Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In which I write a bit about my religious background

My parents were very religious people. By that I mean they both believe in an extra-human, non-earthly plane which had a certain amount of control over the human condition. My father is from Virginia, and his religious tradition is the faith-based, orthodox Protestant Christianity. My mother didn't really grow up in a religious tradition, although she was nominally Lutheran. My grandparents weren't active, so my mother spent a large part of her adult life sampling from the religious smorgasbord available in the US. When I was born, she was a member of an Anabaptist congregation, and so my earliest church memories are there. However, all I can remember is that I won a bible (King James Version, natch) for bringing the largest number of guests to Sunday School. The bible had a white leather cover--perfect thing to give a small child! I don't think the pastor expected the winner of said contest to be a child under the age of five.

My parents divorced by the time I started school, and I really don't have any memory of my father being around. He was in the military on active duty and spent most of my early childhood in Vietnam. My mother didn't really like the fact that my father *requested* long-term hazardous duty because this meant he was gone most of the year. (My father requested such duty because of the extra pay. He felt his role was to provide for the family. He grew up poor in the Virginia mountains, and his father died when he was about 7 years old. His mother put him and his sister in an orphanage for a few years until she could financially support them, and this experience left a deep scar on my father's soul. He swore his kids would always be able to be with their mother, no matter what. So he did what he had to do. He succeeded, even at great personal and emotional cost to himself.)

So my mother married again and converted to Mormonism. I don't know if they were married first and then converted, or she converted and then married my step-father. My mother had a turbulent childhood--an emotionally (and often physically) absent father, and an abusive, alcoholic mother. The Mormon tradition emphasizes the family; indeed, they believe that the family is truly sacred. So here's a woman, twice divorced in a time when divorce wasn't very common, with children and a new husband. She craved that strong family connection, and despite being twice divorced, she really did want traditional gender roles. She wanted to be a housewife and mother.

But the 1970s were an era of great social change regarding women. My mother was caught between the old and the new. She was just a bit too old to be caught up in the Women's Liberation movement, but young enough to suffer all the fallout from it.

My mother and stepfather jumped feet first into Mormonism and then the church totally failed my mother.

And that's where I will pick up next time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In which I start to write again

(blows dust off blog)

Um, hello. Rather surprised to find out it's been just over three years since I last posted here. Not too surprising, I suppose. I was suffering a bout of major depression that wasn't successfully treated until the end of 2013 and during the depression, the last thing I wanted was to ruminate in my brain. And during 2014, I spent most of my time doing things that I couldn't during the depression because said activities allowed the Sadistic Voice in My Head free reign. So during most of 2014, I spent my free time playing video games (oh Dragon Age, how I missed you!) and knitting.

But now I want to write again. Over this past year, I have been trying to come to grips with events in my past. I guess I'd become addicted to angst. But honestly, I think it is finally growing up. To face those issues with a bold heart and say "you don't frighten me anymore".

But I felt I couldn't talk about it to many people because a lot of it involves re-evaluating the religious tradition that I was raised in. Many of my friends are recovering Christians of several flavors, and many others are wholly secular for whom the appeal of organized religion is frankly baffling. Here in the US, religion is a choice in that a person is not obligated to belong to any denomination. However, if you are raised in a religious tradition. religion isn't a choice. It becomes a part of your life that you are always reacting toward or against. Perhaps I speak only for myself, but organized religion has a Place in Life. Like just about anything involving a community of humans, there are wonderful aspects and there can be lots of awful things too. Unfortunately in this country, the loudest voices in the Christian tradition alienate most secular people and many other Christians too.

So I am restarting this blog to chronicle my journey to put these issues to rest. Will I find a place in the tradition I was raised in? I don't know. Will I find a place in ANY Christian tradition, I don't know that either. What I do know is that I have spent too much energy reacting against this, and frankly, I am tired.

Did I choose a religious upbringing? No. Did I choose to be raised amongst a bewildering, confusing, and often contradictory buffet of religious traditions? No. Did I choose to be raised in Central California, in a small town with churches on every corner, a place in which organized religion is a major issue whether you like it or not? Absolutely not. I also didn't choose to be raised by a single mother struggling her own battles with mental illness (and honestly, not very successfully). But I was, and all these elements created a web of experiences that created the person I am today.

I welcome you to read along, if you are interested. I welcome constructive criticism, although be aware that most of my writing will be stream of consciousness so there will be typos and grammatical inconsistencies. Some things I write will sound offensive or even cruel to some people. I realize now this is one of the reasons I couldn't write before. But hard questions sometimes result in unpleasant answers, maybe even wrong ones. But I am not afraid of being wrong, I am no longer afraid of being hurt. It's just time for me to make this journey and this is my travel diary.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reading Goal updated

I think goals should have a bit of a challenge to them. Reading 10 000 pages was easier than I expected, and it seems kind of silly to have a year's reading goal met by April. So I am upping the count. 20 000 seems to be really easy; 25 000 is hard but still seems doable but I actually want a challenge so I am going for 30 000 pages.

At 12 691 pages, I am currently just a little over 1/3 the way there which seems just right.

Here are the latest additions to the list:

33. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin, finished 21 May 2012, 753 pages
32. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, finished 09 May 2012, 1177 pages

There is only one more book to go in the Land of Ice and Fire series (well, only one more PUBLISHED one. There is at least one more in the wings.). I rather liked the fourth book although I admit that at first I was really annoyed because he doesn't feature any of my favorite characters in this book. However, there are multiple storylines and all are interrelated to a certain degree. Seemingly minor characters are more fully developed, which probably means that I will spend a lot of time crying reading the next book as there are now MORE characters to care about that will die. Although, "dead" doesn't always mean "dead" in these stories.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

kitchen serendipity

I like hard cooked eggs as a snack and I store them in the egg carton. To easily tell the difference between raw and cooked, I add some food dye to the cool-down water. I don't aim for anything fancy, just enough of a color to be able to tell which is which at a glance.

Awhile back, I bought some black food coloring to color some caramels (the plan was to make liquorice caramels but I never got around to it. Go ahead and mock me, but I LOVE liquorice caramels.) And today I decided to use the black food coloring.

To the cooling water, I added a glug of vinegar and a squirt of food coloring and let the eggs sit for about a minute or so. I don't think this food coloring was meant to have acid added to it because the dye broke but it resulted in some amazing effects. Some of the eggs have a patina-green color, some look like bronze but the coolest ones look like bronze with blue-green patina. Here is a crappy cell phone photo:

Take that, Martha Stewart!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Reading Goal Met!

Updates to the reading list:

31. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, finished 06 May 2012, 129 pages
30. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, finished 04 May 2012, 883 pages
29. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, finished 29 April 2012, 799 pages
28. "Weiland, or the Transformation" from American Gothic Tales, ed. Joyce Carol Oates, finished 08 April. 9 pages

Current page total is 10 008! Yay me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

No reading updates, but a tasty recipe!

NOw that it's rhubarb season, here is a very tasty recipe for rhubarb quickbread (from

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 whole eggs
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch slices
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine brown sugar, milk, and oil in a bowl. Add eggs, and then the flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and rhubarb. Mix well. Pour mixture into a well greased 8.5" x 4.5" loaf pan. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the top and dot with the butter. Bake for one hour or until bread is firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. (Alternately, you can forget to grease the pan and then you can eat the cake directly out of the pan.)

Also, I've made this recipe with twice as much rhubarb and it's still very tasty. It has a denser and moister texture but also more rhubarb goodness.

US/UK baking conversion info can be found here

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

books 2012 continued

Moving right along towards my goal. Current page count is 8208.

27. Weeds: In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey, finished 03 April, 291 pages

26. Marsbound by Joe Haldeman, finished 26 March, 226 pages

25. Plugged by Eoin Colfer, finished 21 March, 254 pages