Saturday, June 30, 2007

What Would You Do?

My family is slightly dotty about babies, and I'm probably at the head of the line in the dottiness department. So, I did some knitting for Rachel before she was born. She has a few blankets from her Auntie Andrea -although one wonders why I made blankets for a summertime Alabama baby. Undeterred by logic, though, I made them. They are at her parents' house and one of my sisters, who is already there helping to prepare for the onslaught of relatives, is rounding them up and putting them away until, perhaps one fine day, they provide solace rather than an opportunity for more tears.

But... the piece de resistance is still here with me. Unfinished. I was supposed to have plenty of time. It's a pink, lace hoop-di-do christening shawl. Do I finish it, in her memory and just pack it away at my house? I can't imagine that I'll want to give it to another baby. Do I leave it unfinished? Finish it and offer it to her parents?

I know full well that Rachel will not ever need this blanket. She died on Thursday. (I have to keep saying that so it gets into my head.) But I've been steadily knitting on her blanket since Thursday. Some part of me needs to finish this gift, apparently.

At this point, it's ugly. It's unblocked lace that I've cried all over. Baby blankets with mascara stains.... not a good look. But both those problems will resolve themselves in the wash. My only thought right now is that maybe I could finish it and donate it to a fund-raiser for research about premature infants.

But I'm open to other suggestions, up to and including "pull yourself together.

Friday, June 29, 2007

My Heart is Breaking

I say that a lot. It's the curse of the empath. But really, this time I mean it.

Rachel Grace Buford, my niece, was born on Wednesday and died this morning (or possibly, technically, it was still Thursday. The details aren't really important.) There were simply too many medical hurdles for her to overcome. With all the strength in her tiny little fighter's body, she just couldn't do it.

Her parents (my brother and his wife) did the mind-bendingly loving thing and signed her off the machines that were sustaining her, and held her until she died. I hope that she knew, in whatever time she had with us, that we are her family and that she was perfectly loved. I hope she knew she was our perfect Rachel, and that we were honored by her presence.

Godspeed, little one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Asking for Trouble

Do you have blogs you read -or people you see, or organizations to which you belong- that annoy you no end, but you read (or see or participate) anyway? What is up with that? Why subject myself to this repeated annoyance?

There's this blog. It's written by a thoughtful mathematician -not the one to whom I am married, although their fields of inquiry are similar. He muses about his religiosity, his teaching, technological geekery, his kids, a bit about politics now and again. He's politically, theologically, and morally conservative. I had really hoped that there was a possibility for dialogue, since clearly there is intelligence and reason here, and not an inconsiderable amount of shared experience. Unfortunately, I have not been successful.

I don't accept for the tiniest moment that there is something about conservativism itself which demands arrogance or sanctimony or shallowness. The conservative (and liberal, for that matter) pundits with those traits get a lot of air time, I grant you. But that's not the fault of conservatism, exactly. And of course I reject completely any notion that I am arrogant or sanctimonious or shallow ;) So, why has there been no dialogue? Why do I even care?

Temperamentally I am drawn to good questions over good answers. An elegant question can blow open a problem that seemed intractable moments before. That is such an amazing and fun experience, who needs cheap and easy answers? I am dissatisfied with an inelegant answer when there's another possibility (which means that this blog post is going to be a frustration, I can just tell.) And I almost never rule out the possibility of more than one answer. I'm not claiming that this is a better way to be; it's just the way I tend to approach things.

Conservatives seem to have different needs. Correct me if I'm wrong. Really. But among conservatives there seems to be an interest in THE TRUTH. And once you have it, of what use is dialogue? Evangelization might have a place, since you would certainly want to share the truth with other people. But dialogue and tolerance become less important.

But none of that helps me to understand why I bang my head against the wall, when there seems to be no possibility of anything constructive happening.

The sharp partisan divide in the nation's political culture scares me. A lot. I don't like the image I get when I imagine the legacy of this political climate. Two entrenched camps, with no mutual respect and a good deal of mutual name calling. Sound bites replacing thought. Stereotypes replacing evidence. Fear replacing inquiry. We're disturbingly close to that picture already.

We have to talk to each other. We need to seek common ground. We don't need to agree or convert each other or become best buddies. We do have to, in my estimation, be willing to learn from each other and to see each other as reasonable and ethical people. And that's why I read and comment on blogs that make my heart hurt.

But I don't get any sense that I'm making a difference.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Sad Task

Mysteriously -miraculously, even- I made it to O'Hare as early as they suggest these days. This trip is possibly the first time I've managed to do that. Of course, this time I didn't need to be there that early, but there's no telling in advance.

So, I sat at the gate with my knitting (the sock that will not die) and made some progress, drank my over-priced Starbucks confection, and people-watched.

Uh-oh. There's a hearse on the tarmac. There's an Army-person (I don't know anything about rank, but he was only a little younger than me. Age-wise, that could well translate into considerable rank.) standing very straight, wearing his dress uniform, and carrying a wrapped flag. Oh hell.

There was a precise and actually quite lovely ceremony while they put the casket onto the plane. The captain made a gentle and, I thought appropriate, announcement that our plane was carrying the remains of a fallen soldier and asked us to observe a moment of silence. There was another little ceremony as the body was removed in New York. Then presumably he was taken to his...mother...wife... children... family of some sort, and a different sort of ceremony could begin.

We ceremonialize the early stages of grief because we couldn't endure it any other way. We would just be crushed by it. I don't know anything about this soldier, other than the obvious fact that he died for nothing. I know a bit, though, about what's going on with the innocents left behind. It cannot help to know that their son (in this particular case, it was a son) died because of our President's willingness to look us in the eye and lie.

My thoughts turned, though, to the business, organizational end of this war-time death. There must be many soldiers like this man in the airport, whose job it is to accompany bodies, deliver folded flags, and give mothers and wives the "thanks of a grateful nation." There must be piles of crisply folded flags in plastic, for just this occasion. There must be warehouses full of caskets, I suppose. I know there's a mechanism for shipping a dead soldier's personal effects back home. I know this because my brother once told me that military personnel are told to sort through their things and ensure that there's nothing they DON'T want shipped home.

It would be foolish not to plan for the war-time ceremonies of death. It would be cruel to abandon them because we're overwhelmed by the numbers or appalled by the war itself. Yet, if someone ever hands me a folded flag -please God, forbid!- especially as a result of such a war as this, it will not help to hear that my loved one died defending his country. It would not help me to use these dignified ceremonies as a blindfold, to prevent us from seeing that the whole thing is a tragic farce. I would be enraged rather than comforted, if a flag were offered in such a spirit.

And, of course, it is offered in exactly that duplicitous spirit. Watching these ceremonies was literally the first time that it occurred to me that President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and all the war supporters didn't just lie to us. They lied to and abused the nation's military personnel also. And how utterly tragic to have such a man as your Commander in Chief, to whom you have promised your obedience.

Shame, shame on all of those war planners.

And to the family of this particular fallen soldier, whoever you are, I'm praying that your heart is not hardened and that you find some comfort, somehow. Bless your hearts, all of you.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Conjugal Visit Weekend ;)

I'm off to Philadelphia/New York/New Jersey to visit Math-Man and for the wedding of one of his nephews. This nephew is, I suppose, also my nephew, but he's Dave's sister's son. So... more his nephew than mine, somehow. Interestingly, one of the first "dates" Dave and I had was shopping for a birthday present for this nephew, who was about to have his first birthday. Yikes.

Idle thoughts this morning -when, after all, I'm supposed to be packing. (I suppose I ought to be PACKED, but that's a problem of rather long standing. I do almost nothing until it's necessary AND urgent.)

Thing 1: When you have 48 hours a month with your partner, each hour takes on a lot of importance. That's not really fair -to anyone. For one thing, we're really on this whirlwind tour for our nephew. It is, in fact, not about me. (WHAT????) And secondly, this 48 hours isn't more important than any other weekend. Yet, when you're apart for long stretches of time, you lose the smoothing-out feature that regular contact provides. If I'm crabby or having a bad hair day or distracted, in my regular life that gets averaged in with all the other times when I'm patient, or lovely (it could happen, I suppose), and focused. In this long-distance relationship, if one of us is crabby when we get together, that's the memory we have for a month.

I don't know what to do about that. I think reconnecting when we finally live in the same house again is going to feel like dating. Which could be good, but has a scary edge to it as well.

Thing the Second: A friend brought a friend of hers to our local Sit and Knit. This new-to-me friend is just beginning a year where she is living apart from her husband. The shared friend thought we should meet. Our conversation went like this.

New friend: I'm deciding to think of this as an adventure.
Me: It's so hard.
New friend: I'm reconnecting with old friends and learning things (e.g. knitting) that I've always wanted to learn.
Me: It's so hard.
New Friend: I'm just trying to stay busy.
Me: It's so.... (Then my brain finally kicked in. YOU ARE NOT HELPING ANYTHING WITH YOUR WHINING. Shut the heck up.) Emergency re-frame ensued.

So, there are more people doing this strange living apart thing than I would have imagined. And I need to practice more empowering and compassionate chatter about this situation. Yes, it's been hard. I don't even know if it's been worth it, when you weigh one thing against another. But I have learned a lot. I have (almost) survived it, so I know that I can do it again if I have to.

There's more.... but really, I have to go put some clothes in a suitcase, and prepare myself for some serious...conjugation ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Highway to Heaven

Somebody save these people from themselves. There are days when there is no need for satire; people take care of it all by themselves.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, offers us the ten commandments for drivers.

1. You shall not kill. (This one is covered elsewhere, I'm almost certain!)

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm. (How about a way of getting from point A to point B? One wonders when the Cardinal last drove.)

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events. (Vigilance comes to mind as another good idea.)

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin. (Much of my high school dating - ruled out. Cars...occasions of sin... fond memories)

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so. (I wonder when he last tried to take the keys from an impaired person. The charitable thing is to get the keys, by hook or by crook. Don't worry about obtaining them charitably -although I suppose you could start there.)

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness. (Oh man. Now we know he doesn't drive much -particularly not in Rome.)

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

We're also supposed to pray in the car. He particularly recommends the rosary.

Okay, let's think.

Yes, car accidents are responsible for an insane number of deaths, injuries, and general tragedy. Yes, people use cars foolishly, dangerously, and flagrantly, to boot. It really could be appropriate for religious leaders to speak out about some of this.

And I'm not offended that he used the ten commandments as a pedagogical tool, although I do wish I'd been at the meetings where they came up with the ten. I do pray in my car -and not only in the "God save me from that moron" kind of way. I think, in fact, my rosary is in the car at this moment.

But does he really think that the most important thing that the office of migrants and itinerant people should deal with is drivers? I'm thinking refugees from wars, starvation, disease, and hurricanes might have other ideas. A riff on "I was a stranger and you made me welcome" might have been more appropriate. The mission statement is on the website, for crying out loud.

Get back to work, fellas. There is much to be done to create a society that Jesus might have envisioned for us. And telling me to pray the rosary while I'm driving kind of misses the mark.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Writing on the Wall

I had the weirdest experience this morning. Standing in the shower, running through my mental list of the 4 jillion things I need to do today, *pop* a writing project that I've been ruminating -but doing nothing specific- about jumped full-blown into my head. The organization, the structure, the chapters, the examples, they were all right there.

I was supposed to go for a long bike ride today, but I didn't. (Which is good, because the weather is seriously strange.) Instead I've been glued to my computer and this project I didn't know I was ready to start.

It must be said, there's some oomph needed to get these ideas wrangled onto a page. There's a big difference between clarity at the organization level and simple, clear sentences on a page. But, at least for my writing, there's no point in starting the sentence crafting until I have a sense of the broad strokes. Not that I don't reserve the right to work backwards and change the organization, too. I just like to start with a plan, even if I disregard it almost entirely.

So, that's all for now. I just wanted to let you know what I was doing, in case I start to ignore you. I'm writing.

Until Thursday, when I go see Math-Man for a 48-hour whirlwind tour, where -let us fervently hope- I am not spending my time writing ;)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Veiled Threat? Veiled Glory?

Chapel veils. We have to talk about chapel veils. WHY are we still talking about them, for crying out loud?

In my growing-up days at Catholic schools, we wore head coverings when we went to church. Our school uniform had a little beanie that we wore to chapel. By high school, the older students rejected the beanie for chapel veils (the abbreviated version of a mantilla -just to be sure we're all on the same page). Of course, the custom was taken to its absurd extreme if the beanie and the chapel veil were both unavailable, and a girl pinned a kleenex on her head -which happened with some regularity.

Of course doing that, presumably in an effort to follow the letter of the law, pointed out the absurdity of the rule in the first place. How is a tissue a show of respect, for heaven's sake? I was a kid. I didn't give the whole veiling tradition a moment's thought. I wore a chapel veil just because one did. Until gradually, I didn't because no one else did either. There wasn't a rebellion. It just didn't happen any more.

We know that there's a swing back toward conservatism in the church - paralleling, I suppose, the swing toward conservatism in the general population. And, no big surprise, (except of course I WAS surprised) I'm seeing chapel veils in church again. And the reasoning is as confusing as it ever was.

First off, let's be clear. It is not a rule that women have their heads covered in church. People who think that the rule was never rescinded, merely ignored, and that they are championing some sort of return to orthopraxis are just plain wrong. I have no patience with people too lazy to do the research yet with the arrogance to make strident assertions.

Another argument I hear is that it's a sign of respect toward ..... something. Respect toward what seems to vary -the liturgical space itself, the Eucharist, God.... OK, the veiled woman could, in fact, intend respect by wearing a chapel veil. I am unqualified to judge her intentions. But HOW is it a sign of respect?

There are differing opinions about that as well. It could come from the Hebrew scriptures and the urge there for a woman to cover her hair -her crowning glory. Lest what? In the middle of Mass some guy is going to be distracted by a woman's come-hither locks? Seems improbable somehow. There are only two possibilities that I see here. Either a woman's hair is private and naughty, and should be covered in public just like other "private parts," or men are so weak they can't be expected to control themselves. So the head covering protects women from those marauders. Nonsense, on both counts.

Other people maintain that the practice comes from Paul and that it's actually empowering. (This REALLY makes no sense to me, but I'll give it a go.) The claim from Paul is that when women teach in the assembly, they should be covered. So the deal is that women CAN preach to the assembled gathering, so the head covering is a sign of leadership.

The heck it is. Men are required to remove any head covering in church. Of course, regular guys don't wear hats much these days, but you can see the remnants of this rule when the bishop removes his episcopal miter before presiding at liturgy. It seems to me that the most we can claim (and this is a stretch) is that where the culture's customs involve more total veiling and sequestering of women, head covering might allow a woman to *gasp* be modest enough to stand in front of a group that presumably has men in it and still teach. In this culture, where women stand in front of groups and teach all the time, to make the rules different in church ...well, it's hard to see that as empowering. And besides, the Scriptural evidence suggests that veiling is all about a man's headship over a woman, and arguing that that's empowering... well, I can't quite see how that's going to work.

Really, I'm inclined to believe that wearing a chapel veil these days is either a sign of aggression or weakness. I distrust myself when I say this, but some people really seem to be saying "watch me be more pious than you are" with their behavior. And those people annoy the heck out of me. Other people seem to be looking for a visible sign of membership in a group. Really, go buy a crucifix necklace and stop distracting me at church. Please. I have enough to worry about without my graying frizzy -uncovered- hair being a sign of rebellion.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

An Important Local Cause

The boys and girls at the local bike shop are truly a municipal treasure -empowering, causy about biking without being militant, and a lot of fun, to boot. It turns out that one of them is also a Type 1 Diabetic, and they have established a team for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Ride to Cure Diabetes in Whitefish, Montana.

The four team members are trying to raise $16,000. They are inspired to take on this adventure by a young shop-employee and friend. Alex Bowden has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for most of his life and has worked hard to ensure that his disease is not his disability. He is a junior national champion cyclist and is a member of Team Type 1, a group of elite cyclists living and racing with Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes, is a devastating, often deadly, disease that affects millions of people--a large and growing percentage of them children. Many people think type 1 diabetes can be controlled by insulin. While insulin does keep people with type 1 diabetes alive, it is NOT a cure. Aside from the daily challenges of living with type 1 diabetes, there are many severe, often fatal, complications caused by the disease.

That's the bad news... and yes, it's pretty bad.

The good news, though, is that a cure for type 1 diabetes is within reach. In fact, JDRF funding and leadership is associated with most major scientific breakthroughs in type 1 diabetes research to date. And JDRF funds a major portion of all type 1 diabetes research worldwide, more than any other charity.

One of the team members has established a "ride-page" here, if you'd like to donate on-line or monitor the progress of the donations. Please contribute as generously as you are able.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Random Ten

You know how it works. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that play -no matter how embarrassing. Here are mine for the week:

  • February Song; Josh Groban (It's 93 degrees outside. This song's not working for me today.)
  • I Need You; LeAnn Rimes
  • Un Amore per Sempre; Josh Groban (again? What's up with that?)
  • Cookin' in the Kitchen; Keith Frank (moving on to zydeco)
  • Love Without End, Amen; Randy Travis (a good song for Father's Day, actually)
  • Southern Cross; Jimmy Buffett
  • Serenade for Strings in C Major -Waltz: Tchaikovsky (for some unrelenting schmaltz)
  • You're Easy on the Eyes; Terri Clark (in the pissed-off-woman category)
  • You've Got Me Flying; Holly Near
  • It's Raining on Prom Night: Grease soundtrack (Surely the ultimate in the "poor, poor pitiful me" category)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Social Work as a Subversive Activity

This is one of the recurring themes of my life. I suppose I want to be more subversive than I really am. But still, there is evidence that what we do changes the world, threatens illegitimate and immoral power, and occasionally involves significant risk.

Certainly one can be a social worker who writes case plans and grant applications, stocks food pantry shelves, or makes the beds at the homeless shelter. That person can do a lot of good in the world. It's no small thing to perceive injustice and set out to right it. Yet, sometimes there's a visionary who changes -or tries to- entire social structures.

Zakia Zaki was such a person. As the owner and manager of Peace Radio and a headmaster of Jebulo Seraj girls' high school in the Parwan province of Afghanistan, she battled injustice in spite of (or because of) the fact that women are facing renewed barriers in both education and public media in Afghanistan. Tragically, she was shot and killed inside her home (in front of her children) early in the morning of June 6.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Challenging social structures is not without its perils. And my heart breaks for her and her children, her students, and the people she served through Peace Radio. All of them are impoverished by her death.

But no woman is an island, either. We were all also enriched by her life and her witness to a world with fewer foolish barriers. Godspeed, Zakia.

To learn more about her, you might watch the DVD, If I Stand Up. Developed by UNESCO in 2005, it documents the political life of women in Afghanistan.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Random 10

You know how it works. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that you think make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week:
  • Tara's Theme from Gone with the Wind; Henry Mancini (oh my... we're off to a good start. It's from an Oscars Night playlist.)
  • Bad to the Bone; George Thurogood
  • Only the Lonely; Roy Orbison
  • Toss the Feathers; The Corrs
  • It's Too Late; Jo Dee Messina
  • Piano Sonata No. 11 in Major; Mozart via Glenn Gould
  • Chicago, That Toddlin' Town; Rosemary Clooney
  • The Prayer; Cecilia
  • Petit Papa Noel; Nana Mouskouri
  • Southern Star; Alabama (Oh southern star, how I wish you would shine and show me the way to get home!)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wrap Your Brain Around THIS

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the legalization of birth control in the United States.

Wait. I'm 48. Birth control was illegal (as opposed to merely unavailable) in my lifetime?? Yup, Griswold v. Connecticut challenged a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of "any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception." Passed in 1879, the statute was almost never enforced. Attempts had been made before 1965 to test the constitutionality of the law; however, the challenges failed on technical grounds. But finally, the Supreme Court decided that there is an implied ("penumbral" they actually said... isn't that lovely?) right to privacy in the Constitution and that enforcing the Connecticut statute would violate that right.

And here we are, 42 years later and we've made so much progress. (Did you catch the sarcasm there?) We use taxpayer money ($1 billion of it during the Bush administration, to date) to teach abstinence-only sex education that, shall we say, lacks a certain intellectual rigor. The 130-page National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations fails to mention the option of emergency contraception for rape survivors. Women in the armed services don't have access to abortion services at military medical facilities and using those facilities is, for all practical purposes, a requirement of their medical insurance. In some cases, they have been denied emergency contraception as well. Some pharmacists here and around the country want to stop filling prescriptions for some kinds of birth control.

Wait.... I'm not finished.

On his first day in office, George Bush reinstated the global gag rule, prohibiting the recipients of U.s. international aid from providing family planning assistance. House passed the so-called "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act", a sweeping refusal clause that allows any health care entity to discriminate against any provider who provides or even gives information about abortion. There's so much more. Lest anyone doubt that the Bush administration is waging a way against women's sexual self-determination, try this link: Planned Parenthood.

True enough. No one is bothering me or people like me -much. Middle-class women safely married (to men), who have medical insurance and the time and education to advocate for their own care, are comparatively safe in any decision to control the size of their families. Yet even there... there's no guarantee at all that our children will have access to accurate information, that our daughters in the military will have access to services...

I have long resisted the notion common among feminists of a certain age (MY age, that is) that a pro-choice position is a litmus test for authentic feminism. But, the conservatives are very close to changing my position on that. I can not sit idly by and watch my daughter's -and everyone's daughters'- life choices defined by their reproductive organs. To that end, there's a small something we can do, and honestly, even the pro-life feminists (who are, in fact, out there) can support this one, I think.

There's the Prevention First Act, designed to reduce the need for abortion. It would provide money for family planning assistance and compassionate care for rape victims, mandate accurate and timely sex education, and end discrimination against women's health care by insurance companies. Read it over. See what you think. Discuss it with your elected officials. It's important.

Next year at this time, I don't want to be writing some sort of historical missive about the good old days when birth control was legal.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Between the Sheets

I want to talk about books and reading in bed. Cuz ain't nothing else happening between MY sheets until Math-Man gets himself off his bike and back home. (stopping there, lest this post get away from me)

Reading in bed has become a new experience these past 10 months. When Math-Man and I lived together, I frequently went to bed before he did, announcing that I was going to read for a while. "For a while" meant about 5 minutes, apparently. I would fall asleep with the light on and my glasses still perched on my nose. He would come upstairs later and tend to the Andrea-housekeeping. Alas, during this year I've woken up more than once with the light still on, my glasses lost somewhere in the bedclothes and using my book as a pillow. This will not do. Change number one is that I have to choose books for night-time reading that will keep me engaged enough that I don't konk out before dealing with these end-of-the-day tasks.

Problem #2 with reading between the sheets is that the book can't require so much thought that my brain starts to race and then I can't sleep at all. Virtuous claims that I will, at long last, get through Proust are for naught -at least in the context of bedtime reading.

So, with those requirements for engaging but not deep reading, here's what I have so far.

  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson
  • Window Poems by Wendell Berry (one of my literary loves)

What are your ideas? What are you reading?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Getting Out of my Own Way

More musings about what I've learned this year...

I'm afraid it's nothing brilliant. What's worse, it's something I was supposed to already know. Worse yet, it's something I know for other people. Well, damn.

When I work with people trying to learn something new or people in desperate straits, I frequently say things like "stop putting barriers between yourself and success." Or, more positively, "let's streamline this process." And I can help people with that. I'm even kind of good at it - making sure they have the appropriate tools and skills to do the thing they want to do, gently redirecting (sometimes transparently) people to a task that is a more appropriate next-task. The general idea is to make the right decision or the right strategy the easy one to choose. This won't always work, but when it could, why create unnecessary difficulty?

But I don't do this for myself, ever. I got seriously ill at the tail end of graduate school. I went to see my teacher to make arrangements for finishing his class while undergoing appalling treatments. His comment was "Andrea, you don't always have to do things the hardest way possible. Take an incomplete." Oh. Right. And it's not as though I got out of grad school yesterday and this is a fresh lesson for me to absorb.

Nope. I'm still at the back of the class on this one. I've been defeated by my own house. And I've decided that it's not my fault -which is always a better position than the "I'm so stupid I can't do these things" position ;) Most recently the culprit has been the lawn mower, and the poor thing has become the metaphor for the changes we're going to be making around here.

I don't mow the grass in ordinary times. There are other tasks I do to contribute to the running of the household, but not that one. Dave did it. Then there were the halcyon years of the kids doing it. Then they grew up and left us, and Dave did it again. Not me. So I -naturally enough- was uninvolved in the purchase of new lawn mowers over the years. Do I care what kind of lawn mower we have?

Well, I should have. We have a lawn mower that I can not start. I'm too bloody short to reach to the end of the cord, and it just won't catch. If someone else starts it, I can mow the grass well enough. But how ridiculous is that? It feels plenty absurd, let me tell you.

I don't even know how old this lawn mower is. But when it dies, I'm going to the lawn mower store (are there such things?) and participating in the purchase of another one. I may never again mow the grass after the completion of this year. I hope I don't, in fact. But I have to be able to. I have to stop letting barriers get erected between me and success. I have to stop participating in placing those barriers. (This is sounding eerily familiar.)

The lawn mower has to go. And all the other "lawn mowers" in my life.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Random Ten

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you feel like an idiot. (Sometimes I feel like I have the world's biggest collection of embarrassing music. Yesterday I had people over and the iPod, set on shuffle, playing through the stereo speakers. Suddenly I hear Rosemary Clooney singing "Here Comes Susie Snowflake, blasting through my house." Well, now.... Picture making a beeline for the stereo!)

  • The Honor of Your Company; Tom Paxton
  • Tombeau Sur le Mort de M. Conte d' Logy; Weiss via Segovia
  • Night in that Land; Nightnoise
  • Eastlander; Steven McDonald
  • Anything Goes; Ella Fitzgerald
  • Song of the Traveling Daughter; Abigail Washburn
  • Walk or Ride; The Ditty Bops
  • Missing You; Alison Krauss
  • Farther Along; Emmylou Harris
  • I've Got Better Things to Do; Terri Clark