Scouting Dilemma

On the one hand, the Boy Scouts of Amer­i­ca are (offi­cial­ly) a dis­crim­i­na­to­ry orga­ni­za­tion of whom I real­ly do not approve. On the oth­er hand, my boys are in Boy Scouts (Cub Scouts, tech­ni­cal­ly). They enjoy the peer social activ­i­ties, and I enjoy the oppor­tu­ni­ties they would not have if they were not in an orga­ni­za­tion like that (camp­ing, civic duties, vol­un­teer­ing, etc.). I also like that they have friends there and get to hang with them.

But I am find­ing it more and more dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile the two.

There are few estab­lished alter­na-Scout­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able in our area. (No Camp­Fire group, no YMCA Adven­ture Guides, no BPSA group.)

So, I can:

  1. Keep my kids in the BSA and shut my mouth (or work from with­in for change). In the mean­time I keep send­ing mon­ey to the BSA, implic­it­ly sup­port­ing their posi­tions.

  2. Pull my kids from Scout­ing and enjoy not hav­ing annoy­ing activ­i­ties three times a month.

  3. Put my time and trea­sure where my ethics are and start some­thing myself, either per­son­al­ly ((DIY looks cool) or with the struc­ture (if not sup­port) of some orga­ni­za­tion like BPSA.

The first choice, stick­ing it out, is where we have default­ed. But when we joined the cur­rent Pack, (remem­ber, we just moved) at the intro­duc­to­ry meet­ing some hon­cho from the local Coun­cil came to sell it, and the first thing he said was how won­der­ful it is to have a place “where we can talk about God. We can’t do it in our schools!” He went on a bit about how glo­ri­ous this was, and how impor­tant, and then he might have caught my eye and he nev­er came back to it. It left a real­ly unpleas­ant taste in my mouth.

The sec­ond choice, ditch­ing, would be easy, but it feels so wrong. Worse than choice num­ber one, in fact.

The last one is clear­ly the right choice. But I am old, lazy, and tired (or at least I feel that way) and this would be a huge com­mit­ment on my part. I think there might be some sup­port in the com­mu­ni­ty (at the very least in my church, where it has already been brought up once), so I prob­a­bly wouldn’t be fly­ing alone. But this is real­ly quite a daunt­ing task. I am, shall we say, daunt­ed by the thought of it.

Thoughts? Encour­age­ment? Vol­un­teers?

Wish I was still reading Among Others

I fin­ished read­ing Jo Walton’s much prize-win­ning book, Among Oth­ers yes­ter­day. Through­out, I found myself sort of drift­ing, lik­ing the book, but not feel­ing ter­ri­bly com­pelled. Now that it is done, how­ev­er, I find that I am miss­ing it. Not nec­es­sar­i­ly in that way that you wish you knew what hap­pened to Har­ry after Volde­mort, but rather… well, I just miss it. The char­ac­ters, the world, the is-it-or-isn’t-it mag­ic, the feel of it.

I’m pick­ing some­thing else to read now, but I sort of just feel like sit­ting and day­dream­ing about Among Oth­ers a lit­tle while longer.

Quite a book. Not for every­one. ymmv.

Forty freakin’ two

Too old to be a child prodi­gy, too young to be an elder states­man. Today is my birth­day. Seri­ous thoughts on the date itself lat­er today, but for now, I just want to give a shout out to my par­ents, with­out whom I would not be here, and my fam­i­ly, with­out whom I would not be here. My life is pret­ty good right now, and I have only had a lit­tle part in that. Much love.

My health is good, how’s yours?

I remem­ber hear­ing this sto­ry on NPR back at the start of the year. Basi­cal­ly what it says is that if you get to mid­dle age as a non-smok­er, with good cho­les­terol, glu­cose, and blood pres­sure, your chance of dying of a heart attack is super-low. But if you have two or more of these risk fac­tors, you only have a 50/50 chance of get­ting to The End with­out a heart attack.

On hear­ing this, I felt an over­whelm­ing urge to tell my twen­ty-year-old self to get with the pro­gram, that my already-mid­dle-aged self couldn’t do any­thing about it at this point. Twen­ty-year-old self thumbed his nose at me and ate more Chee­tos.

I hadn’t had a phys­i­cal in a few years (in my defense, my doc­tor told me the last time to come back “in a few years”), and I don’t think I’d ever had my cho­les­terol or glu­cose checked. Like ever.

So, on the cusp of 42, I sched­uled a phys­i­cal.

My doc­tor is a hoot. She’s like 6 foot, tall and mus­cu­lar, and could snap me like a twig. She’s also fun­ny and per­son­able, and likes tak­ing some time to chat. We went over how I’d been, how I was inter­est­ed in this blood pan­el of stats, and, oh yeah, we have this lit­tle prostate thing to check, now that you’re over 40.

I had been expect­ing this, but was hold­ing out hope because in some places on the Inter­net you can find peo­ple who say you can wait until age 50 before check­ing your prostate health. Of course, oth­er places on the Inter­net will tell you it’s best to check your prostate health your­self. And those places have video. The Inter­net is all about pick­ing and choos­ing your sources, right?

My doc­tor hadn’t been to either of these sites, appar­ent­ly, as she went on to deliv­er a very detailed descrip­tion of what she was about to do. In the end (rimshot!) it was quick, pain­less, and real­ly kind of anti­cli­mac­tic. It seems my prostate is fine. She tossed her glove, washed her hands, and we went on to sto­ries about her kids (appar­ent­ly they’d LOVE my t-shirt).

On Mon­day, I got my blood test results. And as it turns out, I am well with­in the healthy norms for all the things they check.

So, yay me. Not dead yet.

In read­ing the linked study (yes, the actu­al study, yay Inter­net! I for­give you for the prostate self-test videos), a cou­ple things are clear.

First, I still have a long way to go (age 55) to real­ly meet their cri­te­ria, so I have some time before I can start huff­ing cans of Red­di-wip for break­fast.

And sec­ond, low­er­ing the inci­dence of heart dis­ease and heart relat­ed deaths (and stroke, they men­tioned, too) real­ly requires pre­vent­ing risk fac­tors from emerg­ing, rather than treat­ing them once they exist. Get­ting reg­u­lar blood tests to mon­i­tor your blood pres­sure, glu­cose lev­els, and cho­les­terol can be key in notic­ing when things are get­ting bad before they get bad.

Which means, go see your doc­tor, twen­ty-year-old selves.

The search for church

I’ve nev­er been a reli­gious guy. I don’t believe in God. I see a lot of the crap that goes down in the world in the name of one God or Anoth­er, and it doesn’t do much to change my opin­ion. My moth­er used to take me to church when I was lit­tle (she took the whole fam­i­ly), but all I got from it was an abid­ing love for sug­ar cubes and a mem­o­ry of a burn­ing bush col­lage I once made.

As a young and not so young adult, I dab­bled in church­ing, but noth­ing ever stuck. I mar­ried Catholic, so we tried that (shout out to Sacred Heart in Oma­ha!) but we also checked out the Methodists and sev­er­al Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist con­gre­ga­tions.

But you know what? Going to church every freakin’ week is hard. So we didn’t.

Then we had kids. Cou­pled with our recent move to Kansas City—a move we hope and plan to be our last—that set us to church hunt­ing again. The local Catholic parish is pret­ty strict­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, so they were out. We tried a UCC con­gre­ga­tion in the neigh­bor­hood, as they are pret­ty inclu­sive, yet still Chris­t­ian (some­thing we want­ed to try on for size), but between feel­ing like fresh meat and their pub­lic recit­ing of the creed (which I will para­phrase as “do good in the name of Christ”), we did not feel com­plete­ly com­fort­able.

So we went back to the well, and looked up the local Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist church. The Shawnee Mis­sion Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist Church (SMUUCh, and if that isn’t rea­son enough to join…)

The first time we vis­it­ed, we found it full of peo­ple. Young, old, fam­i­lies. There was singing, and food after­wards, Sun­day school and a ser­mon. It was like real church! As we walked up to the front door, see­ing Prius­es in the park­ing lot, the hip­ster glass­es on the woman greet­ing us at the door, I turned to Tiffany and joked, “these are Our Peo­ple.”

But I was right, I think. Four months lat­er, we are mem­bers (if you know us, you know we don’t buy ice cubes with­out research­ing them for a month pri­or). The com­mu­ni­ty is large, vibrant, engaged and engag­ing. They have exten­sive reli­gious edu­ca­tion class­es, exten­sive adult groups, and a strong com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice eth­ic. The church is active in the nation­al UU orga­ni­za­tion.

And, if you’ll par­don the lan­guage… they are Lib­er­al as fuck.

So, we’ve found a com­mu­ni­ty. It hap­pens to be a church. They have accept­ed us despite our foibles, as they accept every­one. They will help us learn and grow and most impor­tant of all, they will help our chil­dren learn and grow and be Good Peo­ple.

I still don’t believe in God, but I have always believed in some­thing. Now I can go, once a week, to be with peo­ple who also believe in some­thing. This isn’t our first time at a UU church. They vary wide­ly, and depend sig­nif­i­cant­ly on the min­is­ter at the front of the room. But more impor­tant­ly, the com­mu­ni­ty behind the church is what dri­ves it (and, more pro­saical­ly, hires and fires the min­is­ter…) That com­mu­ni­ty is what we were look­ing for, what we have found, and what we have joined.

Thank God.

I wish you all the best of luck find­ing a com­mu­ni­ty you can con­nect with, churchy or not.

Universal Solvent for the win

Yes­ter­day was Fathers’ Day, and it was nice. I got toast in bed and a few presents.

I got a new umbrel­la to replace the one I bent when I slipped in the snow last Win­ter. I fig­ured the peri­od of mourning/humiliation was over, and I could stop using it. And I got a copy of the new­ly mint­ed ver­sion of Wiz War, a game I played in col­lege (twen­ty years ago, now) and have held on to ever since. You may know that I got my eight year-old son to play the orig­i­nal with me a few times this past year, and yes­ter­day, we played the new one.

Old and bust­ed, Wiz­War cir­ca 1990

The new hotness, WizWar circa 2012

The new hot­ness, Wiz­War cir­ca 2012

It was long (about two hours, what with learn­ing the changed rules and pop­ping out all the mark­ers for the first time) but we had a lot of fun, which end­ed abrupt­ly when I real­ized I could use the Uni­ver­sal Sol­vent to melt the wall between me and the win­ning square. At which point I did just that, and my son gra­cious­ly accept­ed defeat. He had me on the run until that moment, and I am ever so proud of him for his very mature reac­tion.

Hope­ful­ly that made up for my vic­to­ry dance around the table. (No, I did not actu­al­ly do that.)

So, old Wiz War: awe­some. New Wiz War: prob­a­bly actu­al­ly more awe­some, though we should play it a few more times.

Also, Wiz War, both old and new: total­ly geeky and fid­dly and long and intri­cate and full of mag­ic and silli­ness and spell cards and things like a Uni­ver­sal Sol­vent card. So, ymmv.

Molting tree?

It would appear that the real­ly big sycamore in our back yard is molt­ing? Um. Help?

Our yard with tree bark all over

Our yard with tree bark all over

This is one piece of bark

This is one piece of bark

UPDATE: I’ve been informed by peo­ple more knowl­edge­able than I that sycamore trees do this on a reg­u­lar basis. In fact, since this event, we’ve had sev­er­al more bark­falls, prob­a­bly exac­er­bat­ed by the drought this sum­mer.

Farmers Market Strawberries (and Shortcake, and Morels, and Salad)

Like a month ago now (maybe more?) we went to the farm­ers mar­ket here in Over­land Park for the first time. We bought straw­ber­ries and morels and greens more stuff, and went home and had a most fab­u­lous din­ner. We cooked the morels, added them to pas­ta, had a light greens sal­ad, and made straw­ber­ry short­cake (with real­ly whipped real cream). And I took pic­tures.

Strawberry shortcake, yo

Straw­ber­ry short­cake, yo

Elephant graveyard

Cardinal feathers

Car­di­nal feath­ers

We’ve lived in our new house for about four months now. In that time, my wife (bless her) has col­lect­ed and dis­posed of two dead squir­rels, a ful­ly grown but dead rab­bit, and a mori­bund car­di­nal. We do have dogs, but nei­ther of them are com­pe­tent enough to have caught any of the above.

Which leaves either a neigh­bor­hood killer (cat, moun­tain lion, hexa­va­lent chromi­um?), or the mys­ti­cal: our new back­yard is the neighborhood’s ele­phant grave­yard, where dying ani­mals go to leave their bones. Or in our case, car­cass­es.

Per­haps this is not an unusu­al num­ber of dead things? But in our pre­vi­ous four­teen years of home own­er­ship I can think of… well, one poi­soned rat, one thread­bare squir­rel, and two ani­mals I killed with a lawn­mow­er (a wee baby bun­ny and a garter snake). So, that’s four in four­teen years, ver­sus four in four months.

Methinks some­thing is up.

Simplify: our pre-sort laundry system

When we first moved in to our house in Lawrence, we got a pret­ty big walk-in clos­et in the mas­ter bed­room. We’d not had one like that before, and imme­di­ate­ly set about using it to sim­pli­fy our laun­dry tasks.

Before this, we’d col­lect all our laun­dry in one bas­ket (occa­sion­al­ly we’d try two, whites and darks). We’d do laun­dry on the week­ends, and it would invari­ably require a tedious sep­a­ra­tion of the laun­dry (usu­al­ly onto our bed) into warm whites, warm col­ors, cold whites, cold col­ors, tow­els, and jeans (fam­i­ly of four, dontcha know). Then we had to spend all day doing all that laun­dry, lest we end up with a slight­ly small­er huge pile of laun­dry on our bed when it came time to sleep. Then you end up with Mt. Laun­dry on the floor.

Instead, and armed with all this extra clos­et floor­space, we bought six laun­dry bas­kets. I gave in to my OCD and labelled each as above, warm whites, warm col­ors, etc. Then we trained the kids (and our­selves) to sort the laun­dry in situ, as we went. Undress, sort your clothes. When it came to laun­dry time, we just picked up a bas­ket and off to the races.

This had the added ben­e­fit of let­ting us do one load of laun­dry every night, leav­ing the week­ends mer­ci­ful­ly free of laun­dry chores. In prac­tice, we usu­al­ly have two or three loads to do on a week­end, but that beats six loads in one day (or sev­en if we went through a lot of jeans).

One of my great­est con­cerns in find­ing a new house was whether we would be able to accom­mo­date our six ham­pers. As it turns out, not quite. We have four in our not-walk-in clos­et (whites and col­ors), the tow­els in a bas­ket in the linen clos­et (big linen clos­et) and the jeans in a bas­ket at the bot­tom of the laun­dry chute. Yeah, we got a laun­dry chute.

Regard­less, the sys­tem still works, and I haven’t had to sort laun­dry in five years.