• Consistently Inconsistent Part Deux

    You would not believe the problems I have had getting online the last two day. Seriously. If anyone would like to send me $400 to upgrade my internet, that would be so awesome. It took me about 4 hours to get ours working today. Yesterday, it just randomly fritzed out about 20 times. So, yeah. That kind of makes it hard to be consistent. We just paid $900 for car repairs on our only vehicle, so unless some of our hard work finally pays off soon, that’s not going to change.

    And if you want to get me a laptop, that would be helpful as well. Having to share a computer with three little girls whose only moments of sitting quietly happen while watching the videos on that computer . . . it’s not an ideal arrangement. We have no cable and you can only buy so many DVDs. And did I mention that they are actively into something every single waking moment of the day? Do you know what it’s like to have 3 different people who each need your attention at least every 5 minutes for 16 hours a day? Yeah. Like I said, it’s not an ideal arrangement.

    I keep telling my kids that we’re like athletes training with weights on. You know- like the baseball players who put weights at the end of their bats while warming up so that when they go to bat, they’ll be swinging harder. We keep pushing forward with all these obstacles blocking our path and it may look like we’re failing from the outside. But let something break our way and we’ll have such finely developed skills that we’ll just take off like nobody’s business.

    At least that’s the theory, anyways. I think it’s a pretty good one.

  • lent

    Join Me for Lent

    When I was 14 I gave up swearing for Lent. And I actually broke the habit entirely for a few months. But that summer I got a job working in a hot, humid greenhouse with a bunch of crabby old ladies who smoked and swore all day long. I’m glad to report that the smoking didn’t rub off on me. I tried giving up swearing again for Lent the next year, but after a few days I decided that it didn’t really count as giving something up if you just kept doing it anyways. So I switched to chocolate. Which is just as well. I happen to love swearing and consider it a valuable life skill. (Recently I left a comment on a blog explaining why I have no problem being a swearing Christian and the first person who responded told me that I should take a logic class before deigning to speak again. He signed his name with his degrees behind it. It was quite amusing all around.)

    So anyways, I no longer give things up for Lent, but I do often try to pick up a specific Christian discipline for the season. Now, I know that some of you come from church backgrounds where Christian discipline involves spiritual abuse and lots of meetings with the pastor. Rest assured, that’s not the sort of Christian discipline I’m talking about. Rather, Christian disciplines are simply specific practices which one engages in with the intent of deepening your faith life. It could be fasting, praying the Jesus prayer, engaging a spiritual director, using the book of common prayer, meditation or walking a prayer labyrinth to name just a few examples.

    This year I’m going to be doing morning and evening offices through the season of lent – and I’d like to invite you to join me. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Daily offices or Divine hours as they are also known come out of monastic communities which structure their day around prayer services which take place at set hours each day. The practice is said to date back to the Apostles and comes out of the Jewish practice of saying prayers at set times. (For example, in the Book of Acts, Peter and John visit the temple for afternoon prayers. – Acts 3:1) Aside from monastic communities, the practice of “keeping the hours” as it’s sometimes called, is often associated with high church Episcopalians. But any Christian can use/do them. In case you were wondering.

    Basically an office is a prayer service which includes prayers, readings from the psalms, scripture, maybe a meditation and a hymn. Some communities use the same prayers each day while changing the scripture readings each day. Others use different prayers or cycle through a set of prayers over the course of a week or month. If this all sounds confusing – it’s not. Unless you’re the poor soul charged with actually putting these services together. For those of us who are simply showing up to join in, it’s very easy. So easy, in fact, that you don’t even have to leave your house. Hell, you don’t even have to get off the computer! There are a variety of places which put up the day’s readings and prayers online. You can just read along at your own pace in your own time. Some even include audio files if you would like to listen or recite them out loud along with a prayer leader.

    Of course, this may all sound a wee bit high churchy for some folks. And perhaps you’re wondering why you ought to do such a thing. Well, let me give you three reasons:

    Continue reading

  • Spread the Joy – Enjoying the Hard Life

    hardlifecoverBack in college I briefly dated a guy who taught me how to drive a stick shift. We borrowed my friend Romi’s little Ford Escort and drove around deserted back roads so I could practice. I was awful. My date was very sweet and patient but after several hours of me stalling at every stop and losing speed as I struggled to find the next gear and the occasional grinding, he finally said, “I don’t want to make you feel bad, but it seems like you should be catching on by now.”  Shortly after that, I dropped him off and drove back to my dorm without a single hitch. I never had another problem driving a stick shift after that night.

    The story always makes me laugh because it’s so typically me. It’s like I have to make every mistake possible before I can figure out the right way to do things. And then I’m golden. The downside is it’s probably best to steer clear of me when I’m learning something new. The upside is that on the other end, I can tell you about any mistake a person can make and how to find your way out of it. And it’s in this spirit that I wrote The Upside Down World’s Guide to Enjoying the Hard Life.

    If there’s a counter-productive, neurotic or unhealthy way to approach life, it was probably a habit of mine at some point in the past. In this book, I share 45 of my favorite ideas, practices and attitude adjustments which have allowed me to overcome my worst tendencies and enjoy my often difficult life. The essays are quick, easy to read, good humored and practical. No lectures or theological treatises. Just lots of ideas for how to be more mindful, self-compassionate, forgiving, happy, grateful and at ease with yourself, your life and the people in it. There’s even an index to help you find which essays to turn to when struggling with everything from anxiety to guilt to forgiveness to relationships and more. Continue reading

  • heaven hell

    Getting back to Hell Week

    Well, I kind of forgot that the bill for our internet was coming due and wound up pretty much entirely off-line for the last week. But I’m back online now, so I’ll be getting the next essay in our Hell Week series up within the next 24 hours. And if that doesn’t fry my brain to badly, I’ll even get a Bloggy Linky Goodness up tomorrow. Oh joy of joys! If you have a post you’d like considered for inclusion, please email it to ratrotter73@yahoo.com now.

    I wanted to add a quick note about these posts: the things I am writing are the conclusions I have reached based on extensive research. Which is not to say that my conclusions are new or unique – far from it! In coming to my conclusions, I have relied heavily on the work of others who have documented in great detail the basis for the claims of Biblical Universalism. Because of time constraints and the nature of blogging, I simply cannot provide full or even adequate supporting details for everything I have said. However, in each post I have provided links to books and essays which do contain a large quantity of documentation for the claims which I am making. If you have read anything in these essays which you find doubtful or even incorrect in substance, I would strongly encourage you to make use of the links I have provided in order to view a good sample of the actual information I have used to make my claims. In addition to the links I have provided (which admittedly are not the most readable books and essays in existence), I would highly recommend taking a look at the work of Thomas Talbot (website), Gregory MacDonald  (website) and Robin Parry (website). (There are others, but these three and particularly modern and accessible.) You can also check out the Evangelical Universalist Forum if you are looking for people to discuss the details of biblical universalism.

    If you missed any of the previous Hell Week posts or want to enjoy their wonderfulness all over again, here they are:

    Hell Week – Back to the Beginning

    A Word With One Meaning or 30?

    Eternal Punishment or an Age of Chastisement?

    What the Hell?

  • winebox

    Did the Ex Try to Poison Me? Plus, A Guide to Wine for the Newbie.

    It is Friday. And Friday is a good day for wine. Because you’re too tired to do anything crazy, but something to take the edge off is called for. Wine is perfect for that! And let me tell you, if you are getting drunk off of wine, the wine you are drinking isn’t good enough. Or you’re not paying enough attention to it. Either way, you’re doing it wrong.

    If you’ve never been much of a wine person but would find the idea of it appealing, don’t ask a wine person for advice. They will direct you to something which they enjoy and you will find either unaffordable or undrinkable. (Do ask liquor store clerks, though. Some of them are really excellent and they don’t get paid enough to buy $40 bottles of wine either.) For those of us who are past Boones Farm but aren’t yearning to gargle our alcohol before swallowing, allow me to share The Upside Down World’s handy guide to wine selection:

    • Whites are usually easier to drink than reds.
    • Blush wines are usually easier to drink than either white or reds but usually run a little towards the kool-aid side of wine.
    • Ask for something that’s not too dry and you’ll get a sweeter wine.
    • If you are drinking a red, ask for low tannins – those are the things that make your mouth pucker when you drink many red wines.
    • Interesting, quality, cheap, easy to drink red wines often come from up-and-coming new regions which change from time to time. South American wines are usually a good choices at the moment (or at least they were a year ago when I had money for a $10 bottle of wine!).
    • For an easy to drink white, wines with unpronounceable German looking names are good bets – but again, avoid anything described as “dry”.
    • Every once in a while, you can get a good wine pairing for what you’re eating. A sip of wine with food in your mouth will make you almost stop and gasp. It’s so good, it’s like magic. But it happens so rarely and unpredictably that it’s hardly worth going out of your way to find. Don’t get hung up on wine-food pairings.
    • You will appreciate the wine section at Trader Joe’s much more after a few trips into the liquor store by the gas station.

    This is a movie about oenophiles. Every character in it is despicable. Moral: get advice on choosing wine from bloggers on the internet.

    Myself, I prefer a Riesling. I’ve had magic really good Riesling, but that’s only because someone with money bought it for me. But Riesling can be quite good even at the $8 a bottle mass produced range. This is why when he’s trying to pass himself off as a nice guy, the ex will bring a bottle of Riesling over even though he has no money and doesn’t care for it himself. When I’ve been nasty and he’s feeling extra committed to passing himself off as a nice guy, he won’t just leave the bottle on the counter for me to find whenever I happen to make it to the kitchen. He’ll actually open it and bring me a glass. And have put the bottle in the refrigerator for later. Three weeks ago, I must have been pretty nasty at some point in the preceding days because he brought me a glass of Riesling in one of the crystal glasses my parents sent from Poland. They are strictly special occasion glasses. Because we have 5 kids and at least 2 of them are in the “I inexplicably drop only breakable things I’m not supposed to be touching” stage at all times.

    Within seconds after taking a drink, I began to experience intense, clenching pain around the area of my diaphragm. Fifteen minutes later we were driving to the emergency room while I alternately stick a paper sack on my head to avoid hyperventilating and stick my head out the window to gulp in cold, numbing air. On the way, I theorizing that I was having a panic attack or that I might be one of those people who shows up in the ER with severe gas pain and just needed to fart. Another round of head out the window and then into the sack.

    I had insisted on a paper sack because you can suffocate from putting a plastic bag on your head. Even one with a hole in it. It’s just not safe. And who offers a person a plastic bag to breathe into? My ex, that’s who. You know, the pain had started right after drinking the wine he gave me. “Did you put something in the wine?” I managed to ask before I was seized with pain and stuck my head back out the window.

    The ex was a bit startled to be accused of poisoning me, but my world moved right on to writhing around trying to find the least

    He's going to die! Did his mother teach him nothing of the dangers of putting a plastic bag on one's head?

    painful position to sit in. Thankfully, I made it to the hospital without throwing myself out the window and was taken into triage pretty quickly. About 30 minutes later, while I was sitting in a hospital bed feeling much better, a couple of police officers walked through the waiting area where the ex was sitting and were waved back by the receptionist. He said he just knew they were there because I had told them that he was trying to poison me. He told himself that the toxicology report would clear him.

    I had forgotten that I’d even said such a thing of course. I was busy having what would have been the most painful panic attack in human history. (Since I was in so much pain that it literally took my breath away, I was convinced that I was having a panic attack. I am irrationally certain that anytime something might be wrong with me, it will turn out to be a panic attack.) The doctor assured me that as intense as a panic attack can be, it doesn’t actually cause breath-taking physical pain. Later he came back and offered to call the surgeon and get him to come in the next morning to remove my gallbladder. Or he could wish me luck and let me call him myself come Monday morning. “Those are my choices?” I asked. “Well, I do have you on drugs, so I can manipulate you pretty easily at the moment. If you’re not up to thinking about it, I can just go ahead and make the call now,” the kind doctor responded. Which is what he did.

    Amy Winehouse was cleared by her last toxicology report. Would the ex be so lucky?

    So, the ex was cleared of suspicion without even having to wait on a toxicology report. I am now a few ounces lighter and missing a green sac that once sat by my liver. (Actually, I have no idea if a gallbladder is really green, but it’s always colored green in illustrations, so that’s how I picture it.) And I have another 3 weeks before I’m supposed to pick up or carry the toddler. Fun.

    Of course, I’m tough.  I may not be 25 anymore, but I was a good girl and took it easy for a few days.  It wasn’t going to knock me down.  Unfortunately, a week after my gallbladder surgery, my mother nearly died from septic shock. She had attended a church dance with my father just the night before, so we kinda didn’t see it coming.  She ended up in the ICU where the nurse called one of the surgeons and insisted that if he didn’t come in now, she wasn’t going to make it through the night.  Even after emergency surgery to remove a lodged kidney stone, it was touch and go for a while. My dad told me that the evening after surgery, mom had the same gray look my grandfather had when he died a few years earlier. The parish priest came out and gave communion and performed the rites of anointing of the sick on her. According to my dad, almost as soon as the priest put his hands on mom, the color began to return to her face. My mom told me that she started feeling better and looked over at my sister who had tears running down her face. “How sweet. She’s crying tears of joy,” my mom thought to herself. Life always seems impossibly good when God’s moving, I suppose. ;) Fortunately, mom’s on the mend. But it’s been a long couple of weeks. I’m exhausted.

    I’ve been convicted about the need to rest lately. I’ve been hearing it regularly when I pray. But it’s hard. I’ll rest when I’m not poor.

    I lift this nap up to the Lord. May my snoozing honor him.

    I’ll rest when I’m done doing what I’m trying to do. I’ll rest when I’m not surrounded by children 24/7 for years without a break. I’ll rest. Later. And then life comes along and just piles on until I get to the point of not being able to function. Again. I swear, sometimes I think that life is so hard because it’s the only way God can get us to stop and rest. One day maybe I’ll learn to do it before life has piled on so hard I can’t do anything else. It would probably be a good thing to get worked out.

    I hope that your life is not nearly as crazy as mine right now (although if not, don’t feel too bad. It does seem to be going around!). But even if you’re just riding along on a bed of roses, we were made to need rest. We were made to need some recreation and entertainment along with our work. Hell, what good is a bed of roses without the freedom to relax anyways?

    So, please don’t wait for life to pile one you. Take some time to rest this weekend. God said so, and I’m here to report that not resting doesn’t work all that well anyways. If you’re not sure what to with yourself, you can always kick back with my newly re-vamped site. I worked all week making it pretty (or at least not dreadfully plain anymore). Plus, a lot of people who only started reading my blog recently may not realize how much there is on the site. I figured out recently that I’ve published close to a half a million words on the site over the years. Which is far too much sorting for most people to go through to find what you want to read. So I’ve been busy organizing as well. I’ve added menus that will make it easier to find what you are interested in reading. There is now a page with my favorite memoir pieces (Look under the “About” menu). There’s also a menu for “Hot Topics” which includes “Spiritual Parenting“, “Theological Concepts“, “Christianity and Evolution“, “Study of the Book of Job“, “Women and Scripture“. I’ve also created a menu for my poems as these seem to be particularly popular. I’m going to get to work on more Hot Topics just as soon as I can function again, so if you have requests/suggestions, please let me know.

    If poking around the blog itself isn’t tickling your fancy, may I suggest the newly released eBook version of The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress for your recreational reading this weekend? It’s $5. Just like a movie from the bargain dvd bin at Wal-Mart. But better. And if you use my tips above you can add a nice bottle of under $15 wine to read by. For $20 bucks, you have the perfect night in, courtesy of The Upside Down World. If you really want to splurge, grab a bar of dark chocolate to munch on and it will be just like a visit to heavenly realms. I’ll just be curled up in the fetal position in my bed if you need anything!

  • cover

    Now Available For Kindle: The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress

    Last summer, after my husband left me with 5 kids and very little money, I did what any logical woman who hasn’t had a real job in 12 years would do.  I decided to publish a book.  The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress was the result. It came out almost exactly a month after the ex left.  I still haven’t decided if this was a stroke of genius or the work of a crazy person, but the family computer did die the moment I sent the final revisions off to the pubisher.  Which may not have been a vote of great confidence on its part.

    All the rest of life also seemed to be conspiring against me as well.  Due to unrelentingly bad luck and finances, I didn’t even have the money for gas to drive to local bookstores to get it on their shelves, much less set-up events.  The Kindle version was a problem as well.  It takes much more formatting to produce an ebook than a simple PDF file.  It’s not difficult, but I wasn’t exactly in any state of mind to learn how to do something new.  The resulting ebook was pretty messy and I eventually pulled it off the virtual bookshelf. 

    I still don’t have the money to promote the book properly, but I do now have the mental wherewithall to learn how to format an ebook.  So, I am pleased to announce that the Kindle version of The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress is now available.  In it you will find essays, stories, poetry, spiritual memoir, quotes, art work and more.  It’s an easy read, but my goal and hope is that the ideas you encounter will remain with you long after you are done reading it. 

    So, if you have been wondering about me or are looking for solid, spiritual lessons to carry you though your own challenging times, I hope that you will consider downloading your copy of The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress from Amazon today. 

    For those of you who regularly read the blog, you can have new posts delivered straight to your kindle with a $.99/mo subscription from Amazon.  Even if you aren’t that into your Kindle, I could really use some reviews.  If any of my regular readers would be willing to head over and put in a good word for me, I’d be mighty appreciative!