Mar 26th, 2014 by Sonja

When I was in 4th grade, I made a discovery.  I found a book of Greek myths that had been my mother’s textbook in highschool.  It was filled with the most wonderful stories about gods and goddesses and heroes galore.  I loved that book and read it cover-to-cover more times than I can count.

One of the myths that I remember the most vividly is the one about Persephone.  Persephone was the young, beautiful daughter of Ceres (the goddess of crops and the harvest).  Hades (god of the underworld) saw her one day and fell in love.  So he stole Persephone and took her to his home; the dark glittering underworld, where he married her.  Two things happened as a result.  Persephone did not like her new home and started a hunger strike.  Her mother mourned the fact that her daughter was missing and wandered the earth leaving it fallow as she walked.  Zeus (king of the gods) got wind of what was happening and he convinced Hades to give Persephone back to her mother.  Hades acquiesced, with the provision that Persephone must have remained on her hunger strike during her entire stay with him.  It turned out that she had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds.  So it was agreed that Persephone would live 6 months of each year with Hades and 6 months above ground with her mother.  Now it is said that each year Ceres mourns the absence of her daughter and we have winter, but each spring Persephone comes back to life from death and Ceres blesses the earth with new life.

Persephone is the immortal visage of spring; young, beautiful, nubile and bursting with life.  I think of her each year when the calendar winds around to April-ish.  She will return to her mother soon and we will have new life in abundance after the cold empty winter months.

I’ve always thought that it’s interesting that Easter falls in April(ish) each year.  The ancient Greeks had Persephone and we have Jesus.  The timeline is different with Jesus.  He only spent 3 days in the underworld.  And because he was fully human, he actually died on the cross bearing the weight of all of our sin.  And His renewal, his resurrection, signifies new life for all of us.

This year in particular I find myself hopeful as the dark days of Lent spin themselves out and we approach Easter.  It’s been a long, dark winter for me as I found myself battling a recurrence of major depressive disorder (complete with increased anxiety and panic).  I’m hoping that as the weather turns and I get my brain focused back in that the new life of spring and Jesus will bring me back to myself.  Here’s to spring.  Here’s to new life.

This post is part of the March 2014 Synchroblog – New Life.  Check out the links below for some great reading on the subject:
Michael Donahoe – New Life
K.W. Leslie – Sin Kills; God Brings New Life
Carol Kuniholm – New Life. Mystery Fruit.
Jeremy Myers – I Get Depressed On Facebook
Glenn Hager – A Personal Resurrection Story
Loveday Anyim – Spring Forth – Ideas That Speak New Life
Loveday Anyim – Inspired By Spring To Create A New Life
Sarah Quezada – Post Winter Delight
Edwin Aldrich – Finding New Life In Our New Home
Doreen A. Mannion – Each Day A New Decision: Choose Life
kathy escobar – new life through nonviolent communication
Anita Coleman New Life, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Eternal Living
Mallory Pickering New Life Masterpiece Theater Style
Liz Dyer New Life, Empowerment and Dropping Keys

Dec 5th, 2013 by Sonja

Wow … it’s been a long long long time since I last graced these parts.

I’m going to try something new here.  I call it mini-blogging … not Twitter short because that’s micro-blogging.  I’m going to try to put up posts that are about 2 or 3 paragraphs once a week.  Someday soon I will also get to where I can remember my programming skills and straighten the place up a bit.

I’ve been exercising lately.  Riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes or walking for 45 minutes.  I had to work up to that.  But now I do it every day.  I wonder if blogging will be the same way?  Can I increase my blogging stamina by exercising those “muscles”?  I guess we’ll see.

In the meantime, thanks for being patient with me and I hope to be back around here again next week.

Lord, Have Mercy
Dec 14th, 2012 by Sonja

Upon a poor sinner like me.

I wrote a simple prayer … but the prayer was obnoxious.  It absolved me of my communal guilt while heaping coals upon the heads of those tortured souls who shoot up school yards.

We live in a culture saturated with violence.  We have a long history of settling differences with violence, from the establishment of our nation in blood to our latest efforts at controlling far-flung populations with drones.  We are an angry, violent people who have no reason to be surprised by this evil among us.

What is my guilt?  I do not yet know the full extent of my collusion with the powers and authorities which make these actions possible.

Who’s Life Is It?
Jan 30th, 2012 by Sonja

So one night a couple months ago a friend asked me this question: “You have have been pregnant and had kids. At what point during your pregnancies were the children you carried your children? I mean, when did you consider them life? (not trying to start an argument, just trying to understand is all)”

She asked me in a chat window and made reference to something I posted on FaceBook concerning the beginning of life.  I am ashamed to say that I did not answer her right away and I went off-line.  It was not the kind of question I felt I could answer in a chat window.  I wanted to take my time working through a lot of angry thoughts I was having about the state of affairs in our country concerning women, pregnancy and the beginning of life right now.  I did not want to dump those on to my friend.  I needed to let the question percolate and I wanted to write about my thoughts more fully here.

My friend is correct, as all of you know, I have two children (the LightChildren).  But I’ve had four pregnancies.  Two pregnancies ended as live births and two ended as abortions.  One abortion was caused by medical professionals, one was caused by nature’s capriciousness.  Both of those pregnancies ended at about the same point – between 9 and 10 weeks.  You see, a miscarriage is medically classified as an “abortion.”  I didn’t know that until I read my chart in the emergency room.  I grieved after both pregnancies ended.  I was sad.  I was much sadder after the second (a planned pregnancy) than after the first (unplanned).  After the second I also felt a crushing sense of guilt because the thought occurred to me that the justice of a God who required an eye for an eye might have taken the second pregnancy in payment for the first.  I now recognize that this is not true.

So I began to think (after my friend posed her question) what was it that I was grieving?  Why was I sad at the end of those pregnancies?  When did I feel that my children’s lives began?

My best answer to that is … I don’t know when I actually considered my children to be alive and embodied with who they are (their soul, for lack of a better term).  It might have been when I first felt them move.  I know that when those two pregnancies ended I was not grieving actual people.  I was grieving dreams, potentials, wishes and hopes.  Far more were shattered when the second one ended capriciously than when the first ended as a planned event.  But even though I and LightHusband knew that first pregnancy had to end (for reasons far too complex to write about here), it was not something we did lightly or without sober thought.  Given the circumstances surrounding that pregnancy and the context we were in, I believe I would do it again.  My sense of loss and failure were the tightly woven warp amongst the weft of self-preservation, ability, and meeting expectations.

I know that for every reason given by every mother who makes that Hobbesian choice, there is a person out there who can counter with a Tebow like story of transcendent victory over obstacles with God’s grace or the assistance of some other natural intervention.  Yet there are an equal number of stories of children born into oblivion.  Mothers who have multiple children in their teens, but only one (if any) is given up for adoption.  The cycle of poverty, ignorance and misery is visited upon another generation.  For them the American dream is a nightmare of squalor, dependence, and terrible options.

We sit at a crossroads in our country right now.  No one is comfortable here and a lot of vitriol is being thrown around in attempts to regain comfort levels and upper hands.  People who support the right of a woman to be in control of her body and pregnancies are called by various factions, “Pro-choice” and “Pro-abortion.”  People who support the right of the fetus to exist to the limits of it’s potential are called variously, “Pro-life” and “Pro-fetus” or “Anti-Choice”.  The problem is that none of those labels are adequate.  People who support the right of a woman to be in control of her body are not running around promoting abortion (despite what anyone says).  I have yet to meet a single person who thinks it’s even a mediocre idea; it’s not a choice that anyone wants.  Believe me.  So saying that one is in favor of a choice you never want to make is like saying you love blood ice cream.  Gross.  What women are really saying is that they want freedom (and I’m going to get back to that in a minute).  On the flip side of the coin, those who support the existence of the fetus are not truly pro-life.  There are a few in that set of people who take on what might be called a consistent ethic of life positions (that is, they also reject war, death penalty, etc.) and thus are truly PRO-life.  However, most of the speaking on behalf of the fetus/baby has been just that … simply get the child born.  Once born (since the pro-life movement is primarily conservative) there is not very much support for it’s life after that should s/he be born into an impoverished family.

Boiled down, we have an impasse between mother and fetus.  What a terrible crossroads to be at … pitting mother against pre-child?  One set of people proposes that the mother’s rights are paramount.  The other side proposes that the fetuses rights are paramount.  Yet both sets of rights must inhabit the same body.  Both sets of rights (if we are going to grant rights to a fetus, and I am not certain that we should) may not be compatible with one another.

How have we gotten to this impasse?  Well, it’s been a twisty, windy road.  But I’ve lived through some of it.  So I’ll describe some of the view from my perspective.  Just as we’ve reached an impasse between mother and pre-child, we are also coming to an impasse between reason/science and faith.

Reason and science teach us many things about the pre-child.  But they cannot teach us when a child is given its soul; that breath of being that brings a sparkle to each of our eyes.  We know that a fetal monitor can find a heart beat at 8 weeks.  That at 12 weeks s/he is growing fingernails.  At 24 weeks a pre-child is considered “viable.”  Viable means that doctors and medical personnel can keep it alive outside the womb with costly medical equipment.  Whether or not the child will suffer permanent loss of different abilities (both physical and mental) as a result of these heroics seems to be capricious.  And when I looked up fetal development here is what I found for 25 weeks

  • At 25 weeks pregnant, the structures of the spine begin to form — joints, ligaments and rings. These will protect the all important spinal cord which serves as the information transmitter for your child’s body.
  • Blood vessels of the lungs develop.
  • Your baby’s nostrils begin to open. There is a study out of Belfast that suggests babies at this stage have the capability of scent preferences!
  • The nerves around the mouth and lip area are showing more sensitivity now. When baby is rooting for food later on, these will be valuable!
  • His swallowing reflexes are developing at week 25 of your pregnancy.

Based on this, a baby born at 24 weeks would not have a spinal structure, nor blood vessels in the lungs and no swallowing reflexes!!  Getting a baby to survive under those circumstances is a miracle!  Some of them thrive.  But does a tiny baby born at 24 weeks have a soul?  Or is it a fetus outside the womb?  How would we know?

I have seen in the papers (read that on-line media) that politicians in various places want to introduce legislation that prohibit abortion … even in the case of incest and rape and even when the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the mother.   I read those articles with a sense of awe and bewilderment.  Awe that someone could be so wed to their principle that they don’t see the human face on it.  Bewildered at the lack of understanding and the lack of nuance.  Somehow it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice the mother for the baby.  No, what doesn’t make sense is that the sacrifice would be codified into law.  There are some families who might choose that sacrifice, but it should never be forced on anyone.  Nor should the bearing of a child as the result of a rape or (worse) incest be forced on a woman or young girl.  Should she decide to make that sacrifice, wonderful!  Let’s embrace that and applaud it.  But don’t make it a law, molesting women a second time.

We, as a culture, are in a place where science has outstripped our ability to make decisions.  50 years ago, women very often didn’t know they were pregnant until enough time had passed that abortion was not even an option.  Now we have the ability to know within hours of conception.  The language we use surrounding pregnancy has become dystopian in many ways.  I believe this is an attempt to relieve some of the pressure that has built up around pregnancies and our choices concerning them.  What are the ethics of competing rights inhabiting one body?  How do we choose which rights are paramount?  Some would say faith points the way, others say science.  I think that both carry inherent flaws and strengths that need to be explored.  But that is for another post.  Hopefully later this week.

Diversion or Distraction?
Oct 12th, 2011 by Sonja

I may or may not have mentioned it here before but I regularly take some medication that requires the oversight of a psychiatrist.  Mostly this is because I also take some meds for my seizure disorder and it’s good to have someone in charge of all brain medication who knows what they do.  This is the theory anyway.

In any case, I was meeting with my psychiatrist the other day in order to check on all my meds and how I’m doing and I told her that I’m feeling very unfocused.  It’s something I have been struggling with for several years now, but lately it’s been almost overwhelming.  She asked me a couple of pointed questions about current events in my life and pointed out what some side effects were for some of the seizure meds I take and said, “I don’t think you’re unfocused.  I think you’re distracted by what’s going on with you.”

Um.  Really.  So what’s the difference?  It made sense when she said it, now I’m wondering.

Diversion –
1. the act of diverting from a specified course
2. ( Brit ) an official detour used by traffic when a main route is closed
3. something that distracts from business, etc; amusement
4. (military) a feint attack designed to draw an enemy away from the main attack

Distraction –
1. the act or an instance of distracting or the state of being distracted
2. something that serves as a diversion or entertainment
3. an interruption; an obstacle to concentration
4. mental turmoil or madness

Sooo … it looks to me as though being unfocused (or diverted) is makes me the subject of my own sentence.  But being distracted makes me the object.  Or is it vice versa?  I’m not sure … but I think that’s the difference between the two.  I don’t think knowing which is which really matters either.  I just needed to know what was what.

There was an ad campaign for something (I can’t remember what) not too long ago that went, “Life is messy.  Clean it up.”  For the record, all the ads for cleaning products bug me.  More than that, they piss me off.  Who can live in those pristine houses?  Life IS messy.  It’s gross and kind of disgusting down here in the trenches of our own stuff.  I’m not so sure we should clean it up.  I wonder about that sometimes.

Do you wonder about that?  Is just cleaning it up a distraction?  Or a diversion?  What if what we are supposed to do is get rid of that stuff?  What if we are supposed to make it new again?  Redeem it or reconcile it and by swiping it with some magic eraser, we’re diverting our attention to something else?  Have we got “stuff” in our lives that is like that old family room carpet.  It’s old and grungy because it’s in the most used room in the home.  People are always in and out and yes, they eat in there.  Yes, they eat dinner in front of the television on more occasions than any of us would like to admit.  And popcorn during movies and sporting events.  And snacks at other odd times.  So there are probably bits of food ground in there somewhere.  Years worth of pets and children going in and out the back door have ground in bits of mud and grass and heaven-knows-what.  This carpet has seen better days.  We keep vacuuming it and occasionally cleaning it because we know that replacing it is going to be time consuming and expensive.  Eventually we won’t be able to avoid that time and expense, but for now we get by.

We all have stuff in our lives that is deeply ground in, musty and yucky that needs to be replaced with good new and clean stuff.  We want to get at it.  We know we’ll be better off for it, healthier, more well-rounded, and we might even like ourselves better.  But … there it is.  It’s going to be time consuming and expensive.  I don’t mean money.  I mean it’s going to be hard.  It might hurt.  It might cost us some friends.  It might cost us some intangible things that we don’t even imagine when we set out on that journey.  We know that … somewhere in the remote places of our hearts.  So we divert and distract by vacuuming and dusting and saying it’s okay for now.  It’s really okay.  I’ll get to that later.

Life is messy.  I don’t want to clean it up.  I want to embrace the mess and understand it.  I want to own it and then.  I want to redeem it.  But I don’t want to just clean it up with a whitewash of pretty paint.  Because that’s just a mask and I’m done with that now.


This post is part of October’s Synchroblog – Down We Go.  You can read other, insightful, posts at these links:

  • Alan Knox – How Low Can You Go
  • Jeremy Myers – Seeking The Next Demotion
  • Glenn Hager – Pretty People
  • David Derbershire – Reaching The Inner City
  • Tammy Carter – Flight Plan
  • Leah Randall – Jacked Up
  • Leah Randall (her other voice) – How Low Can We Go
  • Liz Dyer – Beautiful Mess
  • Maria Kettleson Anderson – Down
  • Christine Sine – There Is No Failure In The Kingdom of God
  • Leah Sophia – Down We Go
  • Hugh Hollowell – Downward
  • Kathy Escobar – We May Look Like Losers – Redux
  • Anthony Ehrhardt – Slumming It For Jesus
  • Marta Layton – Down The Up Staircase
  • Wendy McCaig – A Material Girl
  • Seeking Balance
    Sep 2nd, 2011 by Sonja

    If I say it’s been rollercoaster summer here in the LightHouse will any of you out there in teh webz accuse me of sounding like a broken record?

    I thought you might.  Sigh.  It has though.  We’ve had some awesome highs … and some bummer lows.  Most recently that has included watching our beloved home state of Vermont wash away in a flood of epic proportions.  Our families are safe, but some members are struggling through.  It’s hard to see places you grew up with washed away and know how terribly that will affect the people who live there.

    So I’ve been seeking balance as the new school year approaches.  I’m not a huge fan of rollercoasters.  I can be persuaded to take my life in my hands and get on an old woodie once every ten years or so.  But I don’t particularly care for those huge highs and gut-busting lows.  I like balance.  I understand that it’s elusive, but I also know that in seeking it, I will find other interesting, appealing and engrossing things with which to engage my mind and time.

    One of the ways I do this is by following creative blogs.  Some are devoted to art.  Others are devoted to quilting.  Still others are devoted to sewing.  And others are a mix of everything.  One of those blogs threw out a challenge the other day and it got me rolling in a way I haven’t for a long time.  The Coletterie issued a Fall Palette Challenge … create a color palette at ColourLovers and use that palette to sew one or more items of clothing for one’s fall wardrobe.

    Sooo … I began by creating a palette –

    I want to restrict my sewing (and any purchases I might make) to these colors.  Inspiration for this palette came from a tea towel that BlazingEwe gave me one day.  That beautiful magenta-y/plum is in the towel and I built this palette around that.

    Then I discovered the engrossing wonders of building patterns at ColourLovers.

    I spent hours.  H O U R S playing with patterns and color at ColourLovers one day.  I made my own pattern template.  I played with templates of other people.  What fun that is.  It’s coloring for grown-ups.  When you’ve made something you really like and you love fabric (like … ahem … me), you can transfer your design to Spoonflower and have your design printed on fabric and really make something that you truly designed yourself.  I am utterly fascinated by this.

    Here are a couple of patterns I’m thinking of having made into fabric –

    All of which brings me to this … my mood board for the challenge.  I’m going to commit to making one of the three items on this board, not sure which one yet.  I might go so far as to make all three.  But I’m gonna make one for sure.  I think I’m even going to post my progress and photos here.  Don’t worry.  I’m still going to post my rantings and ravings about politics, church, human nature and all that other good stuff I like to write about.  But I want this blog to be more reflective of who I am.  And I am a mix of a lot of things … and mostly, I’m not a guy, so I find it really hard to keep all my stuff separate on separate blogs.  So … here’s my mood board:

    I think I’ll likely be starting with the blouse, since I purchased some very yummy purple poplin last night. The patterns are on sale this weekend, and I’ll have the chance to get them and begin the process then. In the meantime, I have quilts that are humming along and school to teach with my kiddos. Balance is somewhere nearby … but in the meantime, we are engaged, thoughtful and happy. Life is good!

    Food Stamps, Welfare and Medicaid … Oh My (part 3)
    Aug 19th, 2011 by Sonja

    My first real job when I graduated from college was working as a secretary in the new construction division of a construction company.  Suffice it to say that I was a huge pain in the ass.  Huge.

    I could type.  60 words per minute.  On a really, really good day.  I could answer the phone, but when those construction foremen got mouthy with me, I got mouthy back.  It did not end well.  I could do dictation tapes, if you gave me a really, really long time.  The first one I did I had to slow down so much that I thought I was typing for an old man.  Imagine my surprise when I handed my work to a handsome young man about 3 years older than I.  I believe I blushed to the roots of my hair and he walked away shaking his head at the new bumbling idiot he had to work with.  We eventually became very good co-workers, but those first weeks were very bumpy.  One of my tasks was to clean the office kitchen each day.  The first afternoon, I ran the dishwasher.  I had never before in my life encountered a dishwasher, although I knew about them.  I just never ran one on my own before and so at the ripe old age of 22 did not know that there was a key difference between dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquid.  I thought they were interchangeable.  Not knowing or caring about the difference, I put dishwashing liquid in the dispenser, turned the machine on and walked out.

    That was when I learned to know and care about the difference.

    Shortly after I was hired a decision was made streamline the contracting process.  This meant that the office was going to get …

    (insert drum roll here)

    … a desktop computer!

    All of our data had to be input.  This was a mysterious process involving … you know?  I can’t remember what it involved.  I just remember that it was a lengthy, cumbersome process that involved a nightly back up of the enormous processor with floppy disks the size of elephant ears. I am



    It took two hands for me to hold those suckers and put them into the machine every night.  Every.  Single.  Night.  Plus there was some sort of extended back up process that had to be done on a weekly basis.  It drove me nuts.  That was my first foray into the jungle of computers.  It was cutting edge, I tell you.

    The larger problem was inputting all of the data.  That took an enormous amount of dedicated time.  Because while technically the computer was a desktop computer, it was not actually “at” anyone’s desk.  And each of the secretarys (I think there were 3 or 4 of us) had ongoing work to do each day that superseded the data input.  In short order, a decision was made that some office temporaries would be hired to enter the data into the computer.  So it was.  That is when the problems began.  This was not difficult work, but it did require a little bit of training and then some oversight to ensure that it was being done correctly.  Not a lot … just a little.  So we needed one or two people who would commit to doing this for maybe one or two weeks.  I think we saw new people every other day.  It was sooo not worth it.  We (I) spent more time training new people than I might have if I’d just been allowed to do the input myself.  They would show up late or not at all. They would disappear during their lunch break and not return til the next day, if ever.  We’d show them what to do and work with them on how to do it and the work would be sloppy, incomplete and unacceptable unless someone was standing over them.  Very often the young women were not dressed appropriately for working in an office.  Their fashion choices would be more appropriate for an evening at a club.  It was very frustrating for everyone concerned.  We were frustrated because our work was not getting done.  But the women coming in and attempting to work with/for us were also clearly frustrated.  Everyone was perplexed and confused by the apparent miscommunication of expectations.

    Fast forward a few years and I decided to pursue a masters degree in education.  While I was doing that, it seemed like a good idea to work as a temporary office worker so that I would be able to concentrate on my school work when I needed to.  It wasn’t a big deal at all.  I applied to a temp firm and started getting assignments.  Within a few weeks, I was a superstar.  It was the strangest position I’d ever been in.  All it took to be a superstar was showing up every day and being kind.  I got to pick my assignments each week and always got the best places.  The ironic thing was that my skill set was mediocre at best, although I did have a good handle on software.  And in the midst of my classwork and working each day I began to wonder about this incongruous state of affairs.

    I’ve spent a lot time in the intervening years wondering about that.  Studying demographic trends and trying to figure out why it was that I became successful with mediocre skills and many others couldn’t make it with stellar skills.  What did I have that they did not?  I don’t know that I have any answers yet, but I do have some clues.  Some of them can be found in the world around us and some of them date back to the days that formed our country.

    It’s very popular and somewhat easy to condemn those who receive public assistance as lazy, stupid, irresponsible, and self-indulgent on the public’s dime.  I’ve lived in less desirable neighborhoods, been on public assistance myself for a short period and spent my time volunteering among those in need with Project Angel Tree.  My experiences are not vast by any stretch of the imagination, but they are enough for me to say that I haven’t met any one who was lazy or stupid or irresponsible or self-indulgent.  I met a lot of people along the way who were struggling along with enormous burdens on their backs.  Being poor is hard work.  Stretching a dollar to cover $5 or $10 is just as hard as being a CEO and requires a great deal of creativity.  When you’re struggling along with a huge boulder on your back, it’s a lot easier to stumble and fall.  It’s a lot easier to make mistakes and lose your way because you can’t see the horizon anymore, all you can see is the next place to put your foot down.  And often times you end up going in endless circles, perhaps even circling the toilet.  It’s very discouraging.  What makes this scenario even more discouraging?  All of the shiny happy people on continuous cable television telling you that the path to happiness lies in the acquisition of stuff.  Adults may be able to withstand this, but children do not understand their lack in a land of plenty.

    Current scientific research suggests that our brains are wired to tolerate a certain amount of decision-making in a day.  When we push beyond that threshold, we experience fatigue and either make poor decisions or no decisions.  Further research suggests that this phenomenon effects those with less wealth to a greater extent than those with more wealth:

    Spears and other researchers argue that this sort of decision fatigue is a major — and hitherto ignored — factor in trapping people in poverty. Because their financial situation forces them to make so many trade-offs, they have less willpower to devote to school, work and other activities that might get them into the middle class. It’s hard to know exactly how important this factor is, but there’s no doubt that willpower is a special problem for poor people. Study after study has shown that low self-control correlates with low income as well as with a host of other problems, including poor achievement in school, divorce, crime, alcoholism and poor health. Lapses in self-control have led to the notion of the “undeserving poor” — epitomized by the image of the welfare mom using food stamps to buy junk food — but Spears urges sympathy for someone who makes decisions all day on a tight budget.

    There’s a lot more to this idea than I have space for, so I encourage you to read this fascinating article.  However, it may be that our current notion of public assistance recipients as lazy and lacking in self-control could be putting the cart before the horse!  This is not to suggest that they require more money, but that they require additional support and help from those in their community.  By which I mean … us.

    There are issues and values that we hold both in the dominant culture and in the minority culture that are in conflict with one another.  Those need to be openly and honestly discussed, wrestled with and negotiated.  Electing a black president will not resolve our problems.  Putting more money into public assistance programs will not resolve our problems.  As I reflected on the differences between me and the women who just couldn’t seem to make things work for them I came to understand what some of our differences were.  I knew how to show up on time, every day.  I knew how to go to lunch and come back.  I knew how to work independently and get my work done without talking on the phone or succumbing to other distractions.  At first this was sort of strange to me.  After all, who doesn’t understand those things?  Why wouldn’t you know how to go to work every day?  But what if you lived in a home where no one went to work?  What if you lived in a home where there was no father?  No grandfather?  What if you lived in a home where there were few rules about time and showing up?  If you grew up like that, would you know how to show up for a job every day?  You might think you do and you might say you do, but it would be very difficult to learn that.

    Now take this idea back … way back.  Back to the early days of our country.  We brought the ancestors of many of these people over in chains.  We brought them here with an utter disregard for the long, complex and well developed culture they came from.  The expectation was that their culture was to be erased with the flick of a whip and they would assimilate into ours.  I know next to nothing about African history or culture; I am sadly uninformed.  What I can tell you is that it was very, very different from Western European culture.  The values and mores that Africans held were utterly different from ours.  Brought over here to work, the motivation was fear of pain, death and familial separation.

    Fear is an excellent motivator, if your goal is efficiency.  However, fear can never change the human heart.  It can change what a person does on the outside and to a certain extent it can change who they become, but it cannot change who they were meant to be.  That indomitable part in each of us remains, passed on to our children in each generation.  In large part, fear is the motivating factor for people who live in poverty … not having enough to eat, a place to live, that the home they have is safe, etc.  We continue to anticipate that through fear we will dominate and assimilate these people brought to our shores through various means 300 years ago.  I wonder what would happen if we decided that the modern day cultural expressions of their heritage have as much to contribute to our national conversation as the western European expression does?  What if we took the blinders of our dominant culture off and truly began to explore our racist heritage?  I think that part of the long-term pay-off to that would be to reduce the numbers of people who require public assistance.  And what an all around victory that would be!

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Stale Bananas
    Mar 16th, 2011 by Sonja

    This year has been interesting here in the LightHouse. By year, I mean calendar year. The year which began on January 1, 2011.

    One could speculate that it all really began back in the holiday season of 2010. Yep, I think that’s where I’ll start.

    We were busy (as usual) prepping for Christmas, getting gifts sent. Purchasing gifts for each other and friends. Wrapping, decorating, baking. Best of all, anticipating the arrival of LightMom and TheGrandPea for a Christmas visit. We love having my parents visit and hanging out with them. There aren’t a lot of expectations and we just take things as they come. There was one thing I wanted to do; I wanted to see True Grit with both my parents, but especially with my dad. We both love westerns, you see (so does my mom) and I remembered that he had seen the original when it came out.

    Something was off though. Something with me. I was walking through thigh deep water and could not get myself together. Plus I had a horrible cough that would not let go. When LightMom says, “You really need to see the doctor.” Yep. You make the call. Off I went. And came home with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

    That just takes all the fun out of everything.

    So, I spent January recovering from pneumonia. It’s a long slow boring slog.

    LightHusband (in the meantime) was having a series of treatments on his back which left him … well … on his back for most of January and February. A home with two teenagers and no drivers for the better part of a month was … ahhhh … interesting. We muddled through, but none of us are really sure how that happened.

    Along came March and I got sick AGAIN! This time no pneumonia, just an ordinary upper respiratory infection/bronchitisy kind of thing. The problem was that my lungs had not fully recovered from the pneumonia and it put me flat on my back because I couldn’t breath. This time though I fought the beast hard. I sequestered myself in our guest room with not one, but two vaporizers going. LightHusband brought me a television and meals. And that’s where I was for about 18 – 20 hours a day for the better part of a week.

    Now one would think (being an introvert and all) that being alone in a room for 18 – 20 hours a day would be heaven. And I won’t deny that there are parts of that journey that I loved. I loved being able to say, “I’m going away now for awhile, I need to rest.” Sometimes that rest was just as much mental/emotional as it was physical. But, that room got awfully tiny after a while and I wanted to be out and around people. It got lonely in that room. When you have to make a hot, steamy environment for yourself, people don’t like to visit too often … even when they are family. And, like all sick rooms, apparently it began to take on a certain aroma, defined by LightHusband as “sweat and stale bananas.” I told him that it was the tropical atmosphere 😉 …

    One thing it did give me was a lot of time to think … and read. I’ve been reading a lot about what’s going politically and economically in our country. No surprise there. And I am disturbed. Deeply, profoundly disturbed. The progress and protections that were put in place for children, for women, for the disenfranchised of all ilk in the 20th century are being attacked at every level … both in state and federal legislation. I cannot keep quiet any longer.

    I started this blog July 2005 as an exercise in community. I am no longer a member of that community and have not been for four years this week. The focus changed and for a long time I wrote about the state of the church and often about women in the church. There’s not much more for me to say about that here. It’s been said. And I think that is why my pen (keyboard) has been still for so long. I haven’t had anything new to say.

    Calaciriya is a place. A mythical place to be sure. But a place nonetheless. It is a place that is noted but once in the Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Rings (I think on page 229?). The translation of the name is “Ravine of Light.” And that is where this blog gets it’s name and it’s focus from … to be light shining in darkness. To be a place of light. A place where we can be reminded of who we are, who we are meant to be and what we can strive for. So the minutae of this blog is going to change and I will be writing more from a justice perspective. How does love (sometimes specifically Christian love) intersect in the public sphere to create justice? What does that look like now and what could it look like?

    What, indeed, are we striving for?

    Brownies & Big Ideas
    Mar 5th, 2011 by Sonja

    One of the best new things about this school year has been that I’m teaching/leading a class with some of the LightChildren’s peers.  We started out with about 15 students, and we’re down to about 8 or 9 now.  That’s okay because we’re intense and learning a lot.  It’s a philosophy class.  We’re using a text book called (without much inspiration), Philosophy For Teens:  Questioning Life’s Big Ideas.  It’s a really good text which is introducing the kids to a lot of great philosophers and (yeah, I’ll say it) big ideas.  Lately class has consisted of the kids reading the chapter and then we discuss the ideas contained therein.  This unit of four chapters is focusing on justice and began with a chapter on civil rights (Malcomb X).  The chapter we discussed the other day moved to animal rights.  That chapter opened with a dialogue between two boys about whether one of them had the right to force his dog to jump through a burning hoop and withhold food when the animal refused to comply.

    So.  Of course, I opened our discussion with cell phones.  All of the students have one.  I wanted to know how they took care of their cell phones (there was a range of caring from downright love to abuse), how they would respond if their cell phone was lost or mangled, and how they would respond if/when the cell phone was replaced.  We talked about that for a while and I moved them to an understanding of the idea that cell phones are “property.”  They got that.  Everyone was happy.  But I sucked in my breath because I knew what I was about to do and it was going to be hard.

    I asked them to think about our last class when we talked about civil rights and slavery.  I asked them to take a moment and consider all of the ideas we had just expressed about property as they concerned our cell phones and apply those ideas to human beings as slaves.  Everyone stopped for just a few seconds.  Most of the kids didn’t quite know where to put their eyes.  One even said, “Wow.  This isn’t so funny when we’re talking about people.”  Then we spent a few minutes talking about how just as there had been a spectrum of care for cell phones, there was a spectrum of care for slaves.  That most people throughout history had been considered property at one time or another (feudalism) and that slavery has existed in many forms.  We talked about slavery today (sex trade and child warriors).  I recommended “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff to them because if they can handle this discussion, they can more than handle that book.

    We needed a break at this point.  I knew ahead of time that this class was going to be hard and uncomfortable.  That my wonderful students were going to need some sustenance and assistance to get through this.  So I made brownies for them to have at break (it’s a two hour class).  There’s nothing like a brownie to boost your spirits and keep you going during a rough spot.  If I’d had my whole act together, I’d have had milk for them to drink with the brownies.  But I only had half my act together.  They all wanted the brownie recipe … so here it is, because some of you might need some sustenance too.  I got the original here, but I tinkered with it and my tinkering is below:

    Brownies From Heaven

    • 1 cup butter or margarine
    • 6 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 cups white sugar
    • 1 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour (I used King Arthur)
    • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • confectioners’ sugar

    1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate; cool for 10 minutes.
    2.  In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with wire whisk.  Add sugars, vanilla and salt, beating after each addition with whisk.
    3.  Stir in the chocolate mixture. Add flour and nuts; mix well.
    >4.  Pour into a greased 11-in. x 7-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool.

    I think peanut butter frosting or adding chocolate chips to this would be even more heavenly … but I didn’t have the chance to try either of those.  Ohhh … or I might add dried cherries and cream cheese frosting the next time I make these.  Yum!


    Weren’t those good?  Are you revived enough to continue our discussion?  Well, the students were.  I told you … they are great kids.  I am really privileged to have the opportunity to meet with them, hear their ideas, and share mine with them.

    After the break we carried on and moved to animal rights.  We talked about how animals are different from humans.  They are not really sentient beings and some cannot care for themselves, so we must care for them.  We talked about their relative intelligence and shared our favorite pet stories.  I shared some information from this sort of creepy article on crows and how they can recognize humans, pass on information to future generations and generally are smarter than you think.  This lead to a discussion on what rights should we give animals in the wild (i.e. wolves vs. sheep in our western states).  We talked about how it’s uncomfortable but okay to discuss euthanizing an animal, but that sort of discussion is off the table for people.  So we ended up in a place where we agreed that animals occupy a grey area.  They have rights, but they are sort of property … sort of.  It’s something we will probably discuss again.

    Interestingly, at the very end of class one of the students wondered what would happen to a grizzly bear that had killed a man.  We joked about sentencing the bear to jail … the zoo.  Until the kids realized that wasn’t so funny.  Then another student wondered about dogs who had been so abused that they attacked people.  What happened to those animals.  Could they be redeemed?  And we decided that some could.  But some cannot.  So they decided that the ones who cannot should be euthanized.  So, I asked them … what should we do about the very real problem of criminals who cannot be rehabilitated?  What do we do with those individuals who are repeat offenders, who do their time in prison, but get out and are worse … sexual offenders, murderers, etc.?  I asked them to think about that and we’ll pick it up there at the next class.

    But I have to say … these kids are fearless.

    As long as I give them brownies. :)

    A Consistent Ethic of Life (pt. 1)
    Feb 28th, 2011 by Sonja

    I had a fairly interesting, if exhausting, Friday afternoon.  I spent it surrounded by teenagers.  So it was a good afternoon.  I was teaching them some new skills and bumping them just out of their comfort zones, so it was a little bit exhausting.  But mostly it was fun, because this group of teens is full of humor and good spirits and I enjoy spending time with them.

    It’s a group of teens (and their moms or other parental units) that the LightChildren and I joined about a year ago to add some fun, fieldtrippy kind of activity to our school.  We meet once a week and do “stuff” together.  We’ve built things at the National Building Museum.  We’ve sorted eyeglasses with a local Lions Club.  We’ve done a scavenger hunt at an art museum.  We’ve gone to countless movies, played laser tag, board games and gone swimming in a variety of water sources.  We’ve built structures out of canned goods.  We’ve thought really hard about building medieval siege weapons.  This past Friday we made Cooling Neck Wraps for soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We will donate them through an organization known as Operation Gratitude (if you want to donate some stuff to soldiers, you can click on that link and find out how).  There we were a room full of teenagers learning how to iron, and mark and sew.  Of course, they are teenagers so the ratio of talking to working was kind of high, but we still got a good bit done.  And the teens peeked out of their comfort zones just a little and looked around.  It was good for everyone.

    Me?  I felt like a walking signboard for irony that afternoon.  I despise those wars.  I think I’ve made it pretty clear here in my little corner of teh webz that I do not believe in the principle of a just war.  Nor do I believe that it is our role to play policeman throughout the world.  In short, we overstepped in a huge way in both countries, so why did I expend considerable time and effort supporting the soldiers of these wars?

    Some days I’m not so sure of that myself.  Other days I remember what it’s like to be in the Army.  You are not your own.  The service owns you and unless an order is specifically illegal, you must obey it.  You cannot volunteer for service and then claim conscientious objector status because you think the war is illegal.  That just doesn’t fly, especially since we’ve been at war for 10 and 8 years now.  So we/I cannot hold the soldiers responsible for these wars; they are doing their best in a bad situation.  I feel for them.  Patriotic mythology notwithstanding, they have been put in harm’s way by an empire that views them as fodder for it’s mill.  I can but attempt to remember their humanity.

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