Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Love Christ More

I listen to various podcasts that range in topics from economics, religion, social issues and fiction. One that I have unsubscribed from, because I could not keep up with it, would have a speaker who'd recirculate in every so often and she'd mention the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She would describe talking with her and one of her quotes was, "Love Christ more." Feeding the hungry and healing the sick is great and everything, but more importantly, we need to love Christ more.

Last week, the Catholic homily and the Presbyterian sermon we heard last week had something in common. They were about loving Christ. The homily went along the lines it isn't you do bad things you go to Hell, you do good, you go to Heaven. Rather, you love Christ, you go to be with him. And he just happens to be in Heaven. The good you do is because you love him.

I still believe in a Baptist Hell. Fire, brimstone, gnashing teeth, all that. It is hard to shake. I also hold this with an image of CS Lewis' country in the Great Divorce, where the Grey Town is but a speck of dirt on the ground of far Heaven. A firey, brimstony speck of dirt where our sins weigh us down further into the speck. It is where our sins make it difficult to go to G-d, and cling to us and define us. I'd been an Episcopalian long enough to hear the theory that Hell is empty and we all go to heaven. Yay! Yes, let's totally ignore Matt 7:23; Matt 25:41 and some other things. But hey, we're Christians, known for focusing on one thing (snakehandlers, Pentecostals) and ignoring a bunch of other things (every branch that considers wine evil).

I've had a messy relationship with Christ, so I'm not too sure that I won't be refused at the door when I knock. I try to love Christ. I've told my husband that I love Christ more than him, which is fine because he loves Christ more than me.  We try to love Christ more. We go to Church not just to be good, but because we want to learn about G-d (Father, Son, & Spirit) so we can know how to love him.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Today's Grace

Breakfast- a raisin danish from Paul's and unsweetened decaffinated English Breakfast tea. Dear Lord, Thank you for this sweet pastry. -Amen Any mention of "for the nourishment of my body" would be insulting to both of us.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Trying to make a square peg to the work of a round one

My first job was that of a cashier, and I worked at the local grocery chain from high school to summers halfway through college. It was a great first job. I remember during my last days on that job one of the older cashiers encouraged me to finish college and do well so I wouldn't be like her (I'm guessing she was in her late 40s) having to work that job. The job paid a few cents over minimum wage when I started and I kept getting small raises, I had no idea what my older co-worker was getting, but she'd been there longer that I, and worked more hours. I thought of that hearing a story on the radio about a planned march to make fast food and restaurant wages $12-15. The sympathetic subject presented was a single mother with 2 kids, living in an urban (read higher cost) area. The money from working part-time did not pay for all that she needed. The problem I saw was that she was trying to make a square peg to the work of a round peg, or a block do the work of a wheel, which won't get you far. I oppose raising the minimum wage. Not because I don't care about the poor, but because I do and I think the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Raising the minimum wage gentrifies low skilled jobs. It will make our unemployment look like France's, lots of unemployed brown people getting pissed off. If employers have to pay more then they'll demand more, I've seen in in office jobs that don't need college degrees but for some stupid reason requests them. I see a future where people whe can get entry level jobs first have to have experience in unpaid volunteer work. Job gentrification. But back to square and round things. A minimum wage part time job was probably never ever meant to support more than one person who lives like a monk, much less a family. It is expecting a studio apartment to fit a family of four, it can be done, but it isn't the best. A minimum wage job should be just to people who need extra money are are just starting out or who cannot get any other employment. Why did society ever think that it was meant to do more than that? All jobs aren't equal and don't provide the same level of headache, compensation, joy, challenges, growth, enlightenment, opportunities, to all people. My current job does not give me a free, already cooked, baked 1/2 chicken, like my old part-time restaurant job. And that job was to do no more than suppliment my income until my bosses realized my position was unnecessary. The sqaure or block is the minimum wage job, part-time and fulltime, the wheel or round peg is the career level job that can support a family AND a 21st century lifestyle on a single income. I just thought of another analogy, horse vs car. Both can get you from point A to point B, but to attempt to get the horse to get you from DC to NY in 10 hours (by car it is 5-6 hours) will result in a very dead horse somewhere in PA or MD. Raising the minimum wage will result in the death of the easy to get entry level job and the gentrification of work.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Babies are prizes

Okay I just had surgery today so my judgement might be questionable....
While waiting to check in I read in the Washington Post about a show in Pakistan where the host gave  away babies to couples.  My first thought was "sign me up". If it is a game show I will jump and down like a fool for a brand new baby. Second thought, because the children were rescued from the dump was. "someone threw away a perfectly good baby?!"
The Help and I were talking about it and decided if the concept came to America, it would be a game show and it would be on FOX. Okay, more like one of those reality shows, where couples compete to win a baby. I can see it now, sort of like the Bachelor, 5 couples try to convince a pregnant mom to pick them as the baby's new parents. Guaranteed drama, and tears, and controversy, which would mean RATINGS!
Seriously this would be the best, and crassist Pro-life thing ever.  Because here is the truth: Life is precious as are children. Thousands of people are rewarded these precious prizes every day by G-d. And hey, if you don't want the prize there are tons of those of us who do.

Babies, so much better than brand new cars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Thanks to G-d. I am happy and there is room for improvement. Not 'but' instead 'and'.
Happy and I could be happier, but I'm also happy with happy.

Friday, July 05, 2013

We are sinful creatures

There is a trope, a theme in sci-fi storytelling that reminds me that we are sinful creatures, as soon as we are born, sinful. Of course the writers, more than likely agnostics or atheists, wouldn't use the word 'sinful'.


They will write that we are violent and destructive, by are nature we are no good. Usually it is some "higher" being that space travellers have encountered, like Q in Star Trek: TNG, who decides to judge humans and point out our collective wrong. Most of the time the captain, or leader or whomever answers the charges does not deny that yes, we are murdering, destructive, messy creatures, but hey we have a lot of redeeming qualities as well, which is why the higher being(s) should not blow up Earth or do something that would wipe out the human race.

Sound similar to something else?

We'd been watching a lot of BBC sci-fi on the 4th of July.

Monday, July 01, 2013


One day, I was looking in the sink and noticed a dirty dish. It was the Help's cereal bowl and it had at least 3 spoonfuls of milk sodden cereal (expensive granola, which we haven't been able to replicate) abandoned. Now this was an annoying trend I had been noticing, a spoon here and there of uneaten expensive granola. So I brought it to his attention. I think his reasoning was something along the lines of he wasn't that hungry or didn't need to eat all of it. Now it would have been one this if this was rice (another thing that can get wasted), but this was the $10 for a 1.5 bag of granola, granola (it's good stuff, like candy).
Somehow in the discussion of the granola the Help seemed to attempt to separate himself from the portioning of the granola. I then counterpointed. I pointed out that he put the cereal in the bowl and decided how much to have, no one else, so he could have put less in the bowl. He had choices, he could have decided to put less in the bowl, or put back in the canister the surplus (before adding milk). He didn't.
This is not a post to beat up on the Help, it is a recent example of when people don't own their choices.
People choose to have cable bills. We choose not to, we have no cable, but we do have Netflix, a service I can cancel or adjust at a whim. We have an internet phone bill, because we choose to have internet and a land line for a phone we almost never answer. I know people who don't, we could live without internet or a land line, but choose not to. Credit card bills, we don't have them. We don't have credit cards, got rid of them the 1st month of marriage. You can travel with a debit card, rent cars with it (Alamo, Dollar), book and pay for hotel, pay for food, all that good stuff. The trick is there has to be money in our account to cover these things. We budget to make sure there is or we don't go. I chose where we live. The Help, he could have argued for another location, but okay, he really didn't have much choice in the matter. Happy wife, happy life. All in all a lot of things we choose, what to eat, what to wear, where to live, and even if the choice is between 'meh', bad and crappy, there is still a choice.
I guess this was a rant.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Post Bike to Work Prayer

Dear Lord & Father,
Thank you. Thank you for an uneventful ride.
Thank you for safe passage past the construction and the wrong way down one way streets. Thank you for considerate drivers and the harmlessness of the less considerate ones. Thank you for the beautiful morning that you have made, the short commute, the easy path, and the joy. Bless all those who commute by foot, rail, bike, bus or car. Thank you for all the gifts of this life.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rooming House Memory

I have this in my vague memory. When I was in elementary school, I made friends with a girl whose family lived across the street from the school in a two story boarding house, which was also across the street from Long's Grocery, one of those pitiful horrid southern groceries in a converted house. Come to think there were several of those types in the neighborhood, groceries, not boarding houses. And for those of you just joining me, this is a black neighborhood in Florida in the mid to late 1980s.
Her family lived in a dark single room on the bottom floor, of the place. She lived with her mother, father, and I think a sibling or siblings. Thinking back to yesterday's post, that housing option would not be available. They didn't live in public housing, because on another side of the school campus were "the projects," garden style apartments like the Section 8 one my sister used to live in. Those existed but for some reason, this family did not live in them. They didn't live in a mobile home park, and the city had a bunch of those for a time (which would get wiped out by an act of nature with whatever hurricane ran through). Nor at the time did they live in some falling down shack like my parent's house (which is why I want to set the damned thing on fire), of which the black neighborhood of my hometown has tons of, still. They did eventually move, because we weren't friends no more. Did they move to a better option than a bunch of people crammed into a stuffy room? Hopefully, but if they existed today, they might be homeless, since hurricanes and the city eliminated most of the cheap living arrangements between on the streets and subsidized/public housing.
Looking at Google maps I see that Long's is still there, but the rooming house is no more.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ending poverty and stuff

I heard recently the mayor or the city council plans to end homelessness in DC. That's nice, but if history is any guide, they won't succeed. They may wind up creating more jobs for an educated middle class, which as a member of the educated middle class, I give a snarky thumbs up.
Part of me believes that the Lord told us that the poor we shall always have with us because we as individuals and society should always be obligated or responsible to those on the bottom, and there is always a bottom. The bottom may be in the gulag, hidden in the country, warehoused in public housing, but there is always a bottom. I find it hard to believe when a Western European person declares that in their country, with their social safety net, there are no poor. I just wonder if they haven't been looking hard enough. Maybe that's what America, cities in the US, are aiming for, making the poor so invisible that we think we've ended it. 
Anyone remember LBJ's War on Poverty? I know we are too busy fighting the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism to think back that far. I'm not going to attack Medicare or Medicaid, as they are a bit out of my area. No, I'm going to hit at urban renewal, which succeeded in warehousing the urban poor and disinvestment from the urban core so much that it was ripe for gentrification. Housing policy has favored the homeowner and caged the poor in housing outside of the free market with pyrite shackles. What do I mean? There was a crazy long waiting list to get into DC public housing. By focusing on getting into and staying in public housing or local Section 8 housing, people have little incentive to leave the area in search of work. Our predecessors were poor black folk who left/escaped the South for better opportunities, housing programs like DC or Chicago public housing are like fly paper that disincentivize people from looking outside their immediate area, because moving means losing the housing they waited so long for.
I believe you can end a certain type of poverty. Having fat poor diabetic people who watch WWE! is better than having poor people who constantly die of malnutrition. We can feed the world, provided that corrupt leaders stop using food as a way to control their people. I'm looking at you North Korea.
Back to DC. Can DC end homelessness in the city? I don't think so, for various reasons. For one, not all of our homeless are homegrown. The city is better at providing services (typically run by the educated middle classes, who are paid by the government) than say Fairfax or other surrounding jurisdictions. So we'd probably attract more homeless. Next, without a plan to address the whole person, regardless of if the whole person wants to be addressed, is problematic. Sometimes the problem is mental illness, sometimes the problem is serious dysfunction (can't hold a job), or addiction, or disability, or anti-social behavior. Providing a bed does not get at why the person cannot provide their own housing. Lastly, (because I need to finish this) we have made illegal free market housing for the poor. Some people can't maintain or afford more than one room. We (the middle class voters) do not like people crowding into small spaces, nor do we want to live near housing for the poor. We (the middle class voters) don't like trailer parks, so we make them illegal (my hometown did this). We don't like rooming houses, so we zone them out of existence. We don't like people sleeping in every room of a house or having too many people in one structure, so they are housing violations. We don't let people build huts or shanties, because the city will bulldoze those structures. I know the good reasons of why these things are illegal in DC but the cost of these is less housing, regardless of quality.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hail Metro

I found this in some old email in a box I'm cleaning out.

“Hail Metro, full of passengers,

peak-of-peak is with thee.

Blessed art thou who stand to the right,

and blessed is the A/C of thy cars, seriously.

Holy Metro, cause of my delays, I pray for the escalators, now and until I move within biking distance of my office.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Being ourselves

I think that the greatest glue in our marriage is the power of our savior and Lord Jesus. Another pretty good binder is the fact we can be ourselves with each other.
Too much time in one's youth is wasted trying to be someone else.
This weekend the Help once again won the 'only white guy in the room' award at my aunts' alumni fundraiser dance. He is the whitest white guy who was ever white and was so for the whole evening. He did not cease to be him while dancing with one of my aunts, chatting with table mates (though limited by the fact the DJ was trying to make us go deaf), and attempting to do the dance of my people, the Electric Slide. He decided to sit out the "booty call" and other line dances. He did not try to discover some blackness in him or blend in.
When he attends mass with me, he is comfortable being Mr. Presbyterian in the pews. He's decided his job is to hold the missle so he sits and stands and does the low impact excerises short of receiving the host, kneeling, and genuflecting. He sits. He stands. He holds a book and turns the pages. I love him for that.
And I can be me. I can do interpretive dance in his presence. Seriously, serious, non-parody dancing. I do parodies too. I can also sing freely. Private comedy shows with a lot of inside jokes. I can choose to give up on make up and other beauty "musts" the modern world insists on, and he can make me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.
He can be weird. The kind of of weird that I know he is, because I'm somewhat used to it after a decade of friendship. I also tell him that he's weird and he says, "I know."
In all this we are being ourselves and I love it.
I can only hope others can find the same love being simiply who they are.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Wealth of the birds of the air and the lillies of the field

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? -Matthew 6:25-27

I've been pondering the city government, services to the poor and urban wildlife. I look at the birds, pidgeons, orioles, blackbirds and those horrid looking vultures that hang out on Pam & Courtney's roof deck. It seems that the birds of the air are richer than the poor of the city. Of course, we don't know how many pidgeons are malnourished or homeless and I could be making great assumptions. Most pidgeons seem to be doing well, well besides being rats with wings. The birds seem to make their homes in the trees and in crevaces of homes, under eaves, in tree cavities, squatting in abandoned homes with open windows, and on the ledges of federal windows. Is that a dignified life for a bird? The Creator has granted the birds with just enough brains to see opportunies in the trees and eaves. Just enough brains to figure the dew and morning wetness is a good time for hunting morning grub and other times urban waste. The city at times seems to be following one aspect of Matthew 6, one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing, but there is great waste. Wasted on poverty pimps and ineffective programs. Wasted in ways that in the long term make the poor worse off and more dependent on the state. Why is it that it appears that the birds of the air and the weeds of the lots live better than the poor of the city? I know G-d loves the people more.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Events at the Help's Church

I'd been meaning to write about a function at the Help's church. It was fun and interesting, the most interesting part was the belly dancing.
It wasn't a worship event. Apparently as part of an auction one of the church musicians was to host an event of the auction winner's choosing. I guess. I'm not sure all I know, jazz at the big white church with the big flexible space. We went despite having to fly out in a few days, as I don't like cramming too many things in.
The sanctuary is a flexible space. There are no fixed pews. For the event there were tables for sitting and tables for food and drink. There was a live jazz quartet? I don't remember how many musicians and anyway, we were expected to dance. We and several other people danced. When the musicians went on break, as live musicians are want to do, CDs were played, however they weren't exactly jazz. At one point what I believe was middle eastern pop was played. There was a table of South Asians, ranging from hijabed young women to gals in party-hardy western dress who got up and danced. At one point I was standing with the Help and one of the Elders of the church watching the circle of women dancing for their own delight. The Help mentioned to the Elder that I took belly dancing classes and I showed a simple move. The Elder responded by trying the move the best way an older white gentleman can.
At another time, as the Help relayed this story to me, he and a bunch of other fellows from the church were standing around talking about what they were giving up for Lent. A few things. There are several people in the church who left the Church (Holy Roman) and the Help is usually concerned about not acting Catholic, due to my influences. Anyway, in this crowd are the pastor, asst. pastor, and probably an elder. I think the pastor gave up chocolate and someone else gave up chocolate. The asst pastor, spat, "What are you a bunch of closet Catholics?" Then he swore to drink as much alcohol and eat as much chocolate as he could during Lent. If memory serves me right, the asst pastor did attend Catholic U. for some classes.
Anyway a good time was had by all, well except maybe the folks who had to get the church ready for service the next day.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Don't want a sleeping prince

I gather the authors mean well when they switch up genders of classic western fairy tales. One that I'm thinking of is switching up Sleeping Beauty, with a princess waking a sleeping prince. Is an unconscious man attractive? Do the new authors ever ask that? With the goal being raising up girls, the price of devaluing boys is not factored.
Seriously, what is the ideal man for a independent minded strong secure woman? A future hen-pecked husband? A supportive but do nothing partner who spends his waking hours on the X-box? Nice but really useless guys, boy-toys?
The modern examples I can think of is Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley of the Harry Potter books. She's strong and smart, and he can be the hero, the supportive man to Harry and Hermione when called for. He doesn't require much rescuing, no more than the main hero, and he has his own list of accomplishments. Another strong fictional female is Katniss Everdeen. When she bothers to think of the opposite sex her heart wavers between Peeta and Gale. Gale is her hunting buddy, the guy who taught her to improve her hunting. Peeta is the guy she has to pretend (she's not even sure on this point) to be in love with. He admires her survival instinct, and his doesn't need rescuing as much as he needs care. Katniss needed Peeta in order to get through the Games, their star-crossed lover story made the rules of the game change. For the rest of the trilogy Peeta is damaged goods, physically strong (despite losing a leg) but mentally, by Book 3, messed up due to the Capitol. Katniss also has some sort of PTSD. As two people who experienced the horrors of the Games, they understand each other and thus rescue each other. Chatting with the Help, who is the in house comics expert, Wonder Woman is now exploring dating her equals, instead of having to deal with her Lois Lane equivalent, Steve Trevor.
So what the sleeping prince stories seem to offer to girls is a future of romance where she'll have to settle for weak passive men, whereas the strong man, the daring man, the man worthy of admiration is left for the gals weaker than she. The better stories are where she shares the story with the guy, not as a lesser character, a weak woman but a co-hero.
The woman in Proverbs 31 is not passive. As I remember, she buys real estate, she has household servants, she's involved in trade. Her husband, no clue, but he's worthy enough to sit with the elders, so I gather he's respected.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Big Poverty Pimpin'- Homeless Shelters & Schools

I'm going to quote the DCist post " Residents of D.C. General Homeless Shelter Complain of Difficulty Getting Out":
On a more immediate basis, Graham said that he'd like to see funding for the shelter increase; it currently costs $13.8 million a year to operate, and city officials say it costs $50,000 annually to shelter a family there. The larger issues of affordable housing and transitional programs also have to be addressed, he said, because without it homeless residents will continue returning to the shelter.
 $50K per family? Seriously? There is something not right with that number. Somebody is making a killing because that number points to some inefficiencies, and there is money to be made in someone's or some government's inefficiency. Or are the people who ran the school system before Fenty/Rhee in charge of the homeless shelters now?
Is the idea that if you spend a lot of money carelessly in the so called service in the "least of those", regardless of results, it is supposed to be right? It doesn't sound like the homeless families are being served well by the system.
I should say that I see sloppy inefficiency as a form of injustice, as a failure to use your G-d given talents with all your heart, soul, and brain in his service. It does a disservice to the poor.
I've finished former School Chancellor Michelle Rhee's book Radical. She makes a pretty good argument that poorly functioning schools do the poor a disservice, as education is a pathway out of poverty. DC was spending the most per student than most urban school systems and had horrible results and the money spent was wasted on a central bureaucracy that saw serving the students and teachers as a PITA, so did it poorly. She described a warehouse that had the equipment and supplies teachers needed, but the materials were not getting to the schools. The school system was spending the money but the results weren't being achieved.
In a post Fenty/Rhee DC school system the poor and the rest of the city is being better served. Families aren't automatically running to NoVa or Southern Maryland. There is lots of school choice. Our schools are way better, and they could be even better than now, and they are on the right track for becoming a school system that families want.
For $50K per family, which I must note is more than what the Help makes, DC can do better. I get that there is overhead, staff, electricity, stuff. But at that price homeless families should be getting a variety of services, which they aren't. In this case DC Homeless services is like a car with a messed up fuel line and money is gas. They need gas to go forward, but the gas is leaking or the line is clogged and putting more in the tank won't help matters.