Sunday, December 20, 2009

Keeping Christmas in My Heart

Friday I hosted the staff and volunteers at my house -- cranberry/pomegranate punch, stuffed mushrooms, sweet peppers with mozarella, pulled pork with bbq sauce, chicken with veggies in wine sauce, roasted potatoes with rosemary, roasted cauliflower and carrots with a curry dusting, and peppermint ice cream with chocolate cookies. I woke up at 4 a.m. to put the slow cooking stuff on.

Friday night my buds and I ate leftovers and then piled in the VW with the top down to look at Christmas lights around the city.

Saturday was my day at Omega House. Spent most of it cleaning. Then Cyndi and I shopped for my nephews and she was a most excellent elf! The evening found me tired and not too eager to attend the birthday party I had said yes to but when Brittany said she would chauffeur Shane and me, I went for it anyway. Made it to two parties and met neat people and still was in bed by 11.

Sunday I woke up refreshed and glad that my offer to let someone take my place at the annual Goldwing Children's Christmas Party had been declined. I've done this event sponsored by a motorcycle club for three years now. My fellow rodeo clowns and I entertain foster kids and their parents as they munch on burgers and hot dogs, watch cloggers and listen to singers, and then lead the group outside to watch the Goldwings, Harleys, and more parade by in their Christmas best with Santa in tow. This year I held a 2 month old as her foster mom got a rare quiet meal. We danced with the cloggers and she held on tight. Her mom said she doesn't usually go to strangers. Don't know if that was just her way of saying thanks to me, but you would have had to convince me the world was in danger of no longer turning on its axis to get that precious bundle in pink out of my arms. After we led singing and cheers waiting for Santa, we went back inside and I followed up my dance with a 12 year old blind girl who was on some sort of portable oxygen tank with a dance with a 15 year old boy in a wheelchair. I swear I felt like Cinderella at the ball when we made our way around the dance floor.

After shedding the clown wardrobe and donning my own gay apparel, I helped a friend get his grandchildren's Christmas morning started. He's helping out his daughter's family and she has a baby boy and a preschooler. I'm now quite the informed one regarding Fisher Price and Play Doh.

This diary type entry is not a pat on my own back. Instead, it serves as a Christmas card to myself, a reminder of sorts. My life is so very, very good. I am so very, very fortunate. There's food in my fridge, friends to call on in need and in fun, and opportunities to give back everywhere I turn. Nothing beats the "good tired" I'm feeling at this moment.

I missed seeing Scrooge this year because I couldn't make my usher date. Somehow though I feel I lived it . . . by truly keeping Christmas in my heart. No matter your beliefs, this time of year should be about something beyond ourselves and looking within helps make that possible.

I thank my God for every remembrance of my grandmother, mother, sister, and brothers who made my Christmas heart what it is today.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amen, Ms. Parker, Amen

Last night, news reporters announced that our newly elected mayor's plans for today -- her first post-campaign day -- were to go to church and then begin the task of selecting a transition team.

Not exactly big news but nonetheless significant, and for many reasons.

Church and state may not get to cavort with one another when it comes to governance but plenty of folks from the church world have plenty of influence. And lots of folks want Christians in office. What's interesting is when the Christians get what they want -- one of their own behind a mayoral desk for instance -- but she also happens to be a lesbian.

I received one of the mailers that featured a photo of her previous swearing in as City Comptroller with her partner by her side that pleaded with me to ensure that hers did not become the face to represent Houston. As a matter of Christian principle, I was asked to vote for someone other than her.

I could have easily gotten on my own soapbox but I learned a long time ago that we Americans are rarely ever "we Americans." We're individuals and rarely will you find one of us in total agreement with another. We are just not a collective society. So I wasn't surprised when I was told by a friend who has frequently consulted with our new mayor and who is much more conservative in her faith than me that she had the great opportunity in the last two weeks to experience the following.

Tired and a bit leery of being accosted when she was with some of her even more conservative friends who knew she was backing The Lesbian, my friend was attending to some church duties when a woman approached. The woman verified that indeed my friend was helping with the campaign and then said, "I just want you to know that I pray every day for this city and from the beginning of the mayoral race, I prayed for every candidate. After we needed a runoff I continued to pray for the two who were left. But this week (two weeks before the runoff), I realized I was no longer praying for him ... that I knew she was going to win and so I continued to focus all my prayers on her. . . "

My friend was thrown and not quite sure if the woman was going to drop a bombshell or not, when the woman continued and said, "I think she'll make a great mayor."

Believers come in all shapes and sizes. Some have small little boxes they try to fit God and Creation into. Some have larger ones. But, to me, the best ones don't just throw words around, they act on their beliefs.

I have no doubt that Mayor Parker will both make me proud and irritate the hell out of me. That's government. But I'm glad to know that she's pretty well aware of her need to make a strong start and she did so by looking up.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Doing the Peanuts Dance

Just watched Linus' rendition of Luke in answer to the real meaning of Christmas.

Nobody does it better.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Scary Tactics

Yesterday at the AIDS hospice, several new volunteers showed up at once. As a result the "usual" had a bit of an unusual feel to it. Perhaps that's why no one acted on the first red flag.

Nurse: "And the resident in Room C is actively dying. . . "
Volunteer in Cap: (interrupting and with a degree of shock) "What is that?"
Nurse: "His body is worn out. It's giving one last try at surviving but every breath is laborious. He's in the last stages and will probably die sometime this week. He's pretty bad . . . Karsi Sarcoma is covering his lower body and his legs are swollen."
Vol in Cap: "Can we see?" (moving in direction of room)
Nurse: (somewhat taken aback): "Not until after report."
Nurse continues with report and gets a call which he takes.
Vol in Cap: (to woman standing beside him) "Interesting shoes."

Ok, so in hindsight the situation is clearly strange. The Vol in Cap is not only color coordinated wearing pressed khakis and a somewhat expensive windbreaker type jacket -- something you just don't do in the bleach-based environment that is hospice life, but his tone is off, the delivery of his comments strikes me. After we break from report, I mention it to the nurse.

"I think this guy is autistic," I said. "And, by the way, he's not a part of our group."

He acknowledged that he too felt the man was a bit off by a quick smile but in the crowded hallway, could only respond. "He came in with the new guy," and then walked to Room C to introduce the Vol in Cap to the situation.

The other newbies and I went down to Room A to strip the beds and assess the cleaning needs. Most of the residents were heading to church with a pastor who regularly picks them up on Saturdays and fills a few hours of their day with worship, food, and much-needed time away from the house.

Then it happened. The nurse came to check again that indeed the Vol in Cap wasn't with any other volunteers. Seems that he had asked to wash the resident's feet. The nurse thought he meant to help clean him for his family who was coming. Instead, the water was being used for prayer, anointing, and healing. The nurse tried to explain about hospice (that it is actually for the dying) and the concerns of trying to force spiritual beliefs on someone who had not asked. The Vol in Cap ignored the nurse and just prayed louder and started calling for a resurrection.

What he got was the other nurse in charge of training -- who asked the Vol in Cap if he had received any type of orientation. When the Vol said a few minutes ago, the situation was clear. This was no true volunteer. He was asked to leave, then told to leave, then ordered to leave.

His reaction was to drop to his knees in the hallway, rebuke those who would exorcise him from the house, and then call them out as evil . . . though he did add that he was still supposed to love them.

One nurse responded, "I love you too but you're still leaving."

When our unwelcome guest made it outside I had the strangest visual juxtaposition before me. The pastor who regularly ministers to people who don't make it easy to do so (many of the residents are from the streets, some have mental problems, and lots are demanding) was loading up his van.

So before me were two ministers -- one answered the question of what would Jesus do with judgment, unsolicited ministrations, and obligation rather than compassion. The other expresses his faith with his continuing presence.

Supposedly both represented the religious world -- but they were worlds apart. And as for me and my house? ... We're going with the guy in the van,


I've said before and will most likely continue to repeat myself, "I love Sundays."

As a committed extrovert, I tend to fill every day with work and play. I'm out there living life to the max and usually sharing the experience with family or friends. But Sunday is a different matter. Quiet walks, the paper, something warm and delicious concocted in the kitchen as I'm mindful of every cut of the blade and stir of the pot, some writing, maybe a bad Lifetime movie or a good book -- these fill my hours until the Sabbath ends. By that time, the Food Network has my attention and my hours of self-imposed solitude conclude.

I never understood the power of pausing until I practiced it. Took me a few attempts before I got it right but now ...

I love Sundays.

Thanksgiving Eve

We sit around a table
laden with pre-turkey day indulgences
and each say our words of gratitude

for friends
safe travel
school being on hold for the holiday
and life

While my prayers are silently offered to a familiar name and unknown face,
he limits his thanks to those around the table,
she to that which can be scientifically explained,
and yet another speaks to the Universe.

The holding of hands, the common smiles, the warmth coming more from our hearts than the food . . .
Assures us all, that we've each been heard.

And we remain grateful.