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Archive for the ‘Quandaries’ Category

The internet and I

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my internet consumption.  For the two years I lived in JVC, I had very sparse access to the internet at home, and my first year at work as well. The first several months of JVC I would only check my e-mail about once a week. My second year I could get it in the house if I stood in one corner of the kitchen, until our neighbors got smart and put a password on their wi-fi. And the crazy thing was, I didn’t mind it in the least. Granted, I would have big long boring stretches at work where I could mindlessly troll the internet, but I actually enjoyed unplugging when I got home. Sure we would plop in front of NBC for the next few hours, but we would also bake, cook, go for walks, talk, knit, draw, play  games. I liked it. Part of the change of course is that I’ve gone from 7 to 4 to 3 to 1 roomates, but when I didn’t have internet, I didn’t miss it. Same with TV – I only had a TV one year in college and I don’t ever remember being bored.

But last year we got internet and I re-started this blog. Which led me to other bloggers who link to others who write about all sorts of fabulous time sucks like twitter, pinterest, facebook forums, etc. At first I rationalized it by saying I was making up for lost time without internet for two years. But it’s really become something of a habit for me. Whenever I’m bored or have some downtime, I check facebook. When I need a break from work, I check twitter. Or Huffington Post. Or other mindless websitses and before you know it, it’s 30 minutes later.

I downloaded an application on my computers last week called Rescue Time which charts the productivity of your work:

To be fair to me, that’s both my home and work computer, so not all of it is time distracted from actual work. Plus I don’t do all my work at a computer (like grading papers or being in class which accounts for the huge dip in time on Wednesday), and those don’t get counted in my productivity. But still. That’s a lot of red. The thought that I spent 2+ hours yesterday on things like facebook and twitter makes me kinda sick.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night – my mind was going a hundred miles an hour and mainly over  a comment I saw somewhere on the internet. And I realized, this really isn’t good for me. Sure twitter is fascinating – I love being able to see what people from all over say in response to big news events like the State of the Union or death of Osama Bin Laden. Some people on twitter are hilarious (I recommend following Steve Martin if you are so inclined). But for the most part its just people saying comments that make me mad or linking me to other news and fauxnews articles I don’t really need to read. It’s actually a little embarrassing to admit how much time I waste online, but I trust that anyone who is reading this is probably also wasting some online time this very moment and thus can relate.

So, even though it’s a little sad, I’m gonna de-activate my twitter account and block facebook on my work computer. I’m going to keep blogging, and while I realize this will hurt my “following,” the truth is that’s not what’s important here. I know that I will still waste time; that’s inevitable. The tough part will be days where I can’t do much except sit on the couch in pain since I have been using the internet to distract myself. But it doesn’t make me happier.

I hope you still swing by.

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I’m not going to apologize for being successful. – Mitt Romney

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” – Matthew 19:21

We’ve been watching a lot of HGTV lately. By “we” I mean I when I get the remote first. We’re moving sometime after we graduate, and I am more than ready for a new place. Two years in JVC, two years of grad school have meant living on our minimum. Not that I regret it – I’ll be 25, debt-free, and with a Master’s degree because of these decisions. But I’m ready for a salary,  for an apartment larger than 512 square feet.  I want a place with a second bathroom and a dishwasher and a washer and dryer. I want a house with an open floor plan, granite countertops, an outdoor fireplace, and a landscaped backyard.

I want to live a life that’s comfortable. I want that for about five minutes, and then I want more. I want a Subaru so we can get around in the winter. I want to buy a house. I want to travel to Europe, to Africa. I want to buy Merino wool and go out to fancy restaurants. It’s not going to happen any time soon, but I still want it.

Now I know all about needs vs wants and living within your means. We have no plans on going into debt getting stuff we don’t need. But my husband is going to be a lawyer, I will have a Master’s degree, and so by virtue of being a) married, b) having relatively little school debt and c) having advanced degrees – I know that we aren’t going to be living this close to the poverty line for much longer. We’ll do well, and while I doubt we’ll ever be fabulously wealthy, barring any unforeseen circumstances – one day we will be well off.

But are we ever supposed to be? I compare those two quotes above and wonder. This country has taught us that we are supposed to do well, supposed to be successful, supposed to be more than comfortable. We can justify it all we want – we want a great job to provide for our kids and send them to college. We make lots of money, but we give some to charity. We make a lot, but we earned it.

But that’s not what the statement below says. sell your possessions. give the money to poor.

I feel as if we are trying to create a middle ground that does not exist. Wealthy by this country’s standards or not, most of us are living in the top 5% of the world (don’t believe me?). I don’t know how much more comfortable I can expect life to get.

So what do I do? Justify our (not yet existent) wealth by saying we will one day have a family? Try to live without anything we don’t need? Volunteer our time and talents? Be sure to say how we have worked for what we have, or talk about how fortunate and blessed we are? Sell all we have?

Please tell me; I honestly don’t know.

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Today I was going to write a post on how Sen. Santorum and Speaker Gingrich’s insistence that their Catholic faith informs their politics upsets me as I believe it is inaccurate, but I got a little side-tracked.  One of the lies I here perpetuated over and over again by Catholics is that it is immoral and a sin to vote for a pro-choice candidate. It’s not. And that’s not just my personal opinion, but that of the Church’s US authority, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.

So you know where I’m coming from on this: Am I pro-life? Yes Iam. But I don’t believe in most legal measures to address the issue. The Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional, and so voting for a candidate who happens to be pro-life isn’t going to change that. Even if everyone in in the House and Senate were pro-life, they would be unable to pass a law that outlaws abortion because the Supreme Court has decided that would be unconstitutional.

So instead, I think non-legislative avenues are the best for avoiding abortions. Promoting adoption. Providing childcare to single mothers. Not mocking teen moms. Empowering women. Better yet, these are things both sides of the aisle can generally agree on.

Doing some research for my Santorum-Gingrich article (which I will post at some point – stay tuned), I came upon this article on the Catholic TV station, EWTN website: http://www.ewtn.com/vote/brief_catechism.htm that suggested that under no circumstances Catholics may vote for a “pro-abortion” candidate.

In the USCCB’s “Forming Consciences for a Faithful Citizenship” it details the considerations US Catholics should make. While the article suggests that abortion is a trump-all issue, the USCCB says, ” Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture,4 war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed.” 

Furthermore, the USCCB says:

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.While the article suggests that an candidates positions on other issues cannot outweigh their position on abortion, the USCCB says the opposite: 

It goes on to say:“When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely yo pursue other authentic human goods.”

You may wonder what is considered a “grave reason.”

According to the USCCB it includes:“It is important for our society to continue to combat discrimination based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, disabling condition, or age, as these are grave injustices and affronts to human dignity.”

The author of the article states that “For this reason, moral evils such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are examples of a “disqualifying issue.” A disqualifying issue is one which is of such gravity and importance that it allows for no political maneuvering.” This is a misinterpretation of the USCCB’s teaching, which states that “a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” I emphasize “may” because it is not an absolute as the author suggests.

Furthermore, it says that the issue may lead a voter to decide to not vote for them. It does not say that the Church requires it or considers that person ultimately unacceptable.It is damaging that the author suggests that it is necessary to vote only on a single issue when the USCCB urges the opposite: “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.” 

Most conclusively, the USCCB says that Catholics may only not vote for a pro-choice candidate if their attention is to advance that specific cause. They very clearly state that their opposition to abortion cannot outweigh or be used to justify other immoral actions (such as supporting wars, racism, injustices against the poor, sexism, death penalty, etc.):

“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”

This article as it is factually inaccurate, sites no sources other than the author’s personal opinion, goes against Catholic teaching, and is extremely misleading. It makes me sad that we still try to manipulate people to do something out of the fear that they are sinning rather than by following the Church’s teachings.

If you are not a Catholic and reading this, please know that despite what you might here in the media and the things people tell you, our Church at its core does not stand for bigotry, hate, manipulation, discrimination, racism, sexism, favoring the rich over the poor, or the destruction of our environment. Be skeptical when someone (inside or outside) of the Church tells you it does. We believe in a God who loves and forgives, who lifts up and protects. When you hear otherwise, please know that is not what we stand for.

*Sorry for all the wonky font changes on this post. WordPress baffles me.

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We all do it. Anyone with any sort of mobile information gathering device has done it. Fess up. You know you have.

We’ve all checked our e-mail/facebook/twitter at inappropriate times.

I’m most guilty of checking it during class, although I try to stick to just e-mail and news websites. I have a three hour no breaks seminar every Wednesday and by hour two my head is starting to nod. To pretend like I am actively engaged and fascinated by my once-astute-now-boring classmates have to say, I read the BBC.

I read the BBC for most all my news, but that’s another story.  Okay and Huffington Post but that’s like the check-out line equivalent of online news so I try not to admit that.

My laptop is my most portable device, and I would expect those with smart phones and tablets and go-go-gadget watches succumb even more often to checking the news at inappropriate times.

Class.

Meetings.

While you are on the phone with somebody.

Church.

All this clandestine checking up on the world has made me wonder what would have to happen in the world that I would interrupt whatever presumably cellphone/internet free social event I was at to inform them of the news. My husband I discussed this one night but we could only really come up with two situations:

1) Somebody shot the President.

2) The U.S. declared war on somebody.

To be honest, I’m not even that sold on number two, mainly because sometimes I lose count of how many foreign conflicts we are in. And someone declaring war on the US is hardly news, unless it’s Canada. We debated for a while if the Pope being shot would be interruption worthy, and decided that for class it wouldn’t be.

So when would you break the silence? How catastrophic/exciting/amazing/shocking would a piece of news have to be for you to publicly admit (beyond just those times when you weren’t supposed to be texting at the dinner table) that you were, in fact, not listening to a word the other person was saying and instead were browsing cnn.com?

 

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To Give a Gift Away

So last week I talked about how passing all your old junk onto someone else isn’t charity. And I thought I would continue on that theme of charity this week and pose a question that has been bugging me for years.

Is it okay to get rid of gifts?

Every so often, I try to pair down the apartment. Part of it is the thought of moving out with the twice the number of boxes as when we moved in frankly sickens me. Another part of it is I hate seeing our storage shelves over flowing with stuff (none of our closets or shelves have doors covering them. Except in the kitchen). And some of the stuff well, just doesn’t get used.

If it’s something I bought/found/stole/whatever, I have no problem passing it along. But if it’s a gift…its a whole ‘nother story. I hold it in my hands thinking, “but they wanted me to have it. This person thought of me and thought I would like this. What would they think if  they knew I gave it away?”

You see, I believe in simple living. Of having what we need and not filling our lives with stuff we don’t. And a lot of gifts, I just don’t need. Or I do and use them for a time, and then realize that after a few years, they aren’t being loved like they once were.

Not that gift you gave me. I love that. And use it all the time.

Books that I read once and haven’t picked up in ages. Shirts that were cute but now don’t fit or are a bit out of style. The trinket you thought was totally my taste, but lets face it, isn’t. The bundt pan that I have never used. (Not your bundt pan, mom. I am much more likely to make mini-bundts than a whole bundt cake.) The necklace from your trip to Zimbabwe that I just would not really wear in public.

I don’t know what to do with them.

It’s not so much that I worry about someone coming to the house saying, “Hey, whatever happened to that XYZ I gave you?” It’s the idea behind it. I would probably feel a tad hurt if I knew someone gave away a gift I gave them. On the other hand – I have watched my sister give away a few scarves I gave her to Goodwill. I survived. And realized I’m probably not as good at picking out scarves for her as I thought I was.

And maybe that’s the problem. Gifts don’t have to be “stuff.” Sure, we all have some gift that someone gave us for a Christmas or a birthday that we hold onto as extra dear, filled with memories of that happy day at that person. But that doesn’t have to be every year, every occasion, every holiday. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect that every gift we ever give or are given is going to be special. Because then by definition, it wouldn’t be.

I used to not be a fan of consumable gifts. Food, drink, tickets – that kind of thing. I liked having the necklace that reminded me of my twenty first birthday or the trinket box that reminded you of me. But those things are only special when they are full of thought, when they are rare, when they are unique. And like I said, that doesn’t have to be every gift. Being low on space and full of stuff, I’ve realized we much prefer a gift card to our favorite restaurant than a new shirt.

But then I find myself feeling guilty for not thinking of every gift as special. Someone spent money or time on it. Someone wanted me to have it. So I should have it, right? Or should I sell all that I have and give it to the poor? Even the stuff that was given to me?

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Home.

Hi.

It’s me.

I’m back.

I know everyone hates posts that begin with “OMG!! SO SORRY I haven’t blogged in like FOR-EVER!!” and I’m not gonna do that because truth be told, I’m not all the sorry.

First we were at the Oregon Coast. Then my parents were visiting. Then at a wedding in Billings. And in between, I just didn’t have much to say.

You see, I started this blog to write about coping with a chronic illness and I’ve pretty much written about anything but. I don’t know why. Maybe because I am learning to deal better. Maybe I’m still to embarrassed to describe intimate details of my nether regions to the inter-world. But mainly because I still don’t know what to say about it beyond “yup, still hurts.”

So I blog about other stuff – social justice, being a broke grad student, my failures in the domestic sphere. But the frequency of my blogging directly correlates to the amount of time I spend online which inversely correlates to the amount of time I spend in the real world. Hiking. Knitting. Biking. Doing yoga.

So I’m going to try and figure out how to balance my online time with real life time and with the demands of everyone who have asked me to start blogging again (which has mainly been my husband. Maybe he likes when I spend more time online?) It’s funny that two years ago I hardly spent anytime online (as in, I probably checked my e-mail once a week) to doing everything from reading the news to catching up with friends to looking up recipes on the computer.

Yesterday I met the new JVs (yay!) one of whom told me that upon telling someone she knew in Portland that she was moving to Missoula, the person mentioned that she reads my blog. Which was pretty embarrassing. So for you, random Portland person I don’t know, I will return to (slightly) more regular blogging. And do that by listing a few of the reasons I love this town.

I love that local businesses set out bowls of water for passing dogs.

I love that cashiers ask you if you want a bag or brought your own.

I love that I can buy pizza dough from the local bakery at the grocery store.

I love that the electrical boxes are painted with vivid scenes of town life and that in the summer, the entire town is simply full of color.

I love that there is a Jesuit parish nearby and that our new priest is a former Jesuit Volunteer himself.

I hate the inversion though. The inversion is when, during the winter months, the clouds sink down into the bowl created by the surrounding mountains and refuse to move for weeks on in. Last winter, we went from Feb 13 to March 14 without having a single day with sunshine.

I love that we have the 3rd highest percentage of people in the country who bike to work. Which includes me on days that I’m not working till late late at night.

I love all the festivals, concerts, shebangs, and brewfests there are here.

Also that A River Run Through it was set here. And that Miranda Lambert mentioned us in her song Dry Town. (Although I don’t think there is a dry anything within however-many-miles-to-Utah from here).

It’s been fun galavanting around the Northwest, but it’s good to be home too.

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We’ve been wanting a cast iron pan for some time now.  And not just for baking delicious shortbread and Dutch apple pancakes or amping up my iron intake. But for sizzling bacon over the fire while we put our boots up by the fire and sip our cowboy coffee. We’re in Montana, y’all. It’s time for a cast iron pan.

We couldn’t find one we like to register for and so it’s been on the “to buy eventually but maybe we should just wait till we have more space” list. But here’s my debate: should I buy a new or used one?

One of the thrift/antique stores around here is always over flowing with cast iron pans and so I could get a good deal on one. On the other hand, that pan above (Lodge) is on sale for 30% off at Amazon. Now I haven’t joined The Compact or anything, but I do like the idea of buying used where I can.

But is a used cast iron pan a good idea? They require a lot of special care, and I would have no idea if the previous owner had kept theirs up. So here’s my question: can you “ruin” a cast iron pan? Or if you take bad care of it (meaning washing it in soap) does it mean a patina just hasn’t build up yet but you could from there?

I debated buying one in JVC and then I would’ve just done the used route. Now that money isn’t as tight (okay just getting. It is just as tight. But we don’t have to consult 3-6 other people before each purchase) I figured I would just by a new one so I could season in “right”. But now I’m thinking  that maybe any cast iron pan can be redeemed whether or not it was seasoned right from the start.

So what do you experienced chefs, foodies, and pioneers from the 1890s have to say? What brands should I look for? If I buy a used one, any way to know if it’s good or bad?

 

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