Thursday, October 30, 2008

For My Sisters in the DRC

The cost of Sarah Palin's wardrobe. Joe the Plumber. The amount of money Sarah Palin's makeup artist is paid. Anger at political signs being vandalized. Etc., etc. These are the things getting tons of publicity these days. Sure, there's also talk about the ups and mostly downs of the Dow, and of course day-by-day watching of "the polls." Oh, and the World Series.

What's not being talked about is what's going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I'm the first to admit I had no idea what was going on. I heard a word here or there about a "Congo week" to raise awareness. One friend on Facebook had a status one day that said she was turning off her cell phone for the DRC. Only days later did I find out why (a key component of cell phones is mined there).

I think Eve Ensler writes about what's going on over there, particularly to the women, best here. Please read it carefully, and then consider these two statements:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." --Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC

If we do nothing, we are not remaining neutral or "minding our own business." Doing nothing to stop violence and oppression is the same as helping those doing it.

A few years ago, I saw the film Hotel Rwanda. I left the theater and walked through Harlem to my apartment with tears streaming down my face. It was not simply the events of the film or the Rwandan genocide itself that touched me, but the anguish of the terrified people wondering why no one was coming to help them, wondering why, if the people in Europe and the US knew what was happening, they did nothing. It touched me because I knew we had not learned. It had happened during the Holocaust. It had happened with the Khmer Rouge. And, at the time the movie was released, the same thing was going on right then in the Sudan (and still is).

And now the DRC.

The question is, why? Is it because the stories that come out of these places are so atrocious we cannot believe it could possibly be that bad? Is it because these people are Other--they're not like us, so we don't really care that much--or, as Ms. Ensler suggests, because much of the violence is done against women?

I don't know. I do know that I can no longer say I didn't know about it. And if you're reading this, neither can you. And now that I feels like one of those situations where there's nothing I can do.

But I can tell you, and I can tell others, and so can you. Spread the word. Offer it up during prayer requests at your church. Mention it to your friends. Forward this post and any others you find about it. Together we can make sure no one says they didn't know. That's the first step.

Then, maybe after election day, start contacting your government officials. Contact the ones in office now AND the newly elected. Make sure those who are in office until January do whatever they can in the next two months to help stop this, and make sure those coming in to office know you want them to make the conflict in the DRC a priority right off the bat.

And perhaps most importantly, make this pledge for yourself: "I will not stand by."

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Today I was babysitting a little boy. He's three, and his name is Finn. Let me also state that he is white, as is, with very few exceptions, his surrounding community. He was building with his Legos, when all of a sudden he said, "Marack Obama has two children, and he wants to be president."

I was a little stunned. "Yes," I said, "Barack Obama does have two little girls, and he does want to be president."

He rattled on a little bit more about it, and then said, "I'd like Barack Obama to be president. I'd like to give him a big hug." Thinking perhaps he said he had given him a hug, I asked him to clarify. "No," he emphasized, "I want to give him a hug."

Later, while watching a recording of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" from this past week, he glanced up during a commercial and said, "That's Barack Obama!" And he was right.

When his mom got home, I told her what had gone on. She told me that they watched the news (she's a news anchor and her husband also works in television) and would point out, "Oh, that's John McCain; oh, that's Barack Obama." She said at one point Finn told her he liked Barack Obama. When she asked him why, he said, "Because he's comfy."

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Wednesday Grammar Gripe

Excuse me for a moment while I get up on my soapbox.

Ok, people, seriously. I know that I'm a grammar nerd. I accept the fact that most people are not going to hold themselves to the high grammatical standard to which I hold myself. I understand that how we speak in casual conversation is different than how we might write a formal paper, for example.

That being said, I urge English and Language Arts teachers across America to stress the difference between LESS and FEWER. Again, casual conversation is one thing. But I have seen a plethora of misuse of these words in advertising and corporate settings lately.

Before I go into the examples, let's have a little grammar review. We use less to describe uncountable quantities, or the degree of something. The item described is usually singular. We use fewer to describe things that can be counted, and they're usually plural. So for example, we'd say less money, but fewer dollars; fewer hours but less time. Got it?

Ok, so it started at my bank in NY, Washington Mutual. They had a new advertising campaign (nicknamed the "whoo hoo" campaign) and a bunch of flashy new posters all over the walls. One said something to the effect of, "More benefits. Less hassles." Every time I went in, I would stare at that poster and get annoyed. I almost filled out a feedback form about it. Eventually, they moved on in the campaign and removed those posters. I wondered, though, how such a huge error could have made it that far?

Then there's the cable broadcast network TNT. In their promos for the movies they air, their new tagline is "More movie. Less commercials." See the problem? Fewer commercials. Fewer. Makes me not want to watch TNT. Who is writing these things--and who's letting them air?!?

Finally, last night I saw a print advertisement with not one but TWO incorrect uses! The ad is in the Good Housekeeping insert, Your Good House, and is for Culligan water filtration systems. Under the first picture, it states (bold mine): "SAVE ENERGY by using filtration systems that dramatically extend the life of your appliances, conserve water and allow for less detergents." Then, under the next picture, the caption reads: "USE LESS CHEMICALS AND CUT CLEANING TIME by installing a high-efficiency water softener..." Ugh.

Please, I'm begging all those in the advertising and all other media industries: use correct grammar! This is not so -called high-education complicated stuff, like using "whom" or not ending a sentence with a preposition. I get that those can sometimes just sound too stuffy and wordy in the "quick and dirty" world of media. But less and fewer are not interchangeable, and saying "fewer commercials" takes up one more syllable than "less" and does not make it sound stuffy, just makes it seems like the company actually knows English.

I'll step down from my soapbox now. Have a good day.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Working Without a Net. Or, Sewing Without a Pattern

Well, ok, I didn't really sew without a pattern. But I didn't use a commercial or any other kind of already-created pattern. I made my own! From scratch. Just me, an idea, a pencil, and a big roll of brown paper.

I started with something fairly simple, but even so realized as I was drawing that there were lots of steps to consider. Which pieces would get sewn together first? Right or wrong sides together? How do I make sure I cut the pattern pieces so that the fabrics face each other correctly? Is the sizing right? If I want to include a "stuffing," how do I do that?
The reasoning behind not using someone else's pattern is copyright law. I want to make these and sell them, and I can't do that if I go to JoAnn's and buy a Simplicity pattern for them.

So without further ado...
It's a bib! The front is a cotton paisley; the back is denim. I say front and back, but it's really reversible. Both fabrics are in their second lives, having previously been part of other things. The neck closes with a hook-and-loop closure (aka Velcro). Here it is being modeled on a stuffed mouse.

The end result is a little smaller than I'd hoped, but it'd definitely work for a young (under 6 mo) infant. Otherwise...I like it! I need more practice sewing curves, and I'm going to experiment with other sizes, neck closures, shapes, material (something more absorbent?) and maybe even some fun designs for holidays. If they get good enough, I'll set up a shop on, a website for handmade goodies.

If it gets to that point, I'll need models other than the mouse (although she is cute). So, if you've got a baby who wears bibs and are willing to allow me to use his/her image wearing the bib, let me know. You'll get a free bib AND the style will be named after your baby! How cool is that?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sophie blogging

As promised, here are some pictures of our newest family member, Sophie. She is an absolute joy. She's sweet and funny and not too mischevious for a kitten (at about 6 months, she basically a teenager cat-wise). There's no way to be depressed around her--either she'll come knead us and purr as loud as a truck motor, or she'll do something totally silly and make us laugh. She's big into physical comedy: falling off things, doing somersaults, playing hide-and-seek, daintily investigating soap bubbles with her paw...Today she had me laughing so hard I was crying! Dad's mentioned Sophie coming with me when I leave, but I think he's gotten too attached. I don't know though, she's pretty attached to me, too...

This is the day after we adopted her, just over a month ago.

She loves sitting in the window...

...or just leaning on her "elbows" to observe the birds, chipmunks, and falling leaves.

Here she is meeting my nephew Caleb for the first time. She got right up and sniffed his head!

Then she decided his baby seat was a pretty comfy spot, with a bonus of fun toys hanging on it.

I think we're already at the point (I am, anyway) where it feels like she's always been a part of the family!

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Happy Birthday to My Blog!

So although I actually started my blog in May of 2006, I consider October to be my anniversary, because it was at this time last year that I really started regularly writing (I had 4 posts total in 2006). Although "regularly" might be taken with a grain of salt, I'm learning not to take small steps for granted. Slowly but surely it progresses. Last month by far had my highest number of visits to date, which broke the record previously held by August. It's happening, little by little. In the past year I had successes like people I didn't know finding my little musings and making comments, being invited to write on a group blog, and having a post published at another publication (the most fun part about that is now if you Google "feminist pastor" my post comes up first!). I'm starting to realize that each post does not have to be long, involved, researched, and deep. Some may be that way, sure, but some might only be a sentence or two long. I just need to be disciplined about writing something until it becomes second nature.

Anyway, happy birthday, Sunlight and Shadows. May the next year bring even more ruminations, new friends and visitors, and lots of success! Let's celebrate!

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Forget "To Do"

I'm a big fan of "to do" lists. I make them all the time. At the moment, I have three: sewing projects to be done, general "needs to be done at some point soon," and my list of things to do this week. Those are the written ones, plus I have one running in my head for things I'd like to get done today.

However, I'm going to switch it up a little. I often get a little anxious when thinking about those lists, and often many things are left undone, while others not on the list somehow are accomplished. Yes, I'll admit to sometimes adding those actions just to cross them off. There is definite satisfaction in that drawing that line through a word or two. Today instead of stressing about what I did not get done in the past few days that I wanted to, I'd like to share my "GOT DONE" list. Perhaps we'd all feel a little bit better about ourselves if we made lists like this!


  • Emptied out closet in sewing room in preparation for the creation of Dad's recording studio
  • With Mom, threw out two carloads worth of junk
  • Dropped off a whole bunch of stuff at the thrift store
  • Vacuumed closet and area directly in front of it
  • Did 5+ loads of laundry--washed, dried, and folded--most of which was fabric
  • Completed two rows in a crocheted cat blanket for the Humane Society
  • Read 48 pages of Anne of Green Gables
  • Interviewed for a steady babysitting job
  • Met with a couple whose wedding I'm officiating while picking a peck of apples
  • Made two loaves of beer bread
  • Moved bookshelf from sewing room into Mom's room and the bookshelf from there into living room, and unpacked DVDs and videos onto shelves
  • Watched 6 unlabeled tapes to see what they were and threw out 5
  • Cleaned up fallen tree in backyard
  • Sorted through and tried on some clothes in closet to see what to keep and what to get rid of
  • Stripped and re-made my bed
  • Sorted through old mail and cleared off part of dining room table

Yeah...when I look at it like that, I've gotten a heck of a lot accomplished! I feel much better...

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