Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Dobson 2012 Letter and the Reality of the Bush Administration's Abuses

I've been absent from blogging for awhile due to my day job (which I sort of have to do) and a writing project (which is now complete).

I don't have much time to do my own writing today, but I thought it intriguing to post two items which, in juxtaposition to one another, are quite striking.  The first is James Dobson's "Letter from 2012" in which he posits an apocalyptic vision of America under an Obama presidency.  The second is a NYT article detailing some of the actual abuses of the Bush administration.  The irony is that Dobson foresees a vision of an America where civil liberties are abused by a "Liberal Leftist" government, and, yet, the NYT article displays the reality of an America where civil liberties have been jettisoned by the current administration.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stupid Bible Tricks # 1

I’ve been a professor of Old Testament for sixteen years now, and in my profession you run into some very strange and, often, ridiculous interpretations of the Bible. I decided I would do a series called “Stupid Bible Tricks” to highlight several of these low moments in hermeneutics. Some are simply silly. Others are downright outrageous. Still others are becoming increasingly dangerous as their popularity spreads, and common sense is replaced by a mechanistic and almost magical view of scripture.

The first Stupid Bible Trick I want to consider is what I’ll call “The Alef-Tav Sermon.” It falls into the downright outrageous category as it is based on huge jumps of (ill) logic and disregard for how language works. I first heard this sermon in a church where Kelly was on staff but was not the pastor. I was in seminary at the time, working on my Ph.D. The pastor was aware that I was specializing in Old Testament and that I knew Hebrew.

It was Sunday morning, and I was seated behind the pulpit along with the other choir members. We had done all the typical Baptist preliminaries of worship in preparation for the highlight of the service: the sermon. As we sat down, the pastor arose, walked to the pulpit, and announced that he was going to preach a series of sermons called “Jesus in Genesis.” I groaned inwardly, because I knew that meant he would be christologizing the OT (i.e. inserting Christian ideas into the OT text in order to make the it seem more relevant). But I had no idea what he was going to do when he said, “And today, I will preach on Jesus Christ in Genesis chapter 1, verse 1.”

I’m sure there were a few introductory illustrations and other content that allowed the sermon to extend to the mandatory 25 minutes, but what I remember of the sermon was this. The preacher read the text, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Then he said, “Now, in between the word ‘created’ and the words ‘the heavens’ there’s a little Hebrew word called ‘et.’ He turned toward me, seated unsuspecting in the choir, and asked, ”Isn’t there, Susan?“ Shocked that I was being addressed at all during the sermon, and knowing that there was, indeed, that little word, I nodded. Smiling smugly, he turned back to the congregation and launched into what has to be the most appalling misuse of Hebrew I’ve ever heard.

”Now,“ he said in his best Texas-preacher voice, ”that little word, ‘et,’ isn’t translated, so you can’t see it in your English Bible. But, it’s there, and here’s the amazing thing: it’s spelled alef tav. Now, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is alef. The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is tav.“ His face began to turn red with excitement. The jugular veins were bulging as his voice grew louder. And, wiping the sweat beads from his forehead, he said profoundly: ”Alef and tav, the first and the last, the Alpha, the Omega! Jesus Christ in Genesis 1:1!!!!“

My jaw dropped, and I’m certain I turned scarlet red. He had just pulled off an incredibly stupid Bible trick, and he had used me to substantiate it. Of course I couldn’t just stand up in the choir loft and rebut him. No, there was nothing I could do but follow the other choir members out of the loft,. Bubbling with fury, I waited for my husband to return to the little trailer we called home. I busted forth with righteous indignation the moment he entered, declaring my intent to confront the preacher Monday morning and teach him a thing or two about Hebrew.

But, Kelly’s calmer mind prevailed, and, in spite of the injustice, he counseled me to remain silent. Maintaining a good relationship with the pastor was pretty important if Kelly was going to keep his job, after all.

So, I never got my moment in the pastor’s office, but each fall, with every new group of Hebrew students, I tell this story as an example of how not to use Hebrew. That little word, ”et,“ which functions as the sign of the direct object in Hebrew appears thousands of times in the Old Testament. If one claims that ”et“ in Genesis 1 refers to Jesus Christ, then wouldn’t one have to claim the same for every verse in which this little word appears? So what, then, does one do when the OT reads, ”And Adam knew “et” his wife, Eve“? Is Jesus right there in the middle? Oooo, a bit awkward, isn’t it?

The sad thing is that I’m not the only one who has heard this sermon (though I doubt the other preachers had an unsuspecting Hebrew dupe in their churches). Indeed, apparently this is a ”stock“ sermon that came out of an institution of ”higher“ learning located in Dallas. Said institution has spawned many preachers who have regurgitated the Alef Tav sermon to their unwitting congregations. And so, this stupid Bible trick is propagated, while stalwart Hebrew teachers, wielding their grammars and lexicons, doggedly call their students to higher standards of interpretation.

And so, the Alef Tav sermon earns the special distinction of being the first Stupid Bible Trick to make my list.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Sister the Sister

My sister is a Sister, that is, a nun. And not just any kind of nun. She’s a full-blown habit-bedecked cloister-enclosed sort of nun.

It’s kind of odd that Sister Mary Giovanna of the Sacred Stigmata P.C.C. (formerly Karen Lynn Day) came out of my family. We weren’t Catholic, you see. My parents, former Methodists, stopped attending church after a few disheartening episodes of church bullying (more on that later). Thus, Sundays were for sleeping late, reading the comics, and watching Dad mow the lawn in his Bermuda shorts and allergy mask.

But something mysterious took root in my sister’s heart when she was a high school student. Her social studies class took a field trip to different churches in Albuquerque as part of a unit on religion. My sister said that when the group visited the Catholic church, she sensed God there.

She decided to visit a Catholic church for real, so she called her friend Cindy, who was a Catholic, and asked if she could go with her to Mass the next Sunday. “Why?” Cindy asked, baffled. “Because I want to,” my sister replied.” “But, why?” Cindy repeated, incredulous that anyone should want to go to Mass voluntarily.

But my sister did go voluntarily, and soon she was attending--religiously.

None of us in the family really understood the extent to which Karen loved Catholicism. I suspect my parents thought it was a faze that she would eventually outgrow. Oh, but it wasn’t a faze.

I remember the night she revealed to me her ultimate dreams, swearing me to secrecy. “Susan,” she said, her voice quivering with excitement. “I’m going to become a nun.” “Why?” I asked. “Because I want to do something that will allow me to pray and to sing and to play music all day long for God.” “Oh,” I said simply. I didn’t understand it completely, but I could sense her happiness. Besides, being a nun suited her.

My parents, however, were crushed. In their view, she was throwing her life away, her potential locked up with a bunch of old maids who thought they were married to Jesus. As far as they were concerned, she might as well have joined a cult.

But, they let her go even though it broke their hearts. She joined the Poor Clare Nuns, a Franciscan order. Happily, there was a monastery only four hours from Albuquerque, in Roswell, home of UFOs and about forty nuns.

Over time, my folks learned to accept Karen’s choice, and, as she blossomed in the fertile soil of contemplative living, they even grew to celebrate it.

Many people are quite curious when they find out my sister’s a nun. “What on earth does she do all day?” they wonder. “Doesn’t she want to get married?” others ask, mystified. “You mean she stays in that monastery all the time and doesn’t come out?” still others demand. And, there’s always the Evangelical who wants to know, “But, is she saved?”

In response: (1) she prays for the world all day and in the middle of the night, too. (2) She considers herself married to Jesus, and I’ve heard he’s quite the bridegroom. (3) Yes, except for doctor’s appointments and medical emergencies. (4) She loves Jesus with her soul and has devoted her life entirely to God. What do you think?

My sister’s Catholic; I’m Protestant. And, while we don’t always approach spirituality the same way, we’re both on the same journey.

Personally, I think it’s pretty cool having a sister who’s a Sister.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Favorite Mac Software (So Far)

I’ve owned my Macbook for almost two months now, and I’ve added a bunch of software that has been just terrific. I thought I would compile a list of software I have found to be the most helpful along with a “wish list” of things I hope to add in the future. As an academic, most of these programs relate to my job as an educator, but some are simply helpful things to have on a Mac. I’ve noted when the programs offer an educational discount to students and/or professors.

Applications I Own

Adium Instant messaging application. Adium has a highly customizable interface which makes it more fun to use than iChat. Unfortunately you can’t do video chat with it, but since I don’t know many people who do video chat anyway, that isn’t a problem. Free. http://www.adiumx.com/

AppZapper An application that completely removes other applications you no longer want on your Mac. Since I’ve been experimenting with lots of new programs, it’s nice to have something that gets rid of all the extraneous, hidden files when you delete an application off your computer. $12.95. http://www.appzapper.com/

Bookpedia A terrific program that allows you to catalog your library. The best part is that you can use your iSight camera to read the barcodes on books--then all the information on the book is automatically loaded into the application. If you can’t find the cover art for a book, you can use the iSight camera to photograph the book itself (the program automatically provides a grid so you can place the book cover properly). A free iPhone version is available so that you can carry your library with you everywhere. Note: Bookpedia is substantially cheaper than the better-known Delicious Library (which is $40.00), and while Delicious might have more “bells and whistles,” if it does, I couldn’t figure out what made it so much more expensive. $18.00. http://www.bruji.com/bookpedia/

Circus Ponies Notebook Note taking software that utilizes a notebook metaphor. I initially purchased this as a replacement for the Windows-only One Note, and while I may continue using it for note taking, I’m seriously considering Scrivener (see below) which seems more suited to the kind of research and writing I do. Nevertheless, I have found a wonderful application for this program. I have converted a textbook I wrote into Notebook format. For the past ten years, or so, I’ve printed this textbook through our university printshop and asked students to purchase it through our bookstore. With Circus Ponies Notebook, however, I’ve turned the text into an Internet-based document (you can export the notebook in HTML). Now, students can click on weblinks and go directly to those pages. I’ve been able to add numerous illustrations, links within the document itself, and images. It’s completely transformed my book into something dynamic and interactive. Plus, it will be much easier to update and revise than the printed version I used to produce. $49.95; academic license $29.95. http://www.circusponies.com/

Eaglefiler A database filing system. Eaglefiler provides a place to file all your digital detritus (or, as the case may be, all your important digital stuff). You can put almost anything in Eaglefiler, including PDFs, web archives, pictures, sound files, etc. One of the best features of Eaglefiler is its hot key function, which allows you to set up a key combination to save web pages as web archives. You needn’t leave Safari or whatever web browser you’re in to use the hot key. Eaglefiler also has a drop box function that you can set up, but thus far I haven’t figured out how to use it efficiently. It’s really nice to have a place to put old email (you can archive your Mac inbox in Eaglefiler), store web pages and PDFs, and accumulate research materials. I wavered between Eaglefiler and Devonthink Pro for a long time, but the simplicity of Eaglefiler is what won me over. That, and the price. Devonthink Pro was considerably more expensive and its interface wasn’t user friendly. $40; educational discount 33% = $26.80. http://c-command.com/eaglefiler/

EazyDraw An illustration program. I’m using this to create illustrations for my Old Testament Overview textbook (see Notebook above). In spite of the name, I’ve found this program anything but easy to use. The interface is somewhat clunky (but that may be because I’m still figuring out how to use it). Nevertheless, I’ve been able to create some pretty cool illustrations with it. $95 (but you can have full use of the program for 9 months for $20). http://www.eazydraw.net/

Growl A notification program that integrates with Adium, Gmail, NetNewsWire, Shovebox, Macjournal and many other programs. Offers an unobtrusive pop-up window which is configurable. Free. http://growl.info/

LaunchBar Easily launch applications and other things using the keyboard rather than mouse. $20. http://www.obdev.at/products/launchbar/index.html

MacJournal Journal writing software with easy export to blog. I chose this one because I preferred its UI over other journaling programs. One feature I especially like is full screen mode, which gives you a dark screen, green type (which is surprisingly easy on the eyes), and hides all other distractions. I use this feature quite often when I want to focus only on writing. $34.95 with a 25% off discount for educators making it $26.21. http://www.marinersoftware.com/sitepage.php?page=85

NetNewsWire RSS reader. I tried Google Reader, but it was just overkill--too much on one page all at once. I love the interface of NetNewsWire. It’s simple; it sits in my dock and lets me know if it’s downloaded anything, and there’s an iPhone version. Free. http://www.newsgator.com/INDIVIDUALS/NETNEWSWIRE/

Novamind Pro Mindmapping software. I downloaded the trial version of this and was instantly hooked. I’ve discovered that I am not a linear thinker, and mind mapping allows me to think in all directions at once. Novamind’s program is easy to use (though I’ve only scratched the surface of all that it’s capable of doing, so there is a learning curve), colorful, professional looking, and great for brainstorming, creating visuals of concepts, and even for diagrams. I’ve been using it for almost everything I do, from planning a garage sale to planning classes. Even though it’s by far the most expensive program I’ve purchased, it’s worth every penny, and I highly recommend it. $149; with the educational discount, $104.  http://www.novamind.com/

Shovebox Quick note program with filing capabilities. I tried Sidenote, but it drove me crazy--it would pop out when I really didn’t want it to. Shovebox sits quietly in your menubar. You can drag things straight to the menubar, highlight text in another application and set a hotkey that will past it into Shovebox, and you can set up a hotkey for “Quickjot” whenever you need to write a note or reminder but don’t want to leave the application you’re in. You can easily drag URLs, pictures, web archives--anything to Shovebox for later filing. Very handy. $24.95; with 40% student discount, $14.97. http://www.wonderwarp.com/shovebox/

SplashID Secure storage of data. I started using SplashID when I had a Treo 600. It’s an excellent program for filing any secure information. I have the iPhone desktop version, so I can sync the data on my Mac with my iPhone so I always have it with me. This program has saved me multiple times, because I can’t remember user names and passwords. Plus, for online shopping it’s very handy because you can store credit card information on it. The best feature, in my view, is the quick copy button. On the right side of any fill-in information is a little clipboard. You click that once to copy your credit card number, password, etc. That way, none of your keystrokes can be copied by identity thieves. What I don’t like about this software is that it still looks just like Treo software. It’s inelegant and kind of clunky. I have eWallet on my iPhone as well, and it has a beautiful interface. When they come out with a desktop version, I’ll probably switch to eWallet. Desktop version: $19.95; iPhone only version $9.99. http://www.splashdata.com/splashid/iphone/index.htm

TextExpander Create snippets to make typing faster. This is a great little program that I’m only beginning to use effectively. You can create rules for snippets that you have to type often. For example, I’ve created a snippet for my work signature, so when I type w-k-s-i-g I get my name, title, address, phone number, and email address in a flash. You can use it to quick insert dates and other information. You can even create rules for words you frequently misspell. You can download snippet databases, such as one for words with diacritical marks and one for frequently misspelled words. I need to sit down and come up with more snippets. The more snippets you create, the more helpful the program is. A timesaver, for sure. $29.95, with educational discount it is $20.96. http://www.smileonmymac.com/TextExpander/

Things To do program with a simple, fresh interface. I’ve tried and tried to do “Getting Things Done,” but it gets so complicated that I wind up giving up. Things can be used for the GTD approach, but it offers a simplified interface that makes keeping a To Do list much easier and less cluttered. Things divides tasks into three sections: collect, focus, and organize. Collect is your inbox where you put everything first. Next, you can place your todos into “Today,” “Next,” “Someday,” and “Scheduled,” as a means of ordering tasks’ priorities. Then, you can organize your todos into categories, give them tags, set dates, etc. Hardcore GTD-ers might not like Things because it doesn’t follow the GTD principles verbatim. For that you can get Omnifocus (see below). But for me, Things is perfect. There’s an iPhone version as well, and the developer is hard at work to make the desktop and iPhone versions syncable. Free (for now, but will cost $49.00 in the future; if you sign up for their newsletter you’ll be able to buy it for $39.00). http://www.culturedcode.com/things/

Applications I’m Considering

Bookends Bookends is a reference database. It’s made for academic types who want a place to deposit all their resources from research. It can generate bibliographies and footnotes in a whole host of styles, including Turabian. You can export to Word, but from what I’ve read, there are still some bugs to work out there. The program works best in conjunction with Mellel (see below). The developer of this program is very active and helpful. $99.00. There is a student discount which brings the price down to $69.00 but faculty aren’t eligible for that. You can buy Bookends together with Mellel for $109.00 (students $89), which seems to be the best deal. http://www.sonnysoftware.com/

Mellel A sophisticated word processor designed for academics with support for multiple languages and right-to-left typing (great for Hebrew). I haven’t played around with this program much yet, and there seems to be a pretty high learning curve. Nevertheless, I can see its potential, especially in conjunction with Bookends (above). You can export Mellel docs as Word docs, so you can communicate with the rest of this Microsoft-based world, but I’m hesitant as of yet to commit to a non-Word word processor after finally converting to Word from WordPerfect. $49.00; educational discount $35.00. http://www.redlers.com/bigdiscount.html

Scrivener A writing program with a cork-board/index card interface. This is a unique, very intriguing program. It is designed for writers of all types--academic, fiction, screenwriters, etc. It’s sort of like a data repository, organizer, writing center all in one. But it’s not a word processor. Once you’ve gotten your draft like you want it, you are supposed to export from Scrivener into your word processor of choice for final editing and formatting. One of the coolest features is the split screen where you can work on two different documents at once--useful if you’re using a PDF article as a source and you want to do a direct quote, or if you want to compare different sections of your own document. Like MacJournal, Scrivener also offers a full-screen, focus on writing only mode. The cork board is really interesting--it’s basically like having your old index cards from the olden days in digital form. You can edit and rearrange them at will. Since I’m a visual learner/writer, this aspect alone is very satisfying. $39.95; educational discount $34.99. http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html

Saturday, July 26, 2008


There’s something wonderfully inspiring about people who pursue their dreams.

Randy Pausch, the professor made famous through his ‘Last Lecture,’ was a dreamer who made his dreams come true and facilitated the dreams of others.

My parents were dreamers too.

I have only vague memories of life when things were ‘normal’--my dad coming home at 6:00 p.m. dressed in suit and tie, hair slicked back in 50s fashion. I remember he didn’t smile much.

And then, one Christmas, everything changed.

My dad and a friend built a small marionette stage for my older brother and sister. We have one picture of Karen and Stan with the stage, but then my dad’s dreams took over.

I’ve always wondered how my dad brought his idea up to my mom. Perhaps the conversation went something like this:

‘Mary Kay?’

‘Yes, Ron?’

‘I want to quit my lucrative job as an engineer at Sandia Laboratories and become a puppeteer.’


[more silence]

‘You want to what?’

My parents saved enough money to cover expenses for a year. My dad quit his job. And ‘Ron and Mary Kay Puppets’ was born.

They started by performing at local elementary schools with my brother and sister’s stage and marionettes. But my dad was interested in ‘muppet’ style puppets. So my brother, who was ten or eleven at the time, said, ‘I can make those.’ And so he did.

They outgrew the small marionette stage and built a larger stage for the hand puppets. (Eventually, they abandoned marionettes altogether).

Word of Ron and Mary Kay Puppets spread, and soon they were performing at all the elementary schools in Albuquerque, and even in Santa Fe. They were hired by the local PBS station to perform on some local shows which taught children the basics of music. They did television commercials, appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and, one summer, traveled the entire state of New Mexico performing a show promoting the Santa Fe Opera.

And they became local celebrities.

I loved it when they came to my school, Montgomery Elementary. My classmates would be in awe, ‘Those are your parents? You get to touch the puppets? Really??? Wow!’

There were downsides of being the child of puppeteers. When I wasn’t in school, I had to accompany them to all their shows, and, to my dismay, I had to share them with other kids. Our house was always in a state of chaos--with puppet fir, foam rubber, and ping-pong-ball eyes strewn across what should’ve been the dining room table. My parents wrote all their own music and recorded their shows in the local studio: our den. That meant silence in the house for weeks while they put the shows together. Our family car, a 1965 white Chevy station wagon, was stuffed to the gills during puppet season with the stage, sound equipment, and puppets, leaving only small pockets of room for the family. My parents argued over scripts, over scheduling, over who was funnier, and, most of all, over finances.

But my dad was smiling.

Ron and Mary Kay Puppets eventually came to an end (for various reasons that require another blog entry), and my parents went on to ‘normal’ jobs. But those were the golden years in our household--years filled with fun and creativity and laughter--and dreams fulfilled.

One of my favorite pictures from the puppeteering days omits my parents entirely. It is a black and white photo of children watching one of their shows. Their faces are lit up by the lights from the stage, and you can see that they are entranced--what better testimony to the kind of joy and adventure my parents brought to others?

My brother created an amazing website about my parents that you can find here:the Ron and Mary Kay Puppets®™ Pages

Saturday, July 19, 2008

That Mysterious Stinky Smell

I was terrified when I went to Albuquerque to care for my mom who was dying of cancer. She had always taken care of me, but now I was expected to carry her through these last days. I felt horribly incompetent.

I had been with her for a few weeks when a mysterious smell began permeating her house. Ordinarily her house was filled with the distinctive aroma of home--a pleasurable mixture of mountain air spiced with New Mexico piƱon.

Each day the odor multiplied, and Mom rightfully began to complain from her rented hospital bed in the den. “Susan, what is that horrible smell?”

My brother, Stan, and his wife, Carol, had recently emptied out Mom’s freezer so they could move it to their house. We propped the freezer door open so that it wouldn’t start mildewing inside, but I began to wonder if it was the source of the noxious bouquet.

I went in to the utility room several times a day, sniffing like a dog after a treat. And although the smell was strong near the freezer, I couldn’t find any mildew or other obvious sources of stench.

More days passed, and the odor permeated everything. I lost my appetite, and Mom understandably lost her patience. “Susan, you have got to get rid of that smell--it’s making me sick.” I didn’t appreciate the irony of that statement until later.

And so I headed determinedly into the utility room. It was so bad in there I thought maybe an animal had crawled under the freezer and died. So I began dismantling the grill at the bottom. I pressed my face to the floor, peering through thickened dust bunnies but seeing no evidence of decaying rodent.

I felt helpless. Here my Mom was dying, and I couldn’t get rid of that mysterious stinky smell. What kind of a caregiver was I? My fear of being incompetent was becoming a reality.

As I stood to take one more look at the freezer, my left foot bumped into garbage bag on the floor. I thought it was empty, a leftover from Stan and Carol’s freezer raid. But, I decided to look in it anyway.

The smell hit me like a hot West Texas wind. I felt my stomach churn, and I gagged. There inside the green garbage bag was the culprit: a package of no-longer-frozen shrimp emulsifying in the summer heat. Stan had apparently thrown some things away when he and Carol cleaned out the freezer, but he forgot to take out the trash.

“Mom,” I called, triumphant. “I found it. And it’s Stan’s fault.”

You’ll have to forgive my moment of churlishness. You see, childhood rivalry never really goes away, and it felt good to know that Stan was to blame, not me.

Gingerly, I carried the trash bag with its offensive contents out the front door to the garbage can. The mystery solved, I relished in the fact that my mom was comfortable again and that I had managed a crisis, albeit a small one. And somehow, I felt a little more confident about facing the many serious challenges ahead, thanks to that mysterious stinky smell.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I never really intended to read books about vampires. I mean, yuk. Vampires: blood, gore, Bela Lugosi, Anne Rice, creepy sagas of cold-blooded killers. Nope. Definitely not for me.

But then I downloaded Twilight by Stephenie Meyer to my Kindle and reluctantly started reading it. I really shouldn’t have--the books are written for a teenage audience, after all, and I haven’t been a teenager in a long time. But other middle-aged women had commented on Amazon about how much they enjoyed the books, so . . . well . . . if they read them, so could I.

I found myself hooked.

The premise of the Twilight Series is intriguing. The vampires at the heart of the story are “vegetarians!” What that means is that they deny themselves human blood because they refuse to engage in the violence necessary to gain it. Instead they drink animal blood (obviously they aren’t vegetarians in the usual sense of the term), and live among humans as “normally” as possible.

But what is most compelling about these books is the love story between Edward (a “veggie” vampire) and Bella (a human). The two are drawn irrevocably to one another, and their strangely dangerous relationship is electric. Because, while Edward no longer drinks human blood, he still longs for it, and Bella’s blood is especially alluring to him. Whenever she is near, he is torn between his love for her and his insatiable desire for her blood.

The result is a love story with an added element: danger. In spite of his love for Bella, at times Edward fears his desire for her blood might overwhelm him so much that he would kill her for it. And so, they dance between elemental desires--love and thirst, salvation and destruction, desire and denial. Each touch, each kiss, each moment in one another’s company carries with it these underlying tensions.

The result is a strangely wonderful and pure love--a love that is expressed in restraint and self denial rather than uncontrolled, selfish impulses. In a day when “lust” and “love” are so easily confused, it’s refreshing to experience a story where virtue prevails in the midst of passion.

Vampires, as it turns out, can be deliciously irresistible.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I didn’t realize what day it was until Betty called. I had spent the day, just like any other summer day, doing virtually nothing. Then the phone rang, Kelly answered and gave it to me.

I hadn’t talked with Betty in quite awhile. She is a neighbor who lives across the street from my childhood home. I just thought she was calling to catch up on things, so even the fact that she had called didn’t clue me in until she said, “Well, I just wanted to see how you were doing today. It’s been three years since your sweet mama died.”

It hit me then. It was my mom’s deathday, July 2. I had forgotten.

After I hung up the phone, I sat bewildered for awhile. My mom had died three years ago to the day. That event marked the conclusion to the most traumatic three months of my life--watching my mom succumb to cancer. And I had forgotten.

Then I began to beat up on myself. “How could I forget what today was?” I asked. “How could I be so callous, so insensitive? How could I forget?”

Kelly told me it was a good thing that I forgot--that it meant I was healing. But for me, forgetting my mom’s deathday meant that I was forgetting my mom, plain and simple--even though I have dreams about her almost weekly; even though the furniture I inherited from her reminds me of her every time I look at it; even though I hear her voice advising me dozens of times daily. I forgot that she had died on this day.

Why is it so important to remember the dead? Because that is how they live on. If we forget them, they truly do die--regardless of one’s views on the afterlife. If we forget them, they die to us.

I haven’t forgotten my mom, but I don’t want to forget the events that imprinted upon me the fragility of life and the cruelty of untimely death. So, I marked my mom’s deathday on my calendar. I won’t forget ever again.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Embarrassment is never much fun, especially when you’re a teenager. In fact, during pubescence you expend enormous amounts of energy trying to avoid being embarrassed. Unfortunately, if you’re a teenager with a father like mine, avoiding embarrassment is impossible.

One day, my father accompanied me to the mall. I don’t remember why we were there, but what I do remember is that I was absolutely mortified that I had to be at the mall with, of all people, my dad. It was an unforgivable faux pas to be seen with a parent at a hotspot where teenagers could (normally) mingle without adult interference.

And so, I decided to pretend that he wasn’t my father, stealthily lengthening my stride so that I could walk several yards ahead of him. Proud that I could maintain my adolescent dignity, I strode to the escalator that carried me to the next level, my dad far behind.

I reached the top and continued walking, focused on reaching our destination without fatherly interference. But then, I heard a ruckus behind me--a huge sound like the thumping of an uncoordinated elephant. And a voice--a horrible, plaintive voice . . .

“Suuuuusssssaaaaannnn! Ohhhhh, Suuuuuuuusan! Your poor old father fell off the escalator. Susan, Suuuuuussssan Day!!!!!”

I stopped in my tracks, blushing furiously. As I turned, I could see the triumph in his eyes. My father had trumped my insolence by tripping purposefully (and loudly) off the moving staircase. I waited in brooding silence as he ambled toward me, grinning. No words were spoken, but the lesson was very clear: “Spurn me and I will single-handedly humiliate you.”

Never again did I try to “lose” my dad. No, I always stuck close by because, as shameful as it was (in my mind) to be with him, it was far, far worse to leave him behind.

Underwear and Bubblegum

Running away was Jenny’s idea, not mine. I mean, I loved my home. My Mom baked yummy things for dessert all the time, my parents were famous puppeteers (at least in Albuquerque), and I always had great birthdays and Christmases each year.

But Jenny didn’t feel so happy. She had convinced herself she had a wicked step-mother who treated her like Cinderella. So, one day she said, “Let’s run away.” She was the Alpha-female in our relationship, so I said, “Okay.”

We went back to respective homes to pack. In my five-year-old mind, the most important garment was underwear. I knew you had to have underwear to live the good life, so I dumped out my Little Kiddles bag (a tan plastic round job that zipped up and had a handle), and packed it full of underwear (and nothing else).

Jenny met me outside my house, and we walked down to Bob White’s Grocery Store a few blocks away. We needed sustenance, of course, so we combined our pennies and bought a healthy supply of bubblegum from the machine. Amply stocked, we stepped forth on our grand journey to freedom.

We made our way to the busy corner of San Pedro and Candelaria. Somehow we crossed San Pedro with no problem, but Candelaria was not so simple. We made it to the center median and stepped out into the street right in front of a huge RV. Fortunately, the RV stopped and we scrambled across and made our way South towards the mall. We were further from our houses than we had ever been by ourselves.

As we neared the mall, Jenny had a brilliant idea (well, it would have been brilliant had she thought of it earlier). She said, “Let’s go to Mrs. Camel’s, she’ll take us in!” Mrs. Camel lived about two blocks from where we lived, so implementing Jenny’s plan meant we had to turn around and go back the way we came.

We were walking up Colorado St., a block from our own houses when Jenny’s mother streaked by in her Kelly-green VW bug. She screeched to a halt, turned around, and stopped right next to us. My mom was with her, and both of them told us to get in the car immediately. The looks on their faces told us we were in big trouble (but, admittedly, I was relieved—being caught meant I could go back home).

As I remember it, I was sent to bed without supper. As my mom remembered it, she was so glad to have me back safe I wasn’t punished at all. I know Jenny didn’t get off so easily.

I unpacked my underwear and saved the bubblegum. I never tried to run away again, but whenever I pack for a trip, I still bring every pair of underwear I own.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Journey to Mac-dom

July 10, 2008 9:47 AM

On June 23, 2008 I took the last step to a complete Apple conversion. I bought a Macbook (thanks to Best Buy’s 24-month, no interest offer). Yes, I am a complete Apple fanatic, but moving to a Mac is the best thing I’ve done in a long time.

Not only do Macs work better IMHO, but their interface, presentation, and software possibilities put them well beyond PCs. Most importantly, some of the software I’ve discovered has given new life to my creative thinking and motivation to prepare for classes. For example, I am using Nova-mind Pro to work on classes, a Sunday School Lesson writing project for Smyth & Helwys, a garage sale, a summer party, and a whole host of other things. Novamind is mind-mapping software. It’s different from outlining because it’s more visual--I’m a visual person, and this whole process makes brainstorming and planning easier for me. It’s also provided me a way to boost my creativity--to think outside the box. As burnt out and bored as I have been with my teaching, this program is a godsend. It’s available for PCs too, so it’s not a Mac-only app--but I never would’ve discovered it had I not moved to Mac.

Other programs I’m currently evaluating are Macjournal (I’m using it right now to post this to my poor, neglected blog), Devonthink Pro, Things, Scrivener, as well as others.

In any case, there’s nothing profound in this posting. I’m just trying to get myself back into blogging, because I really enjoyed it when I did it before.