Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Days!

I'm off . . . to Tennessee . . . to family . . . to listen to a friend going through the darkest of days . . . to bask in the joy that comes from teenage nieces who think I'm cool . . . to try and get to know a nephew that physical distance has equaled an emotional one as well for far too long . . . to help my mother cope with hostessing . . . to laugh with my sister as we share a stocking and several cups of coffee on Christmas morning . . . to remember once again that my brother is a gentle man . . . to check on Doc . . . to don an outrageous piece of Christmas head gear (I'm thinking the antlers), put down the top and give Greenfield something to talk about . . . to live in the expectancy that is Christmas.

Hope you have full and happy days as well . . .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Call Me A Lot of Things But Never 'Boring'

Moods shift at Christmas. So much expectation (both good and bad) hangs in the air Houston's humidity seems tame in comparison.

So on Friday night, I was determined to lift the spirit of a hard-working-rarely-playing-serious-student-who-is-over-50 friend of mine. We put the right mix of people in my car, put the top down on what I'm now seeing as my personal Christmas sleigh, donned amazingly tacky head gear (from an Elmer Fudd Seasons Greetings fake fur number to one girl's phallic symbol candy cane with attached misletoe to reindeer antlers) and stocked up on wrapped peppermint sticks. We then proceeded to some of the more festive areas of town and distributed the candy to anyone brave enough to accept it. We found the inline skaters who were out in mass in one neighborhood willing recipients!

My buddy deemed the night a smashing success and seemed restored enough to return to his retail-at-Christmas-omigod existence for the next week.

Yesterday my mission centered on showing a new Brit friend a proper Houston experience. We made our way by the Rothko chapel and found an appropriate balance of appreciation for both the contemplative space and the sheer audacity of covering humungous canvases with one color and deeming it art. Next we traveled to a nearby outdoor labyrinth for her first ever experience with this meditation device.

Did I mention it was raining?

When we got there the puddles were confined to the far outer circle. The drops were intermitent and seemed to be dissipating. I asked if she really wanted to risk the dampness and she was adamant that she was in.

Oh silly us.

By the time we finished, water was rushing down the bridge of her nose. She had nothing dry on her body. The rain had increased. We truly "walked on water" as we made our way through what was now a labyrinth puddle. And it was glorious!

Cranking up the heat and driving quickly but carefully back to my place we threw everything in the dryer and let hot showers and hot tea warm us. Lots of good conversation later we were once again toasty and ready for the evening.

Since my new friend is an actress I had wanted to introduce her to the theater scene in my adopted city but alas Monday night the lights are out on our venues. EXCEPT . . .

Houston's oldest dinner theater burned down last week and a group of former performers from there decided to make their Christmas cabaret act into a charity benefit for the waitstaff and performers who are now without work over the holidays. The Hobby Center even opened up (with FREE parking so you KNOW it was a charity experience) so that they could have a proper stage. So we had a nice meal made better by a really great waiter and sped downtown for the performance.

Having just told my buddy about my lack of enthusiasm for musical theater, she confessed that she had to smile when the entire show was a Broadway revue. I found that if I closed my eyes and tried not to concentrate on the forced smiles and canned choreography, it was a not too unpleasant experience. 'Cause you know . . .

"We need a little Christmas, right this very minute. We need a little Christmas now!" (and if you've seen as many Christmas variety shows as I've seen you can choose to pretend you just heard Donnie and Marie sing that or Andy Williams)

The night turned more pleasant than the day and we once again put the top down, tried to find the usual lights of Christmas downtown (what's up Macy's? you couldn't find Foley's massive light displays after you bought out the Houston mainstay????) and then determined that we needed to return to the blessed to bless neighborhood with themed streets.

And once again we found ourselves face to face with Gloria. She's the 59 year old woman who spends 32 days covering everything she can find with multi-color lights -- including a non-functioning cadillac which gets 4200 bulbs alone! She sits in her driveway with her neighbors who appeared to enjoy another reason to imbibe and greets the cars that drive by. Music blares from unseen speakers and she regales the crowd with stories of how she does what she does. After we made a small donation to her electric bill she even gave us a couple of photos so that my buddy would have something to verify the experience with.

A bit of wassail later at a friend's and I felt I'd done my elfing duty for the day.

Hope you and yours are having an equally exciting Christmas season!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tell Me I Didn't Do This!

Nice party. Nice friends. I handled being the "host's date" with ease. We laughed. We danced. The night went well.

So having waited to the last minute to make my way across Houston to meet a girlfriend who will be staying with me a couple of nights, I'm in a hurry. The car seems to be on but with the radio blaring I'm not sure. I note quickly that I haven't got enough gas for the hour's drive. I'm checking dials and pretending to listen to his goodbye as he leans into the window for a kiss.

And then it happens . . .

I look up, wave, and say, "Ok, love ya! ... "

Of course, I then immediately move to "WAIT!!! No I don't. I didn't mean that. I ABSOLUTELY didn't mean that. Not now. Not ever. Really."

Sweet man that he is, he assures me that he's already recognized I'm a bit distracted and totally understands the miscommunication.

I drive away with the sinking feeling that I'm a total idiot.

After I fill the tank, I call.

"Ok, try this . . . 'loved the pary', 'i have a lovely time', 'loved meeting your friends' -- choose one and pretend I said that, will you?"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Can't Get No . . .

Yesterday a friend asked me what I wanted for Christmas. We were emailing back and forth (because, argh, he has yet to get into instant messaging) and I replied with a tongue in cheek answer that was -- at the time -- supposed to be teasingly vague and intriguing.


I get points for vague but I think I was more intrigued than he with the speed in which I came up with this and later the actual truth of it.

Growing up in my oh-so-fundamentalist-but-I-didn't-know-it church, we sang "I am satisfied. . . . I am satisfied with Jesus." Today my little coffeehouse community will at times sing the song "Enough." But I don't sing that one. At least I haven't since I really considered the words, "Jesus, you're more than enough for me."

I don't sing it because . . . well, it's not true. At least not for me. At least not yet. OK, sometimes I allow for the fact that I want it to be true and so I'll sing in the hope of its reality in my life. But for the most part, I use this time to pray and ask God why satisfaction seems to be such an illusion for me.

Now, before some of you get out of sorts, let me clarify. Yes, I know that I have all that I need by way of physical comforts. The roof over my head may be someone else's floor but my humble abode is perfectly suited to my personality and the limits of my hospitality. The food I eat is beyond filling . . . even my snacks are exotic and luscious. My clothes are as stylish as I can push myself to attempt. I'm truly covered in every way. And believe me, "grateful" is with me all day, every day. I am absolutely grateful. But satisfied?

Satisfaction feels almost like an illusion . . . like smoke rising after the magician yells "abracadabra." I see it in the distance, exposed by the light, but touching it? Not really an option.

I know that greed makes many want for more. I know that addictions attempt to fill the hole. I know that many a religious fanatic would swear that Jesus has taken care of all that for them and (after saying a simple prayer with all heads bowed and eyes closed) will do so for me, you and whoever else we can grab as well.

But, I don't see it. I don't see satisfaction in those folks. I see striving similar to gerbils in a wheel, spinning without relocating to anywhere new. Even the ones that I know have some degree of peace . . . they're still "working at" this whole faith thing.

Peace . . . that's really what I'm talking about. You see that don't you? A peace that calms the want, quells the desire, caps the longing . . . now that would be satisfaction.

The angels told us it was coming -- peace on earth, good will, etc. But still we can't quite seem to get such satisfaction.

So . . . if you have some to spare . . . put a bow on it and send it my way, ok?

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Shitty Day

The title may get me blocked from any number of screens (though why everyone else's filters should work better than mine which allows 200 email offers for watches, stocks, and erectile dysfunction solutions each day is confusing me). But it's the truth. While the shit didn't hit the fan, it was everywhere else.

Roger and I were actually experiencing a slow day at Omega House. We had every intention of doing a major cleanup in the kitchen as instructed. Only four residents were on hand and one of them was heading to church so we figured after bed changes we were good to go on the whole kitchen thing.

Silly, silly us.

We rushed into the den when we heard one of the residents call out. "M" had fallen out of the chair. As we helped him back to his seat, we noticed his clothes were wet. Since he wore a catheter we knew what it wasn't. I, being ever the hopeful one, started looking for the orange juice glass he'd obviously spilled.

Roger, whose head was not as stopped up as mine, pointed out that it wasn't juice.

We helped the nurse get him first in the wheel chair and then back to his room. Roger assisted in there while I tended to disinfecting the den furniture. I arrived in time to see how bad the next few minutes were going to be. (For those of you who think I've already shared way too many details already, just skip this blog entry now.)

What we couldn't quite figure out was how it could be everywhere . . . thighs, calves, even his feet! And so very much of it. . . I swear nurses should get combat pay.

My hero, David, did the bulk of the cleanup with Roger assisting. I held the trash bag and made the executive decision that most of the soiled clothes were beyond rescue. As David finally cared for the wound that made this man's backside look like hamburger meat and had the diaper halfway taped up, Roger was the first to see. Seems "M" wasn't finished with his moving experience.

We started over.

Bed baths weren't new to us but working around all the soiled sheets and clothes and wipes and whatever was certainly ... uh ... interesting. I scrubbed on his feet for quite some time --somehow rationalizing that if his feet were cleaned that would wash away all that I'd just seen. We bathed him and bathed him again. David came to the door to tell us he had visitors and we tried even harder. We were determined to make his day new again.

"M" was fairly clueless we were even in the room. He's heavily sedated and doesn't really make sense when he tries to tell us something. But we responded to whatever he was muttering as if he were a Nobel Peace Prize winner uttering great bits of wisdom.

We gave him the bath. We gave him new sheets. We gave him new clothes. We gave him his dignity.

He'd had a shitty day, but his friends never knew.

And that's what volunteers do.

More Losses

Walker said "thank you" more than any resident I've ever worked with at Omega House. He once sent another volunteer to tell me his eggs that morning were some of the best he'd ever had. (I had tried a new approach to scrambling, something I'd seen on the Food Network, but really they were just scrambled eggs!). He seemed so troubled when he had to ask for extra help -- like could we keep the mop bucket down the hall rather than at his door since the Pine Sol scent was too much for his emphysema-wracked lungs?

Walker once traveled a great deal. He was a veteran. He was from Mississippi. He loved country cooking and swapping recipes. A few months ago, he gained the freedom he'd been lacking when he got a new laptop and wirelessly connected with people and places from his past. He often spoke of "travels" he'd made right from his bed.

I learned Walker had died on Friday night at the volunteer Christmas party. On Saturday, I went to his room first. The silence was almost overwhelming. For months, the steady flow of oxygen was the sound that hit you first as you entered the room. Now ... nothing. After remembering Walker, I walked to Miles' room and thought once again of him. In a matter of moments, I learned Robyn had passed away as well. He was my veggie loving partner in crime who had taught me how to cook spaghetti squash on my last visit.

So much loss . . . but that's the way a hospice works. We are there for the dying. I'm glad, though, when we get to know something of their living before they leave us.

Monday, December 04, 2006


The memory I cherish is Miles smiling broadly (with his brand new teeth that he'd been given that very week) and waving in recognition as we shouted his name from the sidelines of the Gay Pride Parade just two short years ago. He was finally leaving Omega House after more than a year of residency, leaving healthy -- a rare feat at a hospice -- and had been asked to ride in the car that served as the organization's parade entry. He had the "homecoming queen" wave down pat by the time he got to us. We all beamed.

Miles was self-care for most of my acquaintance with him. We love "self-care". No diapers, no baths or showers to assist with, actual conversation with coherent points connecting A to Z -- that's self-care. Usually, all we provided was a cup half filled with coffee and half filled with Ensure, a nutritional supplement that gave him a mocha lift with his cigarette.

Miles wasn't supposed to live at Omega House -- in the sense that he pretty much set up residency and everyone tended to look the other way when he continued to improve and his stay extended waaaaaaay beyond the six months usually allotted for folks who come our way. He had a shelf of bric-a-brac and plants that defied the decorator's impersonal lavish designs for the rooms. He had his cigarettes. He was home.

We almost felt a friend was moving away as we waved at Miles in the parade. I remember tearing up.

About a year later, Miles returned to us. The streets and poor choices had him back to the poor health that needs continued monitoring. I kept waiting for the famous "Miles comeback tour" to begin again. It didn't.

Miles died this past weekend. His body was truly skin and bones (in this case, I'm not using hyperbole). He'd long since stopped wearing the teeth. When I was last there, he didn't even make it to the patio for one of his beloved cigarettes.

But I'll not remember that Miles. My Miles is waving, smiling and waving, and this parade has no end.

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day Comes Home

I'm wearing a pin today that has a red ribbon on it. Actually, the pin is a reproduction of a stamp . . . as in "Stamp Out AIDS".

My brother was a postal worker. He collected a few stamps through the years. When I see one that intrigues me, I think of him.

My brother died but not from AIDS. He was alive one March evening and then suddenly he wasn't. In my family, hearts are full but not always strong.

Today, I'm remembering a great many dead people because today the world is supposed to be coming together to say AIDS is bad and we need to be rid of it.

I agree and I'm wearing a ribbon. But I'm also thinking about Bart and wondering what he'd think of me now. I've changed a bit since we last chatted. We used to agree to disagree about many things -- politics, religion, the way the church worked or didn't. And though many people say they can do that and then don't, Bart and I did. We loved each other and that transcended discussions about ideas. I know ideas shape us and we are our ideas but, for Bart and me, we were more than that.

Brother, sister, family. God, I'm grateful I can remember that.

Today my prayer is that those living with AIDS have a family they can turn to that gets to the heart of the matter, that those living with AIDS continue to live, and that those families who don't yet get that nothing in life is guaranteed and have not yet embraced their loved one and that people can leave us in a moment . . . well, I pray that they go now and grab the hug that I long for.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

3 Little Words, 1 Big Effort

3 little words
change everything
3 little words
filled with grace
3 little words
offering peace
3 little words

"You were right."

Once Again, Breathing Matters

I breathed. I listened. I stopped over-thinking.

Today is MUCH better.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sad Today, Sun Tomorrow?

Disappointment sucks. I've invested some time into a relationship and have this gnawing feeling that the return on that investment isn't going to please me. What "pleasing me" would look like is a bit fuzzy but would definitely include choosing me over TV after my having been away for several days.

Some folks have suggested I tend to overthink things. I agree. But the evidence is in on this one and I'm left with . . . leftovers. While I'm a creative cook, I think I deserve gourmet.

So I'm backing off. The investment is already made. The dividends are going to mature or they're not. But I've grown too fond of the woman I now perceive myself to be to allow her to be hurt by someone's short sightedness.

This feels like a soap opera synopsis so . . . to be continued.

Quotable Quote #? (I used to keep track)

There's a helluva distance between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

--Dorothy Parker

Monday, November 27, 2006

Meeting Musings (perhaps not poetry but lyrics?)

Paying my dues
Gripping and grinning
Biding my time
Keeping plates spinning
My “yes” is my “yes”
As well as my “no”
I’ll do what I can
To go with the flow

Looking the part
Playing the game
Working 9 to 5
Settling for fortune not fame
I talk the talk
Use the lingo
I’ll do what I can
To go with the flow

But when the clock sets me free
I’m free indeed
Free to be, to see, to say what I need
Free for the taking
And take I will
The glass I’ve been draining
I’m ready to re-fill
Of little I’m sure but this I know
By all means, let the good times flow

Friday, November 24, 2006

Beach Walking Wake Up

The drapes were blowing through the patio doors. . . . billowing actually . . . catching my eye and my breath with the grandness. But I was troubled as well. Open doors would make sense if we were in the heat of an Alabama summer. But this was a pre-Thanksgiving walk along an almost uninhabited beach.

Still one room and then another and another were all experiencing the breeze. A suggestion of normalcy existed. Furniture awaited fulfillment of function. Patio chairs sat empty.

Then I saw the upturned armchair, the broken window. And cold reality joined the wind.

The hotel was abandoned. Concrete cubes still contained the remains of what once meant comfort to castle-building kids, sun-scorched teens, and fished out men and women. But no soul would check in to this inn again.

Hurricanes bring both destruction and great change.

I had just been considering the exhilaration that is my life -- a sunny day, health to walk the sands with smile-filled energy, friends with whom to play and contemplate everything from Scrabble strategies to church planting. Yet moments before I saw the open windows I had allowed a brief moment of reality to sit in. One slight shift and the landscape would change drastically. One loss, one false move, one disappointment and the shell might remain but day-in/day-out would seem so empty.

Sooooo . . . I turned my gaze to the sun and kept walking, leaving reality for another day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Definitely Grateful

Since we Americans feel the need to make everything "official" in order for it to truly be real (images of the Velveteen Rabbit just flashed through my mind), we've given ourselves permission, yea, verily even dictated that folks get grateful on this Thursday.

Thanks-giving has never been too difficult for me. I need no holiday to encourage me to look around a table at the bounty of friends who surround me -- the diversity of thought, culture, experience, humor, stories, beauty, grace -- and give thanks. "Blessed" sometimes feels like a word that's been hijacked by people with whom I no longer agree and I use it reluctantly because of those conotations but I truly feel blessed to be part of the God-given families of birth and choice in my life.

I am amazed at the life I've been fortunate enough to lead. While never knowing the extended belly poverty I've seen in parts of the world, I grew up very aware of my family's lack of wealth. Still, I never went hungry and the times I went "without" were few and far between. I complained the year I got a garage sale Barbie with homemade (actually crocheted, if you can picture that) clothes but, hey, I had one of those damn dolls, didn't I? And it sufficiently warped my psyche for years.

Today I travel. I know, enjoy, cook and delight in sharing good food with others. My home has people from all over the world enter its comfort. They may not have had their own bathroom or 350 count sheets ... they may not have even enjoyed a real bed ... but they were there, gifting me with their wisdom and tales of life journeys.

Today I know adventure. Each moment for me is precious. I've seen too many people leave this earth too early. I have no intention of wasting time. Some watch and wonder and quietly suggest that perhaps I should watch that proverbial candle-burning a bit more closely. But if there's a rock to climb, I'm climbing it; a river to cross, then I'm on the other side; a mountaintop to reach, then I'm there; I'm even good with a perfectly good plane to jump out of.

Today I love, I laugh, I cry, I experience freedom, I risk, I relish, I embrace, I enjoy. Today I'm definitely grateful.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Serious" Games

Wondering if any of you have checked the idea of "serious games" out . . . and if so what you think? Here's a link to one called Darfur Is Dying.

Halfway to Nowhere (At least not yet)

I'm not sure.

I sound sure.

I'm sure I seem sure when others ask.

But overall

I'm not sure . . . and I hate that halfway feeling.

Undeveloped Thoughts

I'm sure I thought this scribble on an envelope might make a good post once it was further developed. I haven't developed it so maybe it should just be what it is and nothing more:

Makeshift meaning . . . patching in importance where it was never intended.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wow! Has It Been That Long?

I'm tired today. I'm too weary to synthesize or summarize or theorize about all that's transpired in the two weeks since I last posted. I will, however, give you a sampling of the ingredients and if you choose to cook up an interesting story to go along with it -- true or only rooted in truth -- I'd be delighted to hear it.

airport runs . . . accents that amused me and put smiles on the faces of almost every Texan that heard them . . . friends coming to my rescue so that sweet kisses weren't entirely off my agenda . . . cultural divides and bridge builders . . . back rubs that found THE spot and made it momentarily better . . . networks and node runners . . . markers and flip charts and mindmaps . . . questions, questions, questions . . . pain revealed and pain hidden . . . a job interview that turned into an offer to volunteer and a recommitment to who I am and what I'm doing in this moment in time . . . King Ranch Chicken the way it's supposed to be made . . . young adults challenging older adults to live what they teach . . . laughter -- God, I love laughter! . . . hesitancy and surety . . . appreciation of the wisdom that comes with experience . . . honoring enthusiasm (and sometimes not) . . . Texas Two Stepping with my favorite 70 year old rodeo cowboy . . . watching the Brit's feet while line dancing and realizing he was soooo much better than me . . . the power of breathing brought on by occasional but much needed walks . . . the joy of seeing someone geniunely smile . . . fearing illness, finding I'm only human and tears happen . . . bad calls . . . grace . . . circular tables do make for good conversation around the dinner table . . . realizing once again my job is not to fix anything . . . or anybody . . . risking and failing, risking and succeeding . . . pioneers in space and time . . . saying goodbye . . . making people feel . . . making people comfortable . . . art . . . good food . . . a glass of wine at just the right time . . . heartfelt enthusiasm . . . stars overcoming the blackness on a rural farm then the turn toward day as the sun rises and I don't have to think . . . a much needed nap . . . a group of coworkers I respect . . . hard work, head work . . . massaging egos when I what I want to do is kick asses (and that remark has nothing to do with anyone with a foreign-to-Texas accent) . . . wanting to make the hurts better and realizing I'm helpless . . . wondering what God is up to or if God is even paying attention . . . deleting 600 spam ads not detected by my security measures . . . today, breathing once again and looking forward to more time with friends.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Depression is depressing ...

A friend of mine lives in China. She’s not Chinese by birth but she has a Chinese heart. She fell in love with the land and the people more than a decade ago and has even made a few sacrifices in order to live there. She uses an email newsletter to share some of her experiences and occasionally make observations regarding the people around her.

The tables turned on her recently when someone heard a story on U.S. radio about a Chinese situation and asked her about it. Seems NPR featured the tale of a man who saved people who were attempting to commit suicide by jumping off the Nanjing bridge into the Yangzi River. Chen is about 38 years old, a manager in a company, and he spends his weekends patrolling the bridge and talking people out of jumping, and sometimes manhandling them to keep them from going over.

She writes, “He started this mission (he isn't religious, but this is clearly a mission) during 2003 and has saved 102 persons. He seems to have a gift for knowing who is a candidate for jumping. . . . He has learned how to detect the clues of depression -- lack of purposeful direction, a vacant expression. He strikes up a conversation and tries to get people to connect with him emotionally; this often results in tearful confessions of depression, lack of money, illness, no job, marriage problems, and so forth. Sometimes he takes the people home with him until they are stable. His wife isn't too keen on this, but apparently she puts up with it and, when the person is female, takes care of her.”

After hearing the story and investigating, my friend connected yet another friend who teaches psychology to Chen. As a result, he’s getting some help with his ongoing bridge surveys.

My friend said that she’s learned nearly 250,000 people commit suicide in China every year, one every two minutes. Another 2 million attempt suicide each year. One shocking statistic she found is that 37 percent of those who attempt suicide consider it for less than five minutes, and 60 percent consider it for less than two hours. Suicide has become the main cause of death in persons aged 15-34.

Last week I heard that authorities had found the body of a pastor acquaintance of mine. He lived in another city. I’d done a consulting gig with this man. He’d shared his hopes for his congregation as well as his struggles with depression and alcoholism. I thought his vision was a good one and told him so. I doubted he was the leader who could accomplish it. I didn’t tell him that. He didn’t ask. My hope was that his hope for the future tilted the scales toward the positive in his life. Guess I was wrong.

Depression to the point of suicide is unfathomable to me. But then again, I’m not depressed. I’ve known this disease from afar and close enough to feel its hot breath on the back of my neck. I never see fun runs for it or Labor Day telethons but its victims are legion – those that leave and the hundreds they leave behind.

I don’t blame my pastor friend or my high school best friend (who we also lost to sucide)or all the folks I’ve known who have suffered the day to day life drain that depression brings. I am angry however. But I just don’t know where the anger goes. So for now, it goes here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Shannon posted this one and I thought it worthy of not just linking to, which I am, but also reproducing here . . .

“I will not die and unlived life
I will not live in FEAR
of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me
to make me less afraid
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom
goes on as fruit”

–Dawna Markova

Surreality . . . My Life Is Full of It*

Hard to complain about an early morning doctor's appointment for my annual boob smashing when I spent my time in the waiting room editing a story that included references to Pol Pot's murderous regime in Cambodia.

*yes, I knew what you might think when I chose this title

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I've Been Sick

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you may have noted that I've begun posting several in one day. For those of you who may be new or only peeking in occasionally, please note that several posts exist below this one and they are all new. Oh, and I've been sick so this is the first day in a while that I felt like typing.

Here's One for All the Theologians . . . Or Anyone Else with a Good Guess

So my friend and I are talking about the passage that says Jesus loved his disciples the way God had loved Jesus. And I got to thinking, "What exactly are we talking about here? What does that love look like?"

For instance, Jesus was born to a young unmarried woman insuring his status as a bastard in some folks' eyes. He lived the immigrant lifestyle in his early years (good thing there wasn't a 700 mile border wall south of his homeland, huh?). If he carried that same attitude he took with the temple teachers as a young boy into the schoolyard, I'm sure all his playmates thought the whole "God complex" he had going on was just ever so endearing. And Dan Brown assertions aside, he doesn't appear to have been intimately involved with anyone of the female persuasion as he traveled around with some of the smelliest, sweatiest, stubbornest varmits he could have found. All to get to die in way we all know wasn't pleasant.

For me, that's not exactly the "look of love." I doubt many of us would sign up for that kind of fatherly attention.

So what does the God's love look like that we're supposed to be reproducing?

Ain't that sweet . . .

Me: Sir, I gotta tell you that I find you to be a most interesting man.

Him: (pause) Well, you're gorgeous and obviously I need to spend a little more time listening to your stories because you've lived a fascinating life.

Me: That was a perfect response.

Deja Vu But Not Really

We rode the escalator to the ballroom level of the Hilton Americas. The last time I'd done so, I emerged to a view of 750 gay men eyeing what was available at the silent auction that would benefit human rights advocacy. This time the crowd was once again 750 strong but they were cowboys and their spouses and their silent auction proceeds go to scholarships.

Much to the chagrine of both groups, I'm sure, I smiled at their contrasts and similarities. Seems bad fashion crosses all cultural lines. Way too many people seem to lack full length mirrors in their homes or friends good enough to give them the "just cause they have it in your size, doesn't mean you need to wear it" speech. Alcohol consumption definitely boosted both groups' generosity. Seeing and being seen is a party game in either camp. The sweetest disparity I saw came when we stopped to examine one of the auction items at the cowboy table. Whereas the gay boys had a refrigerated wine cooler and a couple of cases of wine featured in a focal spot, these boys had a premium ice chest with all the acoutrements needed for a kicking fishing expedition.

To each his own indeed ....

Second Time to Quote this Guy

From The Week October 20, 2006 issue, column of the editor William Falk:

When I first noticed grown men ogling my daughter, she was barely 14. She hadn't started high school, and she was walking next to her dad, yet men in their 30s and 40s were checking her out with undisguised prurient interest. I often challenged these gawkers with a glare; they'd look back with no evident shame, as if to say, "Yeah, you caught me. So what?" Julia -- who's now 15, younger than any congressional page -- says that she and her friends run into this kind of leering everywhere. Men two or three times her age approach her on the street and try to engage her in conversation. She's grown afraid to go running in our suburban neighborhood, because so many men shout obscene comments out ther car windows. Not one of these men, I would venture to guess, is gay.

Of all the lessons being drawn from the Mark Foley scandal, the most laughable is that this is what happens when you put gay men in Congress. "Whether we admit it or not," said columnist Pat Buchanan this week, "many male homosexuals have a thing for teenage boys." I'd restate that sentence a bit more broadly. Whether we admit it or not, many men have a thing for teenagers -- and they no longer feel very guilty about it. Let us not forget that when she was the same age as Foley's page friends, Britney Spears was our culture's biggest sex symbol. Of the dozens of sex scandals in Washington's recent past, 98 percent have involved straight men with much younger women. So if we really want a Congress free of scandal and drooling predators, it's not gay men we should purge from politics. We should stop electing men. [his italics]

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We Just Drove . . .

Saturday was one of my favorite days in Houston. I love living here most every day but on Bayou City Arts Festival Saturday, I feel like I do after a long afternoon in a bookstore -- like I've been to worship gathering where everyone accepts and no one blames.

I'm not so naive that I believe artists are without malice and envy. That's not it. I just love breathing in creativity, even when I don't like what I see, even when it hurts. Something mysterious is untethered within my soul as I walk from booth to booth and am reminded of greater forces at work than I can understand. Colors, textures, ideas and images wash over me and I'm clean again.

Definitely dealing with the metaphor here, given that we are talking Houston and even a breezy day like Saturday came with some high temps and the resulting sweat. Still, I thrilled at each encounter.

Yes, I bought a piece. Yes, Roger bought a piece. Yes, Stan did as well. We don't pay to get into the event since we serve as volunteers and offer relief to the artists in the form of booth sitting while they grab food or a spot in the Porta Potty line. . While our charity -- Bering Omega -- gets a portion of the gate for supplying volunteers, the festival also never fails to gain from our participation. Much of my home is decorated with festival buys.

But as much as I love this event, and I'm hoping you can tell that I do, what we did afterwards was even better.

We just drove.

Roger and I were hungry but we couldn't decide where to go. So we put the top down and started driving, agreeing that when we saw what we knew we wanted we'd speak out. We took the side streets through the city and around the wards. We ate supper in the Heights outside. We kept driving. I would sometimes make the choice of which road to take and sometimes just ask, "Left or right?" One or the other of my two favorite men would respond and we'd see if that street was going to include teens in the park declaring, "I'm feelin' ya" as we drove the VW in its red splendor or old men sitting on the bumper of cars seemingly permanently parked in yards. We saw crowds gathering for soccer games and football games and what was probably a drug deal. We smelled the richness of outdoor cooks prepping for the evening grease fix the drunks stumbling out of cantinas would need. We watched old women fold up closer to the card table to see the game in the darkness. We marveled at the sun setting behind the clouds and reflecting off the most beautiful skyline in America.

Well, the most beautiful on this Saturday, the Saturday we just drove.

If I Were In Charge of the World . . .

I wouldn't be. If I Were in Charge of the World is the title of a children's book I often used in workshops and speeches. Amusing and telling, it placed the author in a position of power she dreamed of and yet soon discovered wasn't for her.

I don't want to be in charge. I started my professional career with quite a bit of responsibility and for ten years climbed the ladder, adding more people to supervise, more zeroes in my budget and my salary, and more reasons to work late at night and on the weekends.

With every job change since that first decade, I've taken on less. Today, I'm a consultant. I don't even supervise an adminstrative assistant! And the only things I'm usually responsible for are fairly easy to produce.

At the moment, though, I'm working on details related to hosting a weeklong meeting in November. I keep trying to hand off bits and pieces of the decision making but much of it is still left to me.

I don't want to be in charge.

And yet, because I want this meeting to go well, because I want to either birth this thing or bury it, because people I care about are part of it, I'm treating this like a weeklong visit from family. I'm trying to find the balance between fun and progress, between structure and freedom. I'm answering questions and taking polls.

And just like those days when I was in charge, I could use a back rub and someone to tell me to shut it off, to let it go, to save tomorrow's worries until then.

If I were in charge of the world, there'd be more backrubs.

Rainy Days and Mondays . . .

They don't get me down. In fact, I relish hearing raindrops tapping at my picture window. Though I can't take a whole night of it, even the zydeco-reflective percussion of drops hitting my washtub/icechest housed on the patio stirs something within me. Someting in between want and waiting waits for me on a rainy Monday.

Yesterday, Houston wasn't alowed its usual denial that we are indeed a tropical climate, flat and without the necessary outlets for water to flow. After a deluge that reached into the teens, streets were now rivers, cars were boats, and people were . . . not always wise.

Having learned from my past experience when I floated down Shepherd in my Toyota, I took the new VW home as soon as possible. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon safe and dry.

Or at least as safe as my reflections and imagination would allow.

What is it about being confined that prompts thoughts of release? What is it in me that takes the gift of a free day and does little to redeem it? Why does being alone cause me to want the opposite?

I'm surrounded by people who would drop everything to come to my aid. I have no question regarding my status as friend. Yet, when given the perfect opportunity to ask for what I want, I hesitate. And then ask the one person who can't say yes.

Rainy days and Mondays . . . may not get me down but they do bring down a deluge of self-doubt. Glad the sun is out today.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I've Got to Stop Reading These Magazines

The ad features 18 photos of the hosts/speakers for an upcoming event addressing an "emerging Faith Forward movement". One woman's face appears in the snapshots. She's the wife of the senior pastor and, fittingly, considered a host.

The two page advertisement suggests the reader "Find your place . . . "

I think I have. But it's not at this workshop.

In Light of the News from North Korea

I propose that if a caricature would appear redundant, we refuse power to any would-be tyrants, rulers, presidents, kings or what-nots. 'Cause really, we're just making it too easy on the political cartoonists these days!

Dabbling in Dapple-ness

Gerald Manley Hopkins must have loved the word "dappled." He often used a form of it in his poetry. I think of him when I walk the path around Rice University on a Sunday morning. The overhang of the trees creates the most impressive illustration of dappled light on the crushed stone. I am always transported to a less heavy place within my soul as I imagine hopscotching my way from light spot to light spot.

For those of you who don't know Rice's tree-lined splendors or the joy evoked when Houston's heat is traded for breezey bursts of actual cool-ness, I invite you for a visit.

And may you all be splashed with dapple drenched delights this day.

Bargain Hunting

My hometown drew quite the crowd on Saturdays. Known for two things, Greenfield had a reputation for being the place to be on the weekend. Folks from miles away would stop at Allison's Restaurant for the pie -- before and, if they were smart, after as well -- a visit to The Factory Outlet.

Please note that this was in the day before outlet stores scored metal, color-coordinated roofs and determined that "outlet" had to in no way mean less expensive. No, The Factory Outlet truly was. Discards from the factory made their way to the crowded, soon to be disheveled aisles and into the hands of bargain hunters like my mom. A widow with four kids and a salary that barely made it out of the teens when I was still in mine, Mom had a way with a markdown. I truly believe that she can walk into that store even today (with its wider aisles and more attentive, or at least neater staff) and the exact two pieces that go together but are housed in separate sections of the store will leap off the racks and into her hands in her very size which she will trust without trying it on because, really, she can always return it. The woman always looked like she'd walked out of Goldsmiths (Tennessee's version of Foleys for all you Texans) but we who were in the know knew that the $200 outfit really only cost her $20.

The Factory Outlet celebrated its "outlet-ness." The pieces weren't quite good enough and instead of hiding the fact -- insuring that you'd have to win at hide and seek to discover that the material in the trouser legs were from two different bolts of cloth -- this store shouted its frailty at you. Colored tape on the flaw established exactly what the issue was. If you determined that the light would never be sooooo right as to highlight the color difference, then those pants could be yours at a fraction of what they'd cost you in perfection.

The labels had to be removed but you could always tell if you were getting a L--nd's E-- jacket. Logos are graphics for a reason, and no amount of creative cutting was going to remove the telltale signs.

Since everyone in town knew that everyone else shopped there, we had no sense of shame for walking around with our flaws showing.

I'm fairly sure this shaped me. I'm much more inclined to celebrate the flaws than pursue perfection. Recently, I encountered an individual who must have always purchased off the department store rack . . . and not on sales days. He just didn't seem to have a lot of time or patience for those who might have been slightly "less than" in his book. Education, money, position, power were all very much a part of his vocabulary.

That's when I remembered The Factory Outlet and longed for my favorite pair of corduroys with the indentation on the "tread." They fit me so much better than he did.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Go Tell It on the Mountain ... Or anywhere else, just not here

Today was a reading day. My seminary's alumni magazine had a cover story on evangelists. The local paper carried a piece on an evangelist that is taking over one of our city parks for the next couple of days to reach young people with the "message of Jesus" via music, extreme sports and feel good sermons. The state Baptist paper featured the Baylor University commissioned study that revealed God is viewed four ways: authoritarian, benevolent, critical or distant. Even the national weekly called (appropriately enough)The Week captured that story.

After a morning of "monitoring the pulse" of my audience, I had this need to go wash my hands.

Yuck! We've Christianized and Baptized to the point of t-shirt evangelism as fix-its for life. I can't be a part of this. If it works for others, fine, have at it. But I'm not into the asshole, buddy, judge or asteroid God of the survey, so I can't share the joy of "telling that story to the nations."

Twice this week I was asked my view on scriptures. For the first time -- out loud -- I answered honestly. If you too care to know, ask me. That's about as evangelical as I can get.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Aches and Answers

A's -- I never really had much of a problem with them. If you listen to what the professor is saying and you give it back, you get the A. You don't always learn, but you make the grade.

Aches -- Longing has been my longtime companion. When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to be in the land of luxury "as seen on TV" rather than the rural reality imposed by Greenfield's city limits. In college, I missed my father. I used to hold my pillow tightly to my chest and weep at the loss of him (even though that loss had actually occurred ten years prior). Perhaps it was because I was on my own in so many ways and the idea of someone to take care of me was incredibly alluring. In my marriage . . . well, let's just say I longed for something I finally realized I'd never have. And now, I ache again. I'm angry at that because my life is so full. I'm reminded daily of people who support me, ideas that challenge me, work that satisfies me. Still the ache comes when catching a glimpse of what could be, when the image vanishes vapor-like and I'm left empty-handed. I want a hand to hold that can carry part of the load, who understands my language, desires, and delights. Yes, there are possibile candidates but thus far, the ache remains.

Answers -- For the most part, I'm ok with not having them. Questions regarding faith, life, the best way to slow cook a pork tenderloin and whether I should color my hair yet again ABOUND! Except for the pork one (I cooked it yesterday), I'm good with the waiting, even (as with the faith one) if that translates into eternity. In fact, with the faith stuff, I'm pretty well convinced that waiting is first line of defense. God doesn't appear to be in the immediate gratification business. However, I sometimes act as those God is. So recently, I prayed. An answer came. I celebrated . . . and then ached all over again. Why is it that doing the right thing doesn't always take the ache away? What makes us long for those things that too distant, too complex? Why isn't the here and now good and enough?

"Juxtaposition" is one of those words that suggests an education might be in effect. I got A's in English. I may have learned a thing or two as well. Seems I'm smart enough that the irony found in the juxtaposition of my answered prayer and the continuing ache isn't lost on me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Purple Mountain Majesty

I realized I hadn't been in New Mexico in over a decade ... maybe even a decade and a half! Yet last Friday when the plane dropped closer to the ground and I caught a glimpse of the desert resting at the foot of the mountains, I breathed a pleasant sigh.

(A good last whole breath, too, since I was about to land in the high altitude that was guaranteed to take my breath away and constrict my stomach muscles into tight knots throughout the weekend.)

Once again New Mexico delivered ... a tram ride to the top of peak that overlooks Alburquerque, hot air balloons seen through the open roof of my buddy's convertible and chased from ascent spot to descent in the early morning hours, a tour of one of the oldest residential pueblos led by a chief, great food, horses (for looking not riding), and fun and games.

But the biggest intake of breath I reserved for the sun. Rising or setting, it commanded my attention. As the mountainside caught a glimpse of its splendor, it followed the lead and changed colors right before my eyes -- first pink and then a purple so rich you could almost believe the only true way to honor it was to bow before it.

I love this country.

I love that I have email conversations like this . . .

Him: "I see dead paradigms."

Me: "Night of the Living Dead Paradigms -- can you see the movie trailer?"

Him: "hmmm. a whole new genre: slasher-zombie-gothic-horror combined with agrarian-apocalyptic. man, i think i'm ready to ralph already!"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Places Everyone!

The mayor's name came before mine but mine was there. Page one of the program marking the Sing for Hope event which raises money for the AIDS hospice where I volunteer declared his status at the event -- honorary chair -- as well as mine -- member of the steering committee.

The first thought that came to me as I read the words was, "Who would have 'thunk' it? A girl from Greenfield, Tennessee sharing a page with the mayor of Houston!"

Then I smiled. Because what got him and most of the others page one recognition had a lot to do with power, position and money. I came to page one by way of cleaning toilets.

More than ten years ago, I began as a volunteer and in the first few years I was primarily a cook and cleaner at the house where essentially people living with AIDS go to die as a result of the damn disease. Some of my most calming meditative moments have been on my knees in front of the hospice toilets. It's quiet there. The fan drowns out the constant TV blare. You kind of face your own mortality in that you are gloved for a reason. And the experience is rather humbling. Pretty makes for a great atmosphere for prayer.

On Saturday night I rounded up a crew to work backstage for this event. We had teachers, folks from the medical profession, ministers, therapists and even a lawyer all ready to do whatever was asked of them ... in the quiet, in the dark, behind the curtain.

One of the ministers even acknowledged that on this, his first time, behind the scenes, he felt slightly strange and out of place. He was used to the light, to seeing the faces of his audience. I smiled once again. Because a decade ago, I made up my mind that I no longer had to say yes to every request for me to speak to the masses, that I didn't "need" the crowds, and that I was at my best making others look good. But I certainly understood his sentiment. We all need to find our roles and revel in them.

So Saturday in the dark, I spent a great deal of time smiling. Yes, I was on the front page but no one with money or power had a clue who I was. And if they'd scanned the well-groomed crowd of generous supporters, they wouldn't have found me.

But I was there ... exactly where I was supposed to be.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Birthday Wishes

I spent Saturday night with an adorable blonde. . . . And several of his best friends . . . . for his ninth birthday celebration.

I met up with the gang when they were playing flashlight tag in a park about a block from his house. His parents were in the throes of parenting, disciplining, and the usual party games. I offered to take the crowd home with the top down and the music as loud as we could get it given that we were in a residential area. No one seemed to have a problem with this idea.

We made the ride last a while. I was giving mom & dad time to make it back to the house and start the fire (yes, this is Houston and my sweat was sweating, but yes, they built a fire in the backyard for S'mores). Before we unloaded, we had snapshots taken.

Soon, I was staffing the S'mores "bar" preparing the graham crackers and chocolate to readily receive the cooked marshmellows. What I was really doing was getting as far away from that fire as I could. Wouldn't want the chocolate to melt prematurely, would we?

Tyler, who came to just above my thigh as one of the shorter buddies who were there for the sleepover, walked up to my makeshift bar and began a conversation. I looked up and then down to note that he was carrying his drink like I'd seen any number of men do at a cocktail party. Looking over the rim, taking a sip, he asked, "So what's your connection with this crowd?"

I tried not to smile at how by the minute he was becoming a schmoozer. "I'm a friend," I said.

"Oh, I thought maybe you might be the grandmother or something," he offered.

I'm only ten years older than the parents so I respond loudly so they can hear me, "No, I'm not the GRANDMOTHER."

But I'm smiling, actually almost laughing so I'm not sure that he's picked up on his faux paux until he says, with the determination I've seen many a man try to dig his way out of similar verbal holes, "Well, I just wanted you to know, you have a really, cool car!"

And with that he walked away to mingle with the other guests.

Later I judged the burping and arm farting contest and felt the need to insure he knew all was well between us so I declared him the arm fart king.

Again with the Tears ...

The play is called "The Normal Heart" and was written in 1985 by Larry Kramer, an initially reluctant and then in-your-face AIDS advocate, who portrays his own S.O.B.-ness quite well in the course of the 90 minutes it takes to recap the early days of what became known as AIDS.

A local theater group transformed an art gallery into their stage where an intimate crowd of about 50 could gather. When I attended only about 35 were there. The director explained in some opening remarks that several of his friends had applauded his acknowledging the 25th anniversary of the disease's discovery with this production. But that they had also told him they wouldn't be in attendance. Seeing what they'd lived was just too hard.

By scene 11 I was crying. At scene 16 and the close of the play, I was sobbing, shaking and wishing the intimate setting weren't quite so intimate. The bowing actors weren't three feet from my sniffing, snorting, napkin-blowing hysteria. I kept my head down but who was I kidding?

I sat still for just a few minutes to regain some composure and soon one of the actors came from backstage. He'd hurriedly dressed in order to make it to me. Asking my friend if it would be "appropriate" and then me, he hugged me long and hard.

"It's taken too long," he said in my ear as he continued to hold on and I began sobbing again.

He meant to cure this horrific disease. I agreed, but didn't have the heart to tell him that that's not why I was crying.

Yes, I have watched men & women die from AIDS. But I wasn't seeing their faces. Instead, I saw my friends and the bullying they'd endured through the years. I cried for the injustice, the insanity, man's inhumanity to man, and more. Not only did the government, the media, and the medical profession fail thousands in their initial unwillingness to acknowledge what the disease was doing, the homosexual community failed itself as individuals waged battles with one another rather than lead the way. I cried because bullies still exist and men and women still closet themselves away.

Quote of the Week

Referencing the continuing gaping hole that exists where the twin towers in New York once stood and the ongoing debate as to how to commercially use and/or memorialize in the space, William Falk says, "I've always admired how the Israelis and British cope with terrorist attacks: They clean up the mess, mourn their dead, and quickly rebuild what's been damaged. It's a statement of defiance: Do your worst. Our lives will go on, and we shall prevail. We've not been attacked again these past five years, and that is no small thng. But Osama bin Laden, the murderer of 3,000 people, remains free, and the pit his minions created as a mounment to nihilism still taunts us. We could, and should, have done better."

Wisdom – Just a Keystroke Away

The Week tipped me to a wonderful idea/resource. Elder Wisdom Circle is a web site offering insights into relationships, money, careers and other matters to thousands of young adults who want to hear what 60+ year olds have to say about their issues. Managed by 600 senior citizens from around the country, the website allows for questions to be answered for free. Here are just a few of the topics:
20 and Never Had a Boyfriend
4 Year Old Won't Eat
Accepting a Generous Offer
Afraid of Men After Assault
Against Daughter's Plan to Shack Up
Am I Too Picky with Men?
Become a More Patient Parent
Can't Tell If She Likes Me
Career as a Musician
Cheating on Husband, But I Still Love Him
Choose Education or Love?
Considering Adultery
Daughter Has Controlling Boyfriend
Explain Dysfunctional Family to a 3 Year Old?
Feel Like Mother Disowned Me
Feeling Trapped By Girlfriend
Follow Head or Heart?
Friend Not Repaying Loan
Handle Affairs for Aging Father
Having Trouble Getting Over Break Up
He Avoids Sex
He's Affectionate, Fun...and an Alcoholic
Help Mom Celebrate Wedding Anniversary
His Cursing Bothers Me
How To Deal with His Anger?
How to Tell Mom I Need Therapy
Husband Traveling Without Me
I Hate School
I Suspect Age Discrimination
I want a dog!
I'm terminally ill - How can I prepare my child?
Ideas for Spicing Up a Relationship
In-Law Wants to Reconcile After 20+ Years
Jewelry Gift Ideas
Keep a Confidence, or Tell Police?
Lonely College Freshman

I’m impressed with the responses I checked out. I didn’t do an extensive read of the site but I love the idea that (a) young adults are acknowledging there is wisdom to be had and (b) senior adults are willing to think thoughtfully and give their time and insights to others.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I've Lost that Lovin' Feeling ... Or Maybe Not

I'm on the email list of one of the pastors I work with and he wrote a piece on love that just came to my inbox. I'd connect you to the article but they seem to be having website trouble so let me just say that it did exactly what it was supposed to do ... made me think.

So . . . thinking about love brought me to this: I don’t know that I’ve ever felt loved by God or another human. And therefore, I don’t know if I can long for it the way that we often speak of that kind of longing. I don’t discount that God loves me. I believe/faith that to be true. I just can't say that I've felt it. And feeling is a large part of this picture. And while I know my mother loves me, for most of my thinking life (i.e. after my dad died when I was ten), I’ve often felt I had to care for her. Obviously, with that whole "dying" thing, I never really connected with a daddy’s love because he dropped out of the picture too early. And, no man has ever really made me feel that connected to him. I wanted to be "in love." I wanted to "feel love." But I can't say that I'd know what it looked like if it happened upon me.

My friends come close. And maybe I’m making more of it than it really is, but love is a tricky thing for me.

What about you? Felt it? Known it? Can you describe it?

*By the way, don't fret for me. This is not an anquished plea. I probably have some warped expectation regarding a feeling with roots deep within my past that me and a good therapist could unearth. I'm just curious if love is more an action for me than a feeling and if that's true for others as well.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

So what would it look like? And what's my part?

Today's Chronicle carried an essay by Robert Jensen, a University of Texas professor who five years ago wrote a piece about 9/11 that outraged readers. Today's commentary was entitled "5 years later, still a voice crying in the wilderness" and he hasn't backed down. Here are the paragraphs that caught my attention:

Sept. 11 offered a dramatic moment in which the most powerful country on the planet could have led the world on a new course. U.S. leaders had a choice to either (1) manipulate people's legitimate fears and understandable desire for vengeance to justify wars of control and domination, or (2) help create a world in desperate need of more justice, not more war.

To choose the latter would have taken visionary leadership; a role for which, sadly, virtually no one in the Republican or Democratic parties appeared qualified, then or now. But there such voices -- not leaders but ordinary people, speaking out clearly and early . . .

He goes on to describe the thinking of the antiwar activists. What he doesn't do is describe their actions toward justice.

I think I'm ready for that article to be written. I want to do something. I want to act. But what's an ordinary woman to do?

Ann Richards died

I didn't know her yet . . .

She inspired me. She made me smile. She claimed a destiny worthy of her. I will miss knowing she's out there.

The Tear's Tale

The tear rolled down my cheek and I caught myself wondering if it looked as dramatic as it does when it happens on the big screen. The lone drop found its way to my upper lip and I licked it away, tasting its saltiness. Then I wondered if he would think that I was attempting seduction or tidiness.

The taste reminded me of the reality of the moment. I relished the onslaught of feelings -- something I hadn't allowed myself to do with this much intensity in a long while -- and yet I was pained that this moment was truly momentary.

Giving up something you want desperately but can't have is a very adult thing to do. And that tear carried with it the knowledge that the days ahead would not be fun, silly, and childlike as the hours had been previously. That tear carried with it horrible wisdom.

Afterwards, I reached out to someone else. The spontaniety of the act was welcomed but couldn't be met. Too busy. But instead of giving up, staying in my darkened room and enjoying the fruits of a fine pity party, I tried again. Second chances are so very rewarding, don't you think? And, in a friend/brother, found a companion for my post-yuck journey. We drove with the top down, taking in the sunset, the reflections off Houston's glorious towers of steel and glass, the right-ness of the two of us simply enjoying what we have. Dinner outside at a new place with all the right points for coolness and I was back at "me" again.

Today the tear's taste lingers . . . yet peace has found its way into my thoughts as well. So I'm smiling . . . and wondering what's next.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Oh My (fill in your favorite deity)!!!

If I had gone into this weekend with some sort of intentionality, this blog would be much more inspirational. Instead, for the most of the 72 hours that made up September 8-10, I was simply doing what people said. Of course, I still wound up having the time of my life so who cares!??

Last week my Toyota had another hiccup. I loved that car (hint: the past tense there is a clue as to one thing that happened). But this year, it's had several small things go wrong. When I started having to open my door by rolling down the window and using the outside latch, I had a rather strong reaction to the idea that my redneck roots might be showing. So I began to consider selling.

That "consideration" started on Wednesday and by Friday I was driving to Galveston in my new "salsa red" VW Beetle convertible. The coolest part of the experience was how my friends assisted in the process and, yet, I still did the negotiating (something I hate) and got a GREAT drive out price. (Note that I can now use the lingo!)

Friday night and Saturday were spent in a work gig that had me well outside my comfort zone but I survived and with less than 100 miles on the car, put the top down and drove down the Seawall with a smile on my face.

The next morning I drove to a nearby airport and prepared to JUMP OUT OF A PERFECTLY GOOD AIRPLANE!!

By Sunday afternoon I'd fulfilled a lifelong desire . . . skydiving. I jumped in tandem with a yellow-haired (and I don't mean blonde) pierced guy named Hoop who was more than happy to display his piercings and his passion for the parachute. He kept me calm with his deep Texas twang and his 12 years of experience. At 9,000 feet, I felt a tad bit of reservation but by 14,000 feet, I was ready to go.

Until I looked down. With nothing between me and the ground but puffy white clouds, I might have hesitated except for the fact that Hoop was counting and we were already on "Get Set" which meant "Go" was happening NOW!

I didn't so much jump as I simply fell out of the plane. I arched as instructed and began looking at the device strapped to my wrist that told me altitude. I smiled at the camera man who was being paid well to come along for the ride. We spun around for several seconds. And then at 6,000 feet we pulled the cord. WHOOSH! I was hanging in mid air. A couple of spirals which felt like free falling without the speed or as I described it to Hoop in what could only be called an exclamation, "We're dancing in the clouds!" and then I was stretching out my legs for the landing.

Which we did on four feet and not our behinds, thank you very much.

So in one weekend ... two dreams fulfilled.

What could possibly be next?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I Can't Keep Meeting Like This

The season premiere of Nip/Tuck (yes, it's unacceptable for most children and most adults and, yes, I watch it) the surgeons performed their 5,000th procedure and marked the event by using gold scapels embossed with the number and date.

I think I should get a gold plated something for my millionth meeting! A chair? A donut you sit on when you have "issues"? A wall to beat my head against?

Surely something is worthy of signifying that I've been there, done that and done it again and again and again for the last 20 years!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Acting Grown Up

When we challenged the pastors in the room, humor, experience and -- for him at least -- academics were our tools. But we excelled because of our guts. We just knew -- when to interrupt the other with just the right story, what experience should follow a particular anecdote, etc. We were best friends and we were great teachers.

Then life happened.

I divorced my husband. He got a job that demanded his full attention. The freelance gigs we'd partnered on dried up.

And he erased me.

We had not had an affair. We'd been incredibly intentional about defining boundaries for the on-the-road lifestyle our workshops demanded. We had simply been friends with a lot in common.

So I couldn't comprehend how suddenly we went from on to off.

I made up a lot of possibilities. I had to. He wasn't around to add to or take away from storylines. I tried phone calls. I sat across the table once and hinted I was having a problem with his behavior. I finally broke down in tears when we were two years into the absence. He'd dropped by my office while in the building and tried a caring tone when he asked, "How are you? Really."

I didn't answer. I couldn't. Later I sent an email. I spelled it out. He never responded. I learned later that he'd definitely received it but had simply avoided any form of an answer.

Recently, I've been hanging out with his students. They obviously respect him. They tell me he even quotes me. Every time they mentor his name I flinch . . . . They notice.

Then it hit me. We teach authenticity, transparency, even conflict management. The time had come to practice what we teach.

I called him and made a lunch date. He agreed. I told him the subject matter and that's when I learned he'd ignored the email. I tried hard to breathe.

We met. I started.

"I've been practicing my 'I feel' statements," I began.

And the list followed -- abandoned, lied to, invisible.

He listened and replied, "What you need to hear above everything else I'll say is this. I've been a shitty friend, the shittest. And I'm sorry."

I agreed. Then I forgave and then I admitted that that was all I'd come for.

He offered reasons which were among the scenarios I'd already conjured up. He apologized again. He asked me about my family. For a moment, I contemplated not asking about his because I wasn't there to pick up our relationship where we'd left off. But I knew that grown ups need not play such games. I asked.

We parted as old friends who would occasionally connect as professionals. That was enough for me.

I left smiling because acting like a grown up is sometimes better than being one.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Listen . . .

Sometimes it’s the sounds.

Ticking from a clock is that much more pronounced . . . and profound as you wait for chewing to begin again . . . the resident having momentarily forgotten he was eating a tortilla for breakfast. I pick the half eaten food away from his pajamas, note the ticking and continue to wait.

Sometimes they startle. Sometimes they soothe. The whoosh of the industrial toilets as we complete the daily cleaning . . . water on tile in the walk-in shower, where my partner is assisting the newest woman resident with a shower. We’re told she just needs help getting to the hallway facility. My friend discovers her weakness is more defined and becomes intimately acquainted with her new friend . . . who, by the way, is from Africa.

Sometimes they're necessary, even critical. Though we're a hospice and tend not to have the life-saving bells and whistles of most hospitals. One resident has both AIDS and a pre-existing lung problem. So he getst oxygen. The steady sssssss is reassuring. Not so the clanging of the mop handle on the floor as I rush to catch the ringing phone, unanswered because the nurse is attending to the Spanish-speaking young man who understands nothing of what is being told him and little of anything else that’s happening. He’s got brain cancer.

Sometimes the randomness attracts my attention. Jean zippers and buckles toss and tumble in the massive dryers. Click . . . click . . . We’ll be doing laundry throughout the four hours we here.

A walk down the hall reminds me of channel surfing. TV programs -- continuous and loud -- come from every room, even empty ones or where someone is sleeping. The medium is the massage. One resident admits to a science fiction interest as though it were a confession, but it provides us a connect to discuss while I clean his room.

The minute I arrive as a volunteer, I stop breathing through my nose. Occasionally, I recognize that I'm going through the motions without really seeing what's going on around me. After more than a decade at this assignment, it's easy to do. So much of my work is manual labor, so I can go for more than an hour and not say much of anything, especially when most everyone is sleeping.

The sounds are different though. They're normal, but amplified, like much of life at an AIDS hospice.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Great Moments

. . . when those you've taught become your teachers, it is a great moment.
. . . when you walk confidently against the tide of consensus knowing that you are on your right path, it is a great moment.
. . . when the moments matter more than the prescribed plan, when you're valued for who you are and not simply for what you do, when someone looks and truly sees you . . . these and more are great moments.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Recounting the greatness that is my life

-I completed a solid hour of a kick boxing class Monday night and was actually able to do almost every move completely through . . . I do however seem to have an issue with balance and so 8 consecutive rapid kicks to the side are not currently in my "have done" list

-Friends challenge my thinking almost daily . . . not in a confrontive "oh how trivial you really can be, Karen" kind of way but simply by adding new thoughts for me to consider

-Lunches that turn into counseling sessions that turn into workshops that turn into laughter are not out of the norm for me

-I know at least ten good men by name, heart, and mind that make my life richer. I know fewer, much fewer, SOBs

-The count on good women is almost impossible to calculate

-I'm blessed with a number of twenty-somethings that teach me something new on a regular basis

-I'm as likely to get a communication from London or Germany as I am from California or southwest Houston.

-After an impromptu party thrown by bestest boy pal Sunday night, I dragged home ready to get under the covers and just wait for Monday to roll around (it had been that kind of weekend) and Roger, the host, called just to say "I love you"

Friday, August 25, 2006


The movie Sideways provided a cautionary tale regarding the hazards of "drunk dialing". Perhaps there should be some breathanalyzer equivalent for PMS blogging.

Yesterday wasn't THAT bad. Today is better.

And . . . tomorrow . . . thank God is Saturday!!!!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Feek Very Human Today

My eyes itch from allergies.

I should have had two projects completed by now but don't . . . and it's been months.

For the first time in a very long time, someone I was supposed to be helping actually asked me how I was doing. I told him . . . both the good and the bad. But the telling of it only made the lonely part more real.

Today was not a "everyone wants a piece of me" day and yet I responded to people as though it were.

I have to go to meeting right now and I don't want to be nice.

One message late in the day redeemed much of the day for me . . . but I don't like that it could have that much power in my life.

My eyes still itch.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm Going All Priest-y On You

A priest is a priest, no matter where she happens to be. Her job is to recognize the holiness in things and hold them up to God.

My recent posts indicate that I've been reading Barbara Brown Taylor who said the line above. When I thought about the idea of "recognizing the holiness" of my current reality and "holding them up to God" I had to smile Wow! What an amazing few weeks this August has brought into my life.

So . . . now . . . this "priest" holds the following up in celebration of their holiness . . . the birth of a baby in Germany and another strong soul in California and the two families who have chosen not easy ways but ways that advocate the living of life rather than simply existing . . . the struggles of a young woman who has grown and matured and who tackled her latest affront with fortitude that she didn't previously know she had . . . the wedding of a dear friend's son and the opportunity for a family who has seen great tragedy to also know great joy . . . young women coming together to make life better for the young women who will come after them . . . resilence in the face of financial crisis by a woman who often ministers to me more than any pastor I've known . . . such strong emotional connections among friends that "family" is a better term for who they are to me . . . first days of school . . . a long waited for and much needed job coming to a dear man and friend . . . learners who will go to great measures to find mentors . . . and at least one example of the established church partnering with the emerging.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . .

More Quotes from Leaving Church

"What made any of us think that the place we are trying to reach is far, far ahead of us somewhere and that the only way to get there is to run until we drop? For Christians, at least part of the answer is that many of us have been taught to think of God's kingdom as something outside ourselves, for which we must search as a merchant searches for the pearl of great price. But even that points to a larger and more enduring human problem, which is the problem of mortality. With a limited number of years to do whatever it is that we are supposed to be doing here, who has time to stop? . . . According to the Hebrew Bible, everyone does, for at least one full day every week."

[after she left the church where she had served as the Episcopal priest] "I decided to take a rest from trying to be Jesus . . . Today I will consent to be an extra in God's drama, someone off to the side watching the scenery unfold with self-forgetfulness that is not available to me at center stage. Today I will bear the narcissistic wound of knowing that there are others who can say my lines when I am not there, including some who can say them better, and that while God may welcome my willingness to play a part, this show will go on with or without me, for as long as God has breath to bring more players to life. Today I will take a break from trying to save the world and enjoy my blessed swath of it instead. I will give thanks for what is instead of withholding my praise until all is as it should be."

"We were not God, but we spent so much time tending the God-place in people's lives that it was easy to understand why someone might get us confused. As Christians, we were especially vulnerable, since our faith turned on the story of a divine human being. Those who became ordained were not presented with Moses or Miriam as our models, so that we could imagine ourselves as flawed human beings still willing to lead people through the wilderness. We were not presented with Peter or Mary Magdalene as our models, so that we could imagine ourselves as imperfect disciples still able to serve at our Lord's right hand. Instead, we were called to fill in for Jesus at the communion table, standing where he once stood and saying what he once said. we were called to preach his gospel and feed his sheep. We were, in other words, presented with Jesus himself as our model, so that most of us could only imagine ourselves disappointing everyone in our lives from God on down."

"Mother Church had little interest in the things that were interesting me. Her job was to take care of her family. Why should she get into discussions that might cause them to lose confidence in her? Why encourage them to raise questions for which she had no answers? Even more important, why wast valuable time rehashing things that had ben settled centruies ago when there was so much to do around the house right now? I understood her reasons, I really did. I was just looking for some way to stay related to her that did not require me to stay a child."

[using "center" to refer to the establishe church and referencing people of the edge such as Matthew Fox, Hans Kung, Martin Luther, Menno Simons, Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi, Peter Abelard, Tertullian, Origen, Jesus] ". . . might it be time for people of good faith to allow that God's map is vast, with room on it for both a center and an edge? While the center may be the place where the stories of the faith are preserved, the edge is the place where the best of them happened."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Interactive Element

First go here . . . the treadmill video

Then check out John Mayer's new music "Waiting on the World to Change" at Itunes.

Finally listen to Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up."

Allow yourself to think creatively. And then let me know . . . what does this suggest to you about working in community to affect change?

Things I've Learned About Myself of Late

-- I don't always like being a grown up . . . in fact, I rebel against it
-- I love watching young women find their voices and then using them
-- If someone surprises me with an act that I think is courageous, then I actually feel the need to do a high five
-- Laughing out loud in public is priceless
-- I care so much about other people's feelings that I sometimes ignore my own
-- Being open and affirming of other people is not a service I provide myself
-- Weight loss feels good
-- I will dance to the music even if I'm in an airport as long as it's my music on my ipod (in other words, Musak doesn't do it for me)

I love it when this happens . . .

I bought a book a month ago, started it, liked it but didn't finish it. This weekend I picked it up again and it was perfect timing. Just what I needed when I needed it. The book is called Leaving Church and it's written by Barbara Brown Taylor (who is a terrific human being, so I'm told by someone who has actually met her and who served an Episcopal church well for many years before finally "leaving church"). I'm so enamoured with the book that I'm going to offer up a few quotes from it and may even do that in more than one post. I'd love to hear what you think of what you see. Here go the first of the quotes:

"Before Christ Church, I thought that worship was something people cooked up by themselves. At Christ Church, I discovered worship that took place inside God's own heart. The divine pleasure was the pleasure of a mother with her baby at her breast."

"Being a priest seemed only slightly less dicey to me than being chief engineer at a nuclear plant. In both cases, one needed to know how to approach great power without loosing great danger and getting fried in the process."

"Yet even there I had some reservations about the whole setup. If the purpose of the church were to equip all God's people for ministry in the world -- as I was learning in seminary -- then what sense did it make to designate one of those people 'the minister' in a congregation? The minute you set someone apart like that, didn't you give everyone else license to say, 'Don't look at me -- she's the minister?
"In the same way, if the minister's job were to support church members as they engaged their vocations in the world, then what sense did it make to locate the person inside the four safe walls of a church? A mobile unit would have made more sense, like one of those libraries on wheels that goes wherever people need books. As strongly as I was being drawn to worship at Christ's Church, my heart remained in the world. I belonged amont the laity; not the clergy."

". . . being ordained is not about serving God perfectly but about serving God visibly, allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall."

[on her consideration on being ordained] "As a layperson, you can serve God no matter what you do for a living, and you can reach out to people who will never set foot inside a church. Once you are ordained that is going to change. Every layer of responsibility you add is going to narrow your miistry, so think hard before you choose a smaller box."

"I know plenty of people who find God most reliably to books in buildings and even in other people. I have found God in all of these places too, but the most reliable meeting place for me has always been creation."

[on Celtic theology in which . . . } "God's 'big book' of creation is revered alongside God's 'little book' of sacred scipture."

"At least one of the purposes of church is to remind us that God has other children, easily as precious as we. Baptism and narcissism cancel each other out."

[quoting Arun Gandhi] "People of the Book risk putting the book above people."

"The whole purpose of the Bible, it seems to me, is to convince people to set the written word down in order to become living words in the world for God's sake. For me, this willing convesion of ink back to blood is the full substance of faith."

"My role and my soul were eating each other alive. I wanted out of the belief business and back into the beholding business."

"My quest to serve God in the church had exhausted my spirtual savings. My dedication to being good had cost me a fortune in being whole. My desire to do all things well had kept me from doing the one thing within my power to do, which was to discover what it meant to be fully human."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Conversationally Speaking . . .

Been doing a great deal of talking about prayer lately. Some of the discussions are related to what I do for a living and some of them because of how I live.

Since prayer is inherently a "talk with God" language plays a role. I know plenty of folks who feel the need to go into God talk when they pray. And you know what? Bless them! I don't care how they converse with their mother and I don't care how they chat with God.

But when they assume that their way is THE way, well . . . then we have a problem. Recently, a good friend suffered much from a verbal lashing she received because how she talks to and of God didn't conform to this woman's view of the "sacred." But my friend talks the way she talks and I would no more edit her prayers than I would edit the beautiful free flowing expressiveness of her life. She adds to me by challenging me to think far beyond my usual mental borders.

After hearing her account of how she'd been reprimanded, I then had to meet with a group of folks interested in encouraging prayer for my city. The meeting was primarily about how to launch some prayer opporunities. Administrative in nature, I discouraged a couple of city "prayer warriors" from attending. But one felt the need to pray for me. Now, having admitted that I was bothered with how my friend was corrected "in Christian love" I have to acknowledge that I'm about to point out something in my personal prayer warrior's approach that might be considered criticism. So hear this . . . I'm not criticizing! I'm saying this just IS NOT ME!!!

The woman prayed for me over the phone. She told God everything that she and I had just said to one another (so much for that whole omnipresent thing) and then after about four minutes she began what I thought was her approach to the landing field. In my circles, when you start "in Jesus' name" that's time to grab the purse and the keys so you can be first in line at the restaurants because this show is about to close! But not her, she got to the familiar phrase, said it and then began to recount several of Jesus' names, then she closed in again with "in your son's most holy name" and decided to start listing all of God's other attributes. We circled the landing field at least four times before finally concluding that prayer.

Later when I was discussing this with a friend, I admitted that I liked the fact that she has her own style, that it wasn't my style and that in fact, laundry list prayers of things God is already well aware of simply bother me. I'm more of a moaner (and please just mentally behave and allow me to use that word). I moan and groan to God. I don't have the words sometimes to help God know what's needed. But what little faith I have assures me that a being as great is God is supposed to be somehow understands. And many of my prayers are silent versions of "eh? you hear that God, yeah whatever you can do, great".

My buddy who got her verbal hand slapped for word choice, talks to Jesus like a lover. I think that's cool. I can't do it, but I'm glad she can. And even my "will she ever stop?" warrior gets kudos from me for doing her thing. So why do I beat myself up and feel that my way isn't good enough?

One more thing . . . I DO have a problem with the people who act like prayer is a magic decoder ring. If you do it right, and God is satisfied that you've broken the code, then the world is yours for the asking.

Nuh uh. Can't go there.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Today's Houston Chronicle carried a story about how David Hasselhoff was good at making fun of himself before others beat him to it (a ploy fat girls like me learned VERY early on). I don't know exactly what all the fuss is about him but I do know that I appreciated a line that appeared in the story when the writer admitted that having come to know Hasselhoff it was a lot less easy for him to join in the sarcasm and attacks. Here's the quote:

"Humor comes from ignorance, naivete and emotional distance; every real experience cuts down on those skills. That's one reason that comedians get less funny as they grow older and that the smart ones -- such as Bill Murray and Steve Martin -- choose more serious work. So either I'm going to have to transition into a more serious kind of columnist or studiously avoid any emotional growth."

Ok, so his tongue is implanted in the facial area ... but isn't there some truth in this? When we know someone and the origin of their foibles, isn't it more difficult to laugh at them when they are down? At least it's true of me: The more I know about how screwy life can be, the less likely I am to smile when someone seems bent on screwing up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Grew Up Poor

A widowed mother, getting a job at 13, thankful for the extra gifts folks gave us at the holidays -- this was my childhood reality. And I don't blame it, scorn it, or repress it in shame. In fact, I'm proud to be a survivor.

However . . . neither do I hide my delight when a few decades later I get to enjoy the good life. Such was the case tonight.

My friends Robin and Richard were in town. They know both good food and good wine. Tonight they chose Tafia to celebrate their return to what was Robin's fair city before she vacated the premises for San Francisco and married bliss.

I didn't even look at the menu. I simply gave myself over to their expertise. Educated in both the grape and the kitchen, I knew that the two of them would take care of me. Little did I know that one foodie resonates with another and when you are in the right shadow at the right time you can benefit. And benefit I did!

Monica Pope is the chef/ower of Tafia. I have followed her career from her days on Montrose at Blvd. Bistro and I'm somewhat impressed by the fact that her sister is a producer at the David Letterman show. Plus she has helped establish the return of the Farmers Market in the city and I love that as well.

So, when she stopped by our table to welcome us, I was in mild infatuation. But when, after Richard regaled her with restaurant talk and recipes he'd tried and wanted to try, she sent a gratis appetizer, then main course, then dessert ... well, I was delighted to be among the "beautiful people."

I can lay on the sarcasm with the best of them. I can caress disdain like a long haired cat in purring mode. But when the elite offer me free food while I drink good wine and enjoy stimulating company ... well! color me impressed! High cotton is what my momma would call it and I'll chop it all day long if it offers up that kind of bounty.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Bouncing Baby Boy

Mark and Nadine have a new little boy to join Noah in their amazing German family. Meo is adorable and his photo now graces my office door. I may not be quite old enough to be his grandma but I've decided to lose the vanity and live into at least the doting great aunt role! Warning: I could be obnoxious about this!!!!

Remember Pee Wee's Word of the Day?

"Effortless" -- that was the description he used. I heard the word the rest of the day.

The Fray sings it slowly sans percussion in their Top 20 pop entry and you can't help feeling like you're falling into it. Trouble is the word refers to losing someone and what it takes to do so.

Effortless -- I applied it to my friendships and it seems to fit. I want knowing me to be effortless. Need a job? I flip through my mental rolodex and make a connection or two. Wanna play? I'll keep up with the gang's wants/needs and insure a relatively stress free experience. Conversation at the midnight hour? Sure. Whatever? I'm there.

E says I want from someone what I give. She says that I make folks a priority and that I'm looking to be someone's priority. She's right (wise girl that e).

But I forget the effort it takes to be effortless. And so I want what's not possible -- a place in someone's heart and mind without him having to go to the trouble to clean up a few things and make room.

"Doing unto others as I would have ...." has never been difficult for me. But I've come to realize that I see that as an act requiring reciprocation and it's not. My thoughts have tended toward, "if I do unto you, you'll do back unto me." Not true, is it?

Definitely not effortless!

A Celtic Prayer

Christ be with you, Christ within you
Christ behind you, Christ before you
Christ beside you, Christ to win you
Christ to comfort and restore you
Christ beneath you, Christ above you
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love you
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

-- used at the funeral of my friend's brother

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Definitely Different

The funeral was to be brief and at graveside. I was invited to represent the friends of the family with a few reassuring words. The pastor was offering the same spirit from the church family. And my ex husband delivered the bulk of the comfort with an emphasis on how faith gets us through the hard times. Three "ministers" (don't quite see me in that category usually) and we all knew the threat of Houston heat far outweighed anything we could say.

What we didn't factor into the equation was the rain. Actually, make that monsoon! A shower minutes before we were to leave the facility where we first gathered kept us inside a bit longer. Soon the sun was out and we took to the cars and traveled the winding path to the graveside. That's when the skies opened up.

Walking to the tent-covered grave pretty much meant I was soaked from the beginning -- even though I was walking with my friend under a sunflower shaped umbrella. And being soaked meant that my sheer skirt and blouse -- chosen because they would be cool in the heat we KNEW would be there -- were now sucking against my backside. Pinching them away caused just enough breeze that within minutes I was shaking in the "cold." That went well with the winds that were blowing through, the water dripping through the cracks in the tent and the rains now blowing sideways into the family seating area.

I reached to wipe away the water pouring down my back and noticed that my hair was completely drenched. But all of this mattered very little because I was absolutely focused on not embarrassing the family. Which meant I had a mantra going on in my head, "Yes you're slipping out of your heels but whatever you do DON'T LEAN ON THE CASKET. DON'T LEAN ON THE CASKET. DON'T LEAN ON THE CASKET."

I may not be ordained but that just didn't seem to be appropriate funeral protocol.

After the three of us shouted down the elements to deliver our thoughts, the rain finally subsided. My friend told me later that her brother would have loved the shower. I was glad, in fact happy that she could see it that way, but I still wanted a towel.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Photographs and Memories

Sunday's paper revealed that a photo gallery in town was closing a show of photos collected from the Houston, It's Worth It campaign created in 2004. During that hot summer, some folks determined that they would ask what made living here worth it. You can see some of what happened in that campaing at This summer they went from words to pictures and with just a few hours to spare before closing, I was able to take it in.

Seems the initial campaign acknowledged the following 20 "afflictions" before posing the question of worth: the heat, humidity, hurricanes, flying cockroaches, moquitoes, traffic, construction, sprawl, refineries, ridicule, pollen, air, billboards, flooding, image, property taxes, short springs, long summers, potholes, no mountains.

The photos made me (and many others from the sound of it) laugh, smile and genuinely beam with pride as we collectively determined where some of the shots were taken or let it be known with numerous expressions of surprise "Oh, I've been there!" The shot of the three women in Muslim head dress watching a young man play pool reminded me of just how diverse we are. The gay pride parade had a couple of entries. As did the Art Car parade. Then there was just the right angles that were used to capture the beauty of downtown juxtaposed against a Fourth Ward two-story shack.

And enhancing the pictures were the quotes also hanging clothesline style throughout the space. I copied a few of my favorites:

"Houston is like your crazy grandma who smells funny. You know she can still cook up a storm, tell a good joke or two and she *knows* she's crazy. It's only the outsiders who wonder why you love her and spend so much time with her."

"It's an international city: the traffic of LA and the climate of Calcutta."

"Houston is worth it because if you are here, you want to be here. The heat, the mosquitoes, the traffic -- sure, they might bug you, but you have more important things to do than whine about the weather. Houston is worth it because it knows YOU are worth it."

"If Houston were a person perhaps she would be a stubborn, tough, irreverante drunk. She would also be deceptively smart and unbelievably generous. If I were lucky enough to have her as a friend and we were separated, she would be one of the few who I would call weekly and visit as often as possible just to stay grounded."

For me, Houston is definitely worth it because of days like today -- days when I needed to know that life keeps on. Today I realized that rather than initiating moments I had fallen into a pattern of simply letting life happen to me. AND had therefore determined that was unacceptable. I need a balance of both making things happen and experiencing what comes. So on this Sunday, I re-discovered all that I love about this town. I read a newspaper that takes more than an hour to get through just the headlines. I rode my bike along a bayou and though sweating like crazy and nearing dehydration, celebrated my fellow cyclists, the street people sucking in what shade they could find, and the story teller I was listening to on the radio. I went to a movie alone and then to another with a friend. I laughed aloud as the audience moaned at the kiss in Talledega Nights (you'll know what I mean when you see it) and hugged my playmate that much harder when we determined that perhaps this wasn't really "our" kind of movie. I saw some great photos and spent a leisurely supper dissecting everything with a couple of friends.

Even grocery shopping in this town makes me smile.

So here I sit. The fridge and my heart are full. This was not the day I intended a week ago. Then I was going to New Mexico and returning tomorrow rather than helping with a funeral. This was not the day I planned yesterday when I was going to take my friend to church for a little comfort. Circumstances changed and I did go with the flow. Until, that is, I knew it was time to determine the flow.

I hope all my friends and family experience days like today . . . in whatever form makes them grateful. Because gratitude serves as a market -- that yes, "this" is worth it!