Can You Get Help When You’re Sick?

Beach Shadow

Shivering and afraid, I allowed my husband to drive me to an urgent care clinic when my illness cast a shadow over our vacation on the Outer Banks. It was nearly ten years ago, a year or so after I’d had cancer, when I spiked a high temperature and felt terrible. My initial reaction was the same one I’d had every time I’d felt bad since the cancer diagnosis: I imagined that the cancer was back again.

Continue reading Can You Get Help When You’re Sick?

Lessons from a Six-Year-Old?

Sand Flea

“This sand in my pants is annoying,” said our grandson.

How is it that the sand that’s been in a six-year-old boy’s pants since he first rolled in surf hours earlier doesn’t become annoying until it’s time to walk back to the house?

That is one of life’s answerable questions. In the midst of all the things we can’t answer, some things are certain. And one of them is that children are able to ignore distractions as long as they’re having fun.

But when we began the quarter-mile walk up the hill to our condo, the whining began. Continue reading Lessons from a Six-Year-Old?

Detest “The Odyssey”?

Reading Odyssey

I have a confession to make to my former students. I detest The Odyssey. In the classroom I tried very hard to hide it, over-compensating to the point that I suspect more than a few of my former students thought I loved Homer’s classic. I had no choice but to teach the text; it was required reading in both school systems where I worked. And I’ll concede that it is one of the mostly widely alluded-to works of all time and that, given the current take on the literary canon, students should have some exposure to it.

But had any student ever asked, I would probably have admitted, in a moment of candor, that I think Homer’s epic may be the most sexist work of literature ever written—though perhaps the Old Testament might also be a competitor for that dubious prize. Continue reading Detest “The Odyssey”?

Have We Failed at Peace?


I sit on my deck as I write. It’s 74 degrees on July 17th—a beautiful gift of a spring day in the middle of a Maryland summer. The only sound I hear is the hum of a distant lawnmower. I see my neighbor, like a real-life version of those tiny Little People children’s toys, on a riding mower across the valley from my house. He makes a final circle around his lawn and stops the mower. The world is silent again. And then the birds begin to chirp as I watch a finch land on the feeder by the pine tree in my back yard.

My world is peaceful.

But in the Ukraine a Malaysian plane bearing 295 people has been shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Continue reading Have We Failed at Peace?

Is Doubt Essential?

Lesley Hazleton

No time for my own post, since it’s my busiest week at work, but I highly recommend this TedTalk, in which Lesley Hazleton says this:

Like fundamentalists of all religious stripes, they have no questions, only answers. They found the perfect antidote to thought and the ideal refuge of the hard demands of real faith. They don’t have to struggle for it like Jacob wrestling through the night with the angel, or like Jesus in his 40 days and nights in the wilderness, or like Muhammad, not only that night on the mountain, but throughout his years as a prophet, with the Koran constantly urging him not to despair, and condemning those who most loudly proclaim that they know everything there is to know and that they and they alone are right.

And yet we, the vast and still far too silent majority, have ceded the public arena to this extremist minority. We’ve allowed Judaism to be claimed by violently messianic West Bank settlers,; Christianity by homophobic hypocrites and misogynistic bigots; Islam by suicide bombers. And we’ve allowed ourselves to be blinded to the fact that no matter whether they claim to be Christians, Jews or Muslims, militant extremists are none of the above. They’re a cult all their own, blood brothers steeped in other people’s blood.

Excellent!  Check it out!   Continue reading Is Doubt Essential?

Have Questions for the Greens of Hobby Lobby?

Med Cabinet

In October 2005, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals received approval from the FDA for a cancer drug that vastly increased my odds of long-term survival after breast cancer. It was perfect timing for my particular case, and I still remember how excited my oncologist was when she told me about the results of the studies. I have a love-hate relationship with the drug. The side-effects are frightening, but there is no question that the drug has played a part in my surviving for almost eleven years now since I was diagnosed in October 2003.

Pfizer also manufactures the birth control pills I used during my child-bearing years. And the company manufactures drugs that are used to induce abortions.

None of this is surprising. All pharmaceutical companies manufacture and market drugs that save lives. And the vast majority of them also produce prescriptions that some of us find morally questionable.

What is surprising is that Hobby Lobby, the company that won this week’s Supreme Court ruling—that closely held, for-profit companies whose owners have religious objections to contraceptives—invests its retirement funds in Pfizer and a number of other pharmaceutical companies that produce not only contraceptives but also drugs used to induce abortions.

Continue reading Have Questions for the Greens of Hobby Lobby?