Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christianity 101: I'm Not Sure I Pass This Test

My husband and I have decided that is is much easier to love and support Jesus's "least of these" in the abstract.

You know. When their dogs aren't peeing on your garbage cans.

We live right up the hill from our little church. And like most church people, for better or worse, we can be a bit...a bit...territorial about our grounds. So when an old pickup truck with an RV attached appeared in our parking lot in the middle of last week and stayed, we were curious.

We got the story this weekend. The owner is a woman, probably mid-forties. Long blond hair and a cowboy hat, very friendly. Nowhere else to go. She shares the RV with her two dogs -- dogs she would have to give up if she were to go to a homeless shelter or transitional housing. (If that were even an option in these times.)

The church gave her permission to park overnight last Wednesday. As of last night she is still there, plugged into our electrical grid, popping into the church to warm up or use the facilities whenever the doors are unlocked. She's always cheerful and friendly and doesn't seem at all threatening. I mean, she waved a very cheery hello to my husband and me as we were heading into bell choir practice last night. (You know. As her dog was copiously relieving himself on that garbage can.)

Nobody seems to know quite what to do with her.

See, when Jesus said, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me..."

Well, that's sometimes easier to do in theory. Or from a distance.

Like it or not, right or wrong, it's just a lot simpler to write a check to support established organizations who have established structures in place than it is to personally deal with all the ugly loose ends that pop up when you're dealing with actual, real-life people. What to do with the woman who continues to have children she is not equipped to deal with? Or the alcoholic/addict who will never manage to break free, and doesn't even seem to be trying? Or the man who has been convicted of a crime so heinous that you can't imagine even sending a card, let alone visiting him in prison?

Or (hypothetically speaking, of course,) the woman who waves a cheery hello as she takes up two parking spaces, runs up your electric bill, doesn't leave when she says she will, and lets her dogs pee on your garbage cans?

This Christianity stuff isn't nearly as simple as it looks on paper.

Maybe that's the point?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Kid Does What He Says He'll Do

He (the sixteen-year-old) said he'd do the half marathon in 1 hour and 45 minutes. We didn't believe him.

He did it anway.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Dark Side Goes to the Gym

My son starts high school at 7:30 each morning. I've gotten into the habit of taking him to school and then heading to our little no-frills gym. I am frequently the first one there, since high school is the first school to start. (Never mind that if they were paying attention to high-schoolers' biology they'd be starting latest. That's another topic entirely.)

So I go into the gym, and, since I'm frequently the first one there, I can stake out my spot on the elliptical in front of one of the four TVs and get my own choice of programs.

I must admit that I've started taking a tiny, dark, sadistic pleasure in the fact that the girly-girls who come after me (who would probably prefer to be watching the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills") are forced to watch my favorite programs till I'm done working out. Like, y'know, European Champions League soccer reruns. In Spanish. (And yes, I did know in advance this morning that Lyon-Ajax would end nil-nil.)

Sorry girls. (Except not really.) Consider it a character-building experience.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When the Word Nerd Meets the Inner Thirteen-Year-Old

So earlier, I had my TV tuned to the French channel, TV5 Monde, as I awaited the soccer game between France and Belgium. With commentary in French. (Because seriously, what else would one watch on TV?)

As I was waiting, the channel played a one-minute clip from "Monsieur Dictionnaire". (Literally, Mr. Dictionary. As you have probably figured out.) And O! Rapture! It was all about French etymology, the origins of French words! Instant love!

Today, the word was "mannequin," which originally meant the same thing it means in English, but which has now evolved to mean "model," as in Tyra Banks. Or Heidi Klum. Or...um... Whoever you people who pay attention to female stuff watch walk up and down the runways and catwalks at fashion shows. You know. While I'm watching soccer and reading about words.

I don't know what thrilled me more about the M. Dictionnaire segment: 1) That there is a recurring little program devoted to French word origins, 2) that I realized I can understand etymological discussions in more than one language, or 3) that they referenced my favorite statue of all time, the Belgian "Mannequin Pis," who never fails to give my inner thirteen-year-old a fit of the giggles.

(And if that's not enough, here he is dressed for the English crowd):

UPDATE: So the google ad thing that makes ads follow you around the internet based on what you've done elsewhere, like google searches? It is now offering me lawn statuary. Top of the ad? Mannequin Pis.

Um...seriously, Google? Just because I find him amusing in Belgium does NOT mean I want him in my back yard!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Parallel Play and the Stained Glass Log Cabin, OR: The Quilting Retreat

There's a phase in child development, usually found in kids under 3, called "Parallel Play." Kids in this stage like to play beside each other, in the same vicinity, and quite aware of each other's presence, but they don't actually play with each other.

This kind of describes a quilting retreat in introvert-friendly Seattle. At least in my cabin. (And as an introvert, I mean that in the most complimentary possible way.)

Everybody sits in a room and works on her own project, some listening to music or books on tape on headphones. Sometimes there's conversation, like the latest mystery book, or how the college football game is going, or even politics (since we all seemed to have the same political leanings.) But mostly it's just everybody cheerfully concentrating on whatever she is working on.

Without planning to, I somehow stumbled into the most hardcore cabin on the retreat, a small group of women who have been working together for 20 or so years. I knew I was out of my league when I picked up a book of complicated quilts involving lots of 60-degree angles (not an easy angle to work with), and said, "Oh, these are lovely." And the woman I had just met cheerfully said, "Oh, yes, we all have quilts in that book." Then she thumbed through it to show me all of the amazing quilts in that pattern made by my cabin-mates.

Toto, I was not in Kansas anymore.

Wonderful time, though, and I got so much done! Specifically, I brought this quilt from "In my head" to "Ready for borders, then quilting." Hope to have it done by the quilt show in March!

(Update, March 2012: Success! Finished the quilt! If you'd like the incredibly simple, easy pattern, click here and download it from my site for free.)