The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Archive for March, 2009

10 Things On Tuesday: Things On My "To-Do" List

  1. Call a friend in Missoula who called me last week and asked me to call back. The problem is two-fold. I never remember until late at night and I hate the phone.  Besides, I know she wants us to come for dinner in JULY so I figure the RSVP period has barely started. On the other hand, we’ve been friends since junior high so I do need to overcome the phone phobia and call her. Her name is Maggie and my youngest child is also a Maggie. So it’s a pretty close relationship as you might guess. She and I not only live in different time zones, we live in different technology zones. I’m all about email, twitter (@susanls if you care), and blogging. She still writes letters, real ones, with stamps, and uses the phone.
  2. Make copies of my thesis. I finally found it. I can’t find the computer copy. I need several hard copies, stored in different places. I have a copier. What’s stopping me? Lethargy. And I vowed to work on that this Lent. So I moved it up near the top of the list.
  3. Get pages ready for writer’s group. I haven’t been for a couple weeks, and the last time I was there I brought a sex scene. I need to move on, get over my own embarrassment, and get some pages ready to go. Should be easy. I’ve got that part of the book written. In fact, most of the book is written except, naturally, the hard parts which I am still researching.
  4. Send an email to a friend i want to have lunch with. I’m shy. Even in email. But I will do this one soon.
  5. Clean house. My oldest daughter and her family will be here on Thursday and I need to clean house, make a birthday cake for my granddaughter who is turning 11, and buy some gifts. Fortunately, the house only needs to have the kitchen island, family room, and my office mucked. The rest is passing fair.
  6. Call my minister about the Maundy Thursday service we are doing together next week. We’ve sort of got it planned but we’ve still got some tweaking to do.
  7. Get started on plans for Summer Sundays which I’m in charge of. I need to email the other person-in-charge and figure out how we want to approach this. Our minister gets the summer off and the lay ministers run the services. I was second in charge last year. This year I’ve got the responsibility. Yikes!
  8. Send an email to a client to remind them that I’m still here and still want to work for them. A couple weeks ago they said they’d have some work for me in a few weeks. Just want to remind them of the fact.
  9. Write some  short articles. I’ve got some little assignments, of the easy peasy variety. i just need to write them. Make a quick $100. Why do I always work to deadline? Why can’t I learn to work ahead of deadline?
  10. Blog! always. And take photos. I’m trying to teach myself to see and photography is a great teacher. So I’m going to take pictures of things tomorrow. Should I choose red things or kitchen things?

Five things I’m grateful for:

  1. Writing assignments, even if they are little.
  2. The promise of at least one new book project and maybe another.
  3. That my daughter and her family are on their way here from Kansas.
  4. My favorite sweatshirt is clean and in the dryer.
  5. Time to think and write
  6. A good conversation I had with Jenny tonight (I know, that’s six, but better to be overly grateful than not)

I Feel a Bit of Craftiness Coming On

The first ten people to respond to this post will get something made by me.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations so please read carefully:

– I make no guarantees that you will like what I make.
– What I create will be just for you.
– It’ll be done this year (2009).
– You have no clue what it’s going to be. It will be something made in the real world and not something over the internet. It may be a mixed CD. It may be a poem. It may be a mask or a pan of brownies or a sculpture made of melted crayons. I reserve the right to do something extremely strange.

Here’s the fine print:

You can respond even if you aren’t tagged.

In return, all you need to do is post this text into a note of your own and make 10 crafty things for 10 others.

Five things I’m grateful for today:

  • Atkinson Memorial Church (UU)
  • Naps
  • Good Dog Gwyneth meeting me at the back door
  • Diet Pepsi – lots of Diet Pepsi
  • The Beloved Jenny and the lunch I hope she is going to make me

Photo of the Day

Well, Beaver Creek is swelling and threatening to overflow it’s banks again. Whoever said they wanted more snow will be tarred and feathered as soon as I remember who they are.  But the rain does make for some interesting scenes, like this one from our latest jaunt to the nearby dog park.

p1000180 In case you are wondering, the field is, well, a field. The lake is a field with water on it. The chair is the only chair in the whole friggin’ park and, as you can see, the chair is in the middle of the “lake.” Not that Gwyneth cares. But the chair seems to have lost its usefulness in several inches of water (and I assume mud).

Three Theological Things: The Funniest Profound Books Ever

I heard Christopher Moore on NPR the other day, talking about his new book. The commentator, who I should know but don’t because I have terminal CRS disease, asked him about his earlier book Lamb, the story of Jesus’ missing years told from the point of view of his best friend, Biff. Right there you know it’s going to be funny. And if you are a fan of Moore, the man who brought us some of the most bizarre vampire stories, carnivorous mobile homes, and stupidest angels ever, you know you are right. Lamb is laugh-out-loud funny, and I find out, now required reading in many seminaries. Now that is cool!

Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt is a cross between Christopher Moore, Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and the Three Stooges. A romp across three continents, in search of a newly discovered Gospel, the book is both theologically imaginative and totally bizarre. And God, played by Himself, is a main character, one who will have you laughing out loud.

Right now I’m reading A.J. Jacob’s The Year of Living Biblically. While the other two books are fiction, this is brutally honest non-fiction at its best. If you’ve read Jacob’s first book, The Know-it-All, his chronicle of the year he spent reading his way through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, you know what I’m talking about.  Jacobs, a secular Jew and writer for the Atlantic Monthly, sets out to follow all the laws in the Bible as faithfully as possible.  His long-suffering wife has to endure a booth, for the Feast of Booths, built in their Manhattan apartment, her husband’s attempt to avoid all contact with her and anything she has touched during her menses, and a full-year’s worth of beard, increasingly odd clothing, attempts to keep holy the Sabbath, and generally strange events, all while trying to raise a young son. During the course of the year, with regular visits with pastors and rabbis who serve as a motley crew of advisors on all things religious, Jacobs has mulitple epiphanies about the life of faith.

Read them if you need a good laugh or if you just want to get a new perspective on your own faith.

Five things I’m grateful for today:

  • Sun. Finally. Sun.
  • A friend who took me to lunch to cheer me up
  • A comfy bed for a much-needed catch-up nap
  • Jenny’s promise to let me get a motorcycle if I lose some weight
  • A cat that says I misunderstand her

Tags

When I was a child, I was a big fan of Mad magazine. I especially liked the marginalia, that hysterically funny stuff they hid in the margins. Guess I’ve always been marginalized. Anyway, the only good way to do marginalia on a blog is in the tags. Just thought I’d let you know.

10 Things on Tuesday: What I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up

  1. A ballerina or a princess. Isn’t this every little girl’s dream? Actually, I did grow up to be a ballerina for awhile. Then I got married, had kids, got fat. Even then, I still danced twice in Vancouver Dance Company’s productions. Once as a parent in the nutcracker. Once as a lead in an original ballet. My oldest daughter was in both producation, my middle daughter was in the Nutcracker.
  2. A chemist. I mentioned this before. I wanted to be Madame Curie and discover something important. I also wanted to blow things up. Instead, I lit myself on fire. Thus ended a beautiful and Nobel-prize-winning career.
  3. An anthropologist.  Actually, I’ve become one of sorts. I’ve always been totally fascinated with culture and I do a lot of study and research about various aspects of culture. I like to think of myself as an anthropologist of religion and have conducted informal field studies in airports, Girl Scout meetings, anywhere I find someone who is or was a member of some religion I know little about.
  4. A priest. Of course I was a child in the dark ages and the Episcopal church was not ordaining women priests back then. Had I been raised Unitarian Universalist, I probably would have become a minister. I still want to be a minister but now I’m old. Besides, I only really want to preach and teach and write and I get to do that anyway. I don’t want to go to meetings or be nice to people or raise money.
  5. A French teacher.  I used to speak very good French. I’ve forgotten most of it although if I read it for awhile the illusion of literacy returns. But I was in love with one of my high school French teachers and wanted to be her. Would have been so much easier if I’d just admitted I was gay.
  6. Dale Evans. I know. Nobody wants to be Dale Evans. But I did. I even had an Official Dale Evans cowgirl outfit, complete with guns. Although my horse looked more like Trigger than Buttermilk. Not too fond of Appaloosas. I even wanted to have 10 kids like she did (but not with Roy.) However, I had one and that just about wore me out. I went on to have a total of three which made me quite exhausted. Glad i didn’t have 10.
  7. An archeologist. Okay, so I liked dinosaurs. And I liked ruins. And I liked dirt and digging. I was a natural.
  8. A writer. As long as I can remember I wanted to write. But I didn’t start writing professionally until I was in my 30s. Had to get over some shyness issues and fear of letting people know who I was. I’m so over it now. Much to many people’s annoyance. So this was a success. I am a writer.
  9. A lawyer. Yep. Wanted to be one of those too. Until I decided that, like my grandfather, I was too ethically challenged to be an attorney. I have ethics. That’s the challenge. Plus, after I took Constitutional Law I never wanted to write another brief or read another case as long as I lived.
  10. A superhero. But one that no one knew was a superhero. I wanted to save the world as a humanoid who looked like a regular human but was really an alien with super powers and altruism. My fascination with all things alien dates back to third grade. I don’t know why. It just does.

25 Random Things About Me as a Kid

This is another one of those Facebook deals, but anyone blogging should feel free to join in.

Once you’ve been tagged, you write 25 random things facts, habits, or goals about your childhood. Afterward, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about what you were like as a kid.

  1. My mother went into labor with me during a Christmas gathering and they raced to the hospital in a blizzard. I wasn’t born until two days later and I think she held it against me my whole life.
  2. I had an older brother who died at birth. I’m pretty sure my mother held that against my dad but I’m not 100% sure as it was a taboo subject. I am sure that I felt I had to make up for his death. Hence I was the oldest girl and my father’s only son. Pretty strange orientation on your place in the family.
  3. My  parents adopted a baby when I was 20 months old and then gave birth to another one seven month later. For those of you who are math challenged, that’s three kids in 27 months. I went from being a baby to being Susie of “Susie and the Little Kids” overnight. While it might have been a great rock group, it was not a great sibling group. My sisters resented my status as the big kid and finally carried out a successful rebellion when I was about 13. Since by then they were both bigger than I was it sort of made sense.
  4. Because I was small, I got hand-me-ups. That was just wrong. The practice kid gets enough shit heaped on them without having to wear the cast-offs of the others kids.
  5. My mother had her hands full with those babies so I was sent to school at the age of 2. I liked chapel, French, and nap. I still like those things.  Did I mention I went to an Episcopal school?
  6. I started writing poetry, quite illegibly I’ll have you know, at the age of four. My father transcribed my scribbles and saved them in an old Bible. The Bible is now lost, along with my poetry, but the Bible was in German. My poetry is not. If you find a German Bible with scraps of paper and little kid poems, please return them to me.
  7. It made me really mad when my sisters got menus in restaurants and I didn’t. I was the only one that could read. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
  8. Private school is a mixed bag. I got a great education but none of my friends lived in my neighborhood. Well, three boys. But I was not then, nor am I now, interested in playing with boys.  I didn’t much like playing with my sisters either because they were “little kids.” (See #3 above)
  9. In the summer, some kids came to visit their grandparents on our street and there were two girls my age. We spent the summer playing blind man’s bluff with our younger siblings. This involved blindfolding the little kids, then walking them off (small) cliffs. We also set up a slip-n-slide to go over a (small) cliff and land in blackberry brambles. When we tired of this, we would play penny ante poker, with the same little kids. We made up rules as we went along and by summer’s end we were very rich in pennies. Then we’d sleep in somebody’s backyard under the stars. I’ve loved to camp ever since. Although it does remind me of my life of crime.
  10. When I was 12 my friend Tisa and I stole cookies from Strohecker’s bakery counter. Up until then, I was pretty sure I was sinless and destined for heaven. Those cookies changed everything.
  11. I joined Girl Scouts in 4th grade and loved it. I went through Cadettes and probably would have gone on to Seniors if the troop hadn’t been so freaking girlie. I wanted to be a Boy Scout and do fifty mile hikes, but without the boys. Back then Girl Scouts didn’t do that sort of stuff.
  12. I learned to sew when I was very young, attending Mrs. Leech’s sewing class. For $.50 we got to spend an hour after school every Thursday learning how to make rolled hems, pin cushions, do blanket stitch, and embroider. I was really good at it and eventually won the Make It With Wool contest for a tailored coat my senior year in high school. I made almost all my own clothes back then.
  13. I also learned to knit, crochet, and weave (on a real loom, not a potholder loom) at an early age. My lifelong love affair with fiber was well underway by the time I was 8.
  14. I took piano lessons but the piano was in the basement and when they urban renewed the city, the rats came to live in our house which was on the side of a hill. The house had settled and had some cracks in the foundation so the rats could get in and the day a rat ran across the top of the piano was the day I took up the violin. In the dining room. Upstairs.
  15. I was in 7th grade French class, staring out the window,  when the head mistress came in to announce that JFK had been assassinated. The whole school gathered in the Lower School chapel, including the Upper School students and the nuns. Up until then, there had been rumors of nuns teaching in the Upper School but none of us ever saw them because we were not allowed in the Upper School or in the wing where the nuns were rumoured to live.
  16. I fell off my tricycle at the age of two, in the house, and hit my head on a corner of a brick hearth. The hearth and I both have scars to prove it. I bled like the proverbial stuck pig.
  17. I wanted to be a chemist when I grew up and had a great “lab” in the basement (after the rat-festation was dealt with.) My neighbor Brownie and I would spend a lot of time blowing things up. I had my first subscription to Scientific American in 3rd grade although I had no idea what they were talking about.  I sort of gave up on chemistry after I learned the hard way that drenching your arm in alcohol, filling a pipette with same, and then emptying the pipette on top of a lit Bunsen burner results in a) a big bang and b) all the hair on your arm igniting. Fortunately, alcohol burns fast. Still, seeing my entire right arm, up to my elbow, engulfed in flames was enough for me.
  18. In seventh and eighth grade I had to attend Friday Night Dancing School. This was a very socially proper thing to do and involved girls in dresses and heels, boys in suits, and all with white gloves, learning to waltz, fox trot, and swing dance. The only good part was when there weren’t enough boys and I got to dance with the girls and going out afterwards with my carpool buddies for ice cream.
  19. By the time I was in 8th grade, I hated private school so much I rebelled and convinced my parents to let me go on to public high school.  Since I already had lots of friends there from dancing school and Girl Scouts and church, it seemed like a good choice. Welcome to the land of cliques. I did not fit in because I had not gone to the right grade schools and because I was smarter than my peers in everything except math. The latter was not the school’s fault, I just hated math. I flunked algrebra II within a month because I apparently had never had Algebra I. When I got a 684 on my math SAT, the guy that flunked me was pretty sure I had figured out how to cheat on the SATs.
  20. I was labeled an underachiever in my English class after I didn’t hand in some homework because our house had caught fire the night before. The teacher didn’t believe me, even when I told him he could check with my mother. The house really did catch fire.
  21. My school offered horseback riding every Wednesday afternoon so I would spend an hour or so trotting, cantering, and occassionally galloping away on a horse that stood 17 hands high. I was about 4′ tall so that was a BIG horse to me.  One time, some fools decided to canter with a beginner in the ring and her horse ran away with her and started a stampede. I could barely control my horse and, when another horse cut in too close in front of her, my horse threw me. I remember watching hooves flying everywhere while I laid there on the ground. Somebody got me out of there but I’ve had back problems ever since. I truly hate idiots.
  22. In first grade, my teacher was named Mrs. Mallory and she had a grey house with a purple door. I always wanted a grey house with a purple door so a few years ago I talked Jenny into painting our house (very light) grey and the door was sort of magenta. Close, but no cigar. My first grade class room had 12 students and four of us were named Susan.
  23. In third grade I found a spider’s nest and kept it in my desk. Naturally, the spiders hatched. Now, I love spiders and these were really cute baby spiders but nobody else liked them much. The school kept wondering where the spider infestation came from in the third grade classroom. I never fessed up. My best buddy was Jeff Seaman because we both liked dinosaurs.
  24. I learned early on in social studies that if you didn’t know the answer, maize was always a good guess. I still can’t travel south of the border without having random thoughts about maize.  In Peru, I even drank maize beer.
  25. My favorite school project was trying to color the map of the US with four colors in such away that the same color never touched. If you give me an uncolored map of the US and four crayons (red, blue, green, and yellow would be nice) I will be occupied for the rest of the day. Colored pencils would be even better.

Thursday's Three Theological Things

Funny how hard times turn the mind to God. I’ve found myself praying that the slump in my business dissipate before I’m broke. But I’m also using the time off to work on other things. Like writing. Like renewing my teaching certificate and signing up to substitute. Like think about what I really want and need. All very spiritual pursuits.

I’m taking a class called Writing the Spirit that conveniently falls during Lent. A couple weeks ago, we were given the task of writing an “I am from….” poem about our spiritual lives. It was an interesting exercise, everyone in the group wrote amazing stuff, and I’ve decided to let you read mine.  If you want to do your own, all you have to do is write “I am from…” and get that pen moving.

So, for my first theological thing, here’s my poem.

I am from stained glass and uniforms,
Jewish boys carrying crosses they don’t believe in
While Christian girls with covered heads are excluded from the altar

I am from concentration camps and schism over buttons
The 1928 prayer book and the Coverdale psalms
Too many years in seminary and not enough in prayer
Messiahs and Prophets (blessed be their names).

I am from gentle lovers and fierce daughters, wise men and wiser women,
From evolution, revolution, metanoia, and koinonia
From words and the Word, bread and wine,
Matzo balls and latkes, Sabbath-keeping and rule-breaking

I from choirs of children in four-part harmony
From wanting what I could not have
Until women defied the church and paved the way
And I found I did not want it anymore.

I am from midrash and surahs, gitas and rubrics, Genesis and Luke,
From women’s circles and men’s rules
From broken vows and understanding abbots,
From priests and nuns, rabbis and teachers,
From buried and broken Alleluias.

I am from the holy, whatever be its form.
I am.

Second Theological Thing
Shifting gears a bit, but still staying holed up in the library of the UU church, this week’s assignment involved Carolyn Myss’ Sacred Contracts and her archetype cards. We each chose three cards from the deck, after setting an intention for discovering more about our spiritual path. The three cards represent past, present, and future, or where I come from, where I am, and where I’m going.  I drew the Hermit, the Fool, and God.  Interesting choices for me.

The Hermit, or Mystic, at its best, withdraws from society to focus on the inner life. While I don’t necessarily withdraw, I do like my solitude. Although I can’t say I always use it to advantage. Sometimes I do things that nurture my inner life. Other times I just play World of Warcraft. Which some might argue IS an inner life. Or at least an imaginary life. At its worst, the Hermit withdraws because of fear, intolerance, or to avoid the problems of the world.  I will admit to some fear, and some avoidance, but I’m in therapy again for the gazillionth time to work on that.
Therapy, for me, is a very Hermit-like thing to do. The self-reflection, with someone to call me on a tendency to navel-gaze, has been an invaluable tool in my life. And right now I’m not doing therapy because there is anything particularly wrong but because I want to indulge a desire to grow. Yes, part of that is looking at old stuff, but I’ve done most of the hard, painful part of that already. Now I’m spending an hour every other week in a very disciplined focus on my inner life. And I’ve found one of those once in a lifetime therapists who is truly gifted and is able to serve as both guide and friend. All in all, I’m enjoying my Hermit-age.

My present card is the Fool. In tarot, the Fool is the Zen ‘beginner mind’, the child just starting out on the journey, a reminder that we are always beginning again. In Myss’ archetypes, it’s the ability to communicate profound truth through humor and represents what we’d like to say if we just had the courage.  The downside, or shadow, is a tendency to use humor in cruel ways. I hope I don’t have that. But I am one who uses humor a great deal in my writing, preaching, and life and there are few sacred cows. I pretty much say what I mean, and often do it with humor.

My future card is God. I asked the question about whether this card was gendered, or if it included goddess. It is gendered, and is the male god. In tarot, it would probably be the Heirophant or the Emperor. I’m not done thinking about it so I can’t tell which for sure. Maybe it’s elements of both. This card is the ultimate in male dominance. If used wisely, it is compassion and benevolence (the Emperor). Used poorly, it is the dictator or despot. I’m guessing that Jenny might see moments of the dictator in me but I like to think that I am headed for compassion.

Anyway, my assignment is to think and journal about these things. I guess I just did part of it publically. But I wanted to share about these archetypes, an idea that fascinates me and can be very helpful in looking at life.

Third Theological Thing

Gwyneth

Gwyneth

As we all know, God is Dog spelled backwards and I’ve found this dog to be unconditional love on paws so it must be true. We took a walk along Johnson Creek today, in the freezing cold, and Gwynnie found this pool. Now, given the temps we’ve had here the last few days, I’m guessing that water was pretty dang cold. I would have posted the whole sequence, as she first went in with front paws only, then her back toes, then up to her ankles (do dogs have ankles? Does God?)  But over the course of about 30 seconds, most of them captured on my new camera, she went in up to her belly. I was sure she was going to start swimming but she drew the line somewhere. Anyway, I’m thinking she was feeling the need for a baptism in icy water.

Here’s the strange part. We live on a freaking CREEK. About 30 feet off the end of our house is Beaver Creek. Has this dog EVER gone in the creek? No. She has her own little latrine spot near the creek (can’t train her to be environmentally friendly), and there is a spring that feeds the creek which is also her personal drinking fountain, but she has NEVER gone in the creek. First time she’s near a body of water that is not on our property, she’s right in there. Can’t be a desire to swim. She can do that right here. Nope, I’m pretty sure she was baptising herself.

And don’t start with me about dogs having souls or not. There was a whole theological debate on whether women had souls back in time and the debate was not souls or no souls. Nope, it was do women HAVE souls or ARE women souls. I vote that women are pure soul and as such have no need of HAVING souls. And I think the same is true of my dog. On the other hand, being the roommate of a purely evil cat, I’m pretty sure Sophie doesn’t have one, nor is she one. Some of you will, of course, argue with that. You know who you are. Feel free to comment. Just be civil. Now, talk amongst yourselves.

Photo of the Day or, She's Learned a New Trick

Good Dog Gwyneth

Good Dog Gwyneth

You probably think I’m talking about the illustrious Gwyneth and that photo does make it appear that she’s learned a new trick. Namely, “COME.” But, alas, she is no better at that one than she is at most others. Well, there is “BEG,” but she does that whether we ask her to or not.

Nope, the “she” in the title is me. I’ve got a new camera, I’m learning how to use it, and I just figured out how to put a photo on my blog. So, today’s photo of the day is over there to the left. Cool, huh?

A New Goal

A. J. Jacobs is insane. He wrote a book called The Know-It-All which chronicles his  time spent reading the whole Encyclopedia Britainica. The book is fabulous and his index is hysterical. So there is goal one. I’m going to index each of my novels, just to be, well, novel. Now he has another book, The Year of Living Biblically which chronicles exactly what it says. I have yet to read this one but can’t wait until I get a chance.

In the face of these monstrous challenges, my new goal will seem small and paltry. But I have 1,327 songs on my G1 phone (that’s the T-Mobile version of the iPhone) and I intend to listen to every one of them at least once. Since most of us are creatures of habit, and listen to the same favorites over and over, this will be a new thing for me. Some of that stuff on there I’ve never even heard.

I know it is small, but that is what I’m gonna do.

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