Sunday, April 18, 2010

Last Will & Testament

This afternoon, I spent a bit of time working on my will over at I know - a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon - what could be more natural?

After I wrote my directives, I thought I should share them this side of the grave.

Here they are.

Loved Ones,

While I've thought much about death, since the birth of Jack I've thought about something different - mortality. I hope to annoy, cajole and love you all for decades, but if you hear these words, I must have been summoned heavenward before I expected - hopefully not in a Wal-Mart bathroom, but none of us choose the day or the hour - or location. 

I love life so much. 

But I haven't stopped.

Where I am now, life is more Life-like, color more Color-y, music more than sound.
Read C.S. Lewis and you'll see what I mean.

If you pay attention to the cross you can't go wrong. Take communion regularly to remind yourself of this.

I want all of you to remind yourselves that I love to travel.
I've left behind some souvenirs for you all.

It's okay to cry - sometimes, or for a while. But I hope my passing brings some shouts of laughter, or you wouldn't really be remembering me, you'd feel artificially woeful.
Make my funeral a rowdy one, and I promise I'll see you again.

People think differently about saints. The possibility is open that maybe I'll be able to pray for you from this side of heaven's curtain. I hope so. You should know that I've prayed for people affected in the event of my death, so I've prayed for you, for this day.

Death is the last enemy. It's okay to hate it. Death is unnatural.
God is not the enemy. Don't hate God. Christ has tasted death for us.
Death is temporary. 

See you at the Rebirth of Creation. I'll be the one wearing red.


John, or surrogate -
Please furnish me with a simple, classy coffin. Unless I've got some money now. Then I want it bright, shiny, lipstick red. I'm not joking. I'll haunt you if you fail me on this.
My coffin is my last accessory, after all.

Do not cremate me. It's violence to the body and fails to uphold the reverence of the body that early Christians showed. 

Please request that Dr. Lester Ruth preach my funeral sermon; in his stead, there are enough pastors in our collective extended families to find someone. 

Serve the Eucharist at my funeral. This isn't an option.

Play the first song from Over the Rhine's "Good Dog, Bad Dog" album at my funeral.

Hold a wake the night before. Not a viewing, a wake. Tell tales, share memories, be Irish.

I want a simple tombstone shaped like the classic rounded "RIP" ones with vintage-looking font and a willow tree etched onto it. Willow trees have resurrection significance in death iconography, I can't remember why.

Donate my major organs, with the exception of my eyes and skin. If you've already harvested them, that's okay. I'm just a little vain about exteriors, is all.

Bury me in something green. I don't want to look worse than I need to.

Please play African Christian hymns at the dinner afterwards with a celebratory spirit and strong rhythm.

Tell John how much I love him, and what a good husband he is.
Tell Jack I love him at his fussiest, poopiest moments, and that he is my delight, and that the saints are watching out for him.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Silence in the Conversation

There have been times, in the midst of chatting amongst a group of people, that silence falls. It doesn't occur after a particularly shocking faux pas, but rather as a natural gap in dialogue. Usually, it happens among people who know each other just enough to find it extremely awkward.

This phenomenon is never helped by the person who inevitably pipes up, "you know, statistics show an awkward silence occurs every seven minutes during conversation," or "you know, studies show people can only allow an awkward silence to occur for nine seconds before someone says something. There. I've said something."

So no one can surround himself with interesting people all the time - and interesting people are often the prevention to awkward silences - it is best to be armed with something in the back files of your mind to share in a group setting. Not gossip. Not depressing news. Not inane rambling about yourself. Not inflammatory topics. (I acknowledge that "inflammatory" is relative.) Rather, something, as etiquette experts of old encouraged, that the whole group might find interesting.

I hope you find yourself befriended by people who allow occasional deep silences to permeate the atmosphere - silences of companionship rather than anxiety.

For other times, perhaps some of these stories will come in handy. But I trust your silence is a comfortable one.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Fever Fashion

It's that time of year.

The time that I, and all the women I know, are compulsively clearing out closets in a flurry of dust, garbage bags, and disgust.

Loads are carted off to Goodwill or garage sales. Wardrobes are critically assessed and mercilessly slashed. 

I finally got rid of a sweater I'd been very attached to. It was only a few years old.

"Few." HA. Try EIGHT.

"But it wasn't that long ago, it was only my junior year of college..."

This kind of thought sends me running to the bathroom mirror to look for wrinkles around my eyes. Luckily, I'm so pale the sun sends me running for caves, which has left my skin in excellent condition. White, but excellent.

When the dust settles and your closet may as well have one naked hanger drooping drunkenly from the clothes rod, you may ask yourself what exactly you're going to wear from here on out.

Well, I will tell you.

#1: This spring, wear pastels only when they've been very carefully chosen.

I know. Every fashion maven out there is strutting the pastel trend. But it was a dangerous pastel tightrope at the Oscars, proving the ubiquitous point that sometimes pastels bring out your color, and sometimes pastels wash you out and make you look like you're recovering from the flu, or simply aren't there and the dress is standing there on its own.

There is a range in pastels. You don't have to go so pastel it may as well be white. You don't have to look like a baby nursery threw up on you (although nurseries aren't the pastel transgressors they used to be). Take a color you already look good in, and find a pastel rendering of it. Keep the tags on the garment, because lighting in dressing rooms is notoriously bad. Try it on at home in natural light. Pay attention to whether it exacerbates undereye circles. And consider what your skin tone will become in the next few months: will you stay fair? Are you planning on using self tanner? Will you be outdoors a lot?

The Big Red Fashion Tip is this: just add a pastel in your accessories. Purse, shoes, scarf, jacket, cardie, large chunky jewelry, sunglasses.

#2: To Skinny Jean or Not To Skinny Jean: The Problem of Leggings

Here's my general advice. If you need a size Large in leggings, or larger than a size 10 in skinny jeans, don't wear them. I've seen leggings pulled off well by Extra Small's, Small's, and Medium's. Skinny jeans can probably be pulled off by a size 10.

But the buck stops there.

You can, however, try wearing leggings under certain skirts or casual dresses. Just be careful.

The Big Red Fashion Tip is this: you're probably not covering up as much as you think with a long tunic top. Your body is 360 degrees, even if your view isn't. And it's the wrong season to balance the look with large, bulky boots. Take the philosopher's advice, and Know Thyself.

#3: Stretch your moolah
Um, the economy has been terrible, and unless you're one of the wealthy who have actually been able to make money on the whole fiasco, you're probably thinking, "wardrobe? ha! I'm lucky I can afford toilet paper!"

Any ridiculous story of woe you have, I can probably match. But that's neither here nor there. 
It IS possible to add garments without restricting yourself to a diet of generic macaroni and cheese for a month.

The Big Red Fashion Tip is this:
 ~Look for basic items on clearance racks. In the past, I've been complimented on clothes from high end department stores - and on shirts from the Wal-Mart clearance section. I've been complimented on my antique engagement ring, and on my sale earrings I got for two bucks. A few weeks ago, I got several basic shirts in flattering colors from - yes - Wal-Mart clearance racks - for $3 a piece. But I also like looking at the Big Big transitional sales, like the 75% off time at Dillard's. If you're patient, you can get expensive items for the same amount you'd pay for cheap items - like the $85 shoes I got once for $17. A cheap equivalent would've cost me $17, but it was all about timing. 
[This hooded half-zip tee is $5 at]

~Don't invest too heavily in trend items. A few years ago, initial shirts were all the rage, and then *poof!* overnight they vanished.

~Consider alteration. If you have a great item that's still fantastic but you've slimmed down, you may be able to salvage it by spending $10 at your local drycleaner's to get it altered. 

~Educate yourself to recognize a good piece when you see it. Spend some time browsing on clothing sites that you can't afford. It'll help train your eye to recognize good design.

~Develop your own sense of style. Take into account your body type, your size, your coloring, and your lifestyle. Google something like "flattering style for a pear shape," etc. Then browse online and pay attention to things you keep returning to as favorites. Learn about your underlying skin tone so that you understand what colors will enhance your natural glow and what colors will make you look haggard and depressed.
**extra help on how to dress your body: 

~If you can't afford a wardrobe makeover, at least invest in a new haircut: everyone wants a fresh take on spring. And it's a good time, with the shift to hotter weather. Keep in mind special summer events you may be part of (weddings) as well as how your activity level will change, and what humidity does to your hair type!

~Keep a pair of bright shoes or sandals in your closet for the summer. There's a lot available in vibrant yellows, greens, etc. They'll add punch to your basic outfits.

#4: Mix Prints Responsibly
Friends don't let friends mingle too many prints. I'll be honest: this is a difficult thing to get right. My best advice? Have a girlfriend who's an artist. 

The Big Red Fashion Tip is this: Limit the number of prints you're wearing/carrying to two; or keep prints in the same color palette.

And remember, Sales Tag Sam mascot says "Keep the print smaller than your hand, and proportionate to your size!"

That's all for now. You can do it! Now go look fabulous.
Oh - and if you need a personal shopper, give me a holla.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Real Estate...In An Oak?

I ran across a few great headlines over at my friend Steve's site,, and, like the loving hostess I am, thought I should pass around a plate of them. Here. Have a cracker with goat cheese and dill - and an interesting headline.

Mmmm. Goat cheese and dill. That Pioneer Woman!

ANYway, to start things off, check out this story from the Wall Street Journal about upscale tree houses.

Oh no! This Newsweek article wonders if the economy is bringing about the death of the liberal arts. Perhaps in mainstream education the liberal arts are waning, but I'm also willing to guess that perhaps layoffs are encouraging people to branch out into skills they might otherwise shelve - like graphic design, or writing, or music.

Speaking of the liberal arts, check out this "Beautiful Mourning" blurb about a museum exhibit of medieval tomb sculptures. I would like a willow tree on my tombstone, because of its classical symbolism. (Anyone else think of those wretched commercials just now for frozen pizza - "What do you want on your tombstone?" menacingly growled, followed by the victim of an execution dreamily responding "pepperoni"?)

Oh, willow trees. How I want to plant you everywhere. Perhaps I'll write an ode to willows soon. There was an elegant, stately willow in my childhood back yard. It was a great deal of fun. Maybe it was an ent. That would explain a few things.

On a serious note, visit this page to read my piece about porn and violence against women. You can also read about my friend's outreach booth at...ahem...Adult Con. A lot of good came from that ministry kiosk, and I admire this group's moxie. That's all I have to say about that.

Except it's not. It never is. This month is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The majority of sex crimes go unreported. Please - if you have been assaulted, or if (God forbid) you ever are, report it. Help bring criminals to conviction. At the least, the DNA you provide from your assailant's evidence could show that serial assaults are happening. Go to your local Emergency Room. The nurses will be kind and discreet, and any news report will not include your name: assault victims are kept confidential. If it happened in the past and any exams or evidence are impossible, at least report it to the police. It will help give a more accurate picture about what's happening in the community - and most likely, they already have some suspected criminals. In fact, what you describe could match what five other women have also described. You can request a female officer to talk to. Just do it, and help protect your sisters.

Anyway, on a completely different topic, the next on the platter of story h'ors doevres is this unnecessary fiasco about a juvenile's contribution to a local faith-based art display on the Stations of the Cross. Okay, when you read about the local community context, it's evident that some people were concerned. But I actually think that the interpretive photograph was just fine.

Homeschooled kids. Always getting into mischief with their original thinking.

Well, the robins are out pecking away at errant worms, and trees are bursting into bloom. Main Street looks like the trees have been wound in fluffy pink cotton candy.

Eeyore's interpretation of this would mention that pollen counts are through the roof, and that everyone I know is talking about allergy medicine.

But spring is spring, whether or not I sneeze. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Smiles

Cheering for Kentucky...before they lost.

Laughing at a pun he just made...

Doing his hungry frog impression.

Playing sweet and innocent. Probably right before I changed the world's worst diaper.

Practicing his preaching...

Mama's favorite guys.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I'll admit it: I titled this post "synergy" just to annoy my friend Emily. 

Emily and I have a mutual loathing of corporate buzz words. But don't worry, we're both "team players" who like to "visioneer" our "imagined future".

Aaaaaand that's the mood I'm in today. I call it Sassy Smart Alec in Electric Purple. It's probably just derived from the obscene number of mini Cadbury eggs I've managed to eat today.

But let's put on our smart glasses and get down to brass tacks. What are smart glasses? They're the purely decorative specs my college roommate used to put on when she wanted to get things done, like schoolwork. And she was amazingly productive when she wore her smart glasses. As for brass tacks, I have no idea where that phrase comes from. Is it upholsterer slang? Carpet layer lingo? 

Anyway, this is our Round Table time, where I share opinions, news, and facts into the Void That Is The Internet. It's like I'm a one-woman episode of "The View." Speaking of which, while Elisabeth Hasselbeck is the panelist with whom I usually share the most in common, I agree a surprising amount of the time with Whoopi Goldberg. I wouldn't know this if I hadn't spent the last 12 months unemployed. But now I do.

So, folks, the *first topic* today is Why Stupid People Happen To Good People. There is some hugely negative press  floating around about religion - and it's not because religion is bad, it's because people are stupid - contra Christopher Hitchens.

Three big stories broke this week: the arrest of "Christian" militia members from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio; the ruling of a judge that the family of a fallen soldier pay for court costs in their complaint about that wacko "church" that demonstrates at military funerals; and the alleged negligence of then just church leader, now Pope, Joseph Ratzinger in transferring a pedophile to another congregation.

Here's the deal: the FBI raided militia sites of a group who considered themselves God's warriors. They had improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and had "breathed murderous threats" against law enforcement officers, plotting to lure them into ambushes by fake 911 calls. Now, I would call these people nuts, or lunatics, extremists, or imbalanced, but I wouldn't call them Christians, just because they themselves do. But when you watch the news, they are labelled a Christian militia group. With all due respect, I suspect that were they Muslim, they would be called an extremist sect that in no way represented the mainstream, and I request all media representatives to afford the same benefit of the doubt in this case. I don't know anyone - anyone - who thinks keeping grenades and bouncing Betties stockpiled is a good idea.

I do know a guy who's really into paintball.

But that's about it.

And I am glad that the FBI finally gave the reason for the raids, because there's nothing that will rile up conspiracy theorists hiding in the woods quicker than unexplained FBI raids on their camouflaged compounds.

The next story is really tragic, but involves some interesting twists. A "Baptist" "church" from Kansas - known for its shock-jock-esque website, - protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers. Somehow they reason that when servicemen and women are killed in battle, that that is God's judgment on America. Meanwhile, heartbroken families deal not only with the grief of the loss of their loved one, but the hijacking of the funeral by these nutjob protesters who carry signs that say things like "God killed your soldier." So a father of a U.S. soldier who died while fighting overseas finally took them to court.

The problem has been free speech: while everyone wants to protect free speech, most decent people also want to protect grieving families from having protesters show up picketing at their son or daughter's funeral.

Things have reached a boiling point: a judge ordered the soldier's family to pay court costs in addition to allowing these protests to continue. It's now going to the Supreme Court.

And in a strange, but good, moment, this morning on "Good Morning America" former Clinton administration member George Stephanopoulos teamed up with Fox News celebrity Bill O'Reilly to support this soldier's family and to call for some kind of action to be taken to protect other military funerals. 

It's possible they'll be able to work the "disturbing the peace" angle. However they're able to argue it, I believe that free speech can be protected while also protecting the families of fallen soldiers.

Finally, right in the middle of Holy Week, the Pontiff finds himself in hot water. New sex abuse cases have been discovered in Germany - and the current Pope was in leadership there at the time. Now, the Vatican claims that he didn't know about the transfer of a pedophile priest from one congregation to another. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But the fallout is immense: in Germany, when you renounce a religion, you register it with the government to avoid paying a church tax.

Filings have tripled since January.

A wry priest who teaches theology at Notre Dame explained this morning to TV viewers that there is no one who can ask the Pope to resign. People had been bandying about the possibility, but that is simply to fail to understand how the Catholic church works. If a Pope could be ousted easily - well, he wouldn't be the Pope. The whole point is that it's thought that he speaks for God, that he holds the legacy of St. Peter being given the keys to the kingdom - the Catholic church is a church of hierarchy. There is a lot I respect about the Roman Catholic Church, and there is a lot I hold in common with my Catholic brothers and sisters. But the Papacy is not like the U.S. presidency, elected every four years.

That being said, he has a crisis on his hands, and it will be fascinating to see how things unfold. Fascinating, not flippantly, ignoring the damage and heartache of the situation, but rather fascinating from the church history nerd, ecclesial studies angle.

On to the next topic: *mini Cadbury eggs*. They're yummy and delicious. They're the Easter candy I get every year. What's your favorite? Do you have something you make for Easter dinner every year?

*Sweet Husband used to do "Peep Jousting"* - putting two beloved marshmallow Peeps in the microwave with toothpicks stuck in them. As they expand, the toothpicks are thrust into the Peeps. Whichever Peep pokes the enemy Peep first wins. Thus "Peep Jousting."

I think it was a College Guy activity. I'm imagining a really messy microwave surrounded by a large crowd of yelling guys who are ignoring their schoolwork and laundry to turn Easter treats into a competition.

In other news, *I finally captured cute kiddo's smile on camera*. The problem is that he's so dang smart. Every time I'd hold the camera up to take a photo, he'd start concentrating on the camera, and would stop smiling. But BAM! Mommy was persistent, and finally got the picture. They'll be posted sometime soon.

*Put the movie "Glory" on your Netflix queue* - it's the best war movie I've seen in a long time. It's loosely based on the letters of the white leader of the first black battalion in the Civil War. 

*Facing the sex industry head on*, Here's a cool website my friend Chad from college has started.

Well, that's all for today's Round Table. 

But in more other news, *I discovered today I can block blog followers*. 

Which meant I immediately blocked "US Gov Info."

We'll see what happens.

I warned you - Sassy Smart Alec Electric Purple.