Tuesday, February 9, 2010


John got back last night after 5 months in an undisclosed location in southwest Asia. I got to meet him on the flight line. It's funny how I have been used to being completely alone in my home for 5 months and then all of a sudden there's this other person there, which is kind of strange, and yet it feels like he never left. It's great.

It was a hot and sweaty day, odd since last week was chilly with sideways rain. And just as I type this I hear the thunder and pitter patter on the roof. Man, i love weather.

For some reason John's homecoming triggered in me a kind of Julia Child madness and I spent the last 4 hours making (and simultaneously eating) some serious food. No wonder the chef never eats with the table - by the time the food is done they are completely stuffed!

My mom is a great cook, and very frequently we'd come home to a steaming hot bowl of Leek & Watercress Soup, or powdered sugar-crusted Pound Cake, or individual shells with creamy Coquille St. Jacque. Not a pot or pan in the sink - just the end result, ready for our greedy bellies. As we scarfed down the goods, she'd tell us with pride about how the recipe called for such and such, but she thought such and such would taste better, and doesn't it? Can you taste it Jenny? It's easy when all you see is one pot of soup to dismiss the hours that went into making it perfect. She used to do that with other things to. Like hand-scrub the entire white carpet, and "doesn't it look good Jenny? I just used a little bleach and voila! like new!"

"Sure does" I'd mumble, swallowing a slice of pound cake whole. Why she put so much time into hand-scrubbing a carpet, I'd never understand.

But, after spending all day in the kitchen, making the first meal for my husband in 5 months. I finally get it. Every detail is done with love. Every precise measurement and impromptu ingredient swaperoo makes the dish taste that much better. The rug that much whiter. And after using every pot in the house to make one soup, and washing them all before we sit down to dinner, I finally get it. And it was worth every minute.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Bad Case of Senioritus

This weekend kicked off my final master's class - Islamic Fundamentalism. It was the only class offered this quarter that I had not previously taken. After several hours of mind-boggling dissection of the various Caliphs of early Islam, the professor looked at our blank faces and repeated his admonishment that this was an advanced class that required some previous study of Islam, which sorry to say, I do not have. So, I went to the library and checked out "Islam for Dummies" which I hope to credit with saving my academic tush.

It seems to me that if a master's program offers a course that requires a prerequisite, they should also OFFER that prerequisite, but I am too tired to fight, and so off to the Qur'an I go. (The Qur'an is one of our 4 textbooks, as is "The Al Qaeda Reader") Unfortunately this is not a Middle Eastern politics class (which seems to be the point of a masters in politics, no?) but a religion class. I'm so irritated. I was hoping to read book #7 on the Cuban missile crisis and call it a day.

In college I took a a Greek Mythology class, and after a few classes of countless indecipherable names, jealousies, battles, deaths, rebirths, it occurred to me that I was being forced to memorize someone else's fairytale, which seemed like an incredible waste of brain power. The wave of deja vu is washing over me.

Recently, I started to think that teaching religion in school wouldn't be such a bad thing. I stand by my feeling that creationism needs to steer clear of science class. Things taught in science must be subjected to the scientific method. But in a world where so much of history and current events revolve around the religions of the world, shouldn't we at least be getting as much of an introduction to Islam as we do to Greek Mythology? I mean, here I am, at the tail end of a Master's program in International Relations and I barely can tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'ite. And by barely, I mean that I know that they're spelled differently. For example, I've written entire papers on Hamas from a "how do we deal with them" perspective, but I really know nothing about them or how they came to be.

The information is out there, sure, and any curious person can take the time to find out more. But I also think that a world religion class taught in high school might open up a group of say, Christian Fundamentalists, to see that even though everyone they've ever met is Christian, that a good portion of the rest of the world is not. Might a few of those kids then be encouraged to find out more about those non-Christians instead of thinking of them all as heathens? Maybe not all, but definitely a curious few.

Of course, this can never happen in the public schools - I mean can you imagine development of the curriculum? Activist school boards, trying to skew the way certain religions are presented. Parents, refusing to sign the waiver to let their kids learn about certain religions. The Gubernator, appointing a panel of theologists on the government payroll to come up with a testing scheme? It would be a nightmare. Even if you say that religion is the reason for so many of the world's problems today - that's the best reason to teach about it I think.

Until then, I will continue to lament my public school education and make up for lost time.