Monday, April 30, 2007

Similar Diversity

Just read that my friend Shannon went to Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire* this weekend and saw "A Midsummer's Night Dream" performed in English and Bengali. The moment I read that line I stopped. You should too. In fact, go ahead, read it again ... Shakespeare in English and Bengali. . . that's kinda like the King James Version read by a hillbilly. Nothing wrong with it but definitely taking on a whole new flavor with sound alone.

Diversity must have been the word of the day for this weekend on the Universe planning calendar.

On Saturday I was struck by the spectrum of personalities, professions, and backgrounds represented at the AIDS hospice -- A veteran shares a room with a formerly homeless man (and isn't it ironic that someone without shelter finally finds it in his dying days). A man whose Indian relatives want to fly him home even though he's being eaten alive by cancer in the most gruesome way you can imagine is in the next room. A mother and grandmother who barely looks old enough to be the mother part of that is there as is someone who most likely earned her living on the streets (and I don't mean collecting cans). One man has the happy knowledge that he's just there for a few weeks since he gets to soon go home after we make sure he's really ready to be back on his feet. And then . . . there's the 18-year-old who was born with AIDS. I had to gasp when I heard. Is it possible? Yes. Was I ready to hear that AIDS babies were now grown ups? Not really.

So position my Saturday morning in the midst of my Friday and Saturday nights when I was delving into the world of politics and social activism by way of private parties and big events and you've got quite the diverse weekend. Add in my stop by my community in Tomball and one more late night gathering of "folks representing the spectrum" at some friends' house and well . . . Shakespeare in Bengali might not seem so strange.

One more thing ... if you've never danced with a partner who is wearing a feather boa, then you've not really attended a charity event like I get the pleasure of experiencing.

You might not want my life, but you certainly would have a hard time arguing that it's not interesting!

*Please note that this post has been edited because of the diverse knowledge base of this blog's readers (see comments). . . Not much of a surprise that I was once again geographically challenged!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Easily Impressed?

You people know I come from a small town, right?

My sister and brother-in-law are visiting from Tennessee and we enjoyed a nice "first meal in the city" on the patio of one of my favorite coastal Mexican food places in Montrose. I was listing a few of the folks I'd met at the gala on Saturday and providing their roles in city and state politics by way of explanation of how diverse the group had been -- city council, state representatives, the city comptroller and several other politicos were on the list.

She was growing in her appreciation of the impact this gathering might have had . . . until Roger showed up.

"Sorry I'm late," he said. "But Moses* dropped by . . . "

She interrupted, "You people know EVERYBODY!"

Say a prayer for our chaplain friend Moses if you do that kind of thing. He and his mom just lost everything in a fire and he's about to be ordained in a couple of weeks.

Monday, April 23, 2007

My Thighs Are Killing Me OR The Downside of Volunteering

Imagine 950 gift bags bearing an obscure representation of Saks' logo. Imagine numerous pieces of propaganda that must be inserted into said gift bags. Imagine having a few hundred ready and waiting for only one missing advertisement, when you're told, "Oh, yes, there's one more thing. . . the ad has to be placed directly in the program and not just dropped in the bag . . . and oh, one more thing, each bag must be placed on this ad that must be placed in each seat . . . and oh, yes, there's that whole thing about we're going to run out of the actual "gift" that is in the bag so you'll have to move about hundred bags you've already placed in the ballroom to the seats up front so the folks who REALLY paid will have a full bag."

Imagine that I don't have to imagine. Because I was there. Perfecting my version of a downward facing dog position as I continuously packed bags for three hours.

Did I mention my thighs are hurting???!!!

I did eventually get in my zone. I smiled politely whenever anyone added a new assignment for these evergrowing then shrinking bags. I nodded with vigorouse affirmation that indeed we would pack these bags to order. Then I continued with what I had been doing.

No way in ... here or anywhere else that may be equally as hot as I was on Saturday ... am I going to unstuff a program to move an ad from the front to the back.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

As far as I know, the volunteer uprising did not result in any furious propaganda readers' abrupt exit of the premises.

I know. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief!

As for the event ... very interesting. I was none too thrilled with this gathering last year as I had worked hard and never even been asked my views on the organization or encouraged to join.

This year it was run by people who actually believe in the cause more than the party that encourages support. This year I saw chairpersons get down on the floor and stuff those bags. This year we "lowly" volunteers weren't the only ones sweating.

This year I didn't mind the pain because this year, I think we really did have something to gain.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Pause to Celebrate

Someone I know had a baby today.
Someone I know started an adventure beyond my comprehension.
While I will not be there to watch the daily growth,
The journey launched this very day is one I dreamed of.

God bless the child.
God bless the family.

God bless the dreamers.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Epicurean Enrichment

Last night, I, the woman who as a girl in Tennessee broiled a Spam wannabe for suppers, who recently blogged about adding Cheez Whiz to a casserole, that woman, engaged in an in-depth conversation with a James Beard nominee.

I've often said that as a young person I didn't possess the capacity to dream of the life I now lead.

Can't wait to see what comes after the next fork in the road.

I like this paraphrase . . .

One particular four-year-old prayed,
"And forgive us our trash baskets
as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Amazing And More

Today I was reminded of what grace looks like. Today, grace took the form of a middle-aged woman who is enduring her own personal hell. But in the midst of living out the harsh reality of what it means to be a member of the "sandwich generation" -- caring for both parent and child while trying to maintain one's own sanity -- she gifted me with the wish for freedom.

To not be free, for me, is to maintain the status quo.
To not be free is to conform to what I expect is expected rather than explore the unknown.
To not be free is to no longer be the me that I've become.

She had the power to tighten the chains. Instead, she gave me the keys.

I've not used them just yet. But the gift is amazing.

Grace, indeed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Been a While

Busy days with lots of caring, lots of sharing.

Stan called at 7 a.m. last Tuesday ... since most of you don't know Stan, this might not shock you as it did me, but Stan doesn't do 7 a.m. He barely does 11! I didn't even waste breath on "hello."

"What's wrong?"

"I'm sick," the words sounded like they were painful for him to utter.

"What do you need me to do?"

"Come here. Call my doctor."

"I'm there."

I tried to make the shower quick and wished later that I might have taken a bit more time on the face, because when I left the apartment to dash across the parking lot to his condo, I wasn't going to see the place again for a while.

We were told to go to the emergency room and two hours after arriving there we got a triage room. Seven hours later, I knew he was about to get a real room and I could leave without worrying there would be no one there to hold the tub if he had to once again throw up what little was left on his stomach.

I told him at one point that he'd given me enough power that should there be a question of pulling any plugs, I was in control!

He told me, throughout the day and in so many ways, that we were family.

I agreed.

Easter weekend the family gathered at my place. The meal was a West meets South adventure. My new friend Brittany brought her California cuisine to my kitchen. As she added dried cranberries to wild rice, I opened the Cheese Whiz for the broccoli cheese casserole. When she was dicing carrots that would be covered with orange juice, zest and pistachios, I was adding a half cup of Crisco to the red velvet cake batter.

I couldn't convince her that a lick of that blood red mixture was tasty. She declared that food was not meant to be that color.

On Easter Sunday, she ate not one but two pieces! Ha! We Southerners might not win battles with ammunition but we can do a number on your arteries!

The activities that day included all the grown ups around one table -- which had to be extended to handle the collection of souls. Then we dyed eggs for the Long children and three of our elders hid them. Later the children returned the favor for the adults, some of whom got in a throwdown about just who had more in their makeshift baskets -- I recylced Christmas gift bags for the occasion to add to the festivity!

A few folks determined we hadn't allowed eggs to be the subject of fun quite long enough so they suggested an egg toss. Two completely mature individuals agreed it was worth their efforts and we cheered them on in the parking lot.

People kept coming throughout the day and by the close of the door, I'd insured that I wouldn't be eating leftovers for the next three weeks. Baggies of takehome were the party favors and eagerly embraced by all.

The next day I received at least four calls calling it "one of the best Easters ever."

That's what families are for.

Remembering When

We climbed the steep, narrow stairs each Sunday.
Our teachers waited in the room of straight edges and few windows
with good intentions and a lack of understanding
that 5th graders require more than rules
to touch their hearts
more than guilt
to push them along the path
more than words
to ignite them to action.

God knows
they tried
they prayed
they talked.

But so did we
and usually our topics included
games, school, and who was being mean and/or nice
to whom (only we would have said who because let's see we were 5th graders).

The Sunday Morning Endurance Race transpired
9 a.m. to 10 each week, rain or shine.

We never realized the power we held . . .
more of us, less of them.

we are

And the thunder roar of 5th grade feet on stairs
is enough to give me chills and prompt prayers.
I pray that they too hold their power in ignorance
I pray that their Sunday morning chatter focuses on fun and not fears
I pray that guilt is never used to guide them
I pray that their bright eyes and wide smiles
remain innocent just a little longer.