Mar 30, 2008

Reverse C & E Christians...

We ditched church today. But that's not the important thing.

The important thing is that we ditched church last week, Easter Sunday. We had planned on going. I even ironed, and wore a skirt, and everything. When it came time to leave, however, His Highness was in the middle of a nap, and instead of waking him up to go, we decided to let him sleep. To be honest, I don't think either of us was feeling particularly motivated to try a new church on Easter. Long story, hard to explain, blah blah blah.

This is the second major holiday in a row that we've missed church. Just this last Christmas (Eve), about half our extended family was sick and, despite a valiant effort to get there, in the end we didn't make it.

So while there are some who don't attend church except on Christmas and Easter (affectionately referred to as "C & E Christians" in evangelical circles), our general pattern it seems is to attend most every week except Christmas and Easter, making us reverse C & E Christians.

Other snippets from the week--

--I found myself feeling a little bit sad about being here in CA only 5 months (just over 4 remaining, actually). I might be falling in love with the central coast. This is rather remarkable, given my history with new places. Usually it takes some time for them to grow on me. So I'm a little bummed out that the one I instantly love is our most short-term station thus far. Sometimes I wonder what God has in mind about that--letting us spend a lot of time in places that take some getting used to, and only a little time where I'd love to spend a lot of time. He's God though, so...

--His Highness and I went down to Santa Barbara yesterday. We needed to hit Barnes & Noble, and found it smack in the middle of downtown. This place has personality, lemme tell ya. The streets were packed, so we parked in a garage and took to the sidewalk with the stroller. We tried the baby leash for, like, 2 minutes, but there were too many interesting things to see, and His Highness kept holding up traffic while he stopped to look. He was fascinated by the juggler, which the juggler was excited about--he said it was the most interest he'd had all day.

A word to the wise--Barnes & Noble's time limit for returns is now 2 weeks from purchase. Guess they had too many people doing the old buy-read-&-return.

We had a delicious and nutritionally void lunch of hot dogs and Luscious Lime shaved ice. His Highness didn't actually eat his corndog--only the breading. We stopped into a couple of shops and I came away with a picnic blanket and a hooded sweatshirt. I'd been hoping to stop at the beach on the way home, but in the end we didn't have time. Had to be back so the Cat Daddy and I could make it to our double date sans kiddos.

Another word to the wise--the Hitching Post in Casmalia has fantastic food. And wine, if you're into that sort of thing. Its 'brother' location in Buellton was the one in the movie "Sideways," but Casmalia is the home of the original. Casmalia is also the home of not much else, so the Hitching Post is hard to miss. Get the filet.

Geocaching 102--Stealth Required...

On Thursday His Highness and I searched out three geocaches that were within jogging distance of the house. The first was Stage I of a multi-stage cache, which I found with little trouble, although I did resort to using the hint. It was a tiny container (aka a 'microcache') with coordinates to the next stage. So once I decode the coordinates (yes, we are a nerdy group) I will find Stage II, and eventually Stage III, which will have the logbook and trinkets.

As for the other two caches, I couldn't find them. The problem was that they were marked "stealth required," meaning they were hidden in highly visible places. This is a problem for several reasons--

  1. The potential for surrounding "muggles" (non-geocachers) to become suspicious of the strange person looking through bushes (and in my case muttering to herself) and call the police. I most likely wouldn't get into trouble, but I'd have to convince the cops of my sanity, which would annoy me.
  2. The possibility that hostile muggles might see me messing with the cache and then go back & steal it (or move it, or mess it up) after I leave.
  3. The possibility that there might be other geocachers in the area. Since the fun of geocaching is in the hunt, I'd be spoiling the find for them.
  4. My neuroses, which make it hard for me to concentrate fully on finding the cache since I'm distracted by worrying about #1.

So I gave up on the second two after a cursory search on Thursday. I went back last night to try under the cover of darkness, but I was having a hard time "thinking like a geocacher," and again couldn't find them.

I finally got them this morning (Sunday--very quiet out). I had to use all the given hints, and it still took me longer than it should have, but I got them. On the last one I had actually given up, gotten in my car, and started for home, but I was compelled to give it just one more shot, and voila. I was so pleased I decided to take the above pic--from in the car so I'm not giving away anything.

Mar 25, 2008

Move Your...Bananas...

--at the self-checkout. When you type in the produce number, the lady's voice (which is not creepy) says "Weigh your...[whatever it is]," followed by "Move your...[whatever] the bag."

Hence the above statement after I weighed my...bananas. Somehow it makes me giggle a little bit every time...

Mar 23, 2008

Things I Do II...

Does anyone else get just a little bit freaked out by the automated voices found these days on, like, voice recognition software, and answering machines, and voice-feedback automated phone systems? Something about that not-quite-human voice sets me only slightly off-kilter.

I think that's probably how the Peeps talk, you know...

NQR--Not Quite Right...

I don't think there's anything magical about the age of 30, but there is something in me that, sometime in the past couple years, has "crossed over." Maybe it's having my own kiddo, I dunno. I used to think of myself as "one down" to pretty much everyone. Meaning I would defer to them because I thought of myself as younger, less experienced, or less-something. My pattern was to default to their judgement on pretty much everything, whether I asked for direction/advice or not.

But these days I am more my own person, and can think of myself as equal to most people. I'm better at distinguishing between a person having more knowledge/experience/wisdom in a given area(s) of life, rather than a person being "better" than I am in general. Consequently I'm that much braver when it comes to sticking up for myself.

It might be that I've known enough people in high positions to realize that most everyone is indeed just a regular person, but it also has to do with gaining some experience of my own and finding myself in a few situations over the years where I was the expert. Truth be told, it can be a little uncomfortable knowing that I'm in charge, weaknesses and all. But the really unnerving part is realizing that everyone I've ever looked to has also had limitations and weaknesses. Kinda puts a new perspective on...a lot of things.

The one on my mind lately--which I've realized before but somehow I always try to deny it—is knowing that no matter how much experience any sort of doctor or health professional has, I am the one who knows my own body the best. I am in charge, weaknesses and all. During the years when I didn't know what was wrong with my back I was sent thru numerous tests to find whatever it is that was wrong. X-rays, bone scans, MRI's, the works; and each time the verdict was that there was nothing wrong with me beyond some common quirks that shouldn't cause as much discomfort as I was having. So then there was the underlying burden of wondering if I was making it out to be more than it was or, worse, if I was a plain old hypochondriac.

The doc who eventually diagnosed the sacral shear said it best—there’s a fundamental difference between "there's nothing wrong" and "I can't find what’s wrong." I knew something wasn't right; I just didn't know what it was. And it turns out that SI Joint Dysfunction can be very subtle—usually not detectable by any of the standard diagnostic tests. All the previous docs did what they knew to do from their experience; but it took someone who had a specific expertise to know what was going on behind my symptoms.

That’s all to say that this week it was only slightly alarming when I saw the doctor for my SI Joint Dysfunction and--after explaining what was wrong with me, and that I've been dealing with it for years, and his doing his darnedest to help me out and give me good advice--coming to the conclusion that he did not know how to fix the problem.

I was highly annoyed at first. I thought "why can't you just listen to my description and do what needs to be done!" I had to remind myself that it took many, many doctors and over 9 years before I found one who knew how to help me. I also had to remind myself that I still get pretty fearful because, while I know what's wrong and what needs to be done about it, I am unable to fix it myself. And it’s scary when you have to start the search all over again, not knowing when you’ll find yet another person who can help in this very specific way. So a lot of my annoyance was actually frustration and fear that it will never. get. fixed.

Plus I pretty much suck at explaining it in the proper terminology, so God bless him for trying as much as he did.

To my credit, I didn't defer and go home to "wait & see;" I said something to the effect of “it still doesn’t feel right.” And to his credit, he very willingly referred me out for some PT, explaining that he deals with spinal/manipulation stuff maybe a few times per day, as opposed to someone who works with it day in & day out, and will have many more things in his/her bag of tricks. I really appreciated that.

And I hope he’s right, ‘cuz this is a royal (and literal) pain in the arse…

Mar 22, 2008

The Home of Jamba Juice...

...took a little jaunt up to San Luis Obispo today, aka SLO to the locals. Took in some sights (Best Buy), and stopped off for some Jamba. The Cat Daddy went with his favorite--Mango-A-Go-Go--while I tried out White Gummy Bear off the (not-so) secret menu. His Highness sampled both. We'd been trying to get him to use a straw for some time, but he'd been sandbagging us, claiming he couldn't do it. We knew better; just had to find something persuasive enough...

Sweet Revenge...

It started with these guys.

Then during storytime at the library, the special forces infiltrated...

So I sent in my best sniper to take care of things...

The Most Recent Product of My Domesticity...

Other than some issues with the black gel, I think it turned out pretty well.

He is risen--Happy Easter everyone!

Mar 18, 2008

See? SEE??

From The Wall Street Journal (via A Singer, A Song)--

Daylight Saving Wastes Energy, Study Says

For decades, conventional wisdom has held that daylight-saving time, which begins March 9, reduces energy use. But a unique situation in Indiana provides evidence challenging that view: Springing forward may actually waste energy.

Up until two years ago, only 15 of Indiana's 92 counties set their clocks an hour ahead in the spring and an hour back in the fall. The rest stayed on standard time all year, in part because farmers resisted the prospect of having to work an extra hour in the morning dark. But many residents came to hate falling in and out of sync with businesses and residents in neighboring states and prevailed upon the Indiana Legislature to put the entire state on daylight-saving time beginning in the spring of 2006.

Indiana's change of heart gave University of California-Santa Barbara economics professor Matthew Kotchen and Ph.D. student Laura Grant a unique way to see how the time shift affects energy use. Using more than seven million monthly meter readings from
Duke Energy Corp., covering nearly all the households in southern Indiana for three years, they were able to compare energy consumption before and after counties began observing daylight-saving time. Readings from counties that had already adopted daylight-saving time provided a control group that helped them to adjust for changes in weather from one year to the next.

Their finding: Having the entire state switch to daylight-saving time each year, rather than stay on standard time, costs Indiana households an additional $8.6 million in electricity bills. They conclude that the reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight-saving time is more than offset by the higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool

"I've never had a paper with such a clear and unambiguous finding as this," says Mr. Kotchen, who presented the paper at a National Bureau of Economic Research conference this month. A 2007 study by economists Hendrik Wolff and Ryan Kellogg of the temporary extension of daylight-saving in two Australian territories for the 2000 Summer Olympics also suggested the clock change increases energy use.

That isn't what Benjamin Franklin would have expected. In 1784, he observed what an "immense sum! that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles." (Mr. Franklin didn't propose setting clocks forward, instead he satirically suggested levying a tax on window shutters, ringing church bells at sunrise and, if that didn't work, firing cannons down the street in order to rouse Parisians out of their beds earlier.)

During the first and second world wars, the U.S. temporarily enacted daylight-saving time as an energy-saving measure. Over time, most states began changing their clocks, and in response to the 1973 oil shock, the country extended daylight-saving time in 1974 and 1975. Analyzing that time shift, a 1975 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that the change reduced electricity demand by 1% in March and April. But in a 1976 report to Congress evaluating that analysis, the National Bureau of Standards concluded that there were no significant energy savings.

Still, the Transportation Department study stuck. Speaking before the House of Representatives in 2002, Indiana Rep. Julia Carson said that under daylight-saving time, Indiana families would save "over $7 million annually in electricity rates alone."

In 2005, Reps. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Fred Upton of Michigan drafted legislation that would extend daylight-saving time nationwide. Congress approved the amendment, which called for clocks to be sprung forward three weeks earlier in the spring and one week later in the fall. The change went into effect last year.

The energy-savings numbers often cited by lawmakers and others come from research conducted in the 1970s. Yet a key difference between now and the '70s -- or, for that matter, Ben Franklin's time -- is the prevalence of air conditioning.

"In an inland state like Indiana, it gets hot in the summer," says Steve Gustafsen, a lawyer in New Albany, Ind., who filed a suit in 2000 in an effort to get his county to abandon daylight-saving time. "Daylight saving means running the air conditioner more."

That was borne out by the study by Mr. Kotchen and Ms. Grant. Their research showed that while an extra hour of daylight in the evenings may mean less electricity is spent on lights, it also means that houses are warmer in the summer when people come home from work. Conversely, during daylight-saving time's cooler months, people may crank up the thermostats more in the morning.

Still, the case on daylight-saving time isn't closed.

"My read on this study is that it's one data point that gives us something to think about," says Richard Stevie, an economist with Duke Energy, of Mr. Kotchen and Ms. Grant's research. "I think
that additional research really needs to be done." And UCLA economist Matthew Kahn points out that even if the evidence on Indiana is airtight, the effect of daylight-saving time on other states might be different -- a point that Mr. Markey makes as well.

"One study of the situation in Indiana cannot accurately asses the impact of [daylight-saving time] changes across the nation, especially when it does not include more northern, colder regions," the congressman notes.

There may also be social benefits to daylight-saving time that weren't covered in the research. When the extension of daylight-saving time was proposed by Mr. Markey, he cited studies that noted "less crime, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity" with the extra sunlight in the evening.

In Indiana, the debate goes on. "The simpler the issue, the more people have opinions about it," says Indiana State Rep. Scott Reske, who voted against the switch to daylight-saving time. In the aftermath of the time shift, "a lot of people who hated it now love it, and a lot of people who loved it now hate it," he says. A separate debate over whether the state should be on Central or Eastern Time rages on.

Mar 17, 2008

They're Out to Get Me...

I thought we were finally rid of them, but then these guys showed up today. I swear they're watching me...

Mar 16, 2008

Church Hunting--The Second (Faith Is a Verb)...

I still hate church hunting.

But today was fantastic, as far as church hunting goes. It was downright fun, even. I’m pretty sure this is because I let the Cat Daddy do the research. It’s becoming more & more apparent that in addition to hating church hunting, I’m also not very good at it. I had Googled some local churches, but everything I came up with was Baptist. Very Baptist (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And overrun by old people (again, nothing personal to the old people—I just don’t want to be one of 5 people under 30 in any given church. Oh wait--under 35). I was feeling pretty low by mid-week, and contemplating the benefit of going to all this effort for five measly months. Frankly, I’m pretty sure the benefit will be one of those things that you don’t perceive at the time. Or maybe ever.

But at this point I still think it's worthwhile, so I was describing all of this to the Cat Daddy, and he decided to take a turn online & see what he could find for church listings. And he came up with a small list of options that looked promising or, at the very least, didn’t suck.

So for this week we chose the local Nazarene church. It turns out they run the local Christian hard rock radio station, so we figured at the very least they’re open to edginess. Their website stressed that they are a Purpose Driven Church, and had key words and phrases such as “come as you are” (ie, “we won’t take your jeans as a sign of disrespect”) and the pastor was wearing a Hawaiian shirt in his photo (ie, “I love California and Rick Warren”). Personally, the clincher for me was where the site stated, “You owe it to yourself…” to give them a try. So by all means we gave them a try.

Of course we started sizing up the place as soon as we drove into the parking lot. Right off, the Cat Daddy simply said “mass appeal.” We saw quite a mix of ages and appearances. Some dressed up, some dressed down, young people, and old people, and people in the middle. It was a good-sized church, but not huge. Big enough that they referred to their property as a campus, and that we new folks didn’t stick out like a sore thumb.

First we dropped His Highness off at the nursery, where I was pleased to find that they do diapers. We then hit the welcome table to peruse the pamphlets and paraphernalia before finding our seats with time to spare. I tried to convey a general air of “I belong here,” so as to avoid any sort of greeter-onslaught.

The music was upbeat and contemporary. Not as edgy as the radio station, but still pretty darn peppy. I would say on the order of our home church in AZ (possibly one of the best churches ever). People were free to groove as the Spirit led, and there was a corporate propensity for clapping. No brass section this time, but a good-sized band, which the pastor was part of--something I know is common with a lot of pastors, but which I haven’t seen a lot of in my experiences.

And dude, they had a theme song. As soon as the music picked up to kick off the service, everyone stood and clapped in perfect timing and, even more remarkably, sang fully and in unison. You just knew that they sing this same song as the opener every week. I don’t remember the words, but it was more or less an opening prayer set to music, with the church’s name inserted at points. Just to clarify precisely where God should show up. Then a couple of upbeat worship tunes (neither of which we knew, but that's OK) before the pastor launched into the message.

They were in the middle of a series leading up to Easter Sunday, so today’s message involved the whole Palm Sunday thing. I believe the main idea was Jesus as the Son of God. Which is good, because we believe he is, so we were in good company. The pastor had a conversational tone, with bits of humor inserted throughout—very pleasant to listen to.

And let me say first that overall the message was just fine. No red flags or heresies—grace-filled, Jesus-centered; all the things that you’d want in a sermon or message.

Cynic that I am, however, I managed to make a few snide remarks along the way. At one point the pastor was emphasizing the importance of not just “having” faith, but living it out in one’s daily life. Which I get. The way he conveyed this, however, was to say “Faith is a verb,” at which point I looked quizzically at the Cat Daddy and said, “No it’s not.” We briefly debated the grammatical nature of the word “faith” (quietly, since we were aware of folks sitting in front of and behind us, and the pews were stacked fairly close together), and I made the point that you don’t say “I was out faithing today” or “I need to go faith that.” He replied “Boy, he really faithed that one up.” From there things could only go downhill, so I let it rest and tried to be less cynical and more teachable.

But honestly. ”Faith is a verb.” Not at all.

Up to this point I was relieved at how comfortable I felt. Definitely a good sign. When the pastor finished his message--this was where the unavoidably-hokey-to-outsiders took place. This week it was the special music/performance art. There were two music presentations, each including a subtle yet contemplative, almost-dramatic action of some sort by one or more of the musicians. The lady in the first presentation had such a velvety-smooth midrange voice that I could’ve sworn she was Karen Carpenter reincarnated (I do love the Carpenters). At any rate, the whole thing was very heartfelt, and the congregation seemed to enjoy it immensely.

The second presentation coincided with the offering collection, and I appreciated the fact that they had a variety of folks serving as ushers. To me, ushering is a low-risk ministry, a great way to let people plug in to a ministry without getting overwhelmed right off (and a way for the church leaders to get to know their people better--good for all). There were men, ladies, and even young punk kids wearing hooded sweatshirts.

Somewhere in there was a genuine altar call. Several people did come forward to receive Christ, and it got me to wondering about things like altar calls. Do you think that churches have ringers, to make people feel more comfortable about going up? I’m not saying I think any of these guys actually were ringers…it just occurred to me as a potentially-useful strategy. The regular members might know who were the ringers and who weren’t, but the visitors and newbies probably wouldn’t, and anyway there could be a whole ringer ministry, where volunteer ringers rotate responsibilities to minimize the chances of discovery. Anyway.

As for the offertory singer, she was very…emotive, and was given a standing ovation by a select few before the worship band returned to the stage amid the “turn and greet your neighbor” for two more worship songs which were in fact quite fun. So fun that after the second one I came dangerously close to giving the Lord a clap. Finally they had the closing theme song (Yes! Theme song! Different than the opening one!) and benediction. Then we flew out under the radar, picked up His Highness who was having oh so much fun in the ball pit (trying to eat the balls), and were on our way.

The Cat Daddy asked what I thought and I said “safe & comfortable.” He asked what on earth I meant because apparently when I say “safe,” it may or may not be a good thing. When it came down to it, I echoed his first impression—mass appeal. And I will admit I got pretty enthusiastic as the service went on (up until the special music/performance art). I felt comfortable & welcomed. Encouraged by the music and the message. People were friendly but gave us our space and were not overly forward, and didn’t seem to assume we were heathens, which I can get defensive about (No, really! I know Jesus! Listen to my buzzwords!).

We were reading in the bulletin that one of this church’s stated missions/goals is to build their local membership, and they certainly have all the right strategies in place for building numbers. I'm not a fan of building numbers for building numbers' sake, but to be fair it wasn't their only goal, but rather part of several goals within their overall mission statement. And anyway, there are good and bad points to any approach. The good part of this is what I mentioned at first—they have a mix of all ages & stages, something I appreciate more as I get older and less cool. The downfalls include the risk of having a range of fun programs with no real depth, and a tendency to gloss over the harder things of Christianity for the sake of visitor appeal. Neither of which can be gauged by one visit.

We came to the same conclusion as last week: we could come here and feel fairly comfortable (moreso, even, than with the 'Squares), but would still like to see what other options exist. We again lamented our short stay here, that it will not be long enough to really get plugged in anywhere. I had a brainstorm to make it my goal to go to a different church every week while we’re here—a fantastic potential for church stories—but we shall see what happens. Church hopping will likely get old quickly. But you never know…

Church Hunting--Pastor T's Techniques...

I consulted Pastor T (from our most recent church) for some church hunting techniques. I was telling him about our experiences at the local Foursquare church, since he comes from a Foursquare background--and went to a Foursquare school, even--and would be able to offer unparalleled insight, except for perhaps Mrs T, who went to the same school. It's where they met.

I found his response to be most enlightening, especially when he reminded me about a fantastic reference I've got at my disposal, if only I can find which box it's hiding in.

So anyway what follows is his response, nearly verbatim--

Foursquare makes me laugh. Really. That kind of light, almost-a-giggle-but-not-'cause-I'm-a-guy-and-guys-don't-giggle type of, seriously, they're a good group of folks, but the "worship leader with hair that was formed from a plastic-injection mold" is actually quite typical within the denomination (I mean, let's be honest, the word "square" is built right in) and quite possibly a prerequisite for the position in general. I should know better, having been schooled in their awesome methodologies but I fear that I was sleeping on the day that the "creating a worship environment through strategic hair styles" lecture was given. Not that I can say much, since
my head right now resembles Tigger due to the youth group raising well past their fundraising goal. (Craig K. and I took one for the team) Anyway, our worship is kick-a$$, so they can
go Brillocream away and it shall not faze me.

By the way, feel free to use the "square" joke if you go back to visit, or in light conversation in general. For example, visit the church right down the road from them and remark, "Yeah,
we checked out [insert foursquare church name here] last week, and they seemed to be an ok bunch of 'Squares. Hey, do you serve the good donuts here? In my expert opinion, the quality of donut served tells a lot about what your church feels about visitors. That church we were at last week had weak donuts...which is why we're here with you today instead." Then nod knowingly, with an "insider" mannerism, as if you are sharing the greatest principle to all church growth and
outreach strategy while chomping into another donut.

The amazing thing is that not only will they laugh with you at the derogatory joke made at the expense of their "Christian Cousins" down the road, they will actually give consideration to your analysis of all their hospitality refreshment and do one of two things:

1) A successful church will try to steer you away from any "low-quality" baked goods and into the bookstore where you can find the latest copy of whatever new fad inspirational book has hit the market, thus reestablishing their position as the church in the know, and creating in you, the visitor, a sense that your spiritual welfare is in very well-kept, knowledgeable hands.

2) A struggling church will immediately explain that all items in the hospitality area are part of a missions outreach fundraising program and that though the store-bought goods may be cheap and low-quality, there is reassurance in remembering that it is still better than what "they" have and therefore we should all be grateful that we don't live in "that" part of the world.

I would recommend bringing out the
Field Guide and brushing up on some of the finer points of visiting churches. Go in expecting the best, but when things take a turn, you'll be prepared for each encounter and will know how to escape.

Write that down, kids...

Church Hunting--The Prequel...

I wrote this blurb as part of my post a week ago, but decided it made it unnecessarily long. So here it is as a separate post...

Church is one of those things that, for some reason, the Cat Daddy and I pretty much have to do to feel like ourselves. I get fussy about saying "must" and "should" and such when it comes to God and his things. More often than not people turn perfectly healthy "shoulds" into some kind of point system where if they go to church, or [insert spiritual discipline here], or whatever, then they're on the "right track" or "right with God" or some quantifiable standard that God probably doesn't really care about. And/or they get all mixed up about the order of things and equate "church" with "God," and oh boy, you get into a whole other tangled mess when you can't distinguish between the two.

That said, there is the reality of cause and effect, and it tends to be that when Christians associate with other Christians there is a lot of encouragement and strength to give to each other...not to mention the healing and growth and all, that results from hanging around with people who are in the same place, or have been there and have wisdom to offer. Then there's the whole worship-thing...worshipping God is a good thing, and while you don't need to be in a church to do it, church does provide a set-aside time to deliberately focus on and meet with God. So that's good. So we go to church.

The hard part then, in my opinion, is finding a church that's a good fit. From my own Christian (Protestant?) perspective there are certain non-negotiables--a church has to believe in the Bible as a whole and not preach things that aren't in there (or if they do they should offer a disclaimer). Man's big-s-Sin, and needing forgiveness, Jesus dying on the cross and rising again, salvation by grace and not works, etc--all essential in a healthy Christian church.

Beyond that, there's a ton of room for personal tastes and whatnot. Dunk or sprinkle, frequency and methods of communion, service format, music and preaching style, overall church culture...the possibilities are endless. People, myself included, can get all bent out of shape about these finer points, so I do think it's a good idea to try to match yourself with folks who believe at least somewhat closely to what you do on at least some of these.

For example, my personal dealbreakers include snake handling, dress codes, and membership requirements. I have issues with dress codes--mainly a belief that they don't belong in church--so basically if there's any sort of dress code at all, I'm probably not going to stay because I couldn't submit and keep a happy heart about it. As for membership, it doesn't bother me, per se, but being somewhat of a transient-type, membership as a requirement for service and ministry just doesn't mesh with moving frequently. I'd be spending half my time in mandatory classes and trial periods. Yes, I do believe you should know and trust the people who are ministering in your church; I just don't believe sitting in a weekend class ensures such things. I wrote about this long ago, so I'm not getting into it now.

Snake way no how. Ever...

Mar 12, 2008

Why, In the Backyard of Course...

When you have a 15-month-old, this is where you will find...

...your missing brownie mix...

...and while you're at it, the remote control...

I'm Telling You--Rogue Deer...

Some may recall a short post I did a while back about coming into contact with some deer, and their reassuring me that they did not, in fact, want to pummel me to the ground.

For all you scoffers--the Cat Daddy had a meeting today, where one of the boss-people told them to beware of deer on the base here because "...they are out to kill you."

Apparently, there is a rash of deer-strike incidents on base each year--40 or so. Some years back, the base commander at the time couldn't understand why people couldn't avoid hitting the dang deer. After investigating further, it was discovered that the car damage was in many cases due to side impacts by the deer.

In other words, the deer were going after the cars.

In other words, rogue deer.

Another commander on base now tells of his experiences of going cycling on base, only to be teased and tormented by several deer darting in & out of his path.

The Cat Daddy brought me up to speed on the standard, posted procedures should I encounter these ruffians while driving on base. I am to brake in a straight line only--no swerving into a neighboring lane. A split second before impact I am to let up on the brakes because apparently this reduces the chance that the deer will end up in my lap; all around a very bad thing, indeed.

Rogue. Deer.

Mar 10, 2008

SI Joint Dysfunction (or, My Arse Is Outta Whack)...

It's hard to find stuff about SI Joint Dysfunction (or specifically in my case, sacral shear) on the internet, but today I found a couple of sites and even a book. What I didn't find were which (if any) PTs in the area do work on this sort of abnormality...but that's just a matter of calling around and maybe seeing the doc to see if (s)he knows.

But boy was I grateful to find the info I did. More grateful than even I realized, because I sort of cried a little bit in relief. Sensitive soul that he is, the Cat Daddy laughed at me...but he didn't balk when I immediately ordered the book, so I'll grant him some leeway.

Stupid SI Joint Dysfunction...

Mar 9, 2008

Church Hunting--The First (grrr)...

I hate church hunting.

Selecting a church is a big deal and (in my opinion) requires much consideration and time, if one is to really integrate with the church community and be able to minister from his/her gifts and all that. Sort of like dating before marriage. Sort of.

Some people like dating, and it does have its place, but I prefer working from within church hunting is a rather painful thing for me. You can't really skip the dating aspects, because that would be a little forward and would probably freak people out. No, you have to take it in order, and endure the chatting, and newcomer welcomes, and asking loaded questions to see where they really stand on certain things, since statements of belief can sound glorious and right up your alley, but then you find out the finer points are right out for you. Similar to the college girl who says "I wanna marry a man who's sold out to Christ, and really seeks him and can be a spiritual leader for our family," but then finds out that her really sold-out man is all of those things, but also disappears entirely during the college basketball season (where she hates sports), and thinks that she should stay home and raise 10 babies when she was thinking 2 would be plenty and she'd like to work after a while. She's better suited to a guy who is not only sold out, but also happens to want the same things out of life that she does.

That, but with church. Which brings us to the Cat Daddy's and my style. We tend to gravitate toward places where the target demographic (I love that term) is the young and hip 20-something. Ish. But we don't want all-out anarchy just for the sake of being different. The non-negotiables still have to be there as far as Biblical teaching goes (Jesus, our need for salvation, his death and resurrection, grace and not works, etc.). Further, now that His Highness is in the picture the kids' stuff is more of a factor. And there must be an overall feel of ragamuffin-ness, where I can be a little crazy and people won't balk. Because I just am.

I haven't even mentioned denominations--primarily because I think, especially as time goes on, that while a church's denomination might clue you in to some of the doctrinal nuances, it doesn't necessarily tell you anything at all about their overall feel. In the past 7 years I think I've been a part of churches in 2-3 denominations (this is including the historically-Baptist church that was comprised mainly of closet charismatics--very nice ones, I might add), along with 2 nondenominational churches, and my tastes haven't fluctuated THAT much. This is why I think the way I do about denominations.

So, today's experience was a local Foursquare church, which I consider along the charismatic-ish lines. The whole baptism-in-the-Holy-Spirit, speaking in tongues, physical healing-thing. More or less. Totally met the non-negotiables, and has a team-oriented focus, in that the members do a lot of initiating the various ministries and community outreach. And about half the men were wearing some form of Hawaiian shirt. Very cool and oh-so-California. We attended with some friends of ours who live in the local area, which made it somewhat less uncomfortable than usual.

Still, I sat there with the same pit in my stomach as I do every first Sunday in a new place, over-analyzing every song, word spoken, and outfit worn to get a feel for the place. Then I realized what I was doing & tried to stop. Then I thought I should be able to do it because dangit, I'm in transition. So I went to the bathroom during greeting time, didn't fill out a connect-flap, and eschewed the candy-containing welcome packets. I shook hands with the pastor (who seemed to be a very reasonable person) and answered all questions non-committally.

The sermon (message?) was fine. They emphasized the word "saved," they mentioned healing and such a couple times, and there was an encouragement of being all fired up in one's Christian walk. General idiosyncrasies you'll find in any charismatic-type church. But nothing terribly extreme--no one was screaming out in tongues, running up & down the aisles giggling, or passing out the lap cloths that they cover the ladies' legs with after being slain in the Spirit. Which I say with fondness and/or affection, because all it really means is that I'm getting better at observing people's denominational bents.

The worship team was big, as far as worship teams go. They had drums, percussion, guitars, bass, and several vocalists. They even had a brass section, for crying out loud. All in all over 10 people on stage. The music would be classified as "contemporary," but only in the same sense that Amy Grant and Twila Paris were contemporary in the 80's. Definitely not the edginess I've become accustomed to in the past couple years. I didn't know any of the songs, but they were more updated than the standard double-time choruses I've heard whenever I've gone to a charismatic(ish) church.

I have decided that when observing people doing spiritual and/or churchy things from an outsider's perspective, the spiritual and/or churchy things almost always come across as kind of hokey. I'm pretty sure this is all-but-unavoidable. Each church has its own little rituals and inside lingo, which are rightfully aimed at its members/regular attenders, and if you're not accustomed to them they can seem a little bizarre. Sort of like watching another couple call each other "pookie" and "muffin," and wanting to retch, while thinking nothing of calling your own partner "snoogums" and "puppykins." So I felt awkward, for example, when prompted to give the Lord a clap (I never clap for God. Long story.). But not offended or put-off.

Afterward we picked up His Highness from the nursery and bade our friends goodbye. Once we were in the car, the Cat Daddy asked what I thought. I replied by asking what he thought. He said "I loved it!" and I said "liar." Seriously though, I said that if we found no better fit, I could come here with confidence that it's a fairly healthy place and wouldn't harm us...but that it was the first Sunday and we should look at least a few more places to see what's out there. But no, it didn't scream "church home" to us, so the hunt will continue.

Thankfully, the hunt for good Mexican food has been infinitely easier. Today we tried another little local place, and again I nearly wept for joy at the sheer deliciousness of it all. The approach is straightforward, really--to find good Mexican food, go to places near Mexico. If you find real Mexican people running the shop, it's practically a shoo-in.

If only church were as simple...

Mar 7, 2008

And Just Like That, There It Is...

You all know about the frigid Midwest, right?

Our stint in CA is quite temporary--we're here long enough for the Cat Daddy to do some training, and then we're off to the frozen tundra for 4 years while he puts said training to good use. I was REALLY hoping not to go to North Dakota. Montana would be OK, but of all the options I wanted Wyoming, mostly because of the base's proximity to civilization, friends, airports, and such.

Well, guess what--it's Wyoming.

The Cat Daddy met with one of his new bosses today, and she was surprised that he hadn't been told yet what his follow-on assignment would be. So she made a call and said something like "Where's the Cat Daddy going?" and they told her.

While ND would have fed my martyr complex to no end, my healthy side is entirely grateful. We will be within a half day's drive of the Z's, the mothership (Eddie Bauer Outlet), and some fantastic skiing. And DIA, so people can get to us fairly easily, and vice versa. To be fair, I probably shouldn't call it the "frozen tundra" anymore. Maybe something like "land of tumbleweeds and snowy ranches"?? I'll have to think on that one...

And oh-by-the-way he also found out that the "6-8 months" here is really more like "5 1/2 months," which caught me by surprise, but I think after some processing I'll decide that I feel neutral about it.

But I'd better go find some beaches to jog on, posthaste. No time to waste...

Mar 6, 2008


Chewymom put up an interesting post today, talking about gender roles in the church. More specifically, she explores an essay by Mark Strauss where he states that the "women's movement" didn't just come up out of nowhere, but rather started amid places where women and their gifts were not valued.

I'm all sensitive about gender roles right now, being in my 4th day as a stay-at-home-mom. One thing I appreciate about the Cat Daddy is that he's always said he doesn't think there's anything I can't do. Except maybe father children, but come to think of it I don't believe he was the one who pointed that out. So when I get all bent out of shape about submission and women's roles in the home and church (a hot-button for me), I have to talk myself down a bit and remind myself that my husband is comfortable with my level of influence, which I'm pretty sure means he believes I'm "in submission." And if I've got the support of my husband, that's a wonderful thing.

I'm not sure why it's such a button pusher. I've been highly fortunate, I think, in that I've done all sorts of "non-traditional" things in my life with very little kickback. Well, very little kickback to me directly; I've heard plenty of folks parade their views around like some sort of pious peacocks without having any sort of real knowledge or experience to back them up (um, I would have to include myself in there as well on plenty of issues I really have no idea about). And then I get all freaked out that someone's going to tell me I have to stop doing something I enjoy. And when anyone tells me I have to do or not do something, I dig my heels right in and refuse to budge. So I guess that's where that comes from at the root: my control issues. As usual. =)

As to the gender roles specifically in church, I suppose I fall more in the egalitarian camp, but with a strong conviction (and I'm pretty sure that Chewymom--and lots of others--would agree) that we women need to encourage each other in whatever and whoever God has made us to be. Those who are good at the decorating, and crafting, and cooking and such should be free to do what they're good at and valued for it because believe me, you don't want me attempting to scrapbook your most cherished memories or do anything visually artsy. So if others do it, that means that I don't have to be pressured into it, right?

That sounds terrible; I'm really not into this solely for my own gain (although it helps)...what I mean to say is let's let everyone work from within their gifts, just like these guys are saying. No subpar decor from me (the Cat Daddy's the one with taste in our family), but when it comes time to be, for example, a small-groups guru, I'm your man.

Or woman. Whatever...

PS--But just for fun click here

Mar 4, 2008

Teensy Bit O' Discipline...

He hates the vacuum cleaner.

Our little potted palm may or may not have survived the trip out, so in the spirit of positivity I'll say it's convalescing in the living room until the temps are over 60F at all times.

Well, a certain little mister enjoys rummaging in the dirt and mulch, and then scattering it on the ground and/or eating it. In Mass on the hardwood floors--gross but no biggie. In CA on the very light carpet--no way no how.

So I tried the little hand slaps to no avail. His expression actually took on a delighted and beastly look as he gleefully reached right back in for more to scatter. Of all the nerve!

I did the old remove-and-distract, and was planning to leave the mess for the Cat Daddy (God bless him--the poor Cat Daddy bears the brunt of my knee jerk reactions, I'm afraid. Thankfully I only act on them about 31% of the time), but I decided that with the vacuum cleaner sitting out and ready less than 20 feet away from me I should suck it up and...well, suck it up. The dirt, that is.

My expression took on its own delighted and beastly look as I remembered--His Highness hates the vacuum cleaner. Which is a bummer, since we all know that when we make a mess we have to clean it up, and that the usual way to clean a carpet is with a vacuum.

So I commenced to vacuuming the mulch. He commenced to screaming. Interestingly enough, however, he did not leave the room--something which I would not have prevented. I may be a mean mommy, but I'm not sadistic or anything. He still wanted to be near me, but was insistent that I turn off the big red monster NOW.

I did not linger. I finished the job and powered down. I summoned him with snuggles and explained about cleaning up after ourselves. As Cloud & Townsend would say, I offered plenty of empathy and held firm on the limit. Thus far (which may or may not mean anything), he has not gone near the palm again.

So Mommy learns a little bit more...bwuahahaha!

Mar 3, 2008

Ok, So I Cheated...

The cable (and thus the internet capabilities) won’t be installed until tomorrow, 3/4, but I’m writing today, 3/3. How am I doing this, you ask? Well, I’m typing in Word, and I’ll save it until I post tomorrow, where Blogger will let me change the posting date to 3/3. So you’ll never know the difference. I’m slick that way…

So, Lompoc. Awesome town. Sort of a sleepy, coastal place. CA 1 runs right through it, but there isn’t much to see as far as touristy-stuff, and the beaches in the immediate area I’m told have nasty undertows, so you wouldn’t want to come to swim. Swimming’s down the road, closer to Santa Barbara. So from what I can tell, it’s pretty much all locals. We do have Wal-Mart, several major grocery and fast food chains, and Home Depot. Then there are tons of locally-owned businesses. Like many places in the Southwest, there’s a lot of Hispanic influence. We found good (good) Mexican food within 24 hours of our arrival. Then we went back the next day. We might eventually get around to trying some of the other options…but then again there may not be a need. I do want to try the “authentic” fish & chips place. It’s called Alfie’s, and you can’t get much more British than that. If they wrap the food in newspaper I’ll know it’s a keeper.

The town is nestled in rolling, green hills. The kind of hills that make me love California. They’re way too steep to attempt building anything on them. As far as I can tell, they’re divvied up into several ranches, but other than the occasional cows & horses they are largely untouched. Driving through them the other day I thought “I would love to live here,” and then it dawned on me that I DO live here, and I nearly wept for joy. But then again, that might’ve been the Mexican food.

Santa Barbara is 50 or so miles away. The only time I’ve spent there so far is the airport, and it took me about 5 seconds to determine that it is the single, most fantastic airport in all of humanity. To begin with, it’s tiny. Everything operates from within one very small terminal, which itself looks like some sort of hacienda, or something. Spanish-style stucco and tile, lots of lush bougainvilleas and other greenery, signs with 70’s Spanish-looking lettering, the works. None of this “The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only-blah blah blah” stuff; there is no white zone. The short term parking lot would fit inside a gymnasium, and is directly in front of the terminal. It feels like pulling up to Fantasy Island. I looked around for where I should claim my lei, but sadly there was no one handing them out.

The reason I was there: my mom had flown in to return His Highness. I pulled up a little late, since I had allowed 20 minutes or so for them to de-plane, fight their way through the crowds and down to baggage claim, etc., like at Logan. I soon learned that this extra time cushion was highly unnecessary. When they landed, Mom was surprised to find that there were no jet ways; they disembarked via sky stairs. And since Mom was heavily laden with all the baby-travel-paraphernalia, the pilot was kind enough to carry His Highness down the steps. I thought that was nice. They were directed to Baggage Claim A, where the ramp worker rolled up with a cart of baggage, straight off the plane, and the passengers claimed their bags from the pile. Everything took all of 5 minutes, so they were stuck waiting for me instead of the other way around.

As for the house, it’s as good as it gets for a sight unseen rental. We’ve upgraded to 2 bathrooms and a 2-car garage, but there’s no way we’re getting 2 cars into that garage with all the shtuff we’ll be storing for our tenure here.

Oh dear, His Highness awakes. More later…

Mar 2, 2008

We Made It...

Yep, we made it safely. I'm in Starbucks handling the online necessities, but I won't have time to really write until the cable's hooked up Tuesday (at earliest).

In a nutshell, we arrived Friday, the house is great and Lompoc rocks.

Stay tuned...