Friday, April 20, 2007

I probably picked a really bad time to start a blog. I run a seasonal business that I will be opening up later today. From late spring to early fall, I work seven days a week. So, to all of my faithful readers, I apologize in advance for my infrequent posting.


Now mingling with the quiet flocks
All gentle bleats and snowy fleece
What nightmare beast among us stalks
Whose thirst for blood imperils peace
On sunny days, we watch the skies
For hawks, the harbingers of death
Sometimes, no shadow signifies
The advent of our final breath
And when the thinning veil of fate
Is ripped, like flesh by tooth and claw
Death's visage, recognized, too late
Consigns us to his grinning maw

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thoughts on Abstinence Education

Here are my views on abstinence education. It is good to teach young girls to not give in to demands for sex, without careful consideration. If that what is being taught, it has my wholehearted support. I’m sure that my old-timey religious beliefs put me out of touch with today’s youth, but some truths transcend generational differences.

Timeless truth number one: adolescent males spend a great deal of time thinking about and pursuing sex.

Timeless truth number two: adolescent girls who give in to pressures from aforementioned adolescent males are often motivated by incorrect assumptions, i.e. “he will dump me for another girl if I don’t give him what he wants.”

Timeless truth number three: if adolescent male is not attracted to adolescent female for other, more significant reasons, her sexual compliance will not sustain his interest.

Timeless truth number four: if adolescent female submits easily to sexual demands, she will be exploited by male peers and disrespected by female peers.

My conclusion: traditional, religious standards still dictate society’s views of sexual behavior. Girls who quickly acquiesce to demands for sex will be labeled as “sluts,” and will suffer diminished self-worth as a result. Boys who easily obtain sexual favors will learn to view women as sub-human objects. There are many good reasons, besides disease and pregnancy, for a young woman to resist the pressure to have sex with a young man who has not demonstrated a long-lasting appreciation for her non-sexual attributes.

Andrew Sullivan and the Path of Least Resistance

Christianity recognizes that mankind’s path of least resistance leads to the embrace of sin and evil – “For we like sheep, have gone astray, each to his own way.” Even the apostle Paul struggled with temptation: “that which I do not want to do, these things I do. What a wretched man am I! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Without Christ as our moral leader, and the hope of our redemption, there is little to lose and much to gain in casting off the quaint burdens of guilt and self-discipline.

Ignoring small cracks in my own moral foundation has been very destructive to me in the past. The justification of my favorite, seemingly trivial sins has repeatedly led me to a life of debauchery, licentiousness, and utter disregard for my own spiritual well-being. My personal quest for reconciliation with God has not been a straight line, but more like a “Family Circus” cartoon, where little Billy wanders around in circles, distracted by all of the attractive nuisances in his path.

So where am I going with this, and how does it relate to Andrew Sullivan? I admire Andrew as a person, but I find his public moral journey to be a distressing example of the consequence of trying to rationalize one’s favored sins. His defense of homosexual behavior, contrary to the tenets of Catholicism, has brought him to a point where he proclaims that “doubt” is a necessary and beneficial component of “faith”. Doubt and faith are antonyms, and mutually exclusive. I don’t condemn Andrew for having homosexual tendencies, or even for indulging them. I only condemn his attempts to to re-interpret God’s laws to soothe his own conscience.

I place little value on moral certitude, nor do I insist on legalistic adherence to biblical doctrine. There are many questions that mankind cannot answer with divine authority. Why does God allow His children to suffer? Is it possible to lose one’s salvation? Can “faith without works” be genuine? Will the “heathen” who has never heard the Gospel be saved? These have been the subject of scholarly debate for centuries, and their answers are “seen through a glass darkly”. However, for many other questions, the scriptures provide us with straightforward guidelines. We undermine the foundations of our faith, when we deny these simple truths for personal gain.

Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to purchase salvation for all mankind. If we truly believe this, there remains no motivation for us to deny our sinful natures, or to attempt, through our own efforts, to reconcile ourselves to God. Why defend ourselves against the judgment of our fellow man, when through faith, we can lay claim to all the righteousness of Christ?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Riding the Short Bus

The “short bus” is an enduring comedic device, even in the 21st century, as are jokes about the Special Olympics. In this age of political correctness, the mentally retarded are still an acceptable target for ridicule. A certain amount of PC governs their labeling – “cognitively challenged”, “developmentally disabled”, but “retard” is still a widely-used insult.

My 21-year-old son rides the short bus every day. Despite years of instruction, he can barely remember his own address and phone number, and his signature looks like that of a typical first-grader. He can read simple words, like “Men” and “Exit” but the most basic mathematical computations are far beyond his abilities. He is a burden to society, although the cost of his upkeep is offset somewhat by my tax contributions.

My son is a real person though, and not just a “case”. He likes all-star wrestling, video games, and popular music. He saves soft drink cans to raise money for charities. He talks to friends on the phone. He was on the Special Olympics championship basketball team, and the championship bowling team, in the same year (2006). He is shy around strangers, but talkative and witty with family members – his answer to the question, “where are your manners?” is, “in my other pants.”

In many ways, it has been easier to be a mother to him, than to his “normal” older brother. He never wanted to skip school, and is unhappy when school is closed due to bad weather. He never sneaked out of the house, never drank or used drugs, never took money out of my purse.

My younger son will most likely never marry, never have children, never have a job outside of a sheltered workshop, but his value as a person is undiminished. Think about this person whom I love, when you are tempted to call someone a “retard”, or joke about the “short bus”.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Look At Me! Look At Me!

I promise that I will never post links to my blog in the comment sections of other, more prominent bloggers. If someone is intrigued enough by what I say in Althouse’s comments to click on my Blogger profile, and subsequently visit my itty-bitty newbie blog, that will gratify me far beyond the bounds of reason.

I hereby vow to earn traffic the old-fashioned way, by posting well-thought-out, semi-articulate (oops, is that racist?) comments on other people’s blogs! But if you do visit my blog please leave a comment! It will take on a totally undeserved significance in my pathetic little mind!

Just say “hi” for crying out loud, I will love you forever!

Bio-Fuels - Good or Bad?

A lot of publicity has been given to the increased production and use of bio-fuels such as corn-based ethanol. As the inhabitant of a state whose economy is based on agriculture, I have some contrary thoughts.

The good things about ethanol are that it is clean-burning, and that it helps to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. However, these good things may be far outweighed by not-so-good things.

First, ethanol generated from corn is not a terribly efficient source of energy. I believe that the energy input-to-output ratio is somewhere around 1:1.2, taking into consideration the energy (usually in the form of petroleum products) needed to plant, cultivate, harvest, and transport corn, and convert it to ethanol.

Second, the non-renewable resource of topsoil is degraded by its continual exploitation for agricultural use, although this is remediated somewhat by the use of fertilizers, no- and low-till techniques and hardier, bio-engineered crop varieties.

Third, and most concerning in my opinion, is the use of water for irrigation. You won’t hear about this every night on the evening news, but water scarcity is a real and growing problem in many western states. The water levels of rivers and reservoirs in western Nebraska are at record lows due to eight years of drought. I spend a lot of time driving through “cornhusker country” and few things are more disturbing to me than the sight of a center-pivot irrigation rig (similar to a giant lawn sprinkler) running full-blast on a hot, windy day.

Fourth, increased demand for corn in ethanol production impacts other segments of the global economy. Corn is not just corn-on-the-cob and Green Giant Niblets. It is also widely used in cereal, snacks, and beverages (check the ingredient labels on cans and boxes in your pantry for “corn sweetener”), as feed for cattle, hogs, and poultry, and of course as a staple food in the form of cornmeal and tortillas. The price of corn used in manufacturing food will be driven up, as a result of its increased use in ethanol production.

Isn’t it immoral for the US government to encourage increased demand for corn-based ethanol, when this action will surely increase food prices around the world? Should the poor go hungry so that we can feel better about our fuel consumption, especially when our net energy gain is so insignificant?

Wouldn’t it be less harmful in the long run, to commit more resources to the development of new energy technologies, and to temporarily reduce our dependence on Middle East oil by expediting oil production in ANWAR?

Thoughts on race in America

It’s no secret that issues of race are still alive and well in America, as illustrated by the Imus controversy. The agreed-upon solution, in this case, is to curtail “offensive” speech.

Is this helpful? Does it promote trust between the races when we must carefully monitor every word that comes out of our mouths? Many blacks think that white people secretly hate them. I understand that suspicion, if they believe that societal constraints are the only thing stopping whites from spewing “hate speech.”

The fact is that many of us feel slightly uncomfortable with people from different ethnic backgrounds. Look at our churches. Nothing stops me from attending a black church, but as a white woman I would be certainly be viewed with polite curiosity. My own church is very “downtown” in character, with a lot of older white folks, college students, Hispanics, ex-druggies, drunks, and borderline lunatics of every age, gender, and color, and a handful of Nigerian and Sudanese immigrants. I don’t know how much socialization goes on between these groups, beyond church activities and invitations to holiday dinners. I suppose these things are a start.

A few years ago, I participated in a “cleaning day” at a church attended by a black co-worker, with whom I had a casual friendship. This man and I had many interests in common, and he once took me and my son fishing, in the days when I didn’t fish much. I was given a job polishing brass in a room by myself, while a group of blacks dusted, vacuumed, and washed walls in the sanctuary. I couldn’t help wondering what they thought of my being there – did they think I was trying to earn some kind of whitey merit badge? I honestly don’t know what my own motivation was, or whether it impacted the value of my efforts.

I won’t defend or excuse Don Imus’ remarks. However, I don’t think his firing will improve race relations. I am sickened by the spectacle of his former associates rushing to the nearest microphone to denounce him on camera, and claim that they had no idea that he was such an evil person. I don’t think Imus is a “racist” - he just had a fleeting lapse in judgment and said something highly inappropriate.

So, what is my solution? I don’t have one, but I don’t think that racial harmony can be built on a foundation of unspoken rules dictating how we MUST think, feel, and speak about one another. In my opinion, it would be more beneficial for all of us to publicly acknowledge our negative, stereotypical beliefs, and to confront them openly, in the pursuit of a sincere and enduring reconciliation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Cubicle Dweller Catches a Catfish

Here is the promised post about catching a catfish.

My favorite kind of early morning for fishing lacks even the hint of a breeze. The lake's surface is smooth and black, broken only by reflections of the moon and stars. The halo of my headlamp attracts swarms of tiny insects that threaten to fly up my nose and under my glasses, into my eyes. I wave them away and bait my hook quickly, so that I can turn off the light as soon as possible. Giving my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness, I cast out to one of the good spots that I know by heart. The splash of my bait and bobber makes ripples that widen until they come all the way back to me. I settle into my chair to watch and wait. Sometimes the excitement starts right away, sometimes it never comes at all.

There is much to see and hear, while waiting for catfish to bite. Clouds drift across the face of the moon. Fish jump. Muskrats make silver V's as they swim. Ducks and herons squawk and splash, disturbed by unseen intruders. Owls hoot, coyotes howl, raccoons and opossums lurk in the rustling foliage. The voices of other early-rising anglers carry across the still water, making them sound eerily close. I watch for the tiny light of my bobber to twitch and bounce in the darkness.

When the moment finally comes I feel a jolt of adrenaline. I wait for the fish to drag the bobber across the surface or pull it under water. I gently lift my pole and check for the resistance that indicates a hooked catfish. If the muscular struggle of a fish is telegraphed through the taut line and up into my hands, my knees shake, and I begin reeling. Every fight with a good fish seems epic. My pole bends to the fish's strength, as I crank the reel handle with all my might. Sometimes, the line breaks, and I am left with nothing but slack.

Other times, I reel and reel and am rewarded by a large, thrashing creature right at the edge of the dock. Carefully, I slip my net under the fish and pull it out of the water, still hooked. Frequently, the fish has brought a large clump of weeds with it, which I have to clear away to get a good look at what I have caught. Most fish thrash about on the dock, thumping against the boards with their strong tails until I unhook them. I try not to hurt them and rarely sentence them to death in the ice-filled cooler. Usually, I grip the fish's lower jaw between my finger and thumb, to lift and release it. Catfish don't really have "teeth" but they have rough, spiky protrusions in their mouths. In their efforts to escape, they often take a a bit of my skin with them. I wipe my wet, bloody hands on my pants, re-bait my hook, cast out again, and wait for the next battle.

Can you understand why I cherish my sore, scabby, masticated thumb, when you think of me sitting down in my cubicle on Monday morning, after a weekend of fishing?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Many interests = Shallow person?

I have a lot of different interests & hobbies. My habit is to go full steam ahead on one hobby at a time for a few days or weeks, and then move on to something else. For example, I was obsessed with Sudoku puzzles for a time last year. I would work on them all day sometimes. Now I never do them at all. I also did watercolor paintings last year for a couple of months. I'll post one here.
I like fishing, camping (including backpacking), cooking, reading, writing poetry, and singing in the church choir. I also do "crafts" - mainly paper crafts and drawings now, but I built a dollhouse with mostly handmade furnishings a few years back.

The choral singing seems to be more than a passing interest, I have been doing it for six or seven years. I don't really have a soloist-quality voice, but I read and recall music quite well and have accurate pitch. Music is something that I can carry around with me in my mind and enjoy all day long. I love the challenge of mastering a new and difficult piece, and being able to hear it in my head, whenever I choose.

Sometimes I wonder if I have ADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. When I take up some new hobby I can hardly think of anything else sometimes. I have always managed to go to work every day & earn a living, but my mind is usually not concentrated on my work. So, do many interests make me a shallow person, or what?

A day late...

Didn't get around to posting this yesterday, my Easter poem for 2007:

No grave will be His dwelling-place
His gift to us, eternal life
He grants us peace, and truth, and grace
In the midst of earthly strife

No blood, nor riches, sacrificed
Could pay all mankind's sinful debt
But Jesus' work alone sufficed
Though crucified, He's living yet

I regret that I do not make more of an attempt to live up to the example set by my Savior, but if mankind could meet that standard, Jesus would not have had to sacrifice Himself on our behalf. I am grateful for what He did for me.

A fishing post...

My profile says that I am interested in fishing, so here is a fishing post. During the summer, I fish a lot. I'm not a fishing nerd so I won't be posting about what color lure to use, or depths, or water temperatures, or monofilaments vs. superbraids. Go somewhere else for that! This is just about the experience of catching a fish and what it means to me.

Last summer, my obsession was to catch channel catfish. Experience taught me that the best catfish bait was cut up bluegills. Bluegills are easy to catch at my favorite fishing hole, you just put a little piece of worm on a small hook, and fish two or three feet down, next to a dock or rock formation, around sunrise or sunset. Cutting them up is not much fun, I usually just lay them on ice in a small cooler and wait for them to die. Then I cut them into two inch squares with a pair of kitchen shears, and store the pieces in a Ziploc bag. I don't enjoy doing this but my catfish obsession has driven me to grisly lengths. I don't think that I am causing the bluegills to suffer, since hypothermia and hypoxia are relatively painless ways to die.

The best time for catfishing is when it is dark. I am not a night-owl so I prefer to fish early in the morning. It is not unusual for me to go fishing at 3:00 or 4:00 am. For me, it's not hard to wake up that early, but it does require a certain amount of motivation to gear up and go out to the dock, at that hour. I have to put on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt to keep off the mosquitos, and a headlamp so that I can see what I am doing and not fall into the lake. I carry a camp chair, my "tackle purse," (a soft side bag with fishing tackle), a big fishing pole, a net, a bag of bluegill chunks, and a mug of coffee. Before I go out I put a bobber on my fishing line, and attach a small glow stick to the bobber with a rubber band (I like to fish with a bobber to keep my baited hook out of the weeds, and it has to have a light on it so I can tell when I have a bite). Once I have tucked all of those items under my arms I'm ready to go.

So it's out into the night to pursue the fearsome channel catfish! My next fishing post will be about what it is like to catch catfish in the dark.

Here is a picture to whet your appetite:

Saturday, April 7, 2007

My Views On Poetry

I love poetry, I believe that it is a wonderful medium for expressing emotion. It is useful for romance, satire, the worship of God's creation, and other strong feelings.

I enjoy the limerick format as well as other structured, metered formats. When I compose poetry I try to prioritize meter and precision of language. Please feel free to critique any poetry I post here. I welcome any suggestions that will help me to achieve my priorities as stated above.

Finally, I hope to use evocative language that will provoke deep feelings in the reader whenever possible. I believe that poetry is a spiritual endeavor. For me, the impulse to rhyme springs from strong emotions including (but not limited to) love, sadness, disgust, and the appreciation of beauty.

Who Is Dirt Clod?

My husband has expressed an interest in blogging. He will post with my ID but sign his posts as "dirt clod". In his opinion, dirt is the most valuable, non-renewable resource possessed by our nation. Also, we live in "fly-over country" so he thinks that we are treated as dirt clods by the mainstream media.

Easter Cards

I like to create homemade cards for various holidays. Here are some of my Easter cards.

The Dems support our troops, they say

Once a nation has committed itself to military action, I believe that the primary goal should be to win, regardless of public opinion.

The Dems "support our troops" they say
At least til August of next year
Three months before election day
We hear their message, loud and clear

Saddam Hussein is now deceased
At soldiers' cost, "not in our name"
Purple fingers, Middle East
But, "Abu Ghraib!" Have you no shame?

Though Congress may have voted for
Our use of military force
They say Iraq is Bush's war
They'd rather beat a new dead horse

Boomers, Vietnam deja-vu
They've got an exit plan to push
Though nine eleven still haunts you
"Never forget!" to hate George Bush!

BE (a love poem)

Come be the cool refreshing rain that makes my desert bloom
Come be my sun on cloudy days, and chase away the gloom
Be music in my solitude, to make my spirit dance
When my heart burns with longing, satisfy me with romance
On sultry nights, come be the breeze that cools my fevered skin
When all my friends have closed their doors, be one who lets me in
When I am weary, be the pillow where I rest my head
Be moonlight in my window, shining softly on my bed
On lonely nights, lie down with me and hold me for a while
And when my sleep is fitful, be the dream that makes me smile
Bring order to my chaos, shelter to my wilderness
Bring reason to my madness, wisdom to my foolishness
Be joy in times of sadness, comfort in my day of grief
And if my faith should waver, help to strengthen my belief
I know you can’t be everything I want for you to be
But if you say you love me, that will be enough for me.

Voter fraud = minority vote suppression

...according to the New York Times, anyway...Althouse posted on this article here:

I was inspired to write the following:

When I have carelessly misplaced at times
My own conservative decoder ring
Thank goodness that I have the New York Slimes
To help me translate English to "right-wing"
If I should say, "I don't like voter fraud"
Obviously, I hate the darker skinned
If I recite "One nation under God"
I'd "throw the gays in jail, for they have sinned!"

A Travel Poem

Road trips can be very tedious, if, like me, you hate long drives. They are especially sad, when you are ending a visit with someone you love.

May lonely miles be lightly borne
In spite of all you've left behind
Dear ones though from your arms be torn
Held closer now, in heart and mind
Do not despair, be not forlorn
In strangers' faces, you may find
Some transient hope for Easter morn,
And home's peace, journey's sorrows bind

The breastgate blogstorm poem

This is my poem posted in response to the "blogstorm" over Ann Althouse's comments on the Jessica Valenti "breastgate" controversy. Jessica, a self-proclaimed feminist, went to a blogger lunch with Bill Clinton, and posed in a photograph wearing a knit top that seemed to accentuate her attractive figure. The latest Althouse post here :

What shall I wear, to lunch with Bill?
This question really gives me fits
A suit, a jacket, no - I still
Want him to see I have nice tits

To leftist thought, I will be true
And "feministing" is my name
But charmed by Clinton's eyes of blue
I'll use my breasts to garner fame.

When I write in the Guardian
That blogging's not a life of ease
Althouse, so un-Edwardian!
Suggests that I've sold out to sleaze.
OK I'm finally starting my own blog. I will post some of my poems that I have left in the comments on the Althouse blog, and add other things of interest as time goes by.