Saturday, April 25, 2009

3 points

1) The personal updates.
Laurie is quite slammed with allergies. Last night she couldn't breathe at one point. I have allergies, but hesitate to even mention it in light of what Laurie is going through. She is taking medicine that looks toward the long term. We have researched and are deciding which trees must go before next Spring.
Laurie wonders if we didn't have the swine 'flu. Turns out the symptoms are exactly like the stomach 'flu we had about a month ago. And we did lay around like swine for several days. Essentially this is a meaningless observation as we survive and neither of us can see a doctor in the foreseeable future.
I remain unemployed, but I have been far from idle. We have some income in Laurie's job and unemployment and we have savings. The wolf is not at the door. Also I have put in many applications to jobs that I am qualified for. I don't know. It's hard to desperately want to work and keep your house and have the rug pulled out from under you. But in spite of these predicaments we forge ahead. One does one's best to be joyful and grateful for the blessings one has. As Wagner wrote, "Joy is not in things. It is in us."

2) The Radio
Laurie and I are avid NPR listeners. We love our local station although when I was in Orange County I was so envious of KUSC. When I lived down there, I would listen to Jim Svejda constantly. His show was like a music appreciation class. He would say that the best way to learn about music is to listen to a lot of it. One could gain a rich education from his show, The Record Shelf, alone although the rest of the station was excellent as well. It was a 24 hour classical station. In Chico we have classical in the afternoon however the DJs seem to play 1) the major canon, pieces I knew when I was in high school (Beethoven's 5th, the 1812 Overture, Air on the G String, ect.) and 2) (shudder) film soundtracks. Okay, that may be overstating my case slightly, but that is the atmosphere. The station removed all but a 1/2 hour opera show from Saturday's schedule. They used to play the weekly Metropolitan Opera in its entirety. Apparently the good people of Chico felt that cut too much into Car Talk. Okay. I'm getting catty.
But don't get me wrong, there are wonderful things about our station. We have Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, This American Life, Talk of the Nation, Radiolab, The Opera Attic (which I used to think was The Opera Addict to which I would heartily amen), Garrison Keillor in several of whatever it is he does, BBC News as well as Morning Edition. It's a fine station. I am not slamming our station. It just reminds me a bit of when I went to a church with no teaching whatsoever and found that I would supplement my spiritual life by downloading good preaching. Now I download good music as well. And there is a wealth out there. I highly recommend everyone subscribe to WGBH's Classical Performance Podcast.

3) Twitter
I avoided Twitter for a long time. I'd heard the jokes about how it is vapid and how it undermines meaningful discourse. Which I bought wholesale.
I finally signed up on a lark ( for those of you on Twitter) when my friend Turi posted a livejournal entry listing celebrities on Twitter and I went to check out Stephen Fry, Russell Brand, John Cleese, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Eddie Izzard, Weird Al, Penn Jillette and so on (The other day I opened my email to find "You have a direct message from Yoko Ono.") So, yeah, I was dazzled with the celebrities that I happen to like.
Then I started Tweeting and it was a fun diversion. A way of micro-journaling and, for one who has a very poor memory, a good, simple way to remember what I've been doing and when. But then I found myself within 48 hours being laid off and travelling hundreds of miles to be with my Mom who was very close to death in the hospital. Suddenly the ability to connect with my loved ones around the world and update them on what is going on with me from a device I always have in my pocket became something I could not place a value on. As well as the emotional tether it provided.
I am a convert. My conclusion is that, like all technology, it is as good or evil (or vapid) as those who wield it. As for me, I see it as a wonderful tool of modern life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How about some pictures from our trip, eh what?

I posted and, in fact, took no pictures of Mom since she was very sick in the hospital and they weren't really memories we wanted to frame. But here are a few with my grandmother.

Here's Laurie at the house where I grew up.

Here's my parent's guard dog.

Laurie in the hospital waiting room.

Me at Old World.

Dad and I had a really strong weekend together. It was really wonderful to spend that time with him.

I think this was a Lutheran church at Old World although Laurie said Lutherans would not have a big statue of Mary in the front door. Who knows!

And here was the birthday dinner.

Act Two?

We made it home. Schubert was very excited to see us. Upon our arrival we found the very good news that unemployment is going to pay me only about $100 less a week than my job paid. This is very good news as Laurie and I have spent the past 5 days asking things like "What are we going to do about Laurie's Mom?" "What are we going to do with the 6,000+ books?" "What are we going to do with the dogs?" Meaning when we inevitably lose the house. Now that is beginning to seem like less of an inevitability while I struggle like a crazy man to find a new job.
No one we've told this news has been as excited as we were, but then we realize that pretty much everyone we're surrounded with are going through their own very hard times.

I don't believe in omens. Ever. I hate reading too much into things. On the way out of my parents house a wolf hybrid dog was in my parent's yard and came to the door, preventing us from leaving. It also chased their cats. I made a "wolf is at the door" joke. But then we got back to Chico and found that we have unexpected roses in our yard. See. You can read anything into either of those. Better to just keep going and not be at the mercy of moods, suggestions or the wind.

We have no air conditioning in Laurie's car so our ride home, as Laurie said, "was like travelling by stagecoach." We are wiped out, dirty, sweaty, emotionally taxed, and ready for a spot of wine and a good sit down.

Tomorrow, for me, will be the dentist (I still have dental through the end of the month so it behooves me to get my cavities filled ASAP), filling out unemployment forms, sending in at least two resumes, and calling the mortgage company to beg for a period of relaxed rates. Times being what they are I am lead to believe that they will agree.

Stalling like Carl

And so we are heading back. We are about to get into the car. In fact, I am stalling. In fact, Laurie was pretty much hovering over me as I sit here until she decided I was taking my sweet time and she could go have an English muffin. We really ought to get back on the road. I am stalling because I don't want to go back to the uncertain. Although I do want to go back to my dogs.
Pretty much the trip was going to the hospital with my Dad (who I set up with a Twitter account, by the way. Go check out Terry Mathers.) This was good. Laurie and I agree that the hand of Providence was blazingly obvious on this trip.
Mom did almost die. The doctor came to her yesterday and said, "Mrs. Mathers, you almost died." On Friday when they took her into the ER her blood pressure was 60/30 and falling. It was an allergic reaction to some medicine for her polymiositis. As of last night she looked fine and I just got the message that she will be home today although, unfortunately, we will be halfway back to Chico by then.
Dad took us out to dinner for my birthday. That was nice.
Laurie and I have packed up and are about to get on the road.

But I am stalling.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ask Dr. Paul

It's time for everyone's favorite feature: Ask Dr. Paul. This time our question comes from Laurie on Twitter.

Laurie: The History Channel is talking about the end of the world. Is that history already?

Dr. Paul: Yes. Yes, it is.

If you have a question for Dr. Paul, send it, comment it, or write it on a piece of paper and stick it in a jar in the middle of a field with a rock on top in case some wolves passing by bump into it they won't knock it over and make the paper blow away.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On the world

Laurie and I were talking about the Recession, the state of the world, the depravity of humankind, and so on. I must first ask the Calvinists in the crowd to stick with me through this first part. In one sense, we could make the world whatever we wish. We could have a Utopia. We could do whatever we choose.
Which is what we have done. We made it what we chose. We could have made the world whatever we wanted and what we have done is create... this. A mass of evil, depravity, isolation and greed. I fully believe that the hand of God is the only thing staying utter chaos and social Darwinism of the worst kind (remind me to post on Darwinism at some point. I don't subscribe wholesale to the party line Christian perspective on Darwinism except for when it is applied socially, politically or economically.) The state of the world shows the condition of the collective heart of the world.
I have been thinking about political hierarchies, peaceful and Utopian anarchy, Libertarianism, corrupt or at the very least morally reprehensible business practices in the free market, and so on. Also it has run past the back of my eyelids about who is to blame for me losing my job. In some sense, greedy mortgage brokers, irresponsible home buyers, credit lenders, timid consumers, those using deregulation for political purposes rather than... well across the board actually one could say those who did not consider the consequences of their greedy practices. Of course immediately it occurs to me that none of that matters. What has happened is what has happened. One needs to make the best of one's circumstances, even if those circumstances include losing everything after toiling and laboring to do everything right.
I have been thinking about that amazing scene from the end of Chaplin's The Great Dictator where the Jewish barber (played by Chaplin) is mistaken for the Hitler character (also played by Chaplin.) After great suffering at the hands of a tyrant, he gets up and delivers... okay, I know I keep leaving sentences unfinished like I do in real life. Needless to say I have been a bit emotional in the past few days and this is no exception. I know some people think I fall too much on the side of social justice in my Walk and I will concede that it is in my blood and heritage.
This world is harsh and you will suffer. As Albert Schweitzer said, "Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Every man has to seek in his own way to realize his true worth. You must give some time to your fellow man. For remember, you don't live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here too."
and "What really matters is that we should all of us realize that we are guilty of inhumanity. The horror of this realization should shake us out of our lethargy so that we can direct our hopes and our intentions to the coming of an era in which war will have no place."
and "Don't let your hearts grow numb. Stay alert. It is your soul which matters."
And as my brother so graciously texted me yesterday, "The cross, the cross, the cross! It is our all! Never lose sight of it, my friend."
I think what I want to do now is to be a blessing where ever I can and to glorify God in all that I do.

Dispatches from the Valley of the Shadow of Death

So, the morning after the lay off I rose very early and pulled out my Geneva Study Bible. I was aiming for Psalms but, wouldn't you know it, opening right to the beginning of Job. It was exactly what I needed to read. It has been on my mind and heart ever since (and Laurie can testify on my tongue as well.)
We decided to take a breakneck trip down to OC to visit my parents. We are driving back to Chico on Tuesday. While Laurie and I were driving down my mother suffered a tremendous allergic reaction to some medication (she has a rare, auto-immune disorder) and ended up in the Emergency Room. She is still in the ICU.
I went to the hospital with Dad this morning. Mom is not well by any means, but she was better when we left than when we arrived. She could potentially be out of the hospital before we leave on Tuesday. Maybe. Providence brought Laurie and I down here at the perfect time. I think it was very good for all of us to be together right now.
They carted Mom off for tests. Dad brought me home. Mom left us a few hundred dollars she had been saving for our originally planned trip in June. Laurie and I went to a used book store that is liquidating its inventory for closing and we spent about a third of the money on books. Many were presents for ourselves which I almost felt a little guilty about except that 1) that was what Mom wanted us to do with the money and 2) Richard Wagner's autobiography and the collected letters of Mozart!
We are going to dinner with Dad soon.
For those readers who fancy themselves the praying sort, the job search is loaded into my cannon. Also, the people who were left behind. The people who have to lay people off are heavy on my heart. Also, from what I'm hearing, the ship seems to be sinking at my old job. Those people need prayer and help as well as I. Also, my mother.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ave atque vale

This blog may very well be more interesting in the near future. One of the pleasant side effects, I suppose, to an otherwise bleak malady.
I lept into action and filed for unemployment immediately. I also found 2 jobs to apply for. There is always Hope. And there is always Crosby.
As you can well imagine, a good portion of the day was consumed with phone calls and discussions of the future.
We came to a few decisions.
Tomorrow we are going to Orange County. We pushed Laurie's next cleaning job back to Wednesday so we are leaving tomorrow and returning on Tuesday. Providentially, my 32nd birthday will occur down there. I needed to go to Orange County. I needed to see my parents and I needed to see the ocean. We have people to watch the pets.
We return to Chico Tuesday night at which point my full time occupation is job hunting. We have enough money to see us through a couple months should worst come to worst. I have no intention of seeing worst come to worst.
People have been very supportive and I thank and love you all. May you live in less interesting times.

The sword falls.

I apologize for the maudlin title of the post. It was that or "The Laws of Entropy."
This morning I was in the dairy room as usual. My supervisor came in, not unusual, and told me to take a walk with him, also not unusual although you are probably already way ahead of my story. We walked passed the room where I take the dairy products and I thought "Aw, crap." Because I knew that we were headed toward the HR office. Sure enough, the Foreman was there, the HR guy was there, my supervisor sat next to me. The Foreman started with "these are tough times and..."
Here I am at home and I am unemployed. I have to take my uniforms from my delivery days back at noon and then I am going straight to the unemployment office. We have enough for maybe like 2 months and we do still have income (Laurie's, the book business, unemployment.) But, needless to say, I will require a new, full time job of comparable pay.
We are also planning on bugging out to OC in the very near future as I will have no vacation in June, nor anytime in the near future even if I found new employment immediately.
Yeah, so I am no longer employed at ProPacific. An interesting fact is that tomorrow was to have been my 2 year anniversary at ProPac.
The future stretches before me like a thundercloud. Every morning I wake up and thank God for providing for me and my family. I shall continue.
If you are the praying sort, prayers are appreciated. And if you are the employing sort, we are willing to relocate.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

He won't shut up about Shakespeare.

We borrowed a DVD of As You Like It with Helen Mirren (before she was a dame.) I am very excited to watch it. It is one of my favorite shows. We seem to be going through shows that I have been involved with productions of.
The Macbeth was a disappointment. So much so that we actually didn't make it through. They sacrificed diction for "madness" and they seemed to think that whispering inaudibly made it spookier. Maybe it was just bad sound quality on the film, but I rather thought it was the performances. Anyway, I am hard pressed to think of a great film version of Macbeth, even the Orson Welles who, as many of you know, is one of my sacred cows.
Another is The Tempest which has Helen Mirren as a female Propero (I guess England was out of old men who could play the part. They are all working on comic book films I suppose.) It also has Russell Brand as Trinculo presumably in keeping with, in the wake of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, his trend of being cast as people who very much resemble him. Julie Taymor directs. Along with Where The Wild Thing Are, it is the other film I am looking forward to.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Time may change me. But I can't trace time.

I decided to import this blog on Facebook instead of my Livejournal because my Livejournal can be a bit impersonal. It is solely for things I find online that are neat (like some sort of weblog.) This is the journal where I write about me and things that happen to me or, mainly, things that rattle around in my noodle, so I thought it might be the more appropriate thing to stream into my Facebook. For those of you who read this on Facebook, here's more Paul stuff. If you miss the photo dumps, you are going to have to go to my Livejournal to see them here and after:

my John Bunyan class

The John Bunyan class went really well. Laurie said she thought that it was my best so far. I am only inclined to say that John Bunyan may very well be my favorite in the series. He was pretty much everything that was good about Puritans with nothing for me to have to explain. I talked about his suffering, our global chaos compared to the global chaos of his day, I mentioned a sermon by Robert Krulwich, I almost cried at one point when I talked about how Laurie may outlive me. I talked about Bunyan enduring a life of great suffering by focusing on the only eternal, the only source from which all good flows. He says it way better than I could ever manage when he talked of his conversion in Grace Abounding:
"It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because now I could look from myself to Him, and would reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunk at home! Oh, I saw that my gold was in my trunk at home! In Christ my Lord and Savior! Now Christ was all."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

I am studying for my class on Sunday. This week I will be teaching on the life of John Bunyan who really was everything that was good about the Puritans. But his life had such a thick vein of suffering running through it.
Teaching a class on the Puritans has been enlightening in a number of ways. It has been sort of like when you get glasses for the first time when you need them and you put them on and suddenly the world is clearer than you could have imagined. Some Puritans were very good. Some of the long lasting legacies of the movement were one of the great gifts of history. Some of the Puritans were about as evil as humans can be. At the very least there were a good portion who fell into very unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. And some of those legacies are some of the worst curses of history. I highly recommend deeply studying the Puritans to everyone out there. There is so much more to the movement and the people involved than you think. There is much wisdom to be mined.
Right, I was talking about veins of suffering on the night of Good Friday. No matter who you are, you will suffer more in the future unless, I don't know, a stray bullet hits you in the brain right now. That being highly unlikely, made even more so by the fact that you just read those words and how creepy would that be for the cops to find on your computer screen in front of your corpse, you will most likely suffer. My condolences. This is why it behooves us to, as Bunyan might put it, to strive for the narrow gate which leads to God, the only constant, the only inperishable, and the source of all good. All else is so much kindling.
I should shut up before I reveal my whole class before I teach it. Just a few thoughts while Laurie is out there reading Warren Ellis of all things.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

B-Day pictures

This is what we got Tony for his birthday (that and we're getting him his driving test.)
The birthday man. Tony, my step-son, on his 18th Birthday.

The Birthday Cake

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spark up a blog post

I got a Tweet from David Porter who runs the always fantastic and astoundingly prolific blog which if you don't follow you're totally missing out and I feel sorry for you. The subject was briefly about cigars which we are getting for Tony for his 18th birthday tomorrow. Laurie and I had just talked about my own lack of topics to blog on and it struck me that I may actually have something edifying to say about smoking, leisure and Christianity.
I started smoking cigars when I was 15 because I was eccentric (good thing that phase ended!) I moved on the cigarettes which I smoked much and often until either the age of 20 or 21 (those years are hazy for other reasons.) I quit when I was coming down with yet another in a seemingly endless series of bronchial infections. I quit because I was tired of getting sick so often and because, to my delight, I realized that were I to quit smoking I would have way more money for books and music.
Laurie and I have a cigar once or twice a year. For a time I smoked a pipe when Laurie and I were first married but getting tobacco became another chore and I never really adopted it as a habit.
I like smoking. I like how it looks. I like how it feels. I like taking a few moments away from whatever else is going on. There is a zen to smoking. Sometimes I will smell someone who is smoking and still, all of these years later, it makes me kind of want to smoke. But honestly I don't think about it very often anymore. And I think that's rather the point for me.
All of these years later I still miss smoking. It was a great pleasure. As Laurie says, cigarettes have given smoking a bad rap as an occasional cigar or pipe is really no worse for you than going to a campfire. I think I look good with a pipe or a cigar. But I have a hard time imagining doing it habitually ever again. Even if we were in the black at all times.
I have no problem with the concept of Christians smoking (my brother recalls one church in Wisconsin where they had ashtrays in the armrests of the pews) any more than having ice cream or listening to popular or otherwise less than sanctified music or reading non-religious specific works. Clearly I have no problem with any of these things although I can already imagine the scathing comment my mother is probably cooking up for me saying so. Smoking was probably one of the things in my life that I did that most grieved my mother. For that I am very sorry.
As one who has a difficult time stating a specific opinion, I think I can say here and now that I am decidedly smoking neutral.
I may have arrived at deeper profundities on this topic, but I find that, rather than nicotine, I am presently being called out a slave to two canines who are demanding their basic rights to use the yard for unclean purposes. Which brings me to my point. We all serve something be it our desires, be it our obligations. The Gospel provides access to serving God which is the function that we were created to fill.
Okay. Gotta go. Es muss sein.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day approaches the nearest to perfection this side of the Blue

Of a Spring Afternoon, Laurie and I walked in Bidwell Park.
Gorgeous Laurie on the amazingly beautiful trail on the fantastic day. Really it was the very zenith of spring afternoons. This was taken slightly before I broke out in singing "Poisoning Pidgeons In The Park." You can tell by Laurie's face not yet saying "Oh no, he's doing something horrible again."

I seem incapable of hiking without climbing things. In this case it was the tree stump where I proposed to Laurie about, what, like almost 3 years ago.

Me on the trail.

Here is Laurie at the One Mile Pool.

Here is our Tulip Tree which I planted in our front yard.


I have no idea if this will go anywhere or even what to do with it. But there is now this:
Go follow me and I will follow you and together we will turn in a circle.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Cleaning of a different color

I neglected to mention that Tony was horribly sick with some kind of stomach 'flu earlier in the week. About 48 hours later, everyone who was in contact with him came down with the stomach 'flu which is to say Gina, Erika (Tony's girlfriend), Laurie and I.
I will not go into gross details (at one point Laurie and I noted to one another that we have now "been gross" together as a couple.) I will say that I threw up for the first time in almost a decade. I did go to the doctor. As I entered the nurse noticed that I was carrying a bowl, my hair was a mess and I was wearing a Les Miserables t-shirt. I went to the doctor because I was scheduled for the Downieville route at 3am this morning. There was no way I was capable of driving 10 hours in the mountains this morning but in order to take 2 days off in a row, one must return with a doctor's note.
I woke up about an hour ago with a raging headache and even more raging desire for toast,bananas, and yogurt. We are on the mend (the kids bounce back so quickly. As of last night they were already off to Farmer's Market while Laurie and I lay wailing.) I go back to work tomorrow. It is my intention to be stationary as much as possible today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

At least my breakfast held no disappointments

The world's leaders are meeting in London to try to solve the world economic crisis. The lives and well being of literally billions lay in the balance. The World Economic Conference in 1933, the biggest comparable summit of the kind in history, failed while seeking solutions very similar to the solutions they seem to be suggesting now. Of course, the world is quite different now. However we all have an enormous razor sharp, sword of Damocles, Question Mark hanging over our heads.
ALL major news sources are entirely concerned over whether or not a few bricks will go through a few windows and (save for Laurie and my sainted NPR) not a lick toward informing the world as to what all of this actually means (to be fair, NPR also has the brick throwing stories, they just have informative stories as well.) This should make us all furious. This should make us all demand that every major newscaster now has to report weekly to Jon Stewart for a public dressing down. I'm just throwing thoughts against the wall here, but maybe this Western culture of irresponsibility and the consequences of same has something to do with why those people are that angry in the first place. It is far easier to parrot whatever slides down the AP wire than to take the responsibility reigns and, as Newton Minnow might say, rise to the great potential for an informed and enlightened world that we have with our global media. I guess the biggest surprise is that I actually find this odd enough to remark on it.