Tuesday, September 27, 2005

greasy grimy gopher guts

Heading to Austin tomorrow for the Society of Environmental Journalists conference - should be a truly great event and I'm very much looking forward to it. Here is the draft agenda for those who are interested.

I bought myself a Canon Rebel Digital camera today. I had purchased one online that was a few hundred cheaper than the standard sales price but it never came in the mail so I called and their email to me had not gotten through (EV1.net is bouncing a lot these days), and upon questioning the gentleman I discovered they were selling me a JAPANESE language camera. Nice. Nice that nowhere on the site did it actually say the camera was all in Japanese symbols and the instruction booklet in Japanese. Oh, but he insisted it was in the fine print somewhere. It didn't matter to him that the photo showed an English language camera. Isn't this kind of thing illegal? Umm, ever heard of false advertising?

If I had the time I'd follow up with something but the best I can do is to say don't order from Royal Camera! (www.royalcamera.com). The guy tried to sell me the American version, and had the gall to tell me I was wasting my money to look elsewhere because they had the best price and when I informed him that I would not do business with a company that blatantly falsely advertises he actually yelled at me in his East coast accent "Thanks for wasting your time!" Or his time or somesuch nonsense. Sheesh what is the world coming to. Or did it never crawl out of the muck of rudeness and disrespect and greasy grimy gopher guts in the first place. For crying out loud.

So I went to my local camera store and although the price was higher than I could find it online I wanted the darn thing now (there's that little impatience problem that occasionally manifests). I wanted it to take to Austin. Never mind that I have to figure out how to operate the mysterious machine since its different and more electronically inclined than my trusty print-film Canon Rebel. And I don't have time to read the instructions. But I have time to write this so maybe I need to get back to work and stop rambling. So I won't be blogging for a few days but will be back Sunday night. Carry on!

Monday, September 26, 2005


I added some comments to my Kudos page from past Biology students. Its interesting that I was talking about the Morrie's living funeral concept and then all of a sudden I got a bunch of positive coments from some colleagues from a post I made to a listserv I've long been a member of in response to something I posted. I had previously gathered up comments my friends had made, and I read that when I'm feeling down, but recently decided to go through emails of my editors and just recently students (hence my newish Kudos page). I save these things because as someone said recently positive feedback is like manna. I love positive feedback when its genuine. I don't do my work for it, I work because I love what I do and I try to do my best always - whether writing, teaching, rabble-rousing or some other endeavor. But it makes me feel good to know that others appreciate what I offer the world through the gifts given to me, and that who I try to be as a human being is appreciated by those I touch in my life. On the other hand, it really bothers me to not be liked by people I think should not have a problem. Then again I should know that the problem is usually not me, because I can't work on what I don't understand. I know I worry far too much about this.

Speaking of manna I think the fact that we humans get to eat several times a day is manna. I love food. I love the tastes and variety - the sweet and the savory. I think its such a blessing that we can enjoy this simple pleasure. But I can also see how this can lead to food addiction problems - fortunately I lead a pretty balanced life but if I didn't run several times a week and work out... I dunno! It can be a "false idol" as can my other joy, clothes and fashion and shopping. The key is balance I think. (I am laughing aloud at myself reading this about food... I'm such a goober)

So I got stuck in horrendous traffic trying to flee Hurricane Rita. It was terrifying. Read this Houston Chronicle commentary for a very good explanation of how I felt, especially being annoyed at all the politicians congratulating themselves while millions of people sat in sweltering traffic, running out of gas, terrified we were going to end up in this death trap on the freeway while they congratulated themselves on how good a job they did at evacuating everyone.

It took people 70 hours to get our of town in some cases. Absolute insanity. It took us 10 hours to get 100 miles and we were leaving from the north part of Houston. We never made it to our destination of Dallas but found refuge at the home of my professor who was out of town but his wife graciously took us in - the whole caravan of us ragtag refugees - me, my kids, my exhusband and his coworker!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

darn that flapping sarcasm valve

I endlessly entertain myself when I am in a humorous mood, so I thought I'd post something I posted to the SEJ (Society of Environmental Journalists) list here. I just rejoined the organization after a 10-year hiatus. OK I have to give credit to the flapping sarcasm valve comment to a new friend/colleague who I've been emailing about wetlands and such, and I found the comment irresistibly humorous.

Here's my email:
"I've been informed (very politely) offlist of the importance of not appearing biased and such is generally frowned upon... and as punishment God has just upped Hurricane Rita to Cat 5 and she's heading straight for me here in Houston. So thought I'd send a quick email in between packing up my pink lawn flamingos that I will do my best to keep that darn flapping sarcasm valve shut. (I'm heading north in a bit). Hopefully I will return to more than a pile of bricks."

At least a few people found it humorous. One guy said "Others might not like your rant but I think I'm falling in love :-)" hee hee.

Really the whole bias/media thing is interesting because I'm writing a book about the Quest for Truth and how people come to their beliefs via faith, science, and self-knowledge. It will cover science/faith issues, the dangers of letting others decide our beliefs for us (ie do not be a sheep - baa baa), evolution and why intelligent design is not science. It's coming along nicely (about 30% done) and I'm very excited about it. Its going to be a lighter read than all the ID/evolution books out there, something aimed at your average soccer moms & dads.

My original message related to off-road vehicles and TX politics. Here it is in case you're interested. Hope you don't drive a big truck or like ORVs :)

Why do the offroad vehicle people get nearly $4 MILLION in funds to build a bunch of darn ORV trails through the woods, while the Spring Creek Greenway (an incredibly forward-thinking linear riparian park in the last wilderness in Houston) gets one-quarter that for land acquisition at $1 mil? (which to be sure is fantastic! and illegal ORV use is rampant along the properties). But sheesh, you'd think the TPW commission would recognize that land acquisition is so critically important right now since they're chopping down forest as fast as their truffala-whackers can chop and greenspace and parks preservation has been called for by umpteen different organizations, particularly around urban areas, and they're always whining about not having enough $ and going to sell off their parks -- rather than sinking a whopping $4 million in building motorized vehicle trails, for crying out loud. I mean I'm sure it MIGHT help get them off some of the land illegally but most likely it will
just lead to more forest destruction (there's a proposal to build a NEW trail right through the Angelina Nat Forest). I'd really like to know how they set their funding decisions. Stick all the ORV trails in the old abandoned sand mining pits that are all over the darn place out here and never ever get reclaimed! It kills me, the bunch of testosterone-laden overgrown good old boys who drive massive trucks Hummers and ORVs because they didn't get enough satisfaction from their Tonka trucks. (whoops did I say that?) End rant.

NOTE: I like good ol boys as much as I like anyone else, I was just being funny and one is exempt from political correctness when taking stabs at humor.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

humility and humor

I once read about the politicians of old who would get up on their platform and spew rants and raves at the other party as they campaigned, and then they'd go drink beer together. This is how I think we should be as humans, as leaders. We should be able to vehemently disagree with one another's position, argue our own, but at the end of the day still be able to be friends and have a beer together. It is pride when one can not take criticism of their work, their personality etc. One can even disagree with the criticism, but one should at least listen to it and be able to evaluate it and not be defensive.

Praotes is also translated as humility. And humility is seeing oneself (and others) as they are - the qualities we have are gifts from God so we "ought not think too highly of ourselves" but nor does this mean to not see and appreciate and use the strengths we have. Humility is not self-effacing but a realistic view that considers everyone as having their place and being worthy. I try - but do not always succeed - to think of in each interaction of the other person as more important than me, or at minimun to treat them as I would like to be treated. I fail miserably many times! Or forget. One thing I don't like much in others is pride. What I see as pride is the opposite of humility, it is in people who get offended easily or who aren't able to see another perspective or their own faults. It's about treating others with respect and expecting it for yourself and walking away when its not happening. I like people who can see their own flaws, because only when someone can see and love us for all our imperfections are we truly loved. And this is how God's love for us is.

On a totally separate note, I played Bratz with my daughter the other night and had her cracking up so much she could not breathe. It was hilarious. Unlike Barbies (which I did not play with as a kid, I was more into Tonka trucks and whacko-whammos), Bratz have FEET that come off not shoes. So I took on this high-pitched urban chick voice and called her doll a wussie because Savannah said she was going to the prom, I was like, "Giiiirrrrl, proms are for wussies!" Then my Bratz doll freaked out about the foot murderer on a rampage (all the extra feet were lying on the carpet). I guess you had to be there but it was truly hilarious. If I might say so myself. Today I invented the character Monchichi Frappucino. I think I need to write a fiction book. I never wanted to write fiction, but maybe it would be a good use of my overactive imagination! Mostly the overactivity results in copious and voluminous writing and I tend to obsess about problems and situations. I recently said my mind is like a dog wrestling with a chew toy and my friend Bill said I should say like a Jack Russell Terrier with a chew toy. Not that I would know what a Jack Russel Terrrier is because frankly I think dogs are stinky and they get their slobbery dog breath all over you.

Monday, September 19, 2005

fears and joys

I am feeling many emotions of late, tears are near to the surface and come often and yet I feel much excitement about some things. I am learning that I lose my motivation on projects easily when I don't get positive feedback. I wonder why that is. I suppose the whole critical mother syndrome led me to try to excel at everything to avoid the criticism and strive for the positive feedback but why do I still seek for approval from outside? To be sure, positive feedback feels great. As someone recently said to me, its manna. Yet shouldn't my feelings of success or joy at my work come from within, knowing I am contributing to the greater good? It is something I strive toward.

I am very excited about the upcoming Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) annual conference in Austin in a couple weeks. I am organizing a freelancer get together and a few mag editors will join us, and then we're going out for margaritas on 6th street. Woohoo! I love getting away from it all, meeting people, having fun. Its one thing my ex and I differ greatly on. Crowds take his energy away but interacting with people energizes me.

Then after the conference it looks like I'll be driving to New Orleans with a fellow freelancer. Its something I want to see, the landscape devastation and to see if I can get some article ideas from it - the importance of wetlands etc. I did not get to see anything on TV because I currently don't have one that works... so I saw photos but it will be fascinating to see in person. Hopefully Houston will evade Hurricane Rita... Ciao for now.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

praotes - inward grace of the soul

I was doing my Beth Moore bible study (Living Beyond Yourself) this morning, which is on the fruits of the spirit (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23) and the topic is gentleness. In Greek gentleness is the same as meekness and is the word praotes. She cites a description of this word (Spiros Zodhiates, et al. eds. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Chattanooga, TN 1992) that is so powerful to me.

"It does not denote outward expression of feeling but an inward grace of the soul. Praotes encompasses expressing wrath toward the sin of man as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus....This meekness does not blame God for the persecutions and evildoings of men. It is not the result of weakness... but the activity of the blessedness that exists in one's heart from being angry at evil....That virtue that stands between two extremes, uncontrollable and unjustified anger, and not becoming angry at all no matter what takes place around you."

I found this so powerful because its true to my own life right now. I also have often said I don't like flapping jaws. In my opinion too many people sit around and complain about things going wrong but don't take action to change the things they complain about. We can't do everything but we can do something. And those things in our path that we can do, we should do something about. Hold a candle to the darkness and it can expose some ugly truths, but its better than sitting in darkness.

In all the difficulties I have faced over the past few months as I cry before my beloved God, I often say to Him, Lord if my pain and frustration is going to help someone else see you more clearly, than I will take on this pain. I can handle it with your strength. I know that there are lessons to be learned in every painful circumstance, and I don't mind the difficulties so much as I get frustrated at not knowing what choices to make or what direction to go. And the fear of uncertainty, which I know is related to lack of faith. I often feel like the man who says "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! (Mark 9:24). In the same breath we can express deep faith and deep doubt. Recognizing it is the first step to overcoming it.

By the way I went to the video filming of this bible study weekly last year, and she is absolutely amazing - so full of the Spirit and so wise. I haven't watched the videos (since I saw it live) but I may be in the audience on the video somewhere since it was filmed over several weeks!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

joie de vivre

I took the kids to Astroworld/Waterworld this past weekend to use up our "raincheck" from my birthday, and we had a blast. On the wagon wheel I watched this 20-something woman, rail thin and with a black eye, with her little 3-year old son hold her hands high in the air, close her eyes, and just so into the moment, waving her hands around with such joie de vivre. I wondered whether a boyfriend had given her the black eye. I know how it feels to seem so small that you are powerless, and so scared that you know when you are free you must use and enjoy that freedom and live in the moment. Life is so preciously short. Freedom is so integral to happiness. Give me liberty or give me death, in the infamous words of Patrick Henry.

When I was in high school hanging out with hundreds of kids on an empty street, some kid came up to my best friend and I and pointed a gun to us and started yelling at us, "Do you want to die? This gun is loaded!" - my friend laughed and walked away from the gun, and then he put the gun to my head and kept yelling at me. Kim yelled at him to knock it off and put the gun down. I was terrified. I could not move. He pulled the trigger at my temple. Then he started to laugh, and walked away.

Obviously it wasn't loaded. But this event shaped part of who I was and am. The use of power to intimidate people has affected my life. To Kim she probably thought nothing much of it, while other events shaped who she is. But to me, I saw the way people can use power to intimidate people into fear and helplessness - and it's real power - what defense did I have against that gun? And domestic violence is rampant, and hidden from view. Emotional intimidation is everywhere. When I was sixteen I wrote an essay on the abuse of authority by parents, teachers, and police. I was young but I was not naive to the way people try to push you around, lie, and pretend that it's normal.

I know that my time to die can be any moment. I have only these few moments of life to enjoy, and like the woman with the black eye swinging her hands in wild abandon on a little kids ride, I will never let any situation get the better of me. This is MY life. And I will live it, and I will enjoy my days. And I will not compromise truth, integrity, or liberty for anyone or anything.
I was so proud of the kids, they were scared to go to the Tidal Wave because it looks like a really tall water ride that dives down into this huge pool of water, and I convinced them to and said look by the end you'll be saying "I want to go again!" and sure enough, they wanted to go OVER AND OVER and we got soaked to the core - the ride utterly drenches you. It was so much fun. We held our hands in the air and screamed "woohoooo!!!!" and I just love those little munchkins. They are such good kids. So not perfect, but so full of love and their own joie de vivre and it is my prayer and intention to not let anyone ever rob them of that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

i'm tired

people are starting to ask why i haven't written in my blog in a week so i better say something... lol. i love you guys! i am tired... it has been a long week. i feel somewhat numb. i feel like so much pain and difficulty has been heaped on me and the world i just feel so overwhelmed i can't even feel it anymore. i remember after 9/11 i was transfixed on the television, when i never watch tv at all except for big events. but for katrina it all seems so distant. of course maybe the fact that i had to disconnect my cable and now i don't have any television channels *might* be a factor... i haven't turned on the tv on my own in about 2 years except to occasionally watch dvds...but really it all seems a far-off dream, or nightmare rather.

yet i start to picture myself as one of those people and how i would feel and i start to cry for what they've had to endure. and then i think of the things i am going through in my own life, and have gone through the last month and i sometimes cry but i mostly feel numb and sometimes mad. I feel like why, what in the world have i ever done to deserve these things? and then i know that because i am always praying, and always seeking the truth, the way, the love, the light, my own sin, my own way out... there has to be a higher purpose.

i had a sort of eureka moment a few weeks ago when i realized that the answer (or a possible answer) to why God allows pain on earth to undeserving individuals (such as children, animals, and in cases where someone did not do anything "wrong") is that only through such pain does the world progress in terms of growing more just and more loving. pain and injustice can make us bitter or it can make us stronger and more dedicated to truth, justice, and the way of love. love is not just wishy washy ooey gooey, sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in and what you know is right. and its hard. and it takes risk. and you think maybe you're being foolish. but in the end i have to answer to God alone. and there ain't no excuse that is going to do the trick. i am rambling because i'm tired. i went to the Texas city prairie preserve and here are a couple photos. i'll add more later. hi celeta! i love you and you are awesome, my role model for being real and true and down to earth and seeing the good in me...thank you and i'm so glad i found you again. (or you found me...). hi gail! :) keep eating those earwax jellybeans! ;0) yummy!

of all the days when life seems so crappy i just think of the amazing network of friends i have and i love you all with all of my heart!!!!! i could not get through the days without knowing you all are there. and my beautiful kids... mystery magic and sunshine crazy... i love when my ten year old daughter who is nearly as big as me comes running to give me a hug and nearly topples me over. my life was not so good when i was her age. i see her with her 800-page novel and it cracks me up. I think she knows more then most of the adults around her. I know celeta always said that about me as a child... g'nite guys. hasta luego. (and don't get me wrong i love life and its beautiful and i just need a day outside to bring it all back in focus). thank goodness the next 2 days are field days to katy prairie preserve and to the little thicket the most amazing place!...i will post photos.