Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Which Internet provider/phone company/technology to use?
Here is our current scenario:
We have two cell phones with unlimited in-network calling and some number of minutes that I can never keep track of. $80.
We have cable through Comcast (mostly for Plantboy) as well as high speed cable Internet (mostly for STM). $90. I've called frequently to negotiate pricing and they usually bite for a few months but then jack the price back up.
Because I was overshooting my minutes when we initially moved here, I picked up a landline through Vonage. My initial price there was about $15. Currently, $25. I tried to cancel a while ago, but I hadn't been with them long enough and was going to have to pay a hefty-ish cancellation fee. I have now been with them long enough to avoid said fee if and when I cancel.
In other words, it is costing me around $200/month to stay in contact with the outside world, which seems ridiculously expensive. Some things have recently shifted for us--we are moving our computer to another room and need the cable dude to come anyway to hook it up in the new spot, though wireless is seeming more appealing all the time; our phone contract is up for renewal and Verizon has a new and improved family plan; and I'm thinking about DVR.
1--Chuck everything and just buy a bunch of stamps. (You remember stamps, don't you?) And a rotary phone.
2--Ditch Vonage and go to cell phone only with the increased minutes plan (pros and cons for those of you who have tried this?)
3--Write a nasty letter to Comcast telling them where they can stuff all the money I've sent their company over the last few years. But then I'm left looking for somebody else to do Internet and Cable.
4--Don't succumb to the DVR, or do. (Movie trivia: "Technologically speaking, the world is out of hand; I mean, take the VCR, for example, the whole idea behind the VCR is that it makes it possible for you to tape what's on television when you leave the house. Of course, the whole idea behind leaving the house is so you can miss what's on television.")
So how do you manage all of this vitally important stuff? How have you found the best deals? Who are your providers? Does ANYBODY out there feel like they are getting their money's worth? Or, if you have nothing to add, just throw out random bits of your favorite movies from the nineties.
But mostly, be quick. I'm probably going off-line for a few days starting tomorrow. (Yes, yes, I'm hoping to survive it.)
Thursday, July 16, 2009
It has taken me that long to put my thoughts in order, though I still have my doubts about how it will all come out on paper, and how each of you will react. But here goes nothing.
When I was living near Sydney in the mid-nineties, there was a newspaper headline one day that sent several of us into paroxysms of laughter, not because of its sentiment but because of the sensationalized presentation. “Nation of Bastards” declared the headline in print big enough to see across the street. Skimming the front page told us what the missionaries had long suspected—according to the latest census, more Aussies were born to unwed parents than to married couples.
In fact, the Aussie government was set up to favor the “de facto” relationship: dole benefits were higher for two singles than for a family and couples living together for a paltry number of months were eligible for all benefits offered to married couples. It wasn’t uncommon for you to hear missionaries practically gushing over some awesome family they had just found with the caveat, “Of course, they are just de facto, but all they have to do is get married!” A “simple” thing that was much easier said than done in most cases.
Not long after the nation-of-bastards report, our mission president spent an entire zone conference on the importance of the law of chastity and the evil of fornication. He told us that as missionaries, because we had seen so many people choosing sex before (and often instead of) marriage, we had become complacent about the importance the Lord placed on this sacred commandment. As with all laws that involve the beginning and ending, or giving and taking of life, the law of chastity is a very big deal.
Ironically, while murder is illegal and abhorrent, promiscuous sexual activity is not only legal, but encouraged with few reservations by most sections of society. Some months back I heard an interview with a prospective Catholic priest who responded thus when asked about priests being hard to recruit because of the chastity requirement, “We live in a hyper-sexualized society.” And his belief that our children are being taught that their identify is completely wrapped up in their sexuality, when truthfully their worth is far beyond that.
Blogs everywhere last fall lit up with talk about defining marriage, the Church’s role in passing Proposition 8, civil rights and moral decay. But not this blog. I would occasionally comment on somebody else’s post concerning the issue, but my responses were wishy-washy—catered carefully to avoid controversy to whatever message the blog author seemed to be advancing. And some of these ideas were at divergent ends of the debate.
Some weeks ago, a Facebook friend from high school wrote a scathing status update about the California Supreme Court, bigots in general, and Mormons specifically. I was shocked; her parents are very conservative and still live very near my parents. She herself seemed like such a Molly in high school; maybe I didn’t know her very well, but it seems apparent that she has left behind all she once held dear (or perhaps never actually did?) and is leading a very different life now. She is not a lesbian, but she is a huge defender of homosexuality in general. Anyway, I have often commented on this person’s page about trivial things, but on that day I found myself paralyzed and unable to say anything. Several comments followed her statement, all in agreement, though one was a little bit committed in her support for the more conservative position. This particular commenter was lambasted from about six different people within a few minutes for daring to suggest that it was possible to feel love toward people choosing a homosexual lifestyle, even if you disagreed with their actions on principle. The “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument didn’t fly with anybody who was a part of the core discussion, who basically said that to ever call somebody else’s behavior sinful is to be judgmental, hypocritical and, above all, unloving.
I didn’t comment.
I could see first of all that only one opinion was sought or mattered, that it wasn’t a discussion at all, just a place to Mormon-bash. I felt that to state my feelings on these matters would be casting my pearls before swine. I knew that getting involved would make me feel unhappy and lose the Spirit.
And yet . . . .
I’m not good at backing down from a position. Especially if what we are fighting with is words. I felt as though making the decision to quietly close Facebook that day was the same as hiding my light under a bushel. But mostly I feared that my reticence was due in part to the fact that this issue, even after so many months, is still incredibly difficult for me.
A letter was read in our ward when the fight for Prop 8 first came up. Many others told me they didn’t hear this letter—I wonder if it was just read in the Western US? The letter basically stated that members of the Church were to use time, resources and energy in order to pass Proposition 8. I was secretly glad NOT to live in California where I might be expected to walk door to door to get out the vote. I couldn't imagine approaching my neighbors with what seemed like a level of judgment that might alienate half of them.
I started to read a lot of arguments from both sides. My debate and science background has taught me to 1- Try to see things from each side before stating a position and 2- to question everything. I have to be honest, the arguments in support of gay marriage are very, very compelling. (This is why it is called “sophistry.” If it wasn’t compelling or believable then it would be easier to ignore.)
I spent some weeks struggling to figure out just what it was I believed. Who I believed. Plantboy and I had a long conversation one afternoon. As usual, I was well-spoken, reasoned and logical; and also characteristically, Plantboy reacted to such a question with faith. He listened at some length, honestly attempting to understand the depth of my agitation and said, “Do you believe the President Monson is God’s prophet?”
I was unable to answer him. At that time I had not yet prayed specifically to receive my answer for that. So I put questions about Prop 8 on the shelf and instead I focused on my testimony of modern revelation.
And I decided that following the prophet was more important to me that understanding the hows and whys of homosexuality and civil rights. I say "to me" because I know many people who absolutely do NOT feel that way, nor do I think they should just because I do.
I know many of you who read here. You will no doubt say, “Duh! Follow the prophet. Just like that primary song that sticks in your head for 24 hours after you've heard it.” But for me it was not that straightforward and potentially threatened to become my worst faith crisis since, well, ever. I’ve since read other blogs where there is discussion of Mormon theology on a level that is far beyond what we do at Sunday School. It seems that there are as many ways to follow the doctrines of the LDS church as there are members. And while the anonymity of the blogosphere gives rein for people to speak openly and personally in a way that provides incredible connection (see comments from my last post if you wonder what I’m talking about), I also wonder if that anonymity allows us to air grievances that are better worked through privately. Maybe all this community discussion and venting prevents us from getting on our knees and taking it to the Lord. Sometimes I wonder if, in our quest to understand all the details and have every single question answered, we lose the big picture.
I still have a lot of things I don’t understand. And when I think about people who are both LDS and gay, my heart aches. I think this issue will be the great sifter in our time—ERA in the 70’s and early 80’s; Priesthood Authority in the late 80’s and early 90’s; homosexuality in well, whatever it is we call this decade. People will leave the church in droves over this. Our brothers and sisters. How can the prophet not weep to follow through with what he believes the Lord has directed him to do and say? What I believe the Lord has directed him to do and say.
But the last six months have taught me one thing: when I read arguments against church leadership (on whatever issue) or criticism of the way some things have been handled, for all the heartache it makes me feel, the Spirit doesn’t speak to me. But when I hear talks like this, or this . . . . my soul sings for joy and I know I am listening to the Lord’s servants. Will they make mistakes? Probably. They are men. But it would be a bigger mistake for me to put other voices ahead of theirs.
I heard a woman give a talk recently in Sacrament meeting that was almost brutal in its honesty about struggles she has endured in the last few years with her testimony, activity and commitment. She mentioned, briefly, a friend who is a lesbian. The friend, in front of a large group of colleagues, very forcefully confronted this sister about her religious beliefs and her stand on rights for gay people. This dear sister said very calmly, “I don’t know why you are the way you are, or why I am the way I am, but I believe that we can find that place of love in the middle and move forward together.” They embraced.
I know that for many this philosophy is too simple. And they will continue to search and study and read and dig. If that is you, I sincerely hope you too will be able to come to that place of peace. I hope that I can continue to walk that line between compassion and obedience. Mostly, I hope that in the end I come down on God’s side, and that I’m bold enough to be honest with those I love about it.
Oh, Lord, help thou mine unbelief.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Another problem at which all I can do is throw a casserole.
Or not. The baby coming is a boy; my friend's other children are girls. My own baby is two, and about a month ago I felt very compelled to give her my stuff. All of it. Now, you might say that it sounds like I'm making some sort of decision here. I'm not. I still can't get the right inspiration about my BIG question, but I do know I'm supposed to give away my stuff.
As it turns out, she doesn't need the furniture, but she does need nearly everything else. Tonight, for family home evening, I went through three huge bins full of gorgeous boy baby clothes aged o-18 months. I culled them yet again for Goodwill-worthy items, pulled out the wee things with the most sentimental value, and boxed the rest of lovingly used baby things for my friend. I packed away my like-new Boppy for when she nurses her little man; the one with the cover that matches the nursery I never got to have for the Youngling. I packed up my bouncy chair too; maybe they will finally put some batteries in it, a thing I never did.
I've told myself for two weeks I was going to do this. Tonight I hoped to feel some sense of relief or closure as I de-cluttered my life and found a happier home for all of these things. Instead I found myself saying, several times, "I have to keep THAT! All three boys wore it, and the next one will need to also!" or "I couldn't stand it if there was another baby and I'd given THIS away." And I cried. Not a lot, but some. My three little boys helped Plantboy pull out the old peas, spread compost and put in the fall crop of carrots and beets. So grown up. So energetic. So not babies.
My heart is so full tonight with emotions I cannot explain or understand, at least not entirely. I feel an odd mixture of nostalgia, confusion, wistfulness and sorrow for just how short their tiny years are. And yet, when you are in the middle of that babyhood it is so hard--at least for me it is. I was never all that naive about the difficulty of having kids: even with number one the decision to go forward was scary beyond all reason. In a lot of ways, I feel like I don't want to have a baby. I don't want the sleepless nights, aches, pains, gear and worries that come in those first couple of years. I don't really want to give my body over to somebody else so wholly again.
But I don't want to regret either.
So I'll just send these thoughts out into the void tonight, trying to understand the tears streaming down my face even as I write. Trying to understand how this mothering thing can be so fulfilling and draining at the same time. Trying to remember how sweet and perfect their little bodies were in those impossibly tiny clothes. Trying to decide if my sacrifice is enough.
Trying to find a place where I can exist simultaneously with this mother-creature that lives in me too. Trying to decide if the love that I have for my three little men will be enough to fill the hole that threatens to tear me open sometimes . . . .
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Watching the "Clone Wars" regularly has also given them a whole new array of mis-pronunciations and nicknames. R-2 is "Aretooie," for example. I've also learned the subtle differences in Assassin droids, battle droids and fighter droids. I've learned that the barely perceptible striping patterns and the colors on the clones determine if they are commanders or regular clones, and that you can even tell the names of the clones depending on these same obscure markings. And yes, my friends, the clones have names.
I have not, however, figured out the pattern for deciding who is "bad" and who is "good." Not as easy as you think, my friends. Clones are always good, Storm Troopers are always bad, yet if you have seen the movies (as we have, 44 times, all but Episode III), you know that Clones and Storm Troopers are THE SAME. And Anakin, of course, becomes The Darth. Apparently after being treated for emphysema.
But yesterday, I heard a new favorite, while the Lego droid fighters were cruising around my house, the droids were yelling, "WATCH OUT FOR THE REPUBLICAN WARSHIPS!" For all you non-geeks out there, it should be "Republic."
If you know a child that loves all things Star Wars, you must check out this link. And this link. Be prepared for laughter, lots of it. And it might not all be coming from your super-fan child. It makes more and more sense to me every day why I was gifted with boys.
Monday, July 06, 2009
The festivities actually go on for several nights. We are right on the edge of the urban growth boundary (a rather complicated and controversial law put into place in the late 70's in Oregon to help limit urban sprawl), so there is an enormous field about a block north of us. Until this weekend, I thought the field was only useful for the luscious free blackberries growing on the borders that we harvest there each summer. It turns out that the field is also the venue of a local rodeo over the 4th of July weekend each year. The rodeo runs Thursday-Sunday and each night there are fireworks at about 10 pm.
A lot of people don't like to pay to get into the rodeo, but they like to watch the fireworks, which are always the biggest the night of the 4th. Naturally, if you want to see the fireworks, our neighborhood is the best spot for that.
My neighbors take this seriously, and assume the responsibility to entertain all of the visitors to our neck of the woods with a pre-fireworks show. The festivities kicked off at about 7 pm, when our neighbor a few houses up hosted the annual Firework Derby. Each participant builds a car and then powers it with any firework legally sold in Oregon. The starting line is sidewalk chalked onto the street and cars are pitted against one another. Measurements are taken, also written in chalk on the street and a winner declared. There is no race-off as most of the entered cars go down in flames. One car went at least 20 feet, but in circles, parallel to the starting line, and even backwards and ended up with a score of about 15 inches.
The crazy part? There were few actual kids entered in the contest. It was mostly adults. Drinking adults. The guy in charge is actually one of the sons of a neighbor; he started the tradition nearly 10 years ago in high school and still comes back every 4th of July to run the Derby. We found out too late to make an entry . . . . but next year! Watch out.
We got the kids in their jammies and put the baby to bed; I told Jedi and Padawan that I'd take them on a walk around the block and if the big fireworks started we would stop to watch. In the two hours we'd been in the house, our neighborhood had transformed itself into the pyromaniac's Mecca. Cars lined both sides of our entire loop, with lawn chairs on each driveway. There were barbecues going on at every other house, with huge fireworks being exploded at every third or fourth house. And.I.Mean.Huge. I've never seen anything like it: kids running with wild abandon through the streets with sparklers, boys no bigger than Jedi lighting and throwing firecrackers, Roman candles shooting 20 feet in the air, huge cases of launch-fireworks igniting one after another fifty feet in the air sending sparks all the way to the ground, teenagers tossing used fireworks into a flaming pile in the gutter, heedless of whether there might still be explosive energy left inside, and everywhere, everywhere, plenty of beer flowing.
We made our way around the block and walked down a cul-de-sac to visit one of Jedi's friends from school who looked like he was outside with his family. Their back yard backs right up to the field and they invited us back just as the rodeo-fireworks were starting. As we walked past their gutter, there was a gigantic pile of spent fireworks, what must have been hundreds of dollars, worth and the acrid smell of sulfur in a thick cloud of smoke. Friend's mom gave all the kids glow-stick necklaces and bracelets, so that we could find them in the dark as we tramped through the woods into the stubbled field.
After walking through the Gauntlet, the rodeo fireworks were a bit anti-climatic, truthfully. We dragged our way home in the dark to the final strains of God Bless America, exhausted, but with a renewed sense of determination. Our house is at the street's entrance. We may have a responsibility to the greater good next year. . . . to get visitors to the Cul-de-Sac of Fire of to a good start. There will be plenty to live up to. It was 10:30 when we got home, and I think some of our neighbors were just getting started.
So what cool things does your neighborhood do together? Or better yet, did you ever do something really stupid while you were drinking? You are welcome to post anonymously on the second. ;)
Thursday, July 02, 2009
I loved the first National Treasure movie. There are just so many great lines from it, but one of my very favorite is when Nick Cage's character (Ben Gates) and his buddy Riley are contemplating the Declaration at the National Archives. (A funny scene if you have been there, by the way. The archives are much smaller and darker and the Declaration is in such bad shape as to be prety much illegible.) Here is the exchange, and then Ben later comments to the curator of the archives his feelings about the men who signed this document:
Ben: Of all the words written here about freedom, there's a line here that's at the heart of all the others. "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government and provide new guardsfor their future security."
Riley: People don't talk that way any more.
Ben: Beautiful, huh?
Riley: No idea what you said.
Ben: It means, if there's something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.
(Later scene) Ben: A toast . . . to high treason. That's what these men were committing when they signed the Declaration. Had we lost the war, they would have been hanged, beheaded, drawn and quartered, and Oh! my personal favorite -and had their entrails cut out and burned! So, here's to the men who did what was considered wrong in order to do what they knew was right.
There are things worth dying for. And if not called upon to do so, then let us not forget there are things worth living for also.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: That ALL men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.