Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yet ANOTHER Reason to Love Musical Theater

I feel that Jesus would approve:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Can't see the video? Click HERE.

A little update on 01/26/09:

An aquaintance of mine from highschool posted this banner on her Facebook page:

One of her friends posted a comment, and he and I ended up in a debate. Here are the comments as they were posted:

Facebook Guy: Hmmm..This makes as much sense as "if you don't support incestuous marriage... don't get one!"

Highschool Acquaintance: Actually it does make a lot of sense. This is between two grown adults, in a committed relationship who come to the decision together to become life partners. No one is forcing or manipulating anyone. To even compare the two is unfair and hurtful.

FG: Yo (insert name of highschool acquaintance) Two people of the same gender can have the deepest of friendships, but that does not mean they have to have sexual intercourse. Your statement presumes that all incest involves force and manipulation... sadly, it does not. Nevertheless both incest and homosexuality are condemned... "unfair to compare"? The book of Leviticus condemns them equally. "hurtful"? Yes to their Creator. Very hurtful to the One Who created them male and female from the beginning (Words from Jesus in Matthew 19:4).
I challenge you as a friend, and believe you can handle the interaction because you were bold enough to post the statement.

HA: I can handle the interraction...I know you aren't attacking me or anything like that. We've known each other far too long for that. :) I know you come from a good place when we speak of this sort of thing. I'm blessed to have someone like you in my life.

Isn't it possible for people to fall in love with someone of the same sex? I agree that not all incest comes from force and/or manipulation but I guess I'm just naive in that I don't see how the two are the same.

FG: Yes! Lust is a distortion of EROS (sensual love), not AGAPE (sacrifical love). We have PHILEO (friendship love). EROS is meant for a husband and wife.
Homosexuality and incest are not identical, but they are both condemned by the Creator. Unbelievers sin by nature; believers have a new nature (believers wrestle with sin). We must compassionately tell unbelievers the truth that they are lawbreakers and are under God’s judgment. Until they get a grip on the coming wrath, the Good News of Jesus’ love and death on their behalf is ho-hum (meaningless and trivial).

Another chick said: WOW. (insert FG's name here) offense, but you take IGNORANT to a whole new level. I would have to agree with (insert HA's name here) on this one.

Here's where I couldn't keep my big mouth shut in 3...2...1...

Shangrila: (Insert name), have you been listening to Pastor Melissa Scott? She's very compelling, I agree, but the bible was not written by God. In fact, the gospels written by Jesus were not included purposefully, because his works and words did not support the agendas of the men in power who compiled, edited and financed the many versions of the bible after Jesus' death. Studying theology is a passion of mine, and I believe that we were put on this planet to love and be loved- Gay or straight, Buddhist or Catholic, Wiccan or Athiest. Kudos to both you and (insert name) for discussing your beliefs so honestly and openly. :)

FG: Angela, keep studying. The variants in the New Testament manuscripts are minimal. Check out the Dead Sea Scrolls showing the incredible accuracy of Scripture! Contra to what you said, the disciples were eyewitnesses to what they wrote (1 John 1:1).
Are you a roll-your-own theologian? Which god do you worship? When Jesus demanded exclusive worship (“You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve”) what did He have in mind for the Buddhist and Wiccan?
The Holy Spirit describes love this way, “this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). It is loving to obey Jesus’ command to warn the wicked to repent and believe His gospel. It was He Who said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

S: (Insert name), no I am not a "roll-your-own" theologian (do you make these "words" up?) I have studied all "major" religions extensively, and have found versions of the Trinity and a mother figure and her consort across the board. I was raised Roman Catholic, attended Catholic schools and went to mass twice a week for the majority of my life. Jesus was a Jew. What would he think of his "followers" setting him up as a false idol? I am well aware of texts other than the Old and New Testaments and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as my shelves are full of them. Might I interest you in the Gospel of Mary (has a page on Wikipedia, a document by William Wake regarding such can be found at Or the life works of Joseph Campbell ( Or if you can keep your head from exploding, Part one: The Greatest Story Ever Told from Zeitgeist: The Movie (

This is not to say that I believe everything that I see, only that it is important to seek the answers, and not subscribe to dogma. Calling any text "The Word of God" is laughable. Deity is all around us. Providence is not afraid of that which is different. We humans are nothing before the world, dwarfed by a pattern and a purpose too large and complex to imagine. The arrogance of modern day "christians" is unspeakable.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).”

“Seek peace, and pursue it. (Proverbs 34:14)”

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek; and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. [Matthew 7:7-8].”

Okay, one more thing and then I'll shut up-lol! I said, "compiled, edited and financed" not "written." I was not contending whether or not the apostles were eyewitnesses. This only demonstrates why I took issue in the first place. Contemporary christians read, hear and believe, then charge full-steam ahead without stopping to understand the question. It is important to question, reflect, THINK. There is only one god, and his name is Yahweh/ Allah/El Shaddei (I won't say, "Buddha." Buddha was a prophet, as was Jesus.) Much love, A.

FG: A false idol? Jesus is Who He claimed to be! “Those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:33). As C.S. Lewis said, ‘Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is LORD.”
If you are “well aware” of the Dead Sea Scrolls then you know well that the original manuscripts are nearly identical to the translations we hold in our hand.
What is your fascination with other fringe inter-testamental literature if you do not even accept the most well-attested documents of the Middle East?

On what basis do you claim that Yahweh is the true God since you do not accept Scripture as God’s Word? You said it was laughable to recognize the Bible as the Word of God? It is laughable to think you can judge Scripture!
The Tetragrammaton? Jesus evoked Yahweh as a reference to Himself!! Jesus said “before Abraham was, I AM."
Only a prophet? The Lord Jesus Christ forgave sin, received worship, created the universe, and will judge the living and the dead. “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

S: Are you deliberately misunderstanding me? You strike me as very angry. I did not say that Jesus was not who he claimed to be. Jesus did not intend for us to worship him. He taught us how to pray to and serve his father. I did not contend the accuracy of the scriptures as translated from the Dead Sea Scrolls, only that various compilations of the bible included and excluded text according to what served the purpose(s) of the men in power at the time. Unless you can read (and speak) Hebrew (and Greek, and Aramaic) you are comparing a translation to a translation. I love C.S. Lewis. He was the greatest Christian apologist of his time. Please note that he was an athiest from his mid-teens until his 30's (ages 15-33 if memory serves me correctly?) In 'The Last Battle', he wrote: "Therefore if any man swear by (the Devil) and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then...

FG: I don't think I am deliberately misunderstanding you - you said calling the Bible the Word of God is laughable. You seem to deny the Trinity.
(I am not an authority in Biblical languages, but I have had 2 years of OT Hebrew and 3 years of NT Greek.)
Jesus intended full and exclusive worship. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36).
You clearly want to pick and choose what portions of the Bible are accrptable for you. Thus you stand in judgment over Scripture.
Do you know who first questioned the Word of God ("Did God actually say")?

S: ...though he says the name (God), it is (the Devil) whom he serves and by (the Devil) his deed is accepted." This is the point that I was making when I said, "There is only one god, and his name is Yahweh/ Allah/El Shaddei." All gods are one. I said that it is laughable to call ANY text "the word of God". At best, all texts are the words of godly men, at worst tools used by men in power to control the minds and behaviors of other men. The LORD forgave sin because Jesus Christ (the anointed) sacrificed his life. The tetragrammaton is invoked more than 6,000-some times in various texts held sacred by the Judea-Christian church. You are only proving what I have intimated from the first: scripture to support multiple views can be quoted in an attempt to "prove" the accuracy of a statement. Theologists have studied, compared and studied religious texts since before the birth of Chrisianity.

You, also, clearly wish to pick and choose which portions of the text to believe. If you are going to interpret the biblical text so literally, do you then believe that only 144,000 souls (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) will ascend into heaven, as is stated in Revelations 7:4-8 and Rev 14?

Ack-meant to say "Theologists have studied, compared and QUESTIONED religious texts since before the birth of Chrisianity. :)

FG: Yes, I believe the Bible. (And that clearly annoys you too.) "knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation." We are to use a historical grammatical hermeneutic. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." You said "all gods are one," but there is only one true God, and He said "you shall have no other gods before me."
Let me ask you, would you consider yourself to be a good person?

S: It does not annoy me that you believe in the bible. It annoys me that you question my right to consult texts other than "(Insert name here)-approved" scripture, and that you find yourself fit to judge other lifestyles and belief systems (based on the teachings of your church.) I agree, there is only one true God, THEREFORE all Gods are the one true God, no matter the name by which they are invoked, or the language used to pray to Him. Yes, I believe myself to be a "good" person, in that I do my best to follow the ten commandments, grieve and ask forgiveness when I fail, ask my God for guidance every morning and thank him every night, treat others with love, kindness and respect, and am teaching my children to do the same. We are none of us perfect, but we are none of us God, either. Only God is capable of judgement, and for all our studies and struggle toward the light, I believe it a form of arrogance to say that one "knows" God's will.

FG: I am not doubting your sincerity. I do not have all the answers but God does. I do not function on the teachings of any church, I am functioning on the basis of Scripture. Apparently, you trust the critics of the text more than you trust the text.
What I am saying is orthodox doctrine, wheras what you are saying is syncretism. You make a most heretical statement "all Gods are the one true God." This is what I mean by roll-your-own theology. You make it up as you go. You are fashioning god into what you want him to be, and this is a violation of the Second Commandment.

S: I think that we are going to have to agree to disagree. I do not believe that it is heresy to state that there is one true God, and that he is known by many names, in many cultures. I do not believe that it is heresy to trust that all good and moral men and women have a chance at eternity based on the good that they do and the love that they share here on earth. Our interpretation of the second commandment differs. Ultimately, I think that our main difference is that I feel that God speaks to me through many channels, and you believe that God is found in scripture alone. If I am right, we will laugh together in the afterlife. If you are right, you will laugh alone. As it stands, I will pray for you, and hope that you will do the same for me. Much love, A.

FG: Thanks for your amicability Angela. I would not laugh or rejoice for anyone not entering the kingdom of God. May I share further contrast? I believe that we have each broken God's laws and our goodness tank is on empty. "No one is good except God alone" (Mark 10:18). We need Someone Else's perfect morality to be credited to our account. So the Eternal Son Jesus took on flesh, came here and lived a righteous life. He did this because none is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). To say that men and women have a chance at eternity based on their goodness is an empty hope. Have they obeyed each of God's commandments without fail every day of their lives? God demands perfection and no one passes that test. Most people believe they are basically good and do not deserve hell - this is why the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

It is a lot narrower to yield to the fact that each person is guilty of God-belittling and commandment-breaking. So when I repent and turn by faith alone to embrace the Savior’s work on my behalf, I am born again. I am now trusting Him, not my feeble attempts. My destiny lies entirely on Jesus’ goodness, not my own. “Not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
Every man and woman will continue to exist either with the Lord (new heaven/new earth) or without Him (lake of fire).
Yes, I am passionate about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Who is fully capable of preserving a reliable text. His words are so rich and trustworthy. This Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears MY WORD and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

S: I am sorry. Your belief structure makes no sense to me. What then, is the point of kindness? Of love? Of beauty (if not to bring us closer to God?) If Revelations is correct, neither you nor I will enter into heaven. Only 144,000 Jewish celibates that were of/descended from God's Chosen People (the 12 tribes of Israel.) That would mean that Mother Theresa would not be allowed into heaven. Gandhi? No heaven. The martyrs of the middle ages? No heaven. Joan of Arc? No heaven. The men who fought in the Crusades? Nope. Fred Rogers? C. S. Lewis? Pope John Paul II? No, no, and no. The Dalai Lama? No dice. The souls of innocent babies (baptised AND unbaptised)? En-no. That makes NO SENSE. If Revelations is NOT correct, doesn't that make the entire text suspect? How to explain the dichotomy found in scripture (where different scriptures seeming counteract others?) This is not "roll your own" theology. Frankly, I'm just not that cool!

These are questions that were asked by holy men and theologians long before you or I were born. I doubt that you or I will ever bring one another to the other's way of thinking. I truly believe that God's promise regarding the sacrifice of his son, and the forgiveness of sin is enough. I am betting my soul (and the souls of my children) on it. I will continue to be a "good" person, and know that you will do the same, in the ways that you feel the scriptures have instructed you to. Respectfully, as always, A.

FG: Wow! Amazing! Have you read the Revelation? (It is singular, not plural.) These special 144,000 are the “firstfruits for God and the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4). Are you familiar with the firstfruits of old? Firstfruits foreshadow the even greater, coming harvest! The text doesn’t say that are the only ones who will ever enter heaven! I am confident that when a born again believer is “absent from the body,” he is “present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). The gospel is given to “every nation and tribe and language and people” (Revelation 14:6)! There is a blessing for those who read the Revelation (1:3), but be cautious about attacking it, because it is the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” who alone is worthy, and whose blood ransomed “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation!” (Revelation 5:9).

S: I've tried to be nice. I've tried to be respectful (which is more than I can say for you, "Christian" that you are). I say "revelations" when referring to two different scriptures from that book in the bible. Sue me. Don't you and your teachers realize that when you quote scripture over and over it becomes meaningless noise to the people hearing (and reading ) it? Go ahead and spew scripture instead of answering the questions posed if it keeps you from feeling lost. If you want to teach others your belief system, you may want to work on not coming off as an arrogant, know-it-all jerk. It's off-putting and I can't imagine that it wins many over to your camp. You are too proud of what you've learned and what you think you know to have truly shown the humility and selflessness that you have said God requires. You would do better to improve yourself instead of condemning others, as we all have a lifetimes work waiting for each of us within. I have tried to end our exchange twice, stating that we will never convince each other to think differently. Go ahead and put in your last word. Study your precious scripture in an attempt to control your fear and anger, I wish you joy in it. As for me, I will make the most of this life that I've been given.-A.

FG: Yikes! I answered your claim that Revelation was not correct and that "the entire text suspect." I answered your objection that Revelation limited heaven-goers to only 144,000, showing (from the text) that people from all tribes will be saved. I am not interested in a last word here, but I am very interested in the WORD of God because this is how faith comes - "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). It is through the precious "sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).
"Spew scripture" - Wow! Since theology is a passion of yours, I would never have guessed that you would be turned off by the Bible. Is the Bible living and active? Is the Bible sharper than any two-edged sword? Doesn't the Bible pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart?

S: I am not "turned off" by the bible. The bible is a book, no more powerful than any other book that moves people's heart and soul and mind. I've read the bible 3 times (as an adult, once as a pre-teen , which I don't think counts) and have found it fascinating and inspiring, but none of the things you claim it to be. YOU did not answer me, you gave quotes from the bible, which, as I've stated before, can be used to "prove" many differing viewpoints. That's it. The only thing I have left to say can be found here: .

FG: You do not want to tangle with infinite anger from an omnipotent God on judgment day.

At that point I decided that I'd filled January's quota for listening to crazy talk and (tried to) let it go. Clearly, I have not yet succeeded as I still feel the urge to find this guy and beat him to death with a crucifix. I'm going to go now. I need to chant the serenity prayer and try to bless Facebook Guy. (No way am I letting this dumbass ruin my karma.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

1000 Words Meme: "Home"

Joey stood on the sidewalk with her fists straining against the insides of her jacket pockets, her cheeks rosy as she gasped against the autumn wind. Sternly informing herself that another trip around the block (over oh-so-familiar cracks in the sidewalk and the black wrought-iron fence that she'd always admired) was NOT necessary, she pressed her lips into a grim line and walked up the newly painted steps, past plump, cheery pumpkins and stopped to knock at the red door.

There had been a time when she had scrambled breathless up these steps and burst through first the porch door, and then the more substantial front door calling, "I'm here! Nana! Grandpa, are you home?" She remembered hurtling forward, sure of her welcome. She wasn't sure why she'd come now. Now that this house no longer belonged to her family; now that her grandparents were beyond her reach. The new owner of the house was equally out of reach currently, as no-one had answered her rap on the glass of the storm door. Pressing the levered handle of the door, she felt like a penitent in a house of worship as she stepped onto the enclosed porch to knock more forcefully on the inner door.

Joey's heart hammered in her throat and she had to grasp the door frame for support at the familiar sound of dog nails clicking against the hallway floor and staccato barks followed by a woman's voice calling, "I'm coming!Charlie, no! One minute, please..." When the door swung open, a young blond woman stood just inside, her right hand grasping the thick collar of a large taffy-colored mutt who strained on his hind legs against the strength of the woman's grip as he struggled to sniff Joey and wag his whole body at the same time. The woman said laughingly, "You'll have to excuse his manners, he's had no upbringing! Can I help you?"

Joey had rehearsed what she would say on the drive over, and then again as she found a parking space, lost her nerve, and walked around the block. It was just now she realised that nothing she said would keep her from feeling stupid. "I used to live here. I mean, my grandparents used to live here and I was wondering if I could walk through the house because I heard that sometimes people can do that!" she finished in a rush. The owner of the house appraised Joey for a moment through narrowed gray eyes, and seemed to time her decision to the moment when Joey's hands instinctively moved to cup the dog Charlie's face in an attempt to soothe his increasingly wild gyrations.

"I suppose that would be alright, though we weren't planning for company today. You'll have to excuse the mess," she backed into the house, grunting, "My name is Quinn!" as she struggled to pull her recalcitrant canine companion across the floor to allow Joey's entrance. Joey smiled, and the butterflies that had taken up residence in her belly the last few hours subsided considerably. "I'm Joey Maegestro. Don't worry about the mess; Nana always said, 'An immaculate house is the sign of a misspent life.' "

Inside, Joey saw a Big Wheel in primary colors parked halfway between the entryway and the living room, a far cry from the classy old-world-style elements that the room had entertained in Nana's time, but charming none-the less. Two small children, one fair-haired and the other brunette, stared solemnly through their mother's gray eyes as they stood arm-in-arm in the kitchen hallway. Joey couldn't determine the age or sex of either child, having no experience in that sort of thing, and was relieved when Charlie turned his attentions away from her to jump up and lick their faces, making them laugh and forget about her, too.

Following Quinn through the house, Joey felt herself letting go of the past a little more with each redecorated room, until she stood in the little postage-stamp of a backyard and surveyed the bright, thick expanse of grass. "I'm so glad that you chose to make this a lawn. I always hated the brick patio and how bare the vegetable garden looked most of the year."

"We installed a swing set behind the garage. You can't see it from here, but it's a perfect play area for the girls, and I can watch them easily from there," Quinn nodded toward a white Adirondack chair near the opposite fence corner.

Joey turned and squinted up at the second and third stories of the house. "You installed a rail on the balcony! That was always 'my' room, you know. We were always forbidden from going out that door, but my cousin Stephanie and I always did anyways."

Quinn shivered, having foregone a jacket for this quick trip outside. "Do you mind going in? I don't like to leave the kids unattended for more than a few minutes, especially with Charlie. They're all fairly well behaved, but I try not to tempt fate. There's always the possibility that today's the day they'll forget to use their powers for good and not evil!"

Once inside, Quinn's daughters fell into trailing the grown-ups as Joey led the way back to the entry way and up the stairs that rose along the wall opposite the living room. Running her hand along the wall, which was now bare but had once been home to a replica of Mozart's death mask, Joey smiled at the creak in the seventh step, smiling over her shoulder to say, "I'm glad you didn't have that fixed." Where the stairs turned, she spun and put her hands on her hips before asking, "Do you know the secret?" Quinn and the children didn't.

Placing her hands lightly over two of the items displayed on the built-in bookshelf on the landing, Joey asked, "May I?" Quinn nodded and looked increasingly curious as Joey carefully placed first the decorative figurines, then the books and lastly the lifted-out shelves onto the risers of the next flight of stairs . Joey glanced at Quinn's reaction as she released the well-hidden catch, and the back of the bookshelf swung away from her, revealing a tiny hidden room. After sitting on the lower, stationary portion of the bookcase, Joey pivoted on her backside and swung her legs into the secret nook. Bending at the waist, Joey lifted first one girl and then the other into their newly found play area before turning to open the box full of photographs, letters and, at the very bottom of the box, bonds that had been left behind, waiting for her.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Dig Dahlias

Yesterday I finished the week-long task of digging and storing my dahlia tubers, which is a good thing since morning light revealed our first snowfall of the year. There are lots of spiffy tutorials on-line with instructions, but I thought I'd document my process (and progress):

First I dig the tubers clumps, being careful to dig at a diameter that tubers won't be sliced by the spade. (Most gardeners use a garden fork, but I'm cheap and have a spade, so I use the spade):

I spray down the clumps with the garden hose, and then take them inside to divide them:

Each tuber must have an eye (like a potato) to be viable. The eyes are usually located on the ridge where the tuber joins the stem, and dividing them can be anything from soothing to maddening depending on how each clump develops. I use a bypass pruner, an old kitchen knife and an exacto knife, primarily. Tubers with thin necks are iffy, as they're more susceptible to rot, breakage and drying out, but sometimes you've gotta take what you can get and hope for the best-lol! The "mother" tuber (original tuber planted) will look darker/older and most of the time will not produce a plant next year, so I discard it along with tubers that don't have eyes (some dahlia enthusiasts use the mother tuber to take cuttings from the following spring.) I trim all excess material from the tuber, including roots and "rat tails" at the ends to discourage rot. Here's a close-up of tubers that have "eyed-up":

Watch out! Scary big-eyed tubers comin' atcha!

I soak the tubers in a mixture of one cup bleach per three gallons of water for 15-20 minutes to kill any fungus or creepie-crawlies. ( You can coat them with sulfur powder or another fungicide, but again, I'm cheap and use what's on hand!) Also if you use reasonably warm water and leave the water in the sink an extra 40 minutes or so, you've just completed the first step of Shiny Sink 1o1! Multi-task, baby!

Then I lay them out to dry for several hours before bagging them (2-3 cups of vermiculite and 5-8 tubers per gallon zip-lock) or wrapping them in saran wrap (I use both methods). Bags go into a cardboard box that's been lined with newspaper and the box is then placed into storage (anywhere cool and dark between 40 and 50 degrees is good. A fridge works great if you have an extra one as long as you don't store produce in it as well. I don't (have an extra fridge) and so use the storage closet in our art room, which gets quite cool, but doesn't freeze.

This was the last of them, white waterlily dahlias that were my least favorite this year, as they don't hold a candle to my favorite white-a dinnerplate dahlia from Lynch Creek Farm. I'm storing them anyway to give to my sister to jazz up her veggie garden.

The experts say that you should check on the tubers monthly to remove any that are beginning to rot, and to mist with a little water if they're beginning to shrivel. I say, "Faggedaboudit! Live or don't!" and enjoy the holidays and winter-time pursuits until the first week in March, when I will pull my box from storage and plant them indoors under lights March 15th to give my 2009 dahlias a head start!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Recollection

Up until the last election, when I was shocked to find myself crying at the announcement that John Kerry had lost and Bush Jr. had been re-elected as our president for another term, I have never been what you could consider a political animal. In fact, I remember students cheering at our arts high in '93 when Clinton first took office and having to ask the person I'd been talking to which political party our president-to-be belonged to. Happily, I am far more enlightened these days than I was back then.
Today my husband took a vacation day from work with the sole purpose of making it easier for us both to vote. My beloved was kind enough to let me vote first (ah! sweet half-hour of solitude and freedom!) and as I drove to the polls I was reminded of many things.

In order to reach the elementary school where I was to vote, I had to drive past the apartment where Jesse and I lived for 12 years prior to purchasing our house 2 1/2 years ago. It's a pretty drive that I don't usually take anymore (though it's only minutes away from our current home) and as I passed "my" Holiday gas station and "my" intersection-from-hell, I felt a true longing, if not for our cramped apartment, for the lovely little neighborhood that saw me from my teen years into my 30's. (My God, that looks even worse in print.) Driving past, I could see the windows of our old apartment, shutters drawn as it hasn't been rented out since, and regretted once again forgetting to take the window boxes that I'd installed on the little 3rd floor balcony with me when we moved.

Across the street from my voting station sat Jesse's and my one-time dream house. 8 years ago when it went on the market, we were given a tour by the owners, and fell in love with the great-room kitchen, built-in spice drawers, tile hearth, tiny little bedrooms and honest-to-goodness tower. The house was built in the early 1900's and carefully moved from Anoka to Fridley years ago. Even knowing that we couldn't afford it, Jesse and I drove past it together at night long after it sold to someone else. As I parked on the curb before heading in to vote, I couldn't help but think about what I would do differently with the front yard were it mine. (I would banish the cheap plastic Adirondack chairs for one!)

Making my way to door #6 as indicated by voting signs, I passed children at recess on the playground, and smiled at a little girl that skipped past dressed in a red skirt and sweatshirt, white bobby socks and black Mary Janes. She reminded me of who I was really voting for. I placed my votes for Obama/Biden, Senator candidate Barkley and the MN environment levee and proudly affixed my red "I voted" sticker to the lapel of my leopard-print dress. To me, this is an honest-to-goodness rite of adulthood. It's right up there with wearing the cross-shaped smudge of a Catholic on Ash Wednesday. On my way back to the van, I complimented a little girl's funky pastel argyle knee-highs. Sadly, animal-print and argyle do not mix. Sigh.

On my way home, I remembered that once when I was a girl a family member (my dad or an uncle maybe?) asked me dubiously if I even knew the names of the political parties. I was eager to please and promptly replied, "I think so! Isn't it Democrats and...Prostitutes?" A roar of laughter went up among the grown-ups and someone said something along the lines of, "That's about right!" while my face flamed and shame snaked through my belly.

Once home, Jes' ran out to vote, just as later my sister would come by to drop our nephew off at our place long enough to cast her ballot. When I picked my daughter up from school she took note of my sticker and asked incredulously, "You voted!?" I assured her that indeed, I had. "Who'd ya vote for?!" she blurted guilelessly. I remember asking my parents the same question and being told that a person's vote was private and, when pressed, that they were neither republicans or democrats, but independents. Remembering how disenheartening that answer set was to me, I smiled and told her, "Barack Obama and Joe Biden!" "Oh!" She said off-handedly, "I voted for John McCain, but then I realised that he doesn't want to bring our troops home from Iraq until 2013!" (This is an issue near to her heart, as her godfather, Sgt. Travis Knudsen, is currently serving his second year in Iraq.) This statement gave me pause until the obvious came to me, "Did they have an election at school?" Of course they did. Very cool!
Off to work I went, and I resisted the urge to check the early returns online, thinking that it would be more fun to hear the news from my husband after my shift. The second that I got into my van, I dialed home with my cell phone and asked Jesse for an update. He answered, "I dunno. Haven't checked!" WTF?!! I explained that I'd been waiting all night to share the moment with him and he said, "Tell you what: I won't check until you get home so that we can find out together!" I took a fast food order from him and then had to tell the guys at our local Arby's, "Don't tell me, don't tell me!" before driving home to be with my man.

We cheered, hugged, kissed at the news that Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be our next presidential team, listened to Obama's acceptance speech (which gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes, alternately) and checked the news regarding MN's levee and the Senatorial candidates (Norm Coleman and Al Franken were neck and neck, so there will certainly be a recount). We checked back with Obama in time to see Michelle's kick ass dress (gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I want it!) and smile at the appearance of Joe Biden, the darling Obama girls and Biden's cutie-pie grand-daughter.

In the end, I am happy and exhausted and feeling sympathy for John McCain, who is a wonderful and admirable man, a good politician and an asset to America by any definition of the word! (Psst! President-Elect Obama, wouldn't McCain make a great Secretary of Defence?! I think so! But then, it was Jesse's idea, and I tend to think that most of his ideas are good.) Peace out, fellow Americans!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Square Pegs, Round Holes

My sister has a bumper sticker on her Facebook page that says, "One of the toughest things in life is deciding when to give up and when to try harder." A shameless perfectionist, I can totally relate. Somewhere in my early years I developed an unwavering policy, an absolute refusal to participate in any activity that I did not clearly rock at. You can't make me roller blade, just try! I tried it, I sucked at it, I moved on. (I can do a great jazz square, though. Like Ryan in HSM would say, "Everyone loves a good jazz square!") "But Angela," you say,"what about practising, improving, being proud of your progress, however meager?!" Uh, no, sorry, couldn't possibly.

The razor edge of this vain and impatient side of me drives me to madness. I have spent the majority of my life telling myself that if I just work longer, try harder, everything will be...perfect. My sisters and I share a strange personality trait. We have a tendency to plan everything out in our heads so intricately, in such minute detail down to what will be said and who will say it, that every accomplishment, every event, party and important moment can only pale by comparison, falling flat in the shadow of our lovely fantasy world. Painful and frustrating, these "lacking" moments incite me to push ever harder until I break, only to begin the cycle again almost immediately.

Even now that I recognise this behavior as the self-torture that it really is, I spend far too many moments struggling against an invisible brick wall, because while I know that this will not bring me peace or happiness, I do not know how to re-wire my brain. My husband tells me to, "Stop. Let it go. It's okay." A dear friend of mine has a saying that was a revelation to me the first time that I heard it: Italic"You're just gonna have to love me where I'm at!" she said, stepping over kid's toys and a plate with buttered toast on her living room floor. It felt like I'd been struck by lightening upon hearing it. My brain quickly translated: "The people who are most important to you love you regardless of all this external crap, and the people who don't can go f!@* themselves!" Wow. In trying to be all Mary Poppins-like (Practically Perfect in Every Way) I'd overlooked that at the end of the story she is alone (unless you count the sarcastic talking parrot's head on her umbrella, which I don't.) No Bert. No Banks' children. Right.

I used to hear, "Let go and let God" and sneer. I've always been more of a, "God helps those who helps themselves," kinda girl, but now I realize that the moments when I stop trying so hard, when I sit back and let it go, let it flow, when I stop selfishly focusing on my own expectations and desires and look to the people around me (you know, the people that I'm trying to be perfect for, because I love them so damn much) is when the magic happens.

Michael J. Fox says, "I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business." I'm trying, Mike, I'm trying. (Seriously, how great is this guy?! First he provided the women of my generation with Alex Keaton and Marty McFly to moon over, and then he matured with us into this amazing example of strength, intelligence and wisdom.)

I'll end by saying that I know these things are true:

1) The more/better you do, the more those around you will expect of you, leading ultimately to the high likelihood of disappointment all around.

2) There is no such thing as "getting everything done," and I should be grateful (I'm trying to be grateful) because each new day and new goal brings purpose to my life.

3) Those who've come before me have already developed concepts to see me through. Embracing concepts such as hozho, a Navajo-honored quality that incorporates intentional imperfections in textiles and more as a reminder that only the Divine is perfect, can bring a measure of peace and grace to my reaching heart.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cats and Kidisms

The universe is laughing at me. I know this because as we were frantically heading for the door this morning, ten minutes late as usual, my girl came in the front door with a cat that was not ours. Winter had headed outside ahead of the rest of us to open the van, and had been asked by a passer-by on the street, "Is that your cat?"

A complete sucker like her mama, Winter replied, "No, but we'll take care of it and try to find it's owner." Crap. I became (even more) flustered and said something dumb like, "I don't have time for this!" (Nice message, mom. Being on time is more important than a living creature that needs our help? Just hell.) My husband pointed me toward the door as the cat made a bee-line to the cat food bowls, clearly starving. "I'll put her in the bathroom with a litter-box and some food and you can deal with her when you get back." Have I mentioned that I really appreciate that guy?

As we all buckled up, Winter asked anxiously, "Did I do the right thing, Mama?" I assured her that she had, trying to undo some of the damage my previous exasperation may have caused. "I thought she (the cat) was another present," West said in a sad, small voice from the backseat. "I'm sorry, Buddy. She's not our kitty." We made it to the middle school just in time. Phew.

Once home, I called our local pet store and the sheriff's department to report that we'd found said kitty. To my surprise, the police sent an officer to pick up the cat, leaving me with info to reclaim her if her owners aren't found in the next ten days. Beware people, pet ownership is a slippery slope!

In the middle of all of this, Walker began bringing me articles of clothing from the laundry basket. The screaming was well underway before I realised that he wanted to wear all of it. I helped him into his striped shirt and his sister's satin fitted jacket, with my beige bodysuit over the whole mess, West's snow boots finishing the ensemble. Right.

My husband calls, the first of many that I will receive from him today. I give him the update, and he asks, "What do you think?" I think that # of pets=# of people is my limit! Thankfully, James Blunt makes an appearance on Sesame Street singing, "A Triangle" to the tune of "You're Beautiful." Calms me right down.

I had originally planned to talk about West growing up. Yesterday he said, "I changed my mind" for the first time, replacing my favorite kidism of his, "I changed out my mind!" Sigh.

To do list:
1) Pick up art room.
2) Fold and put away mountain of laundry.
3) Cut down and prep remaining dahlias to dig next week.
4) Wash kitchen floor (wishful thinking).
5) Plaster crack in bathroom wall, prep for painting.
6) Bed by nine (must get up early for work tomorrow.)

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Everything I Need To Know I Learned in the Theater

1) It's a hard knock life, but the sun'll come out tomorrow.

2) When you mess up, slap on a smile and get back on track.

3) Improvisation requires saying yes, trusting the people standing next to you, and going with the flow.

4) Working with children and animals is hell.

5) Boys are gay.

6) Your critics? Just jealous.

7) Costume and makeup make all the difference!

8) You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You.

9) Money makes ze vorld go round, ze vorld go round...

10) There's no place like home.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Last week, I visited an Aldi's grocery store. It was the second time I've been there (the first being last year, at which time I was not impressed, as they did not carry many items that my family uses consistantly.) This time I brought my kids, and we found $50.00 worth of off-brand alternatives to our usual grocery list. (The thought just occurred to me: did I find more out of necessity? Were my mind's eyes opened by the change in our financial status with me being out of work recovering from my back injury and related migraines, compounded by fears regarding our current economy?) Regardless, at check-out, I saw them: huge cloth grocery bags! It was then that I realized that I am a Go Green Grocery Bag Whore.

I can't explain the allure of these cloth bags. Maybe it's that they rarely cost more than a dollar. Maybe they remind me vaguely of those huge cloth bags by Guess that were all the rage in high school in the early 90's. Maybe it's the illusion that I'm doing something good for the environment (I'm not; these bags will never be returned to a store to be used instead of paper or plastic.) Maybe it's just one of those things that I'm destined to unintentionally collect, like the cups that I'm continually culling from our cupboards, I don't know. What I do know is that off the top of my head I own a minimum of 4 Anoka County Library bags, 2 Half Price Books bags, 2 Cub bags, 2 Walmart bags and now, 3 Aldi's bags. I guess I'll just focus on the silver lining: I can always use one of the bags the rest of the bags.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Never say "Never!"

My husband and I, being of sound mind and body, decided not long ago that we were done having pets. After all, we only had one adult cat who, being a very independent sort, wasn't much trouble at all; he would eventually age and die and then we would be done with the muss and fuss that pets add to your life! We agreed, "After Domino, no more pets!" (Can you guess where this is going?)

Immediately, we were tested. My mother called, asking sweetly whether or not she could get our daughter a kitten for an upcoming birthday. I wavered . (It would make Sissy so happy!) My husband held firm, I remembered our pact and agreed. Our verdict? No kitten.

All went well until my girl's birthday party. It was a great party. However, during said party, our dear friend Doug brought my husband a hedgehog, of all things, that Doug's brother had recently abandoned. My reaction? "Well that's just fine! Are you serious? You say yes to a hedgehog, but no to a kitten?!" "But I've always wanted a hedgehog!" "I've known you for 15 years, and you've never once said that you wanted a hedgehog!" "Well, I did (secretly want one)." "That sucks, Dude!" (Yes, occasionally I actually do talk that way.) "Fine, whatever, Winter can have a kitten." I knew that he didn't mean it, but I was feeling vengeful, so I told my mom.

Back at the ranch, I was having problems of my own. See, a few years ago I had a dog named Rocky ("Rock" for short). He was too big and too sassy and technically my daughter's dog, but I loved him. I was heartbroken when we had to find a new home for him, and something about the autumn air was making me really miss my dog. I started stalking schnoodles and mini-dachshunds online, knowing that their temperaments and size would be a much better fit for our family. I began lingering in dog food aisles at Cub and Target. I wasn't serious, though. I mean, it's not like I had several hundred dollars laying around to drop on a dog. It would be the height of selfish irresponsibility to just get myself a dog when I could barely handle my current responsibilities, right? Right?!

Enter indulgent husband, stage left. Unbeknownst to me, he was aware that I was pining. When my sis came over for a visit, he asked her to watch the kids so that he could steal me away for lunch. We were barely out of the driveway when he said, "Wanna go buy a dog?" I immediately confessed that I'd really been wanting one, and agonizing over the idea. He replied, "I know." I explained that I wanted to show him some of the breeders websites that I'd found online (our humane society had no small dogs available, and I didn't want to perpetuate puppy mills by buying from a pet shop.) Once home, I hopped online and within hours had found the dog that I wanted: a one-year-old female isabella and tan double dapple miniature dachshund, listed for a small fraction of what it would cost for a puppy from the same breeder. In a flurry of phone calls and emails and Paypal transactions I made her mine. My mother had been kind enough to agree to go get her for me, and the next day my new dog Katie joined the household.

Did you forget about the kitten? 'Cause my mom didn't! She was tirelessly searching Freecycle and Craig's List with the sole purpose of finding her granddaughter The Perfect Kitten. After emailing me several possibilities, she found it: a pure white kitten, the likes of which my daughter has been dreaming of ever since she saw The Aristocats at age four. I now had a conundrum: how did I push my luck and get my husband to allow the kitten? I considered just picking it up and springing it on him. I considered lying and saying that we found it all alone...somewhere. In the end, I realised that I couldn't lie to him and 'fessed up. "Honey, you know how my mom called? She was wondering if she could steal Sissy and I away for a little while tomorrow, or maybe just Sissy..." "Sure, what're you guys gonna go do?" "Well, see, here's the thing..." Suddenly I had his full attention, shrewd eyes appraising mine. "I was trying to find a way to tell you, but..." "Just tell me, Ange." So I did. The thing about my husband is that he's mercurial. A very laid back guy with a hot temper, so it's always a crap shoot as to how he'll feel about something. His response when I came clean about kitten machinations? A roll of the eyes, a rueful smile, and, "What's one more at this point? Let her have the kitten!" (He also referenced Animal House.) My mom got my girl the kitten, and my daughter lovingly agreed to "share" with her brother, naming the fluffball Snowbelle Callista Pearl Mohn.

So, in review: over the course of less than two months, the couple who agreed, "No more pets" has added a hedgehog, a dog and a kitten to the mix, quadrupling the amount of pet mouths to feed. We've also agreed that we are done having children.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rigoletto and Other Revelations

bella (femminile) agg beautiful
figlia nf daughter, child (offspring)

When I was growing up, my Nana would say, "Bella Figlia!" when I (or one of my sisters or many girl cousins) entered the room. It was years before I thought to ask what it meant, and always knowing that it was an endearment, was not too surprised when Nana said that it translated as 'beautiful daughter'. (I had always assumed that it meant something like 'beautiful face', I don't know why, for years my sister and I also confused the terms 'basta!'-enough! and 'pasta fazule'-pasta with beans, shouting, "Basta fazule!" whenever we wanted the other to knock something off. Now I look up the italian word for bean, and it's "fagiËĦolo", who knew? It doesn't matter, we will continue to tell each other "enough beans!") Our bastardization of the mother tongue notwithstanding, naturally when my own daughter came along, she was dubbed, "Bella Figlia!" as well as "Bambina" ("Bambi" or "Bina" for short). So, this blog will be about my daughter, who introduced me to motherhood, the two little boys that came after her, my husband and of course myself. My Nana's Bella Figlia.

In checking the spelling for "figlia" online, I was surprised to find that there is an aria in Verdi's opera, Rigoletto called "Bella figlia dell'amore":

Bella figlia dell'amore,
Schiavo son dei vezzi tuoi;
Con un detto sol tu puoi
Le mie pene consolar.
Vieni e senti del mio core
Il frequente palpitar.


Beautiful daughter of love,
I'm a slave of your habits;
With only a word you are able to console
my sadness.
Come and listen to the frequent beats of my heart.

I had always assumed that my Nana, like me, was passing on something that she had heard as a child. It wasn't until learning about the aria that it occurred to me that she'd learned it in a song, which she would've known, because she was an opera singer. (My Nana, Josephine Busalacchi became the first Metropolitan Opera Auditions regional winner from Wisconsin in 1957. She won the Chicagoland Music Festival, singing before 100,000 people at Soldier's Field. After making her local debut in the Florentine Opera Company's production of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" at the Pabst Theater, she toured nationally with Boris Goldovsky's company, singing opposite Sherrill Milnes in "Tosca." She even sang on the Ed Sullivan Show. In 1965, she founded the Milwaukee Opera Company with my grandfather, Richard Rottman, and her brother, my great-uncle Nino. The company ran for 30 years, at which time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.)

Amazing. I had no idea that this phrase could reveal a little glimpse into my Nana's life, like another little gift hidden for me now that she's gone. Maybe my words will stay, too. Maybe as I find myself on these pages, I will leave behind something for my children to hold onto when I am no longer here to hold them.