Wednesday, January 30, 2008


This entry is sort of a hybrid. On the grounds that it's all political in the end, this is ending up here instead of Cottage.

I’m still on the fence, sort of. Exploring alternative ways for my spirit to walk, but not closing the door on the traditions I was raised in. I’ve found a few good books and some really helpful websites. There’s Wicca of course, (it's a fair place to start but it isn't calling me)  and the Native American wannabees. But I’ve also found sites for Celtic and Hellenic reconstructionists. There are a lot of folks out there who searching for the roots of the beliefs that Christianity and Islam displaced, often violently. They’re smart and proud and moving past the “just leave us in peace stage” to the “you are welcome to walk your path, but I’m claiming the right to walk where my spirit leads me.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry whenever I run across the latest claim of a “War on Christianity.” Who got the blame after September 11? After the militants of course. It was God’s judgment on America for tolerating gays, liberals, lesbians, witches, and whatever. Toleration, what a terrible word. If I keep my mouth shut, you won’t kick me. Perhaps it's time to say no. And keep saying it. And to insist on respect, no matter who we are. We expect nothing more and we will accept nothing less. And offer the same in return, when it's earned.

I sympathize with my mom, she’s happy in the church she attends. The Methodist Church does a lot of good internationally through their relief programs and locally through United Methodist Women. I don’t dispute it. It’s just getting too hard for me to put the good on one side and the centuries of destruction on the other and tell myself that it all balances out in the end. John Wesley was well into his sixties and still tromping through the snow putting the bite on passersby for donations to help the poor. He didn’t leave much in his will because “I’ve given it all away.” And what was left he directed to be divided among the six poor men chosen to carry his coffin to the cemetery.

How many William Wilberforces does it take to offset the Inquisition? 1492 was not only the year Columbus set out for Asia and ran into a new world, it was the year the Jews were expelled from a newly united, Christian ruled Spain. How many Martin Luther Kings does it take to offset over a century of persecution? They all claim inspiration from the same root, but too many of the branches appear to be twisted and fruit is tainted.

We look back at the beliefs of the past and count ourselves superior to our ancestors. We don’t haul animals to the alter and sacrifice them. But most of the meat was shared by the followers of the God or Goddess as part of the celebration. If one of our factory raised steers had the choice between our factory meat packing system and the sharp knife of a ritual sacrifice I wonder which it would choose. (probably tell us to go eat our veggies and leave him in peace, actually)

We don’t practice human sacrifice. At least not openly. What else would you call centuries of pogroms, religious wars and expulsions? What else do you call the hundreds if not thousands of people who just didn’t fit in who were accused of heresy or witchcraft? When the Thirty Years was over in the 1600’s nearly seven million Germans were dead. When the Battle of the Bulge was over and the siege of Bastogne was broken, the city was destroyed and twenty five thousand civilians were dead. Those were the ones they knew about. Another fifty thousand were never accounted for. What other name is there for the eleven million who died in Nazi Germany’s death factories? The list is endless and while some of the causes were good, we need to grieve for the lost.

Our ancestors have their own butcher’s bill to answer for. Wars of conquest, civil wars, and slavery. Makes a quite a list doesn’t it. And still, there was much good to their credit. We can claim the same. Just don’t claim that our actions are superior because they didn’t happen two or three thousand years ago.

And I think there is an element of fear in their claims. In this country and in Europe the church can no longer rely on the power of the state to compel conversion or obedience. And I thnk it scares them as much as it gratifies the rest of us.

My this entry did kind of meander didn't it? For now you’ll find me working my way through my books on herbs, doing a little research to see if there really is a way to talk to the animals, and waiting out this spiritual dry spell to end.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I’ve ended up with the work equivalent of a snow day. I checked the road we live on this morning. Frozen but chunky. I figured I could probably get out of the driveway by 9:30 or so and amble into work for a four hours or so. My supervisor called and left it up to me. It’s not what the weather is doing right now that worries me. It’s the front that’s due in later this afternoon with some wind and a mix of rain and snow. It’s not the getting to work that worries me; it’s the getting home part. So I embraced my inner chicken and stayed home. The prediction is that it will be above freezing in the morning. And above freezing for the rest of the week. It’s about five weeks since the solstice and the sun is high enough in the sky now to really make a difference. At least the ruts in the street have been leveled out a bit.


That gave me time to go out and clean off the car and use the non business end of a broom to work a lot of the snow of the shrubs and bushes. I also cleaned off a couple of areas on the ground for the birds. I think the jays listen for the sound of the peanuts in the shells hitting the feeders because they show up right away. And there must be other sounds that announce “diner’s open” because the chirping sounds around the neighborhood got louder. So the little ones will have awhile to stoke up before the next front hits.


Got a kick out of reading some of the comments on the AOL article about the Kennedy’s endorsing Obama. And actually the comments you find on any article about Obama. Since anyone with an ounce of curiosity, a shred of integrity, and some time to do a little web surfing can get the name of the church he goes to, find out that his father came from Kenya, and that he isn’t in the market for a Muslim wife (although that would be his business not mine) I have to conclude that the Swift boaters are out in force. I wonder how many of these posters are pulling a paycheck from the Republicans.


 I guess they have to do something. They’re stuck with Mitt Romney’s imitation of a robot, September 11 Giuliani, and Mike “let’s amend the Constitution to bring it in line with the Bible” Huckabee. We’ve got Bill sticking his foot in his mouth, and I don’t care what he “intended” to say, if you have to explain what you meant you might as well shut up. When you’re in a hole stop digging.


If you meant to say that LBJ managed to guilt trip congress into passing JFK’s civil rights bill after his assassination then that’s what you should have said in the first place. Add in this campaigns’ version of the Swift boaters and that sucking sound in the distance is getting awfully loud. For both parties.


And I think my last entry ties into Huckabee's campaign. I'm willig to bet that if he asked his audience to rank their concerns gay marriage would not be near the top.


And that is what's driving so many voters like me up the wall. What worries us isn't what you guys are talking about. How do we end a war that's coming up on five years? How do we get decent jobs back in this country? Why did it take so long for "official Washington" to notice a mortage crisis that's been coming on for several years? How do we get our food supply out of the hands of corporate multinationals and back in our backyards (or at least the next county) where it belongs? And it goes on and on and on.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


This is the first of what I hope will be a series of entries. I’m not sure what the subject really is and knowing me, it’ll end up somewhere I never expected it to. But, it revolves around women (and men), food, nurturing, and surprisingly how what we define as food does more than just fill our stomachs.

The combined blog never did get off the ground did it? Jobs, housecleaning, business running, pets, yards and kids tend to take priority over research projects. I still have some ideas. There’s a line from Fiddler on the Roof. The young student radical is hemming and hawing, trying to work up the gumption to propose to one of Tevye’s daughters. He tells her he wants to ask her a question, a political question, a question about marriage, actually. At her surprised “marriage is a political question?” He tells her (with a shrug and a sort of well, duh) “everything’s political.”

I have a hard time seeing food as political, but it is. The respect we show for food is reflected in how we treat the people who grow it and the people who prepare it. Small farmers and subsistence villagers are under corporate pressure all over the world. The almost endless varieties of food grains and oil seeds are being reduced to a few varieties of each. Tenant farmers are being forced off the land as coastal land is sold off for shrimp and fish farms or farm land is sold to grow crops for export. The former farmers or fisherman find themselves working for wages to buy what they used to grow or catch for themselves. Or worse, they’re forced into the city slums to compete for low wage jobs, if they can find jobs at all.

Women have made progress in this country, but we’re still the ones who do the majority of the cooking, housekeeping, chauffeuring, and everything else it takes to keep a family running.  I know my mom worked just as hard as a stay at home mom as she ever did cooking in a dorm kitchen at the U of O. But her cooking, cleaning, gardening, sewing, preserving and child care work never appeared on a balance sheet because she didn’t get paid for it.

I’m coming to believe that there is something fundamentally, perhaps fatally flawed in an economy that values a parent’s contribution to the state of our nation if there is a paycheck involved and doesn’t even take notice when no money changes hands. Goddess knows I don’t want to go back to a time when a woman’s place was only in the home. But I pray for the day when contributions everyone makes to our families are counted, whether money changes hands or not.

And I also pray for the day when the definition of family goes beyond husband, wife, 2.5 kids, a dog, a cat, a minivan, and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. It already has for many of us. It’s the getting the rest of the kids to agree on who’s allowed in the sandbox that seems to be sticking in some folks’ craws. Here’s hoping they wake up before they choke the rest of us.  There’s more to family than a shared set of genes and more to love than any of us can imagine.

Anyway, I thought I’d pour a little water in the sandbox and start building a sand castle. If somebody wants to help build one castle, come and play. If you want to build your own castle and build a bridge between the two, it works for me. Heck, if you want to build the village tavern, I’ll stop by for a drink.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Consumer or customer. Is it potato or potahto? I’m coming to believe that the words are not interchangeable. There’s a kind of mutual feeling to the word customer. There is a feeling of equality. Dare I say community? It implies that your “custom” is important and perhaps appreciated. A feeling of taking the time to make sure it’s done right. The word has a feeling of choice. I choose to make this purchase because it fills a need that I have. A retailer is treating you as a customer when you're told "we don't have what you're looking for right now, but we're getting new items in next week, can I give you a call after I check the shipment?"

The word consumer is giving me a whole different feeling these days. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to get in, pick the product that’s the closest to what I’m actually am looking for, get in line, pay for it and get out. News stories throughout the year that emphasize the failure of certain corporations, Wal-Mart for example, to reach their projected sales figures imply that it’s the consumer’s fault for not buying enough. Buy stuff, buy stuff to store your stuff, then buy more stuff to fill the space left by organizing the old stuff.

Mom and I look at a lot of cute things around the holidays or for use in the yard during the four months or so when it’s actually warm enough to do things in the evening in this part of the country. The make or break is “where do we put “?” when we aren’t using it. (Leave yard furniture out around here and it will be green by next summer. The state plant of western Oregon should be moss.) The question is usually a breaker not a maker. Or what are we going to move out to make room for this? Another sale breaker. J

The media onslaught is worst during the holidays. The Black Friday Shopping Frenzy is played over and over on the news. If one fifth of the potential customers are shopping, that means four fifths of us aren’t. We’re home sleeping off our Thanksgiving dinners, watching the parades, breaking out the Christmas carols, reading, playing with the kids, taking a walk if the weather permits, tormenting the cats, whatever; the stuff will still be there when I'm ready to look for it. And if it isn't? I probably wasn't meant to buy that item anyway. LOL

*Note for further research. Which corporations hold stock in media and also own or hold stock in major retailers or drug companies. That would help explain the news stories that emphasize buy, buy, buy stories. Or the “news” releases for new drugs that are barely disguised commercials.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Prep your journal article, either as a rough draft or in your journal. Decide on a good description for the link you want to use and start your journal entry. I might put in Lisa’s Journal or Coming to Terms. (Lisa’s the one who told me how to do these)


Open the page you ant to link to and right click on the page. A drop down menu will open, move the cursor to properties and select. This will open a window. At properties right click again and choose select all and then choose copy. Click on ok at the bottom to close the window.


Return to your journal entry. High light the text that describes the link you want to do. Click on the insert links icon. This opens a tiny little window. Get rid of the tiny little highlighted http and paste the web address of your page into the window and hit ok. This should insert the link you want. Bold your text, put it in caps, make the font bigger, whatever you think will draw attention to your text. Have fun.


With Lisa's help I finally learned how to do links. Just double click over the text in any color other than black. It should show an underline and you'll be able to click and go. I'll try to remember to highlight the text or capitalize it or something so it shows up better.


Lisa writes with feeling about dignity or the lack thereof we’re facing. Lack of community and modern technology have created an unholy alliance that allows us to let it all hang out because nobody knows who we are and go just about anywhere we want in order to do it.

We’ve always pushed the envelope. Cromwell’s commonwealth of plainclothes, closed theaters, whitewashed churches and a ban on celebrating Christmas is offset by the Restoration. Complete with silks, satins, outrageous wigs (and that was for the men), the comedies of Wycherly, and a king who was too much a gentleman to ignore a pretty (and willing partner). Charles II fathered at least a dozen children, acknowledged them all, yet died without a legitimate heir. He was also too much a gentleman to put aside a barren queen.

Regency excess was followed by Victorian whalebone. Clingy empire waistlines gave away to corsets and crinolines. Seventeenth century lace and frills (again for the men) gave way to sober shirtfronts and starched collars.

 America’s Gilded Age was a glittering era of starched shirt fronts, bared shoulders, glittering gems and Robber Barons. The Grover Cleveland of the 1880’s joined list of public men with private affairs (and children born on the “wrong” side of the blanket) that included Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton.

The Roaring Twenties gave way to a worldwide economic collapse followed by a World War followed by what I guess you could call the fit in at any cost fifties.

Through the years there was an unwritten code that allowed the private affairs of public men, and women in some cases, to stay private. Was this wink, wink hypocrisy? Or was it simple acknowledgement that no one is perfect? Most of us tittered when Bill Clinton claimed he smoked, but didn’t inhale. Perhaps it would have been better if he’d just said “mind your own business.”

The generation that helped win WWII was also the generation of the Organization Man. If the corporation said “move to LA” the answer wasn’t “but my whole family lives in Chicago.” It was “how soon to I need to be there.” The family scattered and the folks got too old or tired of shoveling snow and moved to Florida. We lost not only family ties but community ties.

We traded the Ma and Pa diner on Main Street for the McDonalds near the new freeway exit. We gave up the folks who knew our names for the harried sales help with name tags. We gave up the gal or guy behind the counter who knew just how we liked our coffee, that the eggs should be over easy and the hash browns extra crisp for fix your own coffee, eggs cooked to fit a biscuit and potato patties in greasy little baggies.

We traded the local shoe store where they knew your size and the clerk would probably tell everybody at the pub about your new pumps for do it yourself at Fred Meyer.

We traded the local hardware store and the guy behind the counter who probably helped you plan your new kitchen and would sell you three widgets if you needed them for plastic packaging with two more than you needed.

We traded the local meat market where the meat in the back was probably chewing grass in the next county  a couple of weeks ago and the butcher knew who was in the market for soup bones for CO2 treated meat in plastic packaging and E coli.

We traded the anticipation of the first local tomatoes of the summer for red “things” that look like tomatoes and taste like plastic.

There were three or four TV channels and we all watched Ed Sullivan or the Untouchables, or Laugh In. Folks knew which friends or relatives probably wouldn’t answer the phone when PBS ran the original Forsyte Saga back in the sixties. It was a community of sorts. New shows had at least half a season to find an audience, maybe even a season or two.

Now we have I don’t know how many channels and shows that don’t find an audience within the first couple of weeks simply disappear. They’re gone before I even know they’re there. I loved the X-Files. After I stumbled over it half way through the second season and eagerly looked forward to any reruns from season one so I could catch up.

We traded standing on the stool watching and “helping” mom make dinner for soccer moms, video games and little kids who have to have their moms figure out when they have time to play together.

We forgot, if we ever realized it, that businesses are in the business of selling “something.” The move towards preserved prepared foods had been slowly growing for over a century before WWII. And the first efforts at preserved foods were to supply the military, long distance shipping and the pioneer trade. There was a huge need during the war for food that could be prepared and preserved or shipped as mixes for military use.

After the war there was all these consumables needing consumers. We found ourselves with a new label. We were no longer customers we were consumers and Madison Avenue stepped up to the plate. The cake from the mix was “in” and do it yourself was out. Even if the home made cake tasted better. Somehow dinner in a can was trendier than what you cooked in your own pan at home. There was this new line in the national ledger. The consumer price index. And forty years later we found out that what we’d been consuming had more in common with the chemistry lab than the pantry just off the kitchen.

We woke up one day and discovered that the local shops where your custom (patronage) mattered were gone. We ended up with big box stores that advertise gift bags for the first five hundred customers who show up at 2 AM on Black Friday and are “shocked” when everybody stampedes through the door trying to be first. And happy as hell that the stampede made the regional cable news channel for a bit of free advertising. They ran it over and over and over.......

And the elected hired help has cooked the books so that only the finished products and the money used to buy them are counted in the national ledgers. Mom staying home and baking bread or cookies isn’t even a blip on the radar screen. Mom going out and working so she can buy bread and cookies for her family is part of the Gross National Product. Jerry was the guy downtown who sold hardware, not Jerry’s, the big box store across town that you can use for your daily walk.

I don’t want to go back to the days when we had to make everything ourselves, a bad harvest meant everybody in the neighborhood might go hungry, or it taking a week to get to Portland by horse and wagon. There has to be a balance between being a consumer and a customer. We aren’t going to be treated with respect or allowed any kind of dignity unless we demand it and work towards a day when the threat to take our“custom” someplace else means something.

You go girl. I'm not sure we have time to wait for the pendulem to swing back.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


And here I thought it was our democracy. This link was provided by another member of our J Land community. I'm all for letting as many vote as can and letting it all shake out in the end. But that's just me.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I was searching through my archives for another entry and came across this entry from the 2006 election season. Parts of it are still appropriate. And I got a kick out of writing it the first time, so sue me. And some of it kind of ties to my earlier entries this week.


Anybody who’s read my journals for awhile knows that I have a rather twisted sense of humor. Spending an evening researching the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster can leave you looking at some things in a slightly different way.


I suspect that we take the Creator/Creatress far more seriously than God/dess takes themselves. The human foot and back don’t suggest an Intelligent Designer. It gives me the impression of somebody who was definitely making things up as they went along. I mean flat feet and bad backs. You’d think somebody could have planned things a little better.


And take the human body itself. I mean you have a two legged, barely furred critter. Whether it's above the waist or below the waist, there are some very sensitive umm projections bobbing or sagging in the wind. SOMEBODY had a seriously twisted sense of humor. Clothing may have been invented for protection, but I’m sure it was adapted very quickly for “show.” You may have seen portraits of Henry VIII. The young Henry was a tall, slender athlete. Henry in old age definitely needed all the velvet and satin camouflage he could get his pudgy bejeweled hands on.


Can you imagine any of our politicians, broadcasters, or religious leaders being taken seriously with their (sniggering, hand-waving) willies waving or in many cases sagging in public. How seriously would anyone take Rumsfeld if he had to testify in the buff. How about taking the generals out of their beribboned uniforms when they appear to testify before congress or announce their latest victory is just around the corner plan to the media.

In fact how seriously would you take any politician if they had to do their stump speeches in the altogether. No lecterns allowed. I know. I’ve got a new slogan. “No clothes for congressmen, or any other employee of the people.” I bet the speeches would be a lot shorter and more to the point

Sunday, January 6, 2008


There's faith and there's religion and religion is hopelessly entangled in politics so this little piece goes on the political side of my little piece of J Land.


We did manage to meet Lisa and her wonderful hubby Matt for lunch up in Salem. Salem is about midway between Springfield and Scappoose so it’s a good place to meet. Lancaster mall is close to the freeway and there are enough decent places to eat to provide a different place to meet and keep in touch.


Something she said while we were talking about everything under the sun has sort of stuck with me. It’s the Christmas season after all, but how can you really prove that a rabbi from the back of beyond in Roman era Galilee even existed. It’s hard to realize in our paper plagued era just how little has survived from that era.


The gospels have Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem for a census. Presumably some record was made, we’re talking about taxes after all, but where was it stored? If the tax information was stored in Jerusalem, tough luck, the city was destroyed in 70 AD at the end of a protracted siege. Any records there would have been lost. Palestine was attached to Syria for the purpose of taxation (biblically at least) but that part of the world has been sacked almost as often as Palestine, again paper burns, gets dumped in the cistern, or gets trampled under foot. No help there.


Then there’s the other end of the story. Palestine was never an easy province for the Romans to control. From what I’ve read, there was a rebellion large enough to require an army to put it down about once a generation. And the low level resistance was constant. If the authorities sent a notice of every rebel or potential rebel executed for opposing the rule of Rome or the descendants of Herod, they’d have run out of room in the archives. And again, any records kept in Jerusalem would have been destroyed when the city fell. The Romans were thorough. I’ll give them that. They were a lot of things. For one thing, their armies were really good at ancient population control.


So, we can’t find an ancient piece of paper anywhere that mentions the name of Joshua Bar Joseph. We can’t prove he existed. We can’t prove he didn’t. What we can see is how the teachings attached to his name have been used and misused over the centuries. Perhaps what’s important is the message, and how it’s used (or misused now) not proving how it got here.



Seem to have hit a dry spell. I have ideas but the words just don’t want to come. Ah well, it happens. It’s been damp and chilly for the last couple of weeks. Didn’t get a white Christmas but we did get a little snow yesterday afternoon. Some of those flakes were the size of quarters. Heck it snowed for an hour before it even started to stick, and it’s mostly gone by now.


Nothing like the snow that’s been falling in other areas. Heck, it’s not even supposed to get below freezing this week. And I’ve only had to scrape my windshield a couple of times to get ready for work. That’s really unheard of around here. We even missed most of the high winds earlier in the week.


Some of the bulbs are all ready peaking through the ground. The little snow droppy flowers under the dogwood are all ready up. They’re usually the first. Three more weeks or so and we’ll be out of it. Oh, yeah we can have six inches of snow in February, but it’s gone the next day. The crocuses do look like they want to find the rewind button though. Little purple and yellow blooms poking their heads above the snow.


One batch of the family did make it over for Christmas. Sis and my BIL are both teachers. They work hard and pour everything they have into their work. By the time vacations roll around, they’re both pretty whipped. And we’re all getting to the age where your bed and your favorite chair are where you want to be if at all possible. And bless him, their oldest wants to be a teacher too. If he’s anything like his folks, he’ll do fine.


The foreign new depresses me. The local news is almost at depressing. I’ve been working on a history of ancient <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Rome. I have to say that it is depressing as all get out to find this wonderful little footnote in Will Durant’s Caesar and Christ. The brother of the Roman politician and philosopher, Cicero wrote a manual on electioneering technique that included this: “It was for this campaign that Cicero’s brother Quintus drew up for him a manual of electioneering technique. ‘Be lavish in your promises. Men prefer a false promise to a flat refusal……Contrive to get some new scandal aired against your rivals for crime, corruption, or immorality.’ “ And this was more that two thousand years ago.


It’s enough to depress a terminally optimistic hyena.


On that wonderful note. ‘night.