Thursday, December 1, 2011

Babies, Thanksgiving dinner...and polka dancing

Andrew brought his GoPro to Iowa last week and took hours of footage of everyone doing everything on the farm - shooting guns, going for walks in the cornfield, eating, drinking, running, roasting the pig and such. He edited all of it down to a little clip, set it to music, and voila! Here she is.

Watch it fullscreen for the best viewing, then tell him what you think of it here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm becoming one of those people who loves their dog more than is normal or healthy.

Last Monday night I was home alone with Lucy, my family's new three-year-old 100-pound Yellow Lab (who is probably crossed with a Great Dane...she's enormous). I'm so enamored with this dog. She has boat loads of personality and, although it hurts me to say it, she's so much smarter than our last dog, Woody. I sat on the floor and threw her a ball for a bit, taking a video of it on my phone so I could watch it over and over in Berkeley (what, that's weird?).

video
Pardon my mindless giggling and the open pantry door. I should be more embarrassed about putting this on the internet, but I love her too much to care.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Home

Back in August, just after I finished my internship and about a week before the fall semester began, I found myself very homesick but without the means of fixing it. I couldn't go home - I don't remember why, because I wasn't employed or studying - and it sucked. So I coped by booking flights home for fall break in October and a quick trip before Thanksgiving in Iowa.

Christian in my running headband. He's the only 18 year old on the planet who always gets his knee in the picture.
As it turns out, the latter was a little short-sighted. After I got my syllabi in September, I realized that my flight home on Friday would mean I had to skip class on Tuesday. I was a little panicky, but that mistake was SUCH a Godwink because those few days at home were gold.

Coldstone date with my favorite girlies
I spent Saturday watching football with my dad and playing with the dog (I have a fantastic video of her on my phone, and when I can figure out how to get the stupid thing to upload I'll post it here), and Sunday I had a lady date with the S girls. We had some frozen goodies and then walked around the CSU campus for a bit. The littlest was in fine form, even though it was pretty cold:
video
Tuesday morning I flew to Des Moines for Thanksgiving with Andrew's family. His mom is the middle of nine siblings, and all of her brothers and sisters - and almost all of their families - were together in Ames (most of us under one roof!). There are so many things I could say about this adventure, but my best takeaways are thus:
a) home isn't just where I grew up. Being at Andrew's grandpa's house in Ames felt exactly like being at my grandparents' old house in Rapid City, which is just as comfortable and wonderful as my house. I felt so loved and welcomed - so at home. And I feel like that in the S family's house, too. Home isn't a place, it's people.
b) maybe one of the best things about getting married is knowing that all of those people - Andrew's cousins, aunts, uncles, their kids' kids - will be my family! I get to keep these guys forever and that makes me feel so damn lucky. Andrew's cousins, especially the ones right around our age, are some of my favorite people in the world. It's going to be unbelievably fun for me when they get to meet my cousins in June. And we'll all grow up together. I don't know what I did to deserve these blessings, but man...they are so rich.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy This

The Occupy movement has been on my brain a lot in the past couple of months. Perhaps you've heard of it.
View from office of #occupyoakland 10/14/11

I guess I started actively paying attention back in the beginning of October when a (conservative) friend sent me a text message, asking, “Have you made any friends at Occupy Oakland yet? Where’s your tent?” I didn't respond because I didn't know what to say: I hadn't been down there yet so I hadn't made any friends, although some classmates of mine were occupying, but I hadn't informed myself and I didn't want to admit that. My head was swimming. I knew it was something I should know about, so I started...collecting. Facts. Quotes. Photos.

Occupy SF, before it moved down the block and became MUCH bigger
Found on a friend's Facebook wall
My classmate TR marching in an interfaith rally in San Francisco
An Italian take on Occupy Oakland

My friend and classmate PK, center, a few hours before he was arrested at the Interfaith Coalition tent at Occupy Oakland
PK, center
Cellphone photo walking past Occupy Cal last week

I encourage my students to dig deeper for answers in their Bible and theology courses. Jesus committed his entire life, and death, to the love of all humanity, including the 1 percent, but most especially he identified with the poor and powerless. He showed his particular love, time and again, by sleeping alongside them, eating with them and living as one of them. It is with the neediest, Jesus told his disciples, that God is alive and on the move.” - Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." – Mahatma Gandhi

“I’m ready to occupy all “Occupy _________” punch lines. They’re every bit as stale and lame as the old, stodgy millionaires that the “occupy” movement itself protests.” – MS, a friend and distant relative, in a Facebook status

“Anyone who really says ‘yes’ to life says ‘no’ to war. Anyone who really loves life says ‘no’ to poverty. So the people who truly affirm and love life take up the struggle against violence and injustice. They refuse to get used to it. They do not conform. They resist.” – J├╝rgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life

In engaging the bigger issues I've faced in my short life - what should I do after college? Why do I want Barack Obama to be president? et cetera - I've found that the best solution comes to me after consulting a variety of quality sources, getting a few good nights' rest, and praying super hard for a sound answer. The Occupy movement, to be fair, doesn't feel as personal for me as it does for others, but nonetheless I've undertaken this same method to decipher its importance for my life. And the punchline is: I still don't know what to think of it, but because the world doesn't revolve around me, I am SO GLAD the movement exists. It may not be affecting my day-to-day, but I am wholly supportive of every protester and every minute reason that any of them feels compelled to camp or march. I feel so damn lucky to be living while this is happening. If Jesus were alive today, I absolutely believe he would be camping in Oscar Grant plaza. It doesn't matter to me that the movement hasn't produced "demands" or specific objectives. It seems to me that most protestors are opposed, quite simply, to the broken system that currently exists, so why would they provide a list of demands if that's a product of the system they're opposing?

For now, I'm going to class, writing papers, buying groceries and doing some yoga. I'm getting ready for my birthday and Christmas. And I have an eye on Occupy. I give thanks that there are thousands of people who are willing to shake things up to make the world a better place, and if something changes - if the Spirit so moves me - I'm ready to join them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

In honor of Veterans' Day

“I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

“It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one and another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

“Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.

“So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things."

Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I wasn’t going to write about Penn State.

I wasn’t going to write about Penn State. I wasn’t going to write about Jerry Sandusky, Mike McQueary, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, President Graham Spanier or Joe Paterno. I wasn’t going to write about the purported sexual abuse of (at least) eight children.

But then I saw this Facebook status: “Penn St: terrible decision.”

To my great fortune, I am not a victim of sexual assault. But it’s a subject that I cared a lot about back in high school, when I was a Peer Counselor, and the things I learned in that program are still hanging onto me. I did a lot of work in sexual assault prevention in Peer Counseling: I taught classes, I made educational videos, I went to hundreds of meetings. I was Fort Collins High School’s Sexual Assault Resource Team Student Representative. I could rattle off statistics about how 1 in 4 Colorado women and 1 in 17 Colorado men would be victims of sexual assault in her and his lifetime; about how victims of sexual assault in Larimer County alone ranged in age from six months to 94 years. I learned, and believed in my bones, that sexual assault is an issue of power, not sex.

Given my experience in Peer Counseling there are many things I could say about Sandusky, but I’m not thinking about him.

Joe Paterno is 84 years old. He knew about Sandusky’s abuse. He reported it to Curley, the AD, sure, but he should have done more, and that’s why he lost his job tonight. At Penn State, and around the country for that matter, there are two camps of people watching this play out: those who say Paterno deserved to be fired and those who say he’s innocent, just getting swept up in Sandusky’s scandal. And here’s the disconnect: Paterno is part of a dying generation of men who looked the other way. He did what he was legally obligated to do, and then quickly tried to forget it because it wasn’t his business.

It’s November 9, 2011. Today we know that because Joe Pa looked the other way, children – children – were raped. But how much sexual abuse of children went totally unreported in the 1960s because people who knew about it looked the other way?

By firing Paterno, the board of trustees at Penn State is declaring that protecting Sandusky’s victims is more important than football, which is a statement that needs to be made. I think if Paterno were just getting his coaching start now, in an era when sexual assault is deemed utterly reprehensible, he would have reported Sandusky to the police and this story would be completely different. But he and the rest of the good ol’ boys let this one slide, and that led to an enormous tragedy that they could have prevented. I think my friend with the Facebook status and the rest of camp Innocent are upset because a) he’s such an old man – sort of like our grandfathers, who we think can do no wrong – and b) he never touched a child himself. But he’s 100% complicit in the crime, because he knew about it and he didn’t take appropriate measures to stop it.

It’s sad, because Paterno probably didn’t think he had to do anything else. But does that mean we should let him off the hook? Because he looked the other way, so many children were hurt. That inaction deserves serious consequences, and if he were a janitor at Penn State, he would have received the same punishment for that failure. He’s not taking the fall because he’s the face of the football program and the scapegoat of a flawed university system. He’s falling because he screwed up. Big time.

I sat on a bench down in the Berkeley Marina for a few hours today, reading more Spirit of Life and thinking about this scandal. Moltmann writes, “There is no liberation from sin without atonement, but the only one who can atone is someone who is not himself a sinner. Atonement is not humanly possible. It is possible only for God.”

This morning Paterno released a statement, part of which read, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” I think about Paterno’s words, and Moltmann’s, and reach for peace – for the victims of sexual assault everywhere, for Paterno and the other coaches, for my friend, for the rest of us – from God. Lord, have mercy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On the family farm and trying harder

Last Tuesday I submitted two midterm papers and took my first exam in Islam. I was pretty worked up about all three of those things, so I worked my buns off and wrote two decent papers but still felt antsy going into my test.

I got my grade back today: I got a 99/100 on my Islam test. I killed it. The only problem I missed was a question about the shortest Surah in the Qur’an, which was a goofy piece of trivia that our professor didn’t cover in class and I didn’t think to look up before the exam. I’m not too upset about it, frankly.

I also got my paper back in Political Theology. Background on this class: it’s really, really hard. I chose it because I need two 4000-level Systematic Theology classes to graduate, and the course description sounded incredibly interesting. I haven’t missed a minute of class time and I’ve read every word of the readings Dr. Radzins has assigned, but oh, good Lord, it is so thick and deep and complex. One week I was so frustrated with a passage that I took a picture and Tweeted it.

Another week we had to read Augustine’s The City of God almost in its entirety.

There are eleven students in the class, and while I follow as best I can, every week I feel like I do 100 units of listening and 5 units of understanding. I probably should have dropped it at the beginning of the semester and taken something more my speed, but I pride myself on NOT QUITTING. I figured eventually I’d understand.

Anyway, I got a C on my paper. Sure, a C is average. But I’ve never gotten a C on a paper in my entire educational career, all the way back to kindergarten. I’ve gotten Cs on tests, but papers are supposed to be the way that I best demonstrate what I know. Hell, I’m training to be an educator and I plan on assigning loads of papers, because students can really show me how much they’re learning. And the real pisser of it all is this: that paper is worth 40% of our grade in the class, and I have to get a B or better or it doesn’t go on my transcript. So either a) I have to take two more 4000-level Systematics classes next semester or b) I don’t graduate on time.

I freaked out the whole way home. Part of me is thinking Suck it up, Schleusener, this is GRADUATE school and it’s game time. The other part of me, the much louder part of me, is thinking You’re not cut out for this and you know it. You’ve been bullshitting yourself and everyone around you for 15 months and it’s time to fold. And part of that is true; I really, honestly don’t get this the way that my classmates do. I don’t have the background in it, which is a disadvantage in itself, but I didn’t exactly spent my summer break reading theology to make up for it.

When my grandpa was a teenager, in the span of just a few months, his big brother Dennis went to war and his father, my great-grandfather, deteriorated mentally to the point where he was basically committed to a mental institution. That left my grandpa, at, like, 16 years old to run the family farm in Oxford, Nebraska. He absorbed all of the duties of both his father and his older brother practically overnight, as a teenager, when his ability to cope with change of that magnitude wasn’t even close to developed. I think an equally impressive part of this story is that my great uncle Dennis wrote Grandpa letters from battle in the South Pacific, telling him what kind of equipment to buy, when to plant and harvest crops, how to manage the farm without him. It literally makes me cry to think of this. That level of responsibility – to each other, to their family – it just…I can’t even fathom it.

Grandpa and Dennis are what Tom Brokaw calls The Greatest Generation. It is so humbling for me to think about The Greatest Generation, because sometimes I’m so disgusted with my own. We can be such a bunch of shitheads. I shouldn’t generalize: I can be such a shithead. I can’t even write a whole paper without getting on Facebook. I buy all of my groceries from a store less than a mile away and I drive there. I complain about having to wash dishes that aren’t my own. I’m afraid – I’m really, really afraid – that I don't actually know how to work hard.

I want to chalk this up to being a child of this age, to being a kid who’s grown up with unimaginable comforts and who’s never really been tested. But I can’t, because even though that’s true, I come from tough stock. I can’t make excuses that other members of my generation can. I fucking owe it to myself, my grandpa, my great uncle who’s long since passed, to TRY. They didn't quit, so I can’t, either.

So tonight, I'm going for a long run. I need to shake my shit out, so to speak.

And tomorrow, I rally. I’m getting that class back on track. I’m writing my thesis. I’m not giving up.