Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
I wrote up this story from my adolescence a couple years back, thought since it was Hallowe'en I'd dig it out to share...
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We stood there on the corner, looking up at The House. Max, Marty, and me. It sat back from the street on a high corner lot, a classic Midwestern Victorian two-story, with a large porch that ran along two sides. The lot itself was landscaped in such a way that there was a steep hill of perhaps six feet, rising up from where we stood on the sidewalk on the downhill side. A set of concrete stairs cut up through the grass, a sidewalk leading from there to the front door.
"So, um, it's haunted, right?" asked Max. He was tall and thin, as I was, but he had an athlete's natural grace. I hated him for that since, at the same age of 14, I was nothing but clumsy. Max played basketball and ran cross-country. I think he still holds some of the school records to this day.
"Yeah, that's what they say."
I just lost my temper. I just had a full-fledged screaming fit, eyes bulging, veins throbbing, face beet red. At a 90 year old woman who knows no better, who is confused by the world around her due to Alzheimer's, who is likely dying.
Why did I just do this reprehensible thing, and why on earth am I admitting to it in a public forum?
The first part of that question is the more difficult one to answer. I did it out of frustration, exhaustion, and fear. Frustration because she (my MIL) has been exhibiting compulsive behaviours all morning which drive me nuts (tearing things out of magazines, wanting to write on the back of photos in the little album she has, 'cleaning' up some lunch mess with a kleenex and in the process smearing stuff all over the table top and making more work for me.) This sort of thing rapidly gets under my skin - it's like some small kid pestering you with a behaviour that they know will drive you nuts. Except, of course, that in this case she doesn't really know what the hell she is doing.
President Bush has appointed Susan Orr to lead what is basically the “Acting Deputy Asst. Secretary for Population Affairs” at the HHS Department, where she be responsible for U.S. contraception programs. The White House calls her “highly qualified”, they mean sufficiently religious. A look at Orr’s record shows that her strongest qualifications appear to be her rightwing credentials and endorsement of the Bush administration’s failed abstinence-only policies.
In a 2001 article in The Washington Post, Orr applauded a Bush proposal to stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees to cover a broad range of birth control. "We're quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease," said Orr, then an official with the Family Research Council.
If you are squeamish about killing things, don't read this. I warned you. Heh.
It was a half hour before lunch yesterday. I checked in on my mother-in-law (MIL), who was sitting in the front room, reading. Doing this regularly helps her feel less anxious, gives her a chance to ask questions or if she needs something, since she doesn't always remember that she can just call for me.
"How're you doing?"
"I'd like to get up and look out that window."
This is unusual. "Um, why?"
"Because I want to see what's so interesting out there."
"There was a man here a few minutes ago, and he was looking out that window at something."
No, there wasn't - we'd been alone since my wife left for her office 90 minutes earlier. "A man?"
"Yes. There was a man there, looking out. He seemed to be very interested in something."
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I was on-call last night. It's a lot easier to do this now that it's only a couple times a week. My MIL had been restless early on, so I went to check on her about 11:00.
"Yes. But I need to get up."
"Do you need to use the toilet?"
"No. I need to make room for the other people."
"All the people who are here. I need to let them use the room."
As a counter-point to the doom and gloom of my other post this morning, I thought I'd share this - the paper I wrote a column for until the first of this year did a feature piece on an Alzheimer's presentation by a local researcher, and wanted to tie it with the experience my wife and I have had in caring for my mother-in-law. The result is this article, titled "Unwavering love."
"When does this plane land?"
"Mom, this is your home. Not an airplane."
"Well, I don't want to lose my glasses. I'll need them."
"I'll make sure you have them."
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My wife and I have both noticed a lot more "journeying" reference from my MIL in the past few days. From such things as above, to stories of people waiting for her to return, to news that she is going "on a trip".
Yeah, that's probably right.
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There's a phenomenon familiar to those who deal with Alzheimer's. It's called "sundowning". There are a lot of theories about why it happens, my own pet one is that someone with this disease works damned hard all day long to try and make sense of the world around them (which is scrambled to their perceptions and understanding), and by late in the afternoon or early evening, they're just worn out. You know how you feel at the end of a long day at work? Same thing.
So we usually don't worry about it when my MIL gets hit by this. Still, it'll catch you completely off guard if you let it.
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This isn't really pertinent to the usual UTI stuff, but I thought I would post it here anyway so folks may understand why I will sometimes be absent in the coming weeks. It is a follow-up to this post on my blog yesterday.
A friend sent me a link to this CBS News item this morning:
Except that the article really isn't about that. It's more about where atheism fits in within our society, as seen through the vehicle of former Saturday Night Live actress Julia Sweeney, who discusses her own journey away from belief, and how it was received by her family:
Even more confusing for Sweeney personally was religion. She comes from a large Irish-Catholic family. But in her 30s, Sweeney says she began a spiritual quest. It led her away from any notion of God — a conversion she turned into a monologue, soon to be released as a film called "Letting Go of God."
But of course, many people would disagree with Sweeney, especially her mother, Geri. She said it was a great shock that her daughter decided that there wasn't enough evidence for her to believe in God.
"Uncle" Leonard has lived on my mother in law's street for more than 40 years. My mother and father-in-law have known him for 30 of those years, and my wife, Mrs. Inscrutable, has known him since she was a little girl. She always called him "Uncle Leonard" or "Uncle Len". I met Len when I married into the family and immediately liked the old coot.
Len is 80 years old and strong as an ox. His eyes are clear, his brain works great, and he's deeply intelligent with a childlike sense of humor that infuses all that he says and does. He knows everything that is to know about big and small game hunting here in Arizona. He's our "hunting buddy", and we go hunting with him 3 or 4 times a year at least - more if we can get the time off. Working for 40 years of his early life as an electrical engineer erecting power poles and stringing high-power electrical lines through some of the most desolate desert and high-country wilderness in the state of Arizona means that he also knows every trail, track, and road. In many cases he created the trail or road when he and his crew were wiring-up the state in the 40's and 50's.
He is a crack shot. I have seen him take down two javelina from more than 400 yards, one right after the other, with perfect behind-the-ear shots. This is in the desert, and a javelina is about the size of a medium-sized dog - and they are sand-colored. It wasn't luck - he shoots like this *every time*.
My point is that Uncle Leonard isn't a wild-eyed, deluded fruit-loop new agey weirdo. He's one of the most down-to-earth, hard-nosed materialists I've ever met.
However, he dowses for water. Successfully.
More after the fold...
Darned if I ever thought about THIS before.
An article titled "10 Things Your Grocery Store Doesn't Want You to Know" by Sally Wadyka for MSN Health & Fitness says, in part:
1. The shopping carts have cooties.
According to studies done on shopping carts, more than 60 percent of them are harboring coliform bacteria (the sort more often associated with public toilet seats). “These bacteria may be coming from raw foods or from children who sit in the carts,” says Chuck Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist at University of Arizona. “Just think about the fact that a few minutes ago, some kid’s bottom was where you are now putting your broccoli.” According to studies done by Gerba and his colleagues at University of Arizona, shopping carts had more bacteria than other surfaces they tested—even more than escalators, public phones and public bathrooms.
Damn. Never thought about it. Shitty-diapered kids sit WHERE MY GROCERIES GO.
You may, or may not, have been wondering why I've been so quiet lately. One of the main reasons is that I've been on vacation in Italy. If you're interested, I've uploaded some of the pictures we took here.
We visited Lago Maggiore, Venice and Milan during our time there.
Some of the many tourist attractions in Italy are the churches there and the wife and I did visit some of them. The pictures on the inside of a church come from Piazza Duomo, the 3rd largest Christian church in the world.
One of the questions atheists often hear is, "What harm does it do to believe?"
Visiting these churches showed me some of the harm. The churches are magnificent, awe inspiring and opulent. They represent, to me, wasted human effort and that is one of the things that is harmful about religion. We (as humans)pour, and have poured, huge amounts time and resources into something that atheist's regard as false. How can we help but see that as harmful?
If you have any questions about the pictures linked, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to address them.
I wrote this last year, for the Fourth of July. But since today is Flag Day, I thought I would repost it here.
One birthday, when I was nine or ten, I woke with anticipation of the presents I would receive. Still in my pajamas I rushed into the kitchen where my parents were having coffee, expecting to get the loot which was rightfully mine. My father happily handed over a small, wrapped box. I opened it eagerly, to find a little American flag on a wooden stick. My father said that since my birthday was July 4th, he thought I would appreciate the gift.
Horror-struck first at not getting anything better, then a moment later at my own greed, I guiltily told my parents that I thought it was a fine gift.
After a moment, of course, my folks brought out my real presents, and there was a fair amount of good-natured teasing and laughing about the little trick they had played on me.
I stumbled across a fun and friendly blog today called The Litter Box. The writer named Sherry writes about family life, friends, and occasionally religion. It's one of those blogs you start reading, then read it all the way through because they write so well and are engaging and enjoyable.
Here she is commenting on the recent Rational Response Squad vs. Cameron/Comfort "debate" on Nightline last week:
More below the fold...
Yesterday was a bit of a rough day for me. "Mother's Day", "Father's Day", the anniversaries of the death of both of my parents, all these usually carry with them some emotional charge. Oh, it all happened over three decades ago, so the raw pain associated with loss is only a dim memory, but there is a wistfulness I feel, a sense that I am lacking in ways not understandable to those who had both parents survive into their adulthood. Combined with the stresses of our care-giving situation, I needed something to lighten the mood last night. Something silly.
Monty Python & the Holy Grail was just the ticket.
And it was. But when the movie got to the "She's a Witch!" scene:
"I need a toothpick."
"No, mom, you had a toothpick after dinner. You picked your teeth for 40 minutes."
"I need a toothpick!"
"'Cause there's something stuck between these front teeth."
"You just brushed your teeth. There's nothing there."
"I can feel it."
"Let me look." (Looks. Nothing there.) "There's nothing there but your gum, swollen from picking at it so long earlier."
"I need a toothpick!!"
*sigh* Whisper, that only I hear. "Oh, not this again."
"I need a toothpick!!"
"Mom, there's nothing there. I just looked. Really."
"But I can feel it!!"
"No. You picked at it so long..."
"After dinner. You had a toothpick for over 40 minutes."
"But there's something there! I know it."
"Mom, I just looked. THERE IS NOTHING THERE. You just brushed your teeth, and rinsed..."
"I did? When?"
"Just now. Just two minutes ago."
"But I know that there's something stuck there..."
(Cross posted to CommunionBlog.)
It is a very difficult decision to be tested for a genetic disease which you may have, and for which there is no known treatment (let alone a cure). If you test positive, you know exactly the sort of future you face. And, if you test positive, it can have a significant impact on your employment and insurance possibilities, even decades before you might experience any onset of symptoms.
Recently the whole family got together for a nice dinner and a show. We ate at an Italian joint in Little Italy (Baltimore) and went to see Wicked. We always have a good time when we get together but my family often amazes me. Before the appetizer course came out my sister came out of the blue with a report from church. She relayed a story of someone who had a "God moment" during the ice storm we'd had earlier that week. One of the folks from their church, a slightly older gentleman, had fallen in the ice and broken his leg. His cell phone had been out of batteries but he still managed to call his wife to get help. That was what my sister gave god credit for. Allowing a previously out of charge cell phone to call for help...
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As noted in my profile, my wife and I care for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's and other age-related dementia. Usually her disease just manifests as very poor memory and confusion about her surroundings. We get used to answering and explaining things over, and over, and over, and do our best to comfort and reassure her that she's OK.
But every so often, she'll get into an obsessive/compulsive cycle that is almost impossible to escape. We've learned what most of her triggers are, and do a pretty good job avoiding allowing these cycles getting started. There's one, however, which is almost impossible to avoid: becoming convinced that there's something stuck in the gap at the back of her front teeth. This usually starts with brushing her teeth at night before bed. Sounds silly, but it's not - she will spend literally hours picking and digging into her gums to get something out which isn't there, and can cause real damage.
My grandfather died last week. He was 86 years old and he had made it abundantly clear to us that he was ready to go. It wasn't unexpected, but it was very sad. We spent some time with him and my grandma, his wife of 67 years, before Christmas and he told us flat out that this would be his last Christmas and that he really enjoyed spending time with us on the lights and the decorations.
Grandpa was a very religious man. He wasn't an fundamentalist, or an evangelist, but rather very quietly and intensely religious in the Mormon tradition. He had been a Mormon all his life, serving his church in various ways and in various positions of leadership for decades. I was always certain of his love, even after I came out as an atheist. Grandpa accepted me for who I was, regardless of his own feelings on the matter.
More below the fold...