Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Five

It's been a while since I played, so here goes...

What are you:

1. Wearing - black ballet neck 3/4 length sleeve shirt and light blue jeans and tennis shoes - comfortable, but not too slouchy

2. Pondering - how being an aunt will change my life and how I feel about the possibility of being a mother myself one day... maybe...

3. Reading - I'm at work, so I'm not reading anything right this second, but I have a whole list of books and things to read for classes. My personal favorite (said as sarcastically as possible) is "Radical Reformission" by Mark Driscoll. For more insight on this book, check out hipchick's blog entry.

4. Dreaming - lately I've been having really strange dreams and haven't been sleeping well. For example, last night my dream was almost tetris-like trying to figure out how to fit all of my paper recycling trash (boxes, bags, etc.) into my one little bin.
More long term, life dreams are to buy my own house (something a little older and in need of TLC so Trouble and I can fix it up and make it our own unique sanctuary) and find the perfect church job.

5. Eating - at the moment, nothing, but I ate an apple breakfast bar on the drive to the hospital this morning to meet my brand new nephew. I'm salivating at the thought of going to an Indian restaurant for lunch in a couple of hours. Yummmmmm....


My nephew was born this morning at 8:04 am - 19 inches long, 6 lbs, 10 oz and absolutely beautiful.

I have never been a baby fan - I'm scared I'll drop them or that they'll throw up on me or something... I've also never understood why people fawn all over them, talking about hos cute they are. Let's face it - newborns are often pruny, gunky, alien-type creatures. They get cute later (at least some of them), but not generally when they are brand new. Well, this time it's different.

I don't know if it's just because we're related, but I honestly think Asher (what a great name) is the cutest newborn I've seen - really the only one I've ever thought was cute. If it is just because we're related, what a shame that I've never been able to appreciate the other babies I've seen! If it's not about being related, why on earth is this one just so darn precious?

This is the first grandchild on either side of the family so Asher is well on his way to being the most spoiled child. :) Aunt Mandy and Aunt Trouble are doing their part to help the process for sure! I can't wait to get to babysit - and I NEVER thought I would think that. It's not even my child and I'm already feeling changed....

What's that?? When am I going to have my own? Don't Trouble and I want to have that parent experience?? Well, I go back and forth for a variety of reasons, but mostly I think it costs too much money and there are too many legal blocks to that happening for us anytime soon. The state of Missouri isn't too keen on "people like us" being foster parents or adopting. Adoption may someday be a viable option, but it would help if I got a job first to save up the money that would cost (never mind the cost of taking care of the child once we got it). So until then, I will dwell in the joy of being "Aunt Mandy" and knowing that when there is a temper tantrum or really gross illness, I can send him back to his parents. I love you guys!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Weird is the new normal...

Well, it's been a crazy week on several fronts so I've been away from blogs. I didn't really know what I could say about all of the things on the news and the emotions that I was sorting through (I can't believe it's already been 12 years since the Murrah building was bombed!) so I was glad to see that hipchick tagged me and gave me something fun to blog!! I'm all for some comic relief!

I'm supposed to list 6 things that make me weird, so here goes...

1. I LOVE musicals and have dreamt of playing more female musical roles than I care to admit...

2. I can (and OFTEN do) rewrite lyrics of a song to fit a particular situation.
For example, "Sushi with green tea and orange flavored candy, playing guitar and a girlfriend named Mandy, beagles and hiking and good rock climbing - these are some of Trouble's favorite things..." (adapted from Sound of Music - I could go on and on...)

3. I absolutely love seminary, reading theology and having deep discussions about religion

4. I can't stand to have anything too tight on my neck, including turtlenecks or new tshirts that haven't been appropriately stretched out (I think maybe I was strangled in a past life).

5. I sleep with one foot hanging out of the covers or I get too hot.

6. I don't like to drink soda or beer, which really leaves coffee as my only social drink...

And now I tag Unit (if he can get his blogger name working) and Rachel!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Shame on us and Imus

As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Don Imus, a "shock jock," made some comments about the Rutgers (college) Women's basketball team that have caused quite a stir. The comments were offensive not just in terms of race but also in terms of gender, and CBS and MSNBC initially gave Imus a 2 week suspension but have now fired him altogether (after a lot of publicity). I think just about every news show has weighed in on this in some way, and I thought it was intriguing that the Today Show did a piece this morning where they attempted to get the opinion of "the man [sic] on the street." They had a room of 12 people (notably a mix of male and female, various ethnicities) who all shared their opinions on the story. Everyone thought about it a little bit differently, but only one person really got my attention. He asked, "Why did this guy have a job in the first place?" and that got me thinking....

Don Imus' radio show got more than 2 million viewers, so there was some kind of a draw. I wonder about humor and where we develop a sense of what is funny. Is it learned? Part of personality or culture or both? People like Imus and Howard Stern are shock jocks - they get paid to say and do these outrageous things because people like them. Why? What makes them funny? Why do we laugh when others are put down or humiliated? Why is it okay to make fun of some people (say fat people, or people with low IQ's) but not others? Even watching Jay Leno or David Letterman - guys whose humor is more "mainstream" - many of the jokes are making fun of people (although W. makes it soooooo easy...) and millions of people laugh every night. The argument is that this time, with this particular comment, Imus went too far. I want to know who draws that line?? How do we know when things have gone too far? Is it arbitrary? Does it depend on who the speaker is or who the audience is? Do we establish what the line is or are we just supposed to somehow figure it out?

I don't know what the right way to handle this whole situation is and I'm not going to spout out "What I would have done..." but I do think it's sad that:
(1) racism is still such a huge issue in this country (and I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever learn to have a real conversation that allows for healing on all sides).
(2) a man no longer has a job and he and his family have a ton of negative publicity to handle
(3) the Rutgers' women's basketball team was humiliated and put in the spotlight for this rather than for their basketball season (and have supposedly received death threats out of all this!)
(4) the governor of NJ was in a serious accident trying to be at the meeting between Imus and the Rutger's team.
(5) when things like this have happened in the past, the person who is seen as the offender (in this case, Don Imus) is punished, but the people behind him, that encourage this behavior don't get much of anything.

Now that Imus has been fired, it won't be long before the media frenzy dies down we can all go back to pretending that everything is fine - at least until the next celebrity makes a racist remark. Looking forward to hearing what you think....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

3rd Time's a Charm??

This morning in my Homosexuality and the Bible class we watched a documentary that was done by a local film student. It's called "Fall from Grace" and is about Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church - a group many people have heard of lately for their protests of soldiers' funerals. I know it was shown at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, TX a few weeks ago and Ryan (the KU student film maker) has now been invited to take it to other festivals while he's still trying to finish college and do local showing around Wichita-Kansas City. If you get the chance to see it, I recommend it. It does a great job of showing Fred Phelps and his family members (those appear to be the only people in his church) doing what they do, using their own words and actions. Yes, they okayed the movie and have seen the finished product.

Today was not my first time to watch the movie - it was my third. And even though I've seen it before, it disturbed me and has me continuing to process lots of feelings. Oddly, it isn't the things that Fred Phelps says that bother me so much. The two things that really get to me are (1) the conversation with Fred's grandchildren where you see 5 year old boys using language they shouldn't understand and (2) the military funeral. Now, these things get to me on different levels - kids saying curse words and slanderous terms is loathsome, but military funerals just make me bawl!

Part of the film talks about the Phelps' clan going to soldiers' funerals and Ryan interviewed one particular widow who spoke about her husband and the day of his funeral. Ryan was at the funeral and there are a few clips from the service itself, including the roll call where the soldier's name is said three times with no response. I know this is military tradition, but WHOA! It kills me every time. There is just something about the auditory experience of hearing the deceased's name said aloud that knocks the breath out of your lungs. I remember it happening when my dad died right before Christmas and his name was read aloud during prayers at Christmas mass. I hadn't been ready for it then either.

The state of Kansas just passed a law banning regarding funeral protests, similar to the law W. passed not too long ago declaring that protests had to be a certain distance away and banned on military property. I don't know how I feel about that. One of the hardest points that the documentary makes is that the ACLU took up Fred's case when he was banned from saying his hate speech in places. Whether we like it or not, the right to free speech in this country includes people saying things that we don't like and that are downright hateful. Phelps blatantly steps on the US flag, hangs it upside down, wears it like a skirt, etc. to provoke people - but that doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to do it. Does that mean he has to the right to protest funerals? I think it might, but I'm not a lawyer or a civil rights expert. What do you think? Are these new laws to protect the soldiers' families going too far? Does Phelps have the right to be there and do these things in that particular setting? Why or why not?

Monday, April 09, 2007

What's up??

Nobody has posted any comments to my lat three posts - and I even used pictures! Am I too serious? Too intellectual? Too high in my expectations that people are actually reading my blog?
Well, I'm moving on to something else, whether anyone reads it or not, because, let's face it, blogging is much more about the blogger than the blog reader.

I had Easter dinner yesterday with a group of people from school, and it was later pointed out to me that we talked about 85% of the time about things from school. Now, not everyone was in seminary, and in fact while our hostess is a fellow student, nobody else in her household of 5 was from Saint Paul. I guess at one point, our conversations about school stuff got on several people's nerves and I know this isn't the first time I've been involved in such a situation. I also know how it feels from the other side, such as when I go out with Trouble and some of her coworkers and much of the conversation is about their workplace. Why do we do this?? Is it that we don't have anything else to talk about? Are we just that self absorbed that we don't pay attention to that fact that others are bored or annoyed?

In my case, I think I actually am that self absorbed that I don't notice the feelings of other people in the room who aren't involved in the conversation. This is one of my big faults. I tend to overlook those who don't speak up (being a talker myself), which results in their perspective (of whatever the case may be) getting run over by my own. And I also admit that I probably come off in such a way that they wouldn't feel weclome to do so. So how do I change that? Being self aware is part of it - but perhaps only the first step, and a small one at that. I am committed to the idea that there are lots of people who get shut out that need to be invited to the table, but that includes me taking a good look in the mirror and working on those things within myself...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday and Easter thinklings

Nothing too long today - just some brief thoughts (or thinklings as I've decided to call them today).

**I'm currently over at hipchick's house assisting 7 children with a mass quantity of Easter eggs. It's funny - I never had this many kids at my house at one time and I'm really impressed with how well things are handled in general. I'm a person who likes control and order - and this is not it!! Way to go, my friend! I'm glad you are the mom here! :)

**Easter morning is supposed to be freezing cold here in KC - like record setting lows of around 22 Easter morning!! Trouble was asked to play her guitar and lead music for a sunrise Easter service by a friend of ours, and she agreed, but we didn't know it was going to be that cold. What does one wear that is both "Eastery" and warm?!?

** Tonight is Good Friday and I know a lot of people have church services this evening. I used to always go but find it hard to find the desire to go this year and I'm not sure why. I have a hard time every Easter with questioning my theology and if I'm really a Christian. I just can't do all of this "blood" stuff. Why do we have to focus on the violence? Why do we get sucked in to movies like the Passion that show all of the gory details? Is that really the point?

**Easter is the heart of the matter regarding Christianity, and thus is my dilemma. Several books I've been assigned to read this semester talk about the ways the world is changing from modern to postmodern thinking. Modern thinking is born of the enlightenment, the age of scientific "proof", universal truths and reason. Postmodern thinking is based on experience, there are no universals and it doesn't require logic - there's room for mystery. Easter is perhaps the biggest mystery I know - and I've always had a hard time with understanding the resurrection. I say that I believe God can do anything, but I've never seen anyone else rise from the dead so I have my doubts based on science. Where do you stand? Do you consider yourself more of a modern or postmodern thinker?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More from the mission trip

I don't want to take too much time but I did want to get to the "work" part of our trip to Louisiana. Our group was split up into three work teams, each going to a different house in Lake Charles. These houses were all working with UMCOR to get their homes fixed because they fell through the cracks elsewhere. Two of the homes had recently had their roofs repaired/replaced so we were working on the inside of the homes. The third house, nicknamed "the bad house" had major work to be done, inside and outside, starting with the roof joists. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of that one yet.

We went out to work at 8 am Monday-Thursday and got done around 4:30 or so, went back to the church and took turns taking showers and changing into comfy, hangin' out clothes. Fortunately, unlike the last time I was in LA for a mission trip, there was more than one shower, which made things much more efficitent. We had this nifty trailer, with NEVER ENDING hot water!! It was awesome.

The house I worked on had been worked by another team the week before we were there (actually probably severl teams over the course of several weeks), so we kind of came into the middle of things. There was a lot of taping and mudding of drywall, and eventually painting, in several rooms of the house (with the resident's belongings in piles in the middle of the floor covered with tarps since she had nowhere else to store it). I spent most of my time in one small bedroom where nothing had been done when we arrived. Monday we pried off the paneling and two layers of sheetrock on the walls (and insulation on the outer wall. Tuesday the ceiling came down, along with A LOT of blown insulation that got everywhere, and we began putting in new insulation in the ceiling and walls. Wednesday we finished the insulation and began hanging the sheetrock (pictured below). Thursday was finishing the dry wall and the beginning of taping and mudding. All in all, the room made a lot of progress and I have to say that I was a little impressed with myself when I managed to cut and hang a panel of drywall all on my own. Now if Trouble and I ever get around to buying our own house, I'm ready to fix it up!!

A few of the bigger insights for me on this trip:

- It's a small world in the UMC (people on our team knew Trouble's parents from when they lived here orwere related to some of our coworkers)

- There is still an overwhelming amount of work to be done - even after more than a year and a half has gone by. UMCOR figures it will be another 3-5 YEARS of work teams coming through to get it all done. Anyone up for a mission trip??

- If I was the position that some of these people are in, I can only hope that I would be so gracious and hospitable. I know that one of my issues is asking for help (I can't even admit I need it, let alone ask for it), but these people had us in their homes everyday. It wouldn't take much for me to be in a similar situation to these people (a small tornado?) and I know that I would have a hard time watching random people from across the country come and fix my house while I had to go to work and couldn't even oversee the work that was being done. God, grant me the patience, graciousness and hospitality I witnessed last week, with all who cross my path.

Mission trip photos

Chairs and cots stacked along the wall of what was once a classroom.
Coffins outside the cemetery, with names or "empty" written on the ends.

Statues of Mary and small figures outside of the rectory and parish life center.
The front of the church - after 18 months.