values like knowing how to hold on to your money. Don't start the bidding at $300. Three hundred dollars, my goodness do you know what you could get for three hundred smackers if you shop right?!? Plus there was no entertainment starting way up there. If someone is going to shell out a bunch of money there needs to be drama. Is the woman in the pink outfit going to outbid the balding man? Is the wife going to convince her sugar daddy to make another bid? Or is the wife going to let him know where he'll be sleeping tonight if he goes any higher? That is what we want in an auction. Then it gets down to the final two bidders who have a secret rivalry between themselves and they sure as heck are not going to let the other out do him. That is how you get your high-end bids that exceed $300. But we want to be a part of it, so start at $10 so we have some fun before we prudently bow out and watch the others act out the drama.

The movie was for the most part, excluding Lindsay Lohan and The Dangerous Woman storyline, quite enjoyable. "What a kind of flat recommendation is that?" you may be asking. Well, to give it higher praise would go against the grain of Prairie Home Companion. That would be considered putting on airs. The stories told in the back stage portions of the film were wonderful slice of life humor that Garrison Keillor is known for giving his audience. So go enjoy a film that is like sitting in on some old friends sharing the stories of their lives.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Last week was our final graduation for the 2005-2006 year. From a school that has less than 50 students at any given time, our celebration of 18 students is a whoppingly huge class. Being a small school gives the graduation ceremony a personal touch. There isn't a valedictorian speech given by the head cheerleader or class president (You know, the same people voted most popular). At our school each student has a staff member write a person speech about them, and friends and family have a chance to stand up and say something to the graduate.

This time I had to give five, yes count them five, speeches. Some of them were tributes to students that I chose, and others were students that were assigned to me. The latter are a little harder to do, let me tell ya. You quickly run through the pat info: when they came to the school, their favorite memory (one student told me it was the weekends), where they plan to go for their future (the Rap world, what out!). You want to say things like, "You have to be commended for reaching this milestone of life, especially considering that you came to class stoned most days." Or, "We are so happy that you have finally reached the point where you can move on from this institution of education to the next chapter of your life. Very happy. So very, very, very happy! You can't believe how happy we are." But you can't. You'll have moms crying and dad puffing their chests and little kids who admire their big brother or cousin for graduating. So instead we bust out the lines that are for the most part true. Then the big day comes and you see them up on the stage in their caps and gowns, striking an I'm-an-adult-now pose, and you almost forget all the annoying pranks - the colorful expletives scratched into your desks, breaking locks off the closets just to show they can do it, overhead transparencies that mysteriously end up in the trash. Instead you mostly think of the good times, when you asked a student for help moving something and they quickly agreed, when they offered you a bite of their candy bar, or when you overheard them actually studying. ("No, Odysseus' son was named Telemachus, you *@#&#@$ dumb ass.")

In our predominatly Latino school population, one graduate was fiercly of Irish descent. An outstanding memory of him was during the town's youth talent show where he wore a kilt while singing a punk song. I was actually expecting to see him in the kilt under his robe. As he walked across the stage, his youthful troup all shouted "Oy!"

Anther student was a pure delight to speak for. She went on and on about how her hero was her mother. She wanted to be sure the speech said something like this: "Mom, you were there for everything, even things I thought you wouldn't be there for. You had to raise four kids on your own. There were a lot of little things that you did and we didn't seem to notice, but we did. And knowing what I do now about money, how hard you have to work for it and how quickl it gets spent, I don't know how you did it. You are my hero." Talk about moms earing up! I almost couldn't go on.

After the ceremony, I saw a bunch of the boys leaning up against one of their muscle cars. I could almost hear the movie voice over, "And there we all were, looking at the bright uncertainty of the future. And though we all went our own way, there is a part of us that will always be bonded together; a bond that will serve as a touchstone for the turbualnt time ahead" And if they have listened to their English teacher, they will be able to write that screen play. but more likely it will be a from-the-streets rap song.

One of my coworkers mentioned that for teachers, this time of year is better than Christmas. Not so much because of the time off, but because it is a feeling of completion. The year is wrapping up, you can look back and see what has been accomplished, and anticipation is forming for next year. He is so right. But to be honest, I am looking forward to sleeping past 5:00 and seeing first hand that David Letterman and Connan O'Brian are still alive and well.