Tuesday, March 12, 2019

updates on several things

I should stop talking about things I'm unqualfied to talk about, so I will just update you on things we've talked about previously.

- A couple of months ago I told you I was going to try out a more intentional meditation practice. I did really well for about six weeks, at least in terms of keeping up with it. I'm sure I didn't meditate every single day, but I didn't miss many days, either. Then a couple of situations happened and things got stressful, and as I've said before, the more I "need" to meditate, the harder it seems to be to find the time.

But overall, this is going well-- the doing it part of it. I'm still terrible at meditation. I used to think it was because I had an unusually distractible mind, but now that I'm using this app (10% Happier) that is sort of a meditation community, I'm discovering that it's that way for everybody. So, I'm still doing it, I'm still terrible at it, and it's still helping with my sanity.

- Oh, Lord, remember the winter vegetables project? That has been a total fail. Partly because I haven't cooked much. We were gone, and then Dean was gone, and we've both had things going on in the evening, and a couple of times when I was planning on cooking dinner, we got a last minute invite to meet friends out for dinner, etc etc. You get the idea. But the intention is still floating around in my head, and since this is Montana, it's still winter no matter what the calendar says, so I may get back to this. After vacation (see below). Although by then, it really will be moving toward spring. I hope.

- Last week I told you I was halfway through The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. Honestly, I picked it up because I knew I didn't have the stomach for the brutality I've heard about in his better known book Underground Railroad, but I'd heard he is an amazing writer, so I wanted to read something by him. And he is. A terrific writer, I mean. Intuitionist is crazy smart.

You could read it as just a standard plot-- young woman gets framed for an elevator accident and goes off on her own to find out what really happened-- but it is also an allegory? satire? alternate reality? with all kinds of stuff happening. It's fascinating. Highly recommended if you want your brain stretched, but if you just want to read a good plot (which is all I'm going to be reading on vacation next week)(see below), probably not the best choice. I will give it this-- unlike most allegories? satires? alternate realities? where the plot eventually falls apart under the weight of The Message Being Delivered, this one really does work as its own story.

- You know, I confess I've had the thought I don't have any friends a couple of times in the last few months. I've been surprised to hear two other people say the same thing recently. People who look as if they have plenty of friends. Which has me wondering, is this part and parcel of the larger changes we're going through? Is there something about the breaking up of cultural expectations that is also disrupting personal connections? I don't know. Have just been thinking about this.

- So here we are at below. I can't remember how much I've told you about our upcoming vacation that starts on Saturday, but I am really looking forward to it. We went to a little town north of Cabo for a week last spring with both kids and loved it. When they were able to finagle the same week off this year and I asked them where they wanted to go, the unanimous decision was the same place.

So off we go. I won't be writing anything new next week, but while poking around for some other stuff I ran across a couple of old posts that made me laugh, so if I have time I'll set them up to repost next week. Otherwise, I'll catch you when I get back. Hope spring is springing wherever you are.

Friday, March 8, 2019

7ToF: you may be right, I may be crazy

1. We rented "First Man" this week. The space program has always fascinated me-- when I was in third grade, I wanted to be an astronaut more than anything, in spite of the fact that I was blind without my glasses and I had recently thrown up on the Mexican hat ride at Six Flags. The space program part of the movie was fascinating and well done, but like everybody, we thought Ryan Gosling's portrayal of Armstrong with a totally flat affect was a) kinda boring and b) not accurate, based on the little we know. Interesting choice to portray him that way, but not entirely successful.

2. So, on to the real topic of today's post (just didn't want it to show up in the lede). I wrote a post about this once before and then deleted it, because it sounds nuts. But I'm tired of worrying so much about what other people think-- literally exhausted by it-- so I'm writing it again and this time I'm not deleting it.

3. I sometimes get sort-of psychic responses to the things I post here. I'm definitely not psychic, in fact I can be remarkably clueless about what's going on around me (I should write a post about this sometime because I have some stories to tell). Butsometimes, somehow, I know how someone responded to a post, without them ever contacting me in any way. This doesn't include knowing who the someone is, but just a very clear sense of someone's approval, or disgust, or anger, or eye-roll. The reason it seems psychic rather than just something-that-occurs-to-me is because sometimes it surprises the hell out of me. In the vein of, it never occurred to me that someone would think that way.

4. In response to the post that went up on Wednesday, really I got nothing. Which may just mean that nobody read it. But in response to the second part that I posted yesterday, I got a very strong response: No no no no. We are not building bridges. This is a war and we are going to win it.

5. Which would never in a million years occur to me, because I am a middle child and an Enneagram 5 (with strong tendencies toward 9) or maybe it's just me, and I am incapable of not seeing both sides of an issue. I am a peacemaker, a bridge builder. The thought Why can't we all just get along? occurs to me regularly.

That thought, that this is a war that someone will win, inevitably makes me think, well then what are we going to do with the losers? Think about the aftermath of WWI, or WWII, or Vietnam. Is that what we want here? To be the same-old, same-old, to the victors go the spoils and devil take the hindmost?

(give me a minute here while I think of some more clichés.)

6. Maybe that is what you want. And if so, you've lost me. It's not much help to me as I'm involved in trying to hold a congregation of much-loved church members together. We're supposed to pick a side and say to the 20% of our congregation (on either end) that would leave, sorry, we've moved on. You're no longer welcome here. That may be what happens. But if it is, it's wrong.

7. I guess it's kind of presumptuous of me, but I see our congregation as a microcosm of what's happening in the larger world. I'm hoping we can BUILD BRIDGES. Take your war somewhere else.

I get that the reason I can think this way is because I am white and not poor and my children are not in danger of being shot because they're wearing a hoodie. And maybe that's all it is. Maybe this is just me being insensitive about how bad it is. But I can't help but hope that we could figure out some way to bring us all along toward a new way of being together.

That will probably get an eye-roll. Excuse me while I find my eight track tape of kum-by-yah. I still know all the words to I'd Like to Teach the World To Sing. (in perfect harmony)

I just went and watched the YouTube video of the New Seekers singing that song in 1972. They're all white.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

understanding conservatives part 2

I know I've already said this about twenty times, but it bears repeating: my point in writing this two-part post isn't to change your mind or convince you that conservatives are Right. I'm just trying to build bridges instead of continuing to more minutely describe how we disagree. And if you needed further proof of how chaotic it is inside my brain, this post will do it. It's all over the place.

OK, so picking up after yesterday's post....

Another thing: conservatives hate it when we exaggerate to make a point. Once you see it, you realize that we do it all the time. The other night while I was watching the Oscars, at least twice someone talked about some unjust situation in the past and then said something to the effect of "and nothing has changed."

Well, yes, actually, it has. We're a long ways from equality in the workplace, but there are women at the highest levels of corporate American. They're there, and they weren't fifty years ago. Slavery has been illegal for 150 years. Jim Crow laws were declared unconstitutional in the 1960s. Yes, there is still insitutional racism, and yes, we still have a long ways to go, and yes, I can recognize latent racism in my own mind. We're not done by any means. But we start getting pushback on these issues when we try to say that they are the "same" as slavery or segregated water fountains.

(and if you wanted to make a case that in some ways racism is worse now--because it's so insidious-- I'm listening. But you've lost Mr. Middle Class American White Guy. And maybe you legit don't care.)

I live in the midwest, and since most questions about race seem to center around urban areas and the South, I'll just throw out there that there are a whole lot of people in middle American who grew up in all white towns, went to all-white schools, and never saw a black person other than on TV until they were adults. So maybe we could cut a little slack for the guy who was at the bottom of the pecking order at his all-white high school and rolls his eyes when we talk about white privilege. What does that even mean if you live in an area where everyone is white?

(you don't have to explain it to me. I get it. I'm just pointing out the flip side.)

I listened to a conversation between a couple of conservatives not long ago and realized something that I've been chewing on ever since. I think most liberals would list social justice as the most important issue facing our country right now (or maybe the environment, but I'm leaving that aside for the moment). We might quibble about which aspect of social justice we should tackle first--fighting discrimination based on gender, orientation, race, identity, or sexual harassment in the workplace or police brutality or or or, but for the most part, liberals are all on board with social justice.

But for most conservatives, social justice is not what they want from government. Outside of the truly awful, it's not that they don't care about social justice. Some of them care very much, especially when it's something that's right in front of them in their own community (witness the conservatives that attend my church).

No, I think that for conservatives (at least the socially aware ones), it's that the laws to protect people's rights are already on the books. What else is government supposed to do? If the laws aren't being enforced, then that's a conversation we can have, these conservatives might say. But what exactly is the role of government in fighting social prejudice? After outlawing discrimination, how can the government change attitudes? It's a question that's worth some thought (and I think there are some good answers).

Which brings up the point that conservatives really resent it when liberals act like they have a corner on morality. Well, I'm a liberal, so I care about these things, which you obviously don't, or else you'd be a liberal, too, our reasoning seems to go. It's worth pointing out that George Wallace, the infamous governor of Alabama whose signature issue was opposing the Civil Rights movement, was a Democrat. The Jim Crow laws were legislated by Democratic legislatures across the South. Lifelong Republicans who are in their 60s and 70s have pretty good grounds to be mystified by this sanctimonious insistence that Democrats are the only ones who care about civil rights.

Which brings me to one final thought, and I'm not sure how to put it into words. But here is a pattern that you see over and over again. Liberals see an issue that they think needs work, but conservatives don't see it as a problem. So Liberals crank up the rhetoric, start the (perceived) exaggerations, talk louder. Conservatives still don't seem to care. So Liberals crank it up again, getting more and more hysterical. By now Conservatives are totally and completely tuned out. (Think back to the women following Jeff Flake into the elevator during the Kavanaugh hearings, then posing for social media with triumphant grins on their faces.)

It's a classic case of doing the same thing that's not working over again, but louder. Somebody said (supposedly Einstein), "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results." Yeah, well, by that definition our entire country is completely insane right now. We just keep having the same arguments.

I think it's possible that the older conservatives I know are more turned off by hysteria than anything else. The ones among them that like to cause trouble will even try to set it off, because they know they can. Say something slightly sexist, or slightly racist, or whatever, and watch the fur fly. It's as predictable as the sun coming up every day.

I read a blogger a couple of months ago make an offhand, positive comment about styrofoam cups in a completely unrelated context, and I thought to myself, oh, boy, here we go. And sure enough, the comments started. Don't you care about the environment? Don't you care about what you're doing to the ozone layer? I'm surprised at you! I thought you knew better than this! 

I personally do my best to avoid styrofoam, but that's not the point. The point is that I could see that blogger getting angry and resentful at the sanctimonious comments, comments about a situation that really they knew nothing about. (Maybe styrofoam cups are the one anti-environmental thing she allows herself. Remember my face-wipes?) But they felt they had the god-given right to pass judgment.

And speaking of things that are as predictable as the sunrise, this got way too long again. I can't really think of any big overarching conclusions to draw. Maybe this: avoid hysteria. If you think the world should be different, be the change you want to see. Don't shout, scream, bludgeon, judge, preach. It just makes the walls between us that much stronger.

And speaking of moralizing. I'm getting off my soapbox now. I can't imagine that I will be able to think of anything else to say in time for tomorrow so have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

understanding conservatives part 1

 If you didn't grow up in a conservative Christian home, you probably don't think about hell very often. But I was raised on that stuff, and being afraid of hellfire and eternal damnation was a big, scary thing for me when I was still an Evangelical.

When I was in my twenties, as I became more and more angry about the un-Christian ways I saw Christians acting, I reached a point where I was so done with conservative Christians that I had the shocking (to me) realization that if those were the people that were going to heaven, I would rather go to hell. I'd rather risk eternal damnation than hang out in heaven with those smug, sanctimonious "saints."

I don't believe in hell anymore-- not because I'm sure it's not there but because the idea of heaven and hell has become irrelevant to me. But I still think about that moment, the moment when I realized that I was so disgusted by conservative Christianity that I was willing to risk eternal damnation to get away from it.

Fast forward to the 2016 election. As I watched the unabashed glee of the Trump base after the election, it suddenly occurred to me that they had hit the inverse of that moment: the moment where they were so disgusted by liberals and holier-than-thou progressive moralizing that they'd rather risk being governed by a known philanderer with zero experience than vote for a liberal Democrat.

(I should insert here that this is all entirely anecdotal, just based on my observations watching the people around me. I have no hard data to back this up. Just so you know.)

The working class conservatives were overjoyed with the feeling of having won a long-shot, wing-and-a-prayer last-minute victory over the Democrats who had completely lost touch with them (see below for more about that). The more well-to-do traditional Republicans, I think, weren't so much voting for President Trump as they were voting against Hillary Clinton, and through her, voting against whatever they perceived to be the liberal/progressive/Democratic agenda.

So my mini-quest to understand the other side became a quest to figure out how we as liberals/progressives managed to so thoroughly enrage the other side. How did we lose them so completely? How did we manage to alienate conservatives so thoroughly that they were willing to believe anything someone said to them as long as it involved trashing the Democrats?

You'll note that I'm assuming that you, gentle reader, are a liberal/progressive. That's because I'm pretty sure I lost all of my conservative readers-- or at least, all the ones I know about-- when I wrote the post about why I am pro-choice. (And I guess if I didn't lose them then, I've lost them now.)

There's a lot of directions that we could go here--for example, in a country that cherishes freedom of the press as much as we all do, how in the world do we hold the media accountable for the ways they have further polarized us to increase their own bottom line? and how in the world did Donald Trump manage to convince working class voters that he was one of them?

But that would be, once again, trying to figure out why they (the press, working class voters, Republicans) are Wrong. Lord knows we've all spent plenty of time doing that. What I'm trying to do here is figure out what we (progressives/liberals) have screwed up. How did we lose them so badly?

So here are some ideas.

For one thing, working class voters resent being lumped together with the poor. When I finally got this, I was embarrassed to death that I'd been doing this for years. When liberals look at each other, mystified as to why working class voters hate them, we think, But we're in favor of food stamps! We want to increase access to medicaid! And we're completely missing that working class voters do not consider themselves to be poor. To them, poor people are people who can't hold a job-- drunks, drug addicts, deadbeats. Those people might need handouts, but working class voters don't want them. They want steady jobs with decent pay and good benefits.

Which leads to a corollary: Conservatives don't consider poor people to be minor saints. I didn't catch this attitude in myself until I'd been working at the food bank for awhile. If you talk about poor people in hushed, reverent tones, or in the same voice that you use to talk about sick children or abandoned puppies, you might be guilty of this, too. Poverty is an enormously complex issue that I'm not going to tackle in a blog post, but I can guarantee you that this attitude is not helpful. Or at least, not if you're a volunteer at a food bank.

as always, this is getting too long. The other half is mostly written, so I'll probably post it tomorrow. I can't believe I'm posting this, because I am so far from being an expert on this that it's like the proverbial chalk from cheese. And the more I write, the more I realize how presumptuous it is of me to post this as if I know what I'm talking about. My only comfort is that not many people read here, and also, if you're a conservative and you're reading this and I've gotten anything wrong, I'm counting on you to let me know.

to be continued.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

In which I do even more re-hashing about church, or maybe it's just hashing this time, and continue to fail to get to the point.

So when I left off this topic last Tuesday, our little presbyterian church, which has been in the same location for over 100 years, had seen a steep drop in membership, but we still have our dedicated loyal survivors of about 180 members. We're lucky that includes a broad range of opinions, viewpoints, and outlooks on life.

I say lucky because that's really hard to find right now. People tend to congregate (pun!) with the likeminded. Our church is one of the few places I know where people with markedly different opinions about all sorts of things coexist and actually function well together to accomplish good things in the community--we're actively involved in working with at-risk teens, the homeless shelter, feeding the hungry, and an array of other activities.

I highly value that diversity of opinion. There are churches in our town that are more in line with my own opinions, but I don't want to go to church in an echo chamber. I grew up with that, and it's stifling.

It works for awhile because you can get that warm glow of "I know I'm right about this because everyone around me agrees with me," but eventually that sameness becomes restrictive. If your opinions change as you learn new things and have new experiences, you may find that the people you thought loved you for who you are, actually only love you if you fit in. Or they say they still love you (and maybe they genuinely do), but they don't want you in the group anymore.

At least that was my experience. I'm getting way off track here.

About a month ago, someone spoke up during worship with an opinion that was phrased in decidedly liberal/Democrat language.* The person that spoke is so immersed in that segment of our culture that she didn't think she was being partisan, she thought she was just stating The Way Things Are, with a ringing call to champion social justice.

But the conservatives heard a liberal saying "only Democrats care about this issue" and suddenly a wide-open rift has occurred right in the middle of our church. And we're finding out that this particular rift has been on the verge of breaking open for a couple of years now.
It's worth stating the obvious here and pointing out that these conservatives are not way-out right-wing nutcases. They go to a church--some of them for decades--that has no problem with women in church leadership, in a denomination that states that a woman's pregnancy decisions should be between her and her physician, and also allows gay ordination and same-sex marriage.

And yet they vote Republican, and they don't see a problem with that. (I don't either.) They're Republican because they were raised that way, or because of their views about fiscal policy, or banking regulations, or the military, or foreign policy.

In the aftermath of this incident, we're coming to realize that the reason we've been able to coexist for so long is because we don't talk about politics. And I find myself in the unusual situation of being a liberal who is defending the conservatives. It's making me a little nuts. The noise that's being drummed up on the part of the more liberal members of our congregation has become so unbearably tone-deaf that I can hardly stand to be involved. But I'm on session (church leadership) right now and so, voilà. I'm involved.
The whole situation has made me realize how clueless some liberals are about some conservatives. I live in a community that usually votes heavily conservative--in 2016, President Trump took 65% of the votes, and since various other parties took 6%, that means less than 30% voted Democrat. So I have a front-row seat on understanding conservatives, something I think liberals who live in more populous areas don't really have. I can't avoid the Trump base, or the never-Trumpers, or the Libertarians, because I live right in the middle of them.

So as a service to you, my gentle readers, I'm going to pass on some things I've learned about Conservatives in the past two years. Because when President Trump won the election, I made a small promise to myself that I would try to learn, and not just dissolve into anger and despair. (I confess I haven't always been successful.)

Please note that I'm not doing this because I'm trying to convince you that they're right, but because it is time, it is long past time, for us to start building bridges instead of continuing to yell at each other about how wrong the other side is. 

Good grief, how do these things get so long? I was planning to get started on what I wanted to say, but this is already too long. To be continued, and since I want to get this done because I need to sort it out for myself, I may actually post Out Of Schedule. Wtf is the world coming to.

Happy Tuesday.

* Apologies for the lack of details, I'm being purposely vague so if anyone local reads this, it will be unidentifiable.

Friday, March 1, 2019

7ToF: dispatch from my igloo

1. At some point every winter, I am DONE. I hit it yesterday. I'm like a toddler that just plops down in the middle of the floor and throws a temper tantrum. It doesn't help any that we have had snow almost every day for what seems like WEEKS. The roads are treacherous, you have to tiptoe everywhere in case you step on a patch of ice, I am so over shoveling, whine whine whine. (honestly I've hardly done any shoveling compared to how much Dean has done.) And to top it all off, it's supposed to be -12 on Sunday night. Sunday is March 3rd, mind you. Winter is supposed to be OVER by March.

2. Unfortunately I'm not a weather witch and there's not much I can do about it. Except whine and complain, which you just witnessed.

Moving on.

3. Like some of you, I'm making a serious effort to read more diversely. Fortunately, even if you start out choosing books because the authors are of different race, nationality, or orientation, most of the time you end up reading because they're just good books. I've read some great books by diverse authors recently: Exit West, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Purple Hibiscus, Becoming, Pride-- all good reads. Let me know if you have any recommendations.

4. I'm in the middle of Colson Whitehead's first novel The Intuitionist and it is like strapping in and going along for a rollercoaster ride. It's a satire based in the world of elevator maintenance and it is as inventive (in terms of language and style) as anything I've read in awhile. The only thing is that I can't quite figure out where he's going with it. But I'm a little less than halfway, so we'll see.

5. Occasionally I hear from people who wish they read more. To which I say, Why? I mean, if you want to read more, great, but if it's just guilt, a feeling that you "should" read more, don't worry about it. There are plenty of books that are a waste of time, and there are plenty of movies and TV shows that are excellent. There's no reason to automatically assume reading is more valuable than watching TV/movies.

*steps off soapbox*

6. One of the main reasons I prefer reading is that I am, uh, hyper-sensitive --i.e., high maintenance-- and if I watch something riveting, it's hard for me to wind down from the sensory overload and go to sleep. TV has the visuals, the music, the sound. Reading is much less stimulating (although I'd argue that it's equally immersive). I don't think most people have this problem, so if you'd rather watch television, you will get no pushback from me. Do what you want to do. Be free.

7. Which isn't to say I never watch TV. I already told you about Doctor Who, and we watch a lot of sports. We've got some episodes of the Durrells on Corfu recorded, and I used to watch Sherlock (will there ever be more episodes?). If you've got some recommendations for calm, fun TV, let me know.

Bye. Have a lovely, warm weekend, and think of us shivering here in the frozen North.

p.s. I published this late so that I could take an up-to-the-minute photo of the snow on our back deck.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

In which I re-hash some old stuff about going to church

I have some things I want to talk about but I feel the need to do some set up first. So there are several things in this post, which will seem unrelated at the moment, but eventually maybe it will make sense.

First is informational: I think people who are not religious sometimes don't realize that there is wide variation in the political and social beliefs of people who call themselves Christian. There are, of course, the conservative Christians who try to reserve the use of the term "Christian" for themselves, and who are very publicly anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion, and pro-virginity (for unmarried women). They also often oppose the ordination of women (i.e., women cannot be pastors in their churches, and in some versions, women are not allowed to even lead worship or pray from the pulpit).

Although that group of people think that they alone are "Christian," there are actually millions of people who honor the life and teachings of Jesus Christ but who don't share that set of prejudices. I was raised to be one of those conservative Christians, and I didn't realize that Christians could be any other way until I was in college and started visiting some other, different churches. That simple realization, which was mind-boggling to me at the time, felt like the truth that had set me free. It was one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

Dean and I have attended the same church in our small Montana town since we moved here in 1992. At the time, the congregation was fairly large for the size of our town (300-ish members), and there were regularly well over a hundred people in worship services.

If you've been around for awhile, you may remember that although we attended church sort-of regularly (1-2 times/month), I didn't join for a long time. Dean joined shortly after we moved here, but I was still feeling ambivalent about church, and although this particular church had many of the things I wanted in a church family (other kids the same age as ours, friendly atmosphere, active in the community, and allowed women to be pastors), it didn't have certain others--most obviously, it discriminated against the LGBTQ community by not allowing them to be elders, deacons, or pastors. (Same-sex marriage wasn't even a discussion in 1992.)

So I attended without joining, and if you want to read more about that, I wrote a post about it in 2011. But that ambivalence was maybe even more important. In 1992, I had only very recently been able to disentangle myself from my evangelical upbringing, and I just wasn't interested in tying myself to another church of any type. Church still filled a need for me, a need for ritual and acknowledgement of a Divine Being, and I loved (and still love) the community of people at our church. But I couldn't really agree with a lot of the things you had to say you agreed with if you joined, so I didn't. Join, I mean.

Ack, I could keep going on about this for paragraphs but it's not necessary for where I'm going with this. Long story short: At some point in there, I read Kathleen Norris's book Amazing Grace, which helped with my ambivalence about the church's creeds. And then our denomination approved gay ordination in 2011, and shortly thereafter I officially joined the church I'd been attending for 18 years. And then in 2014-15, our denomination changed the language of the Book of Order to allow pastors to perform same-sex weddings, and I was even happier.

On both of those occasions, we lost a sizeable number of members of our church. And then of course people left for other reasons, and new people came, and babies were born and people died. So now our church has about 180 members, and we've been through a lot.

And if you read all the way through this post, you've been through a lot, too. I will try to make it worth your while when I get around to part two, which probably won't be until next week.

Friday, February 22, 2019

7ToF: Dooooo Yooooour Ears Hang Low, do they wobble to and fro?

Can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow?

It's possible I spent too many years at camp.

1. This is a No-Shame Zone (NSZ) for people with weirdly shaped ear canals. I can't possibly be the only person that can't keep earbuds in their ears, can I? I look at people wearing $200 airpods and think, well, that would be $200 down the drain for me. I'd lose them in twenty minutes. Maybe five.

2. But you know-- bluetooth listening is pretty appealing. I like listening to audiobooks and podcasts while I'm doing stuff around the house, and it's a lot simpler with something I can wear rather than something I have to carry around from room to room. So, as long as I'm not being too active, these work (they're wired to each other, but not to my phone). The rubber inserts keep them in my ears in a way those slick airpods can't match (and they're one-tenth the price, too). The link is to Amazon, which I know some of you don't like, but the only other place I can find them is on eBay.

(For the record, I am not an Amazon affiliate, I've never had the patience to sit down and figure out how to set it up. In other words, I don't make any money when you click on a link in my blog.)

3. Let's talk about Amazon. The more I find out about their business practices, the more disturbed I am about supporting them. But on the other hand, I can't tell you what an amazing resource Amazon has been for someone who loves to read but lives in a town without a bookstore (I've talked about this before, here). When my kids were little, and Amazon only sold books (remember way back when?), it was a miracle for me to be able to get online, scroll through a practically infinite number of books, and have what almost felt like a conversation about books by scrolling through reviews.

4. But I get it. Amazon is changing retail on a global level, often in ways that are destroying other legitimate businesses. I stopped buying anything from Amazon that I could get locally over a year ago, and I check our library website first for Kindle books. I do my best to support independent bookstores whenever I can (including the snobs at the bookstore in the town to our north, and the used bookstore here in our town, neither of which ever seems to have the books I want).

5. TV report: I've watched a few Dr. Who episodes over the years, but I've never really qualified as a Whovian. But we caught the pilot of the new series last fall, with Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor, and really liked it. So I set our DVR to record any Dr. Who episode it could find, and we now have over 140 episodes to watch. We're slowly working our way through them and becoming bigger fans with every one. I need a Tardis.

6. I went to Texas last week for my mom's 83rd birthday and my older sister's 60th birthday. I'm only two years younger than my sister, so 60 is definitely on my horizon. I can't say I'm exactly happy about it, but I don't think it will bother me as much as 50 did. If you've been around for awhile, you lived through that with me so I don't think we need to go there again. Anyway. The trip was fun and it was nice to be out of winter for a few days. It wasn't exactly tropical down there but there was no snow and the sun came out enough times to make me happy.

7. One midlife topic we haven't discussed much around here is caring for aging parents, and it's because I haven't had to do much of it. My dad passed away in 2011, well-cared for by his wife. My mom still lives independently, and although I can tell she's slowing down a bit, she's still sharp enough to be writing books. She's getting ready to self-publish her fourth novel. She's amazing. But she's not very mobile. She can still walk short distances, but she uses a cane. And I think she's in a lot more pain than she lets on. The last morning I was there, I asked her what hurt the most, since I know she's had trouble with her ankles, knees, and hips. She paused a minute, and then sort of laughed a little and said, "Well, you know, really I'm just kind of miserable." I'm a little self-conscious when I'm with her to be able to stride along, moving fast, walking and walking and walking with no conscious effort.

So our moment of gratitude for this week is for walking. If you can still walk with ease, don't take it for granted. Enjoy every minute.

Have a great weekend. It's good to be back, although I'm not promising to post regularly.

Thursday, January 31, 2019


Well, since I've been sitting here staring at the screen for almost ten minutes, maybe I'm not as ready to start posting again as I thought I was. But for those of you who caught my mini-meltdown on Monday, thank you for being concerned. I had a bad experience with a group of people I work with here locally, and (how utterly silly this sounds) got my feelings hurt.

Social interaction is just beyond me right now. I want to say something melodramatic and self-serving like, I just don't get all these games people play, but honestly, from their perspective, it's possible that they think I'm the one playing games. That's the way complicated situations work. They're complicated.

It was an easy enough problem to solve, at least temporarily. It's a group that has functions twice a year-- around the holidays, and in the spring. I helped out with the holiday functions, and it was no big deal to bow out of the spring season. It will give me time to figure out what happened and maybe I can participate again later. Or maybe not.

That seems to be all I have to say at the moment. I do have three half-written posts in my Drafts folder, so maybe I will start up again next week. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


We interrupt our regularly scheduled break to bring you this public service announcement. If you, like me, are not financially affected by the government shutdown, you may not know that the Department of Agriculture has found a way to pay February SNAP benefits (the program commonly known as food stamps, which are now paid out on debit cards), but they can only do it by distributing those funds early-- this week, in fact.

If the shutdown continues, those funds are the last that SNAP recipients will receive for the foreseeable future. At our local food bank today, I listened to the staff try to plan for the inevitable result of this news: an enormous increase in people needing the food bank. It's not pretty. This affects millions of people nationwide, including well over 100,000 in Montana.

You can claim the moral high road for awhile, and I certainly have my opinion on which side has it (hint: if you ask me, building a wall would be a huge waste of taxpayer dollars). But that time has ended. Get your butts back to the table and figure this out. This is about children being able to eat.

If both sides compromise and present a plan to the president (which I sincerely hope does not include funding for a wall, but at the moment, that's not my highest concern), it will be clear that the problem is the president. He will sign. And one suspects that he will figure out a way to call it a win, because he always does.

That's all. This has to stop.