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.