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

Archive for the ‘Life in General’ Category

The Rapture Happened and I’m Still Here

Harold Egbert Camping (Yes, that is his middle name)

According to 89-year-old Harold Camping, the Rapture actually happened, but in a “spiritual” way. Since I’m not feeling spiritually rapturous, that must mean I’m Left Behind. That actually makes me pretty happy. In a spiritual sort of way.

Yep, as a very left-leaning-liberal-lotus-sitting Christian, I’m pretty glad to be here with all the rest of you non-Raptured folks. The Rapture, the belief that Jesus is coming and will float all the “good” people up to heaven naked so the End Times can occur, has no appeal to me whatsoever. First, I’m not going to be naked in front of strangers for any reason. Second, my experience of some folks who believe in the Rapture is that they have an ulterior motive.

And that motive is not to convert folks to belief in Jesus.

My first Rapture-ready acquaintance was a woman who did day care a short distance down the road from me. Since she was close, and I was in need of a new provider for my 4-year-old daughter, I did a test drive. Attention parents: Never leave your kid with a stranger for hours on end the first time. Try it for just a couple of hours. AFTER you check references.

Anyway, I left my daughter with this woman while I went to the grocery store and ran a few errands. I was gone two hours. When I came back, the kids were playing horsey, with a rope, around a child’s neck. I put an end to that and went into the house (yes, the kids were outside without supervision) to pay the woman. There I found her “disciplining” a little girl by making her stand with her nose in a corner for an HOUR! A four-year-old.  So, I guess you know my kid was never going back.

This was during the time when, as a Lenten discipline, I challenged myself to wear a cross, visibly, every day for the whole of Lent. Talk about a challenge for a closeted Christian closeted lesbian out journalist.  Anyway, the woman sees my cross, and sensing a kindred spirit, proceeds to tell me about the Rapture and the End Times and how she can’t wait. Why, I naively (and somewhat snarkily) ask.

She says, “I just can’t wait to sit in Heaven and watch the sinners roast in hell.” Oh. My. God.

Some people just need people to be “beneath” them, and this women had this trait to the extreme. She thought heaven was a ringside seat to Hell. Hell-o?!?!

I suspect that at least some of Camping’s followers suffer from that same insecurity. If they don’t feel good enough about themselves, then they need a God to validate them. As long as that God doesn’t validate those they believe are not good enough, or beneath them.

I fit that category in so many ways. Right off the bat, I’m lesbian. Then I’m a liberal Christian and a Unitarian to boot. I vote Democrat most of the time. I actually support new taxes. I’m appalled at how backward the US is compared to the rest of the first world in so many ways (including the ridiculously low taxes we pay. There, I said it.) I think kids SHOULD attend public school and be exposed to all sorts of things. I even took my children on field trips so they could be exposed to things and people they didn’t get to meet in their home village. I don’t believe in the Rapture. Although I always thought the bumper sticker was pretty funny. You know the one. “In Case of Rapture, This Vehicle Will be Unmanned.” I put that bumper sticker in the category with the one that said, “If the Car’s A’Rocking, Don’t Come A’Knocking.” Don’t know why. Just did.

Does this guy look like a rocket scientist to you?

Oh, there was that one time. Back in August of 1989, some guy named Edgar Whisenant predicted the world would end on September 1st, 1989. Mind you, he’d already predicted (and written a book about it) that the world would end September 1st, 1988. But he claimed, you guessed it, a math error. And this guy was a rocket scientist. Well, a retired rocket scientist. As in used to work for NASA. A REAL rocket scientist (hmmm….now I’m wondering if he was responsible for the misplaced comma that caused all that trouble?!?).

Anyway, he predicted that there was a 96 percent chance the world would end in 1989. Then, just in case he was wrong again, he raised that to 97 percent for 1990, 98 percent for 1991, and so on until he hit 100 percent in 1993. FOUR MORE CHANCES TO BE WRONG!

How do I know all this? Well, I cut the article out of the Oregonian, if you must know. This was just too weird to let

Formerly available at Amazon; Currently unavailable. Must be a collector's item.

pass and I have kept it, in my WELL-READ Bible, all these years. Yes, I have actually read the Bible. Several times. Took notes, underlined, my RSV Bible needs duct tape to hang together.

So, there I was, on Friday, September 1st, having forgotten all about it. Driving home from the dentist. I’m in a bit of a rush, because I set off a bug bomb that morning because of a major flea infestation (we also had plagues of tree frogs and slugs in our house. Don’t ask. Just more proof that I’m among the damned.) The kids were at school, but I had to be home in time to keep them from going into the house. Oh, and I was pregnant. Very pregnant. That probably played into what followed.

So, I’m on the freeway. And the freeway stops. Not grinds to a stop. STOPS. I’m thinking there’s a wreck so I turned on the radio. Nothing. I checked the overpass sign. Nada. Not a wreck. Then it hits me! It’s the Rapture. All the cars are suddenly unmanned except mine. I’ve been Left Behind. In spite of the cross, in spite of all that Bible reading. (Did I mention I was VERY pregnant at the time?)

When I started to think rationally, I noticed that other drivers were also left behind. In fact, all of them were left behind. Relief. Of course, now I had to figure out how to get off the stopped freeway, get to a phone, and call someone to go keep my kids from being poisoned by the bug bomb.  Remember, it’s 1989. No cell phones. To make a long story short, I pissed some people off by forcing my way across two lanes of traffic, then backing up on the shoulder to get to the off ramp. They probably wanted to watch ME burn in hell. But, the kids were rescued. I’m still here.

And I am still here. And so are you. Until October 21, 2001. Because Harold Camping made a mistake. And not his first. Back in the early 21st century it was a math error that undid him. Oddly enough, he is also an engineer. Went to Berkeley. What is it with rocket scientists and the end of the world, anyway?

Tall Grass

I live in Oregon. For those of you who know Oregon, that probably says it all. Oregon is beautiful, lush, green.

And there is a reason for that.

It is not good karma. Like most states, Oregon is abusing its state workers to balance its budget, “weed” is the number one unregulated cash crop (jeez, can’t we just tax the shit out of the shit so the state workers can get paid?), and the weeds here are big and strong and totally indifferent to my wishes. Because of freaking rain!

Three days ago, I left my sick house (bronchitis being the primary object being passed around inside) to venture out into the sun. Yes. Oregon does get sun. In August.

Oh, the gods tempt us with moments of beauty, but they are fickle bastards, and we have to wait until they leave the state for their annual retreat on Olympus or wherever they go to to escape the heat before we can enjoy a moment of peace and sun.

No. Here in western Oregon, rain can be mind-numbing depression fodder. So, with great joy, I stepped out into the sun a few days ago. And was greeted by grass as high as my head.  Well, maybe it wasn’t QUITE that tall, but it was pretty damn close.

But the sun was shining, the warmth inspiring, and I said “PREPARE TO MEET THY DOOM” to my lawn. I planned a date with a weed whacker. Just as soon as I got back from my mammogram, an eye appointment, and some much-needed grocery shopping, not to mention the humiliation of having to send my car payment by Moneygram because my number problems finally caught up with me.

I looked at my car payment online, in early May, because I can never remember a) how much it is and b) what day it is due. It said 4/28. Great, I thought, I still have several weeks. You see the flaw, I suppose. Some people can actually see the problem here. Not me. Even when the guy from Wells Fargo called me and told me my payment was way past due. I blithely said, “No, it’s not due until 4/28.” He said, “Right. And that’s the problem.” I sweetly said, “But that’s still two weeks away.” Yep, it was. In the wrong direction.

Now, remember, from the post you probably haven’t read yet, that I had bronchitis a few weeks ago. I took heavy duty drugs because I have a tendency to break ribs if I cough too much, and I lost a week or so. I also lost control of all cognitive functioning and especially lost control of the part of my brain that is numerically challenged. He was right. I’d missed a whole month in terms of that dang car payment. Don’t ask me how. I don’t know. No, I don’t have early-onset Alzheimers. I’m just easily distracted by other things. Flash some bling or an aluminum can and I’m gone…

Anyway, the humiliation. Being poor in America must be a royal bitch. We’re solidly middle class, some might even argue that we’re borderline upper middle class by US standards, filthy rich by global standards. Sort of fits with being upper middle aged, I guess. I had never before had to make a payment by Moneygram. In fact, I had to go several places before someone at a bank pointed out that the Western Union form I’d completely filled out had NOTHING to do with Moneygram. But it gave me some new awareness.

First, the payment was late. So there were late fees and penalties and stuff. Because it was late, they wouldn’t let me pay on the website as I normally do. So, it cost me an additional $9.99 to send a freaking Moneygram, and I had to do it in Albertsons which was ridiculously noisy for a grocery store, and I had to do it over a phone with a guy in India that I couldn’t I understand and who refused to speak loud enough for me to hear him. So I kept saying, “What?” and practically yelling to make myself heard. All the while wondering what it must be like to have this be a regular occurrence. My calendrical error cost me over $50 more than the payment by the time I was done.

Obviously, there are so many things wrong with the last paragraph. Albertsons, alone, I could write a book on. Outsourcing of American jobs. My aging ears. Extortion. Banks. Extortion by Banks. Fees on the backs of the poor. The way we treat the poor.

I could wax poetic on being poor in America (read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, if you haven’t. Should be required reading for all middle class folks) (also read the Bible, if you think this country is based on Biblical principles. It ain’t. Especially read the parts on how to treat the poor, usury, gleaning, Sabbath practice, and Jubilee years) (And don’t give me that “It’s OT” crap because JESUS, the main man according to Christians, has a lot to say about how we treat the poor as well. And NOTHING to say about homosexuals. Just saying.) (Then, if you want a real education, you might want to notice that the Qur’an teaches, and Muslims practice, giving money to care for the poor. Not just a box of $.39 Mac and Cheese on food bank Sundays).

This Great Depression Recession is being felt by a lot of us, even those of us who thought we were invincible due to education, training, jobs, unions, seniority, and all that. Here at the farmette, we’re feeling it from the cuts state workers have had to take in wages and benefits, and in the decreasing amount publishers are willing to pay for indexing. And we’re the lucky ones. We still have jobs. We still have options.  We still have health insurance to pay for the mammogram, eye glasses, and that stupid codeine that allows my ribs to stay in one piece.

Okay, so I’m ranting. But the way we treat people, especially vulnerable people, in this country is racking up some serious bad karma for this country.

I’m pretty sure it’s not the cause of the bad weather karma, though. Oregon just has a lot of rain. We don’t have big floods, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, raging wildfires. Well, we do, but they tend to be finite and well-contained and infrequent.

So, by the time my boobs had been mashed flat in a machine that repeatedly poked at my most recently broken rib until I was in tears, and my new eyeglasses were making me see the world just slightly “off,” and I’d been humiliated by some guy in India who probably has YOUR job if you’re now unemployed, I was in no mood to deal with the weeds in the front yard.

Besides, it was raining and has been ever since. The weeds now ARE as tall as I am. That would be 5’3-3/4″ tall. Unfortunately, we have several unemployed young people in our family. Guess it’s time to put some of them to work for a day or two whacking away at all the problems in the yard. Wish I could whack away at theirs.

Back In the Saddle: Getting Up Again

I live the dream. I’m self-employed, work in an office out of my home, have a lot of control over the work I do, make decent money, and, sometimes, it sucks. Yes. It sucks.

Some of you may have noticed a lack of blog posts from me. Blogging is a priority because, in addition to my “day” job, I’m also an author and publisher. But it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote. There is a reason.


No, this is not a post to elicit sympathy for my tortured lungs. It’s about what happens to those of us who live the dream when our body parts are overtaken by demons that force us to stay in bed and take drugs that not only prevent coughing fits, but also prevent moments of consciousness.

The bronchitis was about three weeks ago, and I’m just now catching up again. When I used to work in one of many cube farms, I had this amazing thing called sick leave. Accompanied by payment for being sick. Now, THAT is the true dream.

But, as a person who works freelance, I no longer have that lovely thing. So if I get sick for a week, I get two weeks or more behind. If I have a daily quota to earn, and I don’t earn it for a week, then I have several weeks of trying to make a quota and a half or more each week until I catch up. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

Now three weeks later, I’m still coughing a bit, but my ribs are no longer feeling the strain. The mind altering chemical solution is now back on the shelf where it belongs.  The cats are no longer afraid to come near me for fear I might explode in paroxysms of noise and fury.

I’m almost caught up on the day job which means the bills are starting to get paid again. I’m still behind on the publishing work, but it’s not overwhelming to think about. But I still have miles to go before the effects of a relatively minor illness are behind me.

Anyway, here I am. I’ll be more faithful until the next disaster hits.

G is for Grandma

I know. I’m on a single-track today. But how many days do you get a new grandchild?

I love being a grandmother. The grandkids are great, but the real joy is in watching the mothers my own daughters have become. So far, two out of our three girls have had kids, and both of them are amazing mothers. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching the way they interact with their kids.

Our oldest has two “big” kids, a 10-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. Both great kids. And today they have a new sister, the Amazing Polliwog. My daughter and her husband are incredible parents and have decided they want four children. So in a year or two, three will become four. I’m so excited.

Our middle daughter and her husband have the incredible Wonder Babe. This child lives close enough to visit. We’re in Portland, Wonder Babe is in Seattle, the other grandkids are in Texas. So we’re getting to spend a lot of time with WB.

Since our other grandkids have lived all over the world (Army brats), we don’t get to spend a lot of time with them. And when we do see them, it’s all concentrated time. But with the WB, we can just run up for dinner when we feel like it.

As a publisher, my grandkids make me think a lot about the books we publish for kids. I want every book we put out to be something I’d be proud to have my grandkids read. Because we have one firmly in the early YA stage, I also want all our books to be age appropriate. I’ve talked about this in other posts here.

Anyway, I’ve been basking in new grandparenthood long enough. Time to make some money. But I thought you needed to know.

This post brought to you by the words grandchild, gratitude, grannie, and gratefulness. And by the number google. You did know it was a number before it was a search engine, didn’t you?

F is for Family


I know. I’m a day late. But I had to wait for this: Amelia Pauline, aka the Amazing Polliwog,  born this morning, 7 lbs 14 oz. So far this is the only photo to come over the wire but I’m sure there will be more.

Amelia joins her 13-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother, two horses, four dogs, a flock of chickens, and her mom and dad.  So this is today’s miracle.

And in the past few months, we’ve welcomed another granddaughter, Wonder Babe, now almost 8 months, two great-nephews, and a great-niece. Soon our comadre’s daughter will have another little girl, and another niece will have a baby (I think it’s a girl?), and I think there are some I’m missing.  Wow! What a lot of babies.

Having a big family is so much fun.

This post brought to you by Aubrey and Todd Jacobson, Shannon and Tyler, and a long line of people who went into the making of this baby.

Also by the words fanfare, fantastic, fabulous, fun, and far-out! And by the number four. This is our fourth grandchild. So excited.

Kale Balancing

A couple of days ago, I wrote about balance. This morning, my business partner, out of the blue, asked what I was doing for fun. Yikes. Either she’s reading my blog (which I suppose is possible) or she’s reading my mind (also possible). And, I had to admit, not much.

I’m a bit of a workaholic and she knows that. I have two full-ish time jobs right now, with two companies that I am responsible for, one as a sole proprietor. I’d like to ease out of that one, but it’s still paying a lot of the bills. I’m not complaining. I actually like to work. But I haven’t been doing much in the way of “fun.”

Anyway, she told me to have fun. (It’s so nice to work with someone who has her priorities on straight.) And she made me tell her what I was going to do. I said I was going to do some quilting as I have four baby quilts to finish. Seems my whole family is having baby girls. Two grandbabies, one great niece, and one I’m not sure what.

Anyone know what it’s called when your comadre’s daughter has a baby? I just think of myself as an abuela, but I’m sure there’s a more precise term. I hate it that English doesn’t have all these cool kinship experiences. Being a comadre has enriched my life immensely.

Anyway, my partner gets wild hairs and today she had to go out to our nephew’s farm to pick up the first installment from his new CSA. Community Supported Agriculture has been around for awhile, but this is our first experience of it.  Relk and Kara, the nephew and nieceling (see, I even have to invent a word for a relationship. I’ve thought of her as a niece for so long, but we don’t have a word that really expresses the relationship of nephew’s spouse/partner) have started an organic CSA out in Aurora, a small town not too far from our small town of Beavercreek.

Given that it’s still mostly winter here (things finally started to bloom in Beavercreek TODAY!) we got some mustard greens, eggs, and kale. So now I’m going to have to try those Kale Chips I talked about in my Brussel sprouts post. (yes, I know that’s a picture of mustard greens. I couldn’t find a picture of the kind of kale we got. It’s not all curly like most of them).

Anyway, we had fun. More importantly, I had fun. Relk and Kara are such delightful folks and I’m so proud to count them among my 30 or so nieces and nephews. Relk looks so much like my dad, who died 30 years ago this month, and I love that feeling of family continuing.

So, now I’m blogging, also fun. And then Netflix and quilting. All in all, a fun day.

PS If you live in the Portland area and want in on an organic CSA, let me know. I’ll hook you up.

Living in the Ivory Tower

Well, it’s not really an Ivory Tower, it’s more like a big hill. Or as folks on the East coast are wont to call them, a mountain. And, yes, there’s a whole city up here. Half of which is also Down There, at the river level. But because I have everything I need Up Here, I seldom go Down There. Except to see my dentist.

So, we’re still having winter up here. Just two weeks ago it snowed. This is what we see here.



Just the barest hint of flowering. But yesterday, while at the dentist, this  is what I saw just 500 feet below:

They were everywhere. Along with forsythia, camellias, star magnolias, and, yes, dandelions. Everything was rioting spring. It made me so happy.

I work at home, alone, with a dog and three cats to amuse me. It’s finally warm enough (mid 50s) for me to have my door open most of the day. (And, yes, because we live on a creek, I saw my first mosquito as well.) Working in isolation all day, and often into the night as my partner travels a lot, I forget how much life and beauty there is out there.

In fact, sometimes I forget how beautiful our house is. I just sit in my office, writing, editing, and publishing, trying to juggle all the plates without dropping one. Sad that it took a trip to the dentist to remind me that I really need to get out more. Out of my house, off the hill, out of my desk chair.

Balance, it’s called. And I am sadly out of it. This impacts me in many ways. I start to lose perspective, I forget to take care of myself, I sometimes even forget to eat. And I definitely lose track of days of the week and seasons of the year.

So, maybe it’s time I figured out how to put some balance back. Any ideas? How do you maintain balance when you are super busy?

Thursday’s Three Theological Things

  1. As a person who trained as a theologian, I can’t help but see the numinous in all parts of life. Some days this is like an infestation of termites, chewing away at me. I call this the dark night of my soul. Those days where the Holy Whatever breaks through and I want to pull the shades and tell it to go away. Fortunately, those days are few.
  2. About the Holy Whatever. I believe in something some people call God and other people call by a huge variety of other names. I have no presumption that I know what that thing is, hence the Whatever. Yes, I do call it God at times, but I don’t ascribe it gender or human characteristics. But I think God with a big G is taken way too seriously by people of all faiths in ways that are not life-giving. I like to keep my humility by reminding myself that I don’t have the “true” God by the tail anymore than anyone else does.
  3. When I started seminary, someone told me that by the time I finished I would have lost my faith. In some ways, that’s true. I no longer am as limited in my perceptions as I was back then. This larger perspective informs my life (and my writing) but it sure makes it hard to admit that I am a follower of Christ. People interpret that so narrowly sometimes, and put me in a box. Being a liberal Christian is not easy in 21st Century America.

If you want to know what I really believe, here are some sermons. Here or here. If you need proof that I can find something theological in everything, check out this post on football here.

Three things I learned today:

  1. I worry too much, sometimes senselessly, and there are good people in my life who can help me calm down.
  2. How to use Networked Blogs
  3. That hot peanut butter on apples is really good.

My Apologies

I want to let my Crusader pals know I haven’t forgotten about them. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just been a rough couple of weeks. Too much work, too much drama, and then Wonder Babe was here. Right now, as we get ready for our first book launch, the Puddletowners are still working day jobs and publishing nights and weekends. I don’t take a break until about now, 2 am.

So I’ve read a few blogs, made a couple of comments, and now I’m going to do a quick post and follow it with bed.

To make it worse, we had snow. I love snow. But I have fibromyalgia and fibro hates cold. Add in stress and overwork, and most of my “free” time goes to naps.

Fibromyalgia, contrary to old theories that said it was musculo-skeletal, is actually a malfunction of the central nervous system. In layperson’s terms, the only way I can explain it, it’s like having your nerves gossiping with one another, sort of a brain game of telephone. The message gets sent, gets changed, and ends up in the wrong place. So over-stimulation, for example, travels to, say, your hip, and suddenly you have severe pain. The next day, or even the next hour, it’s in your shoulder, your back, your neck, your other hip. I had one day last week when it was my whole left side. Your sleep center also gets messed up and many people with FMS, myself included, have numerous sleep disorders. In my case, it means several psychotropic drugs and other things are required to help me fall asleep, stay asleep, breathe while I sleep, not kick other people out of bed, and to keep me from acting out my dreams. Seven, count them, seven sleep disorders afflict me. So many I can’t even remember the names of a couple of them.

Barometric pressure affects the CNS, although I don’t understand how. So people with FMS feel horrible, and flare, anytime the barometer swings. Good or bad, weather changes make us hurt. I live for summer, when I have a couple of good months (I live in Oregon. Summer is not a full season.) I’ve threatened to move south for the winter.

Because FMS folks are always in pain, we take heavy doses of nasty painkillers. I really should be taking narcotics, but so far I’ve been resisting since I seem to be quite susceptible to them. They turn me into a moron. However, a friend and fellow FMS person is trying to convince me that the time has come. She assures me that I will get used to them and the cognitive fog will lift. Since FMS has its own cognitive problems, called fibro fog, taking drugs that cause further cognitive issues frightens me.

Anyway, this may be TMI, but I’m trying to educate the world on how FMS really affects its sufferers. As I often tell people, FMS won’t kill you, but some days you wish it would.


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