Saturday, March 31, 2007
Not giving up on the Bruins though. They say the Gators are in trouble if they are under 35 pts. at the half. Gotta believe... :) Go Bruins!
Edited to add: Bruins were in bigger trouble by the end. Wow. I will say it right now. Florida is a great team. I think OSU will lose Monday night.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Excerpts from the evolving thesis:
A discussion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison
“Empty sky, empty sky. I woke up this morning to an empty sky.”
Days after the World Trade Towers lay in rubble and the cloud of dust and smoke dissipated from the sky, I reached for the one book I thought might speak to our new context–a world where Americans were hated by people who claimed to love God. I turned to Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I wanted to know what a Christian ought to feel, ought to do in the midst of international conflict. I wanted to know if Christianity still had something to say in our postmodern world. The opening essay, “After Ten Years: A Reckoning Made at New Year’s, 1943” is addressed to Bonhoeffer’s family as well as his co-conspirators who had hatched a plot to assassinate Hitler as the “only patriotism which made any sense” (Kelly 507). I read with new eyes “…[we] must take our share of responsibility for the moulding of history in every situation and at every moment, whether we are the victors or the vanquished” (Letters Bonhoeffer 7). My theological wrangling over the problem of evil usually led me to question God, not myself. Where was God when evil was perpetrated against the innocent? Yet Bonhoeffer made the issue, “Where was I?” This shift in how I looked at history and my faith started a snowball effect.
While my initial motivation to read Bonhoeffer corresponded to my anxiety for my country’s safety and my questions about what a Christian response ought to be in the face of genuine evil (particularly evil perpetrated in God’s name), over the course of the next two years, Letters and Papers from Prison served a more profound purpose in my personal spiritual development. Somewhere along the way, I had lost my evangelical, win-people-to-Christ faith and at that moment, in the wake of international terror, I could not see a way back to Christianity at all.
Questions I had put on the high shelf of my faith descended with new urgency to be addressed and resolved: Can God be good if God allows evil and suffering? Why can’t Christians count on God’s special protection and grace? How can we be sure that God exists now that science has made so many religious answers obsolete? What is our relationship to the state as Christians? Does prayer work? Who is Jesus Christ and what does he have to do with the modern era?
No one doctrinal portrait could hold it all together in a meaningful way for me. Confidence in my “theological package” crumbled. I found myself examining myriad theological perspectives that were supposed to organize my beliefs in such a way that God made sense and my practice of Christianity supported those beliefs. Yet the more I studied, the less I understood. Christians do not present a united front when it comes to the meanings of words like: salvation, justification, the kingdom of God, and the mission of the church. Each time I felt I had found a key to unlock the contradictions that puzzled me, new questions emerged to replace the old ones.
By the end of a three-year search and study, I had lost the faith I once preached, I lost touch with God as I had thought God could be understood and known, and I no longer felt at home among Christians. Ironically, at the same time, I experienced an intellectual and artistic renaissance, wherein I discovered a love for the arts, literature, philosophy and nature study in a fresh, open way. I felt as though life—real life here on earth—took on meaning while my spirituality became nonsense...
...In reading Bonhoeffer again, I queried: how can Christian faith be relevant in the midst of a scientific, postmodern culture that no longer uses church authority as the means to hold people to the institution of the church? What is it to be Christian in these times?
Bonhoeffer did not disappoint. Here was a man faced with the most blatant evil of our era (Nazi hegemony and the Shoa) who spoke truthfully out of his experience both as a German intellectual and as a Christian. He managed to hold in tension the entire history of the human intellectual enterprise honestly in one hand while finding Jesus Christ to be relevant, empowering and meaningful in the other. Forged in Nazi prison cells, Bonhoeffer’s writings stated what no other Christian I had read to date admitted: “God as a working hypothesis in morals, politics, or science, has been surmounted and abolished; and the same thing has happened in philosophy and religion…! For the sake of intellectual honesty, that working hypothesis should be dropped, or as far as possible, eliminated” (360). Finally–someone who did not shrink from the loss of God in modern life.
Bonhoeffer’s letters to his friend Eberhard Bethge, his family and fiancé, and his notes to himself during his prison term at the end of World War II teased me. He spoke of a faith not characterized primarily by forgiveness for “private” sins, but rather a faith that created a profound sense of responsibility within us to take seriously the shaping of history, in particular, the historical moment in which we found ourselves. His viewpoint continues to be credible today because he lived what he professed. “…[T]o the extent that these letters are valued today, their importance rests largely on the fact that they originate from Bonhoeffer and are authenticated by his life and death” (Haynes 3).
Bonhoeffer stayed me in an hour of despair. It is not an exaggeration to say that without these fragments of under-developed theological reflection, I would have left the Christian faith all together. His hints at a religionless Christianity, a relevant faith that grappled honestly with challenges to its very meaning and truth-value supported me in my desire to be intellectually curious as well as spiritually alive. Because he lived honestly both his convictions and his questions, I found a living example of Christian belief and practice I could embody...
...The beauty and mystery of Bonhoeffer’s body of work in Letters and Papers from Prison is that while his theological insights are incomplete, we encounter a whole person through his writings. We are not left with a sterile systematic theology that can be studied, evaluated and then judged as good or bad, right or wrong, satisfactory or insufficient. We cannot catalog Bonhoeffer and confine him to one tradition, to one church confession. In fact, we find that we cannot dismiss him, either, because we have come to love him. His voice lingers in our imaginations long after we close the pages of this collection of writings...
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Click the photos to enlarge. (We own the UK version of HP 6 because we were in Italy when it came out so I included both covers for your enjoyment.)
And this is how we're getting ready...
Monday, March 26, 2007
For growing up west of Malibu, it's surprising how little my parents took us to the beach. White zinc oxide and Irish fair skin, sand that gets in the car and house. They just didn't do it too often.
By 16, I drove to the beach every chance I got--right over Topanga or Malibu canyon. I didn't surf (I should have tried it at least once - I did skateboard after all). I didn't lay out (my skin freckled or burned, didn't turn Farrah Faucett brown). I swam or body surfed in summer.
Mostly I walked or ran in the sand, listening to the waves. Sometimes I bought plain yogurt with granola at the local health food store and ate it while sitting on a rock and watching the surf.
The ocean has this immovable presence, this vast sameness yet changeableness that I knew to be God. When we moved to the midwest, I missed the ocean every single day... for the first five years. Someone would ask me if I missed California and I'd reply "Every single day." What I meant: "I miss the ocean every single day."
I woke up some days craving flip flops, salt air, sand between my toes and looking out at the sea. Being landlocked made me claustrophobic. I couldn't figure out how to get that sense of expansiveness, that beyondness that fueled my imagination, that soothed me. I needed to see - to see beyond.
Then one day, in spring, I looked up... above the trees, above the farms and saw the midwestern sky. Big, open, unbounded by mountains and skyscrapers, unpolluted, blue. A midwestern sea. An ocean of imagination and soothing, too.
I noticed that I'd go days without thinking about the ocean. I found myself pausing in the middle of a parking lot to look up. I stared out a window while eating yogurt and granola. I'd found my God-spot.
Now, I try to get to the beach once per year. It's my private pilgrammage. Walking in the sun, iPod plugged in, gulls circling, sand pipers scurrying, surf rushing up the beach... church and congregation.
But coming home today, the spring sky greeted me and I felt I hadn't travelled so far.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
So we've got UCLA v. Florida and Georgetown v. OSU. I have UCLA and OSU in the finals but Kim's got UCLA and Georgetown.
Who were/are your final four and who do you see advancing to the finals? I missed today's games (and it should be noted that Tiger won in golf again and I missed that as well). Wonderful outcome for the Hoyas (first father and son to reach the final four during their tenures as coaches... and at the same school).
Beach was gorgeous today and we'll be packing and getting ready to go home tonight so a longer post after I return home. Peace!
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Here's a photo in the spirit of Jo(e)'s beach photo (archived):
See? I think of you while I'm away.
Friday, March 23, 2007
The sun is warm and shining. I'll be uploading more photos from today to flickr once my batteries recharge. In the meantime, this shot is from the sunset right down the street at the beach from where we are staying.
Beth (our hostess par excellence) has arranged a wonderful melange of friends and it's interesting to me how well we all mix! There's even an unschooler besides me among us. :)
Today four out of five went bike riding in a state park. Spanish moss, tall trees greening for spring, egrets, great herons, clams and oysters... Beautiful.
Mostly, though, everyone lies around braless as though we are cast members of "Enchanted April" - we've got quality cooking (homemade crust vegetarian pizza being assembled behind me as I type), multiple art easels with various paintings in stages of completion on the deck and in the living area, computers open to 365 blogs and college websites (and ESPN, of course), cameras, cell phones, recharging cords, reading glasses and cases, tea, Diet Coke, the makings of scary mixed drinks like the one I called "The Blue Lagoon" that Beth made for me last night (yeah, too much tonic water a sour drink doth make), limes for Coronas (my alcoholic contribution), chocolate chips, Midol, National Enquirer, two copies of People, Real Simple, white wine, bikes, flip flops with and without bling, and nail polish.
A very girly weekend.
In spite of all that estrogen, I did manage to coerce our little gathering into watching the NCAA games last night (which is in direct violation of the "girls getaway ethos" I might add - shows you just how crafty I can be when the Bruins are on the line!). Go Bruins! My brackets are still alive. I have OSU and UCLA in the finals with Florida and the Jayhawks going to the final four. Georgetown is my upset choice so we'll see if that happens.
Well, sunshine calls so I'm back to the deck to soak up some rays. Hope the sun's shining where you are too.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Reality TV Run Down
And do you love Blake on American Idol? Yes, Melinda (to me) is by far the best singer in that competition (Lakisha is good too, but I prefer Melinda) BUT, Blake is my favorite performer. He's fresh (we haven't seen anything like him on Idol before), he's contemporary and he can actually sing. The beat boxing is fun.
Rob and Amber blew it on Amazing Race so I'm done watching.
Survivor... zzzzzzz. When you put half the cast in a luxury hotel (practically speaking) and starve the other half, are you really surprised when the starving tribe disintegrates and loses every challenge? Puh-leaze.
I'm hooked on the Colbert Report. Last night's match up with Willie Nelson stole the show.
We also Tivo Jon Stewart. I really do think these guys do a better job with the news than Katie Couric.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
UCLA's Arron Afflalo goes up for a basket against Indiana in the second half during the second round of the NCAA West Regional basketball tournament at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
What a photo, right?
This week revealed a genetic flaw. I've always known that I don't relate to numbers. My Algebra II teacher literally offered me a B to quit: "Julie, you don't understand math and I don't want your GPA to suffer. I'll give you a B for fall semester if you quit before spring." Let's just say I ran to the counselor's office to drop that sucker. Numbers - for me they didn't add up.
Even today, I still avoid numbers. When I read a book or magazine with statistics, dates, totals of Brangelina's adopted children, my eyes literally glaze over the numbers and skip to words because words MEAN something whereas number rarely do.
This propensity to not notice numbers meant that for three years, I put the wrong Social Security Number on my taxes and didn't realize it until I woke up in the middle of a random night: "OMG - I think I forgot my SSN!" Sure enough, I had to have the little card sent to me again in order to remember what it was.
As a history major, I never could hang onto dates, even important ones like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the beginning of the Civil War or what year Jesus was born (Ha! I'll bet you think it was year 0 when in fact it was 4 BC... or 5 or something...)
Money is worse. Having grown up with a
I decided to end that anxious way of living by marrying an MA in English whose life ambition was missionary work. Yeah, not exactly Bel Air community aspirations and I was glad!
It's really worked out too. We've never had much money and so I haven't had to count all that high. Taxes were mostly a breeze (we filled out 1040EZ for years).
Enter the absurd notion of running businesses.
I can't count silverware to set the table and suddenly I have to track hundreds of enrollments, payment options, business related expenses, quarterly estimated taxes, sales tax, pension plans, investment options, payroll, 1099 MISC, contract labor, LLC tax forms labeled by digit, and the ever oppressive choices related to all of these.
Last week was the tipping point. I tipped... right into panic, depression and wishing I could take it all back and just be a mom again (I'm really good at that one and the only numbers required are measuring cups of flour for scones).
So many meetings where competent men and women bearing calculators show you "options" and say words like "It's really up to you" and "With this plan you could save X amount of money over X number of years for X yield" - huh? Did someone say something?
****And may I just interrupt this program to announce****
In Britain, there is no income tax period with CPAs filing dozens of four digit labeled papers on your behalf in order to help you pay too much of your money to the government. How come they don't have to? Who thought King George was extorting too much tax from us anyway? We lost the thread of that idea somewhere along the 200 years on our own.
So no, I didn't get much writing done. And I don't care. I spent everything I have emotionally and mentally on numbers.
And for the record, I have not used geometry or algebra 1 once, in all those calculations. What a waste of time and tutoring money that was.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Oh break my heart! The Muskies lost.... and what a horrible way to lose. Had to go to a lacrosse game and listened to the terrible overtime minutes tick by sealing X's fate.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
We're hoping for an OSU v. X in the next bracket. Thad Matta is Xavier's old coach so we have sentimental attachment to both teams. :) Sean Miller's got it going with X!
Hats off to Kim for picking the Duke upset.
Woo-hoo!!!! Xavier pulls it out! 79-77 - we are so proud!
Reveal your brackets! If you're playing along, you can share starting with the sweet sixteen or elite eight in the comments section. But for sure, I want predictions for the final four and the big kahuna!
I'll post mine later today.... off to the accountant.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Right in the middle of a Very Important Rerun of Friends, Caitrin and I heard what no home owner wants to hear: urgently spraying water. Mid-knit stitch, I sent Caitrin to reconnoiter the sitch-yashun. Yep - spraying water and "Mom, hurry up it's getting everywhere!"
The Questa pipe (which I'm told by plumbers "sucks") burst and the hot water valve gave way. Between cursing, buckets, my head-to-foot wardrobe and Jon's sopping head, we stopped the flow enough to sleep without waking every ten minutes to empty a bucket. That meant no water all evening and night (which means we are now qualified for Survivor.... I found myself licking droplets off of abandonned dinner glasses...).
My dreams were nightmarish scenes of floods outside the house, in the house, under the floor boards and I spent all of those sleepy scenes soaking wet. It really was like sleeping under water. I was startled in the morning when my pj's weren't sticking to my skin!
I woke to a dry vanity... our temporary fix had at least forestalled further eruptions of H2O.
The plumbers came this morning and fixed both the leak and our upstairs shower nozzle (isn't it funny how you suddenly realize you have myriad plumbing needs at once?).
E.M. Forster wrote in A Room with a View that nothing preys on the mind like troubles with water. How true.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
There is a chance, if UCLA wins out, that they could play OSU if they win out, in the final. Wouldn't that create a conflict in our home? (Johannah is slated to attend OSU in the fall.)
Saturday, March 10, 2007
For the last seven years, my business of online teaching has steadily grown and in the last three years, has leaped forward by such a large percentage that our tax bill shows it. (Groan) My income is no longer supplementary for lacrosse gear and violin lessons. It's primary. The hours I commit each day to working have become intrusive to the point where I feel like I have to schedule my time of work so that my kids know it's a "no enter zone." Of course it's been that way for some time, but usually those hours happened after they went to bed or before they got up and occasionally, an entire afternoon or weekend when the business was heavier.
But suddenly I'm swamped with real demands that have no clear end. I have appointments with CPAs, investors, bookkeepers, bank accounts managers, payroll companies and more. Suddenly I have to file all kinds of documents for the IRS and keep better records and know how to pay what when and to whom.
These tasks don't fit neatly into controllable hours where I'm "on" or "off." Add to it that right now I have to, HAVE TO, get this thesis done while finishing off grad school, and my time for children has become classically NOT stay-at-home mom level at all.
I really hate that.
But I find myself also having a lot more sympathy for those who have been working all along and who juggle mothering at the same time. I feel deeply grateful that I didn't have to do that until now. I've had to let go of my idealism again and hope that my children have had enough of me to date to adjust to this genuine change in lifestyle. It's much harder for me than I thought it would be.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Johannah took part as student director in this year's spring musical, "Beauty and the Beast." These photos were just posted to a website and I was so pleased to see that she is evident in this curtain call. Find Gaston (middle) and look to the right of him. The red hair and black crew shirt - that's Johannah. Easier to see if you click on the photo and then select all sizes to see the larger version.
Also, fwiw, Gaston is her prom date this year. :)
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Monday, March 05, 2007
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Add to it that I spent time this morning working on my thesis paper which is about Bonhoeffer fighting the Nazis and Cone fighting oppressive white America, all while I'm reading about the Civil War in The Red Badge of Courage for my Brave Writer class... yes, I'm in a emotional spiral dive.
Two minutes ago, Jacob walked into my office with a plate of (still warm) oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. I love him.
Friday, March 02, 2007
On top of the discovery that I must rewrite my thesis, I also have to keep up with Doctrine 1 which includes reading Ausgustine's Confessions... and because there is so much going on currently with my business etc., I only discovered on Monday night that the version of Confessions I purchased from Amazon is a book of excerpts (worse, these are excerpts without any reference to which book they come from - as in Book One, Book Two, Book Eight of The Confessions).
Aghast, I figured I could get a copy at the prolific font of all things Catholic and theological: the Xavier University library, and luckily, I had a five hour day of writing planned for the morrow, as the Bard would say.
I carted my 10 year old off to a friend's for over night so I wouldn't feel guilty about not playing dominoes with her all evening (like most nights). I headed down to the university library at 1:30. No parking. Anywhere. I waited for a promising co-ed with big art-portfolio to leave... she avoided eye-contact, loaded up the portfolio and WALKED away. Someone else loaded a coat (it was freezing outside, couldn't he tell?) and left. Finally a shady character loaded a sinister-looking duffle bag into the back end of his vehicle, deliberately glared at me, and then walked away... (Dead body within? I averted my eyes.)
So I circled several parking lots for about thrity minutes and finally someone actually DROVE AWAY in a CAR and left me the most distant slot I could find. I lugged computer and books (unduly optimistic about my potential study time).
Here's the skinny: It took me four hours to write a six page paper on Origen and St. Antony. Four hours? Come on! I'm a writer. (That has never happened in four years.) AND, the only copy of The Confessions I found in that big library was from 1943... with the "thees" and "thous" still in tact from an earlier translation.
Not one moment went into the thesis. Not one scholaraly journal search, not one Word doc's worth of brainstorming. (I will spare you the details of how food eluded me at every turn as well.)
On Wednesday, kids skiied, I worked. Jon and I drove to our respective evening classes. Xavier had its final home game of the season which meant no parking. More circling for Jon. All day, and into the night, however, I was supposed to be testing a new registration platform for Brave Writer. Yeah, uh, as I drove the car? While I showered? Hadn't been home in two days. And the only person I had sent the registration link to (a BW mom) got an error message when she used it. Panicked, I contacted as many people as I could when we got home (at nearly midnight eastern) to test it in other states. Working. Just fine. It looked like her experience was isolated.
Looked like it.
Can you say "foreshadowing"? This is that moment in the play where you all know what's coming but the stupid protagonista does not.
Thursday, morning of registration.
Two problems. The program appeared to randomize registrations which meant they weren't in order as they came in... critical for my clients since I usually fill classes in minutes. The fix my tech friend discovered worked for her, but she had to leave for the doctor... oh and so did Jon.
I was left to sort it all out myself (except for intermittent phone calls to them where one would say, "Did you try... oh, gotta go, the doctor just walked in" followed by the other one saying, "Sounds good but did you... oh, sorry, the doctor is poking my arm with needles, gotta focus.") Good times.
The minutes dragged on. I forgot that the results of the fix could be detected in my junk mail (don't ask) until it was too late. I posted the link 6 minutes late (so my email in-box was suddenly flooded with "Where is the link? Why can't I see it? I've been sitting here refreshing for all six minutes?")
But I checked the platform results page and oh bliss! For thirty whole seconds I was under the delusion that all was working as it should! Registrations rolling in and I didn't have to do one bit of data entry. (Yep, you know what's coming)
The next thing you know, dozens of emails pinged my account with "I get an error page" and "I don't know if mine went through" and "I registered four times but" and "Will I lose my place in line?"
Disaster. Spectacular. U2 and Ticketmaster scandal of 2005!
Worse just as I began answering the panicked emails.... yes, up-ping the stakes of my entire day... my email server kicked me off and wouldn't come back on. No email could come in and none could go out (55 had already hit my inbox and awaited replies). In the ensuing drama, I spent twenty minutes on hold for a tech support person, had to learn Hindi in the wait time to make myself understood, and attempted to reply through a different server, while watching people double register on the platform....
Between 11:30 a.m. and 4:35 p.m. I didn't move from my chair. Didn't pee. Didn't eat.
I hand entered every failed registration (which also meant that the panicked emails didn't include all information so some took multiple emails to determine just what class they wanted and for whom). What a mess!
Because this is a comedy, however, I must end with happy news. For the first time in four years, my classes didn't fill up in minutes with loads of disappointed mothers who didn't get it. I think I finally have enough teachers and classes offered that everyone who wanted to get in a class, got enrolled. Amazing. Growth.
There were loads of sweet emails at the end of the day from my devoted BW moms who reminded me that if God wanted them in the class, they'd get in. (I sure appreciated knowing God would take the heat if they didn't get in and not our goofy platform!) Mostly, though, they were just so nice to me, understanding what a hellacious day it must have been. I love my BW community.
After dinner, I wilted onto the sofa and zoned out in front of American Idol. The kitchen is in that scary state of hardened crepe batter on the counters and sticky frying pans and sugared plates languishing on the counters. I don't care. I'll get to it.
Everything's right in the kingdom once again. All's well that ends well.