Monday, March 29, 2010

Haiku About Glenn Beck

Last night I stumbled on one of the more creative responses to Glenn Beck's diatribe against social justice churches: Haik U Glenn Beck, a site where readers can submit their thoughts on Glenn and his theology in haiku form. (Five syllable first line, seven in the second, five again in the third.) Funded, interestingly, by Jewish Funds for Justice. Yet much of this is aimed at a Christian audience.

Some are funny, some are angry, some are crude. But most are thoughtful. There is much creativity here, as well as some enlightenment.

There are the religious ones:

Theology class
dropout: Missed the one about
loving your neighbor?

Who helps the helpless
Follows Jesus, caring for
The very least of these.

In Jesus's Time
Camels were really teeny
and needle's eyes HUGE.

And the political:

I'm no Christian, but
Jesus spoke truth to power.
Everyone knows that.

Beck! Hitler, Stalin
feared freedom, mocked justice
write that on your board!

And the angry:

Glenn Beck needs a hug
Oh wait, did I say a Hug?
I meant he needs to shut up.

(Which, not to be a poetry nerd or anything, is technically not a haiku. But still.)

We also have the humorous:

Hey there Canada!
Wanna make a switch? I'll take
health care, you take Glenn

If Martians exist,
what will they make of Glenn Beck?
Hopefully dinner.

And the one I like best:

Someday, Mr. Beck,
if you needed justice, I
would help you find it.

That one kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Uphill Fight Against Normalizing Selfishness

Years ago, when my husband and I were church youth leaders, we would use the last Sunday in October to trick or treat for the food bank. The kids would go out in groups in our solidly middle to upper-middle class neighborhood and ask for canned and dry goods to fight hunger.

It was always a fun activity, and nearly every house we hit was happy to help out. And if they couldn't help out, they were kind about it.

In 2008, after a hiatus of several years, the youth group tried the same event. My husband was one of the drivers, and he was shocked at how many people turned the kids away. And they didn't just turn them away, they did it rudely. Rather than give one can of old corn to encourage kids to do good in the world, a number of people proudly (proudly!) said that they DO NOT give to the poor. (Implied in this were the words that would latee come from SC Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer: If you feed them, they breed.) A couple of our girls ended up in tears. And this was well before the worst of the recession kicked in, so this was 99% not a financial thing.

What's changed since in the intervening years?

Well, for one thing, we now have an entire political movement whose main goal is to normalize selfishness. A movement which works twenty-four hours a day to provide talking points and rationalizations to people who want to be out and proud about not recognizing the humanity of people in need.

Anybody remember when selfishness was something to be ashamed of? Something you kept to yourself?

And if you're of the right-leaning persuasion, you're now thinking, "There she goes again, ripping into Republicans." But that's not my point. At all.

We live right behind a Mormon church, so there are a lot of Mormons in our larger neighborhood. Most of these folks probably voted a straight Republican slate as soon as they turned eighteen and haven't looked back since. This includes a rather eccentric Nobama couple from down the street. But this was the same couple who, when our kids knocked on their door, went to their garage and pulled out two large bags of food, because they feel God's call to help people who need it.

As my right-wing buddy Dave would say, I respect the hell outta that.

What I don't respect are the thousands (or millions) of people who claim the Christian faith but who are using Fox News talking points like, "It's my right to not pay taxes so I can keep my money and give personally to the less fortunate." Yet somehow they believe that these talking points also give them permission to not even see the less fortunate -- to not even acknowledge their existence, let alone help them.

These less fortunate -- the "least of these" of Matthew 25 -- are the people Christ lived among. When he said, "The poor will always be with us," it was an acknowledgment of reality in an imperfect world where we're given free choice. But he sure as hell didn't use it as an excuse to keep from reaching out to the sick and the outcasts and those who were hurting.

A few years back, my husband and I were having a chat with our former pastor, who's now retired. (He married us back in the day.) Everybody knows that being a Methodist pastor is not a high-paying job, and that night the topic of money came up. For the record, this was a guy who firmly believed in tithing a full 10%, even when you devote your life to giving,

"You know," he said, smiling, his gratitude evident, "We never had a lot. But we had enough."

The concept of "enough" seems almost quaint these days. But y'know what?

It was a good concept.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why I (Still) Love My Right-Wing Friend Dave

As far as friendships go, we are the unlikeliest of unlikely pairs.

We've never met in person. We live 3000 miles apart. He's in his late twenties. I'm...a bit older. He's a newlywed and childless. I've been married forever and have three kids approaching adulthood. He's the son of immigrants. I can trace my roots on both sides back to the Revolution. He likes roller hockey, WWF and video games. I spend my spare time making quilts.

And yet somehow we hit it off, based on a shared love of soccer, a shared love of writing about soccer, and a similar, irreverent sense of humor. Over time, we became friend-quaintances. He became one of "my guys" -- the gents I swapped funny (mostly soccer) stuff with. And he established himself firmly in my mind as a decent person -- the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, or let a homeless friend crash on his couch, all without thinking twice.

And for the first two years, the topic of politics never came up.

Must say that when I found out, back in '08, that he was part of the "Nobama" crowd -- the polar opposite of my own heartfelt politics -- I was shocked. He did not fit my stereotype at all. My guess is he felt the same about me.

I kept quiet about politics for quite awhile after that, until one day I couldn't keep quiet anymore and sent him an article that refuted something he'd said about global warming. This started a spirited debate, and at the end we agreed to disagree. Yet somehow we were still friends.

On Monday, the day after healthcare reform was passed, I didn't expect him to remain silent. I was not wrong. I follow him on Twitter, and I awoke to three "tweets" on the topic, each angrier than the one before.

I responded with a simple:

"I hope to God none of your kids ever get cancer. But if they do, they can now get health insurance. Like mine now can."

He responded to me with his beliefs (backed up with facts) about the benefits of free-market reform. I responded with my beliefs (also backed up with facts) about why free market is not the best answer for healthcare.

His next email:

I respect the hell out of that! How is your son doing btw?

So I told him about hair regrowth and quarterly scans and shampoo Christmas presents.

He has not altered his opinions. At all. And neither have I. Yet somehow, against the odds, we are still friends.

I think everybody on the left needs a Dave. And everybody on the right needs a me. We need to each have someone who thinks differently from us, someone we can love and value outside of politics. Someone who will remind us that there are decent people on both sides of the issues.

Our politics these days is all about dehumanizing the other side. Because it's only by treating the other side as less than human that we can make sure that the good guys win.

We each need a friend like Dave to remind us that there are good guys on both sides.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So THIS is what Obamacare looks like!!!

The legislation derisively called "Obamacare" is expected to be signed into law today, with the package of House fixes added as soon as the Senate can stop shouting.

Shortly after the signing, I expect to see black helicopters land on my street. Then there will be a knock on my door.

Me: Yes?

Men in Black: We've come for your granny.

Me: What?

Men in Black: Your granny. Now that we've got Obamacare, it's time to off her. Don't tell me Glenn and Rush didn't warn you this was coming. Not to mention Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.

Me: But... Wait a second. Both my grannies are dead.

Men in Black: Wow. We work faster than I thought.

Me: No, I mean they died years ago. One's been dead for eighteen years, and the other one for twenty-five.

Men in Black: Of course. We did that.

Me: What?!?

Men in Black: That was us. The law is retroactive.

Me: But...they died of natural causes!

Men in Black: Uh-huh. That's what he wants you to think.


In reality, granny isn't going to get killed off, and my cancer-survivor son can now stay on our insurance till he's 25, at which point, if he doesn't have a job with benefits, he will be insurable in his own right. Even as a cancer survivor. This is something to cheer about.

I was pretty much non-functional on Sunday. I kept imagining Glenn Beck coming up with just one more lie that tipped a couple of legislators to the other side and cost my son health insurance for life.

Instead, they got it done.

I cried.

In the end, granny killing? Nope. Instead, here's what happens immediately after the bill is signed. It will:

* Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;

* Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;

* Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;

* Lower seniors' prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;

* Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;

* Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;

* Require plans to cover an enrollee's dependent children until age 26;

* Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;

* Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;

* Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.

More good reading: How real people will be affected by this bill. (CNN)

(Disclaimer: No grannies were killed in the making of this post.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Marie Antoinette Does Healthcare

My son was home from college the other night. Standing in the kitchen, making mac and cheese, almost like he'd never left.

"I don't want to get my hopes up," I say to him, keeping my voice light, "but I'm reading good things about the chances for healthcare reform. It looks like there might actually be a shot this time."

"Yeah," he says, his voice equally light. "But the Republicans are saying they're going to repeal it as soon as they take back either the House or the Senate."

"True," I agree. "But it's a lot harder to take back something you've already given than it is to not give it in the first place. So there's a chance..." My voice trails off.

We apeak without emotion, like we're discussing the weather. As if the topic is entirely academic.

But it's not.

Because this is my cancer-survivor kid. And he knows as well as I do, probably even better, that a lack of healthcare reform will severely limit his choices in life. He knows that his bout with cancer (a curable cancer!) makes him essentially uninsurable in the private market. (Yes, he can solve the problem temporarily by finding a job with full benefits. But how common are those these days? Especially ones that will never lay you off? Or cut your healthcare benefits?)

After watching the "debate" on healthcare play out over the past year, I've realized that there are a number of people in this country who would not care if my son dies due to lack of insurance. People like these folks right here. Forty-thousand dying each year due to no insurance? No problem as long as I don't have to pay a penny for it. If they're going to die, they'd better do it and decrease the surplus population. There aren't a lot of them, thank God, although there are far more than there should be in any country that considers itself decent.

On the other hand, though, there are a lot of Marie Antoinettes. People who just don't know enough about the issue to understand what it's like to be a kid who's survived cancer but has the misfortunate to live in a country like the US.

"What, they don't have bread? Well, can't they make do with their cake?"

These are the people who, when the topic of healthcare comes up, say that "those people" (the uninsurables) should just use "those programs." When you press them for details on which programs, exactly, they're talking about, they're vague. And then they change the subject, because it's not something they like thinking about. Or they say, "Medicaid," as if everybody who can't become insured is eligible. As if any mother would want her bright, funny, 3.9 gpa child to live a life where the only goal is to remain poor enough to maintain health benefits. ($10,300 per year in my state. $7600 -- with less than $2000 in assets -- in a state like South Carolina.)

I would never wish cancer on anybody, but I absolutely wish that every single one of these people would get to experience what it's like to have a cancer-survivor kid in this country. Because then they might understand. And then we might get a system that treats people who've been sick like human beings.

This bill is far from perfect. It's not exactly what anyone wanted. But it's something. And it means that people like my son, and everyone else like him, aren't starting the race with a hundred-pound weight strapped to their feet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sometimes a Quilt is All You Can Do

Many years ago, when my youngest was three, I heard him screaming. I looked up to see that he was being chased by a teenager with pink dreadlocks.

It was okay; we were at church, and it was just Troy.

Troy symbolizes one of the best things about raising kids as part of a church community: It's one of the rare places in the world where kids are not segregated with only people their own age. You get the very old, and the very young, and the in-between, all tossed in together like family. Troy was one of the kids Peter adored seeing at church -- one of the teenage boys who would chase him and catch him and pick him up and swing him around like a helicopter while he shrieked with laughter.

Years later, Troy was one of my adult leaders when I went to lead a church horse camp in the mountains, where I led all the non-horsy stuff. My husband and I have been doing church camp, alone or together, for nearly twenty years, and I've never had an experience quite like this. Most camp kids are wonderful, or at least persuadable. This group, not so much. By the end of the week I was secretly referring to the experience as "Horse Camp Hell."

And through it all, Troy was there, not saying much (he never says much), but quietly doing things like picking up sandwich supplies, or "babysitting" campers who'd misbehaved too much to participate with the group. A silent oasis of sanity who helped me keep my own.

Last year, less than two months after my son was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Troy was diagnosed with the same cancer. But where Michael's was caught early, Troy's had spread to the lymph nodes, with one tumor growing so huge that it threatened to destroy his kidney.

My son Michael was able to have outpatient surgery, missing only two days of school. This was followed by two courses of outpatient chemo over six weeks in the summer. Not easy, because cancer is never easy. But on a cancer scale? Not that horrible, either. And now the odds that the cancer is gone for good are 95%.

Troy's odds are still extremely good as well, because fortunately testicular cancer is very curable, even after it hits the lymph nodes. but boy has it been a long slog. Months and months of inpatient chemo (inpatient due to the kidney issue,) followed by surgery, followed by chemo so strong it required a stem cell transplant. The transplant took place a few weeks back and caused almost unbearable mouth sores and other side effects.

It's been close to nine months now since the diagnosis. The new stem cells have engrafted, and it's looking like the end of treatment may finally be in sight.

It's been hard to watch everything his family (and especially his mom) has been going through. This could so easily have been my family. And yet for some reason it wasn't. And I can't help but feel the unfairness of it.

I can empathise with the shock of the diagnosis, and the meetings with the doctors, and the agonizing over treatment plans. But I can't begin to comprehend what it's like to have this go on. And on. And on.

Instead, all I can do is make a quilt.



Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thank you, Glenn Beck!

One good thing about Fox News commentator Glenn Beck: he's sure got a lot of people reading Matthew 25. ("For I was hungry, and you fed me...") and working to figure out how Christ's call to Christian action relates to "Social Justice."

In case you missed it, Beck, the #1 Fox News commentator, delivered a rant last week that went something like this:

"I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words [for Communism and Nazism]. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"

Have to compare that to another quote, this one from John Wesley, founder of Methodism. (Which, along with the Catholics and a few others, is frequently considered one of those "social justice" churches):

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

I know whose teachings I'd rather follow.

I have to thank Glenn, though, for making me think, again, about how we Christians should be spending our time and energy and cash. I just wrote a check this morning to our denomination's relief organization that was five times larger than it might have been otherwise. What did I write on the envelope?

"In honor of Glenn Beck."

I hope others in "social justice" churches will do the same.

Glenn, the poor and downtrodden of the world may eventually have something to thank you for. Despite your best efforts.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Stained Glass Lasagna

If you like quilting with a stained glass, look, I've designed another very easy quilt called Seattle Streets that has a little more visual variety than Stained Glass Lasagna, which was more of an accidental quilt made with Seattle Streets leftovers. For free directions to Seattle Streets, click here! (If nothing else, please, please click on the link -- I'm trying to convince google to send people there when they search for "Stained Glass Quilts.")

Seattle Streets Quilt

And now, back to our original post, the Stained Glass Lasagna Quilt.


(Update, March 2012: I finally wrote up the instructions for this very easy quilt. Click through here to my other site, scroll down and enjoy!)

There is a quilt out there called a "Lasagna Quilt." So named because you put it together like lasagna noodles in a pan -- you go till you get to the end of a "noodle," then add another noodle, then add a part of a noodle... Then use the rest of that noodle in the next row. Et cetera. The end result looks something like this.

I liked the quilt because it was speedy, but as usual I wanted a bit more definition. So I started playing around with black between the colors, and this is what I came up with.

Not sure I'd do it again. At one point I was sewing 86 feet of colored fabric to 86 feet of 1"-wide black fabric. Took FOREVER. And squaring it up was kind of a pain because of the seam bulk from the black fabric.

But it was fun seeing how it went together, and once you get past that first step it goes pretty quickly.

All in all, not bad for one day of sewing.

(Original photo of Seattle Streets, pre-finish.)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Seattle Streets in Cool Colors

When my son was about four, he fell in love with God's Eyes. You know -- yarn wrapped around popsicle sticks? He made one after another after another. And with each one he'd proudly say, "How do you like THIS one!"

We would always ooh and aah. But given that he had only two colors of yarn, "this one" looked a lot like the previous one. And the one before that. And...

I'm starting to feel this way about my quilts. But I'm still having so much fun with this pattern, and it's so quick and easy and uses up fabric so quickly!

I finished this one last night. After the iron incident. Because, y'know, when you fall off a horse... I even dug my OLD iron out of the storage room so I could press it. (I replaced the old one because it doesn't get quite hot enough to take out hard creases. After the fire, I'm okay with this.)

I was so tired that as I was sewing I sewed pleats in not one but two long seams and had to rip stitches for far longer than I would have liked. But I stuck with it and finished the quilt top. It's 45" x 60", made with 12" blocks. I don't think I'll even add a border; I'm just going to quilt it up and bind it in black. I have some PFD flannel for the backing that I'm going to dye in kind of a dark-ish turquoise. I can't wait.

Right now I have the quilt top lying over the back of the loveseat where I can see it when I'm sitting at my computer. And you know what? It may be my version of the God's Eye, but...

Dang. I still love it.

(For a picture tutorial on how to make a Seattle Streets Quilt, go here.)