Sunday, September 30, 2007

Who knew I'd be a beast at fantasy football?

Barring a 400 yard 6TD passing game for Randy Moss on Monday night, I look to be a shoe-in for the win over this week's opponent... Thank you Tony Romo, my hero. That would mean that I will have gone undefeated for the first 4 weeks!

What that looks like in my house? Something like this:

Go Arizona! Stop the Steelers. Oh wait. Is Roethlisberger throwing to Santonio Holmes. Catch it, catch it! Woo-hoo! More points.

Last week, I rooted for the Saints to win but kept yelling at the TV, telling Drew Brees not to pass because my opponent had him as his quarterback. TDs through the passing game counted against me, but a TD based on Reggie Bush running into the end zone didn't so I wanted incompletions and good hand offs to Bush. That's how nutty this gets.

In other news: Had a great breakfast with my favorite ex-Muslim, ex-Evangelical, self proclaimed Universalist who follows the Dao, Rob Asghar. We found out that we are both utterly correct in our conclusions about theology, faith and God. And to think I was just one coffee away from that epiphany! Mark today as the day it all got solved. :)

Thanks Rob for the coffee. (I can't thank you for the blueberry crumbcake as I want to blame Barnes and Noble for putting out Thursday's bakery goods on Sunday morning.) You are too much fun. Glad you have family here so we can meet again.

Also, sooo glad you gave me the scoop on STEVE NORRIS. I am fully prepared now to enter his south Pasadena world fully warned, er, pleasantly prepared. :) Steve! Can't wait.

For the rest of you, that's code for I'm going to Los Angeles all by myself this week! Dad is treating me to the Notre Dame v. UCLA game. It will be a treat for me. I expect slow-torture for my poor Fighting Irish dad. Still. There's always the beach.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I'm reading a book called Jim and Casper Go to Church. It's written by our friend Jim Henderson (creator of Off the Map conferences) who co-wrote the book with an atheist. He took Casper to church all over America in an attempt to get an "atheist's" perspective on evangelical Christianity, particularly as churches attempt to draw seekers.

The writing is good enough, the story sufficiently engaging.

Here's what jumps out at me. The atheist offers honest feedback on everything: the insipid lyrics of most worship music, the forced friendliness of ushers and church greeters, the insider lingo used by pastors during sermons, the lack of practical action points ever delivered in those sermons, and the amazing amount of money needed to sustain mega-church corporations. Jim does mostly a great job of hearing him, letting these observations stand, not dismissing or arguing them away.

Yet as I keep reading, a nagging irritation persists. I realized what it was this morning as I was also reading along at Jesus Creed. One of the chief concerns of evangelicals is to be sure that they are perceived as friendly and seeker-sensitive, able to make the Gospel message relevant to non-Christians. Ironically, for all that effort, the atheist in six trips to church calls that effort contrived or failing. Why?

Casper, the friendly atheist (as Jim calls him), comments that at each of the churches they visit, only the official greeting teams are friendly to them, but it feels forced. Otherwise no member of the churches goes out of his or her way to say 'hello' or to genuinely welcome them to the church. Jim's response to this observation was to suggest that he'd like to offer a workshop to evangelicals that would train them to smile and say hello to newcomers. Casper's reaction was classic: "They would need a seminar to learn how to do that?!?" Jim replied (I think missing the point) that the irony of the workshop would be that it would only teach smiling and saying hello, showing evangelicals that they can make a difference through simple gestures.

An additional conversation develops about the fact that one pastor who does go out of his way to converse with the pair of them tells Casper that as an atheist, he will not be able to understand the sermon as it contains spiritual truths Casper won't be able to grasp. Casper is mystified. Jim states in the book that this pastor had not yet learned how to "talk to an atheist" because after all, Jim had, and what Jim learned is that "atheists like to be asked questions." Huh. I had thought human beings liked to be asked questions, not just atheists.

So far we have two workshops to offer to evangelicals based on Casper's observations:
--Workshop to teach evangelicals to smile at people they don't know.
--Workshop to teach evangelicals how to "ask questions" of an atheist.

Maybe they should offer a workshop called, "How to remember what it was like to be a regular human being."

If being an evangelical means you lose your ability to smile or ask questions of other human beings, hasn't something about you, as an evangelical, been changed and damaged due to your conversion? In other words, regular human beings without religious agendas smile and say hello every day, they ask questions of people they meet, they don't start conversations by telling them that they won't understand the words they utter. Sure, the band meeting at school may not produce a flurry of smiles and handshakes, but the stated purpose of the meeting isn't to create community, either. If evangelical Christianity is about spiritual growth which ought to result in deeper human connections, why do they struggle so much to relate to regular people? Why do they need "special trainings" for ordinary human behaviors?

Then this morning over on Jesus Creed, I read the 87 comments on the thread called Dinner. In that thread, Scot McKnight asks,
Which is worse for the kingdom — the generous, kind leader whose thoughts sometimes wander from the traditional or the brash, abrasive, mean-spirited leader whose theology seems straight as an arrow? What do you think and why?
"Worse for the Kingdom?" Why is that the concern? Shouldn't the issue be: Why is a man with supposedly good theology mean-spirited? Why is a generous man suspect for having wandering thoughts? The Kingdom of God is not a "thing" that can be damaged. There's no "such thing." The KoG is within you, it is all around us, it is the activity of God (not the appearance of kindness or rightness).

Evangelicals bargain with reality because the "appearance" of being "spirit-infused and therefore better than the world (either kinder or more right)" must be sustained to validate evangelical beliefs. If the KoG is threatened by a mean-spirited man, then he must change. But if we decide it is not, then his mean-spiritedness is not of real concern. It might make interesting discussion fodder, but the truth is, what advances the KoG (however that is defined - usually for evangelicals it means winning souls) comes first. Therefore the real issue for the church has to do with the convincing appearance of being good, right, kind, true, and superior, rather than actually being those things or at minimum, real, honest, and human.

Getting back to Casper and Jim, then, my thoughts as I read were: Can't you see, Jim, that your agenda (though you claim not to have one for Casper) is how to make evangelicals more palatable to atheists (as though atheists are all of one uniform voice, anyway)? It ought to be: What is wrong with evangelicalism that we change from human beings like the rest of the world to those who alienate, irritate or condescend?

Put another way: When will evangelicals give up their obsession with perception (how others see them) and rejoin the human race?

It strikes me as an utterly non-spiritual way to live and view the world, not to mention a gold-plated path to hypocrisy.

**Caveat** I know I'm broad-brushing. What I've discovered in my reading of evangelical books and blogs, in the thousands of meetings I've attended in my 25 years of evangelicalism is that usually non-Christians are categorized and sorted according to type (atheists, unbelievers, secularists, humanists, postmodernists, rebels, back-sliders, other religions, liberals, heretics etc.) with little interest in nuance or variation or even the possibility of spiritual vitality in their lives. Evangelicals believe they need peculiar insight into these various unregenerate groups in order to make themselves relevant enough to convert a few. But they aren't usually interested in learning from these other groups of people. It's a one-way valve. Even Jim's questions of Casper are still about what Jim's world of Christians can do better to speak to atheists like Casper. The questions are not about how the atheist worldview has anything to contribute to the spiritual lives of evangelicals.

In this entry, my thoughts are based on how the evangelical community strikes me when reading them as a group, represented by writers who speak for them. I'm comparing how they represent themselves with how I think they've departed from what it means to share humanity with everyone else. I'm critical, but I hope not mean-spirited. I suppose that is for you to decide.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Smarter than a sixth grader...

Sitting across the table from my happy 11-year-old made me feel young and old at the same time. I appreciated her the way a grandmother might and I loved her the way only a mother can. It was, for me, a single moment of pure pleasure. One that I won't forget. In that place, that night, I had a feeling of well-being, of giving my daughter the best gift - quality and quantity time with me... I look back fondly at those few seconds remembering that I was blissfully unaware of the u-turn that would follow.

Caitrin and I took the black and white scrunchies off of our napkins at the American Girl cafe and the server told us that the small black polka dotted box with a pink bow on it had conversation starters in it that we might enjoy (she plays fast and loose with words like "enjoyment" clearly).

What is your happiest childhood memory (for the adult)?
Caitrin: What? I don't have childhood memories? I'm answering it. Um. Hmmmm. Let me see. I know! My favorite childhood memory was laughing all the way through "Nacho Libre" with Dad. ::giggles::

Who is the funniest person you know?
Caitrin: Oh Dad, for sure. He's so funny.

Who is the smartest person you know?
Caitrin: Oh my gosh. Sorry Mom. I really am. But Dad. He's the smartest person I know. I mean he's just so smart. I can't think of anyone smarter than Dad because he just knows ::giggle:: everything!

So for the purpose of this blog, let's review, shall we?

Best childhood memory: Dad
Funniest person alive, even more than Jack Black: Dad
Smartest person ever to inhabit the known universe: Dad

Reassuring comment at the end of the American Girl "conversation aka attack of the self-esteem of a mother" questions: "Don't worry Mom. When this weekend goes into the past, I'm sure it will be one of my favorite childhood memories, like Nacho Libre."

Hmm. On the other hand, I'm still not funny or smart.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Back from Chicago

Lots more coming but I've got papers to grade and football to watch. And who's looking forward to House and CSI this week? More importantly, how about The Office? What will happen to Pam and Jim? I just have to know!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Simply living

Backyard window
The house holds memories and clutter everywhere I turn. Noah must intend not to be forgotten as he always leaves a pair of shoes and one shirt each time he visits. As of now, I have two pair of shoes that belong to him, two shirts, an electric guitar and a cassette player with Lesson One for Klingon in a stack by the door. I intend to return these personal items to him when I bring his "back to school" lasagna to his apartment tomorrow.

Johannah's stuff is everywhere. She left her make-up bag, one pink and gold shoe (its mate made it to college and then came home having forgotten it's left foot match), her Smart Car (tiny toy Italian vehicle that makes happy music when you open its door or turn on its motor), and oodles of books. This morning I found Jane Eyre and her ACT preparation book sitting on the entry bench.

My "office" (a make shift space in what ought to be a dining room) is littered with file folders of new students, lesson plans, homeschool worksheets, the first week's assignments waiting for grades and a box of Gevalia coffee I intend to open for tonight's first PHEN meeting.

I can't begin to describe the exhaustion I feel. My mind is limp. My imagination vapid. I've lost all energy to think, process, examine or reflect. I wonder why I ever cared about anything intellectual, why I've worried about faith (what it is, whether I have it, what God thinks about it all).

Instead, I read Vanity Fair over morning tea and gleefully circle Tuesday and Wednesday of next week on the calendar. Why? Those days mark the return of House and CSI: Las Vegas.

That is so not like me!

So I decided to give in to it. I'm letting myself be. I'm being with myself. Yoga emphasizes that we must only go to our edge, not beyond it. When the muscles send signals to the brain insisting that I "back off" of that particularly tough stretch, I'm supposed to obey. I'm not supposed to say, "Forget your face - I'm stretching! I was a gymnast a million years ago so I should be able to flatten my tummy to the floor while my legs are spread eagle." I've learned to love my body by listening to it.

It occurred to me that I'm at that tender edge spiritually, intellectually. I may have had all the energy in the world for mental yogic postures for the last four years in particular. But today, I don't. All the years of intensity followed by the quick, important exits of my oldest kids into the "other world" have left me quiet in front of a computer screen and backyard window. Sometimes I do nothing at all, but sit and try to remember what I'm supposed to be doing. Then I get lost in a thought and notice a squirrel run up the tree branch and I come to.

Liam and I are watching birds again this year. We'll watch them, record who comes to our feeder. We'll think of new treats to give them so more will come. We're learning ornithological terminology together - a new world of words. I never tire of new words. That feels like enough challenge for a little while. It feels just about right.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy for now

Happy for now, originally uploaded by juliecinci.

We're back home, no longer one big happy family. Little fragments of the Bogart cosmos have whisked themselves away and we who are left at home, feel it. Noah, first to leave, discovered that he liked being the only one gone. Suddenly it seemed strange that he can't come home whenever he wants to and find Johannah there with the rest of the home bodies.

Jacob assured me that he isn't ready to leave home, for at least three years. Convenient as he is 15 currently. :)

I'll post more as soon as my desk is cleared. I've entered the world of Facebook to keep up with my far flung kids and scooped up along the way Jo(e) (who is apparently in love with her toothbrush), Kim (who has the hots for Rod Stewart) and Dave (who is up for "random play" and we all know what that means! wink, wink), as well as a pair of Ricks. So if you have one, add me as a friend. After all, I may as well maintain yet another Internet space to add to my (embarrassing) four other blogs.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Jets, spies and videotape"

(Got that title from ESPN's sports minute)

So the Patriots are cheaters. That revelation ought to be as stunning as the use of HGH. If Bill Belichik is to be considered the greatest football coach ever (some argue best coach of any sport ever), cheating can't be on the resume. I think Clayton and Golic and other commentators are too quick to say that the Patriots Superbowl wins are not related to the videotaping of defensive signals. Those games were won by about 3 points each time. If they have an edge (know what's coming defensively), doesn't that give an advantage that might help them win? The videotaping isn't so that they can admire another team's smooth and silky hands. They want the signals to know how to set up plays against the defense. If Belichik built their system around decoding defensive signals of other teams, then we can't know how Belichik coaches without that verboten help.

The Patriots have been the franchise to admire. They've been above reproach in every way. The Pats - a dynasty. And now? What do we say now? Cheating taints the whole franchise. Belichik - a coach's son. Shame on him. Eric Mangini (Jets coach) tells the NFL that this practice went on even when he coached for Belichik.

Does this cheating taint the NFL or only the Patriots?

We'll see how it turns out. Disappointing. Wrong. I hope Goodell slaps them hard. I'm hoping he fines them a first round draft pick.

Edited to add. I've thought more about this. I think the punishment should be:

Jets 1-0
Pats 0-1

That would send a real message right now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Not unlike labor

My first contractions usually came at night. They would be strong enough to alert me to them, but not so strong that they overwhelmed me. I'd waddle to the rocking chair, find a book to read and begin the rocking back and forth watching the clock and jotting notes about the minutes between the hard crunches across my stomach.

I'm one of those annoying women who didn't mind labor too much (at least pre-transition labor... then it's a whole 'nuther story) and had all five babies at home. I did have one very difficult birth, but the whole thing only lasted forty-five minutes so... yeah. I know. Shut up. :)

In any case, tonight I'm pacing the floors and looking for that rocker. I want tea and a book. I want a blanket and soothing music.

My oldest girl is leaving home. There are half-packed boxes everywhere. And suddenly she doesn't know how to pack them. She must have me. Never mind she's had all summer and half of September. 36 hours remain and she must have my help. I'm annoyed. Cranky.

I want the room cleared of debris, but much of it has sentimental value: the script from Random Acts of Shakespeare (her second of six summer camps), silver heels from the prom, a red diploma, origami cranes she made with an old issue of Real Simple magazine strewn across the floor, scarves and perfume and that silly drawing a friend made in her psych class, Jane Eyre and Harry Potter stacked by the bed, pieces of paper that all have OSU letterhead and meant something Dire and Important only months ago (now irrelevant yet taunting - did I forget something? Is she really going?)...

Then there are the piles of sweaters and hoodies and skirts. Johannah wears skirts. She's got scads of them and they each have a clip-on hanger. Two suitcases are full and we're still washing clothes. I looked at her sideways while packing: "I thought you said you had No Clothes..."

"Oh Mom. I wear most of those t-shirts working out."


"They don't take up any space."

And they don't. Not really. Six of them are from Shakespeare Camps anyway.

Still, I keep wandering through the cluttered halls, agitated. Like labor. The pangs subside and I go back to working or writing or shopping.

Like Sunday. At Costco. I walked through the aisles with Caitrin. Quaker Oats Granola! Johannah would like that. I'll get it for her... oh wait.

And just like that, transition. A strong pang. I sucked in my breath. Breathe I reminded myself. My eyes stung, my gut cramped. She won't be here to eat it. And then it was gone. I moved down the brown sugar aisle.

The pangs are coming closer together now. I change the loads of her clothes from washer to dryer. Zing. I inhale, imagine Johannah's smiling face at a football game, and it passes.

Right now as I type, in the other room four kids (who still live at home, who still include Johannah) are rolling dice, laughing and trading cards. Twinge. Another one.

The baby's on its way. I feel it. Only a couple of final pushes and she'll be out into a whole new world. But this time, without me. My big girl. My young woman. Her own person. Not a baby any more.

I wish theology were more like sports

True to my fan-gurl self, I've been sports obsessing for what feels like years but is only about two weeks... since football returned to HDTV. God who? Imago Dei what?

I went back to read some of the blogs and discussion groups I frequent where we hack through the theological rough with a sand wedge and realized I'm bored with the talk (at least for now). The atmosphere is so heavy, like bricks tied to your cleats. Where's the enthusiasm? The face-painting? The trash talking of theological opponents? For the love of Chad Johnson, can't we bring the sexy back to theology?

In his honor, I now give you "my sexy."

T-shirts that spell T-U-L-I-P on the front.

On the back:

T-otally going to heaven

U-totally aren't

L-ike ever

I-'m in

P-resbyterians rule!

2 Timothy 4:7 Iron Man
(Aka "The never-been-licked" FedEx Envelope)

"Run the race" - Pastors sprint/jog/crawl from local church to nearest hospital carrying Large Print KJV Bible under one arm and serpentine staff in the other. First one to Intensive Care unit and healing a patient wins leg one of race.

"Fight the good fight"
- Pastors armed with memory verses in their own tradition hurl theological insults at opponents while striking each other's cheeks. First one to turn the other while granting forgiveness takes this round. (Must sweat blood before forgiveness can be granted.)

"Finish the course" - Remaining pastors plunge into frigid waters where they will swim seven (the holy number) miles to a float. Then, while artificially induced winds are conjured from an overhead helicopter, pastors will walk on water back to shore. Those who sink are witches and must be burned at the stake (oh, wait, that's a different game, sorry). Correction, those who sink, must swim declaring every third stroke, "I, of little faith." First four back to shore enter final round.

"Kept the faith" - The final round requires climbing a rope in a mega church gymnasium. Pastors must hoist the week's offering in one hand while climbing. Offering goes into FedEx envelope which pastor then licks and seals. While hanging, pastor addresses envelope to one of three choices: Planned Parenthood, Muslim suicide bomber family relief fund, Britney Spear's wardrobe assistant.

To win, either a) send the money (proving you love your enemies as Jesus commands), or b) persuade a panel of Free Thinkers that you are inhibited from finishing the Iron Man on theological grounds. (Good luck with that.)

Member Mike: So Thom, the offensive line at church this week really rattled the congregation.

St. Thom: True that. The announcement that gays will be married in the church offended a significant number of the church's defenders. We'll have to see how the secondary handles this one.

Member Mike: Apparently the pastor's two-a-days with the staff will focus on heavy-weight Scripture lifting to build up out-of-date theology.

St. Thom: Not so fast. The elders will hold the line. They've got big bucks on their side. I'm predicting a cosmic clash of economic proportions.

Member Mike: Not if the pastor makes use of his first round draft pick: Jesus Seminar member, Ring MyBels, from "Hipper than Thou Seminary" on the east coast. Did you see how that guy muscled his way to national notoriety through his blog?

St. Thom: But who reads him? Fans, to be sure. But the haters are a much bigger group.

Member Mike: The future depends on a quick, strong, offense who spreads it out over the net. Defenders, in the end, are never as compelling.

For the win!

So let's review...

Tiger makes history, the Bengals defense reverses history and I entered history with my first ever win in a fantasy football clash with Ampersand's husband.

This means I get a week two days off until it all starts again. O.M.G. Now I know why sports fans are addicted to beer.

May have been a mistake to skip yoga last night...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tiger takes care of business with a 63 in Chicago

...which means that even if Phickelson wins next week, and Tiger comes in second, Tiger still wins the Fed-Ex Cup by 20 points. :)

Had to watch golf over the Bears. Can't stand them.

What a great day of golf. Best round I've seen by Tiger in the last year. (-8 under) Anyone else watch?

Should have added that that is PGA tournament win 60. Read the article to see just how historic today's win really was (as they seem to always be).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mais Wii

Mais Wii, originally uploaded by juliecinci.

Jon's impulse buy has turned out to be the perfect family game. Tonight we bowled, golfed, hit tennis balls, boxed and I missed pitches. Lots of them. Similar to how I miss them when the bat is made of wood and I'm standing over home plate.

I've been meaning to write about Deep Things like the meaning of life, faith, doubt, forgiveness (and the fact that maybe we just don't need it like we think we do)...

But even all of that hasn't mattered as much these days. Between homeschool, substituting for Jon, parent-teacher night, planning my co-op classes and spending my free time playing with the kids or IMing with my fantasy football league during the opening of the NFL season... life just feels good, connected, meaningful, right.

So my brain thought: "Why on earth did Jon buy a Wii for no apparent reason?" But tonight my heart says, "I'm so glad he did."

Sometimes I spend too much time finding reasons and not enough time appreciating gifts.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The never-ending list

Johannah will attend The Ohio State University which is on the quarter system which means that there are exactly two college-bound girls still living in our area while the rest of her senior class has already moved away to college, returned for a visit over Labor Day weekend and left again.

Those two girls will attend University of Cincinnati... also on the quarter system. They are three cheerless girls right about now, I tell you.

So far, Johannah and I have spent the summer with a very sexy credit card. We've bought Brand New bedding, Urban Outfitters sweaters, several pairs of shoes, plastic containers for under the bed, next to the bed, in the closet, a hanging bag for all those *&$^% shoes, winter gloves, two pair of pants ("in case" it gets cold, since she wears skirts full time at home), shaving gel and razors, nail clippers, new bras, decorative pillows that match the adorable duvet cover, a digital camera, shampoo, a new journal, hammer and nails, the all important flip flops for the grungy showers floors, totes for things, totes for other things, deodorant in a new fragrance, picture frames, feminine hygiene paraphernalia (though not the recommended stash of condoms and sponges on most lists), an alarm clock, a daily planner... you get the idea.

The floor in her room is covered in a lava flow of "what every girl needs for her dorm room but is afraid to actually fit in it." I shudder to think there will be FOUR girls in this one teensy tiny room with the same "list" of necessities. I keep thinking we've finished the list... and she keeps telling me we have as we leave to buy "one more thing."

So two days ago, Johannah jumped in the car, opened the brand new planner and announced: "I have a few more things on the list."

"No. Say it isn't so..."

"A lock for the computer."

"Oh, yeah, well that. Okay."

"And we still need to get the shower curtain rings."

"Yeah, I guess so. Okay."

"And ex-foliating cleanser."

"Wha.... the eff?"

She rushed ahead... "I know I've never used it, but I'm going to college and what if I need to clean my face? I mean, probably college is a time to start exfoliating, you know? And what if I get there and I'm like, 'Oh no! I need to exfoliate and there's no cleanser'? That would be awful!"

And then she smirked and giggled, cocked her eye-brow and looked sideways at me in the car. "Well, I might need it, right?"

"Good grief!" I laughed.

When the list grows to include things she's never used... it's time to go. Though I'll miss the never-ending list.

And her.

Thursday's the day.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Paid in full

As good as I am at stringing together hoards of letters to create paroxysms of literary panache, I'm equally bad with numbers. No, that's not right. I'm worse. I'm utterly unequal to numbers in any form. The sum of my output related to numbers divided by absent ability and negative interest is absolute zero... Therefore, when it comes to things like "University tuition online QuikPay payment services with drop-dead due dates," the leaning tower of numbers (student IDs, tuition amounts, health insurance waivers requiring insurance card identification numbers, due dates, bank routing and account numbers, and login and password numbers) collapses on top of me, leaving me half the person I was prior to the fateful transaction.

Truth is, I honestly can't remember numbers. When I read, my eyes skip them. I can't ever tell you if Russia has 10 nuclear warheads or 10,000 (or half of one leaking away...).

So just forget about dates and rates.

And I do.

I forgot my own SSN for three years (put the wrong one on our tax records and never noticed until one day I woke and realized it was the wrong one). I didn't remember the right one for another year! I gave the wrong four digits for my cell phone to the T-mobile contract guy for an hour before realizing I had given a home phone number digit set not my SSN.

I miss birthdays, I never know the balance of my checkbook, I can't count silverware for company (I usually grab a handful and hope it's enough), and the idea that you could know (I mean KNOW) that you've kept a record that matches the bank's for more than a week is beyond my ability to even fathom. I gave up checkbooks and ledgers fifteen years ago when I thought we were in the hole $500 only to panic, add twenty-two wrinkles to my crow's feet and then come to find out we were not only in the black, but ahead! That's how bad my math is, even with calculator in hand.

So imagine the terror I feel around college tuition deadlines. It's like hooking me up to a car battery, standing me under a shower and turning over the ignition. I'm jolted awake at midnight, hair standing on end, convinced I've missed a deadline or forgotten to transfer the funds or not sure if we have the funds in the right account... and on and on. Add one child and the exponential increase in anxiety defies statistical calculation!

Yet here I am, I testify! I have successfully paid for two (count them T-W-O) college tuitions for this fall, without debt, student loans, late fees or mistakes in typing, all online, all without a glitch.

Double the joy, halve the anxiety, all the relief.

And to think I'll be going through this process three times a year for a total of twenty years by the time all five kids have BA's. How many payments does that make? Good thing I have NO idea.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Phikelson wins.... Grrrrr.

Tiger put up a good fight, but it wasn't enough this time. He looked (dare I say it?) disinterested, until about half way through the tournament. Phikelson's shot into the hazard put him within reach and Tiger had multiple birdie opportunities to put the pressure on. Unfortunately, not enough of them dropped.

So Phil wins and feels really happy about it.

Phikelson reports that he may not be in Chicago for the next leg of the FedEx Cup because the commissioner has not honored requests he had (these remained unnamed) yet was expected to show up at the play-offs to support the PGA. He added, "Oh and my daughters start school on Wed. and they have soccer games etc. I'd like to go to, but we'll see."


Meanwhile, Tiger went without playing one of the tournaments and is in third place in pts.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Pacific Ten Conference

Brace yourselves. NCAA football season is here which means this blog may become littered with inane posts about the team I root for as well as the team I love to hate.

But before I alienate some of my favorite bloggers (while charming others), let me state right here that we Angelinos on both sides of the sun and surf ball can come together. It's true. There is a uniting force larger than our cross town rivalry.

Give it up for... the Pac Ten.

As a southern Californian in exile in the middle west, it gets more than a little tedious to hear nothing but praise for the Big Ten and SEC, as though every program west of the Mississippi is the equivalent of Tomahawk football, lucky to be in big boy college ball. Insulting. It's not the west coast's fault that their games are never aired in the east, or that their time zone renders them unwatchable when the games start after 7 p.m. PST. USC is not their only powerhouse (three programs ranked in the top twenty-five right now) and SC's schedule is tough because they play every other Pac Ten team all season long... a punishing schedule some experts say.

Hey Michigan - why don't you try that? - playing every Big Ten team all season long? Choosing Appalachian State as your opener - shame on you! Planning a trouncing in the first game of the season to bolster your standings in the BCS.... And a trouncing it was... for Appalachian State! I'll bet you'll get sick of hearing that this was the BIGGEST UPSET IN SPORTS HISTORY! Yeah, it sucks to be you today. (But my Buckeye-bound daughter is all smiles this morning and she doesn't even like football.)

Back to the Pac-Ten.

USC may have a machine-like program under Pete Carroll, but we can't forget the other teams... like, oh say, the Bruins? UCLA beat those Trojan tushies last December 2, 2006 in a game for the decade, ruining SC's dreams of a national title and sugar plums dancing in their heads. Ahhh. One can never relive that moment often enough.

But back to the Pac-Ten.

USC, UCLA... What about Cal? Last night they played the much vaunted Volunteers (the Golden Bears were beat 35-zip last year when they played in Daniel Boone country). It was a real football game where both teams were evenly matched, where scoring happened at regular crowd-pleasing intervals, where the defense stopped touchdowns on the one-yard line on both sides of the ball, where the passing game of both teams looked in control and balanced...

The real show, though, came from the various weapons on the Cal offense. Look out for Desean Jackson (1) (his 77 yd. punt return, while outsmarting three or four attempted tackles en route to the endzone, is destined to be the highlight reel of the season), Justin Forsett (20) who is, in a word, ridiculous (he simply turns every carry into multiple yards while pushing, leaping over and turning the corner around big guys), while Jahvid Best (4) and Lavelle Hawkins (7) turned in incredible running and catching performances, too. It was the most creative set of plays and runs I've seen in a football game in years. Just when I thought it couldn't get better, it did. Robert Jordan (2) did a spectacular lateral leap over the body of his opponent into the end zone, both legs flying at the most gymnastically awkward angles, after a great little run up the middle in the second quarter.

Okay, enough of that.

Still, let's review shall we? Cal played TN, a team that beat them 35-0 in their season opener last year. They didn't pay Appalachian State to come to their opener to show off for the TV, to bolster their rankings, to please alums. (Well, apparently U of M didn't do that either, come to think of it.)

UCLA beat Stanford, USC beat Idaho (not a tough thing to do, but their schedule gets tougher), Cal beat TN.

Good start for our three ranked teams. Go Pac Ten!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fantasy Football: Now THAT was fun!

I've joined a league led by the fearless and peerless Dave which includes the likes of Ampersand and her delightful family (who shout in the chat room - insane pick Dad!) and Matt and one other guy I don't know named Joe (friend of Ampersand's clan).

I'm green, wet behind the ears, a total novice. So for me, it worked like this:

Avoid looking at all FF materials for all the weeks leading up to the draft. Get up an hour later than I meant to on the morning of the draft. Look at SI and Yahoo lists of rankings and wonder what they mean or if last season will bear any relevance this year.... and then find out mid draft that I was supposed to also look at bye weeks! Ack.

Make a list. Pick mostly Cinci and Indy players proving that I am a sucker for name recognition (due to the copious volume of ads I consume every day that teach me "if you've heard of it, it must be good").

Draft goes live and I watch the best players disappear rapidly, while nabbing Carson in round two (and TJ one round later). Start wondering how on earth to select Tight Ends (for the way their pants cling to their tushies, or for how they receive footballs?)....

Wanted Matt Leinart as back-up QB since for some unknown to humankind reason, I root for the only two Trojan QBs in this league (I heart them both!). Perhaps subliminal messaging is working as my son's marching band plays "Fight on" (the Trojan fight song) every week as the fight song for his high school (they think they are so original out here picking a west coast fight song, but it pains my very Bruin soul every time I hear it)... though perhaps it is wearing me down.

Wound up with Carrie Underwood's boyfriend as my back-up QB.

So for those even remotely curious: here's my fantasy team. (Idly wonder what Erik Kuselias would have to say about it....)

My team name: Footsies (Thought I'd bring a little feminine swagger to the table).

Carson Palmer (QB)
TJ Houshmandzadeh (WR)
Reggie Wayne (WR)
Andre Johnson (WR)
Joesph Addai (RB)
Thomas Jones (RB)
Todd Heap (TE)

Jamal Lewis (RB)
Tony Romo (QB)
Benjamin Watson (TE)
Marion Barber III (RB)

Adam Vinatieri (K)
Shayne Graham (K)

Denver (Def)
Dallas (Def)