Sunday, December 31, 2006

Please help me choose the right one

I'm contributing one of my articles from the UPI column to a Best of book and need to pick one (or a series) that would be my contribution. My Ted Haggard piece got the most attention, but it was somewhat time-bound.

Here's the list of my columns. Would you mind letting me know which one you liked best and/or which you think would be appropriate for that kind of book?

Thanks in advance for your help. I have to let my editor know which piece by the 19th, but I'd like to sort it out sooner than that. :)

Bengals fail to win

Pretty much a microcosm of their whole season.... failure to close when it matters. It's not just that they get beat, it's that they lose when given the opportunity to win. And yeah, we hate the Steelers around here.

Bengals record: 8 and 8, no play-off, no glory.

A backwards season with a few high points of celebration. I love 'em, but I'm sad for them today.

In other news: Dave's Detroit Lions salvage a season with a win over Dallas! Who saw that coming?

(I like any team that beats Dallas.)

Tiger Woods to become a dad!

I'm thrilled for Tiger and Elin.

Can Tiger sustain his 2006 streak?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What an ex-Muslim says about his evangelical faith

Rob Asghar, over at The Great American Faith, has written a piece I wish I'd written. He speaks directly, without rancor, but with clarity and concern about the corner of faith I inhabited for twenty years.
In the wake of 9/11, unexamined American triumphalism has done much to convince me that, while a bunch of people claim to have been renewed by the Holy Spirit, the processes of change that I once saw as supernatural were merely natural, relating to how the human mind works.

I was first attracted to the teachings of Jesus as a teenager when the movie “Gandhi” touched on his “turn the other cheek” teaching. Christ seemed to stand the order of things on its head. This was radical and it seemed right. The rest of humanity struggled to fight selfishly and fearfully for their real or perceived rights, while Jesus was focused on something higher.

After 9/11, the evangelical church was the most enthusiastically pro-war bloc of all; this came as a special jolt to someone who had preached to his family that evangelicalism represented something different from other faiths. It was a jolt to see fellow congregants rationalize away any of the New Testament’s clear teaching on cheek-turning, and to do so with passion and zest. A few faithful evangelicals maintained that Christ’s teaching should restrain warfare, but they were theological liberals, not evangelicals. This raised a conundrum: the evangelicals are the ones who speak most dramatically of how true faith in Christ regenerates a person away from worldly concerns, and yet they seemed the most worldly of anyone.

Read more here.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Project 365

Have you heard of this?

Lots of my online friends are going to attempt to take one picture every day for a year and log them online.

I'm utterly intimidated by the prospect of making a commitment that requires 365 individual fulfillments in a row! However, I decided not to let that stop me. I'm going to simply contribute a new photo as often as I can, attempting to chronicle some of my life over the next 12 months. And to help me get started, I posted two photos from the last two days to get a bit ahead. :)

I've put my flickr badge in the sidebar for those interested in following along. You might want to try it too and we can all view each others'. I started a Julie Unplugged 365 blog too, but may not use it. I'll see. For now, flickr feels like a better choice.

Let me know if you decide to take the plunge, er, challenge!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

How it looked to an Indian in India

If you ever wonder what it feels like to live in a country that is proselytized with the kind of diligence and thoroughness that India has experienced, this article captures something of the conflicted emotions that would likely result.

Ramesh is a wonderful writer, too. I felt swept up in his memories rather than bogged down. And that's not an easy writing task, trust me.

Five weird things about me

that you might not know from reading this blog. Thanks to Ampersand for tagging me. I don't thank her for tagging Susan and Dave since I would have tagged them both. :)

Okay, here goes (since I splay myself open regularly with blood and bodily fluids leaking from all orifices, it may be hard to pick things truly unknown about me, that are also interesting).

One: I once flew with Jon to Japan to be a maid of honor in a wedding without a Visa...

Said smiling Japan customs man in small white cubicle
while happy travelers were waved through customs and my husband (who had paid for our trip to my best friend's wedding out of his six weeks earnings on a fishing boat in Alaska) lost all color: "Cahn you sho-ten your stay to seventy-two hour?"

Can you spell heart attack? Somehow the arrival of my best friend with wedding dress in her mother's suitcase, some Japanese under her belt and perhaps an under-the-table crate of Saki got us an emergency visa which enabled us to stay for the required 18 day trip and wedding. Phew.

Two: I have perfect feet. (At least that's what Jon says).

Three: Three firsts in one evening at age 16: a concert (Jackson Browne), the smell of marajuana (though I didn't inhale) and the first of too many times I risked my life as a post pubescent female parking at night in downtown LA without protection (The Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, CA). What were my parents thinking?

Four: I'm allergic to cats in America but not Morocco.

Five: All five of my kids were born at home attended by midwives. I love birth and literally wept when I realized I'd never give birth again. Truly the happiest moments of my life.

And now I'm going to tag: Bill, Matt, Steve and Beth!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Guess who?

Would you have guessed Lincoln said that?

In that spirit of surprise, who do you think said the following?

Once again I'm having one of those weeks when I don't read the Bible much; I never quite know what to do about it. I have no feeling of obligation about it, and I know, too, that after some time I'll plunge into it again voraciously. May one accept this as an entirely 'natural' mental process? I'm almost inclined to think so; it also happened, you know, during our vita communis. Of course there is the danger of laziness, but it would be wrong to get anxious about it; we can depend upon it that after the compass has wobbled a bit, it will point in the right direction again.

I'll give some hints throughout the day if they are needed.

Hint #1: Not an American

Hint #2: Brother-in-law was Jewish

Hint #3: Wrote letters we still read today

Hint #4: Knew the cost

Hint #5: Loved Negro Spirituals

Also, how do you feel about the Bible these days? Do you read it? Why? If you are in one of those seasons where you don't read it, how do you feel about that?

Fond Memories of Ford

Of course I'm old enough to remember President Ford, the only unelected president in American history. I remember well Nixon's resignation speech which I watched on my grandparents' television while visiting them one summer in Chicago. I remember Ford's fumbling (ironic that the media would highlight his trips and stumbles given his illustrious athletic history), his genuinely caring look and the healing he offered our country post Viet Nam and Nixon. I always felt a little badly for him, as though citizens saw him as a president who didn't really deserve to be president. Still, the transition of power from Pres to VP demonstrated one thing clearly: our system could withstand a failed president without missing a beat. And that is a comfort, if you stop to think about it.

My other memory of Ford has more to do with the election he lost. I remember the way Jimmy Carter's bigger grin easily beat Ford's apologetic smile in an election where the Republican party had completely lost credibility. I can't help but think about Nixon, Ford, and Viet Nam as we enter into primary season in 2007 during an equally unpopular war and amid controversy about the efficacy of a Republican leadership team... Those Dems seem primed to fill the vaccuum.

I want to add Dave's blog post on Jerry Ford too. Excellent.

What do you remember about Ford? Did you like him?

(Btw, we just passed the mark where more Americans have died in the Iraq war than died in 9/11.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

to all my dear blogging friends.

How could I get through this NFL season without you? (Brian, I almost called you just to commiserate after tonight's botched snap for the final extra point to tie the game.... )

But soon, we'll be done with football and back to the rest of our online lives together. Thanks for enriching mine and for all the ways your blogs have changed me, spoken to me, entertained me.

I hope to write a bit about the previous year later this week and will save more reflecting for that piece. In the meantime, may your egg nog be spiked and may you kiss someone you love under the mistletoe.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why I love Christmas Shopping...

Yeah, okay, the cynics all hate it because, you know, it's materialistic and we shouldn't be happy when we're spending money because that's proof that we're buying into the big bad empire of the US... And honestly, yes, Americans do spend more than anyone at this time of year. Jon and I were noticing that the landscape of our towns is all brand new shopping developments. Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Target, Office Depot, Staples, Dick's Sporting Goods, Costco and lots of insignificant non-chain stores fighting for survival crowd every strip mall and busy street packed with stressed shoppers and aggressive drivers in their parking lots.

No leisurely walks through snowy towns for us. Just flat out races to get iPods and the latest Wii.

Still, I don't care. I love to shop for Christmas anyway.

The check-out lines are long, yes, and it's true that the "Disney Scene It" DVD game was not in the first six stores I checked and when I found it, it was the LAST one and I had to grab it before someone else elbowed past me to nab it and I did actually condescend to purchasing it at Walmart even though I never shop at Walmart and know the kids will cross-examine me about where I bought it...

The thing of it is: I love giving our kids presents. I love to get them things they want, things they need, things they aren't expecting.

Last year Johannah asked only for a donation to the Elizabeth Galzier Pediatic AIDS foundation and I gave the gift amount she asked for and then bought her a skirt anyway and she cried. This year, Jacob told us that he has everything he could ever want. He couldn't even think of a list. So he put one game on his Christmas list when pressed to make one anyway, and it was this Disney game.... which had mysteriously gone out of stock in every Target in the universe, including the Amazon toy universe (serious lack of game-age for my boy). I was disconsolate (great word!).

So today Jon and I braved the stores again. We found ourselves wandering the aisles of yet another Target searching in vain for the game I knew was the only thing Jacob did not possess to make him utterly fulfilled and happy, and tore my top open and lamented outloud (as I am wont to do in stores) that EVERY Target in the known Ohioan universe was out of the only Important Game for Christmas, when a woman, who couldn't help but overhear me (despite covering her ears with both hands and two packages), said (to get rid of us, I thought): I just saw it over at Walmart.

Well knock me over! Being a hyper extrovert pays off at Christmas! So we got details about just which of the 17 Walmarts between that Target and our home she meant.

Then we barrelled out the door into the oppressive traffic and inexplicable rain (no snow?!) and headed to the store. Jon dropped me off where, OJ style, I leapt over shopping carts and small children as I skidded to the toy section of the store. And there, nestled between the Friends and Harry Potter Scene Its was ONE remaining Disney Scene It.... Yes, the last one.

And I nabbed it.

And felt like I'd just purchased Jacob stock in Apple (his preferred gift I'm sure, but hey, who can afford it?).

Pleased as punch am I.

Beyond this, Jon and I merrily shopped for the rest of the brood, talking about each child, the wonderful growth in their personalities, their varied interests, their enthusiasm for life and growing up and all that that can only mean to parents. And I thought: We get to do this once per year. What a treat.

Should Christmas be about materialism? Maybe not.

But for us, Christmas is about a concrete act of giving for the purpose of making each other supremely happy. It may mean lots more than that, but if I'm honest, that's what the kids remember and love about Christmas too. Seems like a great way to spend the end of every year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mother Teresa

Kansas Bob has a list written by Mother Teresa that brought me comfort today.

I liked these especially:
What you may spend years building, someone may destroy overnight... build anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow... do good anyway.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm Time's Person of the Year

And so are YOU!

Lisa sent me these quotes from the article:

"...look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

...It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter."

I love this! Made my day. I felt validated in the best way - that all the attempts at community, the writing, the reading, the sharing, the connecting to people I would never meet in a hundred years IRL is worth something. That maybe dialog is less intentional and more opportunitistic. Perhaps blundering into the other is better than organized symposiums led by academics, maybe sharing what you really think with the Internet and discovering if what you think even matters is better than smugly contenting yourself with your own opinions and assuming they make sense...

And what about the wonder of YouTube where no one is left out, where we can enjoy what we missed, where people work for nothing to see someone else experience their pleasure? Perhaps a little selflessness is possible in this era of self-promotion after all.

Sometimes we look back wistfully at the days when "young ladies were so accomplished" (ala Jane Austen) with their tatting, rug knitting, piano playing and watercolor painting decrying that no one has the chance to be creative or original any more because of all the expert musicians, photography and mass production of everything we need.

But no one counted on the pedestrian power of technology. Anyone can play today, thanks to the free access Internet and the wonderful platforms designed for Every Person's use. You don't have to be a computer/website expert to play.

The imagination and creativity exhibited in blogs, websites, forums, discussion groups, online videos, photo galleries and more show us a populace hungry for sharing. I love thinking about people putting in creative energy and time just to share a silly video with the world hoping to create a shared enjoyment with someone they've never met.

I remember last year when I stumbled on the forums for Brokeback Mountain what an epiphany it was to discover a community of several thousand equally impacted by that movie. It led to a grassroots campaign to raise money to run a full page ad in Variety Magazine that dubbed the film "Best Picture of the Year" after it lost at the Oscars. We wanted to thank all the creators and actors for their marvel of a film. The result of that move (made possible by friends of the film from around the world who are a part of the forums) led to an interview with Annie Proulx and a response from Diana Osama.

The members of the forums have now created a book which is a compilation of comments by members that describe the film's impact. A few of my remarks made the cut. I feel honored to be a part of that project. The book's been created by a dozen volunteers as a work of love, no pay, and all proceeds going to charity.

That's the Internet. That's why I love it.

Inhale. Sigh. I'm inspired.

What do you love about the Internet? Where do you hang out and what keeps you coming back? And do you agree with Time's Person of the Year choice?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Of tests and Christmas

That's me looking happier than I feel sitting in the Xavier library. :)

To ponder:

Why would a Catholic University schedule finals week for the Monday through Friday before Christmas on the following Monday?

Yes, that means I am writing a final this week... and it is not finished. I should have worked on it last night rather than watching the re-coronation ceremony of one Peyton Manning.


Off to study. See you on the flip side.

Update: Finished! All I have left are Works Cited. For those interested in what I'm writing about, I used this article as one example in my discussion of globalization and justice: vis a vis the environment.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Can the bad boy Bengals beat the Colts tonight?

As a measure of just how devoted this city is to its team (come hell or DUI arrest), our little homeschool co-op is holding its winter program tonight... and moved the start time from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. when the parents mutinied and said: We can't miss the Palmer v. Manning bowl on MNFL just for Christmas cheer in the form of 25 little kids singing carols.

Ah, Cincinnati.

This article on does a great job of analyzing why the Bengals may be surging while other teams are fading... maybe their team culture is a little bit different than the usual team because of the risks Marvin Lewis has taken in drafting throw-away players. Who knows? Intriguing theory anyway.

But none of that matters to this city. If TJ and Carson can hook up, if Ocho Cinco can catch a couple in the end zone, if Rudi can shred the Colt defense, if the Bengal defense can keep Peyton off the field, who knows what post-season we're looking at. That's all that matters to Cincinnati tonight.

Update: Hey Jon! Can you add an extra shot of rum to the egg nog? Toss me the Tylenol while you're at it. Anything to numb the pain...

And may I ask: why do teams recover from their disastrous play when they play us? Couldn't the Colts have saved their collapse for our trip to the Dome? Hmmmm?

Guess who's coming to dinner? Everyone!

This week's column is the first in a series that will deal with postmodernity. As I've thought about values, virtues, morality and ethics over the last four years, I've discovered that there are particular qualities that we can cultivate in ourselves that are more suited to navigating postmodern waters than the usual suspects like kindness, honesty, courage and so on. It's not to say that these aren't important. On the contrary, they may be even more important today than ever. But they need an upgrade: honesty 2.0, kindness 2.6 and so on.

Postmodern virtues may in fact be more like adding RAM to your computer - a supercharge that makes the usefulness of the traditional virtues more effective and swifter to access.

Today's article sets the stage for that series.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Four tips for a pretty good marriage

I wrote these the other day as I thought about the wedding I'm attending tonight. Our dearest friends from Morocco and California days are watching their son walk down the aisle. I met this boy when he was 18 mos old and toddling in diapers around an apartment in Fes. Amazing.

He is marrying a lovely young woman and as I thought about the fact that they are about to establish a family whose ties are built not on blood, but on their choice to commit to each other, I couldn't help but wish someone had also shared a few of these principles with me 22 years ago. (In fact, I kept thinking about the fact that while today is an unbelievably happy day in their lives, I know as surely as my dog pees in my living room when it's cold outside that they will both make each other cry and feel pain and anger unlike what they've ever experienced before.... so that made me think: what might have prevented a few of those tears in our own marriage?)

I'd love you to add to the list!

First: Want for the other person what that other person wants.

If one person loves TV and sports, then don't resent it, don't nag it away, don't attempt to manage or control it. Bring the bottle of beer and show interest.

If one wants to buy a new kayak, help that person budget it in and go shopping.

If one wants to travel every year to see best friends, make a plan to see it happen.

If one wants to go back to grad school, to start working, to stop working, to move to a new city, to put the kids in school or take them out, to have more babies, to have fewer....

Listen to what this means to the other person before expressing all the reasons it can't happen. Really hear why this change is critical to that person's well-being. Really look in an exploring kind of way at what benefits to the whole family would come from this change. Look at the emotional well-being that will result for that person before seeing all the reasons it will ruin yours.

Then, begin to imagine you both can have both. How can the primary breadwinner quit a job to do his own thing without losing your home? What can be done incrementally to make that happen?

Where might you move? If moving ends up not being realistic, can you vacation there? Can you move in five years, not this year? Can the elements of the new place be found where you already live? What does moving relieve about the current situation?

Agree to help the other person realize his or her goals, hopes, wishes, wants, interests…

Second: Take responsibility for what you need every day.

If one person wants the living room vacuumed every day, that's the person to do it. It's not a role that is assigned to a gender. It's a desire that can be fulfilled by the one with the desire.

If the personality of the spouse does not match the expectations on that spouse, get over it. In other words, the husband may never be the financial wizard in the marriage... and neither will the wife. So hire out or bumble along... but neither one gets to criticize the other when a bill is paid late, or no one knows the balance…

Same with things like making dinner, organizing the basement, washing clothes...

One person can't require the other to be what he or she is not. If you are disappointed that your spouse is not a handyman or a housewife, grieve it and then hire out, do it yourself or lower your expectations. Real life is like this.

Third: Ask for what you need/want, take responsibility for it... don't require it, don't guilt the other into it.

I would love to have sex right now because I'm bored and can't sleep. Do you mind?


We haven't had sex all week. Why don't you want to? It seems like you never want to.

Fourth: When you can, give the very thing your spouse needs from you.

There is nothing like saying: I have no idea what to do about dinner! I am swamped!

And then to hear: Don't sweat it. I'll order in Chinese.

So much better than: You knew you'd have a busy day. Why didn't you plan better? We're all starving in here.

It’s great to hear after a long day at work:

You’re stressed after working and need time away from the messy house? Go see a movie, honey. I've got the family covered.

Beta Blogger Comments... answered

Looks like the comments timing out or giving error messages is a bug Blogger Beta is working on. So if you can't post a comment yet, it should be possible soon. The workaround is to log into google and use your google user ID and password.

Or you can email comments and I'll post them.

Or you can lurk. (I am discovering that there is a universe of lurkers....)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Woo-hoo! New MacBookPro

That's right. I'm typing on my new fifteen inch. Silver, fast as lightening and it has this groovy little photobooth gadget (takes your picture using lots of effects right out of the top of the screen).

Yikes - my teeth look like they have glow in the dark gel lathering them.

And yes, those are my new reading glasses, one of the many gifts my forty-fifth birthday gave to me, reminding me that I'm halfway through the journey of life.

Quick beta blogger question

I made the switch but some of my friends say blogger now won't let them post comments, even anonymously. Anyone else have that problem? How do you fix it? My settings are to "anyone" for who may comment.

Btw, if you do want to leave a comment and can't, email it to me and I'll add it for you. The other option is to register with Google.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's the end of my online world

as I knew it...

For those who don't know, I used to run a women's forum. Operative term: used to. The original name/community may go on, but my role (founder and moderator/owner) is coming to an end as of January 1. We've been together for seven years; I hosted the first retreat when 13 women came to my house for the weekend having never met in person before. We've met five other times since.

If any of you have planted a church, started a group, organized a book club and it grows into precious friendships, you probably have some idea of the pain I'm in. The worst part, however, has been continuing to invest in people when we don't share the same goals.

I started with a desire to offer mothers at home a way out of the dailiness of household duties. We could talk about books, art, music, movies and faith online. This was back in the early days of online communities. A group of us started out together on a discussion board and it quickly became a popular place to read and chat, argue and laugh. One of the primary planks of my original goals included a desire for diversity - the idea that it would be great to get to know women whose ideas and life experiences were different than mine. I admit to being a bit of a junkie for new stuff. I love to examine and experience difference. It's not enough to me to read about a foreign country, I want to be overwhelmed by it, to live in it, not just visit.

And I was a former missionary. Seeking out worldviews besides mine has been my spiritual DNA since Campus Crusade in college. I've never been a part of the lockdown "enclave" culture of homeschooling Christianity.

As I've changed in my own spirituality, my reasons for wanting to know others has also grown. There's so much mischaracterization of anyone different from us that it seems important to know people on their own terms, to understand them for who they say they are, not who my group thinks they are.

So I had this idea that discussing the humanities in a diverse group of women would lead to enriched lives. In that group, I pictured Muslims, atheists, Jews, agnostics, all sorts of Christians, rich, poor, working and stay-at-home moms, feminists, traditionalists, all colors, and even different nationalities (though I had no idea how we'd find them). I knew it would take time to organize a climate that would be inviting to such a disparate group and contented myself to begin with who I knew: Christian homeschooling mothers.

I know--sounds counterintuitive and it was. Why would I think homeschoolers (the group known for withdrawing from the culture to protect their children) would be open to and interested in the even wider culture of our globalized world?

Well, they said they were... at least, they were as far as other Christianities were concerned.

Over the last seven years, among us, several reformed Protestants have converted to Catholicism, some of the conservatives have left the faith all together, and others have simply modified their understanding of Chrisitanity to include ways of being Christian they had not known or understood before. Lots of parenting and schooling changes occured, some of the women were unhappily divorced, others brought new friends to us that changed our group from mostly Republican to including a few Democrats.

For me, every addition of a new perspective charged me and made me feel I was tapping into this larger world. I brought what I was learning in grad school to the table with me to share and discuss. It felt exciting.

But something happened, particularly in the last four years. Conflict over religious beliefs grew. Rather than being able to hear a perspective and simply understand how it works for the other person, debates about which ideas were more true became common. Those debates at times led to deeply hurt feelings. To cope with the hurt, some members stopped posting in threads about religion or controversial topics (homosexuality, feminism, agnosticism, goddess worship) and some of the agnostics et. al. quit posting all together feeling unwelcome.

Over time, I gradually realized that this group did not ever really buy into the original vision. In point of fact, when I started the group, I was still an evangelical Christian. As I've changed, the anxiety about where I would "take" the group grew and I felt it.

Finally, this past month, I realized that the community needed to be set free from my aspirations. It was extremely painful to say goodbye to my vision and to watch friends I have loved show such relief at having the chance to define themselves away from the desire to know other people and points of view. So many of them have now said proudly and boldly that they never supported my vision, that theological discussions seemed "weird," that they had no interest in nor were curious about what a Muslim or atheist thinks, blah, blah, blah. It's pretty stunning, actually.

What I don't understand is this: How can traditional Christians of either Protestant or Catholic extraction criticize the media, Muslims, atheists, scientists and secular humanists for mischaracterizing Christians when these same Christians don't even want to know those people, or read about their ideas? Why would non-Christians have an accurate understanding of Christians they can't know and who don't want an accurate understanding of them?

And one last question: Have any of you seen an online discussion group succeed at fostering diversity in their conversations? If so, where?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Turn left at the Freedom Center, cross the bridge

and find yourself at the new high-tech Creation Museum:
The museum's aim is to bring Genesis - the first book of the Bible - to life for all ages, and promote the belief that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Everybody who works at the museum has to sign on to the belief that the living Earth was created in six 24-hour days - rejecting the convention most scientists view as fact, that life evolved slowly over millions of years.

To hammer that point home, two smiling children clad in tasteful animal skins, work and play alongside a pair of baby Tyrannosaurus Rex. "You go to some of the major museums and dinosaurs are their teaching icon," said Mr Looy. "We're going to turn that on its head, and use dinosaurs to show that the Bible presents the true history of the world. We have people, and dinosaurs, together."

Yet another great reason to visit me in Cincinnati...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

For the record, let me state: non-stop flights are worth all the extra money. Ask me how I know? We took the slow boat to San Francisco - you know, that direct route from the home of the Bengals to the land of Tony Romo, and then you guessed it, ricocheting back up to San Francisco. Ah the logic of cheap airfare.

Worse, my mom and sister live in Santa Cruz/Watsonville so after the long flights into outer darkness, we still had a ninety minute drive to complete. Fortunately for me, I phoned ahead and a lemon Snapple was chilled and waiting in my mother's ever-ready cooler in the car. Remember that next time any of you pick me up at the airport. Cure for the grouchies.

We had a faboo time that I ought to catalog with adorable photos of nieces and nephew, but I know how tedious that becomes (plus, I hate uploading photos from my digital camera... I don't know why).

So instead, this is just a quick note to say I'm home, I face a ten page written final research paper due next Monday, 30 essays to grade tonight, Jacob's winter holiday performance (also tonight), 300 emails, countless registration payments for my business to log and enter, year end taxes, AND Christmas shopping. So blogging may take a few days to crank back up.

But if you want to talk sports, I'm here. Did you see the drubbing the Saints gave the Cowboys? Made my day! Missed the Bengals but got the report from kids and hubby who watched and Tivo'ed on my behalf. Such devoted family. Love these two losses: Indy and the Pats.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hello from Rainy California!

We had a glorious sunny day yesterday while at the Monterey Aquarium, but we are now an inch deep in rain here in Watsonville.

All is well and the two kids with me (Liam and Caitrin) and having a blast with their cousins. I wish I had something profound to share but alas, no time to think.

I will recommend the "Elle" magazine article about Barak Obama. Read it on the plane. Outstanding. The excitement for Obama builds. He's my age (45) and that feels interesting too.

I know Ampersand has swooningly devoted more than 30% of her blog to Obama, but what about the rest of you? Are you aware of him, entranced by him, smitten with him, worried about him, suspicious of him?

See you soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Heading out west tomorrow

to give those Bruins some love!

Not really.

I'm taking the younger two kids with me to see my niece as the lead in a musical in California (northern). I'll be checking in and hopefully posting some while gone.

See you soon!

Dialog despair

Today I feel like giving up.

I remember talking to one of my professors about conversations I have with friends who are still of the mainstream, traditional Christian theological positions and my frustrations in feeling so often that the conversations were like a one-way valve. As long as the conversations affirm their "truth" (the real truth, not truths), everyone is at peace. As long as I stay curious about their views, we get somewhere. Yet I feel a curious lack of curiosity about mine.

Dialog by definition means being willing to allow for contrary views to sit inside you a bit, to hear how they work for others, to accept a person's reporting of how those beliefs work and so on. You don't have to agree. But if someone says, "Agnoticism makes me happy," we have to start with believing that person, not discounting the experience. Otherwise, the dialog becomes about showing the person that agnosticism is a delusion and the happiness is not real. Take Bart Ehrman... that's exactly what people say. He can't really be happy because he's an agnostic. He can't possibly teach about the Bible because he loves it; he must have an "agenda." Hello, why agenda? Why not the same thing everyone else has - a desire to share what they think, believe, know, understand? And why wouldn't that make him happy?

Dialog means accepting a person's reporting of her experience as true for that person - that the person speaks authentically for herself. Agreement is unnecessary, but risk is. We must risk assumptions. That means the diehard postmodernist must risk the assumption that fundamentalists are mean-spirited every bit as much as the fundamentalist must risk the assumption that postmodernists are by definition immoral, and so on.

Perceptions are about all that can change. I rarely expect anyone's real beliefs to be moved by dialog. But perceptions are huge! If I disagree with someone, but also respect her, I will defend her right to see the world the way she does because I hope she'll also defend my right. And I hope we'll like each other.

So how do we encourage or facilitate dialog? I have tried very hard to restate what others express, using their words, attempting to see their viewpoint without injecting mine into it, even when I don't agree. I work hard to see the internal logic, the beauty, the rhythm, the source of peace or joy that the belief gives even when it has not been that for me. I offer curiosity when I can't offer agreement.

Through online relationships, I feel I've grown to appreciate many beliefs I don't hold - I can see why Mary matters to Catholics, I admire the way daily reading of the Bible and believing the words are from God to "you" personally changes how a person lives, adds depth to a person's experience, allows someone to feel close to God. I understand that believing in God leads to purpose, piety and passion for many people.

Yet so often, I feel that a similar sharing of my ideas, my beliefs, leads to corrections or counterpoints. Rare is the person who doesn't share my beliefs who says, "I can see that you are much happier now and you find meaning and peace in your life through x, y and z." No. The people I enjoy reading are labeled dangerous. The thoughts I have are not allowed to breathe, but require a comment of disagreement - and then the right to disagree is thrown up as the reason for that comment.

These corrections are meant to be gentle or are seen as the offering of a counter point. But the truth is, if someone can't say back: "I get it! I see why you see things that way even when that doesn't fit my understanding of the truth," then we can't be dialog partners, let alone friends. How can you expect my support of you if you can't give it as well?

So getting back to my professor, when I shared all these frustrations and asked what is to be done to encourage dialog between conservatives and liberals, his response surprised me. "Why do you keep talking to them? They don't value dialog."

Well of course he's right, but then I don't see how dialog is a tool for greater mutual understanding. A huge chunk of the world doesn't believe in it.

I feel hopeless today about ever creating a world of peace, let alone maintaining friendships.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The hell with hell

Today's column is up!

No time to edit so it's longish. Ideas are still evolving on this topic. If you have some to contribute, I'd love it. It's my contention that the danger of most human beliefs is the lack of encounter. If we say we believe something without having been overwhelmed by the genuine experience of it (where you get up-ended in your expectations, assumptions and resources to cope), you have not yet experienced it sufficiently to render a judgment.

A corollary: encounter is what transforms, not information, data, facts or beliefs.

In defense of religion

I loved this article by fellow UPI columnist. Ben Daniel is one of my favorite writers there and this article specifically addresses those "new atheists" led by Dawkins. You'll enjoy it.

Here's a taste:
It is true that religion has earned a well-deserved bad reputation for inspiring humans to wage cruel warfare upon one another, but science has enabled us to kill with unimaginable ferocity, and there is nothing particular to science that inspires the forgiveness and reconciliation necessary to make peace. That's the work of religion.

Strange Bedfellows

Rob A over at GAF wrote a terrific op-ed about being Muslim in America. Check it out.

No one wants the Rose Bowl

Isn't is ironic that the two teams (USC and Michigan) playing in the Rose Bowl are disappointed? Thank you, BCS, for making the traditional bowls consolation prizes.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

In cliff-hanging upset, UCLA over USC!!!

Just getting my headline ready to go.

UPDATE: OMG!! 1:01 to go with UCLA in control of the ball: 13-9, can this be happening?

Gutty Little Bruins, indeed, Steve!!! Looks like snow in hell tonight.

Upset of the year. Oh yeah. That win makes my football season. Hats off to Dorrell and the whole team.

P.S. Looks like my headline was exactly appropriate, Bill. :)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Who dey?! Yeah baby, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout

Carson does the jersey proud. Number 9!

Gotta send out big Bengal hugs to Carson and TJ!

Flea flicker play for the TD.

Carson said he knew TJ was open by the crowd! Who knew?! The big surprise, though is the Bengal defense that looked like an entirely different team. They p-owned (as my game playing son would say). Almost shut the Ravens out (a last ditch effort at a TD with just over a minute remaining meant the Ravens got on the board). But then a short, pop-up onside kick sealed their fate. Bengals caught it and kneed the last two downs.

That was all she wrote. We're back in the wild card hunt! Oakland next week.