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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cub Fever!

For everyone who is a Chicago Cubs fan, there's a narrative that follows the years of disappointment in their inability to get to the World Series. A college student who I was close to when I was chaplain at North Park actually chose to come to North Park because he wanted to be close to Wrigley Field!
By now, anyone who pays attention to sports in the US knows that for the first time in 71 years the Cubs are returning to the World Series and have a chance to win it for the first time since 1908. That's a long time.
Love the comment on the lower right side of this scrapbook page:
Cubs lost, of course
Now, for a southern California girl, some of you may be wondering where my fan loyalty to the Cubs comes from. My American League team has been and always will be the Angels, a team that also made me wait a long time for a Championship. But in the National League, it has always been the Cubs. My maternal grandmother passed it along to my mom, who passed it along to me. I went to college and seminary in Chicago not far from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field so all in all, I come by it rightly. My dad, who grew up more of a Cardinals fan, came around to the Cubs through marital pressure and the fact that for some strange reason we got WGN, the Cubs broadcasting network, on our cable TV in California.
Back in 1989, my first autumn back in Chicago after a 7 year hiatus, the Cubs won their division. I would get letters from my maternal grandmother telling me about how she'd go to Dairy Queen with her friends for a cone to celebrate each victory. After they won the division, I recall the most memorable letter of all from her. "If the Cubs win the World Series, I will dance in the street." This, from a woman who was 3 the year the Cubs actually won the series!
This ticket stub from a game just weeks away from my college graduation.
I remember trips to Wrigley as bleacher bums, cheap seats in those days, freezing our tails off because spring in Chicago isn't very warm! My parents and brother went to a game the weekend of our Chicago wedding and Doug and I spent our first anniversary at the friendly confines of Wrigley.

Wrigley is such a great, old time stadium, sitting in the very heart of the north side of Chicago at the cross streets of Clark and Addison. One family took this to heart by naming their twins the same.  You could take a bus or the elevated train to the stadium. It's surrounded by pubs and restaurants and just the business of the city streaming by. It's always been considered the people's park. So win or lose, it was definitely fun to go to Wrigley Field.
So for our first autumn in the US in 18 years, it has been an awesome wild ride to get on the Cubs train. Doug and I have watched more baseball in the past 2 weeks than we have in the past 18 years! It is a delight to catch the games in real time, not having to record and watch later, which is not nearly as much fun as watching the comments unfold on social media, or just sate ourselves with reading about the games. Baseball is a slow, lumbering game and for those who have not grown up with it, it seems like the most boring sport ever created. But for those of us who have loved the game since we were small, playing it, watching it, learning to keep score, developing player loyalty, taking on the persona of our childhood heroes in our street games, well, it really is as American as apple pie!
Me, playing All Star softball when I was 11

 So tonight the World Series (yes, yes, I know, silly to be called World, when it's just the US and one team from Canada) kicks off with the Cubs facing the Cleveland Indians, another team that has not won the Series since 1948. Leave it to the Cubs to come up against another team and city that is dying for a baseball championship. It promises to be a barnburner.
Finally, for those of you who join me in the long-suffering quest for a Chicago Cubs Championship, you really should take the time to read Doris Kearns Goodwin's 'Wait 'til Next Year'. It is her baseball memoir of growing up an insufferable Brooklyn Dodgers fan. You can replace the Dodgers with the Cubs and likely find a great deal of resonance therein.
I know what I'll be doing over the next week as the best of 7 games kicks off tonight. And I'm pretty sure my maternal grandmother and mother will be dancing in the streets of heaven along with countless others who didn't quite live long enough to see the Chicago Cubs capture the title that has eluded them for so many years.
Go Cubs Go!
This is happening. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fundamental Differences

The last debate revealed very different points of view when it comes to our presidential candidates. The first 30-40 minutes of the debate actually got to the nitty gritty of some policy differences and personal histories of the candidates aside, affirmed why I am a democrat and probably revealed why my Republican friends think differently than I do.When asked about the Supreme Court's role in our society, Hillary Clinton stated emphatically that she believes the court should look out for the interests of all people, seeking to protect the vulnerable, especially women and children and that government should stay away from dictating what is appropriate for people when it comes to abortion and and the right to marry. Donald Trump on the other hand emphatically stated out of the gate that the court's first priority should be to protect the 2nd amendment. It never ceases to baffle me when people scream about being Pro-life and then in the same breath fight to the teeth to protect the gun lobby. They are diametrically opposed to one another. Whatever your opinion is on whether or not abortion should be legal, at some point, the anti-legal position must also include a greater sense of compassion for those human beings who live in the world outside of the womb. This was sorely lacking from Trump's comments. Clinton stated that the government should not regulate the health of the mother and expressed with great understanding the complexities surrounding the decision to pursue an abortion. Trump sought to grab people's emotions (granted, better than what else he's claimed to grab, but so overdramatic) by speaking of "ripping the baby out of the womb" in the 9th month. Yeah, that doesn't happen. Lots of medical articles followed the debate. My main point is this. HRC articulates a perspective that at least hints at showing care and compassion for people. Trump scarcely says anything that shows a modicum of compassion or concern for the vulnerable in our society.
Take their conversation on immigration as another example. Trump continues to insult ethnic minorities, this time Latinos, calling them "bad hombres" in yet another moment of disrespectful slurring of a people group. He speaks of deportation and building a wall, neither of which will prove to be effective and will actually do more harm than good. Clinton speaks of a pathway to amnesty and understanding the complexity of families whose children are legal but the parents are not. She cited that illegal immigrants pay more income tax than Trump, a fact that we know is true from the illegal immigrants we've employed and befriended. I am personally for an amnesty plan that would truly stimulate the economy and solve a lot of issues the create stress on our infrastructure. I do feel that if you can prove you are viably employed and have been for more than 10 years there should be a pathway to citizenship. When someone has been living and working illegally in this country for more than 20 years, we've already failed to secure the border. Some reward should be given for the grit that these folks have shown in creating a life for their families under the most difficult of circumstances. The time, energy and money that would be spent seeking to "round up" illegal immigrants who contribute to our societies and have established lives here in the US would be so much better spent working towards better border control and developing reasonable pathways to citizenship or a green card. If we were serious about doing away with illegal immigrants living here, there are many ways we could make it harder for them to stay. But we aren't really serious about it because for the most part, the majority contribute to our societies in ways that improve our communities. I do not understand why amnesty for those who have lived here and worked hard for years on end is such an egregious policy. The notion that that would reward this illegal behavior is ridiculous. The US should also be working harder to make Mexico a more viable place to live and work. I am convinced that most people would love to live in their homeland, but for many immigrants, the choice to remain in the homeland and have a viable life for their families is often not possible. Again, there has to be a more compassionate plan for immigration than building a wall and mass deportation. You can secure the border and be reasonable. Even George W. Bush proposed a plan that had a measure of sanity to it.
Other rich tidbits included Trump using the phrase "what the hell" in the middle of the debate. Very presidential. He claims to respect women more than anyone else and then calls Hillary nasty. He claims that electing Hillary means 4 more years of Obama, a situation that many in the US wish could happen. Trump continues to believe that he can run the country like he runs a business. It doesn't work like that. The President of the US isn't a CEO. He doesn't quite understand that getting things done is more complicated than simply shouting at people and firing those with whom he disagrees.
Hillary shredded him on a number of points, in particular how everything he has had his hand in that hasn't gone his way, has ended with his claim that it is rigged. He couldn't even resist interrupting her with a "should've won" when she cited the loss he experienced at the Emmys. He plays the blame game when things don't go his way. He has never accepted that any failure he has experienced actually has anything to do his actions. His self-discipline and ability to think critically and in complex ways is sorely lacking. For him to claim that our electoral process is rigged is a real disaster. I've known people who comes from countries where an honest election is impossible, where people lose their lives for standing in opposition to the existing regime. For all of our disagreements and strong opinions, one thing I am most proud of is how after each election, the transfer of power happens peacefully and gracefully. In this situation you feel like there might be a coup or an uprising of discontents led by the losing candidate.
I fully understand that there are policy differences between Republicans and Democrats. I know that my die hard conservative friends are frustrated by many policy decisions but unfortunately, this time around, I cannot see how any policy trumps the disaster that Trump would be as the leader of the free world. He insults. He disrespects. He is a bully. He doesn't understand government. He is ill-informed. He believes that if he emphatically uses a string of adverbs and adjectives, he can will his point of view into being. Whatever you think about Hillary Clinton, she speaks articulately to her points of view and understands how the system works.
I only hope that once HRC is elected that Trump will show a bit of grace for the first time in his life and help the nation figure out how to move forward instead of continuing to stir the angry foment that has been such a hallmark of his campaign. I'm not overly hopeful. And I do hope that Clinton will lead with a clear head, respectful that other points of view exist and will seek to honor the integrity of the highest office in our land.
I'm voting by mail this weekend so I think I've said my piece on Election 2016. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Stop Calling Me A Killer

    This is a post that I've ruminated over in my head for several years. It will include very personal details that I have hesitated to share but now I feel it's time because so much is at stake with this election. I have heard so many of my evangelical acquaintances state that they feel they must vote for Trump because it's the only ticket that isn't full of "baby killers", meaning that it doesn't support legal abortion. A second concern embedded in this position is what is at stake as regards the nomination of supreme court justices for the coming period, again, much of this focused on the issue of legal abortion.
     My position on legal abortion is that I am pro-legal. I refuse to use the words pro-choice and pro-life because both are inadequate descriptions of what lies at the heart of legal abortion. Being pro-legal does not make me a baby killer and I am so tired of that accusation being levied at national leaders because they also support the legal practice of abortion. We can argue for days on end about why I don't believe that abortion is the same thing as murder and on this point my detractors and I will never see eye to eye. It's a fundamental difference of opinion for which there is no easy or clear answer. Unwanted pregnancies are painful for all involved. And dare I say that no one I know who supports legal abortion is pro-abortion. In my experience as a pastor, when I encountered young woman who were pregnant with an unwanted child, I talked extensively with them about their options, their resources, what it would mean for them to birth the child, if they had enough support surrounding them, what it would mean for them to give the child up for adoption. And then, if they felt the only way out of the sad and tragic situation was to end the pregnancy, I also promised to hold their hand and see them through what would likely become one of the most devastating days of their lives. No man will ever face the life changing realities of bearing an unwanted pregnancy. The choices are just not the same for men. And so we must be careful about how we dictate to women what they should and shouldn't do. Abortion is costly but so are unwanted children and most of the ardent anti-legal folks I know are not willing to walk alongside those who face the incredibly difficult decision to either carry to term or terminate. Let me be utterly clear: No one likes abortion. No one celebrates abortion, but some realize that bringing a child to the fullness of life under such circumstances that would prevent them from thriving in the fullness of life once born creates a painful reality for some that leads them to terminate the pregnancy before it becomes a full blown human life. No, I do not believe that the living DNA that is formed in the womb is the same thing as a life that is breathing outside of the womb. And here's in part why.
     What makes being called a baby killer so painful is the reality of my infertility. My husband and I tried for years to conceive a baby and were unsuccessful in these attempts. The last attempts were done via in vitro fertilization while we were living in Sweden. We had a very good process of harvesting my eggs and the Drs. were optimistic that this procedure would yield a healthy pregnancy and eventually a baby for us. But alas, both attempts failed. There were leftover created embryos that we chose not to use because after two attempts the risks for an unhealthy or miscarried pregnancy increased dramatically and frankly, by this time we were emotionally spent. So we left our DNA frozen in the Swedish hospital. I do not consider whatever happened to that DNA murder in any way. It insults me more than you could ever know to think that we would murder our babies when we longed for a child for so many years.
     Because here's the thing with that DNA. It's not our children. It's not alive. We didn't celebrate birthdays or Christmas. We didn't take photos of it and watch it grow, see it go off to school, graduate, and maybe get married. Our DNA will never produce grandchildren for us. WE DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN so how in the world could I ever believe that even if what is happening in the womb is life in some form, it is the same thing as a living, breathing, thriving baby?
     I understand why legal abortion is such an affront to people. But I also hope that those same people can offer some measure of understanding and empathy to those who feel it is a necessary, legal procedure in order to preserve the life of the woman making the choice and even for the unborn. For in making the transition from unborn to born, the anti-legal position must be willing to ensure that the born have a chance to thrive in the fullness of living, breathing, human life otherwise they too are guilty of killing...for they kill the potential ability of the woman to create a better life for herself and they kill the hopes and dreams of a child who is born into an unwanted situation where poverty, disease, and neglect might represent a less than bright future for them.
     So please, stop referring to those of us who believe that abortion should be legal as baby killers. There are few things that offend me more deeply than that. And when you call Hillary Clinton Killary, remember, you are calling people like me the same. When you talk about the slaughter of innocent babies in the US, remember that my womb, even when implanted with an embryo, never brought forth a baby so I find the reference repugnant. And if you are anti-legal, please do something to help women see their pregnancies through by offering financial and emotional support either to help them keep their child or helping them find the strength to give it up for adoption. Without these things, your empty rhetoric about life sounds ridiculous to me.
     Finally, if indeed you are voting for Trump because he's "pro-life" I urge you to think again. Trump tramples on human life through his actions of disrespecting women and plowing over employees. Perhaps he's even impregnated some "throw away" woman along the way and I'm confident that he would not hesitate to recommend an abortion in that situation. He is verbally abusive to most any human being who doesn't fall in line with him. His campaign has represented the worst of human life so don't fool yourself into thinking that you can discard all of his incompetence and brash behavior and justify your vote because he isn't a "baby killer." As for the Supreme Court...well, given the rigorous process of approval any candidate has to go through, I think it's safe to say that most justices won't be hanging out on either end of the political spectrum. More and more, we're headed for the middle and that is why I just don't think the issue of appointing justices justifies a vote for Trump.
I'm sure I won't change minds with this post, but maybe it will encourage some to ratchet down the rhetoric around abortion and killing and at least encourage us to create a far more civil dialogue than this election has given to us. But to those who are anti-legal, just remember those of us for whom conception, birthing, and parenting have painful associations and so to refer to us as baby killers just pours more salt into an already gaping wound.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Backyard Beautification

Our project list continues to be whittled away at and the latest update involves the back wall of our property along with upgraded chaise lounges.
The back wall along our property has this lovely shelf upon which sat horrible plants. We had them ripped out and have finally decided upon the scheme we wanted to replace them. After much pondering we landed at a beautiful combination of Tacoma (yellow), Duranto (purple) and Jasmine (white). I was quick to point out to Doug that these are Laker colors to which he quickly responded, "Vikings". Touchè. We're both happy. 
It will be delightful to watch this row of plants grow up. The color they will provide to the back of our property will be just lovely. This is the last of the big planting projects. Whew. It's been a busy season of landscaping.
The other project was repairing our lawn chairs. Outdoor furniture is ridiculously over-priced in our humble estimation so when we found these metal chaise lounges on Craig's list for $100.00 we snapped them right up. Those frames alone can run well above $200 a piece. The straps were busted out and upon looking around for solutions, Doug discovered a great solution that was much easier than re-strapping the chairs. He purchased wooden slates for a bed. Cut them into the right size and fastened them with bolts and clips usually used with PVC pipes. With the purchase of spray paint that adheres to metal, we were able to erase the pinkish hue on the frames and turn them into a lovely tan. The last step was choosing the cushions. I love what we picked! The color palette fits in great with our backyard and the thickness of the cushions ensures a comfortable spot for lounging and star-gazing.
The only things missing at this point are an outdoor fire pit, which is coming soon and of course, finding Tanner relaxing on his favorite lounger.
We may not have allowed him on the new cushions anyway.
But we still wish he was hanging out with us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

From the Grid to Solar

Today was a big day. We had our solar panels installed. Minutes after they were activated we were generating power back to the grid. This is one of the most exciting decisions we've ever made. After paying our electric bill all summer, it wasn't really that hard of a choice. Especially since we live in a place where the sun shines approximately 350 days a year!
The crew arrived at 7.30 and the noise began almost immediately. Lots of drilling. But 6.5 hours later the panels are in and we are already sending power back to the grid. I cannot wait until we get our next electric bill. Usually I am waiting for our electric bill with fear and trepidation. Not anymore. We are no longer dependent on the ups and downs of the electric company. We are guaranteed that our electric bill will not exceed $10.00/month and in most cases, it'll be even lower.Guaranteed. That is peace of mind. Doesn't matter to us anymore what the electric company does to rates. We are no longer dependent.
We were particularly lucky with the way our roof sits. We get sunshine all day so needed quite a few less panels than we originally expected. And you cannot even see the panels from the front of the house.
Beyond the economic savings, we are genuinely excited to be able to lessen our footprint and use a source of power that the good Lord provides for us. 
I never thought I'd get so excited about something as mundane as electricity. But we need a/c out here all summer long. We want to add a hot tub down the road and that won't jack our power bill. And we are doing something that is good for our earth. I'm thankful we have the means and the opportunity to take advantage of this good and important product. 
If you live in California and are interested in hearing more about experience, we'd be happy to talk with you. We thought that Horizon Solar gave us an excellent offer, lower than all others, and the service has been great. My love affair with the sun just went a bit deeper!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Landscape Artistry

With the weather finally veering away from the hellacious temperatures of summer, Doug has once again been on a mission to get the yard looking good. I got a bit more involved weighing in on the plant choices and becoming chief waterer. It is absolutely amazing how lovely everything looks. (Photos don't fully capture it all.) It will be very fun to watch how the plants mature and grow. And now that we are heading into the season where we can spend lots of time outside, it's a joy to see and take in the beauty.
Is: Bougainvillea, Arabian Jasmine, Hibiscus and a variety of cacti.
Transplanted beaver tail cacti and aloe plants. Small barrel cacti.
Flowering sage between the grapefruit trees
Look at those pink grapefruit! Can't wait until they are ripe.
The backyard is almost complete. We will put some decorative rock gravel around the plants and we have one more big job of landscaping, the ridge that sits above the wall on the back of our property. We are probably going with torch glow bougainvillea as it will fill in nicely and blooms often throughout the year.

So, onto the front yard where lots of muscle was required. Doug's big design feature is the dry rock creek. He figured out the "flow" and moved every stone into place. Then, he moved it all again, put down plastic, and moved it back into place. I admire the work, but did not participate in this aspect of the landscape. It is truly stunning.
View facing the house
Arabian jasmine sits astride the dry creek.

View looking toward the street
Surrounded by desert grass and lantana
The interior of our front yard is a really nice space and we filled it in red/yellow lantana. Lantana loves the desert and grows very well. I am happy with the combination color. Additionally, we purchased two Mexican fan palms to surround the lantana. These plants are memorial trees for my parents that my Stockholm book club had purchased for us. They aren't the original plants as we had to leave those at the previous house we owned, but they are replicas and now have a wonderful spot in the front of our house.

Mexican fan palm and lantana. Texas Ranger is the large tree behind the wall and flowers in purple.
Desert grass, Mexican fan palm (mom), Lantana, Mexican Fan Palm (dad).
Ocotillo, with green leaves, waiting for fire orange blooms, a prickly pear cactus that will bloom red, a large barrel cactus that should also bloom on top and a new
lantana round out this lovely front of the house look.
There is now a warm welcome to our front door with lantana and sago palms along with barrel cactus providing a nice look. 
This view had been partially obstructed by the large yucca we transplanted to the backyard but now we can enjoy this gorgeous sight.We sat out last evening and soaked it all in. These chairs are beckoning company.
Desert landscape is so much diverse and beautiful than most people think. It is dry and sandy for sure but the plants that flower and thrive in the desert are so colorful and hearty. The hummingbirds and bees really like them too so it feels good to be doing our part to feed and support that part of the eco-system. We're happy to introduce you to the delights of the desert. Why don't you come on out and have a seat in our chairs and take in the beautiful view?