. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Garden of the Gods, CO

There is no better place to take a geologist than to someplace with really cool rock formations. Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, CO has just what a geologist desires--awesome rock formations, beauty, and trails to roam on. The Garden of the Gods is a Natural Landmark, established in 1972, that is free to the public.

The first time I was in Garden of the Gods I was only about 9 years old. I don't remember that visit at all but my parents have photos of me and my sister at the park. The next time I was there was shortly after my sister moved to the area in 2008. I was awestruck then as well as when visiting a couple of days ago. The vertically tilted sedimentary rocks at the base of Pikes Peak are amazing to see.

The Pikes Peak Granite is about 1 billion years old and lies underneath the whole Garden of the Gods sedimentary rock strata. At about 310 million years ago the granite wore down. Then, about 250 million years ago when the supercontinent Pangea formed, the area became beachfront property. The inland sea ebbed and flowed for many million years after that depositing sand, silt, and mud in layers. Around 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs and other animals suffered the consequences of a mass-extinction event (perhaps due to a meteorite impact), the mountains rose and tilted the rocks vertically. Natural weathering and erosion of softer sedimentary rocks such as shale occurred and left the harder sandstones and limestones to "stand up" above the ground. In the background, Pikes Peak rose to its present height of 14,110 feet about 2 million years ago.

Here are some photos of some awesome rock formations in the Garden of the Gods. I suggest if you are in the Colorado Springs area, you visit the park. After all, you can't beat the price or the scenery!


"Let all that you do be done in love"

1 Cor 16:14

Monday, November 23, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

There's a tradition in my family to watch the 1973 classic, "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" around this time of year. It is always amusing to watch Charlie Brown attempt to make a Thanksgiving dinner for all of his friends, who basically invited themselves over. Toast and popcorn were on the menu rather than turkey and mashed potatoes. Very funny. But within the humor are some serious discussions that make you remember why we celebrate this day here in America. Charlie Brown's friend Linus van Pelt said,
"In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: 'We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice."
And Marcie said,
"But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by 'Thanksgiving,' Charlie Brown."
There are many things I am thankful for. Here are just a few.
  • This Thanksgiving I'm thankful that my whole side of the family will be together again. Mom and Dad are flying to my sister's house in Colorado and we're driving up. I can't imagine a better Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for my loving family that keeps me grounded and secure. There is no love stronger than that which you have for family. I am so blessed.
  • I'm thankful for a wonderful, loving, supportive, and understanding husband who has been my partner in crime now for 17 years. I'm also thankful that we have three extraordinary sons that keep us on our toes constantly and make life worth living.
  • I'm thankful for wonderful friends who take the edge off of life. We laugh together, see movies together, go out to coffee or dinner together, work out together, and run together. Most of all we talk about everything.
  • I'm thankful for my health, both mental and physical (sometimes the two are intertwined and depend on the other).
  • I'm thankful for my home and for living in a town that nourishes me with it's history, mountains, trails, and beautiful rocks. The people here are wonderful, too.
  • And I'm thankful for the internet. Without it, I would have never gotten to stay in contact with my family and friends as easily. I've been back in contact with old friends from ~25 years ago and it has been wonderful, uplifting, and life-changing.
I wish you a fantastic Thanksgiving!


"Let all that you do be done in love"

1 Cor 16:14

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Unitarian Universalism, Mud, and Heaven

My husband and I are taking a Wednesday night study class at our church about the roots of Unitarian Universalism in America. So far we've learned about the beginnings of Unitarianism in America (the Unity of God rather than the Trinity, stressing the humanity of Jesus) and have discussed prominent figures such as Jonathan Mayhew, Joseph Priestly, and John Adams from the late 1700s to early 1800s. We've also discussed Universalism and how Universalists believe that all souls will eventually (after a period of atonement) be saved to go to heaven. People such as John Murray, Hosea Ballou, and Thomas Jefferson helped to spread the Universalist movement (also during the late 1700s to early 1800s).

There is always the question posed, "Why be good if there is no heaven or hell?" Hosea Ballou offered a moralistic view of Jesus' sacrifice rather than the idea that he died as a substitute for mankind's sins. Ballou stressed reason and rejected miracles, the Trinity (there was nothing in the scriptures to support the Trinity), and the deity of Jesus. He argued that humans are not capable of offending an infinite God and that God is a being of eternal love who wants only happiness for His children (not having us fear Him). Ballou felt that once people realized this, they would take pleasure in living a moral lifestyle and in doing good works. People didn't need to fear God or the idea of hell in order to be good.

It's all pretty interesting to think about, for sure. There are so many different beliefs out there and I enjoy learning about them all. When our minister shared a story about Hosea Ballou as a child, it was clear to me that I'm still not finished thinking about the issues of heaven and hell and life after death. This thinking and reasoning, put together with the idea of religious tolerance, is why I attend the Unitarian Universalist church.

Here's the story:
Hosea Ballou grew up in a small town in New Hampshire with 9 older brothers and sisters. His mother died before he was two, leaving his older sisters to care for him. Just like other children, he liked to learn and do new things, play, and ask questions. In the spring, it was very rainy and Hosea liked to jump in the puddles and play in the mud. He often got very dirty and his sisters were frustrated with having to wash out his muddy clothes all the time so they asked their father to tell Hosea to stop playing in the mud. But no matter how hard he tried not to, Hosea kept on playing in the mud. His father had to keep on telling him to stay out of the mud and to keep clean. Hosea was worried that his father wouldn't love him anymore if he got muddy again, but his father reassured him that he would always love him no matter how dirty Hosea would get, even though he felt disappointed and angry with him.

As Hosea grew up, he stopped playing in the mud but he kept asking questions. He'd ask his father, "how can it be that our church believes that God will let only one in a thousand people go to heaven, even if those thousand people lead good lives?" Hosea looked to the Bible to try to find the answers and went to different churches. He eventually decided that he believed in universal salvation, that all people good and bad would eventually be admitted into heaven.

His father asked him how he could believe such a thing. Hosea replied, "Because, Father, I remember what you told me when I was small. I believe that even if God is disappointed with people, or a little angry with them, God will always love them and want them to be happy, no matter what they do, and no matter how muddy they are."


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Am I Just a "Housewife" Now?

I had quit my job this summer and so have not been working lately. It was a part time job at the elementary school that I had held for 3 years and I found was not fulfilling my life anymore. It was a great job to have because it allowed me to work part time while earning a bit of extra income for the family, and also had the same school schedule as the kids. The problem with quitting my job, though, has been the fact that I am now a "housewife." Not a "stay-at-home mom" like I was when I chose to be home with my pre-school aged kids for 10 years. There is a difference and it is difficult to come to terms with how to define myself when I'm not working.

Anyway, as a result of not working, I've had to discover new little ways to be more frugal. One way has been to get a library card and to not buy books anymore, just borrow them. Those who know me know that I love to buy books--that feeling of owning my books is an addiction in itself. But for the good of the finances, I'm making regular trips to the library instead of the Amazon.com Book page.

One book that caught my eye the other day that I checked out was "To Hell with All That--Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife" by Caitlin Flanagan (2006). I'm halfway through it and have really enjoyed it so far. It is a sarcastic, yet well-researched book on how women's roles have changed in the last 3 decades (post WW-2) and how many women have gone from housewives to career women to stay-at-home mothers. The author discusses the high price that women pay for giving up their careers to devote themselves to home and family, the rewards that come from that choice, and the repercussions that comes from such a sacrifice.

In the town I live in, there are so many highly skilled and educated women who have chosen to be an at-home mother while their husbands have careers at the Lab. In the circle of friends that I have who are not working (or work part time at a job unrelated to their field) I know an Industrial Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Construction Engineer, Dietician, Geologist, Mathematician, Computer Scientist, Veterinarian.....the list goes on. The point is that we're all unemployed.

In the book "To Hell with That" the author writes,
"The at-home mother has a lot on her mind; to a significant extent, she has herself on her mind. She must not allow herself to shrivel up with boredom....She must go to lunch with like-minded friends, and to the movies. She needs to feed herself intellectually and emotionally; she needs to be on guard against exhaustion. She must find a way to combine the traditional women's work of child rearing with the kind of shared housework arrangements and domestic liberation that working mothers enjoy. Most important, she must somehow draw a line in the sand between the valuable, important work she is doing and the pathetic imprisonment of the housewife of old. It's a tall order."
During a run with friends yesterday, one said, "Los Alamos is turning out a bunch of marathon-running housewives" and she's right. So many of my friends have taken up running on trails together to keep active and fit as well as to fight boredom and depression. It is also the perfect opportunity to socialize with other women who share the same situation. It's what I call my "running therapy" where I run out all my demons, worries, and stress. In addition, I have non-running friends that I go to the gym with for a strength training workout. Afterwards once a week we go to have coffee together. More therapy! Also one or two times a month, a bunch of us ladies get together to play Bunco or to go to a "Ladies Night Out" dinner.

I am lucky to have a husband who is supportive of my need to get out of the house and socialize with my friends. :-)


Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Story for Sunday

This morning's "Story for All Ages" at church was about treasure hunting. In Krakow, Poland, long ago, there was a large Jewish community. They had a Rabbi (minister and teacher), Isaac, son of Rabbi Yakel. The community of Krakow was very poor, so poor that they didn't have a place of prayer that they could go to on their sabbath day. They had to meet in homes as a community. One night as Rabbi Isaac slept, a messenger came to him in a dream telling him that if he goes to the city of Prague (in another country) and looks underneath the bridge leading to the king's castle, he will find a wonderful treasure that he can take home to his people.

Rabbi Isaac woke up from the dream, thinking how odd it was, but forgot about it as the day went on. Until the next night when he fell asleep and had the dream again. The messenger told him again that if he goes to the city of Prague and looks underneath the bridge leading to the king's castle, he'll find a marvelous treasure that he can take home back to his people. And again, Isaac woke and thought how odd the dream was and forgot about it as the day went on.

The third night, the dream came again, and again the messenger told Isaac that if he goes to the city of Prague and looks under the bridge that leads to the castle of the king, there will be a great treasure there that he could take back to his people. Now after three times, Isaac woke up and decided that he would go to Prague. It was a sign. He leaves immediately and wears out the soles of his shoes as he walked to Prague.

He comes to the bridge leading to where the castle of the king is in the city of Prague, but he doesn't look under the bridge immediately because the bridge is constantly guarded. But every morning Isaac wakes up from where he's camping and walks around the bridge. He looks at it again and again and the guards begin to notice this stranger walking around the bridge. Finally, the captain of the guard approaches Isaac and asks him why he's walking around the bridge. "What are you waiting for?" asked the captain. Rabbi Isaac replies, "I had a dream where a messenger came to me telling me to come to Prague where I'll find a treasure under the bridge leading to the castle of the king that I could take back to my people.

The captain asked him, "Why would you walk all the way to Prague for a treasure that might not even be here? Why would you listen to a dream? If I listened to a dream a few months ago, I would have left immediately and walked all the way to the city of Krakow, dug under the stove of a Rabbai named Isaac, son of a Rabbai named Yakel. There must be hundreds of Rabbis named Isaac with fathers named Yakel. Foolish!"

Isaac nodded, turned back around, and walked all the way back to Krakow. Then he dug under his stove and he found the great treasure and they built a house of prayer for the community.

Moral: Sometimes the treasures we're looking for are right here under our noses. Sometimes we need other people to tell us where they are.

Paraphrased from the story told by Rev. John Cullinan at the Unitarian Church of Los Alamos, November 1, 2009.