Sunday, October 27, 2013

12-Hour Challenge 10/27/2013

The prompt was to imagine a dream job - one you want, or one you see someone in and think, "Man. They've got it made!" Imagine that job, and then imagine a bad day at that job.

There's a part of me that has been wishing and wishing that instead of getting some liberal arts degree and remaining comfortably lodged in my government career, that I had gotten out of the Navy and gone to medical school. I'd be in Syria now, patching people up. Being under constant strain. Missing the crap out of my family, but making sure someone else's family members would make it.

It wasn't hard to imagine the bad day - there were so many options to choose from.



I was halfway through my 12-hour shift. It had been the normal things; what you expect in a situation like this: lots of gunshot wounds, no shrapnel unless there’s an explosion. Today it was thighs, and I was grateful and angry, but mostly grateful. So long as they missed the femoral artery and the femur itself wasn't too badly splintered, these guys were mostly going to make it. Guys, Jesus. Kids. Women. Children. And guys. But mostly not. I had talked to my colleagues, and it wasn't just my imagination: those bastards are targeting civilians, and they're playing a game: throats one day, thighs the next. Three days ago it was shoulders.

Good days are few and far between. I had a good day a couple of weeks ago. Everyone I saw, I had the supplies I needed to treat them. No one came in that unexpectedly didn't make it. Only two were too far gone to save (one kid had died on his way here). More folks walked out of here than walked in, freeing desperately needed beds. All the needs are desperate. Not enough beds. Not enough medicine. Not enough people. Never enough people. It just never quits.

Yesterday wasn't too terrible, but it wasn't a good day. No big explosions, but also no miraculous cures. We got supplies in two days ago, so nothing was too short… it’s just, like I said, yesterday it was throats. Lots of sewing esophagi back together, and more blood transfusions than I can count. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub. Throats bleed a lot, even if the bullet manages to miss the major arteries. One was a little kid. The guy who brought her in said she had been trying to get to school. Her dad didn't make it; she’s still here. Such a tiny little throat, and so much damage.

Normally, I work at an inner-city hospital as an emergency surgeon. I'm a general surgeon, so, I have to be ready to do surgery on anything. It’s not like my college friends, who specialized in orthopedic surgery – they get to work 9-5, weekends and holidays off most of the time, they rarely see anything too terrible, or something that can't be fixed.

“Hey, Doc.” It’s Ziyad, one of the nationals working with us as a nurse. He had joined up about a month ago.
“Another arrival? I swear I'm almost done…” I had been plowing through the plate of whatever that I was given in the cafeteria tent. It’s usually rice with some chicken or beef or something and some lettuce and tomatoes. I'm pretty laid back most of the time, but I’m hard and fast about my eating. I need the nutrients to keep going, to keep saving life after life, so I insist on meal breaks when needed.
“Naw – it’s still quiet. Just hoping you had a cigarette?”

I passed him one. I don't smoke in the states. Shifts in my ER are 12 hours on and 12 hours off, and after three shifts on, you get some days off. There’s usually a good bit of down-time during a shift. There’s never the kind of carnage there is out here. And back in the states… People look at you funny, if you smoke wearing scrubs. Here, everyone smokes, and they smoke all the time.

One of the guys I was in med school with was from Sudan. His parents moved to Chicago when he was in high school. They got into an accident in their first week in the states, and were astonished at the quality of the hospitals here. He kept saying how much he wished they had that level of care back home. We found out about Doctors Without Borders and I just knew we had to sign up. We come out for 6 months, and go home for 6. He and I happen to be off-set – Idris left last month and was replaced with Eric.

I put my Styrofoam plate in the trash bag tied to the tent-pole, drained my water-bottle, grabbed another one and headed outside. May as well smoke while there’s time.

The suddenness of the explosion made me stumble. Yup. Exactly enough time for a cigarette and a scrub-down. Eric ran past me, yelling something about scrubbing. He'd get used to it, eventually. Hopefully, sooner rather than later – his high-strung jumpiness was wearing on my patience, and I worried about his ability to focus during surgery. You have to find your Zen place. The place where nothing else matters besides fixing the brokenness in front of you as fast as you can.

I finished scrubbing up just as the victims started coming in. The nurses that were working with us may have started off lacking some training, but nothing will get you up to speed like disaster. After two years, we had the routine down. Eric and I would move from bed to bed at the direction of the nurses – mostly nationals – who would have triaged the victims. I took a steadying breath, found my Zen place. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub.

Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub. At some point, I realized there were more of us. The other two surgeons must have woken up because of the blast and come in. Anything big like that, and it’s not like you'd be sleeping anyway. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub. Extra-long days for everyone.

Ziyad, the guy who had bummed a cigarette earlier, started walking me to the next victim.

“Allah al-musti’an,” he muttered as we passed the still-long line of victims waiting to be triaged. God help us indeed. “We are drowning in these Shi’a,” he lamented as we prepared for the next surgery. I shot him a sharp look – bringing sectarian bias into the environment was strictly forbidden – but the look was all there was time for. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub.

I passed Eric, working furiously on an abdomen. Had he found his Zen place? He looked pale and scared. So did the surgeon from the other shift working on an arm across from him. Did I look like that, too? Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub.

I glanced at the clock, but it didn’t make sense. The numbers couldn’t mean anything. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub.

The next victim just had a little shrapnel in his lower legs. The nurses probably could have handled this. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub. And then it was over. The remaining victims all had very minor injuries that the nurses were wrapping up.

I went out for a cigarette with Ziyad and Eric and a couple of others and tried to make sense of my watch. It took a few drags, but I figured it out. I had been on shift for almost 16 hours. I had eight hours to get home, shower, and sleep before the start of my next shift. I left Eric and Ziyad, and dragged myself to my near-by apartment.

Something was niggling at me, but I was too tired to put a finger on it.

My eyes had only been closed a moment when my alarm went off, followed by the call of the muezzin. Dawn already. I grabbed an energy shot from my stash, and put another two into my pockets. I got to the hospital and started checking up on the folks who had stayed overnight. Everyone was doing well, but this environment wasn't nearly as sterile as it should be – they'd need to be watched closely for signs of infection.

“Hey, Eric.” I greeted my shift-mate. He looked even more tired than I felt. I considered what he'd be like, wound as tight as he already is, with an energy shot piled on top, and tossed him one anyway. “Crazy day, huh?”
“Yeah.” Eric looked thoughtful, for once more concerned than panicked. “All these attacks… You think all these folks are shi’ites? I mean, it seems like in Iraq, it’s all divided by neighborhood. Do you think it’s like that here?”
“I don't know.” I hadn't been keeping up with the news as well as I should have been. “This area? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s getting that way? But I'm pretty sure not all of these victims are Shi’ites. Why?” That niggling feeling was back. Something was off.
“Oh. Something someone said yesterday.”
“Jeeze. You remember yesterday? It’s still all such a blur. What do you think today will be?”
Eric looked unhappy. Maybe a poor choice of small-talk on my part. “I guess we'll find out.” He downed the last of his energy shot and I took a last drag as a car sped into the lot nearest the hospital. It looked like arms, maybe hands. It’d be a lot of work, but fewer casualties, I hoped.

Ziyad wasn't around, which was too bad. I was actually starting to warm up to the guy. His attitude wasn't the greatest, but he really busted and got a lot done. Being a local resident, he got weekends. For me, it’s 6 months of hell. When I get home, I'll take a couple weeks off, then get back to my job. For these guys… I mean, they live here, you know?

The next victim came in, helped by someone else, but walking. He had been on his way to work. Yup. It was hands. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub. Smoke. Eat some breakfast (some kind of bean dish and eggs). Another car pulled up and another victim jumped out. I was scrubbing up when I heard the explosion. Two days in a row. This isn't good. At least it’s earlier in my shift. Maybe I can go home on time today.

It seemed like fewer victims this time, but it still seemed like a never-ending stream. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub. I grabbed coffee, food, and energy drinks where I could. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub. I went home only an hour late, feeling bad for the guys on the other shift. They had come in after only three hours’ sleep. It all balances in the end, though. Or it doesn’t. Keeping score is too hard, and we'd be trading shifts in another 2 weeks, anyway.

The next day, Ziyad wasn't in again. I asked Eric about it.

He looked uncomfortable. Ziyad had been killed in the explosion, he told me. The only one who had died in that explosion. Then it made sense, kind of. Maybe helping all those other victims was his way of making up for what he knew he'd do, just a little bit. I wondered about the other nurses, the Syrians we were working with.

Doctors Without Borders. We're not supposed to be political – we just go in and do what we can to put people back together. But how can we stay neutral in an area where everything – your neighborhood, your faith, even your name – is political? And how long before the hospital full of wounded Shi’ites and the doctors trying to save them is itself a target? 

Hopefully, it never will. In the meantime, I've still got two more months. Remove foreign bodies. Stitch lacerations. Close wounds. Scrub.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Dream is an Allegory

We went to Chesapeake Bay. It looked a lot like Monterey Bay, but grayer. It was the Navy base there, right on the water. It was like a Navy recreation area. On the left side were kayaks, and then paddle boats, and then the swimming area, where we were, roped off for safety.

We swam out into the deep water because it was. Because it was warm. Because the sun was shining. Because fish. Because we could. But then, the sky darkened, and all the people went away, and the swells grew. Beautiful swells, like chutes and ladders, like water slides, like rolling hills you take at a dead run because you have legs. We were way past the ropes.

"What about rip tides?!" He shouted at me. "WHAT?" I yelled, looking over my shoulder as I swam. I checked on my daughter, and my son, and looked back to the front. There it was, nestled between swells, like a snake, silvery and smooth. "RIP TIDE!!!" We were being swept out to the sea, but we knew what to do. "We have to swim ACROSS it!" I yelled back to my daughter, my son, my husband. "WHAT?" "Swim - ACROSS - it!!!"

So we swam and swam. The water was cooling down, churning, graying, and we were getting tired. I looked back, over my shoulder, checked on my daughter, my son, my husband. My son was flagging. So tired. I could feel the adrenaline starting to fight through the cold water and exhaustion. And then I saw his head. It popped out of the water, laughing and winking, and dove beneath the surface. He swam fast, like a dolphin, and caught up. So tired. We kept swimming.

We finally got to the floating dock where the water was all plants at the bottom and the kayaks were tied up, by the shore where it was calm, and the sand was topped with some cement embankment under the water. To stop erosion? Maybe.

Two cars were parked there. Sedans. They were visiting sailors on the base and  didn't realize about the tide, that it goes out, and comes back in. In one of the cars, a couple had fallen asleep after making out. They had jumped out of the car when the cold water on their legs woke them up. The cars were ruined. Insurance wouldn't cover that.

Here we were on the dock, floating, with its little floating empty office. How to get to our car? It was so far away, and we were so tired. We could walk, but we couldn't get there from here, and it was so far. We could swim, but my arms were like jelly. My whole body rebelled at the thought of more swimming.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chaucer Hath Mad Jokes

I was supposed to be a discussion leader for the discussion on selections from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales this week, but there was a bit of a communications error, and my thunder totally got stolen. That's okay - I'm pretty sure I'll get to do Arthurian Heroes, which is almost as cool.

I had gone to some trouble to prepare this "Discussion Leader" post, and had thought of two things I really wanted to share in addition to the academic bits. So I whipped up some rhymed couplets. *Ahem* Forthwith:

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a mighty blog
Which loaded with witticisms is; that churlish dog
Updates his posts on so seldom a moon,
Causing geeks like me to nearly swoon.
One may find the blog (and ken the dog anon)
At House of Flame, blogspot dot com
But whilst I dally with you here a time,
Allow a goodwife yet one more little rhyme.
I saw a comic upon the Google Plus,
As I was dawdling on this forum; it is attached, thus,
Click the attachment and humor you will see,
About the Middle Ages, that which tickles me.

The school's forum thingie is painfully out-moded, so the image below was an attachment that had to be "clicked" rather than just displayed in the post.

By the way, if you need a bawdy laugh, and/or if you haven't recently, find a nearby copy of the Tales, and read the Wife of Bath's Tale. Omg. Hysterical.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Very Public Face of ... You.

Why would anyone trust a system designed to increase communication and increase the sharing of our information to do the opposite of that, especially when millions of dollars are at stake?

Okay, I know there's more stuff out there about FB using you for advertising or using your friends for advertising or some such... and here's the thing: These sites were designed to share your information. If someone is willing to pay them to do the thing they're already designed to do, can you really expect them to do otherwise?


If you don't want to be seen doing something embarrassing, do your embarrassing things at home, alone. If you don't want something you say overheard, don't say it where people can hear you. And if you don't want people to see what you write, or the picture you took, don't put it on the internet. Not in a private message, and not on your FB page, not even if you "restrict access."

Let's all take a moment and reflect on
public vs. private embarrassment
If you put a picture on any picture sharing site; or words or a picture on any social media site; if you publicly "like" or +1 something, you really should just assume that it's being datamined at best, and used against you and your friends at worst, and that's just from the marketing angle. It's like making the assumption that if you say something in a room full of people, you might see it on CNN later.

Just pretend you're Beyonce, and that 

someone cares what you say in a crowded room
And maybe that sucks - we're being told to choose between sharing everything we do on the internet, in every way in which it can be shared, and not sharing anything (or, hardly anything), and that is a tough choice. Kind of like the choice you make between keeping your thoughts to yourself, and maintaining a constant out-loud stream-of-consciousness.

Yes, I realize that allowing FB to access my location, or allowing my phone to transmit information to the Google network means that my motions can be tracked. But I'm trying to think of how many people I know or stories I've heard of where bandits used that data to mug someone on their way out of the swanky new bar they just checked into... And I can't. Mugged, sure. Due to a FourSquare check-in? I don't think so. It's still easier to stalk the old fashioned way - by tailing someone. So, the police can find me. My government can find me. Presumably, bandits could find me. But I have to say, that's a risk I'm willing to take to brag about the Bat Cave awesome restaurant I just went to.

Little-known fact: I'm actually the Mayor of the Bat Cave
on FourSquare. (No, not really)
So, maybe the choice isn't about sharing everything and not sharing anything. Maybe it's about how much faith you have in the good will (or apathy) of your fellow human beings (and corporations) and about how important it is to let everyone know what you had for lunch and which facial moisturizer is your latest favorite.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Memorializing a Moment

My son is at that age - still a little kid, but striving to be a Young Man, testing limits and boundaries, and once in a while being so dang tender and precious, it's almost heartbreaking.

I went upstairs to put my pajamas on. He was already in bed. He's one of those kids that pretty much goes to sleep within moments of going to bed.

I could hear him singing to himself. I couldn't quite make out the song (it was probably Macklemore or Imagine Dragons, but I'd rather believe it was Puff The Magic Dragon). I started to rebuke him - to tell him to hush, now, and go to sleep! But I just couldn't do it. How dear is that? A kid singing himself to sleep. I hope I never forget that.

Would he let me go and rock him? No, of course not. I don't even always get to tuck him in, especially if I don't rush to get there. He was asleep by the time I had finished washing my face.

I need a Pinterest for that. A Kodak for that moment. A memory stick I can put that moment on, straight from my brain, quick before it fades.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Deep Thoughts: A Friend's Worth

Recently, I was concerned that a friendship was threatened. I consulted another friend who has really excellent judgement. She put it into clear perspective: Is the thing threatening the friendship worth more than the friendship? How long do you expect the friendship to last? Just how much are you willing to sacrifice for this friend, and are they worth it?

Thank God, it all came to naught, and the friendship survived mostly intact.

Now, in a much different friendship, I'm finding myself asking the same types of questions. I've invested a lot of time and emotion into this friendship. The friend went through some major life events - and maybe I wasn't there like I should have been? - and now that life seems to have calmed down a bit, doesn't show any outward signs of wanting to continue the friendship at all. Messages have gone unanswered, expectations completely unfulfilled. And I'm pretty crushed about it.

Do I continue hoping that our friendship will revive at least a little? That requires an investment of hope, and hope is a bigger investment than time. Even if the friendship were a different shape, that would be welcome - the silence is killing me. Has this friendship reached its natural termination? Just how dear to me is this person still?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A New Pantheon

I was recently at a party where I mentioned that my paper on the three Greek works from which we read selections (the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid - I'm seeking my B.A., if you didn't know) would actually be on how the women in these stories wield power. I didn't mention how much it irked me that in these three great works, the woman's role is really minimal, and mortal women especially are mostly portrayed as powerless pawns of their hero male family members and the gods, because, well, I didn't want to be that girl
at the party.

Little did I know, the person to whom I was speaking - a friend's husband, both of whom I had admired for other reasons - happened to have gotten his degree in feminine studies. The friend told me that her husband knew all about how women wield power. He laughed and said that what his degree was really about was how to create a society in which women are truly equal.

He mentioned the American and French schools of thought on gender equality, and said that the French school of thought - which is less popular - states that so long as women are living in a value-system created by men, the society cannot truly be objective; women will never be free from sexism, even when it's women talking about women, because they have to talk about it using the male-created terms. What women really need, he said, is their own pantheon, made up of deities that reflect women's values. (And here we see why it's not very popular. How many feminists do you know who are willing to abandon their faith to create and follow their own pantheon?)

And that got me to thinking: What's the one god that women really need? If I was going to create a pantheon for women, who would be in it? What would they look like? Do we need a healer? A fertility deity? A warrior? A beauty queen? A peace-maker? A wisdom deity? Do they have to all be women?

In Samuel Butler's translation of the Aeneid (why didn't my department head choose Fitzgerald? Maybe s/he was trying to be new and different?), Cupid, the god of love, takes on a boy's appearance so that when he greets Queen Dido and she hugs him, he can poison her to become infatuated with Aeneas. Because it's prepubescent boys that inspire love and infatuation? I don't think so.

Although, I'm not sure I'd have a love deity. Love is a property that should belong to every deity. I would have a fertility deity, but I think she'd also be the anti-fertility deity. She'd be the one you prayed to when it was month 5 of "we're trying to get pregnant" and day two of, "am I late, or did I count wrong?" and day 12 of, "okay, I planted, I watered... Now what?" and whenever you think of people facing drought or famine. Maybe she'd also be the one in charge of New Ideas and Healthy Changes. She'd be the one writers and artists and inventors prayed to.

Maybe she'd look a little like this

 What deity do you think women need?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why I Secretly Kind of Hate A&E's Duck Dynasty

I fell in love with A&E's Duck Dynasty when I had to fact-check a claim made by the family patriarch - a man passionate about duck hunting, mostly retired, now - that he had given up a promising football career - to launch Duck Commander. (Spoiler alert: it's true. Terry Bradshaw was Phil Robertson's second string at LSU).

It's a combination of Good Values and comedy as sweet as Si's iced tea. Almost. Everyone knows someone like these characters - that lady at church that's always insisting you go get another plate of food; that woman at the PTA you'll never measure up to; the weird uncle; the boss trying in vain to wield his non-existent power - all wrapped up in humor, both dry and wet, and love for the members of one's own family.

I suggested insisted my parents watch an episode while we were visiting. My dad could relate to all the hunting references, and they could both relate to the references to life in the south. We excitedly bickered over which episode was the best, and landed on the one about the radio show, where Willie takes himself too seriously, and is ruthlessly ridiculed for his (truthfully non-existent) ineptitude when it comes to hunting.

It struck me as I watched Daddy, obviously not loving this show: he doesn't like it for the same reason he didn't like the Berenstain Bears: the stereotypes.* Papa bear is big and friendly and jolly and ridiculously foolish; a lot like Willie Robertson, the ineffectual boss. Mama bear is almost flawless - she's well-kempt, loves her family fiercely, and she's hard-working around the home; a lot like Miss Kay. Korie is Sister Bear - a little air-headed, but smart, good at keeping folks in line, and good at putting on the charm when she needs to. Brother Bear is played by Jace - he's always pushing his sibling's buttons, he's a cut-up, maybe more than a little arrogant, but deep down, he really cares. (Full disclosure: there's an alternate reality in which I'm married to Jace Robertson. Le sigh.)

In Duck Dynasty, you'll hear some reference to manhood being beard-dependant (or even tied to beard length) in almost every episode: Real men - men who are unafraid of a challenge, men who can hunt, men who aren't squeamish or lazy or who enjoy too much luxury - those men have beards. Real women cook or sew (not Korie. But then, she has her looks) and aren't squeamish, either. Real women don't hunt (they tried to get them to do so, once) and don't get dirty; their hair and makeup are always stylish and flawless.

Did you gals hear that? If you look that good, you don't have to cook or sew unless you want to. Aren't we the lucky ones?

I still like love that the family has minor disagreements, but not protracted arguments, and that they come together over a feast and a prayer at the end of each show. It doesn't bother me when A&E leaves "Jesus" in the prayer, and it doesn't bother me when they take it out.

I even kind of like the exploration of the conflict between old values ("pioneer" living; hard work; a nature-focused lifestyle) and the new reality (How do the old values fit into a luxurious life? How can we hold onto our humble origins while expanding our wealth and ensuring our children's future?).

But I hate the stereotypes about gender, and I hate the stereotypes about the south (chiefly, that the south is full of rednecks who only care about things they can blow-up, shoot, shoot at, or eat).

Duck Dynasty has mad jokes (the bit where Si does Chewbacca had us all on the floor). It has some good values (loyalty to family - including family you choose, not just the one you're born into - and enjoying the great outdoors and hard work and good food). The characters allow surprising glimpses of their hidden depth (the "old, stupid one," Si, gets caught making pop culture references all the time, and even though Phil seems mostly to enjoy his retirement, you do get the impression that he worked really hard to get there).

I'm just not sure I can sit back and enjoy it like I did before I looked closer, and that's too bad.

* This part might not actually be true - I know why Daddy doesn't like the Bears, but he might have much different reasons for not liking Duck Dynasty.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Mini-Kitteh - a Dream

I have to guess that I heard my co-worker talking about her new black kitten without knowing I had heard - she was talking about him near me, so it's entirely possible. And maybe it was because while trying to park yesterday, I drove past a very cute tan-and-white Mini Cooper. Or is it Cooper Mini? Goodness, it's small. How do you fit a whole family into that- OMG a spot opened up!

I dreamed I found a Mini-Kitten. It was a full six weeks old and healthy and fit neatly into the palm of one hand. So I took it home. That was okay, because it was a mini-kitten, not a full-sized cat, and besides, it was really cute. it was black all over and it had slightly-longer, thicker, white hairs here and there, like super-soft porcupine spines.

It wrecked the house. It went tearing across my living room, knocking over tray tables, and shoving the ottoman out of the way. It went tearing across the dining room, knocking over dinner chairs and spilling half-full glasses of water and pushing lunchboxes and purses and newspapers off the table. The other cats were terrified.

It grew to the size of my whole hand, and then to its adult size - about 2/3 the size of my ninja kitty, who weighs less that 4 lbs. A mini-cat.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Of Demons and Pigs

This Sunday's Gospel reading was Luke, chapter 8, verses 26-39. As a refresher, this is the one where Jesus  meets the man who is possessed by demons, who beg Jesus for mercy (not to torment them; to not send them into the abyss). Jesus agrees to let the demons go into a herd of pigs, and when they do, the pigs all run off a steep hill into the lake and drown. The townspeople get freaked out and ask Jesus to leave.

The priest's sermon on this talked about the different kinds of demons, and how we all have them; internal and external demons. As he talked about the internal demons, how they can cause you to speak with a voice that is not your own (as they did in the reading, answering Jesus's questions), I couldn't help but remember The Bloggess's admonition: depression lies (probably at least in part because whenever I think of depression, I think of her wonderful mantra). I had never thought of the lies being in the form of things you say that aren't you - that the lies depression tells aren't  just  "you're not good enough" or whatever version of that you hear, but that it steals your own voice to tell others lies, too.

I love it that this particular priest quotes long-dead saints. Today he quoted (among another) Athanasius as saying (I paraphrase) that demons have no power, even over swine. That goes very well with the Islamic image of the devil as the Whisperer, unable to enact real evil, but who plants evil thoughts in our heads. The Islamic concept of the devil is one I really appreciate. It's much more relatable than the large, evil beast of Hell: We all hear evil whispers now and again.

And that goes right into the next point that this priest made that I loved: That Evil has no real home in God's universe. The demon(s) begged Jesus not be to sent back to the abyss, the void. Any home Evil finds is only a false home - one from which it can be expelled.

So, I have more weapons to add to my arsenal.
Depression lies.
Demons don't belong here.
Demons have no power here (so long as I remember not to give them any).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Just Like That, Huh?

The Old Testament reading at church today was from 1 Kings, bits and pieces from chapter 18.

In a nutshell, Elijah goes to the Israelites and says, "You all are worshipping a false god, Baal. We'll see which god is the real God. We'll each prepare a bull for sacrifice, and whichever god can burn his own offering we'll all agree is The God. You guys go first." So they slaughtered a bull and prepared it, but didn't light it on fire, and started praying to Baal. They prayed fervently all dang day, but nothing. Elijah taunted them, and they cut themselves according to their tradition and still, Baal never showed up to burn the offering. Elijah slaughtered a bull and prepared his offering, but doused it in water first, like, really drenched it. And he prayed, and God showed up and burnt the offering thoroughly, even the water burned.

When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God." We didn't read the next bit, about Elijah slaying all the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18:39)

I'm thinking, How awful would that be?

So, you watch as your god gets beaten soundly in a whose-god-does-better-fire contest, your community leaders get schwacked by the victors, and you, what, fall down acknowledging the power of the new God, and get back to your life? Just like that? Just, bam!, yesterday we were Baalites, now we're Jews.

There wasn't one guy that called for a do-over? There wasn't some goodwife back home, saying, "well, you men probably didn't do it right. Baal's there, you just messed up the offering." Or, "Baal's a perfectly good god, but he demands we follow the rules he gave us, which include burning the offering. You want the god, you gotta follow the rules."

And isn't that, in essence, what God (via Elisha) does in 2 Kings chapter 5? He (again, through Elisha) cures the captain of leprosy, but only if he goes and bathes seven times in the Jordan. Not the Abana or the Pharpar, but in the Jordan. Again, you want God, you gotta follow the rules.

I don't want to get into a discussion on whether or not we really have to follow the rules, or what exactly the rules are, or anything like that. My point is, isn't that kind of harsh? And more than a little hypocritical?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Well, It's About Time

Yes. Don't get me wrong, I think it's wonderful and I am ALL for it. But I also think it's wonderful that this isn't the top news story. Some pro sports player also recently came out... and (for the most part) nobody cares. Some other, retired, pro sports player came out, realized no one cared, and went back to playing soccer. And that is really wonderful. It's not a big deal anymore because we're a more accepting society. Yay us.

It's the same reason I'm not making a big deal out of Thing 1's "promotion" to middle school. You completed fifth grade. You met expectations. Congrats or whatever, but don't look for a trophy. (I am proud of her for a thousand really good reasons - just, not impressed with her completion of fifth grade).

So, congrats to the Boy Scouts, they're revolutionizing- oh. No, they're not. They're just meeting expectations. But they're not even doing that yet - leaders still have to stay in the closet.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Car Is Not Broken

I grabbed my purse, my lunch, my cardigan, my keys and... No.

I couldn't leave for work. My car was broken. David would have to drive me (and he was eons from being ready!). It broke last night. In low gear, it quietly ground to an engineless stop, and in high gear it coughed and spluttered a lot, like not all the pistons were firing all the time. It did this yesterday, when I was driving in that hilly part by the kids' school... No.

I didn't drive by the kids' school last night.

I had made it to the stairs to tell the husband that he'd have to drive me in, that my car was broken, before I remembered: It was just a dream.

The thing it was telling me almost certainly has got nothing to do with my automobile.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

On Cats

Screamy, the family cat
I have five cats, so if you can't keep up with which cat is which, I can't blame you - I can only keep up most of the time. That's how Screamy got her name. Ursa's babies were about 2 weeks old and at that noisy phase, but one of them was significantly noisier than the others, so I asked my then-stay-at-home husband which kitten was the screamy one, because she was always screaming, she was so screamy!.. And there you have it. She's still plenty noisy, but she's also the Scream-puff and when she's all up in the computer, she's the i-Scream. She's the family cat - she's always in the middle of whatever we're all doing.

One of my favorite cats is Ginger, so named because she's so lithe and light on her feet. She's Screamy's opposite, in that she has no meow - just a strangled little cry when she really needs to, but mostly a silent, mouthed "meow." (There was one time she was stuck in a closet and let out this loud, clear, alto meow. She must have been really scared; I've never heard it before or since).

Even super-tough ninja cats need naps.
And cuddles. And blankies.
She's a superb climber, and an even better hunter; I don't think she eats cat food more than a couple times per week. My mom pointed out that she is almost eerily silent. Between the silence, the climbing, the killing, and the muteness, she is the Ninja-cat, or Ninja-Ginger.

My old Siamese is cranky and sleepy. He smells like an old cat; not bad, just... it's different. Sometimes, I can smell stale cat-breath where he washed himself.

Ginger is the best-smelling cat. She smells like woods and wild and musky and dusty and sun-dappled grass and cool, under-a-fern darkness. It's one of my top-three, all-time-favorite smells.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Prayers For Peace and Reconciliation

Each church has it's own "flavor" - special touches specific to that church, even if the church is a liturgical one. One of the first things I noticed about our new church - one of the things that made me fall in love with it - is the bit at the end. At this church, after the post communion prayer, after the thanksgiving for birthdays and anniversaries, we all say the Prayer For Peace:

O God, the Father of all, guide us into the ways of peace. Lead us from prejudice to truth; deliver us from hatred, cruelty, violence, and mean spiritedness; fill us with generosity, hospitality and love, and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

And then there's more (maybe the birthdays and anniversaries are here instead of before? I can never remember). We all say the first part of The Final Blessing:

Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It's a good place, filled with warmth and welcoming. And it feels like home.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Commute :)

I actually really love driving. Even in rush hour. Even if there's traffic. Not so much if I'm running late, but even then, I don't usually get angry about it. But, there's just something about a commute that can't be captured with the windows up. Even if you sing your lungs out, it's just not as good with the windows up.

I walked to my car in the still, warm sunshine. My day was so done. I put it in reverse... And put it back in park.

I was digging through my purse. No dice... no luck... not finding- Ah! A pen. It'd do. I twisted it up, folded it over and wove the pen through. Opened the windows, two at a time. Turned the radio up, and off I went, homeward.

WIND WIND WIND... and fresh-cut grass... the PSS-PSSSSSS! of air from the brakes of that truck... a flowering bush?... The laugh of the woman on the radio... Mulch, and some other flower-smell... The smile of the guy passing me... The smell of something green and growing... and all the while, WIND WIND WIND.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Search For Art

A friend had posted a picture on FaceBook. It was touching, and beautiful, and it moved me almost to tears. But it was definitely religious-themed, and so I just hit the "like" button. I don't delve into faith on FaceBook.

So, I went away and did something else.

I came back to FaceBook a while later and stared at this picture some more, studying the technique, guessing at the medium, examining why this picture tugged at me, thinking about the subjects in it, and praying about it. I couldn't not share it at this point.

I wanted it more permanently than on an un-searchable, dynamic, social-media feed. I wanted it on my wall.

I searched and searched the internet and found out that the art is crayon-and-pencil. Copyrighted by Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey. The artist is Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO (I'm not even sure what all those letters mean). I couldn't find it for sale anywhere, though I did find the Abbey, which is actually Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey.
Medium: Crayon and Pencil, By Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO.
(c) Sisters of the Mississippi 2005
Buy it at

I hit the "contact us" button and Sister Grace Remington herself e-mailed me back, informing me that matted prints and cards with this picture are both available at the Monastery Candy store, but if I really wanted a larger poster, she could help me out with that, though she wasn't sure how well the image would stand up to enlargement.

By the way, the sisters are apparently known for the amazing caramels and chocolates they make. They make about two tons of the stuff, annually!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thankful Memory Shadow Box

I had seen a decorated shadow box for movie and event tickets on Pinterest, and loved it, but we don't see that many movies or go to that many ticketed events; it's just not what we do. Then a few of my friends posted pictures of decorated jars into which one puts memories noted on decorative paper. So, I thought, why not combine the ideas into a memory shadow box?

So I searched for the blogs with the shadow box ideas, but neither of them discussed how to put the slot or hole or whatever to put things in, despite the many queries from people commenting on the blogs. (Update: the owner of Learn to do it yourself (her shadow box is pictured above) did finally post a tutorial for making slots from ehow.) Fortunately, I have a great support network, all of whom supportively told me to "get a Dremel, dummy!"

One of them was also able to advise me in which one to buy (bottom-of-the-line Dremel brand at Home Depot), which attachments to get for it (the big box with a ton of options for $20) and how to use it (carefully).

By the way, we did discuss cutting a section out of the top of the shadow box, using a fine-toothed saw, and attaching a knob to that section, to make a liftable lid, like the top of a carved pumpkin, but decided this was more likely to break the glass and go poorly in general.

Using the grinding wheel to cut a guide groove
Start by putting painter's tape over the place where you are going to make the 2" slot. This keeps the edges of the hole from cracking and chipping. I don't know why, but I can tell you that the one we taped turned out great, while the one we didn't turned out merely "okay." This was my crafty friend's idea.

We cut a guide-groove first, using the grinding wheel attachment. We cut as far down as we could before switching to the conical grinder. If you do it this way, be careful not to go so far that the other parts of the dremel rub against the frame.
Really getting into making a slot
I started putting together my background. I'd only had one experience with scrap-booking and it didn't end well. This time, I used her e-6000 glue and my "Amazing Goop Craft Arte" to tack my background paper in place on the felt backing of the shadow box and put the rest of the background in place. I used a piece of card stock to spread out the glue on the pieces I was going to stick down, and it worked like a charm.

While I was re-learning how to scrap-book, my crafty friend was designing lettering and a film-strip decoration in black acrylic paint for the glass in her shadow-box. She chose a gold sparkly background, to make a glamorous Hollywood theme to hold her event tickets. Great success!!

She cleaned it up a bit more, using an Exxacto
knife, and it looks even better now
By the way, even though most picture frames don't have an "upside down." If you put it together wrong, you just take the picture out and turn it right-side-up. These definitely do have an upside-down. When you're pasting your background together, pay attention to the hardware on the back. You have to paste the background right side up, or else you have to go get hardware to Amazing Goop onto the back of your shadow box.
An integral part of this project (to me) is having the paper and a pen handy for recording the memories. So, when I got home, I used Sculpey to make a holder for the 2x3" card stock I had bought for this project. I used a cake pan to mold one, and used the plastic-wrapped card stock to mold the other. I had to carefully peel the Sculpey off the card stock, and it got a little misshapen, but I think it turned out better than the cake-pan one.
This is the cake-pan-formed one. See how it's all rounded? 
I whipped out my trusty Dremel, and attached the coarse cylindrical grinder, and trimmed the edges until the "pocket" fit onto the frame and the part where I would glue it to the frame was as close to straight as I could get it. I laid down a thick bead of Amazing Goop, let it set and attached the pocket.

I stuck a strip of adhesive Velcro to the top to hide the skin mark I made with the Dremel to attach the pen that had the other side of the Velcro stuck to it, and voila!