Nov 19, 2006

How About This...

OK kids, give this a shot. If I've set things up right, you should be able to post comments (ie, tell me how witty and wonderful I am) without having to sign up, sign in, or sign over anything. Maybe no one really cared, but that requirement drove me nuts. Take that, Yahoo!

My plan is to tweak things gradually over the next few months until my blog settles in with a homey-feel...whatever that looks/feels like. I guess I'll know it when I'm there.

Now hurry up and leave me some comments. And behave yourselves or I'll have to impose rules and stuff...

Apr 21, 2006

Good Advice for Us All...

From a safety brochure--

"Children should not see adults sticking anything other than bread products into a toaster."

Apr 19, 2006

As Promised...

We love our pets, really we do. It’s just that we’re not above having fun at their expense, as is obvious from Zoe's most recent pic.

A few weeks ago Mrs. Bee (my friend/neighbor) and I went yardsale shopping. Among the spectacular deals I found was a kids’ book for Little Bee to read when she comes over to my house. As you can see in the pic, the book itself is shaped like a kitten, and the story inside is illustrated with photographs of real kittens. It’s adorable, and Little Bee seems to dig it. And it was only twenty-five cents. I do love a bargain.

Poor Pim, on the other hand, is certain that we’ve gone off the deep end and added another
crazed animal to the family. When the book is lying flat, he has no problem with it. Stand it up, however, and he crouches into a defensive position, ears back, growling.

Unfortunately for him, this is not the first time this has happened. At one time we were the guardians of “Flat Cat,” a lifesized cardboard cutout of a cat. How & why we had it is another story, but during Flat Cat’s tenure with us, we found that he was very convincing as a real kitty, at least to Pim. We’d stand Flat Cat up, and Pim would immediately begin with the growling and defensive posturing. We’d lie Flat Cat down, and Pim would suddenly be just fine, as if a switch had been flipped.

Such is the case with the new kitty book. It remains a bit of a mystery, since in times past Pim has gotten along fairly well with other cats, provided they aren’t trying to kick his ass. One autumn, we had a real, live foster-kitten for several weeks. While Pim wasn’t all that interested in being friends, he was more than willing to live and let live. So it seems odd that he would be so hostile toward cardboard cutouts & books with cat photos on them.

The best explanation I can give—and I think it’s a pretty good one—is that while the book looks like a real cat, it doesn’t act like one. It doesn’t smell or move like a cat, or come over to sniff Pim, or even blink or avert the gaze. It probably comes across as fairly threatening in kitty terms, as must have Flat Cat.

Of course, we have had some fun with the kitty book. It turns out that if you get the book close enough to Pim, he will hiss & spit, & bat at it mercilessly, even to the point of knocking it out of your hands. At one point, we maneuvered the book just right so that Pim was able to sniff it and figure out that there was no threat, but the next time the book came out he reverted to the hissing and such…apparently he will never trust the kitty book.

Pim is a passive-aggressive guy though, and he let us know when he had had more than enough. He made his anger known by peeing in a couple of key spots around the house. This is a fully housebroken cat who NEVER has accidents. No, if he does his business anywhere other than he is supposed to, you can bet that it’s deliberate.

We learned our lesson and put the kitty book back in the box with the other toys, where it cannot torture Pim anymore (until Little Bee comes over to read it—bwuahaha!). As for Pim, it appears that all is forgiven. He has had his revenge and moved on.

Editor's Update--04/20/06--I just discovered more evidence of Pim's revenge this morning. Now we must kitty-proof the house to minimize future attacks.

The moral of the story: When Pim gets pissed off, things get pissed on...

Apr 18, 2006


Pseudonyms have been a recurring issue for me in this blog. My blog is open to public perusal, but those I write about don’t necessarily know I’m posting information about them for all to see and read. Plus, you never know who might come across my blog, and I certainly don’t want to get anyone in trouble with my ranting, especially myself. Consequently, my rule of thumb is to use pseudonyms for everyone except the pets.

When writing about work folks, I decided to use names from the Brady Bunch (in case you didn’t pick up on that before), with the exception of my officemate, to whom I referred simply as “Officemate” (and except for Ms. Gillian, whose story you’ll have to read for yourself in my archives). This could have become quite complicated when I moved offices, except that now I work in a cube, so my new officemate is more accurately “Cubemate,” thus eliminating most of the confusion. Come to think of it, I don’t know that I’ve mentioned Cubemate thus far, so don’t even worry about it yet.

I couldn’t think of a cutesy theme broad enough to encompass friends and acquaintances, so I stuck with initials. Surprisingly, this worked fine until the new Mrs. B. got married last month, creating a duplicate with our other good friends the B's.

I have spent the past week trying to think of a new name for the B's and have yet to come up with a fitting and clever pseudonym, so I shall have to resort to the plain and unoriginal.

Thus, henceforth and heretofore, our good friends and next-door-neighbors shall be known on this blog as the "Bees": Mr. Bee, Mrs. Bee, their daughter Little Bee, and their pets Sydney and Tokyo. The new Mrs. B. and her husband, married over a month now, shall remain the B's.

Thus saith skerribee--um, I mean skerrib...

Apr 12, 2006

Deer Dialogue...

I encountered a pair of deer while jogging this morning. Being that they didn't speak English, and I didn't dare speak aloud & scare them, this is our conversation as I imagined it--

Deer--"Excuse us please, we're just going to cross the road Oh good there are no cars because we're already halfway into the lane OK, now just up this hill, and, Good we're safe!"

Me, stopped dead in my tracks, about 20 feet away--"Oh, hello. I've never been this close to deer before."

Deer--"Well, here we are. Did you want to stare all day? We have places to be."

Me--"Um, I have a secret fear that sometime when I'm out jogging, some rogue deer is going to jet out of nowhere and pummel me to the ground out of spite. You're not going to do that, are you?"

Deer--"Oh watch too many stupid car insurance commercials. Relax, OK? You do your thing, we'll do ours."

Me--"Okay...bye then."

I'm totally clean & sober, honest...

Apr 3, 2006

The Great Scam Leaves Its Mark...

The beginning of Daylight Saving Time seems to be affecting the Cat-Daddy more than me for once. Saturday night I set our two main clocks ahead, so Sunday morning we were good to go. I got ready for church, and the Cat-Daddy headed off to class. He didn't even get out of the driveway, though, before reappearing at the door--

"Skerrib, what time is it?"

"About 8:00"

"Why does my car say it's 7:00??"

"Daylight Saving Time went into effect this morning."

"Are you sure??"

"Check on the computer. Or the TV." (the TV goes on for a short time)

"Does Mr. B (our friend/neighbor) know?"

"I hope so" (Mr. B. was my ride to church that day). "Hey Cat-Daddy, how does it feel to fall victim to the greatest scam ever pulled??"

The Cat-Daddy was not amused.

The B.'s did, in fact, remember to set their clocks as well. I am usually such a time zone wuss that the slightest disruption takes me a week or two to adjust, but thus far I feel surprisingly unaffected. At least part of it is due to the fact that I completely forgot to set my alarm this morning, sleeping straight thru to 7 instead of 6. We shall see as the week progresses. For once I'm heading to bed on time tonight; that's a good start.

As for the Cat-Daddy--who is ordinarily of the "suck-it-up" mentality, especially when I start complaining about time zone adjustments, summer humidity, keeping the house at 60 degrees in the wintertime, or pretty much anything else I decide is unnatural and/or inhumane--he is crashed on the couch as we speak. In his own words, he is "wiped because of Daylight Saving Time."

Yes, I am gloating.

I so rarely get to do so, I feel compelled to savor this moment...

...It feels quite delicious...

...there. I'm done.

Next up will be Pim's most recent adventures. He's quite a trooper to tolerate kitty-parents like us...

Apr 1, 2006

The Great Scam Returns...

It's that time of year again: Daylight Saving Time is upon us. We "spring forward," losing an hour tonight and spending the next two weeks readjusting our bodies' clocks to the time change. I know not everyone experiences the same difficulties I have adjusting to the new time, but I also know I'm not the only one. Slightly higher accident rates occur during the first week of DST--I read it online so it's gotta be true, right?

In all fairness I admit that DST is actually a fairly reasonable idea here on the East coast. Not that I'm advocating it, mind you. I still think the whole thing is a crock. However, our geographical position is such that, even on DST, we still get some decent daylight in the morning hours, as well as the evenings. For all the good things about our last state, Ohio, DST drove me nuts because the sun didn't rise until nearly 6am on the longest days, so we early-morning warriors had a lot of dark & dim jogs come September. And then, come 9pm when it was time to start getting ready for bed, it was still fairly light out. It just wasn't natural.

At least here in the suburbs of Boston we have a nice balance. Plenty of light in the AM to get my jog in, and decent daylight hours in the evenings.

To be continued...

Mar 29, 2006

Guilty Pleasures...

Mar 27, 2006

Fairly Obvious Signs That I'm a Nerd, Part II...

4. I did trig(onometry) at work today

5. I enjoyed doing trig at work today

6. When the department admin said I could have my choice of office supplies, I requested mechanical pencils and engineering paper

It's so much nicer when the paper does the engineering for you...

Part I

Mar 25, 2006

Ready to Rumble...

This is Zoe's fresh spring haircut, complete with mohawk sculpted by the Cat-Daddy. She went from snuggly fluffball to punk-weasel-dog in less than an afternoon...

Mar 16, 2006

Dream a Little Dream...

I am hit-or-miss when it comes to remembering my dreams. While they are often bizarre, they are not usually all that detailed; or rather, the details are not describable in any way that remotely makes sense. That said, I do have a few standard stress dreams which seem to repeat themselves, especially when I’m anxious about something.

There’s the snake dream. Often many of them will be in my yard and I’ll need to get into or out of the house. Plenty of times the setting has been the house where I grew up, but more recently I tend to find myself in a new house and discover that my yard is in fact a habitat for poisonous snakes, and I have to figure out how to co-exist with them. Once I was on some sort of camping or mountain-climbing trip, and a giant snake the color of those reddish garden hoses, with bright yellow and blue diamonds along its back, pretty much followed me the whole way. Come to think of it, just last night I was traveling along some kind of path, lined with cobras that were spitting and lunging at me. Thankfully the snakes in my dreams have almost never tried to hurt me. Even the cobras were all about intimidation, and didn’t try to actually touch me. The only time in my dreams that a snake intended harm was when I was in the desert with the Von Trapp family. Maria was singing in the background (of course). I was kneeling down, and a rattlesnake was headed my way while my legs were stuck to the ground. It made sense at the time. The only thing I could do was lie backward with my legs still in place, folded behind me. The snake didn't get to me, however, because I woke myself up. It was one of the few times I've sucessfully woken myself up from a dream. Woken--is that a word? It sounds weird...
Then there’s the one where my teeth are falling out, one by one. It starts with one of my bottom front ones wiggling loose. The ones with the retainer cemented to them. Then another, then a top one, and so on, until my molars start coming out too.

And the one where I'm trying to dial a phone number, but just can't get it right. Not just once or twice. Like 10 times. And usually it's for something important, such as calling the fire department. And there is no such thing as 9-1-1 in this dream, it's a full number I'm trying to dial. It's maddening.

There’s the one where I’m teaching a class and mutiny is afoot. One kid will be loud & raucous, or refusing and stay put. Just as I get him/her under control, someone on the opposite end of the room does the same thing. It gradually gets worse until I’m desperately screaming for everyone to sit down and shut up, and the entire class thinks it’s a great game, messing with my head. I had this dream regularly when I was an actual teacher, usually in the weeks leading up to a new year or semester. Even today, I dream of classroom mutiny every so often.

Another school dream started popping up when I was in grad school. In this one, I’m registered full-time, or working full-time while registered for a class or two. Either way, somehow I'll totally forget to attend one class, until about halfway through the term, when I’ll realize it and make plans to catch up and pass the class, but somehow I keep forgetting to show up. Once I was back in high school, needing one class to graduate, and I just couldn’t seem to get to the dang class. It was dreadful.

The one good thing about stress dreams, if such a thing exists, is that they very rarely come true to their full extent in real life. I did forget to go to a lab once in grad school. I left school after class, completely forgetting that lab was held right after the lecture. It wasn’t even the first class of the quarter…I simply forgot. I was very fortunate in that I didn’t miss anything. Even if I had, it would have been a pain to make up the work, but it would have been do-able. I have seen a snake in my yard, but it was small & harmless. We left each other alone, and it went away, and I never saw it again. As an adult, I’ve lost a crown, but never a tooth, and even my worst classroom days never came close to full-scale anarchy.

Being a nervous-type, I deal with stress dreams by talking myself down from the anxiety. Usually a quick pep talk about how it was all a dream will suffice. When that doesn’t work, I devise a plan of action to prevent the events in the dream from ever coming true.

Yesterday was a banner day in the history of stress dreams, as I had what apparently was a sympathy-stress-dream. I’ve never heard of this occurring before, but there’s a first time for everything, I suppose. My dream involved my friend, the future Mrs. L., who is getting married in 2 months. Some background info: the Cat-Daddy and I will be helping out, making sure that the schedule runs as smoothly as possible. It will also help to know that Mrs. L. is currently storing her dress in my guest room, until it’s time to have it altered and pressed before the big day. Understandably, Mrs. L. is busy with plans & preparations, but my role is easy. I get to show up in nice-ish clothes and boss people around. Very little stress on my end. You'd think so anyway...

So in my dream it was suddenly Mrs. L.’s wedding day. To begin with, I wondered how time had passed so quickly, as we had completely skipped the month of April. I had been looking forward to bossing people around, ala “What are you doing here? You were supposed to be over there ten minutes ago!!” but again, time had gotten away from me, and it was now just a couple hours before the wedding. I got my butt to the church, and when I finally got there it was an hour prior to the wedding, and pretty much everything seemed to be in order, except that Mrs. L. wasn’t in her dress yet. I asked her about it, and it turns out it was my job to bring the dress from my house to the church for her, and I’d completely forgotten! So we tracked down the Cat-Daddy, asking him to drive home and pick up the dress. But it wasn’t just the dress; there was the slip, the veil, and accessories. So I started to write out a list so he would know to get everything. Well, I tried & tried, but my writing was totally illegible, so Mrs. L. and I finally decided to go ourselves so we’d be sure to get all of the necessary accoutrements.

We got to my house and started grabbing the dress and accessories, but as we grabbed stuff, there was more & more for us to take. Flower girl dresses, flower girl gifts, entire suitcases of clothes, towels, & shoes (for the honeymoon?? I have no idea). And I'm almost certain there was a lava lamp in there somewhere. Soon Mrs. L.’s mom showed up and volunteered to pack & take most of the stuff for us so we could get back to the church and start the wedding ASAP.

At this point my house was no longer the house I live in now, it was some random house in extremely west Phoenix, and it was my parents’ house and I was just staying with them for the wedding. Or something like that. Whatever it was, it made sense at the time. Mrs. L. and I loaded up the car and were getting ready to go just as a strange couple drove up to the house asking about the wedding. We told them everything was being held at the church an hour away, and they could follow us there if they wanted to, all the while thinking, “duh, why would they come here??” We got into the car & headed down the street. The couple got into their car & started to pull out. I watched for them to follow us in my rearview mirror, but they never did, so I was worried that they were actually there to rob my (or rather my parents’) house, and had just pretended that they were going to follow us to the wedding, when in fact they were going to stuff my parents' belongings into their tiny 1985 Honda Accord hatchback.

Consequently, I decided to drive back around the block & check on the house, only I wasn’t at all familiar with the neighborhood and got all turned around. I never did make it back to check on the house. Eventually I ended up on a main road a good mile away, except that we were now in extremely east Phoenix. Nothing was familiar, but we did make our way up to Loop 202 so we could catch a commuter roller-coaster back to the church.

Yes, a commuter roller-coaster.

An interesting concept, but terribly inefficient, as we kept having to debark and get back in line at several of the stops. And as we crossed into different cities, the coasters were very different. The Scottsdale portion, for example, was bright & shiny & new, and had loops & turns, etc., while the Mesa portion was old & dingy, with crappy seats (sorry, Mesa) that kept ejecting us out of them so we'd have to get back in & try to get going again. This went on for quite some time, and became pretty convoluted. The last thing I remember is being stuck in a warehouse-setting, waiting for one of three doors to open and the coaster to whisk me through it to wherever was next. Mrs. L. walked up wondering what on earth we were doing here when we had to get back to the church for her wedding. From there the dream got fuzzy, and I think it transitioned into a whole other theme involving bikes, snow, and a very strange amusement park. Anyway, to summarize, we did not get back to the church for the wedding.

As a result of this dream, I made two major decisions:

1) Mrs. L. is to retrieve her dress from my house long before an hour prior to her wedding, and I will not be responsible for it.

2) I’m not going anywhere near a commuter roller-coaster unless I have ample time to spare.

Mar 9, 2006

Another One...

You Are a Visionary Soul...
You are a curious person, always in a state of awareness. Connected to all things spiritual, you are very connected to your soul. You are wise and bright: able to reason and be reasonable. Occasionally, you get quite depressed and have dark feelings. You have great vision and can be very insightful. In fact, you are often profound in a way that surprises yourself. Visionary souls like you can be the best type of friend. You are intuitive, understanding, sympathetic, and a good healer. Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul

What Kind of Soul Are You?

Who wouldn't want to be told that people like them are the best type of friend?? And wise & bright as well??

Oh, and this time I caught the address of the bigger site (click on the name):
BlogThings. A veritable cornucopia of online quizzes. This could be dangerous...

Mar 7, 2006

For the New Mrs. B...

A very good friend got married over the weekend. I enjoyed the wedding immensely, which is saying a lot since I'm not much of a wedding-person. I didn't cry...I told my bride-friend that she looked hot, and I got to have crazy fun with some friends from college. We temporarily forgot that we were supposedly-mature adults with real jobs and real bills and insurance, and we ran around & told goofy jokes, and giggled about what our newly-married friends would be doing that night (wink, wink). The best thing about the night was all the laughing.

And I had a very important duty. I was one of 3 gift attendants, the other 2 being said college friends. We took our jobs very seriously, as you can see in the pic. We even took very (un)serious oaths to defend the gifts against those who would damage or steal. And when no one tried anything, we made up fake stories to add some drama to the day, but Mrs. B. didn't fall for it, partly because she's pretty sharp, but mostly because she was rightfully caught up in being a bride.

During the ceremony all my cynicism flew out the window and I just sat there with a goofy grin the whole time, thinking about what a gift this marriage is. It seems especially wonderful, since my friend has gone through significant pain in her life, probably more by the time she was 20 than most people encounter by the time they're 60. For me, and everyone else who has known her, it is so special to look back over her life and see where God has led her, how he has redeemed the pain in her life into beauty, strength, and wisdom beyond her years. Her husband has also had his share of lows and such...part of the ceremony included a video the B's made of their stories, how God has shaped them through the years and eventually brought them together. I've gotten to meet Mr. B. He is strong, wise, kind, caring...and appropriately warped enough to complement my friend's (and my) sense of humor. I hope to know him better, and to know them as a couple...IF he promises to behave; that is, if he promises to be a good sport and put up with our silliness.

The wedding was held at the church I grew up in, which also happens to include the school I attended through 8th grade. There were so many memories for me, and even some people from "back in the day," whom I got to surprise simply by walking up to them; and when they said, "SkerriF!! You haven't changed a bit!!" I got to say with great enthusiasm, "It's SkerriB now!" That was fun. I told grade-school stories to my college friends and one of them commented, "You weren't kidding, you really grew up here!" It's true. Between church and school, I was there as much (and sometimes more than) I was home in those years.

Ms. G. was one of those people. She was in charge of the reception. Despite her disappointment in not receiving the promised "Yes I am the boss of you" shirt, she did a spectacular job ordering people around, making sure the evening went off without a hitch. We were 2 years apart in school, so we only knew of each other, and I don't think I'd seen her in about 15 years. It was neat to see her as an adult, a very capable leader with a wicked sense of humor (I hope the word "wicked" means what I want it to mean--hilarious, slightly warped, and something I get a kick out of). She made a great boss; and as a gift attendant, I was pleased that she was, in fact, the boss of me.

Ms. K. was another. She was the maid of honor. We were in the same class, although we didn't know each other well, as during those days she was in the cool-group, while I definitely was not. Frankly, given my social status back then, I've been relieved to find that, all things considered, the social "coolness-tiers" pretty much flattened out by college. Ms. K. and I reminisced some, mostly updating each other on the classmates we knew about. We sort of kept grinning at each other. I can't speak for her, but I know there was so much I wanted to say but didn't have words for. It is interesting to me that, even knowing each other only a little, we share such a complex history over just a few years of our lives. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but then again maybe not. I think if we lived in the same state we might be friends. Although maybe that's not all that profound, since we're both friends with the new Mrs. B.

It was her wedding, but it felt like such a gift to me, having known her for several years now, getting to share in her 'process' through these years and to participate in this special day. Plus, they served Mexican food, which is probably my all-time favorite. And no birdseed or bubbles. No, the B's gave out TOYS as wedding favors. Squishy light-up toys. There was no chicken dance; in fact, there was no dancing at all. Just dinner and conversation in a cool, dusky evening with zillions of little white lights strung about and Norah Jones crooning away in the background. A perfect evening.

Ahh, I feel like quite the cheeseball now, but I don't think I care. OK maybe I care a little bit, but it's worth it.

So thank you, the new Mrs. B., for including me in your special day, and for all the unexpected gifts I received from it as well.

A beautiful day, indeed...

Check Me Out...

I'm Mrs. Professional this week. I'm on a short business trip. Know what's good about business trips? Staying at fancier places than I normally would, and ordering ROOM SERVICE! I've never ordered room service before. I actually found it the tiniest bit nervewracking, being a nervous-type. I had to call & order it, which was no big deal, but then when the waiter brought it to my room I goofed it all up. I went to take the tray from him, but I forgot with things like this, that it is customary for them to do things for you. He laughed at me, then showed me how he is to bring the food in, set it down for me, and such. He was good natured about it. I just hope he wasn't expecting an extra gratuity, because there was already an 18% one included in the bill, along with tax and a friggin' service charge. My frugal heart almost couldn't go through with it, except for two magical latin words: per diem. Another wonderful thing about business trips.

And so I dined on a luscious and healthy Cobb salad, with
avocadros, of course! It would probably have been healthier if it were half its size, but I'm pretty sure it was a step up from the Big Mac I had considered earlier. Definitely worth the loss of dignity, what with my ineptitude in all things hoity-toity.

Bad things about business trips--banging my knee and toes repeatedly on the desk and chair. Apparently it takes me longer than most to spatially orient myself in new places. That sounds way better than merely being klutzy. Also, while I have quite a collection of cushy pillows and covers, I miss having the fur-kids to keep me warm and toasty. And the Cat-Daddy to make me laugh...and keep me warm & toasty. Tee hee.

Tomorrow it's home again. Back to workin' for the man...

Feb 23, 2006

Chuckle for a Good Cause...

On the way into work this morning, I saw a great bumper sticker. Emblazoned on a white background with a pink ribbon:

"Save the Ta-Tas"

Hee hee...

Feb 20, 2006

Mrs. Cranky-Pants...

In honor of Presidents' Day, and of working while the Cat-Daddy gets to sleep the day away, a list of some of my pet peeves, grammatical and otherwise...

--Confusing "its" and "it's." Kids, let's get it right: "It's" is a contraction for "it is." "Its" is the possessive. As in: It's perfectly normal for a dog to sniff its own butt.

--Confusing "there," "their," and "they're." Location, possesive, and contraction for "they are." As in: The dogs over there aren't sniffing their own butts, but they're sniffing each other's.

--Mispronunciation of the word "nuclear." Admittedly, Webster's lists "nu-kyoo-lar" as an appropriate pronunciation, but it still bugs me. Phonics people, phonics.

--Going to bed with a dirty kitchen.

--Dogs that eat cat poop--UGH.

--To a lesser degree, confusing "your" and "you're." Probably lesser because I've caught myself on this one multiple times. Possessive vs. the contraction for "you are." As in: Zoe, you're not leaving this house without your coat! And we don't eat cat poop in this house!

--"I" vs. "me." This one doesn't bother me all that much, but I might as well throw it in there. It's whatever you would say by itself. As in: The Cat-Daddy and I say we don't like poop-eating poodles one bit. But between you and me, we think Zoe is quite endearing, despite her disgusting habits.

--And for a touch of irony (hypocrisy?)--it irks me when people feel like they must correct every grammar slip with no regard to the current situation or surroundings. There are times and places to enlighten the grammar-ignorant, and they are few & far between.

By the way, I've decided to decorate my cube wall with quotes, famous and infamous. Here's a list of what's already up:

Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone…The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire…It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it…Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted…Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else…Never test the depth of the water with both feet..If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments…Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes…If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you…Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day…If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it…If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything…Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield…Everyone seems normal until you get to know them…The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket…A closed mouth gathers no foot…Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together…There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works...Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving…Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it…Never miss a good chance to shut up…Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

There's still plenty of room, so anyone who wants to contribute, send 'em my way via comments or Just be sure to include the quoter, if known. Even better if it's one of your own...

Feb 16, 2006

Something Light for a Change...

After a wonderful week of 50 degree temps, we got a foot & 1/2 of snow over the weekend. I don't care that my winter hat is funny-looking, because it's warm. It is definitely winter in New England.

Tougher to eat healthy, you say? No fresh produce for months, eh? One would think so, but the commissary has been carrying Chilean produce. Perfect timing, since it's summertime in the southern hemisphere. Didn't want to pay $5 per pound for the cherries, but I've had grapes, nectarines, peaches & plums. And not sorry little consolation-prize fruits either. These are de-lish.

God bless Chile.

Feb 12, 2006

Church--Control vs Relationship (III of III)...

The third and final post. The others are here: Part I, Part II

There’s an excellent illustration of this in chapter 8 of The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning:
“On the [Alcoholics Anonymous] calendar it was Year Two. In that time nothing could be seen but two nameless, struggling groups of alcoholics trying to hold their faces up to the light. A newcomer appeared at one of these groups, knocked on the door, and asked to be let in. He talked frankly with the group’s oldest member and quickly established that he was a desperate case. Above all, he wanted to get well. ‘I must tell you that I am the victim of another addiction with a stigmatism even worse than alcoholism. You may not want me among you. Will you let me join your group or not?’

“There was a dilemma. What should the group do? The oldest member summoned two others and, in confidence, laid the explosive facts on their laps. Said he, ‘Well, what about it? If we turn this man away, he’ll soon die. If we let him in, only God knows what trouble he’ll brew. What’s your answer—yes or no?’ At first the elders could only look at the objections. ‘We deal with alcoholics only,’ they said. ‘Should we not sacrifice this one for the sake of the many?’ So went the discussion while the newcomer’s fate hung in the balance.

“Then one of the three spoke in a very different tone. ‘What we are really afraid of,’ he said, ‘is our reputation. We are much more afraid of that people might say than the trouble this alcoholic might bring. As we’ve been talking, five short words have been running through my mind. Something keeps repeating to me, “What would the Master do?”’

“Not another word was said.”

What are pastors really afraid of when they implement policies? Certainly they want the congregation to be safe. But like all of us, pastors also want the church to look good. When it gets down to it, the Christian life gets messy--a new ministry doesn't take off, members of church leadership have a conflict, a busy young mom loses her temper and swears at her kids. Or deeper--an otherwise-put-together man or woman confesses an addiction, a child reveals abuse in the home, a teen enters into severe rebellion. It’s easy to want to hide these parts when we want so badly for people to be drawn to God. We all do this to some extent. Some think of it as guarding their testimony, or wanting to represent God in the best way possible. While this is a wonderful-sounding goal, I think our motives are misguided. Who are we to think God needs our help to draw people to Him? How are we so self-absorbed that we think our efforts can make or break a person’s relationship with God? And let’s be honest—how can we think that we’re convincing anybody that really, we’re happier than they are, and if they join our club they can have it all as well? While I think people as a group are stupid, individuals can be fairly sharp—they pick up on things that are contrived and/or disingenuous. When it comes down to it, I’m just not fooling anyone when I try to put on a happy face all the time. Just like having enough of the right rules and people who exhibit "Christian" behaviors doesn’t make a happy and healthy church.

Part of trusting God is trusting him with our church body as well. Because of our human nature, it will get messy. People will make mistakes and we will be hurt. The difference is learning how to handle things the way God deals with us—grace, compassion, consequences when necessary, honesty, healing, forgiveness, and love. This takes much humility on everybody’s part; no one is ‘above’ mistakes, and when we speak the truth, it needs to be done in love.

Not to mention the implications of this in other parts of life. If I follow my own advice, the wrong way to get the Cat-Daddy to do the dang dishes each night is to nag or impose rules on him. The dishes need to be done…how do I get them done without taking it on myself (after all, I’m the one who slaved over the hot stove)? As scary as it is, it involves my relinquishing control. I can ask him to do dishes, but I can’t make him. I can set boundaries as far as what I will and will not do, but ultimately he’s an adult who makes his own choices, and I have to let him be his own man. It gets messy sometimes, and we’re still learning. As insignificant as it sounds, the dishes are a model for deeper things. I think we wives, in our desire to have a good marriage, have a tendency to try to control our husbands instead of loving them. Maybe not all of us, but it can't be just me. What are my motives in my marriage relationship—am I speaking and acting in love or do I just want other people to think I have a good marriage and a nice house?

On the church level--are we loving people or controlling them? Are we living out of our freedom in Christ, or trying to make God happy with nice, 'Christian' behaviors and habits? Are we wanting to do things for God, or are we trusting Him for what He wants to do for and through us?

Which brings it right back around to my relationship with God. It's good to want a healthy church, a healthy marriage, healthy kids. Am I trying my darnedest to have those things so God will be pleased with me, or am I living out God's grace, trusting Him for my needs & desires because I'm certain that He's already pleased with me?

Well kids, it would appear that I’ve made my points for control vs relationship. I hope my thoughts have provoked your own.

Part I, Part II

Church--Control vs Relationship (II of III)...

This is Part II in my series. The other posts are here: Part I, Part III

The question for me is why I seem to have a significant disconnect in my mind about rules. Why am I OK with standards of dress for work and school, but not church? Why do I think that membership rules don’t apply to me? Why is it that my taste in movies generally limits itself to PG-13 and below, but I’m the most vocal supporter of an individual’s freedom to watch R-rated movies?

At least part of it for me personally is that in the two situations I mentioned in Part I, the rules were not there to begin with, or at least were not enforced. Someone then decided to implement them. From my viewpoint the rules changed, my inner 3-year-old cried "No fair!", and I had to re-evaluate how the new rules affected my participation. But then again, I've been in jobs where rules have changed and there was little weeping and gnashing of teeth. Maybe a touch of "No fair!", but then I adapted fairly easily. There has to be something distinct about church which triggers my unease.

My thought process goes something like this—at work, they pay my salary, so that gives them some pull in my life. If I choose to work for my company, I need to abide by their rules. If I cannot bring myself to abide by their rules, I’ll probably be happier working for someone else anyway. The same can be said about church, to an extent--if I don't agree with the rules of a particular church I will probably be happier at a different one. But somehow I have a problem at a deeper level with the existence of the rules in church. Part of it could be that church is a volunteer-thing. At least at work I’m getting paid to follow the rules. At church I'm showing up on my weekend time. I want to minister and contribute, but does God really need me to jump through a certain set of hoops and sign my name in blood to qualify?

Taking myself out of the equation for once, I ask why pastors and church leadership have rules to begin with. Why do they feel they need a dress code, rather than trusting people to dress appropriately? What do they stand to gain by requiring that people take formal membership in order to participate in ministry?
Well-meaning pastors want to protect their congregations. They (rightly) feel a certain amount of fear or concern that a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” could come in and hurt their flocks. And as discussed in Part I, a natural human reaction to fear is control, so that’s how rules get formed—If there is a dress code, people will know exactly what is expected of them, so we won’t have to deal with people dressing inappropriately. If people are members of the church, we’ll have a chance to “pre-screen” them before allowing them to minister and/or lead in the church, and that way we’ll know we’re putting good people into those positions.

My problem with the dress code is that it isn’t Biblical. I don’t have a problem with a dress code at work because it isn’t a spiritual issue. I have a problem with it at church because God tells us very clearly that He is not about appearance, so why should we be concerned with it? Of course, if someone is dressed grossly inappropriately, deal with the individual situation. But don’t try to spiritualize the issue and somehow twist it into obeying God or not, and do let the nonoffenders live within their freedom of personal style.

My problem with membership as a requirement, which I'm pretty sure isn't in the Bible either, is that it doesn’t guarantee anything. Most membership processes consist of sitting through one or several meetings where the church leadership tells you what that church is about. And then you get to vote in business meetings if your church is structured as such. It lets the leadership learn your name, and verify that you at least claim to be a Christian before you go off teaching Sunday School.

The element that’s missing in all of that is relationship. The only way to be as sure as possible about the people in leadership and ministry is to know your people. This is both the tougher and scarier route. It’s easy and quick to implement policy or hold a weekend-long meeting where people give their testimonies in a nutshell. Relationship takes the time and effort of getting to know someone on a deeper level. Not just how they became a Christian, but what events in their life have shaped how they view God? What are their greatest gifts, their greatest struggles? What sorts of ministries has God put on their hearts, rather than which vacancy can the church stuff them into? Does their yes mean yes and their no mean no--ie, when they commit to something do they follow through?

Recently, we attended a newcomers' lunch at our church. It was a relatively simple meeting where they told us what the church is about and we got to ask questions. It was suspiciously similar to what we might encounter at a membership class, except that our church doesn't have formal membership.

Here's the difference: that meeting neither qualified us for anything, nor obligated the church in any way toward us. It was just a time to start getting to know each other. At another point we called the assistant pastor and said, "Hey we're into music and we'd like to come talk to you about how the worship team works." Over the past several weeks, we've begun to integrate into the worship team, meeting regularly and getting to know people. They know us well enough to know that we love Jesus and music is our "thing," and we know them well enough to know that we want to be part of the team and grow & minister with them. No way do we know them (and they us) as well as we would like, but that will begin to happen over time. We're not taking over or in charge of anything, but we're part of the group.

Then there’s the scary element of trust—no matter how well you know someone, there are never any guarantees. If we are honest about this life and human relationships, all of us will hurt and be hurt, even in church. How do we deal with that without kicking people out every time they mess up, or resorting back to standards and regulations?

Part I, Part III

Church--Control vs Relationship (I of III)...

This one turned out WAY longer than I expected so it is now my first official series of posts. You can link to the other parts with these: Part II, Part III

I'm in the bigtime now.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not really a rebel. I like to think I’m all raw & edgy, but when it comes down to it I generally don’t have a problem going along with rules and systems. I work for the government, where silly rules & systems are a way of life; it is the government after all. They govern.

The thing about church is that it is intended to be the place where believers live out what God says to us and about us. From the Bible we can gather that God’s way of doing things is pretty much the opposite of our kneejerk reactions as fallen sinners. Our natural inclination is to try harder, set rules, and build formulas. We want to control our surroundings as much as possible because if we feel in control, we feel less afraid (a false sense of security, by the way). God’s way is for us to stop trying, to set aside the rules and formulas. He wants us to relinquish our control and false security to Him so that he can give us real freedom from the mess of fear we live in. It’s about relationship. So theoretically, church should be a place of rest & freedom from the rat race of the world’s way of doing things.

This gets messy because we are still on earth, so to an extent a church has to have some laws & rules in place in order to interact with the world on a business or organizational level. But I’m not getting into that here. When it comes to the church leading and interacting with its members, there should be very little in the way of regulations for the general congregation to follow. I think that’s why I flinch when there’s talk of rules and such at church. I’m going to church to get a break from the structure of the world, I don’t want to walk into another set of standards and regulations.

In a former church they decided to enforce a worship team dress code. It wasn’t all that extreme. Basically you had to be adequately covered (ie legs, stomach, and shoulders), and no jeans or shorts. The official reasoning was that the worship team is up in front, representing the church to the people, and they were afraid of people getting the wrong message because someone on the team could dress inappropriately. The unofficial reasoning was that some felt that dressing casually was disrepectful to God, and my guess is that they pressured the pastor to do something about it. There was a big meeting and a big debate and when it boiled down to it the pastor said, “It’s my call and I’m making it.” Most people responded with “You’re the pastor, it’s your prerogative and we’ll submit.” I felt very conflicted. I was livid about the dress code, but I complied and gave myself a stern lecture about sucking it up and just wearing the dockers without complaining. I also questioned my motives and wondered why on earth I was so hung up over this. I ignored my anger and hoped it would go away—I resigned myself to the situation, wishing I was a little more submissive so I could get over it. Over time my resentment built, and worship team wasn’t fun anymore. I just couldn’t let it go. The time came for us to move out of state, and frankly I was relieved to be out of that particular situation.

I’ve thought a lot about the dress code since then. I do believe God is sovereign, and He has something to teach us through every situation. I certainly learned a lot about myself during that time, but if given the opportunity I think I’d do things differently. I think I would say to the pastor, “It is your call, but I can’t obey with a happy heart so I will have to not participate in worship team.” Of course that’s easy to say on this end of things--I only came to that conclusion after 2 years of experiencing the results of halfhearted compliance. But I did learn.

So we moved to a new state and a new chuch, and got involved in the worship team right away. Guess what my first question was? Yep, I asked if there were any dress codes. There were none—I was relieved. The first year was nearly-bliss, but then the pastor decided to enforce a rule that participants on the worship team had to be formal members of the church.

Without taking up the time and space, let me say, in a nutshell, that while I am not necessarily against church membership, per se, I have a problem with using it as a requirement for ministry participation, and I will eventually get to my reasons for that.

Having learned from my halfhearted compliance to the dress code in the previous church, I knew that this time I couldn’t go along with it. I wasn’t going to go through the motions of membership just to keep drumming every couple weeks. My heart wasn’t in it. It eventually became a moot point, as the Cat-Daddy and I ended up leaving, bringing us to our current new church, where there is neither formal membership nor anything resembling a dress code for any aspect of the church, and they are not big on rules, which suits us fine...

Part II, Part III

Feb 7, 2006

Told Ya I'm Neurotic...

Your Five Factor Personality Profile

You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."


You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.


You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.


You have medium neuroticism.
You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.
Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.
Your life is pretty smooth, but there're a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.

...Courtesy of

Feb 2, 2006

Church--Further Musings on Halloween & Other Stuff...

I want to clarify my remarks on Halloween. The thing I found ridiculous is that because one person chooses not to take part in Halloween, the other felt the need to explain, apologize or justify her display of the holiday decorations. And I can't say for sure, but I would bet that if she'd thought about it, she'd have hidden the decorations so person number one wouldn't see them. Not out of consideration, but to save face. Over painted pumpkins.

I’m not saying that you have to participate or not participate in such things. While I do the trick-or-treating festivities, I have good friends who choose not to, and for good reason. Neither of us is more or less Godly because of it. I think this and other "minor doctrines" can only be approached from a viewpoint of freedom in Christ, meaning freedom to do or not do as God leads us.

It can be a tricky task to convey this in a nutshell...

So, major doctrines--our need for salvation. Christ's death and resurrection to pay the penalty for our sins. Salvation by grace, and not by any action or merit on our part. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. There are probably more, but those are the biggies that come to mind. God makes the biggies clear in the Bible. These are a matter of black-and-white--no grey areas about them.

Minor doctrines on the other hand--geez, where to begin. Dancing, alcohol, playing cards (gambling), church membership, tithes and offerings, church attendance, grooming & appearance, entertainment, holidays...some or all of these have some sort of reference in the Bible, but I believe they fall under freedom in Christ.

Some are addressed under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament, but it would seem that when Christ's death did away with the Law, that included all of the requirements and such in the Law. Tithing, for example. In the Old Testament, the Israelites lived more or less under a theocracy. Their tithing was something akin to the federal and state taxes we pay to fund the various programs that keep things running and help needy people; or attempt to, anyway. It was mandated then, as taxes are mandated now.

Does that mean we give nothing to church? Um, probably not. In the New Testament we are told to give freely, sacrificially, and joyfully. Ye olde "10% of the gross" guideline? Some find it cutesy-foo-foo to say that you need to calculate your giving before taxes so God will help you out when it comes time to do your taxes, implying that if you give more then God will give you a bigger refund. Of course there's nothing wrong with giving 10% of your gross income, per se, unless it is preached as the only correct way to give.

Listen for God’s urging and give as much as He prompts you. True, it could be less than 10%. But it could also be more. If you're in a church body that you love and believe in, it's entirely possible that you'll find yourself wanting to give as much as you possibly can. Guess where that desire comes from? Or rather, guess who gives us that desire??

Other topics were discussed in the New Testament which I believe do leave room for cultural interpretation. I know, I know, this is one of the biggest cop-outs people use when they want to just disregard scripture. But really, I think there's room for serious insight when you read certain passages in a cultural light and observe the spirit behind what God is saying.

Take, for example, the passage about women not braiding their hair. Really? I can curl my hair, pull it back, or put teeny flowers in it, but I can't braid it? Rats. Does it include French braids? What about fishtail braids? What if I just do one big braid, as opposed to a head full of teeny-tiny braids? And can girls wear little pigtail-braids? And the God who said this is the same God, by the way, who gave explicit instructions to Solomon for a glorious temple…the same God who created and loves beauty. So is beauty OK, or do we have to pretend we don’t notice or care about it? Or is there something inherently wrong with the shape of a braid?

A friend once pointed something out...when the Bible was written, personal hygiene was much different than it is now. Back then, bathing was much, much less frequent, and they definitely didn't have Wal-Mart in every town. If you're not bathing as often and you can't just pop in to pick up a bottle of shampoo & cream rinse, how much more difficult will it be to wash, comb, and style your hair? How much more time would it take? I'm guessing that sort of thing would be limited to royalty and the rich who had both the time and money to spare for such luxury. For most people, it would be incredibly frivolous. I believe God is saying hey, don’t be preoccupied with your outward appearance at the expense of living this life. It's not really about hair, it's about your heart's focus.

Two examples, and admittedly this is my opinion on these things, as opposed to solid fact. Plenty of Godly people have totally different views, which I think is the whole point—we all have the same freedom to do or not do as God leads us.

Up next--control vs. relationship in church and in life. Which of course is something I never struggle with, I just want to help you all see the light...

Jan 29, 2006

Church--Two Good Experiences in One Day...

Today was my big day as a visiting musician at my friend's church down the road. This particular place was probably the best example I've seen of a church that is "churchy" in culture, as well as a wonderful place. Going into the building, the culture is apparent. It's a very old, beautiful building with pews, a gigundo pulpit, hymnals, the whole package.

The first service was the more traditional: the choir wore robes, and there were hymns and organ music. Most of the men wore suits and/or ties, and most of the ladies were dressed up. The second service was more contemporary. There were lots of kids & young families. The choir sang one song, but ditched the robes. The band did the rest of the music--that was my 'gig,' so to speak. It wasn't quite rockin', but definitely a couple notches up from the hymns.

The thing that made it a great place was that I could feel such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I could tell that appearance was a non-issue. I played one song with the choir in the traditional service, sitting in my jeans next to them in their robes, and no one batted an eye. I sensed a sincerity and humility that was wonderful & refreshing--one really could feel the love. If I weren't so into kick-ass rock & roll worship, I would probably go there too.

After church I headed up the road to the church where we've been going lately. Obviously I missed church itself, drumming at the churchy-church, but there was a newcomers' lunch and I wanted to join the Cat-Daddy and our friends for it. Our church is deliberate about being the opposite of churchy--ultra-casual dress, modern music, Starbucks coffee. The building is a converted warehouse, and the most formally anyone was dressed was dockers & a sweater. We ate sandwiches & chips and just talked about how the church works and what they're about. Lots of laughing.

This isn't becoming just a church blog, honest. Church has just been heavy in my mind lately, what with switching churches and all. It has been good to walk through this process with the Cat-Daddy as we came to the decision to leave our old church, and searched out our new one. Lots of discussions about what we think is healthy or unhealthy in a church, and figuring out those things that are important to us in finding our home away from home for our remaining 2 years here in New England.

Um, this sounds too...diplomatic. Without raking anyone over the coals, let me put it this way. At our old church there were some good people and grace was preached faithfully...but then in the day-to-day it didn't feel like it was lived out.

Too many controversies over stupid things, like if it's OK for Christians in general to watch an R-rated movie, or even PG-13 "in this day & age." Too much posturing and insecurity; people feeling the need to justify any behavior that's not the ideal "Christian position." A friend practically hung her head when she admitted that she watches the show "24." Another hemmed & hawed about having a glass of wine with dinner. Still another, knowing that one family doesn't participate in Halloween, dismissed her display of pumpkins and decorations as an obligation because the pumpkins, painted lovingly by a preschooler, were a gift.

Contrast this with the newcomers' lunch at the new church, where they made a point of saying that they're big on conveying the "big" doctines--our need for salvation, Christ's death on the cross, grace and all that, living in relationship with Christ--but that they don't fuss with the "little" doctrines, such as dancing, alcohol, political involvement, music, and the like. The areas where God gives us freedom to do or not do as He guides us.

As time goes on and we get settled in our new church, there probably won't be much to say about church, and that will be great. I can live without the controversy.