Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Photos Not Taken By Me

This photo was not taken by me:

This is my Uncle Dave with my cousin Susan's wee girl, Savannah. "Oh, cute, your cousin's family took the little girl fishing," you think.
These are Michigan people, people. They don't "help" the girl "catch" a fish.
If there is a fish on her line, she caught it. No help. Just her. It's the way they roll.

Don't believe me? Let me tell you about cousin Susan. When she was in middle school, one of her older brother's friends came by the house looking for him: the guy had shot a deer but needed help gutting it. But Buzz wasn't in. And my aunt was really sick.
Little middle school Susan came down the stairs.
"Go show him how to gut his deer."
And away they went.
Agree or disagree on policy, this is the kind of thing City Folk don't get about Sarah Palin.


THIS photo was not taken by me, either:

That, my friends, is Emily, who often comments on this blog and writes her own stuff over on I was in her wedding in May.

Emily, with "Jim Halpert" from "The Office" - actor John Krasinski. SO COOL. Mostly because "The Office" is one of my favorite shows ever, and started out as a little indie-type comedy. Emily and her new husband Jonny just moved out to L.A. where Jonny is finishing his college degree after - ahem - many years in and out of college. Whatever works, people. Just get there eventually. Anyway, Jonny's doing a semester in film school and he messaged me on Facebook today. It went something like:

J: "Hi"
E: Hey there, L.A. Guy!
blah blah blah
E: So, have you seen Paris Hilton at an In-N-Out Burger at 3 A.M. yet? (Ha ha, I'm so funny, as if L.A. is a small place where you constantly run into celebrities)
J: So I met John Krasinski.
E: AHAHGHGHGH WHAT? But...but I was just joking about bumping elbows with...

Anyway. Awesome, Emily. I miss you, you all way-out-West and not in central Kentucky, where there are license plate frames that read "Southern By The Grace Of God" in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

And now, this photo was not taken by me, either:

This, my friends, is Ernie Harwell, voice of my childhood. And by that, I mean voice of the Detroit Tigers for lo, many years. Growing up in central Indiana, I would hang out drawing and playing in my Dad's studio while he painted, the radio tuned to crackly WJR, where we listened to the soft thump of a baseball hitting a catcher's mitt, and the echoing cries of hot dog vendors walking up and down the miles and miles of stairs in old Tiger Stadium. One time I was in the living room and heard Dad scream - not yell, scream - and Mom came running from the kitchen in her apron, tears on her cheeks, scared to death because of the chemicals Dad kept in the studio, and had he gotten burned, and boy was she mad when she found out...

He'd just been announced as a winner of two tickets to a Detroit Tigers baseball game.

Another time, I was at a game with Dad, and had to go to the bathroom. Several minutes later I came out, and he was frantic.

"Elizabeth, Elizabeth, I was JUST TALKING to Ernie Harwell - what were you doing? I called in there for you, he's walking away, you can see his back just there, over by - what was TAKING so long?"

Well, I was like 13, so I was primping, of course. Not that it did much good in THOSE pictures, yikes. You'll notice a lack of those pictures on this site.

Anyway, Ernie Harwell is dying of cancer. I remember the loose scrawl of an autograph he signed in the cover of a book Dad sent him.

Ernie and Lulu have been married 68 years. People always called him "the voice of the Tigers." He was also the voice of my early childhood years. Which is why I went around saying "He stood there like a house by the side of the road" occasionally - not the norm for a six-year-old girl, but a good description of a guy standing still as a strike ball whizzes over the plate.

On a less mournful note: this photo was also not taken by me:

I know what you're thinking: what is that, and how quickly can I make it?


I know: brilliant, right? A perfect Autumn recipe? The best of so, so many worlds.

I will probably leave out the anise seed. Anise - with the hint of a licorice taste? Seems unnecessary and distracting.

I'm going to have lots of leftovers: will John touch corn pudding? Yes. Will he touch it roasted in acorn squash? Not likely. I'll make him take a bite, though. He always does when I tell him he has to get used to it because The Kids Need To See Dad Willing To Try Dishes If They Have To. And he's always game for the One Bite.

Well, that's all the photos not taken by me for today. I may surprise you someday with things like "cats I didn't hit" or "poems I didn't write."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This Is What My Soul Sounds Like Today

Prelude to Cello Suite Number One (with random Salvador Dali paintings shown. ignore the paintings. listen to Ma. Yo-Yo Ma. that is the sound of my soul)

And then she...

After a long day, and a longer year, she decided to run a bath, to soak, to read. She often forgot how tired her limbs were until they rested.

The book made her laugh, and smile, and crease her brow with thought.

But one can only run more hot water so many times, she thought, resigning herself to the inevitable reality of shriveled toes that cuts short even the most serene moments. She put her book aside but lingered, pregnant belly emerging out of the water like a new island. A few quiet moments without distraction.

And then she began to weep.

There was so much she wanted to give this child, so much she had hoped to present it upon entering the world.Who could understand the anguish of feeling so empty-handed at such an important time? She wanted to work, wanted more to work, wanted to serve, to fulfill a calling, to be, and by being, to be more. Who could understand the desperation of wanting to give something so much and having nothing to give? This was not the way she had wanted her child to be welcomed.

Who could understand? The stinging eyes overflowed and gasped. Her mind went back, back before she knew time, to two parents who had felt this infinitely more than she ever would. Of all the people God chose to raise the Son, he chose a poor couple with a rough year behind them. The Incarnation had not been lauded by bestowing honor on the house of a recognized ruler. The Incarnation came, as it came into the world, into the arms first of two people - two honest, tired, hard-working, poor people. Mary had no registry; the only female support mentioned was her cousin; and at the end of an uncomfortable season, she had to ride cross country on a smelly animal, with no concern shown her stretch marks, or her pocketbook, or her heartburn. How ill-equipped she must have felt. How worried Joseph must have been. A miraculous pregnancy meant not only stares from the townspeople, but a family to support, off the bat. No booties from well-wishers to the new mother: when the time finally came, her precious child was welcomed into the world via a slobbery, hay-filled feeding trough. This was the Son of God.

Where Mary gleaned her comfort from, she could not be sure; but as she wept in the bathtub, she found comfort in the ways of God to bless the poor. And then she found the voice, whispering, nudging, convincing, that being poor is not a punishment; that God honors the poor with children; and that God found favor with her - even when she failed to remember it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Physician, Heal Thyself...

Have you ever met a mother of spoiled brats who tried to give you parenting advice?

Have you ever known a stingy man who always expected your generosity?

Have you ever known a Doctor who failed to take care of his own health?

I'm sure we all have experienced the teeth-grinding frustration of dealing with a person who does one thing and prescribes another.

And now we come to The Government: the last time it asked citizens to make sacrifices that the government itself was making was probably World War II. Women and men were willing to cut back, to grow Victory Gardens, to do without butter and new winter clothes, all because of the War. The British even more so: getting bombed out of their homes, rationing continued for the Brits for years after the Nazis were routed. They managed.

Being currently laid off, I have no health insurance. Sweet husband has no health insurance. My middle-aged, pastor Mom has no health insurance.

And none of us want Acme Government Health Insurance, wrapped up like a Loony Tunes package that arrives on the doorstep only to explode in your hands when its picked up.

It's highly amusing to me to hear The Government lament Big, Bloated Businesses and Inefficient Care.

Been to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles lately? The Post Office? Your accountant at Tax Time?

Personally - divisive issue as it is - personally, I feel that for American people to invest in a tax-raising, Government-run health care program would be giving our cash for its clunker. (The Cash for Clunkers program, by the way, was a fiasco.)

Do you trust an obsessive spender with going out and doing all the shopping? Or would you trust a careful budgeter to do the shopping? Well, of course, it depends on what the person has done in the past: if she returns home with your groceries, to tell you that she bought things that weren't on the list, forgot some things that were on the list, and bought groceries for your neighbors with the money you'd given her, you'd be frustrated. "Don't let her do the shopping from now on," you'd think to yourself.

So let's think creatively about alternative options for improving health care. Most people acknowledge that health care in the U.S. has problems. What are some ways we could improve it?

Faith-based health insurance

Alliance for Advancing Nonprofit Health Care

Nonprofit health care cooperatives

Now I'm going to direct you to a fantastic video clip....because you see, Republicans and Democrats alike are having kittens over the fact that a Representative from South Carolina interrupted Obama's speech to Congress at one point. And all I could think of was the clips I've seen of the rowdy Parliamentary sessions across the pond, and how thin-skinned we can be over here. So, for a bit of perspective, and for your enjoyment...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fishwrap: Tossed in your Yard, or Up on your Computer Screen

There's a great Agatha Christie mystery called "A Murder Is Announced." Residents of a tiny English village are perusing their morning news papers over breakfast and scanning for gossip via the "lost and found," "for sale," and "wanted."

Upheaval erupts when a tiny advertisement space bears the words "A Murder Is Announced," complete with day, time, and location.

And the game is afoot.

I miss the days when everyone "took" the paper, or more often, multiple papers, daily. I like checking news online, and I appreciate the rapidity with which online news appears.

But I really enjoy the printed ink on news paper.

I like to have my cake and eat it too.

I hope you still subscribe to the daily newspaper: it's worth it. You can recycle it when you're done, but even if you don't, I think you'll enjoy it.

In the mean time, here are a few links to interesting stories around the web. So far, I haven't found any murders announced.






Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Evil & the Economy

There are many causes of suffering. I am not a philosopher, so my description of a few of the causes of suffering is not exhaustive, or painfully, dissectedly specific.

But I think it is pragmatic.

Suffering may be caused by prolonged anguish: physical, mental, emotional. Physically, it probably involves pain. Mentally, it may involve uncertainty: a young war bride’s uncertainty of her soldier husband’s fate, for instance; mentally, it may also come from indecision – a wavering on the brink of momentous decisions. Emotionally, suffering may spring from grief, loss, hatred, or guilt. Suffering may also relate to the anguish of unfulfilled desire, whether reasonable or not.

Some of these causes of suffering come from our own choices; some are outside our control.

That there is suffering in the world is undeniable.

But is there evil in the world?

If you are someone who believes in God, then your answer is probably “yes.” And, in fact, if you are an atheist, you may also claim to believe that individuals’ choices can reflect evil, in a rather broader sense, and not linked with sin. Plenty of atheists believe the Holocaust was evil, as do plenty of Christians.

A Christian philosopher of religion will often conclude that the suffering in the world – yours, mine, the AIDS orphan’s in Africa – that all the suffering springs from evil. Not evil as a dark, murky, foggy essence, but from choices made by human beings that separate humanity from God.

And any time humanity is separated from God, it suffers.

Suffering has existed for much, much longer than market fluctuations have. Suffering has weakened and exhausted humanity for much, much longer than mass layoffs have.

So what do we do about suffering?

Well, many people believe we should do something. We just often disagree about what should be done, because we often disagree about what caused the suffering in the first place.

And this is what I’ve noticed in the past twelve months: politicians of every stripe and shade are quick to claim a monopoly on The Solution. This, of course, means that they must also proclaim a set of causes: the American people are suffering because of taxes that are too high, or because there aren’t enough public services available for the marginalized, or because of the last Administration, or because of illegal immigrants, or because we don’t have government health care, or because we have too much government health care, or because we’re racist, or because we’re a minority, or because we’re laid off, or because we’re in debt, or because we’re not spending enough, or because foreign markets are more successful, or…

Now, I have my own ideas about what philosophy of government helps both to avoid causing suffering and to help alleviate suffering. I’m sure you do, too. If you’ve read this site for long, you probably know some of my opinions, at least.

But my purpose isn’t to throw an impromptu town hall meeting. My purpose is to chat about what causes suffering: because as simplistic as it sounds, politicians can’t cure what ails you. They can implement programs that are more helpful or less helpful, they can pass bills that will help or hinder you, they can make decisions that affect your prospects for happiness in this country, but they cannot eliminate the problem of evil – that is, what philosophers of religion call suffering in the presence of a good and all-powerful God.

I have a strong preference for a particular political ideology, and the effects its implementation would have on the world.

But I do not rely on it to alleviate my suffering. I’m not at all fatalistic, but I do believe that looking to the government to soothe my suffering will be an empty endeavor.

And I say that, being laid off, with a very ill husband, and expecting our first child.

In the very, very big picture, suffering began when Adam had to work the stubborn field, sweating and laboring outside the Garden. Suffering began when Eve screamed in childbirth, outside the Garden.

Suffering began with the choice to separate ourselves from God. And suffering will only be relieved, both now and in timeless infinity, when we place ourselves back into God’s presence. This is how those who suffer can bear it with peace, or joy, or humor.

As a Christian, I believe that God wants us to work to alleviate suffering in the world, as Christ did, whether it is through helping to provide grain to a starving village, or providing company to a lonely widow, or whether it’s even to help draft legislation that will extend good, and not suffering, to others – like bills against the global sex trade, or human trafficking, or for things like alerts on mass communication venues when an elderly loved one with dementia has gone missing.

The government can be a tool to help fight suffering and promote well-being; but it will not be the cure for suffering.

The Prophet Isaiah very clearly portrays that cure: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…”

And the promise is that in the end, the evil of suffering, economic and otherwise, will be no more. The lion will lay down with the lamb - or, put another way, the bull with the bear.