And The Beat Goes On (CCR)

Monday, February 28, 2011, The Kansas City Star

“Catholic College Fires Gay Professor

Philadelphia Chestnut Hill College, a private Catholic College in Philadelphia, says it fired a part-time professor after learning from a post on his blog that he has been in a same-sex relationship for a decade and a half, which officials called contrary to church teaching.”

Ireland to Belgium to the United States, and probably to almost every place in which the Catholic Church is found, cases of abuse, physical and sexual, continue to implode those teaching of the church.  High ranking church members such as Bernard Law are not fired, but simply relocated.  Organized and sanctioned cover-ups attempted to hide the horrors of this obscenity.

A part-time professor in a stable homosexual (decade and a half) relationship is fired because the teachings of the church have a problem with same-sex couples.  So now the church will purge the ranks of any homosexual clergyman, right?  Gay priests will be fired and defrocked for flaunting the teaching of the church, right?  A wholesale firing is about to take place, removing all priests who have abused young boys or who have engaged in relationships with one another under cover of clergy, right?

The alternative is admission that the Catholic Church holds the clergy above, and exempt, from its own teachings.



Out of the Darkness

When I taught elementary school, we called our circumstance Cupcake Land, a near perfect convergence of parents, community, school district, students and teachers.   Westwood View Elementary in the Shawnee Mission District was as close to an ideal setting as any of us had experienced.

And now?  Now I must live in Chocolate Syrup- Strawberry Shortcake- Heath Bar-Cheesecake-Land.   My family continues to surround me with themselves–my greatest gift.

And my neighbors?   This rural road in Platte County, Missouri wins the Academy Award of amazingly nice people.

For whatever reasons,  there are times that I don’t sleep much.  At 2:30 AM it was time to get up and check out the damage from the snow storm.   By 4:00, the snow had stopped and the outside lights reflected enough to begin the routine.   By 7:00, I was ready to sell the place for $1.35, move to Arizona and bask.

In the early darkness, a tractor rumble came from the lower drive.

A tractor?  Steve is Lancelot on a white uni-loader not a blue tractor and Dave’s tractor isn’t blue.

Here is the  story.

Steve is in Tennessee, stranded by a fuel pump problem.  So Steve phones Brian of the blue tractor and asks Brian to help with my driveway.

Are you believing this, Gentle Reader?

Steve, several states away, concerned about my driveway.  Brian, a neighbor, probably ready for work, come here instead and makes multiple passes with a six-foot blade, clearing  what would have taken me more hours to complete.    Maybe I want to revise that selling price for my home— as in ‘not for a million dollars”.

A Man I Know

A Man I Know celebrated his birthday in a most unusual manner.

For A Man I Know, Wednesdays are usually spent driving 2 hours to help a particular senior citizen with what ever happens to be on the honey-do list that week.  Coffee and bagels at Einstein Brothers are the extent of the thanks A Man I Know will accept before doing the return 2 hours to his home.

This Wednesday was different, beautifully different.

The economy continues to be difficult and one of A Man’s friends was in the middle of the worst of times, down to wondering if there would be food for tomorrow.

On his birthday, A Man I Know gave rather than receive.   He filled a shopping cart with food, basic household essentials, and even a few special treats to ease the difficult time for his friend.  The drive to deliver was long, especially after spending the first of the day on the highway while knowing that the trip home was still to come.

I love A Man I Know, having held him for the first time 44 years ago when he started his life in Kansas City, Kansas….my privilege then and my privilege now.  Happy Everything, A Man I Know.

Chicks Flick and Shakin’ The ‘Shine

This isn’t funny but it is OK to laugh, especially if you are a Gentle Reader and you know that, hard as I try, I do lack the ‘make ’em laugh’ gene.

Not that I don’t love to laugh.  I do.  I still laugh at the kids’ Knock-Knock jokes.  I loved this past weekend with son Mark.  His stories are an adventure in listening and he is fearless in the telling.  We laughed so much…we laughed together and the weekend couldn’t have been more than a few hours long, ending much to soon.

I digress.  The Chicks Flick first.

Some time ago, my neighbors planned a short vacation which is now part of their memory.  As they were packing, Steve phoned asking if I needed any help.    How many people have neighbors who phone while packing offering help?  I owe them big-time, so I asked what I might do while they were gone.  The part I heard was “Feed the chickens.”  The part I missed  became my Chicks Flick Nightmare.

No laughing just yet.

First day and I skate the mud and patches of ice intent of doing my job–feed the chickens.  Coop noisy and easily  found by scent, but I couldn’t find the grain or the water source.

Failure.  Stress-o-meter off the charts.  Steve and Lisa will come home to a pen of death to say nothing of the fact that they will now have to buy eggs.

What to do?  Pace.  Wring hands.  Worry.  Pace again.  Still no grain and water.   The magic of cyber space, send an email.  Hours later, no answer.  OK.  I know it is their vacation, but dead chicks are reason enough to hunt them down via cell.

You might think I was imagining it, but I detected a hint of a smile, maybe even a tinge of laughter as in  “You did what?  You went there today?  Couldn’t find the grain and water?”

Totally nice.  Totally clear that I was only back up…that Steve’s  brother would avert poultry disaster, that I could stop replaying the  funeral scene, The Chicks Flick, over and over and over.  Next time I will listen very carefully.

Shaking’ The ‘Shine

Walking encyclopedia, once a toss away phrase, is dictionary-hard when it comes to Mark.  He just knows stuff, all kinds of stuff; heavy and light, history, behavioral awareness, business,  current events stuff, planes, trains and automobiles stuff.   He is also a man of purpose investing in his passions.  His stories reflect those passions  and most stories have laughter and learning.

So just in case you have need-to-know on this one, I will share my latest learning.

When handed the Mason jar, brown sheathed or not, leave the lid, give the jar a mighty shake.  See lots of small bubbles at the bottom of the ‘shine jar?  Take a pass.  See big bubbles rising to the top?  That moonshine is good to go, delicious, stilled to perfection and probably causing  minimal brain damage.

Laughter is the cure for what ails.


Midnight Rainbows

Insomnia plagues some of our family members. Bouts of sustained sleeplessness come and go with no discernible pattern. Deeply asleep for the earliest part of the night and then suddenly wide awake with no hope of more restorative hours. Attitude suffers right along with energy levels that drop steadily. How I dreaded the first sign that the cycle was beginning.

One of my sons decided it was because there were periods when we could not switch off our minds. Darting from one thing to another, the mind would not quiet enough to allow sleep. So…I tried boring my mind into giving way. Not exactly counting sheep, but all sort of convoluted math activities designed to force sleep out of frustration. End result was I did get faster at subtracting multiple numbers from 999–over and over and over. Tiny benefit for prolonged effort.

A simple solution might have been and OTC sleep aid, but I tend to research every thing I swallow and usually decide that the side effects sound worse than the current problem.

My new plan is discovering midnight rainbows, memories of the people and the times of our lives together.  It isn’t a substitute for sleep but it is comfort and appreciation.

My grandmother had a saying cobbled and convoluted from her sense of life: “Don’t waste your time trying to make a silk purse from that sow’s ear.” Always makes me smile…and I sometimes do wonder if Grandma had it right.  Surely a midnight rainbow is silk  from insomnia.


What Price Violence?

Before the ramble begins, the disclaimer:  I am not a ‘dove’.  The hot snowball impossibility of that position never made it up the flag pole.  We are a people of sex and violence.   Neither am I a hawk defending the position that power and anger win the toss.

I am taking a position of respect for those who sincerely believe in and work for peaceful means of change.  I am taking a position of gratitude to our military men and women who defend against that power and anger sucking the soul of  the world.

I am not a proponent of stricter gun laws. Cain and David used rocks.  In some countries, rocks are the weapon of choice for certain crimes.

An NPR sports commentator recently  spoke of the glory of violence on the playing field.   He was against any rule changes to diminish the worship of that glory.  I leave that discussion to the fans.

“The themes of democracy, justice and empowerment are being displayed on the streets in several countries.”

“John Covington’s newest recipe for controlling Southwest Early College Campus (violence) calls for a total of 18 security guards and police officers mixed with a dozen additional hallway monitors.”

Both quotes are from the front page of The Kansas City Star, Tuesday, February 15, 2011.

Fires burn in the halls of an early college campus.  Fires burn in the streets of Cairo, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain.  Military personnel and police presence continue to increase in efforts to control the violence, put out the fires of protest.

In an educational setting designed to prepare  for college some students are mirroring the behaviors of Arab demonstrators demanding democracy, justice and empowerment.

Sucking the soul from the world…..

Joyce Carol Oats

A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oats

The Kansas City Star reviewed Oats book on Sunday, February 13, 2011.  “…deep sadness and fits of rage…” are the words under the photograph.  In the book, the author speaks to many issues of grief encompassing the truth that life changes in every conceivable way including  “physically clumsy, diminished eyesight” .  Oats looks to a cache of prescriptions as her escape into a forever sleep.  She writes about “the parade of delivery men who arrived at her home almost daily, bearing bouquets, cheer-me-ups and other unwanted gifts”.

Because Joyce Carol Oats is a prolific writer winning both a Pulitzer and National Book Award her story of grief will reach a huge audience.  Readers will feel the particular pain of Oats sadness and rage.  Readers will also understand more of  the universal suffocation of  death’s layers when a loved one is gone.

I don’t need her book to grasp that depth of grief, the daily struggle to remember what functions as normal, the loosing struggle to plan, remember, accomplish the smallest of chores, to swallow the anger that seems so reasonable.  Nor do I dare take issue with any of Joyce Carol Oats’ passage, her very personal pain and  rage.

A single concept in the Star’s review of Oats book reminds me that we each pass this blackness alone, that her ‘unwanted’ gifts might be the cherished life line for another widow’s survival.

To me, nothing that expresses love, concern, empathy is ever unwanted.  Every note, every gift of time,  every phone call (even when I seem to have little to contribute) is a life line forward.

When a family member or a friend reaches past the usual comfort responses  to solve every day needs gleaned from mindful listening, I feel overwhelming gratitude.    When I get a pass because I forgot to remember what I was expected to remember, I feel overwhelming gratitude.  When I fail to follow through on a plan that I don’t remember making, I feel overwhelming gratitude.    When my jumbled words created misunderstanding that is gently sorted with patience, I feel overwhelming gratitude.

Ms. Oats has my profound sympathy for her loss.  I have my family, friends and neighbors, the cherished gifts to hold my hand until I find a way out, a new normal.