Saturday, May 5, 2012

Auf wiedersehen

Big Oak TreeAs tough as it was to go to another memorial service today, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Not just to be there in support of my family, but because it was honestly one of the nicest, most “remembery” memorials that I recall from recently. (Although after a while, things just become a blur, don’t they? I know I don’t remember much of my Dad’s. I’m okay with that.)

In addition to three family members speaking (beautiful, brave ladies, all three of them), the pastor went on at length about Erich’s life. Although I knew some of these things, many were new to me, and it made me love and admire Erich even more. He had an unusual and remarkable life, and his strength of will was amazing. He was born in 1933 in Germany, so he grew up under the Nazi regime. He was forced to join the Hitler Youth, as were all German children, but apparently his mother cried when he brought home the uniform. There is no judgment to be was a matter of survival and doing what you could to get through it. To not join would have meant imprisonment, probably of the entire family.

His sister had married a GI and settled in Michigan, close to our city in Indiana. After the war, Erich emigrated to the U.S., not knowing any English. Although he wasn’t a citizen yet, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. I can only imagine what it must have been like for him...knowing very little English, right out of a world war against Germany. Germans were not well-liked at that time, and It must have been a terrible atmosphere for him.

But he persevered. Got a job, got married to my cousin Emma Jean, started a family, who in turn started families of their own, coached his grandkids in soccer (excuse me...fußball!), and eventually retired to enjoy his gardening and other pursuits. In short, this man who began life during one of history’s most horrible chapters and under one of the most despotic regimes ended up living the American Dream. He paid attention to politics, too...I still remember him getting riled up and almost apoplectic as he talked about politics! It’s too bad more of our populace doesn’t pay more attention.

Erich could be stern (all us Germans can be, whether we were born there or our ancestors were!), but he was always quick with a smile. Every time I’d see him, he’d say something like “Look at you, still so cute!”—and he still had the German accent, so it was even more charming—and give me a big hug. I will miss him. 

I’ve always preferred the German farewell to our simple “goodbye.” Auf wiedersehen. Till I see you again.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Holding the sun5Most people who read here regularly, and certainly those who know me, know that it’s been a tough couple of years when it comes to losing loved ones. Each loss was sad for me, and none more so than the loss of my Dad. At times it has been very tough to deal with, but I’ve done my best to keep on keepin’ on. I’m still hanging in there, and I haven’t lost my joy. (It was a little lost sheep for a while, but it found its way back...slowly, but surely.)

I mentioned yesterday that my family lost a dear relative this week. This was my cousin Erich, who was married to my blood cousin, Emma Jean. (Emma Jean and I recently realized that she is the oldest grandchild on our grandfather’s side, and I’m the youngest. It’s odd that I never knew that before.) Well, for all the loss that I’ve experienced in the past few years, here are the losses that my dear cousin has had to deal with: her oldest daughter, who was my age, to a brain tumor; her father to cancer and a stroke; her only sibling, her brother, to chronic kidney disease; her mother, to Alzheimer’s; my Dad, who was very close to both Emma Jean and Erich; and just two days ago, she returned from doing volunteer work at a school to find her husband, collapsed. He was already gone.

My heart breaks for my cousin, and of course for her entire immediate family. Emma Jean is truly one of the kindest, sweetest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She has handled each loss with incredible grace and amazing strength, and although I know this might be her toughest mountain to climb, I don’t doubt that she will handle this one, as well. I’ve always admired her, both for her kindness and for her strength in the face of adversity. I’m glad we have some genes in common, because I’d like to think that I have that same strength...if not her sweetness and gentleness!

HummyWe all have our moments when we get discouraged, even sometimes feel outright despair. I’ve had those times myself, but I do my best to ride it out and get back to my usual cheery self, the person able to feel great happiness from even the little things in life. After Dad died, I remembered our talks about such things...not only that he didn’t want any of us to grieve overly long when he moved on, but how we both found so much pleasure in what many people would find mundane. An interesting bug, a cool-looking stick, a good book, a beautiful day. These are the things that ground me and get me back to where I need and want to be, and I hope that Emma Jean will once again rely on whatever it is that gets her to where she needs to be. In the future, if I am feeling down about a loss or a bad situation, I will think of her and hope that I can be as strong as she has been and continues to be. My petty problems seem small in comparison to what she has been through.

Amazingly enough, as I was writing this, I looked up to see a hummingbird on the front feeder—I hung both feeders yesterday, knowing that they’d be back soon. Sure enough, exactly one year to the day
after they showed up last year, they are back. It’s little things like this that bring me such joy and let me know that the world keeps on keepin’ on...just like we all strive to do.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Steam heat

Paddy O'FurnitureI was looking forward to the warm weather of the past couple of days, but got a little more than I bargained for today! Whew, it wasn’t just warm, it was seriously humid.

I got my running around done before noon, but I was already starting to get heated. Then I got home and did my workout, just an hour on the bike this time...even so, I was sweating like crazy. Then it was outside for sunning and reading, and I managed 45 minutes before I got too warm. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing stuff inside, walking around in my bikini because it was really just freakin’ hot!

But as much as I complain about the heat and humidity, I love it, too. This is my time of year, and as long as I can walk around in as few clothes as possible and appropriate (depending on location), I’m happy! (We don’t have central air if you’re wondering about that.)

My family got some bad news yesterday, with a dear family member passing away unexpectedly. It’s been a rough couple of years in that regard, and my main goal is to just help provide support and help the immediate family in whatever way I can. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bring back some sad thoughts and bad flashbacks, but I took some time today to just sit outside later on and read. It’s getting nice and green at Nutwood, and most of the summer birds are back (still waiting on the orioles and the hummingbirds), so it was a pleasure and very calming to sit in the shade, read, watch the birds, and just try to find my happy place.

I found it, but it was here all along.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Outside time and MOAs

Flowering cherryIt was a warm and very humid day today, and after an extremely sweat-inducing workout (not a bad thing!), I headed out on the deck to clean off what I call Paddy O’Furniture.

That was a workout in itself, because the pretty Kwanzan cherry tree that I love so much took a total dump on the table and chairs. All those lovely little pink petals added up to a gooey mess that got rained on and then baked on the glass table by the sun. I took my scraper out and got the worst of it off; then took a scrub brush to it and got almost all of it off; then Windex and a paper towel to finish it off. The chairs I sprayed with cleaner and scrubbed, and I left them out from under the eaves in the hopes that we’ll get a little bit of rain tonight and all the extra cleaner will be rinsed off. So Beth and Ken’s Bar & Grill is open for business! Who wants to come by to sit a spell and chat with me?

It was getting a little more overcast by then, but not completely, so I decided to take the new Stephen King book (just got it today!) out and read a bit while I caught some muted rays. It was still nice and warm, but with a breeze that felt really good. Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer, close to 90°, and I look forward to a little more time out there before the rain moves back in. It would be a great time to plant some flowers, but I’m not going to plant anything until we get back from our Route 66 trip, so our kitty caregivers don’t have to worry about watering anything.

ArmAs for the MOAs (no, that’s not Moais), I’ve been trying to work on my Michelle Obama Arms. I had to lay off for a while because of wrist and elbow issues, but I’m trying to do light weights to tone. I’ve been fairly happy with the results, although I still want to get more defined. Yes, I actually flexed and took a picture in the mirror, which I’m somewhat embarrassed about, but this is about the only time you’ll see me do this (at least until I get MORE defined!). I don’t want to bulk up, but I like a little definition, and our First Lady is an inspiration to all of us who want shapely and well-defined arms. I’m trying to keep working my arms without hurting my wrists and left elbow, and I think I’ve found a way to do that. So here are my wanna-be Michelle Obama Arms...or at least one of them!

**One little joke here. Most of you won’t get this, but a few will. Some of you know that Sheeba “talks” to us. It usually sounds like Ken, or sometimes me. Well, after Ken got back from his most recent trip, we were all snuggled up on the couch, with Sheeba in between us, and Sheeba said, “Hey Dad? When you left on your trip, Mom thought that you’d abandoned us and left us destitute. So she started selling off my cat toys and her penguins in order to put food on the table for us.” I snorted! I will explain further...soon!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Summer for the Gods: A review

Summer for the GodsI finished this yesterday, and it is truly a remarkable book. The author, Edward J. Larson, won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1998 for this book, and it is well deserved. It is a scholarly work, with fascinating details about the Scopes trial, and it is meticulously researched.

First of all, if your opinions on the Scopes trial are based on pop culture, such as the play and movie “Inherit the Wind,” you should probably read more about it, and this book is a great place to start. The trial became mythologized starting in the 1930s, and it continued through the 1950s, when “Inherit the Wind” debuted on Broadway in 1955, and the movie was released in 1960. As much as I loved the movie (and would love to see the play one day), it is a distortion of the truth of the trial and the sentiments of many involved. It is entertaining and moving, but it’s not entirely accurate.

The trial was actually brought about by the newly-formed ACLU and a few townspeople in order to stage a “test case” for Tennessee’s recently enacted bill that barred the teaching of evolution in public schools. Contrary to popular belief, teacher John Scopes was not removed from his classroom in handcuffs; the trial was all pre-arranged, and Scopes agreed to be part of the test case. The ACLU wanted to test their chops against the bill, and the townspeople involved wanted some publicity for their sleepy little town of Dayton.

Publicity they got, especially when two of the more famous lawyers in the country, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, became involved. (Oddly enough, both Darrow and Bryan were considered to be progressive reformers; the difference was that Bryan was a fundamentalist and Darrow was an agnostic and/or atheist.) Unfortunately, the town of Dayton and the state of Tennessee didn’t fare well in public opinion nationally; they were seen as backwards and ignorant, and the horde of journalists who descended upon the town both perpetuated and put to rest such sentiments. Although the anti-evolution statute was still considered to be ignorant, most out-of-towners found the town to be friendly, clean, and welcoming.

In the years soon after the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory, there was widespread acceptance of evolution, not only among scientists, but among many in the religious community, many of whom found it perfectly compatible with their religion. It wasn’t until the rise of fundamentalism in the early 1900s that the split began, due to the tenets of fundamentalism:

  1. The accuracy and divine inspiration of scripture
  2. The virgin birth of Christ
  3. Salvation only through Christ’s sacrifice
  4. The bodily resurrection of Christ and his followers
  5. The authenticity of biblical miracles

Once these tenets were in place and accepted by fundamentalist sects, there was no room for evolution and no compromise.

Darrow and BryanAt the time, the argument in court was framed as majoritarianism vs individual freedom. Bryan argued that the people of Tennessee had the right to decide what their children were taught in public schools; Darrow and the ACLU argued that teachers had the right to their freedom to teach accepted scientific principles. It wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that the trial began to be reframed as fundamentalism vs skepticism/Modernism.

To make a long story short, Darrow and the ACLU lawyers defending Scopes’ right to teach evolution lost. The success of the anti-evolution bill in Tennessee prompted several other southern states, including Mississippi and Arkansas, to pass such laws. The anti-evolution movement didn’t gain much ground anywhere other than the south and west; any attempts to pass such laws in the north and east were defeated. It wasn’t until the mid- to late ‘60s that anti-evolution laws began to be overturned as unconstitutional.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and it seems we’re heading right back to the fundamentalist, anti-science attitude. It was astonishing to me to read these arguments from almost 100 years ago and realize that I have seen the exact same arguments against the teaching of evolution—and very recently, when my own state of Indiana considered a bill that would open the door to teaching creationism in our science classrooms. A local station posted a question on Facebook concerning the bill, and there were several people that said the parents should get to determine whether or not evolution is taught! I wonder if they realized they were making the same arguments from a century ago?

Of course, the tactics have changed now. Rather than laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution, fundamentalists are trying to pass laws to allow the teaching of creationism alongside. Never mind that this is a religious belief rather than any sort of scientific theory...they want to “teach the controversy.” For anyone who has ever studied science, there IS no controversy. You can decide whatever you want in terms of how evolution happened—if you have decided that there was a divine presence guiding it, that’s your right. But the denial of the fossil record, anthropological finds, and most recently, genetic testing, is a rejection of all science.

Among many other pertinent points and quotes, here are a couple that especially struck me. I suppose it should have been self-evident to me, but the main problem the anti-evolutionists had with evolution was that it would lead to questioning and an eventual disbelief in God the creator. Bryan charged that it would lead to an abandonment of divinely inspired morality. Nothing has changed, because we still see these same arguments today. According to an editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

“The thing we got from the trial of Scopes” was that most “sincere believers in religion” simply wanted to avoid the origins dispute altogether. “Some have their religion, but they are afraid if they go out and mix in the fray they will lose it. Some are afraid they will be put to confusion. Some are in the position of believing, but fear they can not prove their belief.”

In the appeal before the Tennessee State Supreme Court, Darrow stated:

...that religion was a personal matter “that ought to be the affair of the individual,” and science as a public activity that “is the cause of progress...and everything that makes civilization today.” In accord with his viewpoint, he asserted, “The schools of this state were not established to teach religion. They were established to teach science.”

Let me make a very important distinction here, because there are many who say that those of us opposed to such ‘creationism’ bills want to eradicate all mention of religion from schools, and even any religious belief itself! That is not the case. If there is some sort of a comparative religion class, or a literature class that focuses on religious texts, that is the appropriate place to discuss creation myths. (But keep in mind that Christianity is not the only religion out there. Any and all creation myths could be addressed.) It does not belong in the science classroom. Yeah, that gets italicized and boldicized. (Emboldened?)

Scopes trialCreationism is not a scientific theory. It cannot be tested; therefore it cannot be proven. (If you counter with “evolution is a theory and cannot be proven,” you need to read more about it and understand the concept of a scientific theory. It is being proven every single day, with every additional piece of data.) There is nothing to test, no results to be duplicated and peer-reviewed. If you want to teach your kids about it, teach them at home, teach them at church, or send them to a parochial school and teach them there. It has no place in our public school science classrooms. It just doesn’t. You can try to spin it and justify it in any way you want to, but it. is. not. science.

It’s hard for me to believe that a trial that happened almost a hundred years ago still has such pertinence today...and that this argument is still happening. I actually find it shameful. This book was a wonderful read and a wonderful resource for future debates (and I’m sure there will be some). We hear far too often lately about a “war on religion.” There is no war on religion. There certainly seems to be a war on scientific progress and academic freedom, however!

Monday, April 30, 2012

My brain hurts!

Sleeping on a bookOh man...I have a book review to do, but I can’t do it justice tonight. I’ve been reading like a madwoman all afternoon and evening as I finished up Summer for the Gods. I wanted to finish it, because Stephen King’s latest should be here any day now, and I also want to read the big Rolling Stone interview with President Obama. I got my copy on Saturday and am looking forward to it.

Anyway, Summer for the Gods was a bit of a slog. Not because it was uninteresting, but because it was a heavy subject and chock full of information and detail. I even took notes on it, because it really is a remarkable book. I’ll be doing a full write-up, probably tomorrow (which means that the food entry will be delayed).

In the meantime, my brain really is exhausted. I’ve been enjoying an earlier bedtime lately, with an earlier start to the day, and I feel like I’m going to really crash tonight. Come to think of it, my body is pretty exhausted, too, because I really pushed myself in my workout today. I’m surprised I’m still up and writi--zzzzzzzzzz

Heehee! Bis morgen, y’all!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A not-so-lazy Sunday

Spring 2012hJust a pretty picture from our place.

Usually Nutwood Sundays are pretty quiet days, but I kept a little busier than usual today.

I’ve been going to bed quite a bit earlier than normal (for me) lately, because with nice weather coming and longer days, I’ve been wanting to get up earlier. So I had an early (for me) start, made a quick trip to the grocery store for something I’m making for dinner (more in a moment), got a quick workout in (I usually take Sundays off, but not today!), dried a load of sheets and got those folded, got cleaned up, and then started working on tonight’s dinner. I KNOW! Busy busy busy!

I was going to do a food post about this dinner today, but it’s only partly done and won’t be finished until much later tonight. So tomorrow, you’ll get to read about this braciole, AKA Sicilian-Style Beef Roulade according to Emeril. His is the recipe I’m using. I’ve made it once before, and it was very tasty, so I hope this one turns out well, too. It doesn’t look very pretty, but as long as it tastes good, I’m cool with ugly food! Presentation is important, too, but if it doesn’t taste good, what’s the point?

Ken is back from his business trip, so I hope this will be a yummy meal for him. Me too, for that matter!

I’ve got some political stuff churning in my head, but I’m a little too absorbed in my current book to focus on that right now. I’ll get back to it soon enough...maybe too soon for some of you! [grin] I love Shelfari, because it lets me know when I’m “behind my pace” of last year, and Shelfari chided me yesterday for falling behind. Drat! The book is great, but it’s not a fast read (but oh, what an enlightening book...things really haven’t changed that much in almost a hundred years, and that’s really sad to me). I have the new Stephen King Dark Tower book on the way, so I’ll burn through that in no time and get back up to my usual pace. I’m not trying to compete against anyone other than myself!

Time to start the final phase of the braciole, and back to reading. Carry on, citizens!