Hi There!

(For my Dutch-English translating and proofreading business, please go to D-E Translating. You can also go to my D-E Translating WordPress site. Thank you.)

Welcome to my blog.

I’m an energetic, slim, reasonably pretty thirty-year-old. However, I reside in a rather shocking, obese, aching, apathetic 54-year-old body. I love living in Austin but I’m chock-full of criticism of America in general. The Rockies bring me to tears, but so does the health care system. I’ve adopted Thanksgiving, but not the Pledge of Allegiance. If I seem elated and unbearably grouchy in sometimes schizophrenically quick succession, this is why.

I love the usual: my husband, my children, my friends and our pets. I hate heat; stupidity; bone spurs; spiders; and walking, cycling and stair-stepping in place.

I collect raft books and I’ve developed a weird obsession with the bottoms of bridges.

When I lived in the Netherlands, twenty-two years ago, I loved hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end, and I walked and cycled everywhere. Now that I live in a pretty darn hot part of the US, with kids that have to be driven everywhere by car, I love reminiscing about hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end and walking and cycling everywhere…

My blog is a crazy—some might say completely unhinged–collection of posts about any of the above-mentioned issues and then some. Nothing is sacred. I blatantly ignore all American no-nos. Which means I talk politics, religion, I don’t idolize  teachers and I swear (but not that much).

As you read my posts you might laugh, seethe, weep or shrug your shoulders. If you like a post, great. Let me know. If you hate a post, great, let me know. I’d like to think I’m always right, but don’t let that stop you from telling me if you disagree. We Dutch love a good argument.

If you want to know more about how I ended up in America and an overview of how that’s been, visit my About page.

Otherwise, have at it!

(In my posts, I refer to my husband as T, my 18-year-old son as B, and my 16-year-old daughter as R.)


This week’s photo challenge is Boundaries. Here’s mine. Somewhere in the Smoky Mountains (last spring).


Self-promoting? Me?

Going on about how much better Holland is

Time to promote my Facebook page a little.

It has my blog posts, but I also post other stuff related to my blog and/or issues I have recently written about. For instance, I just posted an NPR article about the Homeless Jesus sculptures and the discussions they evoke.

So, if you haven’t already, go check it out and Like it if you’re interested.

And Now for Some Sweetness and Light

image from cadyluckleedy.com

image from cadyluckleedy.com

Well, I have been focused on the extremes of religion lately, so now it’s time for something more upbeat. (Even I can get sick of my negativity after a while.)

Anyway, this post is to remind myself first of all that religious extremists are like loud, obnoxious American tourists in Europe. It may seem that all American tourists are loud and obnoxious, but that’s only because those are the ones you hear above everyone else.

One of my best friends in the Netherlands is a protestant minister. We met in college and we spent many a summer vacation hiking the hills of Britain and camping by streams and tarns. She never once tried to convert me; she never once suggested I’ll go to hell if I don’t find Jesus. She is deeply religious and I’m deeply not, and that’s just the way it was.

A woman I was friends with in college in the Rio Grande Valley was a lapsed Catholic. At least, I think that’s what you’d call her. She was a devout Catholic, donating oodles of money to the church, until the priest did not come to her house to offer some spiritual support when she asked for it after her husband died, because he had committed suicide.

She once told me that, as a Catholic, she believed that God could come in the guise of anyone, and therefore she treated everyone as if they might be God. Wow. That blew me away. And she did, too. I have seldom met anyone with so much respect for every. single. person. she met. She came to mind immediately when I saw Rachel Maddow  talk about the homeless Jesus sculpture outside the Catholic charity in Washington, DC where the pope served lunch to the homeless.

My favorite relative has fundamentalist Christian views; she believes in the literal truth of the Bible. But rather than spending her time condemning people (openly, anyway), she has spent her entire life caring for others and she still does. Even her creativity is channeled into caring for the needy. She is constantly crocheting blankets and slippers for the poor. She is soft-spoken to the point of being hard to understand and she’s self-effacing to a fault.

One of my friends here in Austin–well, she just moved away–is also deeply religious, but that has never stopped us from being friends. She, also, has never tried to convert me. Her take on homosexuality: God made all of us and God doesn’t make mistakes. High five, girlfriend!

Of course, as an atheist/humanist, I don’t believe any of the above people are good because they are religious. I think they’re good because they are thoughtful human beings and their positive traits–in my eyes–are those they would have anyway; they just don’t give themselves enough credit.

Pope Francis Goes to Washington

image: popefrancisnyc.org

image: popefrancisnyc.org

So, the pope. CNN was wall-to-wall pope from the moment he set foot in Cuba to the moment he left America. It was hard not to get carried along in the enthusiasm oozing from the (Catholic) reporters. He was wonderful! Amazing! Best pope ever! Rock star Francis! It was like the Beatles were coming to town! Etc.

Yes, he comes across as quite modern. A breath of fresh air in the Vatican, though all the experts are quick to say that Pope Francis won’t change any church doctrine. He won’t change the church’s view on gay marriage or abortion, and he couldn’t even if he wanted to. Maybe so. I hope that at some point he will at least allow contraceptives.

But back to his visit to America. He drove a wide open pope mobile, so he walks the walk that comes with the talk that he’s the people’s pope, always ready to shake hands and hug. That’s a plus. He drove a small Fiat to Capitol Hill. A plus. He spoke before Congress, and I had decided beforehand that that was inappropriate, for a religious leader to speak before Congress, but I have to say that he kept it very general, overall. Plus.

He spoke of empathy and caring being more important than getting as rich as humanly possible; he spoke of no longer being able to ignore climate change; he spoke of the homeless, the poor, refugees and other immigrants, of looking at their faces and hearing their stories so they aren’t just numbers in a political debate. Plus, plus, plus and plus.

He also mentioned being aware that society constantly changes but that he was concerned about families (code for being against gay marriage, I presume) and that life should be respected at every stage (against abortion, in other words). Minus and minus, though, in contrast to prominent American fundamentalist Christians, he didn’t threaten anyone with hell fire and he didn’t use ridiculous and fictitious examples of how bad gay marriage and abortion are. He just mentioned the two issues in a few words and moved on to the death penalty, which he is also against. Plus.

Oh, and he warned against religious extremism. Huge plus! He also thought that cultural colonialism was a bad idea; some cultures are simply not ready for certain things. This after he just beatified father Junipero Serra. I’m confused. I also don’t necessarily agree. Men may not have been ready for it, but I doubt too many Indian women protested when the British outlawed Sati, the practice of widow burning–just to name an example. But I digress.

All in all, I think it went quite well.

And then he left to go feed the homeless, which I loved.

The victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests were upset that the pope mentioned how hard it was on the bishops and that he praised them in their handling of the problem, and justifiably so. I believe that not one priest has ever gone to prison for child rape. A friend of mine back in the Netherlands who was in a management position once told me that sometimes you have to stick feathers up someone’s ass to get things done. In other words, you tell an awful, oppositional employee how great they’re doing; you make them feel proud of themselves and sometimes that actually makes them do better. I’ll give the pope the benefit of the doubt here and presume he was doing the feather thing when he said the bishops were handling the situation so well.

My take on his visit is that Pope Francis comes across as genuine. He preaches humility and caring for the weakest people in society above always striving for personal gain, and he put his money where his mouth was by forgoing all the pomp and circumstance that comes with being a world leader of sorts and stepping into a small car instead of a bulletproof limo. And after his speech to Congress he didn’t have lunch with the president or the Congress big shots; no, he served lunch to the homeless.

Sure, he’s the head of the Catholic church and he stands by all the doctrine, but during his visit he focused on this world, on real people, on what we all have in common. He reminded Congress to do unto others as you would have them do to you, which got him a roaring applause. Clearly those are pretty unusual words on the Hill.

So yeah, overall he seems pretty cool.

Oh, and here’s a short video with some differing opinions on the right.


Kim Davis and the Syrian Refugees

 (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Well, the pope has been and gone, so this is a good moment for another post about religion. We’ve had religion come at us from all angles lately: ISIS and the Taliban and Muslim fundamentalism in general in the Middle East, Christian fundamentalists here in America screaming bloody murder about the fact that same sex marriage is now the law of the land, and now the pope, who … oh, who actually wasn’t hysterical, didn’t focus on exclusion and telling people they’re going to hell if they’re not Catholic, and who doesn’t deny climate change.

When the whole country was in an uproar over Kim Davis, many online were in turn angry about that, claiming that the Syrian refugees are a bigger problem. I beg to differ. I don’t think they’re separate problems at heart. They both stem from religious fundamentalism. ISIS takes the Koran literally when they claim that all non-Muslims should be killed and Kim Davis takes the Bible literally when she claims that, as a Christian, she can’t marry same-sex couples. Both Kim Davis and ISIS are looking to ancient books–the Bible written mostly in the Bronze Age and the Koran in the early Middle Ages–for their moral justification of exclusion, hatred and violence.

I think that the difference between Christian Fundamentalists here in the United States and ISIS and the Taliban in the Muslim world is that there is a Muslim world, but no Christian world. Most countries in the Middle East are theocracies, with laws based on the Koran.  And theocracies are per definition extreme, because all the leaders have to do is say that God wills it so, and hey presto, it’s the law. Reason or the rights of all play no role in theocracies.

Although western Europe started off being a collection of theocracies, most have long since changed to constitutional governments, with equal rights, freedom of religion for its citizens and freedom from any religion imposed by the government.The views of religious folks are considered no less, but also no more than those of others. What becomes law is decided by elections and by governments that are based firmly in their constitutions.  Because of this, Christianity in the west has had to become more moderate overall. Because of this, western societies overall have not stagnated in Medieval morality. Because of this, Europeans are no longer fleeing from the Catholics or the Protestants or both.

I wonder how different a “modern” Fundamentalist Christian theocracy would be from many Muslim theocracies. Sure, right now the most extreme they get is screaming that God hates America at funerals for gay soldiers and killing the odd abortion doctor. But what if these folks ran the show? How soon would public hysteria turn from screaming anti-gay slurs at rallies to large-scale physical violence like the spontaneous stonings in Pakistan that make international news?

And that’s why it’s important to stand up to the Kim Davis’s of America. We have to adhere strictly to the constitution, in which civilians have the right to their religion, but the government cannot impose any one religion on its citizens. Kim Davis is a county clerk and as such she acted as the government. She has absolutely no right to single-handedly overrule the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage nation-wide. As a citizen, she is free to exclude gays from her life, so if that’s what she wants, she should step down and become a regular citizen. (Also, as she refuses to do the job she is paid to do but apparently has no problem accepting the salary that the tax payers give her for that job, she is in effect stealing from everyone in her county, but I suppose that’s okay within her reasoning. She believes in a higher authority and somehow that sets her above the law.)

My point is that the only reason we don’t have millions of people fleeing from one or the other extremist group in this country, the only reason Christians of all types as well as Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, humanists, etc. are living in reasonable peace here is the constitution, the fact that this is a democracy in which the laws are determined by the people, not by a supernatural being whose will is interpreted for all by whoever has the biggest mouth or the biggest guns.

Both the events in Syria and people like Kim Davis show us that we can never take our freedoms and our relative peace for granted.

In my next post I will write more about the Pope’s visit to America, among other things.

The War on Freedom

I haven’t been blogging, for all sorts of reasons, but here’s a quick link to an article about Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in Kentucky that says exactly what I have been thinking of writing, only better.



Photo Challenge: Doors

This week’s photo challenge is doors.