Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bay Area Bitching

OK I just need to write one really bitchy post about the Bay Area, and then I can move on with my life. Here's what drives me crazy about this place.

First and foremost, number one most annoying thing: everyone who lives here thinks it's God's gift to the world. The general attitude is that nowhere else on earth is worth living in, least of all LA or Southern California. When I tell people where I'm from I usually get a look of pity and then a cheerful, "Aren't you so lucky to live here now?!" No! I'm not! Get over yourself!

Honestly, this place is nice, but have you read your own paper lately? The crime here is miserable! It's not that it's not a lovely place to live on the whole, but there's just such a sense of self-congratulation - like aren't we the best because we're soooo tolerant (except of intolerance, or people who disagree with our style of tolerance, or disagree with us period) and soooo green (nobody drives here except...just about everybody - and they don't know how, and they are rude, and the freeway designs are impenetrable, and the roads are terrible...) and soooo cultured (I can't find a good radio station to save my life and the newspaper sucks).

It would really not be such a bad situation if people just kept their love for this area to themselves, or at least didn't assume that everybody else feels exactly as they do. J was saying today that this is what it feels like to live in a one-party system: there are plenty of people who don't agree with the majority rule, but they can't say anything. Yep.

My favorite thing about LA, now that I don't live there, is that at least half the people really hate it there. It's quite fashionable to hate it there. And you know what? That made it pretty fun and unique to love it there. Yeah, you got weird looks, but there was something about fighting for your scrappy little town - and knowing, in your heart, that you could point out dozens of wonderful things about the city people love to hate - that really made you fall in love with it all over again.

Today in church somebody talked about her recent trip to Southern California and how she met some people (she didn't say how many, nor what part of So Cal she was in) who were homophobic. Then she basically said that all people in LA are homophobic, and wasn't she lucky to get back "home", where people are so accepting and loving and better than everybody else.

OK, I'm exaggerating a bit, but she really did say that So Cal is intolerant (based on the few she talked to) and that she was so glad to be home.

And it really bugged me for the rest of the service. I don't get up and talk smack about these people's hometowns. Why do they have to kick around LA? Oh, yeah, because everybody thinks they can. Well I'm here to tell you people: I LOVE LA and ya'll better not be talking smack about my boyfriend (to quote the great Carrie Bradshaw, who was admittedly speaking about NYC, which I must admit is a city I hated, and another one where people seem to think you're nuts if you don't absolutely love it there).

So Bay Area people: get over yourselves. I mean, geez, if LA is so awful and intolerant, what does that say about the rest of the country? San Francisco is a lovely city, but it's not heaven on earth (last I checked, that was Iowa...not in my opinion, but in a movie's at least). There are tons of problems with this area, hot on the list being the HUGE difference between the haves and have-nots, and how the latter (and their problems) are so ignored - also, admittedly, a huge issue for Los Angeles. And probably most major cities.

And you friends in LA - or anywhere else, for that matter, where you're happy - love what you got. You wouldn't believe what it's like elsewhere!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Photos of Mt Calvary

LA Times has several photos of the devastation at Mt Calvary:,0,5936188.photogallery?index=3
(this and the next 3 or 4 are of the monastery)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two more things on SB wildfire

Also please keep faculty, staff, students, and alumni of Westmont College in prayer. They have lost buildings but no lives, thank God.

And apparently now St. Mary's retreat house is in danger. SB is home to many incredible retreat centers (because it's basically heaven on earth - it's where we would LOVE to live one day, if only we win the lottery or J can convince poor Westmont to hire him). St. Mary's is a lovely little place. Another that is very important to met personally is the SB Mission Retreat Center, because that's where I received my call to ministry and decided to attend seminary and study worship.

So you see, without the retreat centers in Santa Barbara, my spiritual journey and entire life would likely be completely different. I know God lives in that place. My prayers and my heart are there today.

Requiem for a Holy Place

Mt. Calvary monastery has been completely destroyed by the wildfire in Santa Barbara. This is stunning news to the hundreds of us who have found our spiritual journey enhanced and enlivened by true mountaintop experiences there (in every sense of the word).

Mt. Calvary was one of the world's "thin places" - where the air hums with the energy of the Holy Spirit and there is a sense of calm and peace that sinks into your bones.

It is the place where I had my deepest mystical experience - what I can only describe as an orgasmic connection to the Ultimate - in the midst of a silent retreat. The silent retreat itself was an experience that I will never forget and long to revisit.

I went on retreat there a few times, and several more times (basically anytime I was in SB) we went up the mountain to visit the bookstore and buy coffee. Oh, that coffee! The brothers were always so generous and hospitable.

Several pieces of art from the monastery's resident calligrapher hang in our home. They bring me inspiration and hope daily.

I am heartbroken at this news, and most of all for the hundreds yet to have made it up there. What a huge loss for all people of faith in Southern California.

(I couldn't get much on the story except this blog post.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Feeling Fine

I'm a little slow getting to my op-eds, but I particularly loved these:

It Still Felt Good the Morning After by Frank Rich, NY Times


Thinking of Good Vibrations
Published: November 5, 2008


We are only thinking cheerful thoughts today, people. America did good. Enjoy.

Even if you voted for John McCain, be happy. You’ve got the best of all worlds. Today, you can bask in the realization that there are billions of people around the planet who loathed our country last week but are now in awe of its capacity to rise above historic fears and prejudices, that once again, the United States will have a president the world wants to follow. Then later, when things get screwed up, you can point out that it’s not your fault.

About the inevitable disasters: I am sorry to tell you, excited youth of America, that Barack Obama is going to make mistakes. And the country’s broke. Perhaps we should have mentioned this before. But let’s leave all that to 2009. When somebody runs one of the best presidential campaigns ever, he deserves a little time to enjoy the sweet spot between achievement of a goal and the arrival of the consequences.

Let’s hear it for the voters. Good turnout, guys — especially you Virginians who stood in line for seven hours. A professor at George Mason University who studies this sort of thing claims that there hasn’t been such a high participation level since 1908. You could turn out to be the ever-elusive answer to the question: “Name one thing that Barack Obama has in common with William Howard Taft?”

Let’s hear it for Hillary Clinton, who lost but made the country comfortable with the idea of a woman as chief executive. And Joe Biden, who actually ran a disciplined campaign, given his truly exceptional capacity to say weird things.

And let’s give a shout-out to John McCain. As desperate as he was, he still passed up opportunities to poke hard at the nation’s fault lines of race, religion and region — although he has probably created a permanent gap between the rest of us and segments of the country who feel under imminent threat from Bill Ayers.

McCain ran a dreadful campaign, but it’s over. Give the guy a break. He was stuck with George Bush. And the Republican Party. And the fact that he was constitutionally incapable of giving a decent speech. The road was hard, but he soldiered on and did a lovely concession Tuesday night. Kudos.

Sarah Palin did go over the top with her small towns vs. the world mantra. However, she does get credit for giving us a real understanding of the difference between a moose and a caribou.

O.K., there is nothing positive to say about Sarah Palin. And Alaska, are you re-electing Ted Stevens? What’s going on there? Did you actually believe him when he said that the court verdict was still up in the air? On the day after he was found guilty? By the way, if Stevens does win, it will be with about 106,000 votes. In total. There are more people than that in my immediate neighborhood! What kind of state is this, anyway?

But we’re in a good mood, so let’s forget Alaska. Instead, we’ll contemplate the fact that North Carolina tossed Elizabeth Dole out of office despite her ad campaign aimed at convincing the state that her opponent, Kay Hagan, was an atheist. This was accomplished, you may remember, through the creative strategy of showing Hagan’s picture along with another woman’s voice saying: “There is no God!” If Dole had won, by the next election we would have been bombarded with ads that appeared to show candidates saying “I support adultery!” or “Let’s kill the puppies!” Now that won’t happen. Thank you, North Carolina.

By the way, I believe that during the campaign McCain’s great friend Senator Lindsey Graham said something along the line of promising to drown himself if North Carolina went for Obama. I believe I speak for us all, Senator Graham, when I say that we are feeling extremely mellow today and you do not have to follow through.

Congratulations to Senator Susan Collins on her re-election. The entire moderate Republican caucus in the Senate may now wind up consisting of women from Maine. As Maine goes, so go the Supreme Court nominations.

Finally, on behalf of the baby-boom generation, I would like to hear a little round of applause before we cede the stage to the people who were too young to go to Woodstock and would appreciate not having to listen to the stories about it anymore. It looks as though we will be represented in history by only two presidents, one of whom is George W. Bush. Bummer.

The boomers didn’t win any wars and that business about being self-involved was not entirely unfounded. On the other hand, they made the nation get serious about the idea of everybody being created equal. And now American children are going to grow up unaware that there’s anything novel in an African-American president or a woman running for the White House.

We’ll settle for that.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Wedding banquet

Today's gospel was the parable of the virgins: the wise ones who have oil for their lamps, and the "foolish" ones who get locked out of the wedding banquet.

And after the sermon a person in my church stood up and said that this week, because of the passing of Prop 8, many people were locked out of the wedding banquet.

How profoundly sad.

(I'm not sure it jives with the meaning of that parable, but it was still kind of gut-wrenching).

Need Parenting Advice

Sorry again to people who aren't into the parental aspects of my nature (but sometimes it's all-consuming, as at the moment when I am running on no sleep). Need some help/advice/encouragement from other parents.

Maggie has been having miserable nights lately. We did our first big cross-country trip (w/plane ride) and a visit to cousins (some sickness there). On the plane home, she started screaming like she never has - top of her lungs, very high pitched but throaty (not a squeal). On the first plane ride she was happy, so this was totally weird. Even feeding her didn't always work. She either screamed or slept for 4 hours.

Then we got home and that night she screamed the same way all night. She was very warm to the touch, and definitely sounded congested. We were up with her off and on from 1 until 5, when I finally gave up and got up. In the morning I noticed her nose was running (clear). Her breathing continues to be noisy, and she stayed feverish all day. Friends/family suggested either a cold or a tooth (she's always been a big drooler and into gnawing). Teethers don't seem to help, though, except they distract her. I hate the sound of this cry.

The next day she was really fussy and miserable, but by that night, she slept well. She'd fuss but we could get her back to sleep. Yay.

However, the next night (last night), after a busy day playing at a museum (maybe I overdid it?), she was again up every 2 hours and would only nurse to go back to sleep (she went down at 5:30, we woke her for her night dipe & jammies at 7:30, and she stayed asleep only until 12, after that it was every 2 hours). She wasn't screaming, but she cried her "hungry" cry (still, sometimes she nursed vigorously and other times just went on the breast to go to sleep). It was exhausting - like having a newborn again.

Is this behavior normal for a 5 month old - to suddenly stop being able to sleep? She's been sleeping through the night since 7 weeks, so this is completely unusual for us. She's been a great sleeper, and even when wakes almost never actually cries. This is a very sudden change in her behavior. I've read about the 4 mo sleep regression happening at 5 mos. She's also mastering lots of new skills (rolling over & sitting up), maybe that's it. And she might be overtired because she only ever naps for short periods (20-40 mins), and that 2x per day, sometimes three if we let her nap in the late afternoon. But then, she's always been like that, and it's never affected her nighttime sleep. The problem isn't getting her to sleep, it's keeping her asleep (most of the sleep solutions I read about are for getting to sleep).

Or maybe she is just reacting badly to her first cold or tooth (although no tooth yet, so I'm thinking cold). So it might not be a major problem at all, but just a phase. Still, it worries me - will we go through this EVERY time she is sick or teething? Because yikes. It's really horrible. J and I fought tons yesterday (the only way we stopped was that Maggie and I literally just left for the whole day) because we're both so tired.

And we can't let her just cry because her bassinet is in our room and we have housemates. We're not in a position to move her to another room. Sometimes bringing her into bed with us helps; sometimes it just makes it harder. At least this morning she's her normal happy self (how is that possible with so little sleep?). The last two mornings she woke up crying instead of cooing - totally weird for her! I'm glad she's happy; but man, are we pooped!

What do you think? A 5 month thing? Or maybe because of the travel/new skills/lack of naps? Should we redouble our efforts for naps? Or just hunker down and wait for it to pass? Please tell me it's normal! Have you experienced something similar??

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An update from us

Since so many of the people reading this are friends and family (well really I consider you all my friends and family), I wanted to give an update on how things are going for us. This is personal stuff so if you just read here for my oh-so-brilliant theological/political/foodie commentary, then you prob'ly want to skip this post. :)

The very good news is that me & Maggie's little vacations these last couple weeks were not in vain: John is finished (or at least 95% there) with his first dissertation draft, which he said he can send off to his committee in the coming week. YAY!! Then he will have some time off while they consider revisions, and he plans to spend that time looking very seriously for a job (he was holding off on the job search while writing so as not to split his time). Depending on the number of revised drafts, it could still be a while until it's all done, but at least he's got the first major hurdle overcome, and he's once again available for teaching. This is huge. If ANYBODY knows of jobs teaching philosophy or film or both - at any level - please let us know. John's a great teacher with tons of experience and lots of cool class ideas that go over great with students. He will take adjunct work again for now, but of course we would really love to find something full-time (with benefits!). Location does not matter. He should be officially a PhD before next fall semester, possibly earlier.

Also, while digging through old stuff, he found a paper he wrote that is good enough to polish and send in for publication. So that's also good news!

Anyway I'm getting to the worst part of my semester - the next four weeks will fly by but also be completely FULL. Still, the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely coming into clear view. Every day I make the decision to keep going, but it's not always easy. I don't think I'm taking more than one course next semester either, because it's just been too much with the new-parent demands. At least next sem there's a course on faith & food, so it should be a pleasure rather than a chore.

As for Maggie, she seems to have her first cold, but I'm hoping a few days of normalcy will clear it up. It's not awful (yet). But I have been up with her since about 4 this morning (not the best schedule for a student!). Her plane ride yesterday was terrible, but I think she just feels not herself. We had a really wonderful time in Chicago and Iowa, and it was fun to put the baby cousins all together (and a little scary - there was a lot of curious hitting going on...).

Thanks for your ongoing prayers and support. We can make it! Yes we can (ha ha).

Oh one more thing: does anybody know when it's safe to let Maggie have communion bread? I don't mean theologically appropriate, I mean when it's safe physically. I'm less worried about wine (since it has germ-killing properties and she just has a pinky to suck on), but I know that giving bread to babies too early can mess with their digestive system and/or cause allergies. BTW the places we commune at all use real (leavened) wheat bread. Thanks!