Thursday, October 28, 2004

"I'm a Christian"

Nearly everyone I know is Christian, Jewish, or very anti-organized religion. The Christians are mainstream/line Protestants, evangelical Protestants, or Roman Catholics - many of whom don't realize that the word "Christian" applies to Catholics.

The Catholics might be onto something here. I've begun to hate the word "Christian". When someone describes him- or herself that way, I'm immediately turned off. I make assumptions: Evangelical! Conservative! Judgemental! And, yes, I note the irony here.

There are 50 million mainline Protestants in the U.S., 65 million Catholics, and 40 million evangelicals. Evangelical denominations are the only Christian denominations that are showing any real growth lately. I don't know if there's anything I can do about that scary trend, or about Americans' related need to see everything in very simple black-and-white. I hope that I can do something about the fact that "Christian" is starting to sound like a dirty word. (And researching the figures in this paragraph was incredibly depressing.)

I hope I can help remind people that 50 million of us are like this. We can see shades of gray. We value context. We don't blindly follow our leaders. We don't vote en mass.

I'm thinking of doing that November Blogger novel thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Ellie turned one a couple of weeks ago. Wow! Her birthday celebration is in three parts, the last of which is this weekend, and I still haven't bought her a present. Last week I tried shopping at Target but didn't find anything appealing. Today we went to Toys R Us, for the first time ever (for either of us). That place seriously sucks. First I thought I'd get her The Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon, but the only walker toys they had were brightly colored, light-weight, plastic monstrosities. Then I thought I'd get her a baby computer keyboard but they didn't have anything like that, either. So I decided to just look around for some quality wooden toys but they didn't have anything wooden except for a couple of puzzles, which she already owns. Sigh. I left with a few classic board books and a Thomas The Tank Engine train that's a little too old for her. Very frustrating.

When my sisters and I were little, we had this great Creative Playthings indoor slide/playhouse thing. It wasn't too big - it fit in a corner of the dining room - and it was wooden so it was both quality construction and attractive. (It turns out that it was also deadly because of a slight gap where some enterprising toddler once jammed his head between the top rung of the ladder and the slide platform, but that's easily remedied.) I have looked and looked but I can't find anything like that anywhere anymore.

I hate brightly colorful plastic.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Prideful Ignorance

Do you remember, in elementary school, when it was the worst shame imaginable to be called upon when you didn't know the answer, barring only the prospect of blanking out while standing in front of the class during the highly competitive "blackboard races" teachers were fond of officiating during rainy recess periods?

Then, sometime in junior high or high school, there was suddenly this kid who could make not knowing the answer look cool. It was like he just didn't care enough to try, and of course not caring is the the very height of coolness. This attitude caught on like wildfire, and pretty soon it was absolutely uncool to "be smart", which really just meant having some vague idea of what was going on in the classroom.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Governor Bush proved that he is, indeed, schoolboy cool. Waaaay cooler, in fact, than his smartypants "liberal intellectual" opponent. Bush didn't seem the slightest bit ashamed when he demonstrated an appalling lack of basic knowledge about foreign leaders and the locations of foreign countries, let alone understanding of foreign policy. Meanwhile, Vice President Gore was chided for throwing around "too many facts and figures" and using "fuzzy math" in the debates. Bear with me for a moment while I build up to one reason, I think, why Conservative and Ignorance walk proudly hand-in-hand lately.

First you have Catholicism, where laypeople have not always been encouraged to read the Bible themselves; priests interpret The Word of God for the masses. Indeed, Catholics go through intercessary priests to be granted absolution for their sins.

Then Protestants come along. Protestants are encouraged to read along and even study the Bible on their own, coming to church to hear interpretative sermons by educated ministers who have taken classes on exegesis as context for their own faith experiences. Protestants are encouraged to confess their sins directly to God, cutting out one important layer of the priestly middle-man.

Finally you have the evangelical Christians. There's a feeling here that every man's reading of the scripture and communication with the Lord is as valid as any other man's. Pastors rarely have (graduate) seminary degrees and sometimes don't even have bachelor's degrees. Religious scholars and theologians are ridiculed. It's not the book-smarts that matter; it's all about the Spirit, baby. The evangelical Christians' stronghold in the Republican party is contributing to the culture of prideful ignorance.

Plus, it's easier to be ignorant.

And keeping things the same is pretty much what "conservative" means, anyway.

As President Clinton said on The Daily Show in August, "When people think, [Democrats] win."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A Day In My Life

Or, what do you do as a stay at home mom, anyway?

2:30 a.m. I'm finished reading blogs and am finally ready for bed. Ellie wakes up. I change her diaper and wet pajamas and nurse her, then put her in her crib. She starts to cry. Paul wakes up, doesn't realize that I haven't gone to bed yet because I'm an idiot, and goes to rock her back to sleep. (She usually sleeps through the night so this doesn't happen more than once or twice a week.)

6:30 a.m. Ellie wakes up again. Paul gets up, changes her diaper, and feeds her cereal and juice then comes to get me. I get up and nurse Ellie while Paul gets ready for work. She falls asleep shortly after he leaves, around 8:00) and I put her in her crib. (This nap is unusual and is related to the previous night's interrupted sleep.) I take advantage of a few minutes more sleep, after getting myself dressed for the day.

9:00 a.m. Ellie wakes up again. I change her diaper, dress her, and nurse her. We play on the floor in the family room for several minutes. Our repertoire includes classics like "trotty horse" as well as disguised therapy exercises like holding a hands and knees position while I sing "row row row your boat." She seems sleepy so I try rocking her and singing. That doesn't work so we go for a walk around the block with the dog. That doesn't work so we try rocking and singing again. Success! Ellie goes down for her usual (hah! I wish!) morning nap around 10:30. She seems to want to be left alone to fall asleep (this happens from time to time) but she fusses a bit so I sit down to check my email etc. while I wait for her to fall asleep. Then I hit the sack myself. I was up until 3:00, remember?

11:30 a.m. Ellie wakes up, but she still seems sleepy. I change her diaper, then we go watch Sesame Street for the first time ever. She loves it! (for about 15 minutes). We cuddle and play with toys on the floor in the family room for a bit.

12:00 p.m. I get lunch together. Ellie has leftover homemade macaroni and cheese, apple, and white grape juice. I have leftover BBQ pork. And a cookie. After lunch, Ellie nurses again.

1:30 p.m. More playing on the floor, this time in the front room with different toys. I put Ellie on her riding toy and try to get her to push forward.

2:30 p.m. She seems tired again, and this is a good time for an afternoon nap. I try nursing her down. No luck. I try rocking and singing. Very frustrating. It's raining so no walking. I put her in her crib with a couple of toys and go check my email again. She falls asleep very quickly. I too take a nap, after taking care of several phone calls and appointment scheduling details, including dickering with the insurance company about how Ellie's pediatrician is not really a specialist, etc.

4:30 p.m. Ellie wakes up. I nurse her, we go outside with the dog and check the mail, then we go play in the front room some more. I make her stand at her activity table for a while. When I get bored (how terrible! I get bored!) I leave her with her toys for a few minutes so I can shop online for her birthday gift and write Paul an email.

5:30 p.m. I go to the kitchen to start on dinner, and bring Ellie with me. She sits on the floor pulling pots and pans out of a cupboard.

6:00 p.m. Daddy's home! Daddy's home! Daddy's home! He plays with Ellie while I finish dinner (the roles are often reversed here) and we all eat together.

7:00 p.m. Daddy gives Ellie a bath then dresses her for bed and I play Nintendo (or mess around on the computer or read).

7:30 p.m. I nurse Ellie down to sleep by 8:00. Hah! Just kidding! Not tonight! Maybe the enchiladas were a bit much, but she fights sleep hard and wakes up screaming after falling asleep several times. Paul and I take turns working at it (rocking, singing, walking, driving) and she finally goes to sleep around 11:00 p.m. (This time the trick was to lay her on the gliding ottoman and gently push her back and forth.) I remember when 11:00 would have felt like a real accomplishment.

This was a very unusual day, in its way, and yet totally normal too. Ellie has therapy 3-5 days a week, so having a day off now and then is a nice break. When we're not having therapists over, we always go out, even if it's just to a playgroup or the library or the grocery. It's quite unusual for the two of us to be home alone together all day. And wonderful, upon occasion. And she really doesn't usually nap this well. Naps are very hit-or-miss around here.

Tomorrow we have a doctor's appointment and Physical Therapy. Wednesday there is Speech Therapy and two playgroups. Thursday is another doctor's appointment, and Friday is Speech Therapy and a playgroup. We also need to go to the grocery store and the library this week. And I need to make a run to CostCo. for toilet paper, and . . .

Ideally, someday I'll start going to bed at a reasonable hour. Then I can get stuff done during the daytime rather than napping. But you know what? I love this time alone after everyone else is asleep. I cherish it. And I love to nap. Now I'm off to bed. Too late, as usual!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Country Music

My first car: The fall of my senior year of college, my father acquired a car for me from a friend of his whose mother could no longer drive. It cost me $250 and was a 1976 Buick Skylark. This thing was big and ugly. My father, who is color-blind, had it repainted (cream) and had a new vinyl roof put on (brown). Before the car even made it down to me, it needed a new radiator. It was much later before I could afford the new springs it needed. Because of the bad suspension, the car rode with the back way low and the front way up high. Very hip. The front bench seat was stuck all the way back, and I had to prop myself up with pillows because of the slant. To top it all off, the car only got two radio stations: Christian talk, and country. That spring I spent a lot of time driving around, trying to procure myself furniture, an apartment, and a job (yes, in that order). I learned to appreciate country music.

Now that I have a car with a functional radio, tape deck, and CD-player, I'd never consider programming in a country music station. But on a long drive in the middle of the night, I love me some country music. I try to forget the fact that much of Nashville supports President Bush. I do this by convincing myself, whenever I hear a song that I enjoy, that "This guy is obviously an exception." Denial is a powerful thing, and this trick works surprisingly well.

Country music is great for long drives in part because you only need to hear the chorus once, then you can sing along for several more minutes. The melodies are simple, the lyrics are predictable, and both are repetitive. I'll confess that I like the really catchy tunes like the one about the "Watermelon Crawl" and the sing-your-heart-out belters like "How Do I Live?"

The other reason country music can be such fun is that sometimes the songs tell great little stories. I don't love the songs that, like pop songs, wail on and on about some lost love or stolen pick-em-up truck, or whatever. I really enjoy the songs that tell a sweet story, and I get all caught up in listening to a story about a farmer and his wife on the porch during an afternoon rainstorm; a father telling his son about the way daddies love their kids; or a husband telling his wife that although he understands that she misses the way she looked at 17, he really loves the way she fills out her jeans now, and, if she hasn't noticed, the kids are asleep. "So . . . you wanna?"