Sunday, November 30, 2008

Losing "Friend Points" for myself

I just came back from the Midwest (barely ahead of the snow, which slowed me down a tad in Indy). Visited my two good friends who always make me feel welcome. It had been two years and I missed them.

These are such cool folks, really unique, self-determining, independent, colorful, and genuine. I met the wife through some online writing groups and have probably been to visit them about a half-dozen times since. They are very busy, even with the husband being retired -- they have a farm and the wife works full-time. Visiting them always gives me a lift, because their home is such a reflection of their personalities. First of all, there are books EVERYWHERE. Plenty of knick-knacks and art on the walls. Always something to look at, think about, talk about.

Being married to Carl for nearly 12 years has turned me into more of a neat/clean freak than I ever imagined possible. I take sparkling toilets, empty kitchen sinks, sorted laundry and invisible dust for granted. I've also become fairly intolerant of clutter, letting it build to a point and then clearing it all out. I sometimes look at my house, especially after I return from a visit with them, and decide that we're really boring people. Our house just doesn't scream out much about our personalities or lifestyle. It's just a house. It doesn't reflect our combined 102 years of life on the planet. You can probably discern something or other if you look long and hard enough, but I'm sure there's nothing memorable about it.

My visits with my friends have brought out these rather conflicting sides of me. I love all their "stuff," but have a problem with the sheer volume of it and the underlying environmental conditions. The place truly is not clean. He smokes inside, which Carl does not, regardless of the weather (bless him!!). Ashtrays are in every room of the house, filled to overflowing. The outside gets tracked in all day long, and there's an unemptied litter box in the bathroom.

Worst of all, things just get piled everywhere. My friend is something of a "mother hen" to some of her other friends, who have fluctuating financial situations. Some of them end up staying over there long-term. Consequently, their belongings stay there, too. My friend complained this weekend that her house has become a dumping ground for things that people bring over and leave -- her way of dealing with it is making it freely available for any other visitor to use (things like Judy's special green tea or Joyce's handmade pillows, etc.).

I really sympathize, except that I am convinced that the "orphan belongings" represent merely a fraction of all the other things that belong to them and never get thrown out, filed or sorted.

I've visited there every year since they moved in. First time, they were in a double-wide while the house was being built, so this is a brand-new house. In the course of five years, the mountains of stuff have just gotten bigger. I'm convinced that if you did an archeological dig on their kitchen table, you'd find old magazines from 2003, and maybe before. The place was "pleasantly eclectic" the first couple of years. Now it's depressingly chaotic.

There are no uncluttered spaces, no unobstructed lines, in the entire house. Nothing gets thrown out, just moved to the side to make room for something new. It's getting so I can't deal with it, even sojourning for 2 or 3 nights.

Someone reading this might think "Well, if it bothers you so much, why don't you offer to help them clean it?"

I have.

On my second visit after they moved into the house, my friend was under the weather, fretting about the new carpet being dirty, etc. I was more than happy to get out the vacuum and go over every inch of carpet they had. I also dusted, dumped the litter box and cleaned the toilet. There wasn't much clutter, so I stacked things a bit more neatly, folded some laundry and swept. I felt good about it and my friend was appreciative. I did the same, to a lesser extent, on the next couple of visits.

But this time? No. I see no point. I worry that my friends are turning into Mr. & Mrs. Collier, and that one day, the mountain of stuff is just going to cave in. The cat climbs up on the kitchen table and lies on top of it all until they yell at him to get down. One day the cat will take a false step...

I feel guilty writing this because a large part of me firmly believes that your behavior towards others is way more important than how nice you keep your house. But it just seems a damn shame on so many other levels -- mental health, physical health, even fiscal health. But these aren't the clueless, incompetent losers you often see on "cure the clutter" shows like Clean Sweep -- which used to inspire me on my previous visits. They are genuinely busy, simply not able to keep up. But I sense an air of resignation now, like "This is how we are, and everyone else will have to accept it."

I know I'll be invited back and am beginning to wonder whether or not to accept... Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to All of Y'all...

...and I'll be back here in less than a month to do it again for Christmas...

Seriously, do something that makes you feel good this weekend.


Volly Click Here to Read More..

This is New! Yeah -- It is!

My local online-only news site offers the absolute best and worst of grass-roots opinion. Never mind people having to give their real names when they send in a "letter to the editor." Never mind spelling, grammar or logical coherency. If you want boring stuff like that, read the New York Times.

One erudite soul wrote in to express the opinion that Barack Obama is "scary," by virtue of the fact that he appears in his press conferences behind a podium that carries the label "Office of the President-elect."

To this guy, it's all part of that grand conspiracy to take over the world. The man and his minions of secret Marxist satanists. How dare the guy actually prepare for the most important office in the world, which he's going to be assuming in less than 2 months?

No, he should be more like his predecessor, who did NO advance preparation for his office. Or none that any of us knew about. It was actually all done for him, by his handlers, who had been preparing for January 20, 2001 since approximately June of 1974.

Next time I show up early to a meeting, or make an effort to be prepared for anything important, I'll also be ready with an apology for my arrogance and Marxist-Satanist leanings. Click Here to Read More..

Monday, November 24, 2008

Whacko Tourism

Forget museum tours, saying farewell to the glaciers, swimming with the dolphins or even the 8 wonders of the world. No longer do we have to explore Aztec ruins to get a glimpse of how those quaint sects expressed their worldview. Just pick a spot at random on a map and chances are, you'll be able to find a fairly large group of people who think they have "the answers" and would like nothing better than to share them with you...

More mainstream traditionalists include people like actor Mel Gibson, who is building his own church in Malibu, Calif., that is not recognized by the Catholic archdiocese.

What’s unusual about New Jerusalem is its size, Leatham said. The town is probably the biggest “apocalyptic colony” in the world, he said, bigger than the Branch Davidian settlement at Waco, Texas, or Jonestown in Guyana.

And if you don't have your passport handy, hop on down to Florida. Tom Monaghan will be happy to see you. At the very least, you could get some free pizza. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From The New York Times on Wednesday:

Happy people spend a lot of time socializing, going to church and reading newspapers — but they don’t spend a lot of time watching television, a new study finds.

That’s what unhappy people do.


I can't dispute this one, in terms of personal and observed experience.

Though, it's hard to say if "gluing oneself to a computer and reading online versions of the news" really qualifies as "reading the newspaper."

But assuming it does ... my household aligns with this. Carl will sit in front of the TV all day whenever he can. I drop in to watch "Two and a Half Men" and then it's back to my preferred set of activities. I can only take the tube for a couple of hours tops, even without the usual distractions. Does blogging count as "socializing?" I think most people would say it does. Maybe not the same as attending a party or playing bridge, but there is give and take, varying according to the blogger's preferences and topics.

Too much time on the living room sofa is like being stuck in a high school locker room where there are lots of smelly socks.

Carl gets ALL his news from TV. He's not miserable, but he's certainly depressed and disinclined toward socializing.

Now, what would we have said in the pre-TV days? What did the unhappy people do back then?

Is there a correlation between TV-induced idleness and depression? How about the similar timelines between TV and other conveniences such as automatic washers and interstate highways that led to the development of supermarkets?

It's all connected, folks.

Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, November 20, 2008


A random overheard conversation yesterday conjured up a childhood episode I hadn't thought about in decades.

Nearly every weekend, my parents would get going on a case of beer (Ballantine Ale, if the brand matters to ya). They'd spend all of Saturday, and quite often Sunday as well, becoming increasingly loud, argumentative, and inevitably violent. It didn't matter if they went out somewhere or if we had company. By the time I was midway through elementary school, visits from relatives had trickled to nearly nothing. Outings always involved my dad showing off his alcohol-impaired driving skills, which weren't great even at the height of sobriety.

The "main event" was always a physical dust-up. The first time I called the police on them, I was eight. So it was sometime before that when this incident occurred.

Mom and Dad were in each other's faces. Dad was a few inches taller than Mom; he advanced on her and the body language said somebody was going to get hit. I grabbed a notebook -- a half-inch three ring binder, made of the flimsiest paperboard -- reached up and hit my father on top of the head with it.

He stopped yelling at my mother, turned around and looked down at me. The look and the tone of voice were classic parental disapproval.

"Oh, Volly," he said. "I am so disappointed in you."

No, there was no punishment. One time after that I tried to break them up; he kind of snarled "Don't interfere!" at me, but that was about as bad as that ever got. I'm just struck by the irony that he found my lame attempt at peacemaking to be so objectionable and inappropriate.

As many kids often mistakenly believe that they are the cause of their parents' conflict, an equal number must feel on some level that their purpose in being born was to "cure" their parents' problems. We feel a sense of personal failure when that doesn't work out. Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Time to put back that Amazon widget and stick this one up there...

In their new book Steeplejacking United Church of Christ Ministers John Dorhauer and Sheldon Culver describe the organized efforts of the religious right to silence the members of the religious left within mainline Protestant churches.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy was founded in 1981 by conservative Democrats who realized that liberal elements in the mainline Protestant churches had been among the most powerful opponents of hawkish American foreign policy. Over the years, the Institute has been very successful in turning the flocks of liberal pastors against them.

More on this... Click Here to Read More..

5 Good, 5 Bad

Another quickie...

5 Good Things Right Now, no particular order...

1. Obama.
2. Lots of rain lately.
3. Quitting neighborhood association after the first of the year.
4. Spent the week getting reacquainted with my old job. Good crew.
5. Looking forward to probable Thanksgiving trip to see BFF in Illinois

5 Bad Things Right Now, no particular order...

1. Carl got sick at work yesterday.
2. The auto repairs I've been putting off may cost me an arm & a leg today.
edited to add, 11:43: I underestimated. It cost an arm, a leg, a couple of toenails, and several gray hairs. And probably my gizzard.
3. Another month and a half to go before I'm out of the neighborhood association.
4. Phone bill went up 20 bucks.
5. Another Sunday forum at church tomorrow and I have nothing prepared. Click Here to Read More..

Friday, November 14, 2008


I've been both busy AND blocked, to the point that I haven't even had time to sit down and check in with all the blogs on my list. Typically, I comment way more than I post, but in the last week, that has fallen off. Still, I find myself reading various things online and thinking it would make a good topic for a post if only I had the time.

So, here I'll just toss a few out, hope one or two sticks to the wall, and then perhaps come back this weekend and and expand.

1. Blame it on (the) Moon
This article from 3 months back fascinated me when I was directed to it this morning. It had always struck me, however vaguely, that while in the early 1970s, Rev. Moon was viewed as nothing but another potentially dangerous cult leader, all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, he was the owner of a respectable conservative newspaper, The Washington Times, and no one was sounding alarm bells about him anymore. In view of Jim Jones and David Koresh, to name but two, it did seem odd that Reverend Moon was no longer the focus of suspicion and distrust. This should help clear it up quite nicely, for anyone else who might have wondered about it.

2. Just move it to "fiction," already.
Some online friends of mine are having yet another debate about what the creation story in Genesis really said, really meant, etc. One person pointed out the passage in which Adam and Eve, having eaten from the tree of knowledge, covered their nakedness and then tried to hide from God. God came looking for them, and this person pointed out how silly that was -- what, his omniscience failed all of a sudden? He couldn't see behind a rock or a tree?

I just don't get why people debate the bible at all. How much simpler our lives would be to just say "Ah, some primitive type trying to make sense out of life's mysteries. An interesting take...flawed...I mean, look at the terrible plot devices and stilted dialogue. But kind of quaint to read. Now what were we talking about before? Oh, yeah...what we're going to do this weekend..."

Well, lunch hour is rapidly drawing to a close, so I'll post more as I think of them. I'm very, very glad it's Friday. Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, November 09, 2008


(I know, it's a weird title for a post but bear with me...)

My pediatrician was a big proponent of yogurt, and this was back in the late '50s, early '60s, long before yogurt gained any kind of commercial traction. So I grew up with it, the way other kids might grow up eating pudding. I remember back then, Dannon was the only brand out there, and the containers were much bigger than they are now. There seemed to be more flavors, too, including chocolate. I've always liked it, always bought it.

I started a diet a little over 2 months ago. I know my weight's been causing me a variety of lesser problems, including joint pain, acid reflux, sleep apnea, and a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. So I went back to my roots, so to speak -- Mom was a big believer in raw veggies, which is something else I grew up with. Green peppers, carrots & celery as a late night snack, instead of potato chips. All the things Carl, my husband, doesn't care for. Small portions, etc. Yogurt for dessert.

Well, I dropped 5 lbs with very little difficulty, and that's the first significant loss since 2002, when I tried the Atkins/Zone method. At that time I was unemployed so I didn't have to opt for carb-laden convenience foods. That time, I dropped 13 lbs in 6 weeks before starting to edge back up.

So that 5 lbs has been something to feel good about -- even after the first 3 lbs came off I saw the difference in the way my clothes fit.

However, around the end of October, I noticed I'd plateaued -- part of this is that our money situation improved slightly and we could buy more food with each trip to the store. For awhile there had been virtually no meat in the freezer - my husband, a big meat eater, would just get something at Mickey D's to hold him over. But things started to improve and we went back to our stock-ups. I think what happened was, we were making up for the lean times by concentrating our spending on what we'd missed. So we were buying meat, coffee, drinks, frozen stuff, etc. In order to maximize our "stash" of food, I think I made the subconscious decision to forgo yogurt in favor of things Carl liked more, like pudding.

Well, not only has the weight loss come to a screeching halt, but my digestion has recently become problematic. That never happened before. Picture an interstate highway at rush hour with all but one lane blocked for construction and you'll get the idea. Not pleasant. I had my first reflux episode a few nights ago, too -- I attributed that to Carl's killer chili, which tastes awesome but wouldn't ever be mistaken for a health food.

...Incidentally, "Carl's killer chili" is a tongue-twister to rival "toy boat."

But it wasn't until yesterday that it occurred to me, this problem coincides with the period of time I haven't been eating yogurt. As soon as I figured it out, I couldn't wait to get over to the store and hit the dairy aisle. Carl worked a super-early shift today (6:30am), so I dropped him off and high-tailed it to good old 24-hr Wal-mart. Got 2 big multi-packs of Activia and DanActive, which have different types of cultures, but both aimed at "digestive health." Two other happy moments came with that. I got a slight discount, being able to use the rest of an old gift card I had in my wallet -- a couple of bucks. And, leaving the parking lot, I noticed their gas station was advertising $1.99 per gallon. First time since 2005 at the earliest that the price has been so low -- maybe Thanksgiving of 2006. It was such a treat to see $1.99, I went ahead and filled up. Can't remember the last time I did that, either. Maybe last March, when I went to visit Wally up north.

So the day has started off on a pretty good note. I have an absolutely insane day ahead of me, with about half a dozen separate church activities all requiring my presence, but I think it will be fine. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Just one question

...and I'd love to get feedback.

How many of you are OLDER than our Prez-elect?

This is the first time for me. Feels a little strange.

Not bad...just strange!! Click Here to Read More..

Volly's Souvenir Post

Other than "Yay!" I can't think of anything terribly original to say about this awesome, wonderful, hope-affirming election result. So, I've decided to paste the first headline from all the bloggers in my sidebar (or the best ones starting around 11:00 last night, since many have posted several times already).

This, after all, is what blogs are for.


From The Immoral Minority:
Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States!
From The Chaliceblog:

WAHOO!!!! Thank you, Virginia!!!

From Atheist Revolution:
From Fran's Ramblings:

If she could .....

Lady Liberty would be dancing!
(picture at right pasted along with the headline).

From Lugosi's Mirth, Musings & More:
This Race is Now Over.

From James Ishmael Ford:
Joys & Sorrows
(a sober reminder that all is not well - Proposition 8 appears to have passed in California)
From Hugo Schwyzer:
Quiet Tears
From Mound of Sound:
From Cosmic Connie:

"Sail on, sail on, o mighty Ship of State..."

From The Atheist Experience:
One big victory
From the divine Ms. Kay:
All Done.

From Bad-Tempered Zombie:
thank you, America
From The Rev. Reed Braden:
That Was Quick

Letters from a Hill Farm:
Quote du jour/Mary Lois
Tomorrow will be another day. But this is the big one.
From Primordial Blog:
Way to Go America!
From The Invisible Pink Unicorn:
It's Obama!
From Tangled Up in Blue Guy:
I Have Been to the Mountaintop
From Questions About Faith, Etc.
Obama's Hope
From Internal Monologue:
Fireworks lighting up my neighborhood
[mine too, Zach, and surprisingly few gunshots!]

From Dennis Palumbo:


From Helen Wheels:
America WINS!

A good representative sample for now and a good stopping point, since I'm late for the shower.

Have a great, inspiring day, everybody!

-Volly Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, November 02, 2008

This truly sums it up for me.

Johann Hari in the Huffington Post

Here are a few excerpts:

"...we can already map out the four tectonic shifts rumbling beneath this election. They all began before Obama...

"...the reasons why so many of us love the US, even as we hate some of its actions. The country is capable of many crimes - but it is also open and free enough to produce the antibodies that begin to put them right.

"...for under-30s, Obama has a 47 percent lead. Not a 47 percent vote - a 47 percent lead.

"This election shows a desire by American people to move beyond the sterile stupidities of racism..." Click Here to Read More..

A long, long road for the rationalists in INDIA

Okay, all you Western skeptics.

You think YOU'VE got it tough?

Try being an atheist in India.

Some folks are trying and they can probably use all the help & support they can get.


Now, today at church we had a guest who lives half the year in an ashram in southern India, following a lady popularly known as The Hugging Saint. We saw DVD's of "Amma's" work -- she's attained multiple honors from the UN and the Indian government, and there is no doubt whatsoever that she has done phenomenal work for humanitarian causes.

It's certainly not difficult to become inspired by Amma's accomplishments. Our guest today talked about how she "was called -- sold everything and went to join the ashram." I pondered this -- over the last year or so I've met more than a couple of people who have chucked nearly everything in the material world to devote themselves full-time to one spiritual cause or another.

Sometimes it's tempting to contemplate. A great many of us, I think, often look around and ask themselves, Is this all there is? Is this what life's about - schlepping back and forth to the office every day, trying to keep ourselves from going under, losing this house, with its carpeting, Cuisinarts and computers? Would it be such a radical leap to give it all up and just go where the need is greatest? To save just one life? To bring hope?

Unlike some uber-materialists like Rush Limbaugh, I find no reason to denigrate people who adopt such an ascetic lifestyle. In fact, the older I get, the more sense it makes.

And that's the place where you start hearing the spiritual talk. The "higher purpose" talk.

Is it a spiritual undertaking to care more about other people's lives and well-being than your own interests? It's troubling to me, because it's nearly impossible to hear anyone talk about wanting to adopt a self-denying existence without bringing invisible beings into it. Seems to me, it's enough just to say, "Hey, look at this teeming mass of humanity we're all part of. We need a way to ensure that we don't lower ourselves to a primitive, animalistic state just to survive. We need a way to achieve our greatest potential, make the most of the few decades we have here and secure the future for the generations that follow."

I find it interesting how people who have come back from the brink of extinction (victims of flood, earthquake, famine, etc.) almost immediately turn inward and start wasting their time and energy setting up shrines and praising an imaginary being, rather than rolling up their sleeves and saying "Those people who rebuilt our village and got the power on are the ones we should be inspired by. I'm going to learn how to build houses and roads and make a difference." Or "None of this can be achieved without education -- I'm going to get some people together and start a school." Certainly some people do just that -- judging by the videos we saw today, that's the mindset in some places But the same catastrophes are going to just keep happening until people start looking at life in a pragmatic way, rather than just relying on superstition and magic.

Plenty of rambling thoughts here -- sorry! Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Don't dress like you come from the wrong side of the aisle!

Mike at TangledupinBlueGuy offers us a fascinating story about students at the University of Northern Iowa being ejected from a McCain rally. It appears visual profiles were used by campaign staffers to identify the students as, well, "not our kind."

A lack of photos in the article makes it impossible to figure out what the staffers saw to aid in their decision. Stories like this tend to make me imagine myself in this type of situation.

I'm fairly confident that I would go under the radar of any hypervigilant staffer, regardless of the event. I don't think my outward appearance could ever be "typed" -- I'm your classic fade-into-the-woodwork sort.

So what would I need in order to get myself thrown out of a McCain rally?

Let's see...a suit or a dress would allow me to stay UNLESS it were a peasant skirt. Hmm. Screams "hippie!" Ditto for something too revealing. A formal-looking Jackie-Kennedy type dress would work OK, even if it were black, but otherwise, it would have to be pastel or floral to pass Republican muster. Unless I sported an American flag pin...then I'd be waved through.

Shoes. Nice, low-key sandals and properly pedicured toes would get me the GOP stamp of approval, as would pumps. But nothing that looked too "comfortable." No hiking shoes or subversive-looking sneakers. If I were a guy, well okay, but no decent Christian girl runs around in feminist footwear. "Real" women prefer to "mince & wince."

Hair -- a biggie. Bleach-blonde is fine and better than fine, and subtle streaks would work OK, but no garish reds from the bottle or other non-natural colors. And if my actual color is anything darker than "brownette," I'd do best to plop a wig on my head or go for a lightening job. Don't want to look too witchy. Of course, if I happen to be African-American, nobody's going to believe I really want to support McCain. No point in even trying to get into that rally. ...or Cedar Falls Iowa, for that matter...

The style should be neat, freshly cut, preferably kind of on the straight side. And not so short that anyone wouldn't immediately know I was a girl. No wild perms or untamed manes. Must look preppy. A ponytail is fine as long as it's adorned with a cute scrunchie or other ornament.

Jewelry should look like I borrowed it from Mom. Precious stones that came from African mines with darker-hued natives doing the hard work. No wood or stone jewelry -- that's for the Haight-Ashbury crowd, dontcha know, and that includes the cross around the neck. That always gets worn on the outside, but it doesn't have to be too big -- think Madonna and you'll understand the size restrictions.

McCain girls smile at all times. Why? Because they have no worries. Hubby, or Daddy, or their hockey mom will be close by to protect and shepherd them at all times. It's only those angry liberal women who forget how to turn on the charm.

Guys want to look like they either stopped by on their way back from Iraq, or the duck blind, or the office. No shorts, no pink, no hairstyles that look like they might have been fashionable in the 1970s.

And smile, fellas. Show that entrepreneurial spirit!

Remember, it's not how you feel, it's how you look. Remember to look mahvelous, dahlink, and you get to keep your seat. Good luck... Click Here to Read More..