dimanche, décembre 30, 2012

Old-fashioned

Tonight I was tired.

We'd been entertaining, which I don't do as often as I'd like to do, because it requires being organized, cleaning up, and cooking.

SLACKER, I can hear you whispering.

Fact is, none of these are my first gift. But it was a really nice party.  So it pays for me to bestir myself now and again.

Be that as it may, the couch, a book, and the pellet stove called me.  Thus I didn't protest too much when I watched my daughter entertain what Tennessee Williams might have termed a "gentleman caller" while texting friends on her iPhone.

Normally I'd say something sharp to her.  Tonight, I just called it to her attention.

He didn't seem to mind too much. But he might have expected something a little closer to civilized discourse.

At times like this, I hate technological innovations like cell phones. (Of course, there are many times when I use them promiscuously, but we're not talking about THOSE moments).

It bothers me when guys I've never met think I'm the cat's pajamas on the basis of a few well-chosen words -- or when dialogue with potential dates or friends is interrupted.

Someone is randomly pissed off.

Maybe they are just having a bad day.

One of us gets snarky, and bam...a relationship is imperiled.

I think it's because so much of the social pillars that once upheld relationships are either weakened or don't exist anymore.

The church social.

The ladies' sewing circle. (Though I'd have to sit outside the circle and watch).

Time spent side by side doing chores on the farm.

A dependable calendar of events shared by a community, ones in which people saw each other over and over again.

Of course, these all have their downsides.   If you didn't belong to the church, you weren't included.  Men sew, too.  Farm chores could be dangerous.  Most of us haven't lived agricultural lives for more than a century.

Maybe such a predictable social life was also bit tedious -- but it reinforced social norms that don't seem to exist as much anymore.

I watch my daughter struggle.

Wonder as potential dates fall by the wayside.

Hope and pray that something dumb I spouted online didn't wreck a friendship.

And I wonder how we can move forward in a way that builds communities and relationships, rather than putting them at risk.

To be so hidden -- and so exposed...isn't healthy.





mercredi, décembre 26, 2012

Andrea's story

About a month ago, my editor and I were talking Christmas stories. Frankly, after a while, searching for unusual ones is a challenge.

 I asked him if I could try to find someone who has grappled with something like the loss of a family member or a job, and still come out with faith, determined to celebrate Christmas with a "bigger-picture" point of view (something I'm not sure I'd have if I had these major losses).

After calling a few churches, I almost gave up. Then a very nice administrator at Victory Church connected me with...Andrea and Jimmy.

Frankly, I was humbled to be able to tell her story. But when you read it , think of the thousands of women who are struggling with a breast cancer diasgnosis, and continue to fight to get healthy. Think of their family members, by their side all the way -- and their own battle to remain optimistic as they watch their wives, sisters and girlfriends go through radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.

You might want to reach over and give someone a hug...or say a prayer. And keep Andrea and Jimmy in your prayers, too, please, while you are at it.

 http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/796389_Battle-with-cancer-changes-Manheim-Township-couple-s-perspective-on-life.html


samedi, décembre 22, 2012

On blessing the darkness

This is how He comes to us
When the tears cannot cease
Voice of evil seems to overwhelm
Glimmer seen in distance
Like water in a desert place
When loss is our adagio and andante
Hey presto
He is here
Not with trumpets and fine clothes
Still alone where his mother swaddled him
On a cold, bright night in Bethlehem....


http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/794936_Column--The-world-he-came-to-save.html

vendredi, décembre 21, 2012

Moos from the farm

"Would you like to come in to talk to Dad?" asked the slender teenager.

You bet,  I said.

It was freezing outside,  night had fallen, and even the trees were swaying in the wind.  Having finally gotten my head wrapped around the idea that Christmas was happening on Tuesday, whether I had a tree or not, I'd gotten in the car and driven to Bethany Farm.

Now Bethany, as I've written before, isn't miles away. In fact, it's about a mile down main road (if anything in Glenmoore can be called a main road). The farm just happens to need a right turn, when most of the time I go left (no snark, people).

Having written my last book review of the year, with no work to do next week, I was (mentally, finally free to ponder buying a tree. Most of my neighbors have had theirs up since a bit after Thanksgiving, by the way.

As have most of you, probably (those of you who have trees).

When I got to the farm, no one was visible. Usually I get a live tree, and then ask a friend if he has time to plant it.  But as I was leaving Farmer Dan a note and a check in the little office where he sells raw milk, apples and other foodstuffs, his daughter emerged from the brightly lit barn.

I get to see the cows! I was excited. Farmer Dan has a lot of dairy cattle. I didn't know what other animals spent their evenings in the large structure, but I was eager to find out.

I know. I sound like a darned Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, don't I?  What can I tell you? To a city girl, an opportunity to scope out farmers milking cows and see goats is about as cool as it gets.


It was a little fragrant inside, but these baby cows were about as adorable as you get in animal territory.
Farmer Dan said that he allows them to roam around, so that they can be close to their mother.  He pointed to one who was chewing her cud, reminding me of the Biblical roots of cud-chewing.

After exchanging some news with Farmer Dan (who had been in the hospital last year when I got my tree, and was now doing a lot better, but has been through a lot),  I walked back out, past  the goats and Farmer Dan's daughter, sitting by the door with the barn cat.

What if I'd gotten my tree three weeks ago when really organized folk were buying trees? Would I have gotten to see the barn when the family was out helping customers?

This procrastinator says no. Leave her to her delusions.  They've worked for her so far!


mardi, décembre 18, 2012

Spiritual crisis, yes. Spiritual opportunity? Perhaps

As the daughter of a historian, without my dad's historical knowledge (miss you so much, dad), I know just enough to be dangerous.

I have been reflecting on the messy and often violent arc of American history, the ways in which the pendulum can swing towards injustice and cruelty, and then be moved back, closer to center.

Are we at one of those moments? What do you think? Feel free to comment, on my Reuters blog post or here.


http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2012/12/18/guestview-america-a-nation-in-spiritual-crisis/

samedi, décembre 15, 2012

To people who keep God out of our schools ( and those who want him back in)

I hear that God isn't allowed in our schools.

Apparently, that's why the tragedy in Newtown occurred -- because God is a "gentleman" who doesn't go where He's not wanted (in spite of a history of doing precisely this throughout the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures). 

Prayer is not an official part of the public school curriculum.

So God decided to leave -- and, by implication, to abandon children to the mercy of a crazed killer.

One can assume that it went down something like this.

God listened to the discussions of school boards all over America. He also sat in on courtrooms, where the "Establishment Clause" was debated.

The judges decided that while it was o.k. to have a Bible Study meet in a classroom after school, or an individual student pray, having an officially sanctioned or mandated prayer in the morning wasn't. It violated the Establishment Clause.

At which point, God said "if they don't want me, I don't want them", leaving public schools which disallow prayer and innocent students to their fate. 

In other words -- God is not all-powerful, or all-compassionate. He doesn't distinguish between good and evil. 

He takes our debates so seriously that if we put a foot wrong (assuming that one believes that not sanctioning state-sponsored prayer IS wrong), He's going to leave us to boil like a lobster in the waters of our own sin.

Those who fought for the establishment clause would be amazed that they were powerful enough to bar God from schools.  

I happen to believe that He can't be barred, in spite of all our puny human battles -- and the evil that stalked those halls that day.  

He was present in the classrooms of Newtown. 

He inspired the brave teachers and hero principal.

He comforts the grieving families.

He does, as our President said yesterday, bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted.

That's the God I believe in.

 He's so, so  so much bigger than we are.

Thank goodness.




vendredi, décembre 14, 2012

America the violent

I went out for a walk this afternoon.

Having been working at my desk in the kitchen (with a perfectly excellent office upstairs, I wonder that I continue to do this), I crossed the street that divides us from the elementary school and walked towards it.

Parents drove past me to pick up their children at the kindergarten-fifth grade school, built around four years ago for the growing district.

I didn't look up too often, tuned as if hypnotized to the reporting on the massacre in Connecticut.

According to media accounts, Newtown is a bucolic, lovely, traditional New England exurb -- except for that it's the capital of the American firearm industry.

Aside from this fact it's a bit like Glenmoore.

Have you been to my little village?

Let me tell you about it.

There's no traffic light.

One store that sells pizzas,  pretzels and little else.

A few churches.

And our school, set back from the road, circled by a walking trail on which I am, often enough, the only one walking.

It is unthinkable that the kind of carnage that took 20 young lives and eight adult (including the gunman's) lives could happen here.

Or maybe it's just that we don't WANT to think about it.

The same way we don't want to consider how our slackening gun laws and assent to extraordinary First Amendment "freedoms" to peddle violence open the door to so much senseless killing.

Look at other civilized (yes, I know I'm being very politically incorrect) countries, and we are loss leaders, continuing to lower the bar on violence.

That's certainly true when it comes to gun control

The assault weapons ban expired in 2004, and in 2009 it became legal to carry guns in the national parks.

Some gun "rights" advocates are now pushing for open-carry laws where they hadn't been legal before.

And the gun lobby has the gall to talk about "politicizing" the discussion about sane gun  laws.  They politicize it every time they propose a state bill that weakens existing laws.

Apparently the guns used to kill kids in Newtown were legal.

But the question remains: why don't we regulate guns the way we regulate automobiles? Why aren't guns considered (note the nature of this question) dangerous weapons? Why aren't they treated as such?

One wonders why there were (at least) three guns in the house of the murdered mother, weapons that don't seem to have been used for hunting.

Why does a man shoot a Congresswoman and kill her aide and a nine-year-old girl, and some other innocent bystanders?

Why does a man shoot his own son because his sister sees him lurking outside her house, instead of calling the police?

Perhaps it's because, by loosening our laws and not speaking out against the enduring violence of  society, we all have given them permission.

So when IS the time to talk about gun control?

When the shock of the carnage of today, or of the Oregon shootings, or of Gabby Gifford's bullet to the brain is lessened?

When we go back to remembering how powerful the NRA is, and the stranglehold they seem to have on our Congress?

When we recall President Obama's lack of courage in standing up to the gun lobby?

Don't you see? If it were up to the well-financed merchants of violence who pull the strings in our House and Senate, there never WOULD be a good time.

Here's how British-born New Yorker writer John Cassidy put it after watching President Obama's emotional words to the public from the White House --

"They were only words, of course—words and tears. If we really want to persuade people overseas, people such as ones I grew up with, that what happened today was an aberration—a desecration of American values rather than a twisted display of them—more, much more, will be needed: a willingness to face down the N.R.A. and introduce proper gun control. Until such a display of national resolve materializes, the massacres will occur at intermittent intervals, the toll of needless deaths will climb, and our overseas friends will continue to shake their heads, saying, “It’s America, you know. That sort of thing happens there.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2012/12/after-the-newtown-shooting-americas-gun-shame.html#ixzz2F5DuL300


Coming back from my walk, I watched the bus drop off two children at their house across the street.  The little girl toted a guitar case, the boy a backpack.

Watching from a distance, I wanted to shout: "You're safe!" You're o.k.!"

But I didn't.

And couldn't.

When our children aren't safe in their schools,  we are in danger. Not solely our bodies, but also our souls.

Do those of us who call ourselves Christians and bear arms love our guns more than we love "our" Jesus, the nonviolent Prince of Peace?

When the blood of little children stains our national conscience, it's tough not to wonder.

samedi, décembre 08, 2012

Is he happy? Depends...

"He's put on weight" said a friend after our encounter.

Putting on weight could be a sign of contentment -- right?

And, she added, he doesn't look happy.

I debated that with her.  What can one tell about someone else from a moment's glance?

Long run, I doubt he's going to be a happy man. But I wish him well. No one deserves to be miserable. Right now, though, I'm clueless. Wouldn't even want to hazard a guess.

But our conversation got me thinking about the nature of happiness (yea, I know, just call me a blogging Aristostle).

In part, I've been pondering this because the past year and a bit has been so challenging.  Last year we were just coming out of the ordeal of the kid's father's cancer treatment, which was hideous (though not as hideous as other people's cancer treatments).

This fall has twinned an internship with the second required course of statistics in my master's program. On top of commuting an hour to work in completely new circumstances, I've been doubling down on the course, going in an extra night to audit another section.

All of this on top, like a cherry on a volcano, of my unceasing anxiety about our daughter (more to come).

Yes to almost falling asleep at the wheel, eating meringues as breakfast on the way to work, not getting enough exercise, back spasms that make it almost impossible to walk now and then.

No to happiness.

But that's not necessary. I'm beginning to realize that happiness is also a choice.

I'm not going as rad on this one as my internship teacher, who said to a sad-looking student in our last class that melancholy is all  in your mind.

She perked up right after that (insert irony).

But I do believe that what we see, or refuse to see, can affect the way that we feel.

There's a lot I haven't been seeing in my  crazed rush from student meeting to dinner to dashing off a column due yesterday (well, at least it wasn't yesteryear!).

I haven't taken time to watch the moon dance among the stars we see so luminously out in this semi-rural village.

I haven't taken the time to listen carefully to the Grieg and Schubert that pours from my computer speakers.

I haven't walked slowly down the roads I see three or four times a week, looking for changes in our seasonal landscape(and I don't mean roadkill).

Last night I gathered up fragrant pine branches for the front porch swing.

Juniper berries peek out from the arrangement by the door.

 Lights glimmer within our cozy house.

There will be time eventually for laughter and celebration, a feast to prepare for friend and stranger alike.

There will also be time for gratitude.

Now is that time.

Every moment is an opportunity.

Happiness is indeed in the demeanor, and voice, and words, of those who chose to embrace it -- eyes wide open.








mercredi, décembre 05, 2012

We will not be able to say "we didn't know"


It doesn't take long for your world to shake, if slightly -- to rotate enough so that you look at things a bit differently.

It was a lovely morning, most unlike the way we normally imagine late fall (it might be time to toss away the templates, anyway).

A good day to play hooky from the conundrums that have been playing merry hell with my peace of mind.

Write about them! my son yelled at me recently.  It about kills us to fight with each other, so he deals with it by bellowing.

Post them on your blog!

Perhaps I will -- later.

Yesterday, it was other people's pain that concerned me.  Other people's agony, out of all proportion to the constant low level sadness that continues to affect me, like a wound that never heals.

Glancing up at the sky and the trees as  I hiked past streams and over bridges,  I had my phone app tuned into NPR yesterday when reporters broke into the talk show for news.

A Syrian school bombed.  At least 13 children killed.

Ninth graders, these kids.  The age of my son and his friends.

Maybe the young boys and girls gathered for meetings of the young business leaders of Syria.  Perhaps they hung out in the lunchroom, telling stupid jokes to their friends. Maybe they played trumpet in the band, as he does.

No more.

I imagined the grief of their parents -- the wild, agonized cries, torn from the deepest part of their souls.

I imagined the school, rubble scattered everywhere.

I imagined Assad's demonic airplanes flying overhead.

"Never again," Jews said after the Holocaust. And the nation of  Israel has made itself into a nation so strong that it could blow  its neighbors to smithereens multiple times (whether this is a good thing is a debate for another time).

Yes, again.

Again in Cambodia.

Again in Guatemala.

Again in Bosnia.

Again in Rwanda.

Again in Syria.

We cannot dare to claim that we don't know.

Dear God, if we used our imaginations this world would collapse from the force of our grief.

I could have laid on the ground and wailed and beat my fists bloody against the macadam..

Instead, I walked home, and drove to my internship -- the sky as blue, the sun as bright, the air as lovely.

Except for knowing that, as Hillary Clinton said today -- Assad will go. We just don't know, she added, how many people will have to die before he does.  Including children.

samedi, décembre 01, 2012

The sin sick soul

Call it mental disability.

Call it self-indulgence.

Maladjustment.

A really, really bad attitude.

I am exhausted by (what I call, in my tradition) the sin in our culture.

Sin to which, I am sure, I make my own peculiar contribution.

Much of it plays out on a monitor.

I'm shocked by the fact that nine year old children suffer from access to pornography at the click of a mouse.

Horrified that access to guns is so easy that thousands of people are murdered by angry men or women (mostly men) who pick one up in a hot or cold fit of fury. More appalled that within hours we  are able to become voyeurs, virtual tragedy buzzards, pecking at the ruins of someone else's life.

The Internet has also made adultery easier. I know that because I am propositioned by the lowdown guys on the lowdown.

Married men (or men whom I suspect are living with the wives) on dating sites now get the metaphorical back of my hand.  I have little patience for other people's online dilemmas with regard to married love. Grow up, damn it, I want to say to them.

If I were a counselor, of course, I would not be allowed to be that judgmental. But I am not their counselor and don't want to be their...girlfriend.

Then there is the cowardly guy who disappeared without even an apologetic email. Bad behavior, if not sanctioned, is allowed.

I know, I know. I sound cranky. It's been a trying week.

I think I might be overexposed to online bad behavior. It has a way of suppressing my natural empathy and sense of compassion -- and who is to blame for THAT but the one who allows herself to sip everyday the 24/7 cocktail of news, gossip, shopping and flirtation that can be the Internet (when it's not information you need)?

Yes, I'm aware that many people control their virtual visits -- or use the web primarily for aesthetic or educational purposes. But I'm as aware that it enables many of us to lead double lives.

How many men, for example, do you know, who are captive to online pornography? I bet it's not just one or two.

When  satiated with the stench of the carnival, I have a longing to seek out my friends in real life -- to cling like a drowning sailor to that which is authentic and true.

How will we protect our children? In some cases, it is already too late.  They inhabit a world in which temptation lingers close at hand -- as close as keyboard access to deception, rage and terror.

Can we right our course? Only if we draw our children back, again and again -- reminding them that the best moments in life are not mediated by a white screen, but occur eye to eye, face to face, broken heart to open one, in the warmth of real life.






mercredi, novembre 28, 2012

Consider...me.

Hey, did you notice I'd mentioned that I'd been in an auto accident yesterday? I emailed him.  Does it really count as an accident if you got scared silly -- but weren't going very fast, didn't smack into another car, and your 99 Volvo wasn't really much more damaged than it was before the accident?

I should rightly have been accused of hyping it up. But I was using the accident to make a point.

Why the heck hadn't he written to ask me how I was?  Wouldn't that have been the polite response, even from a relative stranger (in contrast to what one expects from a strange relative)?

Then I wrote, with a faux touch of chipper, (no, not the woodchipper from "Fargo"), that I would respond if he wrote back, but wasn't going to initiate any more emails.

For the moment.

Possibly forever.

The fact is, I have no clue what happened between us, if something can be said to have occurred.

There was a  long conversation (close to an hour and a half), I believe.

Followed by emails that jumped back and forth like live wires across the ether.

And then dinner  -- oh, he's cute, I thought.

Why am I working so hard to keep the conversation going?

I defaulted to listening -- and questioning.

What was I afraid of?

At meal's end, several hours later, he said he'd had a great time, and wanted to see me again.

And yet the ease of the previous emails was gone.  Was it ever there, I wondered, to begin with?

Trust -- but verify -- that was Ronald Reagan's famous aphorism about relationships with the Russian (previously Soviet) bear.

Oh hell, after meeting bipolars and narcissists, small children in large men's bodies and men who tried to run their hands over my body after one date, I just verify.

Knowing how downright weird this courtship fencing can be, I asked him again -- did he mean what he said?

Why yes, he answered, with precision and every appearance of sincerity.

But his online seeking (why do people linger on dating websites?)  and the silence that has replaced his eagerness tell another tale.

It is, most likely, a tale I cannot decipher -- but shall accept, with just a touch of bitterness for the lost time and nascent wondering.  I wonder if I should simply accept that having access to quick and simple forms of communication can bring out the beast in all of us, if we aren't careful.

Then the choice -- what to accept, and when is patience called for? Sometimes there are unknown circumstances.

What mysteries lie behind silence -- anomie, lack of passion, self-centredness, lack of interest, disability, distraction?

Or is it that online we have become the people we most fear -- shadows of the true self to which we aspire?

One God, we say in the Abrahamic faiths.

Yet online, whether it be to voice an opinion or to score a mate,  we turn ourselves into godlings -- and scamper, treading on the feelings of others as though we alone were truly real.

I hope I am kind and considerate -- but who knows? The mirror we hold up to ourselves is always cloudy.

One thing for sure -- I am much more of a cynic.






samedi, novembre 24, 2012

The faces of victimhood

If you didn't have so many things going on, said a friend to me today, you'd feel angry instead of helpless.

She may be correct.

Torn between work and family, I've had so many stressful moments this fall that I really haven't figured out when to grow a spine and when to curl up like a snail and hope the rain stops soon.

And I've often felt like a victim of circumstance. 

Given a little time to think this past week, I've been wondering about the many faces of victimhood.

There are events that make victims of other people -- wars, rapes, racial oppression.

Sometimes oppression can try to mold human beings into victims. Apparently Italy has had a recently rash of domestic violence, now chillingly termed "femicide." 

Institutions can victimize people in ways that they don't even recognize at the time --large investment banks were really good at this over the past decade (and may still be). Anyone want to say mortgage-backed security?

And then there is the squishier kind of victimhood.  Letting men you are pretty sure are married chat you up on online dating sites with their endless tales of woe.  Getting involved in a long debate with some other dude about why you don't want to date him.

Apologizing when you don't need to apologize, because, darn it, someone's always wrong, aren't they?

Taken to its illogical extent, this often seems ludicrous.  My son got up to go to the bathroom last night, and when he alerted me to his presence (we share a bathroom) I said " I'm sorry, there's no one in there" a moment of linguistic lunacy that will most likely go down in family history.

Taking more responsibility than you need to own.

Trying to make something come out right when the other person isn't invested in making it work.

Letting people criticize you on the basis of superficial observations -- and then brooding about the slam for days. 

Or feeling like a failure because you are trying to do an impossible parenting job without help.

No question that sometimes I find taking responsibility that isn't always mine easier than actually trying to find a solution that works well for everyone -- or facing the conflict that may occur if I have to claim my own inner adult.

I'm embarrassed to read these words on the screen - coming as they do from the mind of a middle-aged woman, they bespeak timidity.

No wonder some have made that mistake in judging me.

But I'm not, I assure you, always fearful. Principles are precious -- and the blood of the principled eccentrics flows through these Jackson veins.

Sometimes I battle with grace.  Often without. 

But as difficult as this time has been, I still want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and say -- hey girl, you didn't fold under pressure.

After all, I have a choice --  and I choose self-respect.

Let the spine begin.



vendredi, novembre 23, 2012

Thankfulness changes everything

Some of us were born with naturally sunny dispositions.

Other will struggle, due to a predisposition that may be environmental or genetic, with depression, making joy seem like a hurdle too high to jump, except on special occasions.

Then there are the rest of us, the majority.

We are the ones for whom appreciation is a daily decision, a choice to be made each day, each hour, each moment.

Where are you on the gratitude spectrum? In my column for the Lancaster newspapers, I consider how changing our attitude can change US.



http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/783297_Column---In-everything-give-thanks-.html

dimanche, novembre 18, 2012

In defense of uh, junk food

I start this post with the melancholy knowledge that to some of you, I will be defending the indefensible.

After all,  my friends tend to be well-educated, middle or upper-middle-class men and women.

We know about the evils of preservatives and food coloring.

When we can afford it, we buy organic.

Those of us who can or care to cook, do.  Our idea of indulgence in food is pizza from Trader Joe's.

Some of us have medical reasons not to touch the chips or Hershey's, not to dip into the dip or eat a pint of Cherry Garcia..

But not all.

Lamenting the demise of Hostess Twinkies (as quite a few of my friends have done online) is one thing.

But actually eating one? Quite another.

Fat.  SUGAR.  Cream made out of heaven-knows-what.

A square a day of dark chocolate? That's healthy.

But Little Debbie snacks? Gotta be a bunch of bad mommas buyin' that stuff -- or perhaps dads who don't know better.

Consign me to the ranks of the ignorant -- or worse, the defiant.

My larders brim over with various types of crackers and chips. Not only do I bring milk AND dark chocolate into the house, but I order it from Amazon and Great Britain.  My son's lunch has both Oreos and Lay's Potato Chips, leading him to ask why his dinner looks like it came over with the Puritans and his lunch like a meal fit for decadent Rome.

I have no idea.

All I can say is that into everyone's life a little trash must fall.  Trashy food. Trashy novels. Trashy love affairs.

And if you don't provide a little exposure to food, movies and books that may not be up to your ideals,  kids are going to look for it somewhere else. (Love affairs, they can find on their own).

Personally, I enjoy a handful of chocolate chips in my cereal or a soft-serve ice cream cone on a hot night in Glenmoore.

No paragon of culinary virtue I.

In fact, turning on the stove often seems like the beginning of an amazing race to dinner.

But I'd rather my kids knew how to eat less than perfect food in moderation, rather than see it as forbidden fruit.

Or that's my justification for that huge plastic bin of chocolate candy, anyway.

I had to buy it --because the Halloween candy is long gone.






vendredi, novembre 16, 2012

They love their children too

Someone prayed for Palestine on Facebook and Israel tonight, as bombs whirred between the militants in Gaza and the Army in Israel.

Tonight, the Israeli army  prepared for what looks like an invasion.

 Palestine. I thought my Facebook friend was very brave to use the word.

Because that's how bad it's gotten over here.  Not to mention over there.

On the battleground itself, a land drenched in the blood of historic hatred  another battle is simmering -- a virtual war of phrases, pictures and fury on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.

There are few of us here who dare to take a stance that recognizes the suffering of the Palestinian people.  If we comment on it, we risk being branded traitors, secret militants who doubt Israel's right to exist.

But to be able to hold in tension Israel's right to exist in peace, without constant shelling and hatred, and a Palestinian right to self-determination doesn't make us traitors. It makes us human beings who have a different opinion from you, perhaps.

Those friends of mine who have been to the West Bank and Gaza and have spoken to Palestinians come back changed -- so often, meeting the stranger in the flesh, and seeing their face, changes you always.

They don't hate Israel or wish for it to go away.  Instead, they seem touched by the misery of the people of the West Bank and Gaza -- at the same time that they want safety and prosperity for the people of Israel.

To recognize the appalling state of the people of Palestine is not to ignore the fear of the Israelis who have to spend the night in bomb shelters -- or the nihilistic rage of the men of Hamas, who think they can fight the best-equipped and perhaps most determined army in the Middle East and win.

Or perhaps they don't even care about "winning" -- maybe they just want the loyalty of the starving people they lead, those who have come to think that violence is their only hope. When did violence solve anything? It is the last drug of the desperate.

 Even now, as you read these words, people are dying. Be sure of it.

Most likely, because of the sheer volume and efficiency of the Israeli weapons, they are the people of Gaza.

But in the days to come, days that look pretty violent and filled with horror at the moment, it's very possible that more  Israelis will die.

I'm going to cry for all of them.   And when I do, I will wonder, as I have so many times in the past,  why we as human beings can't seem to walk in the murky middle, seeing truth on both sides -- and working for a just peace.

Recently I have questioned why we, as a species, are so bent to fast judgment.  Thank goodness I believe in a God of mercy, one reaches out to His penitent and humble people in love. I'd hate to be judged by some of those so eager to hurl names and insults.

Our only hope on God is founded.

Pray for the people of Israel -- and the people of Palestine -- as the bombs continue to fall.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/11/16/the-israeli-palestinian-politics-of-a-bloodied-childs-photo/?hpid=z1

lundi, novembre 12, 2012

The Blue Moon Effect

Writing is the closest I come to piloting an airplane (and be thankful for that, gentle reader).  Though unmistakably a craft, it does not feel like work,most of the time.  I write--therefore I am.  On many occasions, putting fingers to keyboard has saved my sanity.

I don't review a book to please an author.  I'd probably be a lot wealthier if I did public relations.

Yet it still makes me feel really good to think that I, in some way, approached or touched on an author's intent -- particularly when reviewing works of fiction.  One can almost as easily be wrong as correct.

So thank you, Beth Kephardt, for sharing -- your book is rich and multidimensional and still lingers in my mind, like the smell of orange on one's fingers after the fruit itself is consumed.



http://beth-kephart.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-philadelphia-inquirer-review-of.html



samedi, novembre 10, 2012

Life after God

Does the death (and life) of writer/philopher/spokesman Paul Kurtz end a chapter in the secular humanist movement?

Or did his work mark a step out of the shadows for the increasingly vocal freethinkers who ask: what do we say after we say "no God"?

http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/774184_Column--Secularism-after-Kurtz--A-freethinker-s-immortality.html

mercredi, novembre 07, 2012

The future has arrived

As I drove to work this morning, I had the radio tuned to NPR, as usual (in dating site profiles, I have described myself as a NPR-listening, tea-swilling moderate, caveat emptor). This morning one of the guests, post-election, was the Washington Post commentator, and former George W. Bush speechwriter, Michael Gerson.

It is he who said, looking back bravely and soberly on the wreckage of Republican hopes for the Presidency this time around, that the future has arrived -- and that it is time for his party to face this truth.

What does that mean, exactly?

Take off one's ideological lenses for a minute, and it means this --  there weren't enough white voters to ensure a Romney victory.  Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that there weren't enough male, older, white voters to get Romney into the White House.

Yes, there were women who voted for Mitt Romney.  They were, in large part (though not completely, of course), older white women.  There were Hispanics who voted for the former Massachusetts governor (but less than 30 percent). Romney held on to a lot of independent voters, but it's possible to argue that many of these soi-disant "independents" were actually Tea Party conservatives to begin with.

Younger voters, minorities, and women gave Barack Obama victory. More than 45 percent of the folk who went for Obama were minority voters.

All over America, Republicans are wondering how they can appeal to minority voters.

But my concern has little to do with ideology.

Many white voters went to the polls and voted their values and their values were much more in harmony with those of Mitt Romney than those of Barack Obama.

A contest based on opposing perspectives was fair.

But some people are also fearful.

Bad behavior, like the ongoing stream of racial innuendo directed against the President, ought not to be tolerated.

But neither is it helpful to tell those who are afraid that they are bad people, morons, or lower than you, when they may not even be able to name the emotions that impel them.

Fear itself is most natural. And that's one emotion that we all share, whatever ethnic or racial group we ally ourselves with.

I hope that we can find a way, in our communities, to talk openly and honestly about our fears as well as our values. I hope that we will be open to the truth that we are all, in our own ways, biased against each other.
I hope that we can admit the possibility that each one of us is made in God's image -- and see through her or his eyes, if only for a minute.

For the truth is, of course, that there is no such thing as a "black" person or a "white" person -- we are, genetically speaking, a mix of all kinds of ancient ancestors. We are all, if you go back far enough, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, uncles, cousins and aunts.

That which unites us is so much more than that which divides us.

Though we haven't figured this out as a species, perhaps we could, on a personal level, act as though it was true?

Yesterday I spoke to a neighbor, one with a yard sign on his lawn that identified him as a Republican. It's time for us to come together, he said -- whoever wins.  He's sick of the influence of money on elections, and the sense that he gets from those in power that having money means more than helping people.

I left that conversation feeling strangely hopeful.

The perils ahead are great -- but we are much, much stronger if we face them together.  Even if, sometimes, we make each other quake.

jeudi, novembre 01, 2012

How do you define "apocalypse"?

Here in our corner of southeastern Pennsylvania, we were, relatively speaking, unscathed.

Most of  us, though not all, had power -- or lost it for a couple of days.

Some streets are closed off due to trees toppled during Sandy's wrath on Monday and Tuesday. 

Grocery stores were a bit jammed.  Geez, there were three people ahead of me on line at Trader Joe's. 

So why do I still feel so sick inside? 

I can't speak for you --   we all react to major events so differently.

But having grown up in New York,  I know those dark streets. 

I've taxi'd through Chinatown,  strolled the Lower Manhattan street, gotten stuck in a car near City Hall more time than I could count.

My heart breaks for New Yorkers, as it did in the terrible days after September 11, 2001.

The lovely twenty-something new teacher and her male friend, crushed by trees in Brooklyn as they walked the dog.

The boys swept out of their mothers arms to a watery grave.

The young woman burned alive by a wire as she went to photograph the storm.

That's not to mention the elderly without power in the cold, the younger folk who can't get to work, the hospital personnel who are stuck until someone comes to relieve their five-day shift.

And let's not speak of the battered, devastated Jersey and Long Island beaches.

What bothers me the most, I think, is that if New York City and our country had taken appropriate steps a decade or two ago (or even, in the city's case, a couple of years ago), we probably never would have had this disaster.

Melting ice fuels rising seas.  As the temperature creeps higher, the water warms, fueling even more violent storms.  Hurricane Sandy, that might once have moved out into the waters of the Atlantic,  made an almost unprecedented move west. This is because perhaps, research tells us, the jet stream is lessening.

Are we bringing on our own apocalypse?

Judging by the posts on  Facebook, including mine, we are mostly glad to have escaped what could have been a ghastly experience -- what was, for many, beyond terrifying.

But have our perspectives changed? Will we, would we be willing to make the financial and lifestyle sacrifices needed to help heal our broken world?

I doubt it.

Instead, we will, in most likelihood, keep driving to work in our SUV's, repairing our beach homes, being quiet when we need to speak out for green energy, and acting as if nothing has changed. 

Maybe it hasn't changed.

For us.

This time.








dimanche, octobre 28, 2012

What have we learned?

My reflections, in my column for Lancaster (the neighboring diocese of Central Pa.), on what we here in the D of P have learned, or could learn, from our years in the desert with Bishop Bennison.

http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/765370_Column--Tumultuous-chapter-nears-end-in-Episcopal-diocese.html

samedi, octobre 27, 2012

Race -- and the Race


Is race a factor in this election?

You bet it is.

Otherwise,  Mitt Romney wouldn't be in a good position to stack up a majority of white voters -- and Barack Obama wouldn't get the vast majority of the African-American  and other minority voters.

And was concern about a big turnout among minority voters at least one factor in the voter I.D. and registration drives around the country?

Of course it is.

To say otherwise means ignoring an elephant in the public square. That works to our detriment as neighbors, as co-workers, as friends and as citizens.

Last night I read this story in Politico.  It details the ways in white voters may lift Mitt Romney to victory. The story is titled: " White Voters Still Matter.' 

"Matt Barreto, a pollster for Latino Decisions and a University of Washington political scientist, notes that a small shift in the composition of the electorate could change the outcome.
“Most likely, there will probably be an uptick [in minority voting],” he said. “On the high end, you could be talking about 29 percent [of the vote being] minority — and probably more realistic is 27 or 28. If it’s not 29 percent, if it’s only 25 percent, if it doesn’t grow from 2008, then that’s good news for Romney. … Romney’s best hope at this point is that he wins an overwhelming share of the white vote and that minority turnout is low.”
“If [Republicans] hit 60 percent of the white vote and lose, which is quite possible, it would mean by 2016 they would need a minimum of 64 percent of the white vote,” he said.
Age polarization also reinforces racial polarization. Lake says that 88 percent of voters 65 and older are white, while only 56 percent of those 18-29 years old are white."


Note, please, what I am not saying.

I'm not saying that either white or black voters are compelled by racism -- particularly you, dear reader.   I'm not arguing, as did John Sununu (way to insult one of our most famous black statesmen) that Colin Powell endorsed Obama because they are both black (another brilliant political analysis from a guy who never knows when to shut the heck up).  

Many principled people are going to cast their votes for Romney or Obama for reasons that have nought to do with race.There are many legitimate reasons for whites to vote for Mitt Romney -- or for minorities to vote for Barack Obama that have nothing to do with race.

But I'm not equating an African-American vote for Obama with a Caucasian one for Romney.  People's impulses are much more complex.

And, of course, there are many white people who will vote for Obama (women overwhelmingly more than men, but that's another topic). Members of minority groups will vote for the ex-Massachusetts governor.

Yet make no mistake --  racial bias is still alive and ill here in America, as evidenced by an article from the AP today. 

The title? "Majority harbor prejudice against blacks." Not to mention Latinos.  Read it -- it's kinda sad.  

We are a deeply divided country -- and that one of the ways in which we divide ourselves is by ethnicity and by race. Until we are able to start speaking about this divide, and its implications honestly, we will grow further and further apart.

I happen to be doing an internship at a school with a fair number of black students.  My work is in an office that works with minorities (details blurred to protect the school.) I have been saddened, and, frankly shocked, by the number of students who have come in to tell us that they have been called the "n" word.  

Imagine how it feels to wake up and find that word on your door -- to hear it while walking on the path to class, or when someone gets drunk and blurts it out at a party.

Imagine.

Don't imagine, however, that the school where I happen to be working is much different than the rest of the world.  Frankly, I doubt that it is.

I'm a little handicapped when it comes to understanding racial bigotry. I grew up in New York in a racially mixed neighborhood, with parents who opened their doors to neighbors without regard for color or ethnicity. My grandmother and aunt were crusaders for racial justice in an era when it was quite unfashionable.  While I know about bias (I have my own prejudices, mostly revolving around intellect),  I've never understood judging someone on the color of their skin.

I do know, that whoever wins this election, we're going to have a lot of healing to do -- and that somehow we need to find a way to speak about bias. Not in a way that makes white people feel guilty (to say that some black folk have a bias against whites, which they do, doesn't make it equivalent).  But in a way that moves the ball forward for shared goals -- a society in which, to use Dr. Martin Luther King's idea, we are ALL judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

That day can't come fast enough -- and until it does, we are all losers.

vendredi, octobre 19, 2012

Isn't it "unromantic"?

By the time yesterday rolled around, I was exhausted.

"How are you?" asked someone in roughly my situation.  She's a woman who has been tough sometimes because she's had to be.

"Hanging in there" I told her. "I wish I didn't have to be so strong sometimes."

Single mom.

Mom of a teen with special needs.

Student. Intern.  Journalist.

When I read about the "women in binders" meme that went Twitter-wild after candidate  Romney get his words mixed up on Tuesday night, I just chuckled.

 Strange, is it not, the way our culture magnifies slips of the tongue into big deals.

But then I started to think about the rest of his answer to that question -- and his assumption that he should support a woman so she could be home to feed her family.

We women do a lot more than rush home to cook dinner.

Oftentimes I bet my little family wishes someone else would feed them -- a diet of steamed veggies, tofu and Trader Joe's Halloween (orange-colored) generic oreo cookies may not be what the dream-mom would make.

But without my dream-guy chef around to pick up the crepe pan, I do the best I can.

Over the years, I've worked hard to  stay as resilient and emotionally healthy as possible. But I wish I didn't have to make a consistent effort.

Not that I'm complaining.

O.K., I'm complaining.

Today.  So bear with me.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll be a bit more gracious and forgiving.

The fact is, that I'm often more willing to call it like it is than many of the guys that first appear appealing. I don't know if this is a "guy" thing -- I think it might be a human thing.

I didn't inherit the white lie gene. In my family, I don'd think we HAD a prevarication gene --  you might be stunned by what Uncle Si said, but you didn't doubt his sincerity in saying it.

Some of these men just don't get it - how could I NOT want to hook up with them, since they are clearly such studs?

I don't seem to share a common vocabulary with others -- and sadly, that does make a difference. Perhaps it wouldn't have in our twenties, but it does in middle-age.

 I've been on the losing end of a few tentative steps towards friendships, if not something different -- and it's made quite the impression on me.  One man, an (initially) charming Frenchman, told me, after a few dates, that he would probably leave me for a younger woman -- because that's what usually happens.

Then there have been men who clearly saw me as a back-up if their "dream girl" didn't work out.  Falling fast and easy into what sure appears to be fantasy, they drove through the flashing yellow lights and out of my life.

I have to admit that, even though I could see what was going on, it still stung.

Frequently I am asked if I am a "dominant" or a "submissive."  Conceivably these fellas need more of a specialist female -- one who can cook, clean, and seduce in chains -- or with a whip.

I have much to be meek about.  It's not a case of being "better than" the guys with whom I chat online.

And it's most surely not a case of most women being better than, or even, perhaps stronger than most men. There are lots of guys who do roughly what we do -- and do it so well.

Like a lot of my sisters, I'm the resilient and direct person I am because I've had to be so that my kids grow up in a relatively sane environment.  But there are times I long to share these burdens with someone else -- or to act completely irresponsible.

I find, however, that when I cut loose, whether it be with a moment of mischief or a cutting comment, it boomerangs on me.

Responsible female seeks mature male for collaboration, creativity, good works, and perhaps, on a night with a blue moon, some fun.

What a concept.




















samedi, octobre 13, 2012

Ignoring the "stop" signs...

Recently a battle royal with my son's band director over the stress his schedule imposes on my kid (and other people's children) made me pause and ponder the values we teach our children in their endless quest for success -- whether it be in music or the sports arena.

Sometimes it pays to stop, breathe deep, and be present to the world. 

If not for you, then for the next generation.

Do you want them to grow up to become harried, driven, anxious folks? 

Do you want to be that person for them? 

How about taking the time to make some changes...right now?


vendredi, octobre 12, 2012

Boyz 2 Men

I want a man.

And I don't mean a play partner, someone to fill the seat next to me at the theater, or a crush object.

What I mean is -- take away the boys, please.

Boys move seamlessly from crush to crush.

Men realize that it take a lot more than flirtation and a pretty face to make a relationship that lasts.

Boys mistake loneliness for love.

Men "get" the idea that love and trust takes time.

Boys say they want someone who will make them crazy with desire.

Men? Well, they want someone who will help them become saner (though a little eye-lock and pulse-pounding never hurt anyone).

Again and again, I see profiles written by guys who are looking to rekindle the excitement they think they might have experienced in high school.  I bet a lot of women also bring the same breathy romanticism to their profiles -- which may explain the high internet relationship mortality rate.

A born contrarian, the more I see this kind of naivete, the more prosaic I become. It's going to take a lot, after having practiced compassion so many times, to entice me out of my cave.

A man could do that.

I don't do "ruthless" well.

In fact, when it comes to the hard-headed female persona, I'm batting less than .500.

But I'm working on it.

I've canceled a few dates this week.

I don't have a lot of patience for listening to someone who doesn't express interest in what I think, dealing with desperation, or speaking to a guy who has never stumbled across the lower, public-radio part of the dial -- or heard a debate.

I am not your mother, my dear sir.

Nor your counselor.

Not your gal pal.

Or your cougar.

When I roar, it will be with a full-throated embrace of a mature relationship -- complete with revealed scars, honest tears, guffaws of laughter, and whole-hearted, lusty arguments.

Save the crush, the stardust, and the moon in June malarkey (thanks, Joe).

Man up.  

Then we've got something to talk about.

dimanche, octobre 07, 2012

Found out

People attend church for numerous reasons.

Some come because they need their weekly dose of spiritual caffeine  -- inspiring sermons, a great choir, the  band playing a rockin' Casting Crowns song.

Others may make the Sunday visit to see their old friends or hear the liturgy that has soothed them since they were ten, and growing up in a hamlet in Nebraska or a Massachusetts city.

Others, like my kids when they were a bit younger, came for the Veggie Tales movies and the coffee hour.

Or, of course, because dad and mom buckled them into their car seats, drove them and delivered them safe into the arms of the baby sitter.

I go to be found out -- and to find.

The finding part is relatively simple -- because I was a pastor once at the church where me and my family now worship, people still sometimes confide in me.  While I generally try to avoid getting too involved in pastoral care (it's a big boundary issue), I do try to practice listening.  It's becoming a lost art in a world in which multitasking rules.

As I got out of the pew this morning to receive communion, I realized one chief reason I returned to this large parish was that many of those who attend come to find -- and to be found out.

When I am present to the experience of worship, I find that often emotions I have managed to discipline in other situations bubble to the surface.  

Recently it's been tears, partly prompted by the realization that my decision to return to the church I love hasn't solved all of the problems that were present when I left.  

Tears impelled by knowing that there have been few places where I have felt the weight of both sin and redemption so powerfully.

Tears because I'm so darned tired.

I still can't explain an experience I had today -- and I'm comfortable with that.

Did God find me out where I was hiding?

Of course, there is no hiding from God.

But if I'm going to be discovered,  church is not a bad place to be. 

That's because, often, I find myself in the company of others who also come to be found out.

Many, but not all, expose their scars.

They let the strain of the week or the months or years of struggle show on their faces. They put their arms around the person next to them (sometimes, but not always, a spouse).

They cry in worship, wave their arms in joy, applaud.

There's a rawness to this Episcopal church,  sometimes at outs with its denomination, with parishioners that are sometimes at odds with one another,  that reflects the rawness of experience itself.

And that's a huge part of what brings me back, Sunday after Sunday.

For if we are to truly know God, we need to be able to lean on one another - - to trust that it's o.k. to break now and then. Not to patronize, or condescend, or pretend everything is alright when it isn't.

There is freedom in our brokenness.  

And so I arrive, if not prepared to be found, then willing, at least in spirit, to be found out. 

Because it's going to happen, whether we like it or not. 

The question then becomes, not solely for me, but for all of us -- what's the take-away? What have we learned? What have we surrendered? What do we want now?

I leave it to you to come up with your own questions -- if you can name the questions, then healing in those broken places becomes all that more possible.

Let God, and your sisters and brothers, find you out.  

As they do, you may start to find yourself.








jeudi, octobre 04, 2012

Wait, wait, don't date me

I don't know if I'm a realist.

Avoidant.

Wise about my limits.

Burned too often when I thought I was way brighter.

Or just really, really tired.

But I find myself trying to convince men -- often -- that there are many good reasons why they shouldn't go out with me.

Distance is a big one.

Kids at home another.

I've been having a spirited conversation with a man online about the fact (true, that) that I wouldn't spend a lot of time at his house because his (older) children are living there. I am not sure he understands my scruples. I'm not sure I understand why he had to find this out before we met.

Religion.

Politics.

My complete and total lack of fetishes.

It  doesn't matter -- I'll find a reason to push someone away.

It may be that I want to see if they are strong enough to resist -- or at least to raise some questions.

I am aware that I have been hurt by callous behavior often enough that I make the bar for getting to know me very high.

Once a man, woman or kid gets past that, I am very forgiving and patient -- perhaps too patient. You are so kind, a man said to me (and about me) once -- as if  the word "kindness" was an epithet.

Now that I am engaged in a learning experience that is so demanding I am both keyed up and tired almost all of the time,  I am more willing to send the dragons into the moat than I was before. So, of course there are more men interested in getting to know me.

Even though, you know, I am such a poor risk, an unusual choice, a quirk they will regret, their soon to be favorite mistake.

It's the way of the world.  Be slightly unavailable, and the world wants you.

I find myself saying "noli me tangere" more often -- and waiting to see who runs, and who decides to walk towards me, instead.










mardi, octobre 02, 2012

The friend she needs

If he were
Friend indeed
He would note
Her teeter-totter
Unsteady gait
Dutch courage against
doubt.
It oft seems
Unending
Night's thief
If not pledged himself
To forgetfulness
He would ask
Walk
Confront
See there she is
 The spiral
Up and down
Straight path unseen
Wait
Just over that hill hope lies
Dungeons, dragons, moats
in vivid reds and pale whites
She builds
Leaving afterwards the bitter taste
The same body count
Her war against the enemy inside
If he would look
Not wiser
He could reach out
As she once did when he lay crushed
But he walks on
Chooses oblivion
As his companion
While she
Wars against the darkness
Sometimes nimble
Often sliding
Unbalanced
Defiant
Brave
He turns away
He will not see.

mercredi, septembre 26, 2012

She does not wait

Hand outstretched
Shy grin
Then blush reveals
More
More than she wishes
He reddens too
But not more than she dreams
No mistress of the game of love
No expert with honeyed phrase
She
Is straight lines
Her gaze true
His, perhaps, opaque
A dark pool
Reflection refracted, blurred.
In that moment after
Hasty words
A shrug
Resignation, frustration, questions.
All the daring hers?
Not to be
Like fruit spilling out of farmer's cart
Luscious, ripe, unique.
She knows.
More
More than he will say
Less than she dreams
No one her master
Someday she will be thankful
For this
A weave that races like quicksilver
Across tapestry of her days.
Once a woman pined for someone long gone.
Not her.
That girl no longer
She does not wait.




mercredi, septembre 12, 2012

Adieu the simple mind

I sat across the table from a friend from church today.

We didn't stop talking for more than an hour and a half.

While we were supposed to be chatting about interfaith and ecumenical ministry, we spent most of the time talking politics.

He's one of the few people, I found today,  with whom I can discuss politics without causing myself gritted molar distress.

I find it hard to develop an opinion, he said to me, because the issues are so complex.

Then he unleashed a torrent of facts, ideas and sobering examples of people who were only getting their news from one media outlet -- and had opinions to match.

He's swung back and forth between our two large political parties. Neither of us is particularly happy with the status quo.  Both of us have questions. Big questions.

Such conversations, I am afraid, are increasingly rare in America.

Earlier that morning, I'd sat in the car in the Cabrini parking lot, listening to "Morning Edition" as the anchors confirmed the news that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff had been killed the night before. I listened as the Egypt-based reporter's voice broke when she got the news.  Stevens had been very much respected, she said.

Then I wept.

Wept, as many Americans probably did this morning, for the death of a good man, a man who was driven by  faith.  Faith in the people he served  Faith in the people with whom he served. Faith in the power of an ideal larger than himself.

When I heard that Republican candidate Mitt Romney had criticized the "Obama Administration" as apologists on the evening of September 11th, I was horrified.

Yesterday, by general and unspoken agreement, was a day on which the nation was supposed to rise above politics.

Apparently Romney didn't get the message.

He's been on the "Obama is an apologist" kick for a while -- and when he saw an opportunity, he took it.

It wasn't long before the Administration fired back by telling him and millions of Americans how "shocked" they were by his comments ( remarks which preceded our knowledge of Ambassador Stevens' death).

Stop.

Please.

Just stop, damn it.

Can't we have a day to grieve before hurling accusations?

One day's vacation from rhetorical excess.

A day to let the families of the murdered men cope with their own and much more valid shock?

President Obama's got his hands full right now.  We don't really know what's going to happen. It could be that he's going to mess up the United States response and we will inexorably be drawn into the chaos that is Middle Eastern politics right now.

It could be, on the other hand, that he's going to give it his best in a world with increasingly complex problems.

Syria remains a huge bloodstain on the world's conscience -- and in decency today, we may grieve too for those innocents who have gotten trapped in an increasingly barbaric war.

That seems appropriate.

Moderation seems appropriate.

Neither Romney nor Obama are idealists, or passionately engaged with other citizens in a way that reveals their hearts.  It reads as though Stevens was, perhaps -- and he's the one who is dead.

Maybe that tells us something.

But it's not something I want to hear tonight.

Leave me alone. Leave us alone.

Have you no decency...at long last?

What would it take, politicians, for you to care first about the people you serve?

Democracy is not  a game...and grief not a garment, to be put on and taken off at will.

To take a day or two to be respectfully quiet, or to unite with our Commander in Chief, is what most of
Congress chose to do.

Because they know something about loss.

We move on.

They weep still.













lundi, août 27, 2012

Young evangelicals: key to climate change future?

Are young evangelicals, with their openness to working across religious lines when it comes to social justice issues, part of a coalition that will help us become more responsible environmental stewards?




http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/720642_Column--The-climate-and-young-evangelicals.html

mardi, août 21, 2012

Why Missouri's Todd Akin's rape comment offends me

The darker subtext of Akin's 'off-handed' comments: sexual violence against women.  It's still a present and common reality among girls -- and women in America.

I thought we had a societal agreement that rape was rape -- and that rape wasn't consensual. How ignorant I was.

http://open.salon.com/blog/nocheapshots/2012/08/21/taking_todd_akin_very_personally

mardi, août 14, 2012

Fiddling while we burn

I have some pretty dark thoughts about our earth's future.

But mostly, I keep them to myself.

They sound too apocalyptic -- and frankly, too paranoid.

I keep reminding myself, however, that I'm not generally regarded as a crazy person.

Nor am I prone to fantasy -- though I am bent to wasting time.

Precious time.

Time that might be usefully done manning the gates as the barbarians storm them.

I thought I was alone, or nearly alone, in my fantasies, until I heard the beginning of an interview with a nature writer, and novelist named Peter Heller.

Heller, who generally writes about real-world travel, decided to imagine a world in which most of the population had been wiped out by a pandemic.

He said that he thinks a lot about extinction -- and, in the process, alluded to the sixth great extinction.

Wow.  When it came to the first five, I'd missed the memo!

Was this a theory by a bunch of wackos?

Indeed not.

Some scientists argue that within 300 years, seventy-five percent of species could be gone -- because of human behavior. (Of course, they could also be saved, many of them, by changing the manner in which we live).

I'm not alone in my grim thoughts, my "Hunger Games" nightmares.

Some comfort.

Today, (thanks so much, NPR),  "Fresh Air" featured Michael Lemonick, a science writer from Climate Central, who basically says that we may have passed the point of no return.

But life goes on, doesn't it?

What I find incredible is how many of us have become seduced (myself included), by the pseudo-community of the Internet, focused not on action but on our tweets and our status updates.

Political debates become reduced to dueling pictures taken from some aggregator's Facebook page -- or harsh words exchanged in virtual time.

Cute animal pictures vie with news about the kids and the grands.

It's not that any of this is bad -- it's that it is all so stunningly irrelevant to the size of the threat we face.

Already the drought, for example, has raised prices for corn and soybeans -- how will that affect the food supply, not solely for the world's poor, but for those of us who live in relative comfort?

What are our moral obligations?

How does this speak to our faith -- or lack of faith?

I realize that this isn't a popular point of view -- so I rarely share it, except with people I know are similarly inclined.

And I also understand that many of us feel powerless, so we focus on what we can, or believe we can, affect.

Yet it seems to me that there is power in community, in shared goals, in aspirations that connect us to something greater.

In many ways, virtual communities in democratic countries seem to have made us less, not more free.

I am not so ignorant as to think myself more impassioned about the future of our planet, and our children, than you.

Perhaps I am unduly pessimistic.

Possibly I am too convinced, too self-righteous.

But I wrestle with whether I am, in some way, supporting a denial that may prove, frankly, harmful, or ultimately fatal to our species.

And I'm not sure, not at all sure, what to do to salve my conscience, if not make a true difference.

Perhaps these small decisions have an effect.

Those of us who are alarmists have an obligation, at the least, to find out.









samedi, août 11, 2012

Climate change -- watch those evangelicals

American opinions on whether climate change is occurring seem to vary, as fickle as the weather.

If you want to see the future of climate change "deciders," watch evangelicals.  That's where the debate is the hottest, as it were.

In deciding not to spotlight "deniers," I made a deliberate decision to step outside the "he said, he said" perspective journalists often take when analyzing a complex issue.  To me, climate change is a fact -- hurling insults over the great divide doesn't move the ball forward.

Go ahead. Debate me (grin).


 

vendredi, juillet 27, 2012

jeudi, juillet 19, 2012

Counting down with the crazies

Have I tipped over the line into fogeydom?

Am I the real life equivalent of that brown station wagon with the white trim doing 35 miles ahead of you in a 45-miles-an-hour zone?

I thought I might be -- until I spoke to a professor at a well-known university in another part of the country, and shared my opinion of the behavior of the two men aspiring to be President of the United States.

He told me that some of the rhetoric reminded him of that of the rise of fascism. 

That got my attention.

Appalled. Disgusted. Amazed.

I can't quite find the words to describe my emotions.

Mainly, incredibly frustrated -- because, mostly, you aren't talking about the things that matter to me. 

When Obama's surrogate describes his opponent, Romney, as a potential "felon" that seems a bridge too far.

And this is still July.

Out of the playground, guys.

In fact, the whole controversy over outsourcing seems to have been ginned up as a distraction from the main issues dogging us as a country.

That said, there's no reason why Romney's record at Bain shouldn't be subject to scrutiny.

But it didn't take long before one of Romney's surrogates suggested that, in fact, Obama was a cocaine-sniffing foreigner.

Notice how Romney savors the word "foreign"?

I have multiple reasons to be disappointed with Obama -- the potential abuse of Presidential power being just one of them. In my opinion,  he hasn't made the case for the kind of change that is needed to help us step back from the environmental cliff, if that's possible.  

I also have no clue as to what his immigration policy is -- or isn't. Mostly, it seems impurely pragmatic.

But there is something about Mitt Romney that I find disturbing.

And if I had to put my finger on it, I would say that it's his secrecy -- coupled with a hint of arrogance.

Just today, Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, was quoted in Politico saying:  “We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life."


(http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0712/78711.html#ixzz2159gRoER)

Are you serious, Mrs. Romney?  If you get upset with this level of scrutiny, try living in the White House.

As for Marie Antoinette, "let them eat cake" pose, it doesn't suit you.  It doesn't even seem as though it is who you really are.

And who are "you people?"   Yes, she might be talking about the press (the usual rabble), but it sure seems as though she might also be speaking of the rest of us.

So we have (according to the partisans) a potential felon running against a drug-sniffing foreigner with Muslim tendencies (and don't tell me there's no racial subtext here).

I'm frankly more distressed about Obama -- because, after the Republican primaries, I had come to expect bad behavior from the Romney camp.

No wonder both candidates have such high unfavorability ratings.

The fact is that neither man is that awful a man (though I am not sure about their pals and colleagues).

Take Michele Bachmann and her allegations about Clinton aide Huma Abedin. 

What McCarthyite time/space continuum did Ms. Bachmann crawl out of?

Historians contend that there have been moments during past presidential races when it's become this ugly.

I say -- so what?

Why don't we hold our candidates to the most basic rules of polite behavior?

We are being poisoned, slowly but surely, by the immature behavior,. and the "gotta win, whatever it takes,"
please the base behavior of our elected officials -- and those who want to put their boots on their necks.

After all, there's a reason that group voters is called "the base."

We are all debased.

If these are the people who are supposed to call us to a higher standard, then I truly am afraid -- for what that says about us.

Right here.

Right now.




jeudi, juillet 05, 2012

The top...or the bottom?

A random list of what I've discovered in my online dating adventures...dedicated to my friends who may be considering it, or have had to listen to me rant.

 Encouragement, warning, or simply amusement -- take your pick.

vendredi, juin 29, 2012

Climate change -- it's like this

It was very warm last night -- not quite hot enough to turn on the air conditioner, but warm enough to turn restlessly in bed for a half an hour or so before sleep finally arrived.

I'd been asleep for around four hours when the sound of  thunder woke me up.

Wind tossed the trees, their tops moving back and forth in the gusts that shook branches and sent them racing across the lawn.

But it was lightning, cloud-to-ground, that got my attention.

Every ten seconds or so, it would light up my backyard like a pagan god messing around with a giant flash.

First I could see the arc across the sky miles away.

Then it grew closer.  The light on my porch went on for a second -- then the nightlight in the next room went dark, and I realized that we had lost power.

The lightning and thunder wasn't unusual -- but the intensity of the storm was something I hadn't seen for a few years, since a tremendous straight-line wind brought trees down all over Glenmoore.

Candidly, it was terrifying.

Alone in the house, I cowered in bed, pondering what could happen if a lightning strike brought down a tree or set the deck on fire.

But not as terrifying, I imagine, as watching your house in Colorado Springs go up in flames, or rowing down your underwater street in Florida.

Weather records are being broken all over the place --  and in a Congress which embraces denial like a sleazy mistress, the EPA has become the enemy.

I'm shocked by the depth of our ability to ignore what is in front of our nose -- or to use it for political gain.

Let's face it, environmental stewardship is not a sexy campaign issue -- except to its enemies.

The northeast has been relatively lucky thus far --but it's anybodies' guess whether our good fortune can hold out...

In the meantime, a lot of us got a taste of what could happen here once Mother Nature turns up the heat a little bit.  And I'm guessing that unless we were stormchasers, not many of us enjoyed it.

Welcome to the present.







lundi, juin 25, 2012

mercredi, juin 20, 2012

Hunger

It is an equivocal gift you give me
The generosity of a stranger
Forgetting was most convenient.
Awaking though not for the coward
Flooded I am
with the taste of days 
gone in which I was 
a part of 
world larger than this quiet byway.
Foot struck tile
Arms out
Whirling down the nave
Recollecting too
Counterpoint in 17th-century time
In the library near Julliard
A girl not yet a woman
Dreams she sees
Nijinsky dance
Diaghilev live
In the stacks in Lincoln Center
She lifts her head for a moment
Hears the music, the dance
L'apres-midi 
it is...then.
What is to come
for the woman who does not dance
or raise her voice in sweet polyphonic madrigals?
Methinks she can still hear.

lundi, juin 18, 2012

Fear


Writhing
Gravity pins me here
The stuff of nightmare
Yet I do not wake
Each window glued shut
Was ever open?
Enemies collaborators
Collaborators opponents
It used to be that moments of relief
Allowed gaze elsewhere
Distracted
Peace enough to
sleep
To walk
To smile
Now turmoil
Fare
Unfair
Yet mine