Thursday, December 30, 2004

Questions . . .

As a journalist, I never mastered the Barbara Walters-get-them-to-cry-by-asking-the-curve-ball-question technique. I tend to ask for name, rank and forget to ask for cereal choice. But as I've been reading around the blog scene, I've been intrigued with the folks who invite questions and then even further intrigued by the quality of the questions that are posed.

Made me think that I'd like to see if anyone out there has any interesting questions they often ask to break the ice, turn a conversation, or just delve a little deeper into the psyche of their conversational partner.

I'm going to start a list of some I've seen or some I've made up. You can add questions or you can answer some by clicking on comments or email me. As usual and as a journalist, I'm just curious!
  • If you could change one thing about the world, yourself, or both, what would it/they be?
  • What's the book, music (in whatever form you choose) or movie you'd want to have with you should you ever wind up on that infamous deserted island?
  • What quote (from book, music, movie, etc.) would sum up the last few years of your life?
  • What quote do you want the next few years to look like?
  • What's one thing you've done that you wish you could un-do?
  • What's one thing you've not done that you still have on your wish list?
  • When you think of a perfect moment where are you, who are you with, and what are you doing?
  • What music is playing in the background of the above mentioned moment?
  • When something tragic happens is your first reaction to act, pray, ignore or something else? Why?
  • What photograph (real or one you missed taking) from your past experiences do you wish you had in your possession to regularly reflect on and cherish?
  • What's your favorite sound, word, profession that you would do if you weren't in the one you're in?
  • What's your least favorite sound, word, profession that you wouldn't do even if you were forced?

Ok, that's enough for now. I may even try to answer a few of these myself!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Snow Thanks

Left on Thursday for the family gathering in Tennessee. Lots of folks asked if I had any trouble getting there. Not really, I replied, all I had to do was put my butt on a plane and let the pilot fly and then put my butt in the backseat of D's car and let him drive. Now they may have experienced a little difficulty what with the ice, snow, and crazy drivers who seem to think slamming on one's brakes is a good idea on a sheet of ice.

I'm grateful today for . . . Doc's acceptance of my family into his (on Christmas Eve which was also his 80th birthday, he told my mom and I that the two of us and my sister made his holidays), seeing hillsides and trees lit covered in snow and lit by the moon's glow, interaction with the crew that comes from Georgia and with whom I spend Christmas Eve (we continued our tradition of seeing a movie and eating at the only place in town that's open and yes for all you Christmas Story fans, it's a Chinese place!), playing a game with my twin's family in which we were all truly rolling in the floor with laughter, getting to know my sister's new husband and finding that I really, really like him, and being met at the airport by my family here, driven to my place and having a can of hot soup on a still kind of cold night in my chair with silence surrounding me and love filling me!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Smiley Things, vol. 2

Christmas time brings more reasons to smile . . . for instance when:
  • a three year old opens the book I gave her, exclaims the preschooler equivalent of "omigosh" and names every one of the Disney women on the cover by name
  • her slightly older brother invests every minute of the hour after he opened my gift to him putting the pieces together with the pleasure and concentration of an engineer
  • their older sister hugs herself in the jacket I gave her and then continues to don the jacket throughout the evening
  • friends-who-are-family know me well enough to give me the kind of gifts that I would give myself
  • my "date" who initially said no to going to dinner, cancels his previous plans and rounds out our group to a foursome
  • said foursome dine on glorious food and even better conversation (except for the part when the other three try to flirt with the waiter on my behalf!)
  • friends care enough to want to flirt with the waiter on my behalf
  • a day ends with such complete "rightness" during the holiday season

Monday, December 20, 2004

5 Minute Fudge

Worthy of note in this holiday season . . . Rachel Ray of the Food Network is my kitchen hero. She whipped up 5 Minute Fudge the other day and I knew I could repeat her success (sans the making it into a wreath complete with candied cherry holly . . . really, fudge does not a visually pleasing wreath make). Here's the recipe:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (of course, I mean Eagle Brand!)
1 12 oz pkg of chocolate morsels
9 oz of butterscotch morsels (which means you're not using the whole bag)
nuts and/or other optional additions (she used currants but I used Heath Bar morsels)

Butter a round cake pan (and if you doing that whole wreath thing, cover a can in plastic wrap and insert it in the middle). Heat the sweetened condensed milk to just bubbling and add the morsels. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Add whatever you want to add but work fast. Place in pan. Refrigerate for 5 minutes and it's done!

Don't say I didn't give you a Christmas present!

Went to a Garden Party

Well, it wasn't quite a garden party. It was a going away bash at the local taco joint near the AIDS ministry that the gal had worked at for years and was now leaving for other employment.

As a volunteer with the ministry, I was invited to join the gathering. Mostly a time of drinks and conversation, the night took on an interesting twist when not one but two of the women in attendance outed themselves to me.

Leading me to a dilemma. What exactly is the Miss Manners-appropriate response to, "Well, not everyone knows this but I've followed where the Universe led and have accepted that I'm a lesbian"?

Quotable Quotes

I love to read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s column each Monday in the Houston Chronicle. He's a columnist living in Florida. Here's a few lines from today's:

"We are . . . a nation of short memories and cherished myths. For us, history doesn't matter -- right up until it does."

He's recommending a history book called A Dream of Freedom by Diane McWhorter that takes readers back to the years when civil rights were a battleground. She says, "We now look back on it as a form of social insanity, but it felt normal at the time. It felt normal to whites and most blacks. The African Americans who fought to overthrow this were a tiny minority and really revolutionary and didn't get the support of the general black public until it was pretty clear they were going to win."

To which he concludes and challenges, "So McWhorter's book is valuable for more than just the obvious reasons. It's good that it will present young people with a history they ought to know. But it's also good that it will encourage them to look beyond the blinders of present day. If they begin to understand how inequities could have felt normal 40 years ago, maybe they'll question the inequities that feel normal today."

Wow! And what might those inequities be?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Just in Case You Doubt Me

Here's a paragraph from an actual profile from one of those online services:

I can often be seen in public parks interpreting mime performances for the blind. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I write opera, I manage time efficiently. I am a test pilot for renovated WWII fighter planes and I am a consultant to the government of three South Pacific island nations. My bills are all paid on time. On weekends I make Jai Lai baskets with a group of orphans. I woo women with my sensuous trombone playing. I am an accomplished matador, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru. During the summer months, to practice free rock climbing, I never use an elevator. On Wednesdays, after work, I repair electrical appliances free of charge. I have met the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa and I can reconcile oxymorons. On the side of a Tibetan mountain, under the tutelage of a one hundred and six year old Buddhist monk and after a three month fast, I achieved Nirvana. I am an abstract painter and a concrete analyst. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy eveningwear. When I'm not doing these things, I'm usually at the feet of the girl I'm dating mkaing sure she has everything her heart desires. P.S. I am drunk as I'm writing this last paragraph. Lol.

Now really, what's not to love????


As kids, my brother, cousins and I would "play-like". Sometimes we'd "play-like" we were athletes. Other times we'd be actors on a soap opera. There was a touch of the drama queen in everyone of us.

I got to thinking the other day that "play-like" or pretending wasn't as much a part of my past as the years might contend.

Don't we often pretend that the world thinks as we do, and for those we know don't, well, they're just the minority? Or if we're pretty convinced that we are indeed in the minority regarding an issue, we then pretend that we have the majority of the minority covered.

I know that I "play-like" people are inherently good. In other words, I don't assume that someone I just met is determined to aggravate me or is hiding something from me. I pretend the world is operating on good intentions . . . until I'm proven wrong.

I think that's why the whole online matching services threw me. I believed the profiles. I believed the guys cracking the jokes really were just trying to find someone to got to the movies with or (but even I didn't think this one could be true for that many) walk on the beach with. I thought they wanted quiet dinners or long talks.

And when I discovered that some of the funny ones are also cruel, and some of the smart ones are also perverted, and some of the older ones are just plain boring . . . well, it was disturbing.

This line of thinking crosses over into the church world too, don't you think? We "play-like" we have the answers. Or we "play-like" just showing up is enough. Again, it's somewhat disturbing.
So I'm ready to "play-like" that those guys aren't a cross-section of reality. I'm content to "play-like" there are some decent guys out there who want to talk and actually get to know me. And I'm going to "play-like" my faith is solid.

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Hope I Never Feel this Way

While I never want to feel this insignificant (or depressed or lonely), there is a phrase in the current award-winning movie called Sideways that absolutely captures the sense of being overwhelmingly overwhelmed. I give it kudos for how descriptive it is:

"I feel like a thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper . . . like a smudge of sewage on a corner of a tissue that is floating out to sea."

Happy Thoughts

  • People who see a good movie and say, "You would especially like this." Then when you do see it, you find it to be funny, thought-provoking and well-done . . . leading you to be grateful that people see you as appreciating that kind of thing.
  • Someone saying, "You haven't blogged in a while and I miss it."
  • Going to the office refrigerator and finding it filled with party leftovers available for the gnoshing.
  • Wasabi, horseradish, or any other food product that opens up your sinuses.
  • Realizing you've helped someone simply by offering an opinion (that is, of course, based on years of experience and training).
  • When you say the exact right thing to someone who is hurting.
  • When you say absolutely nothing to someone who is hurting and that silence is the best gift of all.
  • Coming to terms with the fact that the really BIG Christmas gift surprises don't happen to single folks of a certain age.
  • Realizing that single folks of a certain age don't have to have surprises to enjoy giving themselves a gift.
  • The fact that a "splash of the color red" is the very best way to describe what adding that color is like.
  • Knowing that for family who feel like friends and friends who feel like family there is absolutely nothing you can do to make them give up on you.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Family Choices

Last night I was one of the stops on a progressive dinner Christmas party that included my local family . . . the ones I've chosen to invite into my home, my life, my decisions.

Today my home town is honoring my stepfather for his 80th birthday. As the town doctor for almost 40 years he brought most of the town's 2000 residents into the world. When I asked whether the Tennessee clan wanted me there for this party or for Christmas, the answer was unanimous, so I'm missing today's celebration. But I called this morning to start the day with them and I plan on calling to get the blow by blow later.

The families we're born to and those we choose -- I feel so incredibly fortunate that both of mine love the other. My mother may wish I was closer to home but she speaks with the parental pride evident when a child makes first string or gets the lead in the play when she says, "I know they look out for you, Karen. Tell them all hi." And then proceeds to ask about each by name.

When my circle of friends joined hands last night to recognize that we are not together by chance and express our gratitude for the forces that brought us together and continue to bind us, I remembered again how right it all is. Like the family of my birth, we ignore certain behaviors, tolerate others, and push back when necessary. Like the family of my birth, we may not always like each other, but love will always be a part of our circle.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Meaningful Moments

Every culture has its language. The church world is no different. Understanding the words isn't that difficult but the real meaning? Hmmmm that's open for interpretation. For example:

"I think God is teaching me . . . "
Translation: I'm confused.

"I was going through a time of humbling."
Translation: I screwed up . . . publicly.

"I'm going to spend time fasting and praying on this."
Translation: I'm really confused.

"He's having struggles with obedience."
Translation: He's not doing what I want him to do.

"We need to see this in context."
Translation: We're all confused.

Know any others?

Monday, December 06, 2004

I Was a Child

I was a child . . . when a bee bit me on the leg and I ran from the side yard to the front porch in tears and my father caught me in his arms, heard my tale of woe and took a Camel cigarette, tore it open, spit into the tobacco and rubbed the brown goo on the bite.

I was a child . . . when I saw the look of disappointment in Daddy's eyes as he discovered yet again that the scratch marks on my twin brother's arms and the red marks around my neck had come from yet another fight between us.

I was a child . . . when on our way to the dentist's office he stopped at the local beer joint to conduct some "business" and I worried that Momma would find out and that we'd all be in trouble.

I was a child . . . when he told the family to get in the truck and we rode down to the bottom and he cut cane poles from the river bank and tied the red and white bobs to the fishing line, baited the hook and made me stand in the mosquito-laden heat for what seemed like hours so we could have a family fishing outing.

I was a child . . . when he taught my brothers how to scale a fish and then fried crappy and hush puppies in a long cast iron pot that rested on two eyes on the stove top and demanded that we clean our plates because he'd spent hours "over the old hot stove."

I was a child . . . when he threw the pocket knives that he had given my brothers as gifts as far into the woods as he could throw them after he learned that they had drawn the knives on each other in a wrestling match that turned ugly.

I was a child . . . when he took my sister to the back room to punish her with his belt and she cried out in terror that didn't quite sound terrified and then returned to the table with almost a smile because in fact, he'd hit the bed, not her, and they laughed rather than cried.

I was a child . . . when Mother cried out on the eve of Christmas eve for my sister to come quickly and call the doctor, and uncles and aunts came and got me from my bed and took me to my grandmother's house and eventually told me that Daddy had gone to heaven.

I was a child . . . and then I wasn't.


Just saw the film The Incredibles. You gotta love the courage of the film makers given that that's quite a name to live up to. And, technically, it does. Only a few moments into this Pixar production and you forget that these are "animated" characters . . . ok, ok, so when she stretches from one side of a helicopter to the other and when he picks up a building maybe that's a good reminder that it's a cartoon but you know what I mean.

However, I can't say that I really, really liked this movie. In fact, I thought it was too long. Almost as if it was so convinced of its ability to transcend the cartoon world that it took itself too seriously at times and we actually spent waaaay too much time on character development. Truly, did you really ever need to know Popeye had "issues" with Brutus???

I did want to share one line that I found memorable, true, and made me just a tad melancholy. When the father admits that he doesn't want to go to his son's fourth grade "graduation" he says, "He's just moving from the fourth grade to the fifth. I mean really, people are simply finding more and more ways to celebrate mediocrity."

One of the film's themes seems to be that if everyone is special (as we've all been told via Sesame Street) then the only result is that no one is special.

While I didn't leave wanting to become a member of the film's fan club, I will say that it's been a while since an animated figure made me say hmmmmm....

Friday, December 03, 2004

Semi-sweet Revenge

I'm in the only room connected to the outside world at this place in the boondocks. I'm reading the blog of dooce and laughing out loud at her . . . ahem . . . rather colorful way of describing her parenting skills . . . and if this were audible and the FCC were involved, there would be plenty of bleeps to drown out her profanity.

Know who is sitting not 10 feet away at his own computer, checking his own email, and talking out loud to the screen?? The same man from the previous blog. I take certain comfort in the fact that while he can control the meeting and, in many ways, the world in which I work, he can't control what I have on the screen in front of me.

I know this is petty . . . but I'm still smiling.


A man . . . not just a man, but a man in a leadership role . . . not just any leadership but a leader of a MAJOR missions organization actually said today, "I wish we weren't always the ones who had to adapt to the ethnic minorities. I mean if we were entering a new culture, we'd adapt to it. I don't see why they can't sometimes be asked to adapt to ours."

We were talking about the lack of women and ethnic leaders on the boards and in leadership roles at mission organizations.

Can you begin to imagine how much fun I'm having at this consultation . . . in the boondocks of VA . . . where I walk in the cold with the cows and the stars at night in order to avoid other such fun conversations????!!!!! Can you?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


There are days when I think I've left my fundamental background and small town mentality behind and then there are days when that varmint raises its ugly head so quickly it takes a moment for me to bop it back into place!

Today was such a day.

World AIDS Day prompted the hospice where I volunteer to set up an information table at various health fairs held on campuses around the city. I said I would help at one of the larger schools that wasn't too far from my work.

When I arrived, I got the scoop on what we were to say, encourage, promote, give away, etc. from the younger woman who had the shift prior to mine. I paused at the sight of the condoms. Fortunately, I didn't gasp aloud as my former fundamentalist self might once had. I simply asked about another item on the table and then she said, "Oh, and we're supposed to point out that the mint flavored condoms are for oral sex only. The others are for intercourse."

I've worked a trade show before (sold sugar scrubs just last week to a bunch of junior leaguers and for several years, tried to sell books to booksellers who seemed to only be interested in "holy hardware"/"Jesus junk"). I've handed out flyers at many a missions fair describing the humanitarian needs of an entire population.

But I have never had to describe the differences between two particular types of condoms!

To be quite honest, I didn't have to do that today either. The college students had no hesitation about asking about the volunteer opportunities while simultaneously securing a handful of protection. They were much more interested in telling me details about lost loved ones (to the disease) than my listing the attributes of the prophylatics. And I obligingly and thankfully listened.

Listening gave me a chance to consider just how different these young adults were from the me of that age. I came to my college years having had one night of semi-drunken revelry which I immediately attoned for by "walking the aisle" and "rededicating" my life, a small number of back seat sexual close calls that weren't so close that I couldn't hold fast to my claim of virginity, and a religious background that had us debating the merits of going to the homecoming dance or not since it might cause someone to "stumble." I left that Christian college even more righteous.

So open tables of free condoms (ours wasn't the ony one) and open discussions with complete strangers regarding STDs wasn't exactly my college experience. I began to wonder if fundamentalist to secularist years aren't somewhat akin to human to dog year ratios and if I might not actually be about 20 years old in experiential counting!

But then I began to share my story . . .of what the work at the hospice meant to me, of how I'd seen the residents change from very affluent but abandoned by family to now homeless and often criminal clientele. I spoke of how the facility had changed, of all I'd learned. I even got into a lengthy discussion with a fellow volunteer about the spectrum of how churches respond to homosexuality and was able to assure him that while his personal experience might not yet support it (his born again partner of 18 years had recently given up the relationship because he could no longer endure the guilt) there were believers who would embrace him as is.

And soon, I felt like the wise, welcoming, and -- if I might be so bold and alliterate -- wonderful woman I know myself to be . . . safe and secure from all alarms.



Not a bad way to start a day . . . a month . . . a year . . . a lifetime.