On Anger and Gender
Oct 17th, 2009 by Sonja

I’m sitting in the rink on an early, early Saturday morning once again, having driven here with a quiet but not sullen pre-teen next to me.  He was eating a bagel.  The pouring rain and inky, black pre-dawn required most of my concentration, but in the quiet times I’ve had recently I’ve been thinking about anger.  More specifically, how we treat anger and gender.  I had a couple of instances recently that brought it to my attention, one is personal and the other happened to a friend.

First, the friend:  Makeesha writes about her anger here – “I have never felt this much anger – ever – and I don’t know what to do with it. I know anger is a secondary emotion and I can identify the primary emotions but I still feel angry and I still don’t know how to stop feeling angry.”  Go read her whole post so you know what’s driving her anger … I’ve only copied the part that’s pertinent to what I’m writing about here.

I had a recent incident with LightGirl’s hockey team in which I had an inappropriate outburst at her new (male) teammates for treating her poorly.  She has a couple of guys on the team who are making life miserable for a lot of kids, but they are using her gender to make life miserable for her and that is steaming me up.  I lost my temper after a recent practice and … well … let’s just leave the details out of it, but the boys in question just laughed.  And, to be fair, I bet I was pretty funny looking.  We talked it through with her coach and it’s being worked out.  But that’s not the point of all this.

I began to specifically think about women and anger.  I don’t think women are supposed to be angry in our culture.  We’re considered either funny or unacceptable in some way when we get angry.  When men get angry, they are frightening and taken seriously. Women are … something else.

The other thing that I’ve been tossing around both in my mind and in conversation (with LightGirl) is the idea that we should “stop feeling” anger (as Mak puts it).  That anger is an emotion to get rid of.  What if it’s an emotion that is to signal that something is wrong (which it is) and it is to give us energy to change that wrong or walk through the wrong (if we can’t change it)?  I wonder a lot about our culture’s desire to ameliorate negative emotions so that we don’t feel sadness or anger or pain for too long.

Which brings me to a quote I heard on a new drama on NBC called “Mercy.”  The main character is being convinced against her will to get marital and PTSD counseling by some friends.  They are giving her all the standard advice about why she should talk about her feelings and her response?  “I like my feelings all pushed down and compressed.  That way they pop out at random and inappropriate moments.”   This is not the way we should live, but it’s the way most of us do live despite all that we know about how to be emotionally healthy individuals or communities.  No one likes to see a sad face or someone with angry eyebrows, so we put on masks for the outside world.  Women in particular are very good at this … and we’re expected to be.  We’re expected to smooth the waters for the family, for any given mixed gender group we are a part of, and when we do not the labels that are attached to us are not complimentary.  To say the least.

So I have not come to any conclusions; I still have questions and wonderings about what role anger should play in our lives.  Should we embrace it?  Sit with it longer and see what it will tell us about ourselves and what we need to do?  Without allowing it to control us (that is).  Do you see things differently than I?  Are women treated the same as men in anger?  Or are they treated differently?  What are your thoughts about all of this?  I’d love to hear them …

What Has Been Going On?
Jul 11th, 2009 by Sonja

Where on earth have I been?

Right where I usually am.  My digs in Virginia.  I could say I’ve been busy and that would be true.  I could also say I’ve been dry and that would be true.  I could also say I’ve been processing some stuff and that would be true too.  So a lot of stuff’s been going on and it’s made for not much writing.  Some of that means that I’m getting more and more frustrated with myself, so that’s coming to an end … maybe.  I’ve got some ideas that I’ve started on and I want to flesh out.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do that.  For now though, here’s what’s been happening in the LightHouse over the past couple of months … well, some of the highlights anyway.

LightGirl’s U16 Girls hockey team finished their season 2nd in their league.  They went to an end of season tournament and played up a step in terms of the level of teams they’d faced all season.  They lost every game, but played hard and learned a lot about where they want to go next year.   They played three games in one day; these were 16 hard playing tired hockey girls at the end of the day.

I think she had a weekend off and then Spring Season began.  She played on co-ed intramural team and had a ball.  There was another goalie on the team so she had someone to share goaltending duties with, and two other girls that were her friends.  I’ve never met a coach who put less stress on his players while still managing to teach them and lead them.  He was really good with those kids.  I have to say … he made a terrible club president, but an excellent coach.

In the middle of that she had tryouts for the 2009-2010 Travel Season.

From the moment LightGirl thought about playing hockey, she’s wanted to play on a boy’s team.  Last spring she tried out as a skater for the appropriately aged boy’s team and missed it because she was afraid to play defense (she’d never played it before).  This year she tried out as a goalie for the U16Midgets.  That is the Midget team that are Under 16 years old.  Boys.  One day I’ll do a post on the nonsensical names for age classifications in hockey.  There were five goalies vying for four positions.  Two of the five were girls.  Another (different) two were wicked good.  It was a high stress weekend that brought on a minor (very minor) replay of pancreatitis for me.

LightBoy also decided that he would try out for a travel team.  His age group is known as the Pee Wees.  Between the two of them … LightGirl trying out for the Girls and the Midgets and LightBoy trying out for the Pee Wees … I believe they had a total of 13 ice times that weekend.  Did I mention it was Mother’s Day weekend?  I spent Mother’s day at the rink and received a soggy rose for my efforts.

By the end of the day on Sunday I could feel the familiar twinge in my upper abdomen that signaled my pancreas was not happy with something.  Fortunately, I know how to handle this now and instead of four days in the hospital I changed my diet and took it easy for a few days.

LightGirl was invited to join the U16Midget Minor team that Sunday night.  And we were left to wonder what the heck that meant.  It wasn’t long before we found out.  The club had a large number of players in her birth year (who will be first year players in that age classification … in other words they can play for two years as a U16 team) and a slightly smaller number in the year ahead of her; enough that they could field two teams.  One is a mix of both years; the other is just her birth year.  She is on the latter.  The club has been waiting to field a team that is year specific.  So it will be interesting to see how they do.

This raised some issues in our house.  LightGirl has played with the same girls for three years now and made some great friends.  It’s a close team.  The parents know each other fairly well; we do spend quite a fair amount of time together, afterall.

It was a hard decision in some ways and others a no-brainer, but LightGirl decided to play with the boys for the coming season.  So this summer has been about that transition.  Discovering who her new teammates are.  Off ice conditioning so that she can keep up with the boys.  And the emotional fall out of leaving her friends behind.

In the meantime, LightBoy has discovered a certain talent for marksmanship and computer programming.  So even while he is working his hockey skills, he’s also learning archery, guns and is building computer games using a program called Scratch.   He’s also decided that he wants to take on Linux this year, so he’ll be figuring that out along the way.  Twelve is an awkward age for boys, in particular.

He’s also been very interested in paintball and airsoft.  He has a lot of equipment and goes out with his friends to both official fields and backyards on missions.  They spend alot of time plotting, planning and strategizing.  He has also engineered at least one new gun for airsoft out of pvc and other parts including duct tape.  Yes, it does work.

I have been working with two friends (one of which is BlazingEwe) to start a new business.  Quilting, of course.  We have a website and we’re taking it slow.  We’ve sold two quilts on commission thus far.  It’s probably not a great time, economically speaking to start a quilting business.  Oh well … Our business is called Needle In Peace and that link will take you to our website.  Once there you can get to our Flickr site and see many of our quilts.

I also discovered back in March that my thyroid is failing.  This seems to be a family trait as my father, his sister and my brother all have the problem as well.  My primary care physician was attempting to handle this, but I’d prefer to see an endocrinologist who knows all the signs and symptoms as well as all the blood tests to look at.  So I have that appointment scheduled when we return from Vermont as I’m still not feeling quite well.

So … there you have it, in a very large nutshell.  Where I’ve been and what’s been going on.  More to come soon.

My Saturday Night
Jun 20th, 2009 by Sonja

Well … LightGirl and LightHusband are off at a wedding.  We were all invited as guests, but the bride & groom are trying to save some money (who isn’t these days?) and very politely inquired as to LightHusband’s availability for wedding photography.  He loves to do that, and LightGirl wanted to help him with her blooming photography skills.  So they are off.  My ever present introvert raised it’s head and I decided to stay home; I’d only know two other people there and with my extroverts taking pictures, I’d be lost.

So … LightBoy and I stayed home.  He invited his bestest bestie to spend the night; they’ve known each other and been besties since they could each grab a truck and roar at the other.  LaughingSon arrived just at supper time.  The big treat of the evening was Chik-Fil-A with shakes for dinner.  I was treated to a car ride and dinner with two pre-adolescent boys.

Allow me to recount some of the conversation for you.

LightBoy – “Wanna Turkish breath mint?”
LaughingSon – “What’s that?”
LightBoy – “It’s where I drop my pants and fart in your face”
Me – “OMG [exclaimed in full voice and laughing cause I couldn’t help it] where did you hear THAT?!?!” thinking perhaps a hockey locker room or something
LightBoy – “YouTube”
LaughingSon – [muttering] “oh man … I’m glad I asked”
Me … sputter sputter … no more YouTube for you young man EVER.  You’re grounded for LIFE! then we all burst into laughter.

Laughing giggling silly conversation ensues from the back seat for a few more minutes about nothing that is memorable and then:

Me – “Hey guys, you know that shakes are on for tonight, right?”
Them – “YAY” more laughing and general mayhem
LaughingSon – “Yeah, I’m too skinny … you can see my ribs without even sucking in.” (and he is pretty skinny) “See you can feel my ribs.”
LightBoy – “You can feel my ribs too.” pause “Well … you can if you kinda dig for them.”

bahahahaha … how, you might ask, did I keep the car on the road?  Yeah.  I dunno.

When I asked them what they wanted for dinner in the car, I accused them of sounding like Patrick Starfish and I was promptly corrected. No, I was told, Patrick sounds like this and we sounded like that.  Oh.  Well.  That’s much better and oh so much different and privately rolled my eyes.

On our way back into the house I had to lay some ground rules for the evening.  “There will be no Barbies blown up, maimed, dismembered or exploded on these premises this evening or in the next 24 hours.”  Mostly because LightGirl is not home to give her permission to have her old dolls tinkered with.

They are out playing with some boys in the neighborhood now and have plans for movie watching, Wii playing, X-boxing, etc til who-knows-when.

So.  My Saturday night may be quiet but it sure is interesting.

I’m Not Dead Yet
Feb 20th, 2009 by Sonja

I'm not dead yet ...

Wow … I took a little blog vacation there.  I didn’t mean to.  In fact, my writing has really suffered for the last few months.  I think I’ve finally found out why.

I was beginning to think I was going to have to say a fond farewell and just turn my back on this place I’ve called home for the past few years.  The thought was breaking my heart.  So I just wasn’t doing anything at all.  But I didn’t have anything to write either.  And well … let me tell you the story.

In some ways it starts with my dad.  But if I tell you that part now, I’ll be giving away the ending.  I’ll just say that there is an autoimmune disorder that runs in my family and leave you hanging with that for the moment.

In other ways it also starts about sixteen or seventeen years ago as well when one of my doctors noticed that something was enlarged.  It was mysterious, there was no genesis for this.  And, apparently nothing to worry about; no tumors or growths.  It was just enlarged.  So we waited and watched.  Then a few years ago it shrank back.

And then this also starts with my fall off the cliff three years ago.  As it turns out depression and panic attacks are markers of this malady I am currently dealing with.  So what is it?

Well … here’s the story.  Around the time of the Inaugural Ball (for which I still owe you photos, although there are not many), I got a low grade infection/irritation in my nether regions.  It was not a big deal and something I’ve dealt with many, many times in my adult life.  I did not go to the doctor for several weeks as I was trying to heal on my own.  It didn’t work.  Went to the doctor.  He prescribed a round of antibiotics.  But it wasn’t long enough.  So they called in another round of antibiotics.

Through all of this I was just exhausted.  I can’t even begin to describe how very tired I was all.  the.  time.  I would fall asleep in my chair around 8 every evening and do nothing all day.    I was so cold all the time.  And gaining weight just looking at food.

I felt as though I was not shaking the low grade infection even on the second round of antibiotics.  So I went back to the doctor.  To my actual doctor this time, not just anyone in the practice.  At some point in the past month, I’d had blood work done.  Lo and behold … my thyroid is beginning to quit.  This explains almost everything.

It explains why I can’t hold a train of thought long enough to write.  Or even read.

Why my hair has been falling out in handfuls for three years.

Why, although my panic has been controlled, we can’t get it to go away completely.

Same for the depression.

Why (as my brother with the same issue said) I can’t walk by sandwich without gaining three pounds.

Why I can’t stay awake past 8 in the evening.

And several other things that I can’t remember right now.  I’ve joined my family’s dysfunctional thyroid club (with my father and my brother).   So my doctor put me on synthetic thyroid hormone.  Things are beginning to clear up for me.

I’m doing some research and will continue to do so on what the best form of treatment for this is.  I know that tweaking the hormone replacement can takes months or even years.  But it’s do-able.  For the first time in a long time I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I might even find me there.  That is good.

Jan 4th, 2009 by Sonja

We’ve had a special guest visiting here at the LightHouse the past few weeks.  She has been a very good guest and has made no intrusions in our routines.  She hasn’t asked anything particularly difficult of us.  She’s very bright and inquisitive and, importantly, gets along well with Sam and Monty.  Her name is Sally and we are really loving her.

Sally and me - Christmas day

We’re taking care of her for a friend while he visits his parents until early next week.  She’s going to leave a hole in our hearts when she’s gone back home.

Sally being cuteIt has been amusing watching all the pets get used to one another.  Sam has had the worst time of it.  You see he has no concept of his actual size and does not understand why she gets to *be* a lap dog and he does not.  After all, to his pea-sized brain, he’s earned it.  She’s done nothing but waltz in here, jump onto the sofa and look cute.  What’s up with that?

We had a really funny moment on Christmas morning.  Both Sally and Sam had been given rawhide bones to chew on as a special treat.  Sam took to his right away and went through about half of it before losing interest in it because he wanted to go outside for a while.  Sally then took over.  Well, not exactly.  She came to the bone.  Sniffed it.  Realized it was too big for her and promptly decided to stand guard over it.  None of which the humans were aware of.  We did know, however, that Sam had left the bone in the midst of the walkway from the door at the back deck to the eating area in the kitchen.  Pretty soon, Monty (the cat) came in through the door and nonchalantly made his way toward the eating area.  He was on a mission to his food dish in the laundry room.  He was also unaware of the bone.  As most of us know, rawhide bones are beneath the notice of any self-respecting cat.  Sally had not received that memo.  Everyone in the room was startled by the sudden eruption of snarling, barking and growling that Monty received as he attempted to walk past the (non-existent to him) bone.  No one was more surprised than the cat.  Sally was very pleased with herself and promptly came to me, wagging her tail and smiling, proud of a guard job well done.

Monty spent an hour in the livingroom wondering just what had happened to him.

It was hilarious to watch.  And there was absolutely nothing we could have done to change it.  There was no explaining to any of the animals how they didn’t need to worry about each other.  It’s just been something they have to learn.

I’ve been thinking about that incident quite a bit lately.  It was funny to be sure.  Remembering the look on Monty’s face has elicited a laugh on more than one occasion.  But I’ve also been wondering about it a lot too.  I’ve been thinking about all the times that we humans do the same thing that Sally did.  How many times do we do that?  Do we lash out, snarl, bark and growl to protect something that was never being threatened in the first place?  We think someone walking by our *stuff* is out to get it so we lash out at them, but the reality is they’re on their way to the food bowl in the other room.  Then we’re pretty happy with how well we’ve protected our *stuff* (whatever that stuff might be) so we turn to our communities with our metaphorical tails wagging and we go to them seeking approval.  But for no earthly reason we just sent someone into the livingroom wondering what the h*ll happened and why.

I guess doing that makes us human.

Then I look at Sam and his insatiable desire to be noticed, loved on and sit on my lap.  This would not be a bad thing except for the fact that Sam weighs almost 90 pounds and has a lot of fur.  A lot.  He’s a golden retriever.  They are known for many wonderful qualities … being a lap dog is not one of them.  Poor Sam.  He just cannot reconcile how Sally gets to waltz through the door and onto our laps.  She gets to sit there, cuddle up and sleep.  He has to take his daily 10 hour nap on the floor.  And wonders why he’s been a bad dog.  Or what Sally has done to merit such undeserved favor.

You’d think from Sam’s attitude and behavior this week that no one has noticed him since Sally came to town.  That he never gets fed, loved, petted or anything.  However, just the reverse has been true.  We’ve spent more time with him in an effort to overcome his feelings of inadequacy.  And we’ve played with both dogs together.  Now that is an interesting sight … playing with a 90 pound dog and a 25 pound dog together.  But they get along famously and do well side by side.

How often do we do that?  We humans do this all the time.  We carve out little kingdoms for ourselves … tiny areas of carpet and declare them ours.  Then someone else waltzes in and does it better.  Hops up and gets all the applause.  I remember the first time I recognized it in myself.  I’d learned how to cook and bake when I was quite young and by the time I was a teen made all the desserts in my family.  Then my younger brother came along and learned how to bake bread from scratch.  At first, I was so jealous and annoyed with his ability that I could not even enjoy his bread.  It only took two or three batches and I overcame that tendency.  I mean … who can withstand freshly baked bread!!  And he has the knack for it.  I’ve never been able to quite get it with the yeast.  So … I do a lot of other things well (like cake :-) ), but bread has escaped me.  Big deal.

What about in church?  How many times are there people who have a place they’ve made for themselves and believe it to be “God ordained” … then a Sally waltzes in, hops up on the sofa and they’re left sleeping on the floor.    How can that be?  Their place, their kingdom … it was God ordained, no one else can have it.  Certainly not that Sally-come-lately.  She must have some nefarious purpose.  He must be up to something evil.  Whoever they are, that Sally-come-lately, they are out to get Sam.  They want to knock Sam off his standing in his community.  That’s what they’re up to … make him/her lose their status, standing or favor.

Here’s the thing … Sam was never wired to hop up on the sofa and he doesn’t see that she does sleep on the floor sometimes.  He also doesn’t see that Sally adores him.  Or that the whole family doesn’t care that he can’t get on the sofa (in fact, we prefer that he doesn’t).  We love Sam for being Sam and there are things he can do that Sally cannot (like run and catch a ball).  We love Sally for her traits.  And despite the fact that Monty wakes us up in the middle of the night more consistently than our children ever did, we love him too. I think it has something to do with his really loud purr.  But we never expect Monty to act like Sam, or Sam to act like Monty or Sally to act like any of them.  We respond to each of them individually and love them each individually.

Admittedly, Sam and Sally and Monty are pets and rather simple to parse out.  A church is made up of people; a much more complex behavioral system and far more difficult to work our way through. I think, though, the principles are the same.  Sam and Sally and Monty can be symbolic of both individuals and groups within a larger group.  Some are lap dogs, others are retrievers, and still others are cats.  Some people are oblivious to that bone  and/or area of carpet you’re so zealously guarding.  When you growl, snarl and bark at them, they are going to retreat in horror and wonder what the h*ll happened.  Sometimes it will take them years to nurse their wounds … especially if you add a parfait of deceit, gossip, emotional bullying, and condemnation to their head as they leave.  Some people are wondering why it looks so easy for the Sally-come-lately and others don’t know she was once an abandoned dog with problems of her own.

The thing is the church, however you want to define that sacred space or community of faith, is supposed to be different.  Jesus gave us a beautiful description of what we’re supposed to look like in the book of John.  He said, “… you’ll be known by your love.”  Further on in his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul gave us a description of love that has withstood the test of time:

 1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (italics are mine for emphasis)

I think this is a description of God’s economy.  The economy we were created to enjoy.  The one in which there is enough for everyone.  Enough love, enough money, enough time … enough.  That economy where greed, and pride and envy do not rip and tear at us every day.  Unfortunately, the economy we live in is limited and finite, rather than infinite.  We forget that we have access to the infinite, especially to the infinite love that God has made available to us.  And church, that sacred space, that community of faith becomes just like any other group of humans.  Mean.  Nasty.  Brutish.  And short.  To (mis)quote Thomas Hobbes.  We lose our grip on the Divine and hang on to the corporeal plane with our fingernails.

We bark and snarl and snap at people who are oblivious to our rawhide bones or other preciously guarded objects.  We are jealous of others’ talents or abilities as they waltz through the door and seemingly into the spotlight.  We cause wounds on the souls of others that may take a lifetime to heal in response to them just being.  This is not the church that Jesus called us to.  This is not love.  This is humans being human rather than humans in constant contact with the Divine.

As I face 2009 and am now nearly two years away from my CLB, I’ve come to realize a number of things.

I am unforgiven.  When I left my CLB, the most hurtful thing that was said and done was to tell me that I could not be forgiven for obliviously walking past the rawhide bone.  I tried apologizing, but since I didn’t know what I’d done (and, um, walking through the room isn’t wrong in the first place), my apology was not very well done.  And, you guessed it, I walked through the room again, so I was deemed unrepentant as well.

It has taken me nearly two years, the help of some wonderful friends and a really good counselor, but I’m finally at the place where I’m strong enough to say that being unforgiven is not my problem.  My state of condemnation is not my doing and it’s not my undoing.  It is not my responsibility.   Eventually, I will also be free from the guilt and harm that came with it.

Doing these things, participating in these things, having these feelings … those things do not make one evil.  Those are all human qualities.  However, when one wallows in them and fails to allow Jesus to pull them out of that muck; preaching one thing on Sunday morning (for instance, a passage from James about only thinking the best of each other) then using your position as leader in the church during the following week to spread lies, slander and gossip … in the church this is known as evil behavior, in the secular world it is known as bullying behavior.  Using your position as leader to triangulate and create divisions … that is evil.  Using your position to attempt to create division within my 19+ year marriage by telling my husband in meetings, “I know this is going to be hard for you to hear, but you don’t really know her …” bullying, evil behavior.

For nearly two years now I believed there was some grain of truth to the lies and the slander.  They did untold damage to me, to my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my children, they wounded my husband and my children as well.  They wounded my best friends and my relationships with them.  It is doubtful that our family will ever darken the door of a church again.  The wounds have caused my children to turn their backs on their budding faith; they no longer want anything to do with the things of God, nor want Him spoken of in their presence.  The poison is bitter.  But I’ve come to the place where I know that initially I did nothing wrong.  I did not respond well to attack and I am gravely sorry for my part in defending myself.  But walking through the room on my way to the food dish is nothing to be sorry for, nor is being able to jump up on the sofa when others are not.

I have to say that I am glad 2008 is over.  It was not nearly as bad or hopeless as 2007, but it came close.  I’m looking forward to 2009.  I’m looking forward because I’m ready now to turn around and look ahead.  I’m ready now to let this all go; it is finished.  Will I continue to grieve?  You bet.  But I think the worst is over now.  I’m slowly (re)learning what it’s like to be in communitas again.  Really be in community with people who listen.  It’s an amazing experience and a true gift from my Papa who continues to love me.

Comments are closed on this post.  People who have earned the right to speak into my life know how to contact me.

The Spatula Is Down
Jan 1st, 2009 by Sonja

The gloves are off.  Brother Maynard issued a pancake challenge.  Complete with photos.

Never one to shrink away from such things, I’m stepping forward with a recipe of my own.

Now … I do not make cute bears.  Or things like that.  I have been known to experiment with initials branded in mine.  But my kids are devout fans of my blueberry pancakes.  So is anyone else who has ever had them.   This is a result of the first blueberry pancakes I ever had in Machias, Maine.  They were blueberries … held together with pancake … and a taste of heaven that I have been attempting to recreate ever since that moment of serendipity in August of 1977.

This recipe is an amalgam of other recipes and ideas.  I first thought about making my own pancakes from scratch when I encountered the ideas of a writer by the name of Amy Dacyczyn.  She used to write a monthly newsletter called The Tightwad Gazette which had tips for money saving and living more simply.  In one issue she noted that food manufacturers were able to charge exhorbitant prices for the cheapest ingredients in pancakes, notably flour, sugar, baking powder and salt by combining them and calling them pancake mix.

I find that offensive.  So I make my own.  Most of the time.

I begin with oats … because they’re good for you and because they make the pancakes stick your ribs.  A trick my mom learned when I was little and she’d make pancakes for lunch.

Scald 1/2 c. skim milk in the microwave and pour it over
2/3 c. rolled oats

Stir to thoroughly combine in a small bowl and set aside so that oats can absorb the milk.

Dry Ingredients

1 1/2 c. flour (I often split this and use 1 c. white and 1/2 c. whole wheat or 1/2 c. cornmeal)
3 Tbls. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk all dry ingredients together and make sure there are no lumps.

Wet ingredients –

1 egg + 1 egg white
3 Tbls. oil (or melted butter)
1-1/2 c. buttermilk

Whisk together eggs and oil til light and frothy.  Add milk and combine thoroughly.  Add oat mixture and combine thoroughly once again.

Make a well in the dry mixture and add wet ingredients to dry.  Combine wet with dry in several quick strokes.  DO NOT over beat.  Stir just enough to dampen dry ingredients.  Use a light hand when mixing.

Me, I use the Fanny Farmer cookbook for my culinary wisdom.  Mine is so worn that the binding has been replaced with duct tape.  My all time favorite griddle is my mother’s.  And it’s at camp in Vermont.  I believe it’s cast aluminum.  I have never found anything that can cook pancakes better than that griddle.  Good cast iron is a passable second.  Here are the cooking directions from Fanny:

Lightly butter or grease a griddle or frying pan and set over moderate heat until a few drops of cold water sprinkled on the pan form rapidly moving globules.  (Aside – my favorite part of the process)  Measure out about 1/4 c. pancake batter per cake onto the pan.  (I use my large cooking spoon to ladle it out)  Bake on the griddle until the cakes are full of bubbles on the top and the undersides are lightly browned.  Turn with a spatula and brown the other sides.  Place finished griddlecakes on a warm plate in a 200F (95C) oven until you have enough to begin serving.  (Aside – BroM makes a great point here … never turn a pancake more than once or you’ll have shoeleather).

When I add blueberries I use the following method:  If they’re fresh, I rinse and pick them over for leaves and twigs.  If frozen I keep them frozen til the last possible moment.  In either case, I use about 2 c. of blueberries and toss with flour til all berries have a fine coating of flour on them.  Then I stir in with the dry ingredients prior to adding wet ingredients.  Everything else is as usual.

There … now you have two pancake options for 2009.  It’s an inexpensive treat that really brings the family and friends together.  Enjoy!

On A Mission
Nov 13th, 2008 by Sonja

Or maybe two or three.

I made a decision last year sometime.  I don’t remember when it was.  But I remembered it this year and I had time to make good on it.  The decision was that I would make our Christmas gifts for extended family members.  I think the decision began sometime around “Make Something Day,” but by then it was too late for me.  Especially since I had 35 people in my house that day.  And it took me … uh … weeks to recuperate.

This year is different.  We’re not having a big, ornate Thanksgiving.  The day after LightHusband is taking the LightKids to go play paintball with one of his compatriots at work.  Most importantly, we are not painting the house all autumn.  On the other hand … this means that the house is all wrecky.  And making me slightly insane.

So I have spent the last several days pouring through tutorial websites, blogs and magazines finding cool things to make for my nieces, nephews, siblings, in-laws, out-laws, etc.   There was a condition though.  I had to have most, if not all, of the materials on hand for the project.  And it has to be fairly simple.  In other words, these gifts have to be made out of stuff I already have and not take too much time or energy.  There will be a few things I have to purchase (like some plastic mesh to make a fabric garage & doll house).  But for the most part, I will be able to make these gifts with stuff I already have.

Then I spent an inordinate amount of time organizing myself.  Making lists of what I would make and in what order.  I’m using Evernote to keep track of all the websites and people/gift recipients, and I’m using Things to keep track of the when and how.   If you’re also interested in making your gifts this year, start with Sew Mama Sew.  It’s a group blog and they’re doing gift tutorials every day this month that link to other blogs, which (of course, branch out to others.  For even more inspiration, they did this last year, so if you click on “November 2007” you get even more ideas.  Everyday they have gift ideas centered on a particular theme (such as teachers, or books or cold weather) with tutorials, gifts to buy that are handmade, patterns to buy and then homemade food recipes (like homemade marshmallows! yum!).

Mission number two involves the hockey team (what else?).  We’re traveling out of state about 12 days before Christmas to play a couple of games.  This involves a hotel stay.  I usually organize some activity while we’re in the hotel to prevent large groups of young women from roaming the corridors in the evening teeheeing and making too much noise for the other guests.  The girls don’t seem to understand that no one else wants to hear them.  So for this trip I’m organizing dinner out and then a Christmas party back at the hotel.  I thought it would be a good idea (based on some discussions last year) if the Christmas party were to involve some sort of charitable activity/donation to a local shelter.  So I have to call them this morning and find out what we might be able to do for them in that situation.  That’s just an extra wrinkle in my planning/organizing.  I’ve found a bunch of fun games for the tween/teen set that can be played in a hotel setting.  We’ll be having fun.

Mission number three is to return to my old tradition of making plum pudding this year.  I use my Welsh great, great grandmother’s recipe handed down to me by my grandmother.  I dropped it for a couple of years because I was having such a difficult time finding suet, among other things.  But I think I can find it again this year.  So I’ll be making my plum puddings in a couple of weeks.  Ready to go for Christmas dinner.  YUM!!

UPDATE:  Eureka!  I found the suet at a small local butcher shop about 7 miles out of town.  When giving directions, the man told it was next to some antique shops and he said, “But you have to spend more here than on antiques,” in a gravelly southern accent.  I cheerfully assured him I’d rather have some good beef than an antique (never mentioning that this close to DC they’re likely to be overpriced junk in any case).  I’m going to pick it up this afternoon.  And dig out my grandmother’s recipe to get the rest of the ingredients this weekend.

In all, though, my missions seem to be taking me away from the computer.  In addition, I’m trying to do more reading and I have some quilts that are slowly being pieced as well.  So if you don’t see me very much around here, don’t worry.  I’m still here.  Just trying to be faithful to my missions and get them accomplished.  You’ll prob’ly see more of me in the New Year.  As I stay off the roads while LightGirl learns to drive!!!

A Mission From God
Sep 17th, 2008 by Sonja

Sometime during the last week or so, LightBoy came to me with a request for his Halloween costume this year.”I want to be a Blues Brother, Mom.”

It kinda took me by surprise.  I had no idea where he came by that idea.  I last saw that movie when it was in theaters and I think I was in high school, or maybe in college.  Shortly after that there was a conversation dripping in disdain between he and LightGirl concerning the relative importance of the Blues Brothers.  It ended with LightBoy reporting confidently, “Well, of course, they’re important!  They INVENTED the blues.”  I struggled mightily to keep from bursting into laughter at this and decided that it was time for my kids to be initiated into the comedic genius of John Belushi.

So it was that we watched “The Blues Brothers” for Friday’s family movie night.  It turned out that in the intervening 25-ish years I’d forgotten quite a bit.  No surprise there.  It’s still a really funny movie.  There’s quite a bit of, um, language in it.  But since I was a naive 18 year old when I saw it the first time, I had no idea how many jazz and blues greats had been assembled to make that movie.  Or how many blues tunes were in it.  It was really amazing from that perspective as well.

Of course, the plot was very, very thin.  Jake (John Belushi) gets released from prison.  Jake & Elwood (Dan Ackroyd) go to visit the orphanage they were raised in.  It is about to be auctioned off for delinquent taxes and is run by nuns, with an aged caretaker (Cab Calloway).  Jake & Elwood decide to gather together their band and raise the back taxes.  There are plot twists, etc.  At every obstacle, Elwood responds, “We’re on a mission from God.”  It’s his assurance that they will overcome every hurdle no matter how broad or high.  It keeps them focused and on task.  Ultimately and hilariously they do prevail, just in front of the police, the US Army, the “American Nazi Party,” and who knows else.  The taxes are paid, the orphanage saved, but Jake & Elwood are triumphantly lead away in handcuffs.

I’ve been thinking about the movie quite a bit in the days since we watched it.  It was funny, no doubt about it.  Elwood’s signature line has been often repeated around our house with great glee and laughter.  “We’re on a mission from God.”  and it would lead him to some fairly nefarious behavior; behavior that inevitably involved fast cars or other silliness.

I’ve been thinking though, about how often we do that.  We all do it.  We think we’re on a mission from God; we’ve got righteousness on our side and so we can act with aplomb.  Because our ends are right, we will somehow escape the consequences of our behavior.  Or it may be that we won’t escape the consequences of our behavior, but those consequences will be worth it, just as they were for Jake & Elwood.

I’ve been wondering though about the detritus that we leave in our wake.  If you watch that video (which is sped up and is really a montage), you see what happens when Jake and Elwood become so hyper-focused on getting the tax money to the office on time.  The analogy has limits, I’ll admit, but then again, maybe it doesn’t .  How many times do we do the same thing?  How often do we think that we have to do something, that we cannot entrust a task to someone else and the cars pile up in our wake?  All because, “we’re on a mission from God.”

How many times do we think that getting to an end point involves skirting the edges of the law or ethical behavior, maybe even falling over the edge, and that’s alright because, “we’re on a mission from God?”  But the cars pile up in our wake.

So the question I’m posing today is this:  does being on a “mission from God” excuse one’s behavior?  Does being “right” or “correct” trump the commands given by Jesus in Matthew 22?  Or is there something in there that will help us do both, that is be correct and be loving at the same time … without having the cars pile up behind us?

Dear Sarah
Sep 8th, 2008 by Sonja

Unbelievable.  I scarcely know where to begin.  I should be glad, you see, that a woman is running for Vice President.  I want to support you.  You are, after all, a woman.  You are my age.  You have children the age of my children.  We even share the same moniker … Hockey Mom.  We are both Hockey Moms.  I’ll bet you even managed your kid’s team, the way I do.  Well, then again, maybe not the way I do, but we’ll get to that later.

Here’s the deal.  I can’t support you.  You don’t even know me, so this won’t matter at all to you.  But that’s okay.  I’m just using this letter format as a cute form within which to express my ideas.

There was very little chance that I would have ever voted for your ticket in the first place because of your running mate’s slavish adherence to the disastrous war in Iraq.  But I was hoping that Senator McCain would choose someone with experience, strength, wisdom and stability to bring to the ticket that I could give serious consideration to.  Instead, we are presented with … um … well … you.  You represent none of those things.  You may have that facade, but you  are like the movie set of a fictitious western Gold Rush town … all fizz and no bang.

Your candidacy is offensive to me and many other women.  It is patently obvious that it is an attempt to manipulate us into voting for someone we may not otherwise vote for, simply because you have breasts and ovaries.  I did not vote for Hillary Clinton on that basis and I won’t vote for you on that basis either.  I don’t know who is making the decisions in the Republican party, but it is insulting and offensive that they think so little of women voters.  Most of us would rather see a person in office who is carrying out decisions that we are interested in, than someone who looks like us.  As a woman, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a historian.  You seem to have no sense of the office or of your place in history.  Several months ago you candidly admitted you do not know what the Vice President does.  Yet, here you are putting your family on the line and in the spotlight for what can only be seen as personal gain, if you have no understanding of the office.  The office of president and vice president should never be sought for personal gain … read what George Washington had to say on this matter.  Or John Adams.  Or Abraham Lincoln.  Or John Kennedy.  Or even Ronald Reagan.  I would suggest, dear Sarah, that you take some time to study the difference between being smart and being wise.  It takes very little to be smart, most anyone can do it; especially if one has a good speech writer and the chutzpah to deliver as you seem to.  But it takes some time and study and dedication to become wise.  This is what we need in the Vice Presidency, wisdom.  You are smart, and you proved at the convention that you can be a smartass, but you are not wise.  As a historian, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a citizen and as a political watchwoman.  From looking at your history in government, you seem to have little sense that the primary role of a mayor, or a governor or a Vice President is to be a civil servant; with emphasis on the word servant.  This hearkens back to your lack of understanding of history, Sarah.  My guess is that you eschewed history classes as an undergraduate and just partied.  Here is a very short course.  What seems ubiquitous and unremarkable in 2008, was radical and unorthodox in 1776.  It was this … that the nature of government is to serve the needs of the people rather than the reverse.  It was this unlikely sentiment that got Thomas Paine, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and all of our other founding fathers into such hot water with England.  You seem to have forgotten that ideal and believe that being in government is to serve the needs of those in government.  Hence, you left your tiny town of Wasilla in state of outlandish debt, you clearly have no idea how to run the state of Alaska (evidenced by the line item vetos which make little sense) and I shudder to think what would happen if you were given the keys to office of the Vice Presidency.  As a citizen, I am offended.

Your candidacy is offensive to me as a Christian.   You understand so little of what our government is intended to be that I scarcely know where to begin.  But I’ll begin with scripture, Sarah.  With the Gospel of John and your acceptance speech.  In the Gospel of John chapter 13, we find Jesus saying this, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  My dear Sarah, as a Christian and disciple of Jesus Christ, would you please point me to the place in Scripture where Jesus is shown making fun of people for their choice of citizen action?  Where He makes jests at the expense of another person for any reason?  I’ve studied the Scriptures fairly intently and I can’t find it anywhere.  But I will acknowledge that I may have missed something.  I would also like to bring the following to your attention:  the two Great Commandments as Jesus spoke of them in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 22 ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  In what fashion may it be considered loving of your neighbor, to call him a racial epithet?  How is it loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your  mind, to stand before a convention hall filled people and lead them chants the way you did the other night?  In many ways that you might not have forseen you have become an icon for the Christian way in this country.  You must bear that mantle with wisdom and respect.  Or we will see more articles written like this:

Democrats are not the enemy of course, but even if they are, I saw no expressions of Christian love for them.  I saw plenty of sarcasm, put-downs, mocking, and bitterness.  Palin mocked Obama’s decision to serve others as a community organizer.  Giuliani, a very wealthy and cosmopolitan man himself, made fun of Democratic elites.  I heard misleading statements and flat-out lies.  Palin falsely suggested that Obama wants to read a captured Bin Laden his rights–of course, this is preposterous and Obama has never said this, but it didn’t stop Palin from spreading misinformation.  On a more mundane level, she also suggested she had sold an expensive government plane on eBay–it didn’t actually sell on eBay, but McCain is now falsely claiming that it did sell on eBay–at a profit (also not true).  Of course, McCain is no stickler when it comes to the facts–he falsely claimed in his own speech that Obama will raise your taxes, leaving out the important caveat that 95% of Americans get tax cuts under Obama’s plan.  Mike Huckabee fired off a zinger about Palin winning more votes in her mayoral election than Biden garnered as a presidential candidate.  Sounds great–unfortunately, it’s a lie.  I am no theologian, but I vaguely remember there being a commandment inveighing against this kind of thing.

With follow on comments such as this:

 Try to make a list of 5 great things that religion has done to significantly increase the happiness and well-being of humanity. Now make a list of 10 terrible atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion. Which list was easier to make? The Republicans suddenly make a lot more sense if you stop assuming Christianity has anything to do with love. Christianity is nothing more than the sum of the actions of all Christians. (emphasis mine)

Dear Sarah, remember that little bit I dragged out of the gospel of John … they will know us by our love.  I don’t care what you want, or what you think, or what you love.  You are vastly unimportant to me, because I do not know you at all.  Except for this.  I do know that for millions of people now, you represent Jesus.  What kind of Jesus will you be?   Getting laughs, applause, and/or votes by telling lies (no matter how small), and belittling others is unacceptable for those who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.   Thus far, as a Christian, I am offended.

So, we come to the end of this small exercise.  To say I am disappointed in your selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate would be a gross understatement.  I am offended by the misogyny and manipulation that the Republican National Committee is attempting with your selection.  I am terrified by the betrayal of our historic national values that is at stake.   We are indeed at a turning point in the history of our country; I wonder how many people really understand this.  How many will look back and say, “I wish I had …?”

Respectfully yours, Sonja

Personally Speaking
Sep 4th, 2008 by Sonja

I haven’t written in a while and I apologize.  Things have have been bubbling here in the LightHouse, some good, some … eh.  So I’ll fill in the gaps for you.

Back in July LightGirl was visiting a friend and they went walking in the woods chattering away as girls are wont to do.  A few days later, she found a tick in her bellybutton (of all places).  She had a rash and some other odd symptoms so I took her to the doctor … who chastised her for not wearing insect repellent and did some blood work.  And off we went on our trip to Vermont.  Some days later I received a phone call from the doctor’s office saying that the test for Lyme Disease was positive and they were calling in a script for antibiotics.  Okay.  She didn’t do well on those particular antibiotics, so we changed to a type called Ceftin.

She finished that round last Thursday (a week ago today).  But she wasn’t doing well.  She was lethargic and achy.  Her head hurt and she didn’t have a very good appetite.  I had to beg her to go to hockey practice (which is very unlike her).  So we went back to the doctor, who put her on another round of antibiotics and got us an appointment with an infectious disease specialist if she did not improve by the end of this round (mid-September).  By Tuesday morning, something was seriously wrong with my girl.  She couldn’t stand up longer than a minute or two and was complaining that her knees hurt.  She would not go up or down the stairs more than once a day.  So I called the doctor to get in to see the infectious doctor earlier.  It took two days, but we finally got an appointment to see a specialist in Charlottesville today.  Our doctor faxed her records to him.  Imagine my surprise, when he called yesterday afternoon to tell us that her Lyme blood test results from July were NEGATIVE!  They had never been positive at all.

LightHusband looked up her antibiotic on the internet and it seems that the symptoms we had attributed to Lyme Disease are also less common side effects of the Ceftin.  She has not taken any of the antibiotic since that phone call (she’s missed two doses) and she is steadily improving.  She has no joint pain and her soul is back there in her eyes.  She’s laughing with us and eating normally again.  She has a lot of her sass back … which I may regret, but I will enjoy.

So there have been quite a few ups and downs over the past few days.  I’ve been reading the political news fairly avidly and will probably be sharing some of my thoughts on that soon.  I have a few more book reviews to post in the next couple of weeks.   I’ve been trying to get school organized and begun … but of course, with LightGirl sick, no school has happened.  However, LightBoy has begun making SockMonsters from all of our singletons this week.  He is also using LightHusband’s old ties as accoutrements.  He is busy dreaming up an internet kingdom selling these recycled toys.  So, this is an education of a different sort.

Sigh … onward and upward.

UPDATE:  And now the rest of the story …

We had an appointment with our primary care physician this afternoon and an education at the same time.  So … it turns out that there are “strict constructionist” doctors, just as there are strict constructionist judges.  Who knew?  When testing for Lyme Disease there are these things called bands.  I have no idea what those are … but they … um … are.  In any case, there are five of them.  For a strict constructionist doctor, you must have five of five positives to get a diagnosis of Lyme Disease.  Now, our primary care doc, saw LightGirl … saw that she was presenting with a tick bite and a rash AND three out of five positive bands and decided to be conservative.  She does this all the time.  She said that only one of her Lyme Disease cases presented with all five bands positive this summer.  It’s a gray area, as she freely admitted.

LightGirl is doing better and better the longer she is off the meds so all is well and we are all breathing a little easier now.

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