The same ol’ same ol’

30 June 2009

I noticed this morning that I haven’t been writing much about the state of the American church lately.

It’s kind of odd in a way, since I spent most of this blog’s first four months (December 2008-April 2009) on that subject.  When I started it, I never intended it to be so focused on religion — it was supposed to be a spot for whatever issues I happened to see and feel the need to address, in whatever field.  Thus the subtitle: “Views on God, life, sports, politics and whatnot.”  It just happened that from early January through the middle of April, between my Congregational Journey and other church-related dealings, I was up to my Adam’s apple in the issues of American Christianity.

So why has that changed over the last two months?  Well, for one, my Congregational Journey is over, and doesn’t look likely to resume (hit the calendar on the right and go to April 25 to see the surprising conclusion).  And I haven’t succeeded in finding a “house church” to check out — in fact, I’m starting to doubt that any exist in this county.  So in a way, I’ve been on the shelf for several weeks.

But there’s another reason I haven’t written much on the American church.  It’s because very little seems to be happening that’s new.

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Observations from the soccer pitch

29 June 2009

A series of things that came to mind while watching the U.S. national soccer team’s 3-2 loss to Brazil in yesterday’s Confederations Cup final in Johannesburg, South Africa:

* Yes, I did spend a Sunday afternoon watching soccer!  I’m not one of those ingrown rednecks who hates soccer because it’s supposedly a “sissy” sport (people who say that have clearly never watched a soccer match at any level) or because it’s popular in Europe (so are the Olympics – am I supposed to skip those too?) or because it’s “boring” (which it most certainly isn’t).  I enjoy a well-played international match – if anything, international football has become my sixth-favorite sport:

  • 1. Baseball
  • 2. Fantasy baseball
  • 3. Baseball analysis
  • 4. Talking/arguing about baseball
  • 5. NBA basketball
  • 6. International soccer
  • 947. NASCAR

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As I lay dieting …

27 June 2009

(Blogger’s note: Thursday, I said that I’d be wrapping up Life Change Week on Friday unless “the Sacramento Kings do something totally bone-headed in tonight’s NBA draft and raise my blood pressure …”  Well, that seems to be exactly what they did — passing on one of the purest point guard prospects in years in Ricky Rubio.  But I couldn’t write about the Kings yesterday because their whole “strategy” made so little sense that I can’t even analyze it.  So we’ll go with one of my other recent life changes in today’s column.  Next week, we’ll be back to the usual religious questions and quasi-philosophical observations …)

I was still trying to figure out how to structure today’s post as I ate my big bowl of raw oatmeal this morning.

Yes, you read that right — raw oatmeal.  Uncooked, straight out of the round carton and into the bowl, with enough milk (skim) that you can actually eat it.  That’s been my breakfast about half the time over the last month.  Low-calorie, high-fiber, and wonderfully filling — I eat it around 7 or 8 in the morning, with an apple or some other fruit, and I rarely feel like eating again until after 1 p.m.

For the last several months, I’ve been trying to do things here and there to lose weight.  The problem is the “here and there” part — I wasn’t sticking with anything consistently, or for very long, largely because I wasn’t sure what I should be doing or what would work for me.  Around Memorial Day, a little intestinal blockage (which I’ve been prone to on occasion, since childhood) forced me to do some really hard thinking about this pattern.  I came to the decision that almost ANY diet method, with the requisite commitment, would be better than flitting from method to method with nothing resembling a single direction.  It was time to make a diet plan and hold to it.

And the diet plan I’ve chosen has been a fairly drastic change.

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A slight adjustment to the yoke

25 June 2009

(Blogger’s note: Still in the midst of Life Change Week.  Don’t worry, we’re getting somewhere.  Tomorrow’s entry will be the final one in the series, unless the Sacramento Kings do something totally bone-headed in tonight’s NBA draft and raise my blood pressure …)

Some of you might think that after ten and a half years of marriage, the Supermodel and I would pretty much have all the kinks worked out and everything at this point would be smooth sailing.

There’s a word that describes you if you think that.  The word is “single.”

Marriage is a constant, neverending series of adjustments and compromises, as two completely different and ever-changing people, yoked together like farm oxen, learn and re-learn (and re-re-learn, and re-re-re-learn …) how to live with each other and actually enjoy it.  Sometimes it works really well, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes the two parties don’t really try to make it work and just let it fall apart, scattering shrapnel everywhere.  (Naming no names.)  When it works, there is almost nothing on earth that’s better.

In the last few weeks, the Supermodel and I have had to make some more adjustments.  Mostly I.

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When people don’t get any better

24 June 2009

(Blogger’s note: “Life Change Week” rolls on …)

And after I called my mom on Sunday, Father’s Day, I managed to reach my dad.

Now, some background is in order here, lest one misunderstand.  My dad has been a drunk – not an alcoholic; alcoholics go to meetings – since he was a teenager.  He was also extremely violent, running with gangs as a teen and getting thrown out of a Catholic high school in San Francisco for punching a monk.  All of this he managed to hide from my mom while they were dating – and stopped hiding once they were on their honeymoon.  (As Mom once put it, “I still love the man I married … I just never saw him again.”)

I mentioned yesterday that my mom was basically a single parent even when my parents were married; my dad made very little positive input into my life growing up.  Not only that, but he was verbally and emotionally abusive toward the rest of the family.  And a grade-A control freak – I received a bicycle when I turned seven, but was told I was only allowed to ride it on the eight-by-fifteen-foot concrete back porch of the house.  (This is but one example.)  Shortly before my ninth birthday, my mom asked me how I’d feel if we (she, my brother Steve and I) moved somewhere else … without Dad.  I actually cheered.  (Kids know more about what’s going on in their families than adults often think they do.)  We did leave, and Dad made no effort to change, to win her back, or to hold the family together.

Nor did it improve after the divorce was finalized (I was 11 by then).  Steve and I spent periodic weekends with my dad that became less and less frequent, by our choice.  Mine ended altogether when I was 16 and Dad, in his usual drunken stupor and as the culmination of dozens of similar incidents, came after me with a metal softball bat.  By this time I was taller than him and able to fight him off, but I still got thrown out of the house (in the middle of the night, thirty miles from home).  I think I saw him once in the decade to follow, and didn’t say a word to him then.

Since then, two things have happened that have changed the situation:

  1. Dad has mellowed, not so much due to a change of attitude as to ill health and old age (he turns 70 this year).
  2. Steve has been following in his footsteps.

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My mom and the “C” word

23 June 2009

(Blogger’s note: “Life Change Week” continues …)

So I called my mom on Sunday to wish her a happy Father’s Day …

You think I’m joking.  I’m not joking.  I grew up in a single-parent home even before my parents split up when I was eight – my dad, a lifelong drunk, was at best only peripherally involved in my upbringing.  So while I did call my dad Sunday as well (more on that in tomorrow’s post … and since this is “Life Change Week,” that should give you some idea of how it went), my first call was to Mom.  After all, as I told her myself, “you did all the work!”

Not that it was going to be a totally easy conversation.  Mom and I get along great; I’ve always taken after her side of the family, the talkative but introverted, bookish, creative side with the weird sense of humor.  We don’t always agree on things (especially politics), but we understand each other.  The difficulty is that her health has been failing lately.  She’s had problems before – a 1973 bout with Guillain-Barré syndrome that permanently affected her legs, a diabetes diagnosis several years ago, a mild stroke – but lately it’s snowballed.  Doctors have been doing test after test on her, trying to figure out what’s wrong with her heart (arrhythmia), with her liver (which is twice its normal size), with her spleen (same as the liver), with her bone marrow (not producing white cells), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  They still aren’t totally certain as of Sunday, but during our conversation, Mom slipped in their tentative diagnosis.

The current front-runner: cancer of the liver.

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The curious case of Brian Grant

22 June 2009

(Blogger’s note: This post is the first in a series of five or so that is part of what I’m tentatively referring to as “Life Change Week.”  Basically, I’ve had a lot of difficult stuff come up, the sort of things that pile up Life Change Units on one of those stress tests you’ve probably seen before.  As part of dealing with it all, I’m going to be writing about it here.  Hopefully, it will be helpful for you as well.  And now, to paraphrase Bette Davis, fasten your seatbelts — it’s going to be a bumpy week …)

I mentioned last week that my wife’s latest edition of ESPN: The Magazine (published in New York: The City) arrived, and that it was their annual “athletes-take-over-the-mag” issue.  Now, usually this magazine has a feature near the front called “This Just In,” an editorial about something going on in the sports scene, written by one of their top writers.  Being that it was the jocks’ issue, though, the slot this time around was filled by a former NBA player named Brian Grant.

I remember Grant from when he first came to the NBA with my hometown (well, home-region) team, the Sacramento Kings.  He was a 6’9″, 250-pound power forward with a decent shooting touch, a good rebounder.  His basketball career never quite lived up to expectations due to some injuries, he never made an All-Star team and he won’t be going to the Hall of Fame.  But he did play twelve years in the Association and made more money than I’ll ever see in my lifetime, so you can’t say he wasn’t a success.  But basketball was not the main thing he was writing about in his column — he has a challenge to deal with that’s a bit tougher than going one-on-one with Karl Malone.

Brian Grant has Parkinson’s disease.

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