Saturday, August 19, 2006

Nadia meet Tatiana

Last summer, my friends Alex and Chrisanne had to put down their beautiful black cat Uhura.
Yesterday, they had to say goodbye to their calico Tatiana. I feel very sad for them. It's not only that I know they loved her and all the ways they shared their lives, but Alex's remembrances of Tatiana reminded me how our dear pets embody so much of our personal history.

They grow up with you or your children, remind you of parents or grandparents, of good times and hard times. They share your home and your house rules, know when it's time for you to get up and time you come home, the people you like and the ones you don't. They are protective and loyal and sensitive and selfish and sweet. They are completely dependent on you. That is a lot to be gone from your life.

Nadia was our last family cat. Named for the gymnast Nadia Comaneci, blond tabby Nadia was very tiny when he was given to my 3 year old nephew Nolen, so the gender was not that obvious. By the time we determined that Nadia was indeed a boy, the name was set in concrete. Too late. No problem though because Nadia was a princess. She never was a tom, always preening and posing and pampered. Everyone referred to Nadia as "she". It was only a problem when we took her to the vet and had to explain.

Nadia was 19 years old when we had to say goodbye. Nolen was 22 years old. We all had our own special relationship with her, it was very hard. Hard to pass the cat food aisle and remember that it seemed she could read because she only wanted a particular brand and knew, as soon as she saw the can, if you were trying to pull a switch on her. Hard to go to mom's house and not see her come to the window and meet me at the door. We still talk about how she would not eat raw fish, only cooked with bones removed, and that she wouldn't eat cat food tuna but liked Chicken of the Sea. It's so amazing to look at family pictures and see the changes of Nadia the kitten and Nolen the toddler.
So it's a lot to be gone from your life. But, it will get better my dear friends. I promise.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Stuck in a Phone Tree?

Ok, I just said these phone tree things were good, all warm and fuzzy and personal. But service industry phone trees give me the flux. Wall Street Journal recently had an article about how to get around company phone trees. You know, the endless prompts with the humanesque sounding voice telling you to "enter or say your account number....oh I'mmm sorry, I didn't get that, can you try it again?" Bug off!

I never minded automated sounding voices (accept the female voice in parking lots "please take a ticket" I hate her and I curse her out every single time) but these newer voices make too much of an attempt to sound personably like humans. That irks me. The damn prompts never get you where you need to go or answer your situation. So the Journal writes about this web site that helps get us to a real live human, They have some valuable suggestions and a database of secret phone numbers and codes to get to humans in hundreds of companies. This is a must save site.

However, I figured this out already. I have tried my way on several different places from AT&T to UPS. It works. All you have to do when it prompts for a response from you, is just YELL at it. Then, every time I get, "hold for a customer assistant". A human being at last! Somehow yelling "I WANNA TALK TO A PERSON" or anything yelled triggers out of the prompt tree. Try it. It's worked for me and it's fun too. Yayyyyy Real People!

Phone Trees Are Good

Phone trees are like a relay message system. I like the idea of phone trees. It is especially good when you have a large network of family, friends and/or co-workers etc. involved. Phone trees can be very organized with each person assigned to call specific persons or very casual, like.. "hey, call me when you get there and I'll call Timmie and Lassie and then Lassie can take a note to grandpa up on the mountain...". Good girl.
Beware though, an organized phone tree is only as good as it's branches. One broken branch and the whole thing could end up with "nobody called me, I didn't know", or "how's Craig?.. his funeral was Tuesday, OMG!"
Oh I really hate that!

When my mom was in the hospital very sick at one point, the hospital actually suggested we organize a tree chain thingy because so many folks were calling to inquire about her the lines were jammed. She thought that was cool. omg.

But, whether pre-set or casually put together even on the spot, these trees are cool in emergencies or when people are upset, preoccupied, not thinking clearly, need help or just need to keep people informed.

So, I was just thinking with the anniversary of Katrina coming up and our current High Alert status, we tend to feel a bit not in control. I think it helps if we can feel secure that our personal connections are in tact. And we never know who can provide what when we need it. I mean a hug, a burger, a ride, a shoulder, a congratulations, a doctor, a lawyer, a cool head, just being there, a prayer, a laugh, an I love you. It's a good thing and it's reciprocal. We need that.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Military Logic?

Sargeant Bleu Copas, a decorated member of the U.S. Army, a member of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division and a highly regarded Arabic linguist, was discharged from the U.S. Armed Services because he is gay. There was no other reason.

No, he did not dance on base in his jockey's with a feathered boa, paint his locker pink, post pics of his boyfriend above his bunk or pounce on his comrads. His fellow servicemen did not know he was gay because he carefully adhered to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell, law. He did join the 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus and lost his army career due to anonymous emails sent to the choral director indicating that someone in the chorus was gay. This began the witch hunt to track down the offensive gay person and expel him from the army. This is how we fight the war on terror.

Due to the pressure to increase recruitment, the US military is however unofficially relaxing it's standards that are designed to keep racist extremists out of the armed forces. According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, there are currently thousands of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists on active duty.

So, If I have this right, the United States military feels that gay soldiers pose more of a threat than members of extreme anti-government groups. This is the logic used in fighting the war on terror?

Sargeant Copas enlisted after 911. He planned to make the army his career. But, he will not because while our military is willing to overlook training terroist with their own agendas, they cannot overlook something that has nothing to do with service and continue to discharge valued soldiers wanting to serve and protect this country.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Tide Turning?

I hope so. There are several new books out, some published by Christian publishing houses, expressing disagreement with the current atmosphere in this country that to be a good Christian you must be a conservative Republican. It's like Christian=Republican. If you are a God forbid, liberal, have misgivings about the war, believe GLBT folks should have equal marriage rights, be pro-choice or have any thoughts outside the conservative box, it reflects on your Christianity. This is the agenda being encouraged by the President of the United States and many Americans are goose-stepping to it. This may seem a harsh way to put it, but that's the reality of it.

The New York Times ran an article about Rev. Greg Boyd, a senior minister at Woodland Hills Church, in Maplewood, MN near St. Paul. Woodland Hills is an evangelical megachurch with a conservative congregation and Rev. Boyd has for the most part conservative views. That's fine. But he understands the importance of separation of church and state. (It's right there amongst the U.S. history and in the Constitution George W, look it up.)

Rev. Boyd got fed up with requests from church members and visitors alike:
"Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?"
Rev. Boyd refused each request and developed a six sermon series called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should not be in the business of politics, should stop moralizing on sexual issues, and stop glorifying American military campaigns.
Woodland lost about 1000 of it's 5000 members with many walking out during Rev. Boyd's sermons. But, he is also hearing a collective exhalation from members who have been holding their breaths afraid that if they question the war in Iraq or any conservative social stance, it means they don't love Jesus.

Randall Balmer, a religion professor at Barnard College and an evangelical, has written “Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America -- an Evangelical’s Lament.”

Brian D. McLaren, the founding pastor at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Gaithersburg, Md. is a leader in challenging the more politicized evangelical establishment.
“More and more people are saying this has gone too far -- the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right,” Mr. McLaren said. “You cannot say the word ‘Jesus’ in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can’t say the word ‘Christian,’ and you certainly can’t say the word ‘evangelical’ without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people.

“Because people think, ‘Oh no, what is going to come next is homosexual bashing, or pro-war rhetoric, or complaining about ‘activist judges.’ ”

Mr. Boyd has a new book out, “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church,” which is based on his sermons.

Mr. Boyd lambasted the “hypocrisy and pettiness” of Christians who focus on “sexual issues” like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson’s breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

“Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,” he said. “And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed.”

I dashed off an e-mail to Rev. Boyd and received a reply.
Hello Rev. Boyd,
I live in Chicago IL and I just read an article about your book and sermons challenging the current religious/political bond. I want to say THANK YOU!!!!! Thank you very much. Thanks for having the courage to breakaway and say what so desperately needed to be said. Thanks for speaking what is in the hearts and minds of so many people in our country who are disturbed by the connotation that to be Christian is not only to be Republican but to be of a certain narrow, intolerant, military, America can do no wrong mind set.
I am an extremely patriotic American, I love my country deeply. But to love it means I want it to live up to it's ideals (not it's practices) of religious and personal freedoms. It does not meant love it or leave it, God is on our side no matter what we do, or that we can sit in judgement of others because they are different and then translate those judgements into laws.
I am also a Christian. I love Jesus and I know he loves me. I attend a wonderful church. It hurts me to see the attitude in America that being a Christian is not enough. You have to be a certain type of Christian. It's sad and it's dangerous and scares me.
Please continue your work. Please impress on your listeners that a single minded nation would be death of what America is supposed to be. I have always wanted Muslims, especially Muslim-Americans to speak up and let the world know that to be Muslim does not mean you are a terrorist or that you are sympathetic to terrorist. Well I hope Christians will do the same. Speak up and say we can have philosophical differences and political differences and still be Christian.
I hope our nation will come back to it's senses and heed the wisdom of the founding fathers regarding the separation of church and state.

His reply
Hi Jackie,
Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback. I'm receiving thousands of similar e-mails from people all over the world. People all over the place are tired of the fusion of the cross and the sword that has been taking place in American religion. I'm happy to play a small role in helping people see a beautiful alternative.

If you want to go further with this, you might enjoy Myth of a Christian Nation.

In any case, thanks for your very encouraging words.

Greg Boyd

I am sure that Rev. Boyd and I have many differences of opinion and I am sure that he agrees with me that the church has been and should be a place where social justice and change is a priority, but not a pawn for a political party or justification for military action.