Wednesday, August 30, 2006

daisies are not roses

A rose is a rose is a rose unless I look at it and see a daisy. Then it is a me. It may still be a rose to you.

What is truth, anyway?
Truth: Conformity to fact or actuality
Some truths are testable. Gravity. If I drop an apple, it will accelerate toward the center of mass of the earth. It's happened every time I've done it (absent external forces, silly people. I hear you!).
Truth: a statement proven to be or accepted as true.
But most of the time, our truths are really intertwined with perception. That which we perceive to be true is what we accept to be true.

The traffic around here is getting worse every day!!
Mrs. Soandso is the BEST 3rd grade teacher in the school!

These truths aren't testable. They are perceptions.

The majority of Muslims hate the US and wish to see us destroyed.
People of Islam hate us because we are free.

Extremist Muslims are so inhumane that they would kill their own babies simply to attack the western world.

I have an acquaintance through an email list who is an orthodox jew. Her view of the world today (and in particular her view of Arabs) and my view of the world are so different that it is striking that two women who probably have more similarities than differences (though the differences in our respective religions are about as different as you can get) can view the same world with such opposing perceptions. It is this sort of opposition that distresses me maybe even more than the general state of the world. Just because you are thoughtful, just because you are intelligent, there is no guarantee that everyone else who is thoughtful or intelligent will recognize your spade as a spade. Or as a rose. Or as a daisy. And in this case, I do not believe that diversity of beliefs is a good thing. In this case, I stand firmly by my daisy and proclaim to you that it is a DAISY!

We recently dissolved into a public (in the cyber world) spat over the portrayal of Muslims after the announcement that British authorities had stopped a terrorist plot to blow up several planes over the Atlantic using liquid explosives.
As a total aside, the liquid explosive thing seems rather like a red herring to me. It seems extremely unlikely that it could be successful on any planned scale.
In any case, through her eyes, she sees Islam as having a center of gravity that leans way over into the realm of extremism. Many of our mutual friends have told me privately that they do not share or support her views, but have remarked to me that coming from the place she does (orthodox judiasm), it is understandable that she would have these views. Me? I do not accept that as an excuse. Bigotry is bigotry is a daisy, no matter what your heritage may be. No excuse is acceptable for bigotry or racism. Because that's what I see it as. That is my perceived truth. And this point is where I run into the brick wall. There is nowhere to go from here. It would be much easier for me if I were dealing with a stranger. Human faces put onto "issues" have a way of muddling things up, don't they, and making you want to connect and understand. But my damned brick wall doesn't seem to want to budge on this issue.

Today, she forwarded me an email with pictures of radical Islamists protesting in England, with various placards slamming the rest of the world and spouting hateful messages. "Why should anyone think we should be at war with such nice peaceful Moslems?," it said at the bottom, sarcasm just spewing forth (not her words - these were on the forwarded email). The message was clear. Muslims are the enemy and we are at war. She sent me the email to let me know where she's coming from.

I looked at the pictures. I checked out the email through my trusty friend (an excellent place to get information on email rumors, etc. before forwarding them on to people). The pictures are real enough. They are undoctored as far as I can tell. But they were taken during a protest after the whole cartoon debacle, back in February. There were five hundred British Muslims in that protest, and their sentiments were very disturbing.

But in my truth, there is more to the story. What I also see are things like this story.
Because you see, after that radical protest over the cartoons, about FIVE THOUSAND mainstream Muslims showed up in Britain to protest not only the cartoons, but also the portrayal of Islam as extremist. Their goal was to dissociate themselves from the radical extremists. Their goal was to protest what they saw as a wrong, but do it in a civilized manner and to let the world know that Islam is not extremist Islam. We're talking something like an order of magnitude for comparison of numbers in these two protests. And I can guarantee you that extremist whackos are always going to be more likely to show up for protests. I can't begin to put a number on the numbers of moderate, mainstream Muslims who didn't show up. Islam is not equivalent to the whacko extremists.

Truth. Perception.
Partial truths are more dangerous than lies.

I didn't share this with her or respond to her email. There's as much chance of me changing her view of the world as there was of her email changing mine. And yes, I feel uncomfortable writing about this whole incident here because she is a member of my cyber community, many of which read my blog. She is a real person, one who has invited me to her home and one I have shared joys and worries with for the past decade. I wish her no ill. But for me, she has come to symbolize the deep and disturbing divide between Israel and the Arab world. I have been doing some deep thinking over when it is best to remain silent and when it is best to speak out against something you see as an injustice. This blog is my world. It is my place to think things through out loud and get feedback. So in this world, I speak out.

My acquaintance is certainly not alone in her views. I'm saddened that such large divisions between subsets of our world community exist. I'm saddened that so many of us see world events through glasses colored by our own perceptions, to the point that our truths or half-truths are so incompatible. I'm saddened that for many, our perception-colored truths stand in the way of communication and understanding. If, for instance, you truly believe the majority of Islamic people are so angry that they they have lost any semblence of humanity, well then, you've just shut off any hope of resolution.

As long as we are unwilling to open ourselves up to understanding those who are different than we are, those differences will continue to spark hate, to spark division, to spark violence. Maybe it is inevitable. Maybe the world is so full of roses and daisies that the distinctions loom larger than the similarities. In the meantime, I reserve my right to remain deeply saddened by not only the realization that this acquaintence and I will probably never see eye to eye, but that entire civilizations of people will never see eye to eye. Is it that we need to learn to live with conflict rather than hope to stem it? I hope not, but who am I to call a rose a daisy anything at all?

Sunday, August 27, 2006


This is an interesting site.

Here are a couple of examples of their maps:

World Population

World Wealth (2015)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

off to see the rain king

I'm working on a way to end my bout of melancholy.

Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls. Monday night.
A long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
to hold on to these moments as they pass

I'm taking my whole family, which is kind of insane since it's a 1.5 hour drive to get there (and that's after I drive home for 45 minutes after work to pick the kids up before retracing my path back toward the concert), it will mean a very late night during the work week when we're already all kind of on the edge because we're so exhausted. And I'll have to take some leave to do it, which I really don't have very much left of. Oh, plus it's the night of my first PTA meeting, and as treasurer, I'm to present the audit of last year's books, the final treasurer's report from last year, and the proposed budget for this year. And the ticket prices are, well, quite a bit more than I paid for concerts when I was a lot younger. It's going to be hot tomorrow, and it's an outdoor amphitheater.

So there are lots of reasons not to go.
When I think of heaven
Deliver me in a black-winged bird
I think of flying down into a sea of pens and feathers
And all other instruments of faith and sex and God
In the belly of a black-winged bird.
Don't try to feed me
I've been here before
And I deserve a little more

And one reason to go. Their music speaks to me and makes me happy. One of their songs came on the radio yesterday and I looked at DH and said "I have to go." There are very few bands I feel that way about.

So I worked it all out with our PTA prez and bought the tickets today.

Caught some grief from a falling leaf
As she tumbled to the dirty ground
And said I should have put her back there if I could

Well everyone needs a better day
And I'm trying to find me a better way
To get through the the things I do and the things I should

This was a good decision. The Counting Crows is one of those bands that can make me cry. I hope I do.

the letter

Have you noticed a distinct decrease of frequency between my entries? Fall Ball has begun. The good news - no one is on the Yankees this year. More good news - the kids both have excellent coaches this time. More good news - they both have lots of friends on their teams. And that's it. All is good on the baseball front.

Despite all that, things have seemed so very out of kilter lately for me, which is too bad because this is normally my absolutely favorite time of year. Fall is awesome in every way. I'm having trouble working up any enthusiasm this year and in fact I've been downright melancholy. Things all seem so bleak on the world front and I am so tired from overextending myself. I'm trying to enjoy the little things and live in the moment, but I'd rather just lay around and sulk.

So anyway, yesterday was the day around here to expect "The Letter." The Letter is an annual rite here. The schools here send one out to each student about 1 week before school starts containing the name of their teacher for the new school year. In the past, the letters have come, and my kids would spend the next hour or so on the phone chatting with their friends to find out who is in whose class and who got the favored teachers. This year, it was a little different.

Kath walked up the street with L and D for lunch and afterwards the four kids got heavily involved in a Pokemon board game. Being the adults that we are, Kath and sat on the couch, supposedly watching 'The Sound of Music' on DVD but were actually staring out the window and using our telepathic powers to will the postlady's purple/blue truck to appear. "What if Q gets 'The yeller' for a teacher?" "What if D gets someone he doesn't know for kindergarten?" "I'm so nervous!" "Me too!"

The phone rang. I bounced up to answer it, shouting "I bet it's Paige calling about The Letters!" Of course I was right. The mailtruck had just left her house, presumably because her telepathic ability is stronger than mine and Kath's combined, though she is helped because she's before us on the route. Oh! Oh! A new kink! Her daughter (E's friend) got The Letter, but her son (Q's friend) did not! Gasp. Oh! And her daughter ended up with a teacher's name we didn't recognize. Being the good PTA moms that we are, we had already done our research and knew the starting lineup. A newbie! I hung up and ran back to the window, wondering if my telepathic powers would be increased if I pressed my nose to the pane. Paige called back to report that she called the registrar at the school and found out who the new teacher is (a friend! a friend! A last minute replacement was needed, and one of our friends got the job!) and that she got the info on her son's teacher.

Then, our powers worked, and the mailtruck came and all havock broke loose. I started to hyperventilate as I leaped down the front stairs and Kath sprinted down the road to her house to get "The Letters." But woe! There was only 1 letter in my mailbox for E. She ended up with - the replacement! The new one! She's in her friend's class! But there was no Letter for Q.

I hurriedly called our registrar (feigning ignorance about the new teacher to give myself a reason to call), then made the poor lady go look up Q's teacher. He didn't get The Yeller!!! He's in the good cluster!

In the midst of my rejoicing, Kath came back, dejected. "No one got The Letter," she whispered. In the meantime, I had forced my kids (who were oblivious to the drama and were still involved in their board game) to call friends Robert and Caecilia to see if they got "The Letter". E talked to their mom Jamie, and horrors, they had not received them. So E instructed Jamie to call the registrar ..."sure Jamie, you just call the school and ask them. Yes - my mommy and Paige already did." Kath, who was about to burst, grabbed the phone to call the registrar, but the line was busy, presumably because of Jamie following E's advice and calling the registrar. (I hope you're reading this, sister Laura)

After a round robin of phone calls and one annoyed registrar, we mommies were all left happy, but feeling a little foolish. The one saving grace is knowing I am not alone in my foolishness. There is whole little band of foolish mommies around here and isn't it a strange coincidence that we all call ourselves friends?

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Saturday night I slept for 11 straight small feat for me, aka The Insomniac (t.m.). Many thanks to the YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists) group who aided me in this accomplishment by keeping my awake during our summer kick-off-the-year overnight retreat on Friday night. :-)

Things I learned during the retreat:

1. I am completely unable to formally speak in front of a group. I'm not kidding, not even a little bit. This is something I totally suck at.

2. Even the best-laid plans are often most suited for bird cages. Toss that agenda, pull out the djembes, dim the lights, and listen to the hours pass.

3. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will (apparently) never become outdated.

4. I am so NOT ready for my kids to be teenagers, despite the YRUU kids being great and all. It's just the realization of the kinds of issues that they face every day, the emotions they are testing, their passion, and their concerns that make me chew the insides of my cheeks.
I prefer worrying about whether Monster House is too scary for them or what kind of backpacks to buy for this year.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

in the words of that sage donny osmond, life is just what you make it

And a lovely time was had by all!!
My parents left early this morning after spending a week hanging out here with us. It was a wonderful, nice, relaxing time and I feel so lucky to have spent time talking and walking with them. I love my parents dearly...and I am so very sad today. Why is it that I (we) must cap happiness off with a dose of melancholy? How silly is that, but how common? How many of us used to feel depressed after Christmastime? Who else still feels a let-down after vacation?

So it's not the existence of some thing or some situation that causes so much sadness, but it is so often the loss of some thing or situation that caused some previous happiness. My sadness/fear over the idea of death is not death itself, but the ending of life, for example...much the way that I feel when I look down to see my wine glass nearly empty (g). So it is that the package of a good time, the package of happiness is wrapped up in some little required dose of loss. Obviously, I find it is worth the expense. But is it really necessary? Is it possible to enjoy the moment without mourning its loss later?

I'm reminded of my favorite line from one of my all-time favorite books: (Contact, by Carl Sagan when the alien species is talking to Ellie)
You're an interesting species, an interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares.

We are CAPABLE of so much, we humans. We bring ourselves so much happiness and so much sadness. And most of it is not caused by external events, but is created within our own minds. The same world, seen by two different minds, is capable of appearing beautiful or heinous, and so it shall be. Isn't that amazing, really, when you think about it?

Obviously, there's more than my parents leaving to make me so sad today. It's a confluence of things. Several people I love are ill/hospitalized (my aunt S., my uncle J., my wonderful friend M.Z.'s mother, my wonderful friend H.L.'s father, my wonderful friend J.M.'s brother). I am worried about my beautiful daughter E's hearing. We had an in-office pediatric hearing test done last week that had, um...awful results. I'm hoping it was a matter of insufficient testing (the door was open and all kinds of outside noises were going on). Nevertheless, we're going to an auditory specialist on Friday and my mom worries are out in force. I am sad because I have suddenly found great discomfort on my favorite list of mommies which has been a sanctuary for me for so long, and I decided I needed a break from it to find my peace again. (oh, it's a long story - I'll recount it later perhaps). But the upshot is, it is a big loss for me, and I feel very sad because of it.

The quote goes on:
You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you're not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.
So while we create our own worlds out of what is laid in front of us, while we experience the beautiful dreams and the horrible nightmares and the daily happiness and daily sadness which we create for ourselves, one constant, one comfort, one sanctuary is that we can know we really are not alone.

Ellie Arroway (to a group of children):
I'll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space. Right?

That is my comfort - that is my religion. Many see the "other" as god. Some see it as many gods. I see it as my belonging to the vast wonder of the universe.
I have a place here.

Regardless of the happiness or the sadness that I have created in my mind, my one constant truth is that I belong here. I am a part of this universe. That will not change, despite my seeing the world around me as a source of happiness or as showing the sadness of loss. That I am here is given. How I see it? That is my choice.
David Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that's an understatement. What you don't know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don't live in that world.

Ellie Arroway: Funny, I've always believed that the world is what we make of it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

still around

Wow - you all are making me feel great! I've had several people ask after me since it's been so long since I've posted. My parents are visiting us this week, so I've been busy playing dominos and picking blueberries and peaches and having rib barbeques with them. I'll be back to my regular life schedule again soon.

In the meantime, thanks for asking about me!

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Lynne, one of my cyber friends (that's cyBER, not cyBORG in case any of you are wondering) keeps a blog and has urged her readers to write a grateful list. As usual, Lynne is full of good ideas so I'm going to take her up on it.

You've got to start a list like this with the obvious things.

I am grateful for:
1) my husband, who always thinks of me and the kids first. I can always count on him to be looking out for us. And besides all that, I love him.
2) my two children. When they were born, it was a step-function. I had my life ---> here, and then suddenly it was ---> there. They introduced me to an entirely new world. And I love them.
3) my friends. My basket is overflowing with the most marvelous friends in the world. I'm not sure what I did to have so much good karma come back at me, but as far as friends go, I've got the best. Many are here with me, and we share our children and our daily lives and our liberal mindset in the world of the southeast US, some live half a continent away and I've known them my entire life and how can you even comment on the value of that without sounding like a Barry Manilow song, and some live half a continent or so away and I've known them for half my life and it still sounds like a Barry Manilow song to talk about what they mean to me (Hollie!) and some I met and know through the internet, which sounds trite, but is very deep and very lasting (is 10+ years enough to convince you?). I am humbled by the love they shower on me every day. They all feed my soul daily and I love them.
4) my family! My parents and sisters are my core. They are who I am. And I love them.

Then we get to the less obvious:

I'm grateful for
5) diet Dr. Pepper and cheetoes
6) salsa
7) red wine
6) the smell of sauted onions and garlic
7) my job. I love my job, I love being part time, I love having flexible hours, I love being a scientist. I have the most ideal situation in the world for myself. I go to work and get excited when I walk into my office (nerdy yes, but it's the truth) I couldn't ask for a more fulfilling professional life. I believe in what I do, I am challenged by what do, and I love it.
8) humor. Sometime's it's the only response left.
9) my health. So far so good.
10) the internet. Talk about making the world a smaller place!
11) Roxy!! So far, she is an awesome dog. And ultra cute and smart to boot.
12) The incredible elementary school my kids go to. The teachers have all been amazing and they treat my children with respect.
13) Unitarian Universalists. So they may be a bit elitist at times, so they may be agonizingly non-definitive, but they are accepting and loving and hold fast to the ideal world where every human is valued equally, despite race or gender or sexual orientation or financial background. I cried at the service this morning when one of my lesbian friends spoke out about what she faces daily simply because of who she is, and what it means to her to know that there is a community that accepts her because of who she is, not in spite of it. You know? I am PROUD to be able to say I define myself as one.
14) The generosity of people. I faced that in waves this summer in Austria and was blown away. People who will pick up virtual strangers to take them to the airport (1.5 hours away) at 5 am in the morning? They're just being nice because it's a good thing to do. Joy.
15) snow. I love that my family skis.
16) autumn. My favorite season. Such a co-mingling of new beginnings in the middle of the end of the life cycle. Such an amazing juxtaposition. Plus the cool weather and blue skies are nice.
17) 400 count egyptian cotton sheets
18) MUSIC!!!!! It drills me to the core when I hear the right song at the right time.
19) my grandmother. She is 98(?) now and mentally spry and doing well. I hope I am as lucky. She is inspirational. When I was at the funeral of my grandfather several years ago, I saw her sitting at the viewing and went to sit beside her. I held her hand and wondered what I could say to someone who had lost their companion of 75 years. She squeezed my hand and leaned over and told me "I don't know who half of these people are!" I loved that she had humor then.
20) memories. Thank you Mare, for the memories DVD. (all of them! The one you made me for our 40th birthday, too!) I love remembering.
21) the telephone. I've been using that a lot lately...both to stay in touch and to keep up with my volunteer duties. How would I cope without it??!!!
22) stars. The universe. Carl Sagan.
23) my age. Suddenly, I'm at the place where I don't care so much what I look like, but care what I feel like instead.
24) babies. Not just my own, but all of them. I love the 4-5 month old age where they kick their legs and wave their arms and smile with the most joy I have ever seen expressed in another human before.
25) Friends. Did I say that already? It bears repeating again. I was recently asked (at a YRUU training) what superhero I would be. I answered Mrs. Incredible. I want to have stretchy arms so I can reach out and wrap up all the people I love in a huge embrace. You want to know my definition of "heaven"? You just heard it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

a new religion

I ran across this link tonight and went from puzzlement to fits of giggles to slapping the computer table and throwing my head back in laughter.

I urge you to take a look at this:
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I dunno. It was just exactly what I needed to read. I am a convert. All hail the FSM. This gives me a whole new universe to contemplate.

BTW, in case anyone is interested, Roxy seems to have finally understood the housebreaking thing. She'll pee outside while simulataneously wagging her tail and looking at me (or E) for us to shower her with praise. Now we just have to convince her that this event is worth doing right EVERY TIME.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

of pee and poop

Lessee. I wrote a post yesterday and even published it here for a few minutes but then I promptly deleted it. Believe me, you should thank me. I wasn't in the best of moods.

I was in the process of scarfing up some mini M&Ms I found hiding in the back of my pantry to go along with the bottle of wine I was swilling while watching Marlo Thomas discuss case after case of children at St. Jude's hospital. Just as I'd choke back tears from one tragic story, she'd start in on another smiling baby...again, and again, and again. I have no idea why I tortured myself like that. Once it started it was almost like I wanted to see just how much I could take. So I finally came in here to the office, my poor body wracked with sobs, dragging along my empty wine bottle with my little hands which were all stained red and green from the M&Ms (aren't the green ones the happy-pills?) and after removing my head from the keyboard, every tragic thought I'd had in the last year just came pouring out onto my blog. It wasn't even very well written.

But no worries! It's all been erased and you don't need to suffer through it.
Tonight, I've only had half a glass of wine, NO M&Ms, several bottles of water (have you heard, it's HOT outside?), and no Marlo Thomas, thankyouvermuch.

Now about this new puppy of ours - Ms. Roxy.
First, I'd totally forgotten how frustrating it is to housebreak a puppy. It's kind like giving birth, only totally different, you know. I guess we're wired to forget certain things like birth, housebreaking dogs, and pounding our heads against brick walls, with the idea that we'll keep doing it again and again and again if we don't remember.
On the advice of my dog-wise friends, we're doing it with a crate this time. Theoretically, it makes perfect sense! Theoretically, I'm psyched about it!

In reality, I spent the hours between 5pm and 9:30 pm tonight either standing in the SWELTERING heat while watching a goofy dog who was too busy chasing butterflies and cocking her cute little ears at the sounds of chattering squirrels to realize it was approaching NINE HOURS since she'd last peed, or I was inside fretting over the fact that our new puppy was going to spend her ENTIRE LIFE in her little black-wired jail. I even sat by her with the newspaper and tried to read it with one arm awkardly stuck inside the prison cell with her. I think I only managed to further convince her I really am an idiot who doesn't know how to train dogs.

And yeah, I don't know what was up with that nine hour stretch. She's not gone more than, say 45 minutes or seconds between the pees she puts on the carpet.

So then at 9:30, there was much rejoicing. We sang, we danced, we showered her with dog treats! And she was so happy! And she pranced and danced with us and ran into E's room, which, as you must know, is the perfect place to POOP.

(no fretting - eagle-eye mom grabbed her and sailed down the stairs with only a few stumbles into the pitch black while shouting for a leash and a light and it only took 5 minutes or so for poor frightened Roxy to recover enough to finish up...OUTSIDE.

So see? The crate training worked. Theoretically.

I have no idea how long this process is going to take, but I can tell you that theoretically, it is much too long.