A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday, My Friend

Remember back when I committed to write a post every Monday?  Yeah, me neither (obviously).  Maybe next week I will finally find the right words for the posts I've been planning, but for now, I am just glad it's Friday.  This song has been rolling around in my head this week - enjoy!  May you all have glorious weekends :)

Anna Kendrick, "When I'm Gone"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Check Yourself, Before You...

Two simple words: Background Checks.  Why do we think it's a good idea for people to be able to buy a lethal weapon without undergoing a simple background check?  Is it really a sensible idea for people to buy guns without restraint?  I don't think so, and I haven't yet heard a cogent argument against background checks.  As always, I am open to being convinced if such an argument exists!

As a wise poet once said, "You better check yo self before you wreck yo self."  Checking people out is just common sense - you have to do it on every job application you will fill out!  Why is there a higher bar for a job at a fast food joint than purchasing a weapon that can KILL?

The second amendment to our constitution does allow individuals to own firearms.  Yet this is not a universal right - we restrict the right of felons to own guns and most states limit access by the mentally ill.  These limitations suggest to me that gun ownership is a right that can have reasonable restrictions placed upon it.  A simple background check seems like a reasonable restriction.  Of course, this step is not going to stop all gun crimes.  I realize that criminals can have other people buy weapons for them.  Which is why we need additional laws to punish gun traffickers and provide funding for such investigations.

I think of weapons as a continuum - suppose at one end is a pocketknife, and the other end is a nuclear weapon.  Now, think about what weapons individuals should be able to own.  We do not allow individuals to own tanks or nuclear weapons.  Such an idea would be ridiculous and dangerous to public safety.  So gun control is also about drawing a line somewhere on that continuum and saying that individuals cannot own certain weapons.  My position is that machine guns, high capacity magazines, and other HIGHLY lethal weapons used in mass shootings should be illegal.

For America, I think it is important to discuss where the line on the continuum should be drawn.  We have many thousands of people in this country who die every year at the hands of a gun.  We need to thoughtfully examine what policies can prevent this.  The dead could be your brother, your sister, your mom, or your dad.  All of the victims are your neighbors.  Gun violence is a horrific problem, and we owe it to the many innocent victims to do all we can to stop these tragedies from occurring!

Memorial to the victims of the mass shooting in Newtown, CT

I've linked to one episode of The Daily Show's series on Australian gun control above, you can watch the other two parts of the series here.   .  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Pineapple Principle

I've recently finished reading "What My Mother Gave Me" - a collection of essays by women writers on memorable gifts from their mothers.  Although it is probably too late to get this for your mom for Mother's day, I HIGHLY recommend the book.  I may be slightly biased because my aunt wrote one of the essays, but I do like that some of the authors have bad relationships with their mothers, because it means the book isn't a smarmy Hallmark type book.  It caused me to reflect on the many gifts, tangible and intangible, that my mother has given me over the years.  She gave up a paid job to raise me and my three brothers, so there's obviously the invaluable gift of time.  But I decided to write this Mother's Day post about something I'll call the "Pineapple Principle."

A lot of memories from my childhood involve large parties.  In the spring, summer, and fall, our screen porch could be filled with more than 20 people enjoying a meal, chatting, and laughing, with kids running out to the backyard to jump on the trampoline, catch fireflies, and play games.  In winter, parties spilled out of the dining and living rooms into basement.  Delicious food emanated forth from the small galley kitchen, which often produced dozens and dozens of handmade rolls for these parties.  A deep freezer (and later, additional fridge) meant that there was plenty of storage space, and plenty of leftovers for guests to take home.

As I remember it, there was always room for one more at the table, and new members of our church congregation found themselves asked to dinner.  My parents had a soft spot for those who would be alone on holidays, and several single members of our congregation became "regulars" at Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmases at our house.  I won't pretend that I enjoyed every aspect of this.  Church ended at noon, and on the drive home my mom laid out the plan of attack, listing the chores that needed to be completed by each of us in order to have dinner ready in time.

It wasn't until years later that I learned the term "hostess neurosis," but it fits my mom.  Before parties (especially in the final minutes before guest arrival) she could become a frenzy of activity.  A steady stream of commands issued forth, with admonitions to clean up toys, put things away, set the table, vacuum, dust, etc.  Sometimes I would wonder, why does she bother?  Why have these parties if it causes so much trouble?  With much murmuring, my brothers and I would help - up until our friends arrived, and then we were gone.

When the guests arrived, my mom transformed into the gracious hostess - her tone of voice much lighter.  Our house was probably never as clean as she would have liked, and there was usually still work to be done on the dinner (which was okay, because somebody was always late).  Yes, there were times when the rolls burned or something didn't turn out well.  But my mom gave a good party - the food was plentiful and delicious, and home felt home-y.  She and my dad seemed to be able to pull the good stories out of people and get them to laugh at good jokes.

I'm not sure when the pineapple became a fixture in this pantheon of parties.  It was my mom's "go-to" appetizer - a pineapple, sliced into chunks, with each chunk skewered on a toothpick along with a raspberry or blueberry.  Simple to prepare, but visually pretty because of the colors, it's a perfectly refreshing snack.  A little bit exotic somehow, yet also wonderfully ordinary.  Not too long ago, I found myself helping my mom slice and prepare thirty pineapples for a friend's wedding reception.  It's become a standard Mom dish, one that I will always associate with her.

Pineapples are a symbol of hospitality.*  So it's fitting that I tend to associate them with my mom.  When Paul is telling the saints how to behave like saints in the New Testament, he urges them to be "...given to hospitality" (Romans 12:13).  It's a verse that I've written "MOM" next to in my scriptures, because she exhibits that sense of hospitality.  The Pineapple Principle is one of hospitality and giving.

The Pineapple Principle means that I can never invite "just one" person over for dinner.  It includes the hostess neurosis and associated shortness of temper, along with the ability to make large quantities of food in a small kitchen.  The Pineapple Principle gives me the reflex to ask "What can I bring?" when I am invited to a party.  It's a gift that makes me come early to set up or stay late to wash dishes.**  It means that I bring the pineapple to my work Christmas party every year.

The Pineapple Principle has taught me to focus less on myself and my often imperfect cooking, and more on creating a space for laughter and togetherness.  My house, too, will probably never be as clean as I would like (it's the "lived-in look" as my mom says, "instead of the magazine perfect look").  But that's no reason to shy away from opening my doors.  I do, and it usually involves pineapples.  So this Mother's Day, I will have my mom over for dinner.  My dad is in charge of the pineapple this time.

*Apparently, the pineapple's symbolism is a myth.  No matter!  Slight exaggeration is a genetic trait that happens to run in my family.
**Okay, I'm really making myself sound like a saint here, but I sometimes think it's the Curse of the Pineapples, because it imbues me with a sense of duty to help with any party.  And I don't always listen to it, either.  But I know the voice in my head urging me to help is the Pineapple Principle.