Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy day

We're enjoying a feast of friendship today as we dine with our friends Jimmy and Barbara, then look forward to a day of family on Saturday. During these several days of celebrating the many things for which we are thankful I think of those of you who come to visit here. Your visits sustain me more than you know, and the very fact of your presence serves to draw me out of myself to think beyond my own world.

Blessings to you this day...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

yes, they're real

What is this, you ask? Let me tell you!

The above photo is the Autumnal Convent of the Priory of St. Andrew, part of the Grand Priory of the United States of America, The Solemn Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. Also known as the Knights Templar.

There is so much about this organization that I don't know--not the least of which is making sense of the various titles and designations--but having attended this convent (and no, I don't know why it is called a convent, though I can tell you that it has nothing to do with nuns) I am absolutely impressed by the order for all sorts of reasons.

The short version of how we came to be at last night's convent is because it turns out that a member of our former church is a Dame of the Knights Templar. When The DaVinci Code came out several years ago Ken got launched down an exploratory path of learning more about many of the ideas and facts presented in the book. He was especially intrigued by the Templars. When he learned that Jeri was a member of the order, he felt like he'd struck gold. Imagine the thrill when Jeri invited him to join the order! (Membership in the order is by invitation.) I won't belabor the details involved in that, but this weekend began the process of Ken's entrance to membership.

The convent is full of ritual and symbolism, and can include the investiture of a new knight. See below! It you look closely you'll note the sword touching the left shoulder.
There are also strong ties to Scotland and things Scottish (and you thought The DaVinci Code was fiction!). I was in my glory in a room full of men in kilts following the convent.
Knights and Dames are awarded recognition for years of service. This wee woman has twenty years of such under her belt. She's so cute!
And here we are. I am not happy with any of the pictures taken of us, but this one is the kindest. The dress is actually quite beautiful, but I learned a valuable lesson last night. The right undergarment is essential! Truly, my chest doesn't really need the parking space to my left. This wasn't such a big deal 50 pounds ago, but at my present weight it's a rather crucial detail. Live and learn, and get with the program! It's a rare occasion for me to dress up, though with the Templars in our lives that will begin to change. Ken is due to be knighted in April.

You'll be hearing more from time to time. For now I'll simply say that it looks as though life is going to get a lot more interesting, and interesting people will be a part of that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

one day and a reflection later

The Bonus Army takes up camp in front of the US Capital, 1932

I was a bit of a blubberer yesterday.  I was somewhat obsessed with Veteran's Day, and gravitated toward images and news stories as though they were chips and dip (I have a salt tooth, not a sweet tooth). Granted, before I was even out of bed yesterday I was feeling oddly vulnerable and weepy, so I was predisposed to get emotional about almost anything picked up by my "things that matter" radar.

The Veterans Day thing got a head start a couple of days ago when I learned about an award being given posthumously to a soldier who sacrificed his life in Afghanistan saving the lives of his platoon leader, fellow platoon members, and (if I'm remembering correctly) some civilians. The award cited the incident where he pushed his leader out of the way of bullet fire, taking the fatal hit himself. Only last week at my conference in Indianapolis I heard stories from retired military educators about how loyalty and commitment to fellow soldiers trumps loyalty to the mission. Though this was not news to me the information penetrated my being at a deeper level. The specific action of this Ft. Campbell soldier plays across my imagination as though seeing it on a screen, and his sacrifice releases from my soul a kind of grief.

I know the grief is mine, no matter what triggers it. As I write this post there is dawning awareness that it touches on my experience of camaraderie and friendship, and the gaping hole of such in my life these days. I'm also aware that issues related to justice have woven through pieces of my life in recent weeks, so stories about what I see as injustices to veterans pluck those strings. Sadly, there are lots of stories about such injustices, so my justice and vulnerability meters are resonating together to generate some interesting internal reflections. 

Thanks for wading through the above to get to what I really want today's post to be about: two particular stories of injustice. I had never heard of the Bonus Army, a group of WW I veterans who marched on and established themselves in Washington to demand what was promised to them. I am indebted to NPR for airing the story last night. The fact that knowledge of this event is not a part of our nation's body of common knowledge strikes me as shameful. Go here to read about it (I can't possibly do it justice here in brief). The Bonus Army is from another era, and although it will inspire anger it led, ultimately, to the G.I. Bill (which might be considered a form of justice, I admit. The story is still dreadful). The other story about denying veterans a gift given for them in Los Angeles was broadcast earlier this morning on CNN.  This story renews my animosity toward greed--as though any of us need any assistance in that arena these days--but it also rekindles my sense of helplessness when I want to take action to redress a wrong.  At least others are making an attempt to do so.

There are implications in these stories, and others, about our collective failure to deliver what is promised and to honor the contract executed by those who respond to the call to serve.  Again and again our leaders break those contracts, violating the trust and faith that all of us are impelled to place in their hands. For too long we have stood by and watched the disintegration of that which we so proudly hail, failing to hold our leaders accountable.  It is past time to step up and speak up, and to stand with those whose lives and memories have been betrayed.

To paraphrase Tim Gunn, "Make It Happen." Let's figure out a way, together, to do that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

i believe her

Yesterday when the news about Penn State's cover-up of sexual assault and exploitation unfolded, echoes of Herman Cain denials were dancing in my head. It occurred to me at the time that when the public learns of incidents of sexual abuse against boys or men, no one ever questions the motives of those who make their stories public, or subject themselves to renewed pain and anguish as they endure revisiting a chapter of personal devastation in their lives. It only seems to be women who are suspect, whose motives must be dark, self-centered, and driven by the need for attention or money.

As I revisit this reflection this morning I need to amend a portion of my thinking from a day ago. A distinct difference between stories of men molested as boys and women molested by men is that children and teenagers lack the capacity to assert their own voice and claim their own power because personal power does not rest within us until life and adulthood have provided the crucible for such power to be forged. The dynamic between perpetrators and victims when the former is an adult and the latter is a minor is different than it is between adults, and our response to such violations fall rightly across a spectrum of disdain and disgust .

That said, sexual assault and harassment perpetrated against women share a dynamic with acts perpetrated against boys: they are dynamics of power, with sex its vehicle of expression.

As a survivor of sexual assault I speak to this not as a clinician and feminist, but as one who had to work hard and painfully to learn and understand that acquiescence to this form of power was not a choice or a betrayal of self, but a cultural pattern of response to deeply entrenched societal acceptance of the abuse of power by those who wield that weapon at will. Make no mistake, power is a weapon.

I expect men who are accused to deny the accusation. I expect eyebrows to be raised and speculation to begin. I am not surprised that a woman's motives are challenged. I likewise challenge, however, the too-long held acceptance that power may be used to intimidate, dominate, violate or in other ways humiliate another person who lacks comparable power. I challenge the resistance to accepting that a woman who makes her pain public does so for any reason other than exposing the truth. I also challenge any man accused of harassment or assault to look hard at his relationship with power and to consider that he might be vulnerable to its lures. If just one man would explore the possibility that inappropriate behavior resulted from his comfort with power and acknowledge the damage that resulted, a door would open to a new world of understanding, respect, and relationship. If Herman Cain would do this he would begin the process of dismantling the arrogance that possesses him, and he might discover the riches of humility that serve as the basis of true leadership. He still wouldn't get my vote, but he might well earn my respect.

Once upon a time, after recovering from the experience of paying a difficult price at the hands of a group who praised and highly exalted themselves to excess, I was appointed to a position where I was given the authority to make decisions that could have significant impact on the lives of others. A friend who saw this appointment as a sort of vindication for me also recognized the opportunity for the appointment to be problematic. "Beware of your power," she said to me. It is a caution I have never forgotten.

At this time in my life I believe that I have a healthy and respectful relationship with power. While I am grateful for that that, I am also keenly aware of the cost paid to enjoy that relationship now. The wisdom I gleaned can best be offered by sharing the counsel given to me. When the mantel rests upon you, beware of your power. And share that warning with others.  We all need to hear the truth when it is spoken.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

melrose snapshots

 Trisha poses with salt lick and deer corn at a spot being scouted for future hunting. Her job was to scatter the latter.
 My beloved up a tree (stand).
 Two of our beloveds.
Everyone's beloved view at sunset, shortly before the colors got rich.

I'm off to Indy. I was able to check out a laptop to take with me (yay!) so I'll do my best to be in touch while I"m gone. There's lots going on at the office this week, which makes this a tough time to be gone.

Have a great week, beloveds!


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