Monday, March 19, 2012

all are punish'd

I had the pleasure of filling in for a priest-colleague yesterday while he was out of town. The parish is known for being inclusive, and the spirit there is always one of vitality. The congregation is full of people with many talents, not the least of which is the willingness to engage in conversation surrounding potential difficult issues. Between services I joined their bible study group, which takes the approach of exploring scripture in juxtaposition with current events. Yesterday we looked at the story known as "the rape of Dinah," (Genesis 34) filled with issues of violence, justice, and vengeance, contrasted with the recent massacre in Afghanistan of families and children.

The conversation was thoughtful, penetrating, and respectful. We concurred that we didn't have enough information regarding the soldier in terms of his state of mind, and what may have prompted a course of action that virtually everyone suggests is contrary to his nature and history. Our conversation focused on the issues and implications of what took place, not on passing judgment. 

Inevitably we touched on the nature of the conflict as it has been waged these last eleven years, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting parallels to the experience our military faced in Vietnam. In particular we voiced our concern that our military are confronted by an enemy that is no longer conventional: women and children are carrying out the deeds of what was once an adult male military force. When we can no longer tell the difference between friend and foe, what impact does that have on the psyche of the people who are put in harm's way? If it becomes commonplace to see women and children as targets, what becomes of us?

The question left hanging, for me, is this: at what point is the mission not worthy of the cost to the whole well-being of our men and women in arms? Do we ask them to lay down the lessons and values acquired during their lives from of a culture rooted in striving to be honorable and decent? Do we do so expecting them not to be changed by that experience, and to return home as the proverbial boys and girls next door? We delude ourselves, if this is so.  

These questions need to be considered by more than just our military and congressional leaders. Each of us as citizens benefiting from the freedoms our soldiers defend and protect must also ask ourselves if it is right to ask our young men and women--and their families--to make this sacrifice.  Going to war is no longer just a matter of risking lives, but of abrogating essential values.  To consent to that perversion is to become the very enemy we fight.  For that, we all pay a price.

I am reminded, yet again, of a closing scene from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, where the prince addresses his community mourning the loss of those whose lives got caught in the cross-hairs of hate.
Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love!
And I, for winking at your discords too,
Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punish'd.
act 5 scene iii
We cannot afford any longer to wink. There is far too much at stake. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

hello, it's me!

These days I only seem to have time on the occasional Saturday morning to visit here and say hello. The last few months at work have been incredibly full, with the two most demanding events in my job description falling back to back in February and March. Add to that my father's death and you can understand how I overlooked the fact that all the promotional material for Marlee Matlin went out with the wrong day (correct date) on it. Big Cringe.

Anyway, we were back in Connecticut last weekend for dad's memorial. It was a good weekend, in spite of plans for virtually everything that wasn't the memorial service itself being very fluid. I've learned over the years to be a lot more relaxed than my natural "J" tendency would suggest, but the vagueness of plans was a bit much in an already emotionally delicate weekend.

There were, at least, a few tasks to be done that helped ground our time there. Mom, for instance, arranged the flowers for the service. We headed out Friday morning to select the blooms, and I took my camera. I suggested that some day I should document "a day with mom." Think of this as a dry run (even though I didn't get any pictures of her actually putting together the arrangement).

There's an especially good floral/garden place not far from where she lives, which is where these two photos were taken. Talk about floral heaven! It's a refrigerated room filled with color, fragrance and texture. It was hard to resist choosing something from every bin, but resist we did. The parameters for choosing the blooms were a request from Linda (dad's companion) that the colors be bold.  It's not as easy a task as it might appear, in spite of all the choices! Fun, nonetheless.

In keeping with Quaker simplicity there was one arrangement, flanked by two candles. Even though the hint of March's heatwave was in the air, it was cool enough on the day to have a fire in the fireplace. Think of it as a perk of Quaker worship. The logs that were burned came from the apple tree in dad's back yard that finally went the way of all living things a couple of years ago. Dad loved that tree. He gazed out at it through the picture-window in the dining room from his seat in the living room, reflecting on the parallels between its life and his own. Those reflections generally found their way into his Christmas letter! By the time the service and accompanying reception concluded the ashes were cool, and we scooped up a bunch to mingle with dad's cremains. I can see his satisfied smile.
On Sunday our cousin Ginger, who came from Atlanta for the weekend, took us all out to brunch. Afterward mom took her to the airport while the rest of us convened at dad's house to take a first pass at some of his things. The house is now Linda's, and she will remain there, at least for a time. I think for all of us it felt a bit surreal. We each selected a few books from dad's massive collection, and I came home with a box of letters and photos that had been his mother's. There are some real gems among that assortment, included a photo from the 1880's of the choir from the Wilkes Barre Methodist Church. And to think that all these years I thought my grandmother was a homegrown Presbyterian! (Her mother is in the picture of the choir, but there are a number of church-related items that make it pretty clear this was the family church.) I plan to scan a lot of the photos, and then some of them will go to Mt. Holyoke, my grandmother's alma mater. This is the centennial year of her graduation in 1912. No doubt you'll see a few of these in due time.

Sunday night we enjoyed dinner with my dear friend from grade school and matron of honor, along with her husband and mother (my godmother) and mom. We shared a selection of tasty goodies at a local Thai restaurant, concluding the weekend with full tummies and some good catching up with old and wonderful friends.  I had to chuckle when my godmother leaned over to whisper to Ken, whom she had not met before, "I like you better than I thought I would." 

Back in Tennessee life goes on, and I now have the task of figuring out how to get dad's piano shipped here.  It's the one thing that has been in his possession over the years that I have wanted when this day arrived. 

When I can find that time to sit and compose the post I want to share something about which my brother spoke so eloquently at the memorial. For now this post has rambled on long enough, and it's time to tackle today's to do list. 

Until the next time, may the luck of the Irish be yours.
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Monday, March 05, 2012

a recycling trip

So yesterday we planned to make the trip to take our recycling stash to its respective location, then make a stop at a local shopping center on the return trip home to 
1) pick up some ceramics that Ken had painted and had since been fired
2) return some socks to Target
3) drop off old, no longer functioning printers at Best Buy
4) pick up some fabric to make the capes we will need when we are invested with the Knights Templar next month.
We decided that we could leave at 11 to make it to the recycling center and then to the shopping center by noon when the ceramic store opened. Well, the day unfolded a little differently than planned.

We started off on track: recycling accomplished! The recycling center is in a plaza where there is a Big Lots, and Ken had noticed a 20% off coupon good for that day only. I need socks, so we decided to "pop in" and look for socks. 45-minutes later we left the store with Easter goodies for the grandkids, grapes for Ken to plant (he is hellbent on making his own wine one day), some spring onions for planting, and some bling for a St. Patrick's Day event we plan to attend. No socks. 

By now it was lunch time and we were hungry, so we took a route to the shopping center that went by a fairly new Indian restaurant that we discovered a couple of months ago. Score! Fabulous lunch. On to the ceramics store.

Ken told me that I wasn't allowed to come in because he had also painted something for me. No problem, I thought, I'll just mosey up to the next section of the shopping center and make a quick stop at Chico's. I figured I could scope out the current merchandise to see if there was anything I wanted in order to take advantage of a coupon (that was at home). Once Ken learned I was there he wisely made a stop in Books a Million and found a book that is recommended for Templars to read. Close to two hours and 30 items of clothing tried on later, we left Chico's with a modest purchase in hand.  

Next stop? Target to return the socks purchased the week before (the socks in the photo are representative). Would you believe those suckers wouldn't even fit over my ankle? And I do not have big ankles. 

On to Joann's, where it was not such an easy thing to find 12 yards of the right white fabric for our capes. While there I also picked up a stash of sympathy cards (see previous post!). Thank goodness for coupons.

And then... the second of our printers at home bit the dust, so we decided to check out the options while we were at Best Buy to unload useless printers. We missed by one day the sale to save $130 on the printer I wanted, so we decided to make our way across the street to another store where we found a suitable Lexmark on sale. 

Finally, at 5:05 pm we were on our way home. I'm never happy to yield my day like this, given that my weekends are about the only time I have for leisure and to take care of things on my own "to do" list, but at least it was a productive day. And we now have a functioning printer, although it hasn't yet been set up.

How about you? What did you do with your Sunday?

Sunday, March 04, 2012

swimming in loss

This has been a rough year for losses. It literally began on new year's day when the husband of a friend, who was himself a friend, died following complications related to treatment for colon cancer. He left a devoted wife and a teenage son.

My Mom has been hit particularly hard. Two friends made during the early years of her marriage to Dad died within weeks of each other a short time ago. These weren't just friends made, but friendships that sustained and enriched Mom's life from that time forward in myriad ways. Dad died in between those losses. And roughly at the same time, the husband of my "other mother," Anna, passed away. 

About a week ago the father of another friend passed away. He was also a friend to me, as was the entire family during my early, seeking years of renewing faith. The spiritual mentoring I received, not to mention the love and support shared so generously from the hearts of that family, were of profound and significant importance in my life. 

It is not a shock that successive losses among my mother's peers, and the parents of my own peers, is taking place. People die in their 80's with some regularity. Still, when loss comes it hollows our hearts and parts of us are forever altered. It is our time to be caught in that cycle of loss, remembering, savoring, and endeavoring to honor whatever legacy has been our privilege to inherit through the people we love and the treasured saints who have shaped us.  

This has been, for me, a period of extensive reflection on the relationships I cherished, and the manner by which I honor, or fail to honor, the relationships I have now. I have a long way to go before I feel good about the latter. The good news is that I have begun to shift away from inertia and toward action--something of a challenge for an introvert. I believe that that, too, is part of the cycle of growth that is the fruit of loss, rooted in love. It is a shift past time, but not too late.

This post is written in honor of Hannah (beloved Sheltie), Eric, Bob, Dad, John, Sally, and Bill, late of this life, and to hold in the light those feeling their loss. May the souls of the departed rest in peace, and the souls of those who mourn be comforted.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

it's about dignity, among so many other things

On my way home from work Thursday npr included some audio with their story about Maryland becoming the  eighth state to legalize gay marriage. The next morning it took some effort to track down these words, but I did so because I wanted to read them again and put them in a format to share them. I am so tired of the rhetoric from the religious right getting all the air time, and there seem to be few reported views so eloquently stated from what I will call the inclusive whole. This is one of them. You want a debate religious liberty? Bring it on. 

Please feel free to share as widely as possible!

Friday, March 02, 2012

friday five: gotta have it?

Yes, this scene is actually quite typical in my area!

At RevGals Kathryn writes:  I'm heading from unseasonably warm temperatures and no snow to a place of GREAT SNOW. Sadly, for reasons that don't need to be boringly laid out here, I am sans decent winter boots at the moment so I need to find some... NOW!

In the meantime I am shaking my head at myself. How could I possibly be without one of the key essentials for living in my environment?

Every area is different. What are the 5 key essentials needed for where you live?
And bonus - what have folks looked twice at you for because you wore it out of place.

Hmm. I live in a moderate climate (middle Tennessee) which rarely experiences extreme cold, and though it certainly gets hot and muggy in the summer, such a climate is hardly unique to Tennessee.  I don't think there is really anything that is essential in terms of living here, but there are a few things that help one "fit in" if you're a transplant, like me. Being something of a nonconformist, however, fitting in isn't high on my list. Therefore:

1) I'm proud of my Yankee heritage. Lots of it. If someone is giving me unending grief about that, however, a word about having ancestors who fought and died for the confederacy generally renders a running mouth still.  I've recently been reminded (in reviewing the family tree) that my great-great-grandfather was born in Connecticut and migrated south as a young man. He was a fairly new father when he went off to war, and I have no doubt that he did so with a conscience weighted with complexity. 

2) How could I forget bug spray?!?! Or the sweet tea!

3) I own a shovel, and I'm not afraid to use it. About ten years ago we actually had a snowy winter here, and after 8 inches had fallen one day I went out and shoveled my driveway like any good Yankee would.  I lived on a cul-de-sac and none of my neighbors opted to follow my wise example. I'm sure they thought the temperature would rise to melting by the next day, but after six days of below freezing temperatures they were still struggling to get in and out of their now ice-packed driveway and I pulled in and out free and clear. It's smug, I know.  I suspect none of them actually owned a shovel.


This tornado is getting ready to cross the street I now travel on my way to work every morning. 
It hit on Good Friday three years ago.

4) Under threat of extreme weather today with a strong likelihood of tornadoes, one essential thing to living here is a mindset of preparation in the face of such weather. The closest a tornado has come to us at home is that we heard the proverbial sound of a freight train from about five miles away, where the tornado passed through. We know where our safest place is, leashes for the dogs are always handy, and hardhats are tucked away with water bottles and flashlights. I keep forgetting that we need to include a substantial mallet in the mix. If debris were to block the door of the closet we would need to smash our way out. Note to self...

5) If you're going to throw a baby or bridal shower in this part of the world, mints and nuts are de rigueur. I don't get what makes them essential, so I don't serve them. I'd much rather make finger sandwiches and put out the veggie platter.

Bonus: You won't catch me in Tennessee orange. I wear my UConn Huskies sweatshirt with great pride.

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