Sweet and Sour

For days, I have thought about this blog.  Words appear in the box, and quickly delete for one of two reasons…too much syrup or rock hard cynicism.  Admittedly, I love the syrup— the Norman Rockwell/ Currier & Ives ride to Grandma’s house.  Teaching years spent with children taught me that delight is the key.  Paper bag turkeys and  cotton ball Santa beards stayed as fresh as anticipation on a five-year old face.

Despite our differences, the family gathered to celebrate our common history.  We learned to avoid the topics that pushed away from conversation to the brink of argument.    The adage about religion and politics in this era of anger and entitlement is usually honored.   At times, the joy might seem forced a bit but the effort was there.   Civility and the hope of a connecting (or reconnecting) were part of our thankfulness.

Cynicism has come  late in life and I still balk when the evidence is there.

Before Halloween, stores were decorating for Christmas supposedly celebrating an important holiday.  Thanksgiving doesn’t get much in the way of public decoration or retail acknowledgement.  Wonder if that could be that we don’t  really honor gratitude?  Could it be that money spent on gifts isn’t part of the Thanksgiving deal?  And if the so-called Christmas spirit of giving comes early enough, we spend more.

I know.  The economy needs our money.  If we spend, we circulate the dollar so recovery happens.  Stimulus, right?  Bonus time.  Fine, if the money stays low—down where the job seekers, the hungry and the employed but uninsured live.  Down where homes and cars and businesses are foreclosed because we bought the bubble.  Trickle down?  The pool at the bottom looks dry.

Cynicism?  Maybe.  Reality check?  I hope so.   Once upon a time, Christmas was one of the world’s religious celebrations honoring a particular tradition of beliefs.  Once upon a time, Christmas had to do with a celebration of the connections in a community of believers.  Once upon a time, the symbol of the stable held some sway over mounds of gifts under the tree.

All that being said, I love Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas—most of all Christmas.   I love being part of a faith community that shares tradition.  I love the twinkle of a single string of porch lights, a Charlie Brown tree in the living room, cinnamon in the air, the delight in grandchildren, the gentle civility and graciousness of adult children.  Syrup trumps again.





Martha, A Tribute

I could have typed:  A Tribute to Martha but that would not have been correct.  That title would give the impression that my words were simply a way to honor this friend of  51 years.   My intention is different.

Martha is a tribute to us, her fellow humans.  Her life of courage brings honor to our species.

For years, we have teased about writing her life story.  Admittedly, Martha’s emails rarely  require more that 8 to 10 words.  Her talents are science and math.   So the plan (my plan) was to use my keyboard and her memories to record her story.   So far, she is still laughing at my persistence.

Obviously, it would be a breach of trust for me to write the story without her participation.  I won’t do that.

But I can write, Martha, A Tribute so you, Gentle Reader, will know the name of a woman of amazing strength, courage and an abiding trust in her God.


by Pat Antonopoulos

An  experience evolving from one of my volunteer activities simply won’t leave me alone.   A committee planned a special event at a local college. The event centered on a ceremony being held at a nearby church  not directly connected to the small school.  As a community building effort, the church was willing to share the facility.

Part of my responsibility focused on the music, organ and vocal. Because the event reached out to the students and the community, we wanted to involve the students in all phases.  A search was begun to find a student with the skill to play the organ and additional students to sing selected pieces.

Over 55 years ago, I attempted to learn this very organ, but did not have the training or skill. The organ has been in the choir loft for well over 60 years, belonging to the people of that faith community.

A courtesy call to the current church organist left me confused and brought me to this blog about ownership.

When I gave the information to the organist, stressing the student participation and expressing the hope of finding a students to  play and sing, the response was:
“That will be a disaster!  A student would not have the skill.  I cannot sanction that plan.  I play the organ and my fee is $—.00.”

Ownership.  Interesting concept.




Giving Thanks

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, 2009, the newspaper printed paragraphs of personal reasons for experiencing gratitude.  It was all there—family, friends, health, home, country, food, work, education, earth—blessings often so familiar we take them for granted.

Beautiful holiday and the tag line is ‘giving’.  Not the giving of gifts that can crowd out the reason for celebration, but the giving that goes eye-to-eye and says, “I care and I appreciate.  My life is better because you are with me as I make the journey.”

We hold back assuming that our loved ones know.  Not a good plan.  Speak the words even if they choke a bit coming out.  Could be that the words might be  received with a hint of  discomfort.  Still it is important to say them.  The   discomfort will dissolve in familiarity.

As a personal addition to the gratitude list, I  thank you, Gentle Reader, for being part of my journey.  I appreciate you.




Not Just For Today

I forget.  When I think about it all, I can bog in the down side.  Never, ever will I discount what teeters us towards the ugly.  And sometimes, I do forget.

I forget what is stunningly beautiful in our balance.   Could be I take it all too much for granted rather than actually forgetting.

Today I received an email from my friend, Tim,  in  South Carolina describing his share of the cooking responsibilities for holiday meals.  He does make me laugh.

Pounder.  Tim is the pounder, smushing food to such thinness that all calories disappear— right along with any friends who might otherwise accept dinner invitations.

OK.  Maybe my brain is on the shallow side, but such fun is just what I need to bring me back to understanding how important gratitude is to every single day.  Kudos to the pounder!


Our meeting time was 10:30, place designated by the consultant scheduled to answer some pressing questions about our business venture.
True to our compulsive promptness, Patti and I arrived too many minutes early. As I entered, I checked the menu. Didn’t know coffee could be served in so many ways. Granted, being more than a little bit country, I don’t go “out” for coffee often.

Every table occupied as were the cushy chairs in the center of the room. The long table seating six had three empty chairs so we asked to share….and we waited…and waited.

Waiting was a good thing. It gave me time to really get the feel of Starbucks. Business people hunched across the table intent on every syllable of the conversation. Friends sharing their lives over morning coffee. A group of moms and kids sort of corralled in those cushy chairs, moms balancing conversation with attempts to keep the noise level down. Beverages and snacks on some table, but not everyone had a Starbucks cup in hand.

Because our consultant was late, we needed a phone book to check her number. When the customer line slowed a bit, a smiling Starbucks employee brought the book to our table. We had been in the coffee shop for 45 minutes. Our intention was to order when the consultant arrived. So for 45 minutes, we took space. For 45 minutes we took advantage of what Starbucks seems to sell best—-community.

Our meeting didn’t happened, but by waiting, I observed a  business model of community building. Customers first at Starbucks.
That makes for one terrific cup of coffee.

Pushing The Envelope (ccr)

A reminder to you, Gentle Reader.
I ramble better than I edit. This probably qualifies as a ramble.

An NPR guest had a connection with the creative end of film. Late to tune in and an early-out listener, I missed his name. Wish I could give him name credit for some amazing thoughts…like how much he loves his wife, how amazed he is that she is there when he comes home, and what incredible kids they have. Surely, that isn’t an envelope in need of a push? Sounds like a valentine to me.

Earlier he talked about how the media can push the envelope and eventually change how society sees itself. The acceptance of human differences was a specific case. By placing ‘different’ folks into normal setting, the difference can dissolve and slips right into the normal. Definitely two sides to that coin.

One anecdote focused on George Carlin and his famous Seven Words. When Mr. Carlin’s mother faced a group of elementary school nuns who had taught her son, Mrs. Carlin reacted with embarrassment to the “Words” routine. It was the Catholic nuns who gave George the thumbs-up, saying he was forcing us to face our hypocrisy. Same coin?

Facing hypocrisy isn’t easy. One’s own double standards are both wise and prudent while the doubles that differ are surely hypocritical, right? No. Not right, not even close.
Judging is perilous and always flawed…always. But it is my opinion that we are far better advised to error on the side of acceptance of our differences and celebrating our full human selves.