Friday, June 30, 2006

RevGal Friday Five: Fourth of July

1) Do you celebrate 4th of July (or some other holiday representing independence?).  I don’t really like 4th of July celebrations.  It is always so blasted hot and muggy that I get no pleasure from sitting outdoors sweating with a cooler of melting ice and tepid drinks and children getting progressively sticky. I do not understand why anyone would want to be outside in this weather. Our ancestors sure picked a horrible time to make history.

2) When was the first time you felt independent, if ever? I don’t think I understand this question. As part of the nation? I probably take a lot for granted. As a person? Probably when I went to college and didn’t have my parents to oversee my comings and goings.

3) If you're hosting a cookout, what's on the grill? Ugh. All that heat. I would never grill in July.

4) Strawberry Shortcake -- biscuit or sponge cake? Discuss. Biscuit. Absolutely. The dryness of the biscuit absorbes the juices very well and it’s easer to cut and eat one handed while you hold the plate in the other at an—ugh—cookout. And I dont’ really like sponge cake because it has the texture of a, well, sponge.

5) Fireworks -- best and worst experience.  When I lived in NYC, my boyfriend had an apartment overlooking Morningside Park and Harlem. We went up to the roof to watch the fireworks that would be set off in the Harlem streets. Yes, the streets.  The alleys glowed. I’m not sure if that’s the best or worst, but it’s memorable. We also got a good view of fireworks set off in other parts of the city.  The worst experience was probably last year, when we took the kids to Gwinnett Glows and sat in the hot sun and crowds while the girls got more and more bored waiting, and then a storm burst, we got soaked, and the fireworks were cancelled.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Relevance, the New Utilitarianism

Found via Dissonant Bible, who sent me to somewhere that led me to . . .

From Connexions:

Indeed I’d suggest that the fundamental malaise of contemporary Christianity is precisely its substitution of a problem-solving God for a God who is ultimate mystery.

For many people, God is a god who answers my questions, satisfies my desires and supports my interests. A user-friendly god you can access and download at the push of a prayer-key, a god you can file and recall when you need him (which gives “Save As” a whole new meaning!). A utility deity for a can-do culture. Evangelism becomes a form of marketing, and the gospel is reduced to a religious commodity.

The real God is altogether different. He is not a useful, get-it, fix-it god. He is not “relevant”, he is the measure of relevance. Indeed best think of God as good for nothing and totally unnecessary, playful rather than practical - and whose game is hide-and-seek: “such a fast / God,” as the poet R. S. Thomas puts it, “always before us and / leaving as we arrive.” The Bible speaks of God as a desert wind, too hot to handle, too quick to catch. A God who is only ever pinned down - on the cross.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Depression Is So Depressing

For most of my life, for as long as I had any word for my mom’s condition, it was “schizophrenia.” That’s what I was finally told at the age of 20, and that's what I told all my therapists. I even participated in a study of children of schizophrenics. I took lots of tests and had my brain scanned and was pleased to find that I did not have the brain of a schizophrenic. More than likely, neither did my mom. She was diagnosed in the 1950s sometime, I guess. I have to guess because no one talked about the “problem," and I get so many mixed reports from my brothers, who were young when the episodes started. She was institutionalized a few times and given shock treatments. She rarely referred to any of this herself, since she didn’t think there was anything wrong with her. A lot of the time she was really tired. Sometimes she didn’t even get out of bed except to make sure I was taken care of. Then, suddenly, she would have one of her “spells.” She would rage at my father, or at no one in particular, pacing through the house, opening the door to wherever you might have retreated to lob one more verbal assault. She would be tense and agitated and restless for a day or two. Then she would calm down. Other times she would embark on massive projects only to abandon them mid cycle, and whatever supplies were taken out would remain where they were. Or she would hustle us off to some destination with some overriding purpose that never made sense to the rest of us. Still other times she would sew for hours on end, entirely engrossed in her project. Then back to weeks of staying in bed. She heard voices, but she rarely talked about them. For most of my childhood I didn’t realize that the doctors she told me about didn’t exist. There were three of them, men, and they seemed very nice. She was sometimes paranoid, thinking that she was part of an FBI experiment, or that there was a conspiracy against her. She was under no treatment whatsoever for mental illness from my birth until her death.

A few months ago my nephew was being treated for depression with an SSRI medication. His behavior changed dramatically. He went into violent rages. He got in trouble with the law. He had hallucinations. My nephew is bipolar, and so, as it turns out, is his father--my brother--who has spent much of his life alternating between depression and episodes of anxiety and panic attacks. More than likely my mother was bipolar and not schizophrenic. Until my nephew became ill, I didn't realize that manic depressives can have hallucinations. I also didn't realize that there are bipolars like my brother who don't have manic episodes but something called hypomania, or that SSRIs can trigger mania or hypomania not just in bipolar people, but in the children of bipolar parents. That there is something called the bipolar spectrum. That I've probably had an episode of hypomania in the past but I just thought I was being "wild." Or that if you are the child of a bipolar parent and you have recurrent depression, you need to revisit your treatment plan.

Recently I turned 40. From age sixteen to my mid-twenties I could count on a depressive episode every year or two. It seemed to lighten up a bit after that, particularly when I threw myself into a new job. Even when I’m not depressed, I am not exactly okay. Psychiatrists call my condition dysthymia—chronic, low-level depression. Sometimes I tip over into something more problematic. I’ve been in the something more problematic stage for about a year now. When I feel like this, I don't remember what I felt like before I felt like this. I don't remember normal.

I am not so depressed that I can’t function. I can drag myself out of bed and go to work. I can’t stay focused, remember anything, or keep organized. I am easily distracted. I can’t make decisions. I forget what I’m doing and move onto something else only to remember that I have to finish the first project. I try to write everything down. At the end of the workday I'm not sure what I did. I exercise regularly, but it doesn’t help. I cry at small frustrations, I cry at commercials, I cry when I see videos of children. I don’t enjoy much. I think, “Hey, this is really nice, I should really feel great about this.” But I don’t.

This condition is very tiring and frustrating. People want you to do something about it, as if I had any energy to make an action plan. As if I could just "change my attitude to one of gratitude." If anyone mentions affirmations I will hunt them down and force them to eat the entire works of Louise Hayes. I can understand why manic depressives who experience euphoria when they're up don't want to give it up. I could use a little euphoria. I'm stuck. As a therapist once told me, therapy doesn't work if you're too depressed. You have to have enough energy to engage. So I'm off to a psychiatrist to adjust my meds and I hope find something to make me feel normal.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

RevGal Friday Five: Ice cream

It's not Friday, but it's always the right time to talk about ice cream.

1. Ice cream: for warm weather only or a year-round food? Year-round, any time. It's never too cold in Georgia for ice cream.

2. Favorite flavor(s). Mint chocolate chip, peppermint, coffee (Starbuck Java Chip--mmmm), and anything with caramel or nuts. I don't much like chocolate ice cream, but I like chocolate in ice cream. At ice cream shops, I don't go for elaborate mix-ins (And I still haven't figured out why anyone would put Twizzlers in their ice cream--don't they get hard enought to break your teeth?).

3. Cake cone, sugar cone, waffle cone, cup? I like cake cones. They hold up well. Waffle cones are good, but are usually so enormous and crumbly.

4. Childhood ice-cream memory. Orange push-up pops from the local convenience store. The cardboard cylindar would start to get soggy and mushy near the end. I also loved ice cream bars. I ate the chocolate shell first and then the vanilla ice cream. And I have fond memories of my dad taking me to Dairy Queen for butterscotch sundaes. I liked butterscotch better than chocolate.

5. Banana splits: discuss. Blech. I am not a fan of bananas because I don't like their texture. I think they are really weird eaten with ice cream, kind of slimy, and then those little stringy bits come off. Ick.

Because Dear Husband is somewhat lactose intolerant, we've experimented with soy ice cream. Nasty. If anyone has ever had one that didn't taste like, well, soy, let me know. He has to make do with Breyer's Lactose Free, which comes in vanilla only .

Thursday, June 22, 2006


It's over. I survived our General Assembly. I have no more idea than a cooked goose what happened in the assembly itself, but I smiled like an idiot and tried to get people to take free umbrellas. (Note to self: don't try to give an umbrella to someone from South Texas, as this leads to one of those exchanges of jollity that are so tiring.) I picked up a nifty gadget from another ministry's table (the little oval devices houses a tiny tapemeasure and opens up to be a screw driver with exchangable heads).

I am an introverted person, and I am not energized by rubbing up against the madding crowd. Being smiley and friendly to strangers saps me. Even nice conversations with nice, interesting people are tiring. I still have the clamor and clatter in my head. I need to live in a cave for a week.

Now I can get back to trying to dig myself out of the hole I was excavating when I got caught in the GA storm.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Excitement Ahead

Tomorrow and Wednesday I must show up pressed and pious at our big ol’ assembly. I’ve worked a number of conferences before, but always for publishers. Where books are involved, I’ll happily stand at a booth and smile non-stop, even though I am a pretty introverted person. Usually you get to go home with pre-publication galleys or other goodies. I find it hard to believe that working a denominational gathering is going to be quite so rewarding.  Even at book conferences, the day usually breaks down into long stretches of mind numbing boredom interrupted by spurts of manic activity, and a lot of time on your feet. Exhausting, in other words. Since I’ll be a sort of public information dispenser, I can’t sit and read, or anything during the boring stretches. Except eat the M&Ms from the candy dishes.

But I could be wrong. Maybe it will all be very exciting, and I’ll remember to avoid bad language when I drop a 50 lb box of brochures on my toe, and I’ll navigate those odd minefields that seem to exist where I least expect them (we don’t have a “pot luck” meal but a “pot provident” one). I’ve discovered that there will be a Celtic hymn fest, which astounds me, but it will be late in the evening and I won’t be able to go.

I’m not sure if such things as sessions and overtures can be all that exciting unless you have something at stake.  It seems we plan to declare someone or other heterodox and squash something called New Perspectives on Paul and something else called the Federalist Vision, whatever those are. After glancing through the results from googling those terms, I think I would get a headache trying to figure out why everyone is in a lather, so feel free to enlighten me.  

So, bad attitude or not, I’m not looking forward to this chunk out of my work schedule, and I’m feeling a bit nervous about talking with lots of people, not to mention the hassle of actually getting into downtown Atlanta in summer humidity while staying unwrinkled and retaining my sangfroid.  The M&Ms, though, I can live with.

Friday, June 16, 2006

RevGal Friday Five: Sleep

1. In what kind of environment do you sleep best? (e.g. amount of light and noise, temperature, number of pillows, breathe-right strip, sleeping in the buff, etc.)  Dark room, although I can nap in a quiet, dim room in the middle of the day. One pillow for my head and one for between my knees (I’m a side sleeper). I like the temperature cool, because I prefer to have the weight of covers to snuggle under. I don’t sleep well in heat. I like nightclothes. I’ve never liked sleeping in the buff. Some part of me always feels drafty, and I often have to leap out of bed to tend to a chuild. Dear Husband bought me breathe right strips, which I use most often during the winter and allergy season. Hah—he should talk.

2. How much sleep do you need to feel consistently well-rested?  I need 8-9 hours of sleep. Sometimes I need more, like during my period, when I think I could easily sleep  10 to 12 hours.
How much can you get by on? 6 to 7, sorrowfully
What are the consequences when you don't get enough? Very very grim.  At 5 hours or less for several days in a row I become very impatient and irritable and resentful of the smallest task.

3. Night owl or morning person? Night owl, hands down. Much as I’ve come to appreciate the morning out of necessity, and even started going to the gym in the morning during the school year, I always revert to my old habits.
4. Favorite cure for insomnia. I have never, ever experienced true insomnia. Ever. The few times I’ve had trouble sleeping have been the resulf of too much caffeine or excitement about some upcoming event.  Sleep is my friend.
5. To snooze or not to snooze? Why or why not?  Snooze only if there is a full hour available. Anything less makes me feel weird.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Paste and Serendipity

Some of you may remember that I lamented that someone I know was praying for his son to fail in his career in a rock band.  Well, this weekend I happened to see a copy of Paste in a drug store, and since I had heard so many people talking about it I decided to get a copy. It’s a great issue—the top 100 living songwriters. Well, I was looking through the record reviews when what should I see but a review of this band’s CD?! A three-star review, no less! Not too shabby for a first effort.

So, those of you who subscribe to Paste can have fun trying to figure out which band I mean. Only don’t give the whole name. I bet the dad can’t resist Googling regularly to see what shows up.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thwarted Bookworm

One of the things I’ve found most frustrating about having children is the lack of time to read anything I want to read. I’m very good at reading to my girls and encouraging them to read. They both have library cards, which we turn up occasionally in odd places. And now I’ve discovered that we can check out magazines! I can check up on back issues of Real Simple, the magazine of wishful thinking.

But I digress. I get to read very little for my own enjoyment. I read Bing Gets Dressed, several times, and then Firecracker emptied the entire row of Bing books from the shelf, and we’ve been through all the library has to offer of Rolie Polie Olie. Drama Queen is working her way through the Junie B. Jones series, and pauses every few sentences to ask about a word. Last night I ended up coaching her through a PowerPuff Girls book (how did that end up in our collection?) in which Buttercup was keeping a baby whale in her room. The vocabulary seemed far too advanced for the age of a girl who would actually give a crap about the Power Puff Girls, and I finally had to take over reading the whole thing. By the way, if you love an animal, set it free.

But recently I grabbed some time to read a book, much to the chagrin of Dear Husband, who is horrified by the state of the laundry and the kitchen. I read not quite from beginning to end but close enough.  I begin to panic that I might not make it through and start skipping ahead, then backtracking to fill in the details. I do this even with novels of suspense. But, on to my book. Man, this book rocked. It had everything I like—a big door-stop of a book set in Victorian England, with many Dickensian twists and turns and surprising revelations, a dastardly villain or two, and some not-quite sweet and innocent young women.  Books like this can be a disappointment. I think back to my anticipation when I started The Quincunx (which got rave reviews), another door-stop of a book set in Victorian England etc. That book dragged the reader through every possible social ill of that time—child labor, prostitution, slums, the horrors of the legal system, tuberculosis, and so forth. I think they even ended up in the sewers at one point. The author seemed to feel obliged to plod through the entire back end of Victorian culture. When the mom ended up in the tenement I thought: Oh here we go, consumption can’t be far away now. I just had to wait for the coughing to start.

But this book avoided those problems with pacing while also taking a good romp through the Victorian netherworld. The book is called Fingersmith, and it’s about a young girl, Sue, who has been raised among thieves, one of whom serves as a surrogate mother. She is hired by another thief to help him woo a sheltered young heiress, Maude, and then dump her in a madhouse and take her money. Sue goes to work as lady’s maid to Maude, who lives in a dreary falling-down house with her too-weird-for-words uncle who is composing an encyclopedia with the help of the gentleman thief, Maude’s suitor. Maude seems to think marriage is the only way out of her isolated life but also seems to be afraid of her suitor. Well, as the gentleman thief is closing in on his prey, Sue begins to feel a bit sorry for Maude, and then a lot sorry, and then very fond of her, and then very very very fond of her, and well, problems ensue. It ends up that more people are playing deceitful games than you think, and just when you seem to have reached the end of it, there’s another revelation. I’ve just found out that there’s a DVD available of the BBC production, which is supposed to be very well done.  

Perhaps I will be able to report on another book in, say, a year.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back to My Bloggy World

For those of you who want to know how the birthday away from the kids went, it was wonderful. I was pampered at a spa and stayed with Dear Husband at a B&B in downtown Atlanta. And spent several hours in a bookstore, one of my rare indulgences.

Ah, so brief are life's pleasures. My MIL is back in Arizona, and our house is quickly returning to its usual state of chaos. DramaQueen is on antibiotics for strep throat, and I'm watching Firecracker carefully for signs that she's heading down that path as well. No seizures since we've doubled her dose of Keppra. Also, no sleep. She doesn't see any need for it.

Today I thought it might be time to get off my heathen butt and read from the Bible. Doing so, I was struck by something I have so often thought reading scripture--this is really boring. I know that many people just love to delve into scripture. Today I opened to Nehemiah 12:44-46. Whenever I pray before I open up the Bible I end up somewhere so wildly inappropriate to my circumstances that I wonder if God is poking fun at me. Or maybe it's not supposed to be appropriate to my circumstances. Sometimes I wonder about all this "practical" application. A lot of the Bible doesn't seem all that practical to me. A lot of it just seems really weird and alien. Perhaps while we're at it we could look for a practical application of Wuthering Heights.

So, why is the Bible never as interesting as a novel? I'm sure many who read this will feel differently. I see it listed in the favorites section of blogger profiles. I'm in a web ring of ministers, who must enjoy the Bible on a regular basis. What do you do with, say, Leviticus, the most tedious instruction manual ever penned? And then there's Proverbs, which has always struck me as the book of pithy sayings about the bleeding obvious.

Besides the Gospels, my favorite book of the Bible is probably Ecclesiastes. No surprise there, I imagine. Eugene Peterson calls it a "witness to this experience of futility." Being a cup half-empy kind of person, I can readily hum along to that tune. I only read Ecclesiastes after realizing that The House of Mirth and The Golden Bowl took their titles from there. Dear Husband recommended it, too, since he thought it would resonate with my generally morose state of mind.

But, you know, I would probably rather read The House of Mirth.