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Writer's Block: Gifted Ideas

Time. One year, my mother-in-law had just moved into a new house, and for Christmas I gave her an afternoon of my time with my stepladder, drill, and measuring tape. I got all of her pictures and shelves hung, and we spent a lovely time chatting as I worked. It cost me nothing and she really appreciated it.

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my first visit to the chiropractor

The first thing that I noticed when I walked into the doctor's office was that it smelled like dry dog food. It made me wonder whether this office had been a vet's office at some point; however, dry dog food was all I smelled and not any other dog odors, so I just chalked it up to strangeness.

I filled out a health history that asked me, among other things, whether I'd ever experienced chills, fever, vomiting, and headaches. Who on Earth hasn't? How was *that* information going to be beneficial?

As I pondered and filled out forms, I kept hearing a sound that make me picture a rickety hand-held mixer or a malfunctioning jigsaw cutting through corrugated plastic. It was really loud and raucous, but I never did hear any screaming or calls for help, so I put it as out of my mind as I could and followed the receptionist into the massage table room.

The massage table room had in it, besides the massage table, a large wooden roll-top desk and a set of X-ray light boxes on the wall. I lay down on the table, and the receptionist brought me a warm squishy pillow for my neck and turned the table on. Immediately, two large rollers starting kneading my back, which was actually very pleasant. The vibration? Not as much, although it wasn't bad - I just had loud motorboat sounds in my head. The rolling pins were so nice that I actually fell asleep on the table for a little while in spite of the motorboat sounds.

Then it was my turn to go into the doctor's actual exam room. I lay face down with the warm squishy pillow on my achy bits, so that when the doctor came in, he started working on me before I even got a chance to introduce myself and say hello to his face. It all sounds very awkward, but it was actually kind of amusing. He talked a lot about biomechanics and collagen and scar tissue, and then I was hearing - and feeling - the rickety malfunctioning hand-held jigsaw, and it was beating the bejeepers out of my hips and lower back! It definitely "hurt so good." It was the deep tissue massage that I never get from my massage therapist, wonderful as she is.

So finally I got a chance to sit up and greet the doctor and see what this infernal machine looked like. It looked like an industrial-strength hand-held mixer with a ball peen instead of eggbeaters, and it had a jackhammer action like nobody's business.

X-rays next, and then the cracking began. I lay on my side, the doctor gathered my leg, hips, and back in kind of an embrace - and then BANG! The table fell with a crash, and I couldn't tell whether my spine had cracked or not, it was so fast and loud. Also, I had yelped. Then he did the other side. BANG! Then another embrace, different this time, and with a burst of what sounded like machine gun fire, my upper back suddenly felt wonderful.

He spent a lot of time telling me why he needed to work on my neck, too. I had very little range of motion, he said, and then after another burst of machine gun fire, I believed him, because suddenly I could turn my head from side to side and up and down.

When we looked at my X-rays, he again took a long time explaining what he was seeing and what he wanted to do to treat me. I didn't need a lot of convincing - my spine was clearly wonky, and I had all the pain that goes with it.

He sent me home with a couple of stiff foam "fulcrums" to do various exercises on and a sheaf of papers explaining and illustrating the exercises. The woman in the pictures is having way too much fun doing those exercises, but whatever. I've been doing them faithfully (though usually not with a huge smile) and I do feel somewhat better. Probably I'll kick myself later that I didn't go to the chiropractor sooner.

I found out afterward, from Gus who also has seen a chiropractor, that the dog food smell comes from whatever the squishy pillows are stuffed with - often it's some kind of natural substance, like barley or something. The stuffing releases that odor when the pillow is put into the microwave and heated.

kinda pleased with myself

I found an old friend on Facebook who turns out to be a very conservative Republican (she's a fan of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, which tells you all you need to know). She posted this as her status the other day:

[Friend's name] in the house health care bill...nutrition information for all items in a vending machine. What?????

I can't say that I live to bait my conservative friends, although sometimes I do like to stir the pot a bit. I was curious as to why she'd say such a thing, so I responded:

"This is a bad idea how?"

Here's her response:

"1) The health care bill is supposed to be addressing health insurance.
2) requiring vending machine operators to place nutrition info for all items in the machine is a regulation that entirely unnecessary. I suspect that vending machine operators are working on very slim profit margins and this regulation very well could put them out of business.
3) most people with an ounce of common sense will know the more healthy choices in a vending machine. Additionally, the food in the machine is usually packaged and already has the nutrition information on the package.

So yes, I think it is a bad idea."

Well, I couldn't leave that alone. It made me mad. So I thought for a bit about why it made me mad and what was wrong with her argument, and responded with this:

"You make some good points - I admit I hadn't thought about the vending machine companies' bottom lines, although I'd want to see hard data about their profit margins before I concluded that this new rule would be a big hit.

"Also, it may be true that "most people" know, for example, that Cheetos are high in calories (although some people don't realize that one package of Cheetos usually contains two servings), but people who have to deal with food allergies, for example, don't necessarily know whether Cheetos pose a risk and would need to consult the package. It would stink to have to spend two bucks on a bag of Cheetos only to find out that you can't eat them. I don't think it's unreasonable to post that information so people can make
informed choices BEFORE they spend their money."

I'm hoping that the money-minded neocon in her understands the point about preventing people from wasting money. I also hope that she recognizes the fallacy of basing an argument on "I suspect" statements. I don't expect her to change her mind about the regulation, alas. But I feel just a little pleased with myself for having spoken up and made some good points of my own.

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what halloween means to pagans

Well, most Pagans, anyway. I can't speak for everybody :)

The most asinine characterization of Halloween that I ever heard made was that "it's Satan's birthday." In the first place, it's not a celebration of birth at all (that's Yule), but most importantly, Satan is not a Pagan concept. It's a Christian concept. There is no Satan figure anywhere in Pagan tradition - no temptor, no fallen angel, no personification of evil. All of that belongs to Christianity.

No, Halloween (or Samhain - pronounced "SOW-en" by some and "SAHV-en" by others; what can I say? It's Gaelic) is a high holy day for Pagans. It's the time of year when the veil between the worlds of living and dead is at its thinnest, and it becomes possible for those who are willing to be still and listen and remember to commune with loved ones who have crossed over to the other world.

That's one reason that Samhain is associated with death. Another reason is that in ancient agrarian cultures that experienced seasonal changes, mid-autumn was the time to make final preparations for winter. We have already celebrated two harvests (Lammas, on August 1, and Mabon, on September 20), and Samhain is the third harvest - the blood harvest - when livestock was slaughtered and the meat preserved for the winter. The blood harvest also includes game; it's deer hunting season.

Another association with death, more esoteric: At this time of the year, the sun's light is getting weaker and shorter-lived, and the grain has been reaped. The sun and the grain are symbolic of the God, and in Pagan stories, the God is crossing over into the land of death at this time of year, to be reborn at Yule with the return of the sun.

On Halloween night, while others are at parties or taking the kids trick-or-treating, I'll be joining my Pagan community to remember our loved ones and to celebrate life. We will place "object links" on the altar - photos of people who have crossed over, or other things that remind us of them. We will bring food to share that our loved ones enjoyed in life. We will eat in silence, having invited our loved ones to join us, and we will remember them and, possibly, give and receive messages. This is done on no other night of the year in this way. It's sad and solemn and joyful and sweet all at once, and it makes me so grateful for the life I have and the spiritual path I tread.

Happy Halloween to everyone!

more hypocrisy!

So I was behind a minivan-type vehicle on the freeway offramp that had a Ron Paul sticker and a Dino Rossi sticker. It also had a "coexist" sticker - the kind with different religious symbols on it. I was thinking about that - how it's entirely possible that the Republicans that I tend to paint with a broad brush might indeed have progressive views when it comes to living together peacefully as a society.

And I was feeling kind of warm and fuzzy about that, and then the van blithely and deliberately pulled an illegal turn.

And all my goodwill came crashing down around my ears, and the usual cynicism swept in.

Stupid hypocritical right-wing idiots.

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time flies

I just realized that my father-in-law has been gone for almost exactly ten years now, and my mother-in-law for almost exactly five.

I don't know why those numbers seem like milestones, but they do. Also, when I think about what my kids were like five and ten years ago, it seems like a whole lifetime ago that I last saw or heard Mom and Dad. I know a lot has gone on in *my* life since then. And they've missed out on all of it.

There's a beautiful photograph of the two of them in my home office. Occasionally, I notice it, and I can all but hear Dad's laugh (it was very distinctive) and Mom's voice. There's actually a recording of Dad that I can access pretty easily (he spoke at Dirk's and my wedding, and his speech is on the video), and there's one of Mom, but that's harder to get at (she left a message on our old tape-recorder answering machine, which is long gone but the tape remains because she's on it). Also, I have a few things lying around that Mom made (she was a crack seamstress, knitter, and needleworker).

Otherwise, I have only memories and the occasional communion that I experience at Samhain or when I look very closely at that photograph. It's odd to think of a life being ended and a long gap between when it stopped and now. When Dad died, it made me think of a train that keeps going forward, and Dad got off the train and waved at us as we stayed on and kept going, missing him and wishing he were still traveling with us.

Now I realize that that train is ten years further along the track, and five years further along from when Mom got off. I wonder about where they went after they left. I wonder about how much longer I have to journey. I marvel at where I've been since then, and how the kids have grown, and all that. And in a way, it's good and right that they got off the train when they did - but I miss them still.

Writer's Block: Do Not Open Until 2059

If you were to make a time capsule today to be opened in 50 years, what would you put in it?
I would put in a newspaper, of course. If I didn't think I'd want to look at them between now and then, I'd put in my scrapbooks and (edited) journals as well - this is assuming that the diggers-up of the time capsule would be my own personal descendants, who might be interested in how their great-great-gramma viewed the world. I know I would love to see journals and scrapbooks that my own ancestors created. What a wonderful time machine that would be!

I suppose that would mean I'd have to print out all my online musings as well...but maybe computer data really is forever, in which case, I'd put my screen names and passwords in the time capsule, too, so my descendants could do some cybersnooping on their own.

it happened!

Two of my Facebook friends know each other, and I had no idea that they knew each other, and my worlds have been colliding behind my back, and now they're colliding in front of me, and I feel like my head's gon' 'splode!

HOW do Joy and Gene know each other? Joy is an ex-coworker, and Gene is a guy I love to salsa dance with. Where did they meet? What do they have in common? I don't know either of them super-well, but the bits that I do know don't overlap.

Oh, this is weird!

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long time, no blog

So now that I have a job, it's a little trickier to keep up with this blog thing. Also, being on Facebook means that many of my random thoughts end up there instead of here.

However, I did have a random thought this morning that I think is worth expanding on. (We'll see whether that ends up being true!)

People who have lived all their lives in a majority group have no idea what it's like to be part of a minority. They may say they have empathy and all (and some of them sincerely try), but unless you've been on the other side of the tracks, so to speak, you really have no idea. Like getting married or having kids, some life experiences are just not describable.

So I belong to a few majority groups (majority, that is, for the US). I'm white, for one, and my primary language is English. I grew up in a household that celebrated Christmas. So I understand, at a primordial level, the "fears" that white, English-speaking, majority-culture people have towards folks who are different. (And by "folks" I mean large groups of The Other. For example, individual black people I have known personally are lovely people and we get along fine. Blacks as a large group of Others? Less predictable. But then, I suppose, all large groups of Others are that way.)

However, I also belong to several minority groups. I'm left-handed, for one. Nobody who is right-handed knows the frustration of living in a world that's made for right-handed people (as should be self-evident). For me, I have to be mindful of how things work (I can't safely use a Skilsaw), and I have to be tolerant of and grateful for the special assistance that sometimes comes my way.

For example, when I was learning to decorate cakes, my instructor and fellow students were all right-handed. Fortunately, directions for lefties were printed in the book, but it made me feel a little like a disabled person who required accommodation.

Being Pagan puts me in a minority group, too, one that I'm reminded of every single time I think about the money I use ("In God We Trust" - whose god are we talking about? Mine? I don't think so) or hear the Pledge of Allegiance (which I did every day when I was working in the schools).

So on a primordial level, I understand the resentments of the minority, the urge to take action and make sure that my rights are acknowledged, and the fear that those in the majority couldn't care less what happens to me (and might even be happy to see "my kind" stamped out).

I have one foot on either side of the tracks. Seems like this makes me qualified for something. But what?

an evangelical divide!

The headline reads, "An evangelical divide in debate over torture." The subheading says, "A new poll shows that white evangelicals are more likely than others to tolerate torture if lives are at stake. Some church leaders are struggling to figure out how those findings can be reconciled with biblical principles."

My first thought was, "They can't." My second thought was, "Yes, they can, because 'biblical principles' can be created at whim, cobbled together from bits and pieces of scripture that are selectively taken out of context. Actually, some bits don't even have to be taken out of context - after all, how much of the Bible talks about slavery, killing, adultery, and other nastiness as though it's commonplace and acceptable - evan mandated by God?" Hypocrisy runs rampant, and especially (IMO) in the evangelical community, where killing your neighbor seems preferable to loving him, especially if your neighbor happens to be an unruly Muslim nation.

So having said that, I'm now going to read the article to see whether my hunch is correct that "church leaders" are creating Biblical justification for torture. Be back in a minute.

*****************

So the article makes several points.

1. People's belief that torture is okay may be shaped more by their political and ideological affiliation than by their religious beliefs (although religious beliefs can shape political/ideological affiliations).

2. Some evangalicals are decidedly anti-torture. These folks say things like, "There is a version of Christianity that...is not adequately committed to the Bible's teachings about the sacredness of human life, including the lives of our enemies...It's also insufficiently committed to the peacemaking teachings of Jesus and the example of Jesus as one who did not resort to violence or cruelty..."

3. The ones who are pro-torture say things like, "[The question isn't] 'Would Jesus torture?'...The more appropriate question is, 'What is a follower of Jesus permitted to do?' The answer is, 'It depends.'" Ah, of course.

4. Apparently, there's a "just war" tradition in Christianity (this is news to me - sounds like jihad!). This tradition says that recognized political authorities have the responsibility to protect the innocent from grave harm. So that means that if there's even a slight chance that a person might be a terrorist, it's okay for the government to stomp all over that person (literally!).

5. Even in this "just war" tradition, the exact methods that are okay to use are not well-defined. For example, some say waterboarding is just fine, and others say it's never justified.

I don't know. It sounds an awful lot like people are wanting to kick the crap out of any and all suspected terrorists because of their fear and loathing, and they're using fairly convoluted reasoning to make themselves feel okay about it.

I'm glad that at least nobody quoted scripture.

Here's a link to the article:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2009218154_torturefaith14.html

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