Monday, June 27, 2005

Notes from the last few days

Devin died last weekend.

The next day, an email told me that a woman in our co-op had died of cancer the night before.

Then I got a phone call telling me that the in-laws of another co-op family were killed in a car accident in the town next to ours, leaving behind two kids.

Yesterday, I met a family I know from the Internet for the first time. I became friends with the husband (Tim) through a theology group we're both a part of. I met his wife through email. They have a daughter who was brain injured by the pertussis vaccine. She now has seizures every day. She had one in the swimming pool while I sat with them drinking coffee. I watched in awe as they moved into competent, kind action on her behalf. Their once ordinary daughter has been forever altered by the insidious side effects of a vaccination designed to "protect" her from harm.

Missy (the mom) and I talked about heaven and whether or not it exists. "I need this all to make sense some day. It just isn't fair to Lydia."

As she spoke, I could hear how important it is to her that heaven is real, that there will be restoration and healing, another chance at life.

In my middle class, good health, white comfort, I realized I don't require life to make sense. I don't need the other side of death to give up its secrets in order to get through my days. My days are pretty good as they are.

But I'll bet the kids of these families whose moms and dad died last week need that comfort, that assurance. Missy needs it when she looks at a daughter whose normal life was robbed from her.

James Cone talks about the hope of heaven being an anchor for those who suffer in this life. He talks about how knowing that heaven exists and that freedom from oppression is the eventual, right end to injustice gives a hurting person, a hurting community, an identity to fall back on, to lean on in hard times. That's how the blacks in America have held on.

I wonder if I'm the anomoly then... Rich Mullins has a line in one of his songs that is whispering to me: "We're not as strong as we think we are."

Life is fragile and short. I don't know if there's a heaven. But I hope there is for my friends. They deserve one.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sitting close to the Boss

Just purchased two tix to the acoustic Bruce Springsteen Devils and Dust tour (August 1). He's coming to Cincinnati! So not traumatic at all in the purchasing department and we are in premier seats on the floor. Should be glorious.

Is he not the cutest?
Oh, oh come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

When an Invisible Friend Dies

Yesterday, I popped onto the Trapdoor Society (the website I host for women who enjoy self-education) and discovered to my shock and pain that one of our members had died of a massive heart attack on Saturday in the wee hours of the morning. She was 47 and homeschooled three children. Her oldest had just graduated from high school and looks forward to college in the fall.

One of her most recent posts to our forum included her calculations of how old she'd be when her youngest left home: 63.

I feel sucker punched.

This is someone I've known online for eight years.

We had a running joke about stupid movies. Biggest hit with both her kids and mine: "Kung Pao." Makes me smile thinking of our connection over inane films.

So yesterday while I drove around crying, Tim McGraw started singing "Live Like You Were Dying" where this forty-something guy discovers he has cancer and suddenly goes sky-diving and bull-riding and talks sweeter and looks deeper...

Taking my cue from Tim, I snapped at the kids and obsessively squeegeed the windows. I didn't spend the day enjoying my children or savoring the gorgeous weather or planning trips to the Rocky Mountains. Instead I got grumpy and ornery and flat out mad at death (and took it out on a few people around me).

What the hell is life? Going to the great beyond (if such a place exists) seems such small compensation for missing your child's send-off to college, wedding, first grandchild and on and on. And in this case, no chance to say good-bye. Just poof - gone, in an instant.

I cried and stomped and snarled and read and slept. I got up and walked like a zombie to my box of a jillion journals. I was hunting for one from high school for some reason, when I accidentally opened the journal chronicling my courtship with Jon.

Tears and more tears. In love at 22 - the over the top, head flipped, body twisting feelings of falling for someone godlike. Jon was a god.

And it was my mother who blessed the relationship first, who saw that it was the right one for me... How we need our mothers.

Life is fragile. We live just on the other side of death all the time and don't even know it.

Today as I went running to the tunes of U2, I could look back and realize I liked the decisions I've made in my life so far. I don't have to play catch up, I don't wish I'd done lots of other things.

Every time I've seen the chance, I've taken it (Thanks to the early influence of Steve Winwood).

I hope Devin had too. She seemed like the type.

I'll miss her.

Peace to all of you, my invisible, yet very real, cyber friends. Thanks for sharing your selves with me. We only have a little while to do so, so let's keep it up.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Eenie, meenie, minney, mo

New Testament Greek

Noah turned eighteen yesterday. So way cool. I didn't realize how thrilling it would be to have an adult for a child. We got to see him at his workplace (Barnes and Noble cafe) and watched as every person in the whole store greeted him, ribbed him, wished him happy birthday. He loves his job because, "the people are all so cool. I'm so lucky to work there." Apparently they adore him.

We've been trying to figure out what he is doing next year since he finished high school/home school. I am taking Ethics and NT Greek in grad school. Just so happens that the NT Greek class is both for under grads and grad students. When Noah heard I would be in a class that is focused on a dead language with an incomprehensible alphabet, he drooled. "Mom, do you think I could take it too?"

"Uh, sure."

So I emailed my professor who said if Noah could handle the tedium, he'd love to have him. Tedium? Noah spends the bulk of his online time learning Klingon and a host of other constructed langauges. For his birthday, he wanted a book called The Unfolding of Language which is about the origins of language. So dead languages have that extra special something... they're dead and nobody speaks them. [g]

What I discovered last week is that we could enroll Noah as a special student at Xavier by pulling some strings. I got the usual by-the-book run around at first, but persisted until I found a sympathetic dean in the weekend degree program. She is signing on the right dotted line to make it happen so that Noah can get credit without being a fulltime freshman. So now Noah will be taking the course for credit should he ever want to include it in a degree program.

The best part - we'll be in class together. I think that will be the most fun of all.

Can't wait to download the Greek fonts so I can post in Greek for other NT Greek geeks.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Paradise Found for Rocky!!

Thanks for all the input about dog care while out of town.

A local friend found a fabulous dogsitter for me! The best part... this family lives on 100 acres of exquisite grounds and houses three other dogs, an unnumbered quantity of cats (when asked how many they have, the thirteen-year-old daughter replied, "We're not sure... eleven outdoor cats, I think, and a few more indoor cats" I counted FIVE!!), one bunny and one baby python (yes, that's the strangling kind of snake). Clearly these people love animals.

Rocky sort of lost his head when we got there. He couldn't decide which lounging cat to chase first, which dog butt to sniff or what trail of pee to pick up! His head would go one way while his legs would bolt in the opposite direction. Those poor cats... cheap thrill for him. All the chasing pleasure a dog could want for the low price of $13.00 per day. Such a deal! Like a Carnival cruise.

The owners of this spectacular home (floor to ceiling windows on every side with chairs perched in front of them for viewing pleasure) have gorgeous gardens, bird feeders, hammocks, play equipment, and both a lavish deck/gazebo combo and sunroom enclosed in glass. I inquired if I could book a room after we returned from Italy. I promised not to chase cats for the non-cat-chasing discount.

The daughter is a 4-H veteran and will be the primary dog-sitter. At the end of our one hour visit, Rocky started to lose it. By then the 1400 scents I couldn't pick up were overwhelming his sytem. He started to shut down akin to a diabetic who suddenly has an insulin surge.

Clean this air of scents or I keel over and die! was the message.

When he went to the basement to meet the bunny (What bunny wants to be met, seriously?) and heard about the python and then saw all the dogs off leash at once while I was upstairs chatting, well, he freaked. He started barking, hacking and sniffing all at the same time (hack, sniff, choke, sputter, sniff, hack). I came to comfort him. He growled.

Matea (dog-sitting girl) called to him in her high early teen voice. He paused in his fit, trotted straight to her and licked her face. Licked her face - like what? When did they meet? Was this a secret tryst I had known nothing about?

I chose not to take it personally. (We can do that in our forties, I found out.) I took this love-at-first-sight interaction as a sign from the Non-Material Layer. Matea was pre-destined to be his sitter. Hallelujah! The NML must be saying: "This is the resort vacation your dog deserves. Reseve a bunk and send flowers and lambs' ears ahead."

So, dog drama is now over and I'll be able to go to Italy and enjoy Italian smells without guilt. That's how he'd want me to go, isn't it?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Not Guilty

Which isn't the same as innocent.

This Michael case reminds me so much of OJ. I wonder how it can go fairly or clearly with a superstar. I wonder if it is harder to put away our icons. Perhaps there is no way to convict him based on the evidence the jury saw. But it just doesn't feel right.

What does it take to reach justice?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Concentration Camps for Dogs

How to torture pets for $14.00 per day!

Rocky, our little neurotic rescue dog, is now about two years old and happily a member of our family (despite unnerving pee-in-the-living-room incidents due to the tendency of Ohio to get COLD in the winter). We are about to abandon him in favor of HEAT in Italy.

Our neurotic little dog needs to be "kept" for us. We've now made several unsuccessful attempts to get dog sitters for him so I called the local vet about kenneling.

Today, I got to see the kennel...


Picture Schindler's List for pets. Everything in black and white, dogs barking from cramped crates, shower nozzels overhead...

These poor little dogs padded back and forth in these too tiny crates, yapping at us... "I don't belong here. I'm part cat!" The vet said, "Don't worry, they calm down. They don't bark when we're not in here."

And how would she know that?

We were reassured that the dogs were taken out of their crates for five minutes of hard labor twice a day. And if we could bring our dog's favorite chew toys, that would help. At that moment, I slid a glance dog-ward and noticed nary a chew toy in a single crate. Probably confiscated at the first strip search and collected for sale on the black market.

I will not leave little Rocky in a concentration camp. I am not heartless. But I am getting a mite desperate. Help! He needs a home for only eighteen days. Pwetty please?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Two movies worth seeing

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the perfect chick flick movie, particularly for mothers and teen daughters. My teen daughter took me. I really loved it, in spite of some spotty dialog writing and some of the predictable story lines (leukemia does make an appearance designed to pull on the viewer's heart strings). Still, the acting by the quartet of young adult women surprised me. They brought originality and believability to their roles. Lots of tear-jerking moments. Lots of memories evoked from my history and those of friends.

I found myself wishing to be in a sisterhood (I usually loathe sisterhood movies) and to try on jeans with girlfriends. I wanted to make rules and break them. I wanted, in fact, to be sixteen again. That's its triumph.

I especially enjoyed the scenes set in Greece. Just the view of the white washed adobe homes tucked into the hillsides over the deep blue waters of the sea below made the rest of the movie worth it. Alexis Bledel plays the character of Lena whose only responsibility for the summer is to sketch Greece and fall in love. Works for me! She's got the best wardrobe in the movie too. And she was my favorite character.

Anyway, if you have an abundance of estrogen and a gal pal or teen daughter, go see this movie. Then stop by the thrift store for some vintage shopping.

Crash comes from an entirely different place and it seems odd to review both of these movies in the same post. Having grown up in the Los Angeles basin, I was attracted to the setting of the film even more than the themes, when I first heard of it. "Crash" explores the challenges of inter-racial tension, both the stereotypes and their origins. It also reverses expectations (how we are more complex than the stereotypes might indicate) by the last third of the film which packs a powerful emotional punch.

I found some of the racial slurs surprisingly direct (my experience as a southern Californian is that you don't say these things outloud for fear of being seen as a racist... not an attractive reputation to have in California). The movie explores repeated miscommunications through literal language gaffes as well as mistaken assumptions.

There are some supremely touching moments as well as the deepest kinds of terrors. The film is unrelenting in making you look. Living in Cincinnati where racial tensions between white police and the black community continue unabated year after year, I couldn't help but wish everyone would view this film. It not only showed us the basis for the stereotypes, but also the dangers inherent in imposed corrections to the problems. I came away feeling that no one has a solution, yet hopeful that humans would somehow triumph over hate in spite of the system.

Over it all, the white race continues to reign (unsteadily, uneasily, and even with some guilt). We do so by revising the rules that dole out benefits and blessings in limited ways, but these become twisted or immoral even in their attempts to be moral. Sandra Bullock played a role I could relate to - I grew up with women just like her.

Lots to think about in this movie. Visually, challenging and artistically conceived.

Monday, June 06, 2005

How hard is it supposed to be?


Sometimes when I wrangle with someone about faith issues, I'm told that I don't really understand the faith, that I've missed it in some key way. Perhaps, they reason, I never really did understand, never really knew God.

It's unthinkable to me that I could not have understood the faith "properly" enough to sustain it. I spent twenty plus years in it, teaching others about it, leading dozens and dozens of people to Christ, literally staking my life on my faith by moving to hostile places to share it, for example, with Muslims...

I prayed for healings, had words of knowledge, saw miracles (as we defined them), was slain in the spirit, led bible studies, spent hours upon hours praying (that deep meditative kind as well as the prayer journal kind as well as the breathing prayer kind), spoke in tongues, also railed against tongues (depending on what year you caught up with me as a Christian), attended weekly home groups, attended Bible studies for years, went to both John MacArthur's church and John Wimber's church (bastions of the two sides of evangelicalism), studied the Bible daily for years, read theology and the Christian classics (Lewis, Packer, Stott, Schaeffer, Yancy, and on and on), went to L'Abri, worked for a mission agency, lived as a missionary, listened to Christian radio, spoke at conferences, married a Christian, attended church every week, believed the orthodox tenets of the faith with all my heart, shared them and explained them to others, ghostwrote for John Wimber, wrote worship songs, worshipped, denied myself access to pop culture for ten years so that I would focus only on God...

I'm not sure what I didn't understand.

Some of my old friends are so slippery. They will read a list like the one above and find the crack - "Oh, she denied the culture. That's the problem. She didn't see God at work in the world." But if I had said that I had been in the world (which I was for ten of those years sharing my faith), then I would be told "Oh you were slimed by the world. You needed to remove yourself to get closer to God."

Is there no way to accept that someone went that far and deep into faith as outlined in most non-denom churches and then decided it didn't stand up to scrutiny, to testing, to reason? That it doesn't even hold together theologically?

I know one thing I never understood in all that time - that not everyone who calls herself a Christian sees Christianity through the expression of faith I outlined above. Christianity is much bigger than conservatives are willing to admit. They think they can just amputate whole groups and call them "non-Christians." It's galling.

Once you come to accept that other versions of faith may legitimately exist - wham. You are told: You never understood. You never really believed. You never really "got it."

Well, damn!

Why isn't it possible to understand and reject? What fear lurks behind that statement?

Is it possible that "understanding" is so shrouded that even those all the way in can't see it truly? Is that the kind of God we should worship - a God who plays mind games with his own children?

I don't mind if others continue to worship according to the creeds, according to the tenets of conservative Christianity. I'm on no mission to de-convert anyone. Rather, I'd simply like to be believed when I report my personal experience.

I was found and then I was lost.

I don't want my experience discounted just so the other person can protect herself from facing the fact that sometimes the three strand cord doesn't hold.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Shakespeare pix!

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Noah is the dashing long haired youth sitting in the front. He played Orlando.

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Here he is posing with congratulatory flowers.

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His grandparents flew in from California just for the occasion.

We took more photos tonight, but alas we weren't allowed to take them during the show. Tonight's performance was just as special as last night's. The director is a gem. He got emotional about it coming to an end. He told me that this group of students has become an ensemble. They went from being kids who act to becoming their own troupe. They got to know each other as actors, not just as friends. Their mutual admiration was evident in the generous way they act together. Such a supportive, non-competitive group of teens.

The Bard continues to bring bonding through the centuries.

Congratulations Noah.

Overheard: Inuyasha

From my kids' favorite anime cartoon...

"But why did the demons eat my parents? Why? Why?"

"Maybe the demons have reasons of their own. We cannot know all the answers."

Sounds vaguely familiar...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Noah Rocks!

I'll post photos after Jacob downloads them tomorrow.

What a great night! I can't express how much I love the Shakespeare company in this town. They have been our church, really. This group of actors and theater people are our niche that lets us know we fit into Cincinnati somehow.

Noah opened the play (first line) and took command of the stage. His character is love sick throughout which was fun to watch. He even got to "kiss the girl" (main character) at the end of the show and we had fun teasing him about it (she's a gem). Noah got to be in a couple of fight scenes but particularly a wrestling match at the beginning of the show. He and the partner in the match have been in lots of Shakespeare scenes over the years, even ones which included fighting (Tybalt and Mercutio being the most recent). We got such a kick out of seeing them go at it again.

If you have teenage boys who seem disinterested in Shakespeare, I always suggest teaching them to act out a fight scene. Stage combat quickly makes Shakespeare very cool.

I was especially gratified to see how much Noah has gorwn as an actor. Both Jon and I saw that he had composure, stage presence, a well-developed characterization and was both loud and clear throughout. He's taller than lots of actors and with his long hair, he really does have that Shakespearean look about him. He loves the language. He made the audience laugh as well as engaged them in the story. I was very proud.

I, too, was a theater kid in high school and was in every show we did all four years. My mom was a theater major in college. It was really special to be there together (my mom and me) watching the next generation perform and fall in love with the power of acting.

Jon and I've watched the Shakespeare camp performances for years. They usually do a scene with another actor that lasts about five minutes with some ensemble work. The camps only last a week. This was different. These kids have worked every week on this particular play since January. They've been together as friends who act for upwards of four and five years. There is a sense of community and culture that pervades their little band.

I loved what I witnessed. And I love that all these teens love Shakespeare. The baton is being passed to the next generation.


Tonight's the play!

Noah will perform as Orlando in "As You Like It" at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. He's a part of a local high school company that is directed by the resident company in town. Can't wait!

My mom and her husband are here to enjoy it with us.

Groundlings: High School Company