Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Car-Free in Tennessee-still hoofing it in December

Yup, we're still at it. And it's not been too bad with the exception of a couple of frustrating moments. On Thursdays, we usually leave the house to catch the 3:00 bus, go downtown, hang at the library for a while and then walk to aikido where Hammy picks us up at 6:15. Last week, we left the house on time but got to the creek to find it higher than it had ever been and impossible to cross (we'll make it to the library, "Lord willing and the creek don't rise"). Zed really needed a book about carbon atoms from the library for his science project so we walked to the local library branch and then caught the next bus which gets us downtown with just enough time for us to walk briskly the mile or so to aikido. We did get there on time.

Yesterday, was another story. I've been given some "listing" work in preparation for the next work project I'll be starting in February. I had to go to to speak with someone who is knowledgeable about the size of the buildings at the local airport and a university. Hammy took an afternoon off work last week so I got the university gig done last week. Yesterday, I decided that I would try taking the bus to the airport rather than driving Hammy to work, sitting in rush hour traffic, coming home, going out the airport, coming home and then sitting in rush hour traffic to pick him up again. I got to the bus stop probably 10 minutes before the bus was scheduled and waited. and waited. and waited. When the bus was about 15 minutes late, I called the customer service number to ask where it is and it apparently came early. Arrrrgggg. I feel strongly that bus drivers should be required to try and get around town by relying on the bus schedule. Buses running early are just as inconvenient as buses running late. So, I had to wait 30 minutes for the next bus which wound up being and additional 10 minutes late. My whole schedule was pushed off, so I had to call Zed to look on-line to find when the next bus to the airport would run.

Once downtown, I had a half an hour to wait before the next bus showed up. My favorite dressy-but-comfortable pair of shoes broke a heel last year so I took them to the shoe repair shop in the Arcade. It is one of those kind of places that is like walking into a time warp. In it the shelves are piled high with decades worth of stuff; they look like the strata of a cliff. The old cobbler fits the part amazingly well. He has an accent from someplace where the men are swarthy and thick-mustachioed. Imagine a cobbler... what you picture in your mind is exactly what this guy looks like; he had on the green cobbler apron and everything. He could be typecast to play Gepetto.

Anyway, I caught the bus to the airport, wound my way through the behind-the-scenes hallways of the airport to the corporate offices, spoke with the man who answered my question and then had to wait almost an hour for the bus. I had the same bus driver as my ride there and we joked a bit about my quick trip to Cancun and he warned me that the bus would fill up with the after-work light-industrial workers. By the time we got downtown, it was standing room only with exhausted factory floor workers. It was a long trip back downtown.

By the time I got back downtown I figured there was no point in paying for another bus ride and walking in the cold dark home from the bus stop since Hammy would be leaving work soon. I called him and waited at the library for him to pick me up. Declan was hanging out downtown with a friend of his, so he met me at the library.

I have to say, I LOVE being with Declan in public simply because people look at us with such a funny range of emotion. Declan looks like a punk. He has a thick mohawk pulled back in a short ponytail. He wears a leather biker jacket with a big red anarchy symbol painted on it. He has chains dangling off his clothes. He looks angry and intimidating. I'm his mom. I look like a mom. We're standing together talking, comfortable. People look at us with fear, horror, curiosity, amusement, bewilderment all in equal measures. Mothers of younger sons are the one's who look horrified as if they are thinking "what if...?!" I love my son and am proud that he is finding his own way, expressing himself as the individual he is. He wouldn't be caught dead wearing a corporate logo, which warms my heart no end.

Anyway, I'd been planning on being away from home fewer than 4 hours. Zed is 12, almost 13. He is a good babysitter and capable of handling things at our house for an afternoon. I felt really uncomfortable, though, when I got home 6 1/2 hours after I left. When buses don't run on schedule, it can really mess things up. I'd been thinking I might try to work this next project without a car, since it's mainly Mon-Fri 9-5 hours contacting businesses but I see that our bus system is not reliable enough to allow me to do that. I'm going to have to either borrow my dad's truck again or we're going to have to buy a car. I don't want to do either but I don't see any other choice. I could get a scooter but that doesn't really work for me in the bad winter weather (which, admittedly, we have little of around here) nor does it help with getting the kids around.

Oh, and I got a letter from the human resources department at work saying that I have been approved for a substantial raise beginning in the new year. Yowza! I will be making more than I ever imagined I could make in this kind of job. If I were to work full-time, I'd actually be making a livable (albeit modest) wage. The raise has certainly put looking for a new job on the back-burner for the immediate future.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I've written before about my belief that the meaning in tragedy is the meaning we create from it. Again, I own the fact that I have never experienced real tragedy; I've never suffered any serious losses, no one I love deeply has ever died, except grandparents who's time "had come". I write about this with awareness that someone who has suffered real loss, anyone who is experiencing real tragedy could think my statements as naive and trivializing of their pain. I certainly do not intent to minimize the significance of any person's experiences. What I suspect, though, is that when people look for meaning in loss, their actions are the meaning. Like when the women created MADD after their children were killed by drunk drivers or that Brady guy who lobbied for stricter gun control after he and Reagan were shot. I'm not saying that every person has to do something on a National level, the meaning could be as simple as learning to be kind to one's neighbors or to recycle or to buy the Christmas goose for Tiny Tim's family.

A couple of weeks ago someone shared a story during Meeting for Worship. This is a Friend whom I like very much. I've often had the sense that this Friend's sharing is not, shall we say, Divinely inspired; rather, more like things this Friend is emotionally moved to share. The story this Friend shared was something easily dismissed, seemingly not spiritually rooted but it lead me to think, then meditate and then pray about, something which I would not usually have in my awareness in Meeting for Worship. I was able to create meaning from his message through the context of my own experiences and the Grace of God.

There have been one or two occasions in which a person has spoken in Meeting for Worship from a place that seemed very rooted in ego, sharing a speech which was obviously prepared in advance and centered around something pretty esoteric. In years past, I've gotten really annoyed when this has happened and I've been in Worship with others when the whole vibe was annoyance at such happening. Lately, though, it's as though our whole meeting congregation has been able to find meaning in these messages, allowing the message to take on a weight and depth that I don't think the original speaker could possibly have imagined. Sometimes, the meaning has nothing to do with the words that were spoken so much as a general feeling of love and support for the need of the speaker to feel really listened to. We have taken the situation and put it in the context of a nurturing community and made something beautiful and hopeful and unifying.

So, I'm trying to see more things in this context. What meaning do I create from any given experience? Yesterday, my teen and I had a fight. What did I learn from that? What do I take from it? What positive chance can I carry forward? What is the meaning I take from this moment? What meaning to I give to the next?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From the Pulpit of Amos Townsend, Church of the Brethren of Fictional Jonah, Indiana

I found Haven Kimmel's new book "The Used World" at the library last week and read it over the weekend. I discovered her writing through the memoir "A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small In Mooreland, Indiana". I guess I was first drawn to her writing because we were both born in small-town Indiana in 1965. I spent 2 years living in Muncie, Indiana which is the big university town next door to Mooreland. The emotional and geographic topography of her writing is both comfortable and a challenge to me.

Also, turns out that Haven has Quaker connections, having studied at Earlham (and she named her son Obadiah, which was my first choice for Carmac's name).

"The Used World" is the last in a trilogy about a fictional town called Jonah, Indiana which is very similar to Mooreland in size and sensibilities. Here are some quotes from the book:

"...And now we are told that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, that it's here, that it's coming, all at the same time. ...The Kingdom...is, for some, the Church. The Church is the kingdom of heaven and the world is not, and the Church becomes the status quo. Everything Jesus said, everything in the biblical tradition, is then used to uphold the status quo, because that's what it means to enter the kingdom. But when the Kingdom is seen as transcendent, or beyond the Church, there is a call to revolution, in defiance of old customs and conventions. That's where we get the Jesus I find more attractive: the radical overturning the money changers' tables, the man who, in fact, turned everything upside down, the Jesus Who is not on the side of any empire or principality, but Who is concerned with outsiders and sinner and the sick. ...I believe that the Jesus we have come to know spoke in parables because there is no other psychically adequate way to address the human condition and that while it seems that what Jesus is saying is that the Kingdom is like a naked singularity, a trick of physics, it's equally possible He's saying you have to choose. What you choose determines the life you live, quite simply. If the Kingdom of Heaven is here now, and that requires from you a fearful clinging to the status quo, then that's who you are and what your life meant. If it's ahead somewhere, and out of reach in this lifetime, you will spend your days accordingly. For me-I speak only for myself now-the Ineffable, the Eternal, the Kingdom of Heaven seems to be inbreaking in our lives all the time, every day. I think it's here, just beside us, and if we turn out heads we'll enter in. I think all kinds of people, especially dogs and Buddhists, have gone in ahead of us, but there's always another chance. The Kingdom of God is a door perpetually opening, and it makes me, as dear Emerson said, 'glad to the brink of fear.' "

And later in the book:
"Imagine the distance collapsed, the one between God and your every decision; it would be like walking down a dirt road in perfectly bright sun, followed a hawk, or some bees. That is our Messianic dream, no division between God, the light, the road, the Man or Woman."

Friday, November 23, 2007

What do Thanksgiving, Childbirth and Harry Potter having in common?

I wrote this a couple of years ago and posted it on Hipmama.com. I was thinking about it yesterday, so thought I'd re-post it here:

I love Thanksgiving. Used to be Halloween was my favorite holiday but I think Thanksgiving is, now. Yesterday wasn't that special; we went to my in-laws and sat around and ate not-so-great carryout Thanksgiving dinner. Hammy and I took a walk, which was nice. The kids played chess and then we all watched 'The Blues Brothers' on TV. But I enjoyed the day tremendously. Partly, I think because it's the only non-religious and non-patriotic holiday that gathers families together. I think we just get together to enjoy ourselves. As I stood in my kitchen at 8:00 yesterday morning, putting sweet potatoes on to steam and making veggie casserole, I felt a wonderful sense of connection with all the hundreds of thousands of other women (and the few men) in their kitchens doing the same things. I felt connected to my mother and my grandmothers (one of whom died almost 20 years ago), their mothers, all my aunts and so many women back, back, back through history.

I felt the same, only much more powerfully, when I was in labor; this incredible feeling of being one with every woman who had ever given birth throughout all of human existence. That knowledge awed me and gave me strength.

I feel the same kind of delighted connection every time a new Harry Potter book comes out. I'll see my sons sitting glued to the book (or I'll read it aloud to them, which is my preferred way of dealing with 3 people who want to read the one copy we buy) and be so happy knowing that around the world there are, literally, hundreds of thousands of people, children mostly, who are immersed in a world of wizards and magic. It almost brings tears to my eyes just to think of how sweet it is.

I know some people get off on being connected at sporting events or displays of patriotism. Those activities seems false to me, almost creepy because they seem so mindless. I think I prefer the simpler, less contrived moments of life that connect us.
Today’s query: What chains do you appreciate being a link in?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Thanksgiving Wish

And every one 'neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And every one 'neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into plowshares turn their swords,
Nations shall learn war no more
And into plowshares turn their swords,
Nations shall learn war no more

Six String Shooter. "What we want to create is an invitation to an attitude of change," [Cesar L√≥pez] says. "It says a lot of different things — but the main idea is that weapons can be changed from an object of destructiveness to an object of constructiveness." Swords into plowshares axes, Music from Menace, Music Out of Madness.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I've had Judas Iscariot on my mind lately. Can you think of a character in history more vilified, more hated than Judas? I can't. "The betrayer of Jesus" is heavy, the heaviest. But I really don't understand why. The way I see it, whether you believe in the literal death of Jesus on the cross, resurrection and ascension, the event which allows salvation for believers, or understand the passion story as a metaphor for how one must die to self in order to be born anew with God, the role Judas played was critical. It's pretty clear that Jesus understood that he had to fulfill his destiny. He could have stopped antagonizing the establishment and walked away from his doom, but he didn't. He accepted the "cup" and allowed himself to be executed. Therefore, the role Judas played in helping lead the "authorities" to Jesus was an essential one. I guess Jesus could have turned himself in, but that would have meant that he was pleading guilty to the charges of heresy. blasphemy, disturbing the peace or whatever it was he was accused of. Jesus needed someone to set the events in motion and Judas took on that role.

The "lost" gospel of Judas was found some time ago, and published by National Geographic last year. It is a dialogue between Jesus and Judas and Jesus and the disciples (written by Gnostics in the 2nd century AD). In it, Judas claims to be the disciple to whom Jesus taught the true lessons. Judas was asked by Jesus to set the actions into play which would allow Jesus to fulfill his destiny.

If this is true, it seems to me that Judas should be honored for the courage and trust in Jesus it must have taken for him to follow through on his actions. I can't imagine what it would be like to do something I knew had to be done knowing that I would be scorned, hated, perhaps even killed by my closest friends for doing that thing (the Gospel of Judas says that Judas was stoned by the other disciples).

Even if the Gospel of Judas is not true, I don't think Judas should be hated. He was fulfilling his role. Even if did he turn Jesus over to his enemies for 30 shekels, he was doing what had to be done, just as Pontius Pilot did. Jesus had to die in order to show us how to live and it seems he required a person to set the event in motion which would allow that to happen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Query I Awakened With

Yes, but, where is Spirit in all this?
A good question and one I've been avoiding contemplating this week. I'm not sure why. Last night, I felt something stirring in me, a vague agitation. An internal kick for motivation. But towards what, I've no idea. I'm always full of ideas, ideas. (This past week it's a planned community based on Quaker values and sustainable living using shipping containers for buildings. I'd call it "Spiceland".)
I shall sit with my query and see where it leads me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Me Time

Hammy and I had a date yesterday. It was wonderful! He had planned to take his car in to have the brakes checked and tires rotated. I asked if I could come with him and then we could ride the bus downtown and eat at Provence and walk around. He was into the idea, too! We got a later start than we anticipated (Saturday morning, what did we expect) and had to stop by the bank but got to the tire place before 10:00. We had a about 20 minutes before the bus came so we walked to the dry cleaners to drop off some clothes. The bus came and we had to run to catch it, but made it. It was a beautiful day, cool but not cold, slightly windy and sunny. We got downtown and walked to the library's coffee shop. I had a chai latte and veggie fritatta, which was yummy. We talked without interruption and had actual linear conversation about nothing much.

When we finished eating, we decided to walk to the Frist so Hammy could see the exhibit, Societe Anonyme. We walked around the gallery, talking about what we like and don't care for and people and everything. I went into a little side gallery where an exhibit of photography by Rosemary Laing called Flight is on display. I am haunted by this photograph; the calmness where there should be tension and stillness where there should be motion. The overall greyness of it makes the model's flesh seem almost shockingly pink and alive.

We walked to the bus stop and caught the bus back to the car shop and got home mid-afternoon to find Carmac running around outside in his footie pajamas and Zed egging him on. Shortly thereafter, Hammy had to take Declan to the school so he could work with the stage crew for the night's performance and then Hammy was playing music with the guys he plays with. I worked for a little while but I was feeling worn out so I went to bed early.

Today, I stayed home from Friends Meeting to just chill. I worked for an hour but that's it. Hammy took the kids to do the things the needed to do today, leaving me home in quiet-something I have been needing for weeks. The silence in my house is a gift. I've been eating expensive dark chocolate covered cookies and drinking tea and not feeling too guilty for not doing housework. I stake my metaphorical flag on this time of solitude! I claim it for myself. This time is mine. I'm gonna go put on the music that I want to hear knowing I will be able to enjoy it without interruption.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wonderful Boys

Yesterday was a long day for us and I'm really proud of my boys. I worked a little while in the morning and then we left the house at 10:30 to catch the 10:36 bus. The creek was swollen again but we made it across by Z going first and then I carried Carmac and handed him to Z and then we all scrambled up the bank. We ran to the bus-stop and made it with a minute to spare.

Since Carmac turned 5, he now pays the "student" price for bus fare rather than being free. It now costs us $.70 more each bus that we ride (usually, 4 a week).

Wednesday we took the 10:36 bus downtown and there was only one person on it when we got on; yesterday, the same bus was over half full. I have no idea why the same bus, going to a residential neighborhood, would have that much discrepancy in the number of riders from day to day. I'm glad when it's crowded, though, because that means MTA won't cancel our route!

Anyway, back to the boys: We got on the bus and had an uneventful ride. To get to the back of the bus, where we usually sit, you have to go up 3 steps, and the seats are higher so someone who is small can see out. Yesterday, Carmac and I sat in the middle where he can't see out of the windows. He leaned his head on the seat in front and sat still, watching everything that happened on the bus, completely quiet and polite. Many children his age would have been bored and disruptive but his behavior is so good (most of the time) in situations that call for waiting.

Our morning destination, yesterday, was the library, where we attended the annual volunteer recognition brunch. My boys had never been to an awards banquet before and they did their share of yawning during the commendations and speeches but perked up again when they saw the pastries on the buffet. They, of course, had a lot of people come up and ask them where they volunteered and what they did. Carmac, particularly, enjoyed telling them about working "crowd control" for the marionette shows (keeping the throngs of wild toddlers from approaching the stage).

After the brunch, we hung out for an hour in the Children's Library and read books for a while. Then, we walked to the Frist.

There is an exhibit at the Frist, "Societe Anonyme" which is a collection of work put together by Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray to introduce Americans to "modern" art (this was back in the early part of last century). I was excited to go because I've been reading a lot of books about artists and Wassily Kandinsky comes up all the time as an artist who's work heavily influenced many other artists and I'd never had the opportunity to study any of his work in person and he was a major component of the Societe.

Both my boys were barely resigned to being dragged around an art exhibit but in the third room, there was a film being shown. The filmmaker was Lotte Reiniger, a German woman who began making shadow-puppets as a child. She made the film The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1926- the earliest surviving animated film. The details in the puppets were amazing. It's a silent film with a symphonic score by Wolfgang Zeller. The boys watched for 20 or 30 minutes and were reluctant to leave when it was time to move on.

We went into ArtQuest to do some painting, drawing, listening, and reading for a while, then went to the cafe to have a snack and some hot cider.

Then we walked to aikido where Zed got thrown around and Carmac made silly putty snow people.

Hammy picked us up and we came home to play a game of Mouse Trap and get ready for bed.

Declan, too, had a long day. I rode with Hammy to pick him up at a few minutes after 10:00 pm. He'd been at school since 7:15 am. The musical he's been staying late to prepare for opened last night, Footloose. He said it went well. He's doing general backstage stuff. He's helped build sets and do set design. He's really learning a lot and enjoying it. He's not getting much in the way of academics from school but he's still learning a tremendous amount that he will use the rest of his life.

When I can step back from the day-to-day irritants of my life to see the big picture, I see just how wonderful each of my boys is. Yeah, they're noisy and smelly and never put the seat up when they pee nor the lid down when they're done, but they're the best gift I could ever imagine, anyway!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Birthday, Carmac!

Today, my baby turns 5. Five. Half a decade. No longer a baby. Whew. We're supposed to meet some of his friends at the zoo to play and eat cake. The weather report is calling for rain this afternoon. My fingers are crossed that it will be dry long enough for him to get to play some as he has been talking about this for almost 2 full months!

Zed and I made vegan cupcakes (for vegan friends who will be at the zoo) and a non-vegan chocolate cake last night. When Carmac wakes up, Hammy's taking him skateboarding so Zed and I can decorate the cake. Carmac saw a "Candyland" cake in a magazine at my mom's a couple of months ago and said that's what he wanted for his birthday. He's forgotten but I didn't, so that's what we're going to surprise him with. He's getting some Play-do and a Mousetrap game for his birthday. Yesterday, my folks brought him a new Lego set. I think Hammy's mom sent him a remote control car. I think his 5th birthday will be a happy one. He is much loved and treasured. He is a wonderful gift to me.

Switching to Green

The radio show "Marketplace" is doing a series about the economics of our consumer culture. I'm almost speechless that they went so in-depth about the dirty little secret that most of us share: Our responsibility for using a huge portion of the world's resources while being a small part of the population and NOT REALLY CARING about it. I was really moved that a show about the American free market system would talk about personal responsibility. Amen to them!

Anyway, the show had a link to this game you can play to find out how many Earths there would need to be if everyone lived the way you do. I've done games like this before but, for some reason, this time it really hit home. I scored very low compared to most people: There would only need to be 2 Earths for me. But that's with not owning a second car and riding the bus instead. I got out our energy usage bill to see what our average payment is. On our bill is how much "Green Power" energy we use. We only signed up for a couple of blocks originally. With the electric bill comes a little "newsletter". The lead article is about Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) making rate changes ahead. It says "Of the $1 billion in capital spending for a new generation, $317 million is budgeted to begin construction of a second reactor unit at TVA's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant." I can't support that and I won't support it with my money. I just made the switch to full Green Power, even though it will cost us almost $40 more each month (and the nuclear reactor will be built anyway).

In the newsletter, there are several articles about how to save energy and about having energy audits done and buying energy efficient appliances and then there's an article on the annual "Christmas Lights" competition. Save energy by turning off your lights but be sure to plug your yard in for the month of December!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Talk about "other worlds"

Well, it's finally happened-I've finally interviewed a man who's business is worth "something over" a billion. Yes, I said BILLION. A BILLION dollars. Zoinkees. He said he has a "boat" worth more than $500,000,000 (that's five hundred million). I can't even begin to fathom (pardon the pun).

This man is nice to me, brusque but polite. As a matter of fact, he is calling me when he has 20 or 30 minutes to work on the survey, rather than me having to chase him down. But he has no clue about the world that most of us inhabit. We have questions about people's reasons for "saving and planning for the future". He genuinely does not understand the questions. He's never had to think in terms of future personal financial security. We haven't gotten to the section on inheritances or trusts but I'm sure that he began life with a very cushioned financial foundation. I haven't yet interviewed a very wealthy person who didn't, at the very least, have his education paid for through an inheritance or trust. It takes money to make money, as they say.

One of the last questions is about how much money the respondent gave to charity last year. I really hope that this guy has been generous. I get so disappointed when very wealthy people, who's income was in the 7 or 8 digits (or more), gave not very much to others. One guy I interviewed, had given 6 million the previous year. His brother was also wealthy and they seemed to be having a competition to see who could endow the most wings. That's good competition. Much better than "whoever dies with the most toys" thinking. A $500,000,000 boat, for instance.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Compassion break through

I've had a bit of a compassion break-through this past week. Two relationships that have been causing me some amount of frustration, sorrow or anger have, through the grace of compassion, become clearer for me.

One is the relationship with an old friend. Over a year ago, this friend did something to me that hurt me very badly and made me seriously rethink our friendship and distance myself from her. I told her how I felt, and why and she responded by saying that we needed to talk but then never brought the subject up again. Over time, I became very angry and cynical about her and her approach to our mutual interests. I discussed the situation with a couple of other people who agreed that her action was uncool but couldn't suggest solutions. Over the year, while I haven't been able to avoid seeing this former friend, I kept my distance and spoke with her as little as I could. Recently, we were sort of forced, by circumstance and deliberate choice on her part, to be together. As we sat and made small talk, I could "see" the true goodness of her heart. I felt something break open in me and the anger melted away. I don't know that I will trust her or hold her as a "bosom" friend as I once did, but I no longer feel the hurt or cynicism I'd been carrying toward her.

Something also happened with the person I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I learned something about her that caused me to feel great compassion for her. Again, I felt something crack in me that let me see her in a new light with eyes of love rather than with ego/judgment.

I don't know where this will lead but I will try to allow myself to be open to where God is leading me. Love is pretty scary sometimes. Remaining open to God's leading can be very scary. What if God leads me to do something I'm don't feel ready for. What if I have to change my perceptions of myself?

I have other relationships which need healing on my part. I have not been able to approach them with love, yet. I will pray for guidance and for the strength and courage to follow God's will.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Anti Synthesizer Rant (no Compassion for electronic music)

Before you read this, read the post just prior to this for the lyrics...

As I said, I awoke with Todd Rundgren's "Compassion" in my head. I love that song and hate it in equal measures. The lyrics, of course, I love. The music, though, makes my skin crawl. This rant is specifically directed at Todd Rundgren and Joni Mitchell who are two incredible songwriters but who's choice of production and instrumentation about makes me give up on them. Why must they use tinny, thin, synthetic, grating electronic "instruments"? Both of them write lyrics that have depth, experience, and (sometimes) wisdom and melodies which flow and support the lyrics but then take those songs and make them sound like the K-Mart toy isle during the Christmas shopping season. Why? I really don't understand. Obviously, they're both proficient musicians. Obviously, they both have access to basically any musician they wanted to play with. Why do they choose to sound synthetic?

A lot of musicians went through an electronic music phase in the '80s. I understand the excitement of a new medium through which to showcase one's talents. But most musicians discovered, quickly enough, that their music sounds not just better but, really, really BETTER when played with a real instrument rather than with a synthesizer. Why didn't Joni and Todd figure this obvious thing out?

Some musicians, like Thomas Dolby, I can understand. I really like some of his music (the song "Hyperactive" totally describes my middle son), even though the synthetic nature of his music is a big part of his shtick.

Todd Rundgren. His "A Capella" disc is one of my favorites. He uses the human voice (and nothing else) to beautiful results. And Joni's early music (prior to the '80s) is incredible for it's perfect simplicity which showcases her lyrical phrasing. What drove them off track? I think Todd is an innovator; the kind of guy who can't leave well enough alone. And Joni is an artist who needs to feel she is moving forward. (I'm projecting here). Whatever the reasoning is, I wish they'd put out double disc sets of any new music projects: One with the production they prefer and one with a simpler, more "natural" production that doesn't hurt my ears.

If only the world would listen to me.

Anti Synthesizer Rant Preface (no Compassion for electronics)

I awoke with the Todd Rundgren song "Compassion" in my head. Here's a link to a not very clear You Tube video of the song.

"You want more, and still more,
Until you get more than you ever bargained for.
Now its plain, clear as rain,
Ive seen your symptoms many times before.

Lying on your bed of pain
What will you have now?

What are riches untold in a life without compassion? For there's no winter as cold
As a life without compassion.
There's no prescription that's sold
That can heal you like compassion.

Well you tried and you cried,
And let your disappointment make you hard inside.
You have doubt, you reach out,
Still you're the only one you care about.

Hiding in your sack of woe
What do you need now?

For there is nothing so sad
As a life without compassion.
And even love has turned bad,
It was love without compassion.
And you don't need what you had
cause you did not have compassion.

Dying on your bed of pain
What will you have now?

You'll get no judgment from me,
I can only feel compassion.
And if that's what you need,
I will give you my compassion.
Just don't forget about me
cause we all need some compassion.

Open up your heart
So you can start to feel compassion.
Get down on your knees,
Pray to heaven for compassion.
Everybody needs compassion.
If you want to be healed
Then you know you got to feel compassion."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Learning to Be Accountable

I've been reading the newest Pendle Hill pamphlet to arrive, "Spirit-Led Eldering" by Margery Mears Larrabee. I'm only a short ways into it but on passage really spoke to me when I read it yesterday:

What I find compelling and inspiring about the lives
of these early Friends is their mutual and active desire to be accountable for the spiritual health, nurture, and behavior of members,
attenders, and the meeting as a whole. I believe we need to get back to this
accountability and to revitalize the culture of mutual spiritual nurturing and
care within our own faith community.

A Friends meeting is intended to be so much more
than a loose association of individuals on separate and private spiritual
journeys. Friends are called to be a faith community, seeking to know each other
"in that which is Eternal" as we journey together. Ideally we acknowledge that
our primary relationship is to God and to that of God in each other. We let go
of the idea that we have only private lives and hold ourselves accountable to
the authority of the Spirit in the life of the meeting. We grow in a sense of
responsibility for each other and become part of a gathered community.

This reminds me that I have an obligation, an accountability, to reach out in Meeting for Worship rather than going inward. Some weeks I am able to center down and feel Spirit flowing like the Water of Life. Other weeks I show up at meeting with my head full of every little thing spinning like laundry in a dryer. I tend to think of the laundry weeks as an irritant. Maybe that's not how I should view them. Maybe I should try to get outside myself to actively visualize the connections between us. When I realize that I am responsible to the meeting to "bring down the Spirit," I have a new understanding of how I am an integral part of the community and accountable for gathering us together.

(I don't know about y'all but sometimes I have such trouble undoing formatting things that I've done. I tried putting the above quotation in a "block quote" by using the button at the top of the "create" page but when then I accidentally hit the backspace key and the quotation becomes a regular paragraph and when I hit the block quotes button again the sentence structure is all weird. Sorry.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What Privileges Did You Begin With? meme

Jeanne, who writes the blog Social Class & Quakers, posted this exercise and is asking others to participate, either on their own blog or on hers (if you do it on your own blog, leave a message on hers to let her know). Cut and paste the list, remove my answers and then write in your own and bold the ones that are true for you.

I think it's an interesting exercise. I sorta had fun going through the questions and thinking about my family. My family was working class but, because my parents are very proper people who came from very lower class backgrounds (my mom more than my dad by degrees). They worked hard to make sure we spoke properly and were secure in our needs. My parents were very good parents and I'm very grateful for the love they gave me and the standards they held.

  • Father went to college-After he got out of the Navy and just prior to my birth, my dad finished his associates degree in warehouse management.

Father finished college

Mother went to college-she didn't but she should have. She's a very intelligent and curious person. She worked as a teacher's aid for years before she retired and would have made a great early elementary teacher.

Mother finished college

  • Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor-I have one cousin who is a professor at a Christian college out of a very, very large extended family (cousin also has a bunch of rental properties and painted houses on the side for years).

Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers

  • Had more than 50 books in your childhood home-My mom values reading and we had one full bookcase in our house (I owned several "Nancy Drew" books). Actually, all the women in both sides of my parents family love books; they may not have great taste, favoring mysteries and "Christian" themed novels, but they all read a lot. My dad only began reading for pleasure since he retired but now reads a lot.

Had more than 500 books in your childhood home-Nope. The library was my favorite place in town.

  • Were read children's books by a parent-Both my parents read to us. My dad read to my brother and me as part of our bedtime ritual (I have a very fond memory of dad reading "Old Yeller" to us when I was around 6 and crying when Old Yeller had to be killed).

  • Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18-I took cello lessons at public school from 3rd grade through 7th. Hated every minute of it. My teacher was an unpleasant person and a lousy teacher who went to my church, too, so I had to be in the church orchestra as well as the school one. I learned one song in 4 years. Before one performance at school, Mr. Bennett told me to move the bow back and forth but "don't let it touch the strings".

Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively

Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18-Ha! I don't have a credit card in my name now!

Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs

Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs

Went to a private high school

  • Went to summer camp-One year, when I was 8, I went to some Baptist Bible summer camp for a week with my best friend from church. I don't remember anything from that week except that my friend sleepwalked, pulled down her pants and almost sat on my head dreaming she was in the bathroom (the counselor stopped her) and I was utterly mortified.

Had a private tutor before you turned 18

  • Family vacations involved staying at hotels-My parents always took us on low budget, high stress vacations to amusement parks. We stayed in motels and often ate store donuts for breakfast to save money. My dad would get lost and my mom would yell at him and my brother, sister and I would sit in the back seat longing for the boredom of home. The year I was 12, we drove to Disneyworld from Northern Indiana and home again in a week's time in a Beetle with all our luggage and 3 kids. The kooky thing is that we owned a station wagon but my parents wanted to save on gas.

Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18-I had a bunch of older girl cousins so I rarely had new clothes until I began to babysit and earned enough to buy my own.

Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them- I bought my first car, a 1973 Galaxy 500 for $300, when I was 18

There was original art in your house when you were a child-one wouldn't count any art held by magnets to the fridge would one?

  • Had a phone in your room before you turned 18-Yes, oddly. My bedroom was wired for it when we moved in. My mom had bought a "candlestick" phone at a garage sale that she hated so gave it to me for my room, which I thought was way cool. It wasn't my own private line, though.

  • You and your family lived in a single family house-yes, although when I was in junior high, my parents tried opening a business that failed and they lost everything and we moved in with an elderly former neighbor. After a year or so, my folks bought his house from him and he lived with us until he got cancer and died. We called him "Gramps" and I loved him (and was irritated by him) like he really was my grandfather.

  • Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home-My parents are the most frugal people around-great with money management. They saved and scrimped to buy their first house when I was two and had it paid off in just over 10 years but then made an unwise decision to go into business with a family member and lost everything.

You had your own room as a child- Some of the time. When we moved in with Gramps Wegner, my sister and I had to, not only share a room, but share a bed! I was 14 and she was 8. One night I dreamed I was sitting on a porch swing kissing my boyfriend on the ear and woke up to find myself nibbling the lobe of my little sister! Ew, gross!

Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course

Had your own TV in your room in High School

Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

  • Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16-When I was 6 we lived in Texas. My grandfather in Indiana died and we flew home for the funeral.

Went on a cruise with your family

Went on more than one cruise with your family

  • Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up-When I was in 6th grade, my class took a field trip to Chicago to see The Treasures of King Tut. My mom chaperoned so she could go. That same year she took me to see some of our community orchestra concerts including a ballet (Nutcracker, natch). My brother and I went to our local historical museum all the time because it had a really creepy display about this notorious murderess, Belle Gunness.

  • You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family-My parents worried about money but they made it a point not to burden us with their worries.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Car-Free in Tennessee: Rights vs Privileges

Having a 16 year old and another child who's starting to push the boundaries into adolescence, we do a lot of talking about the difference between rights and privileges. I define rights as those things that make us secure as human beings and members of a family and community and, in the case of my children, will allow them to grow into happy, positively functioning adults. Rights are the basics: Healthy food, clothing and shelter, health care. Rights are also those things that nurture us: Love, acceptance, respect, some amount of privacy, positive discipline, etc. Rights may fluctuate according to the needs of the individual and the family dynamic. What is a right for a child at two may be vastly different than what that child, as a teen, needs.

Privileges are the icing,the extras; they're not a given. I think of privileges as rewards; they're what we earn for hard work or extra attention. For my children, privileges are things like "screen time" (computer, movies, video games), being driven to social activities, sometimes books, etc. When my kids do not do the things that are expected of them (usually in regard to schoolwork, but sometimes chores or being disrespectful of others) the usual disciplinary action is that they lose one or more of their privileges.

Yesterday, I was thinking about wanting to go somewhere and trying to figure out the schedule between Hammy's job and mine, picking up Declan from his after school activity and getting us home after aikido. The event I wanted to attend is important; it's a fund-raiser for a friend who has cancer. As I thought about it, I saw the dilemma in terms of rights versus privileges. Hammy wants us to buy another car as soon as possible. The children constantly complain about having to walk and ride the bus, about not getting to do everything they want when they want because we don't have a second car. But, is it really hurting us to have only one car? Is it hurting the children to be walking? Does it hurt me to miss the fund-raiser tonight?

I am American: "It's not just your car...it's your freedom" American. I was practically born in a car. Many Americans, particularly those in the South, would argue that owning a car is one of the rights of being American. I don't think so but I'm only now coming to understand what owning a car does mean. Owning a car means that I can do what I want, when I want to (me, me, me). Not owning a car means that I have to organize my time and schedule my activities around a bus schedule, which means that I miss some activities. Is participating in those activities a right? Some are, like feeling socially connected at homeschool play-day and being a part of our spiritual community at Friends Meeting. If I make those activities a priority, I can schedule our time so we can get to them, then the other, non priority activities can either be done or not done as time and bus schedules allow.

If owning a car is a privilege, what did I do to earn the privilege? Being born American is not enough justification. In my mind, with privilege comes responsibility. If I own a car, what are my responsibilities? The first thing that comes to mind is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by cars and the depletion of fossil fuels. Shouldn't the first responsibility be to off-set the harm done by driving a car? Have I ever done anything to repair the damage I've done by driving? Nope, because I had thought of the car as a right rather than a privilege. The pollution was just an unfortunate side-effect of my right to drive.

Maybe I'm turning Amish in my thinking. At this moment (in the lovely, temperate autumn), I feel that the quality of my life is greatly improved by not owning a car. I am being forced to simplify and prioritize, which is always good. In a way, thinking about my relationship with society, culture and car-owning rights is like exploring my relationship with super-ego. Pretty much every aspect of our culture says that not only should I own a car, but that I must own a car. I'd thought I was fairly counter-culture (homebirth, homeschool, vegetarian, Quaker, feminist, progressive, etc) but this whole issue of car ownership is showing me that I have completely internalized some of society's expectations and assumptions.

I will not be attending the fund-raiser tonight. I'll be missing a bunch of great performers and will not see a lot of friends in a cool setting. I won't be on-hand to show support for my friend and her family. Instead, I will send a check to the bank account set up for her and I will take a casserole to her family in a week or so. I'll email her to let her know I'm thinking about her and I'll hold her and her family in the Light of God's love. Thinking of all the things I can do for her is, in many ways, better for me than just showing up tonight. If I showed up tonight and wrote out a check, I might feel "off the hook." Because I can't attend, I am thinking about what my friend needs and I'm actively committing to do for her and her family. I have been and will continue to hold her in the Light. Missing out is making me more aware. And maybe that's the shift I need in many areas of my life. A metaphorical "missing out" which makes me more aware.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Disconcerting Encounter on a Rainy Day

We'd been lucky, I guess, that we had to go car-free during a drought. Yesterday it rained. And rained. And rained. (My favorite kind of day.) The temp wasn't too bad; around 68 degrees. Zed missed aikido both days last week so I was determined that he would get there this week-rain or shine. We left with enough time to take the long way 'round to the bus stop but I made the mistake of letting Zed talk me into taking the shortcut. Big mistake. Of course, since it had been raining for over 24 hours, the creek was swollen. We got to the stepping stones and found they were all submerged, so we had to build a new path by moving big rocks and placing them carefully. We'd been at it a couple of minutes when I said we should just go back and around the other way, but I checked my clock and we didn't really have time. So we made an emergency walkway and splashed across, climbing up the bank through the roots of a tree.

We made it to the bus stop and waited about 10 minutes in the pouring rain. Hammy had bought us new umbrellas but didn't realize they were as small as they are. Carmac had on a raincoat but his hair got pretty wet. My head stayed dry but the rest of me got wet (kept the books in my bag dry, though!). The bus finally arrived and we were glad to find the heat was on.

This is where my narrative gets all introspective and spiritually self-questioning. A man got on the bus. A very large, middle aged black man. He sat in the seat right in front of me and turned to talk to me. I've seen him around town, often panhandling. He looks homeless. He started asking me questions about where he could find a dry cleaners to repair the zipper of his coat. He would ask the same question 4 or 5 times, looking closely at me the whole time, as if testing me. I realized quickly that he is probably mentally "slow" and possibly mentally ill. He would ask my name and then praise Jesus, often repeating lines like "children of the sun, children of the sun" (or maybe "children of the Son"-I'm not sure) over and over. The thing that made me very uncomfortable was that he wanted to touch me, very much like a child. He would put his hand on my shoulder and rub it over and over or grab my arm and squeeze in time to the repetitions of phrases. I told him that he was making me uncomfortable and moved a little away but he didn't seem to hear me and kept trying to touch me. He asked what color my eyes are and asked me to take my glasses off so he could see my eyes. We looked deeply into each other's eyes for a moment but I was very uncomfortable and looked away. I just didn't know what he was asking of me. I kept thinking of Christ and "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me" and wondering what was needed from me and I didn't have a clue. I was also a little afraid that the man, William, would follow us off the bus and then what I would do.

I'm still pondering this encounter, trying to learn from it. What was William teaching me? What was he asking of me? I don't think his sitting next to me on an uncrowded bus and speaking with me so intimately and intensely was a coincidence. I've been thinking about what I learned from this profound post by Jim Rose and trying to put yesterday's meeting in context (thank you very much, Jim).

And now, we must leave again, to catch a bus...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fall Retreat

We returned late yesterday afternoon from the annual Nashville Friends Meeting Fall Retreat. Carmac, Zed and Z's friend Scott went with me. My friend Sylvia brought her son and his friend (who Z has known since he was 3 and who go to school with Scott) so we had a small gang of 12 year old boys and then Carmac, who's always happy tailing the big boys. We were the first people to arrive on Saturday, due to Hammy having to drop us off because he needed the car over the weekend. The schedule was low-key. On Saturday we did a "swap-meet" in which we all brought something we were ready to "let go of", shared it's significance with the group and then set it out for someone else to take. I cheated and made a CD of my favorite music specifically for the swap. When we finished that, Thais had brought her stamping stuff and I brought a ton of T-shirts and my stencilling stuff so we made cool looking shirts (Carmac got a new Godzilla shirt that looks way cool and I made a flying saucer shirt for Zed and an atom shirt for Scott).
We took a nice hike on Saturday and then Bill and a friend of his, Susan, played for us while many of us danced. Carmac was my partner for most of the dances and did wonderfully! Mary B taught me to waltz, which was great! We did the Virginia Reel and danced a polka and I spun Carmac around and up and over.

Carmac had been talking about smarshmellows for a week, so we gathered around the campfire for s'mores. I'd brought my "over the fire" old-fashioned popcorn popper (which I found at Goodwill years ago and have never used). It worked pretty well until the butter caught fire. Car had his sweets and then he and I retired to bed. He'd said he wanted the top bunk but pretty quickly he decided he wanted to be with me in the bottom one. We snuggled together but then he fell asleep and wet the bed a little. The lodge, where we were sleeping, seems to amplify noise, so anyone walking anywhere in the building disturbed my sleep. I got very little sleep Saturday night.

Sunday we had Meeting for Worship during which, for the very first time, I fell asleep. Sitting in the chair in the warm sun I tried to settle in and settled myself right into dreamland. I didn't even know I was nodding off until after I'd awakened and realised I'd been dreaming!

I must go work now, but let me close by saying again, just how grateful I am to have the community of NFM in my life. I and my children are so nurtured, loved and sustained by the community. Blessings.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In Truth

I used to lie. Not all the time, but whenever I felt like it. Sometimes to get myself out of uncomfortable situations, sometimes to make a story better. I don't really remember when I began to make an effort to not manipulate people with my words. My husband says I am one of the most honest people he's ever known, so I guess I've been speaking truth at least as long as I've known him. Coming to Friends Meeting and learning of "let your yea mean yea and your nay, nay" felt right to me. Lately, I've become aware of exaggeration and sarcasm (my verbal forte) as being dishonest, and of saying things like "I swear" (as in "I swear, I am the biggest klutz" or whatever). Whenever I've found myself exaggerating or sometimes when I've been sarcastic, I've felt that vague discomfort one gets when one is being gently prodded by Spirit (or conscience...or both in one).

This has been on my mind lately because there is someone in my life who seems to be a compulsive liar. Our paths cross frequently. Normally, I would call someone I see as often as this person a friend, but that word implies trust and I am not able to trust this person. I've known her for some time-a couple of years, or so. She's very friendly and outgoing and is kind to people. She's friends with a lot of people I'm friends with or would like to know better. Last year, we had some regularly scheduled events together so I spent a lot of time with her. At first, I noticed that there would be inconsistencies in what she would say, but I figured she was distracted and not paying attention to what she said but the better I got to know her, the more I saw that the inconsistencies happened often and regularly. I see her once or twice a week, now, and almost every week, without exception, she'll say something that completely contradicts or negates something she has said in the recent past. Never anything big. It's not like she's "scamming" people; it's always something rather minor, the kind of thing that I'd feel silly "calling" her on. But these regular inconsistencies stand in my way of trusting her and even liking her.

I'm going to give an example. This isn't something she has said but it's very similar to something she did say: "My husband is allergic to the sun. When he is in the sun, he gets a rash and suffers for weeks." And then, two weeks later said, "We went on a trip to the beach this week so my husband could lay out and get a tan."

This doesn't really matter to anyone. She's not trying to hurt anyone with her lack of veracity. But I can't get past all these misstatements to want to be friends with her. She usually seems to want to be in the center of attention and I think the lies are a part of that. She is one of those people who always does this or never experiences that. Whatever anyone has to say, she has done the same only much more so. And that's irritating, but I understand that she needs the attention and that's ok with me. What bothers me is that, because our paths cross very frequently (I couldn't avoid her if I tried), I have to maintain a relationship with her. I prefer my relationships to be based on trust (duh). I don't feel manipulated by her exactly, but I don't like being aware that I can't just accept at face value what she is saying. Not that anything important hinges on her stories; I'm not going to make any decisions or act in any particular way based on something she is saying to the group of people we're with, but when people are talking, I'd rather not have to be aware that what they are saying should be taken with several grains of salt.

Am I making too big a deal out of this? Probably. I'm not sure why it bothers me so much. No one else in our circle of friends has ever mentioned it (and I'm certainly not going to bring it up). They all seem to take everything she says as straight up. As I said, she's kind and helpful to other people. She doesn't gossip or talk meanly about others. She just seems to need to be in the center of whatever is going on and one of the ways she does that is by representing herself as more extreme than anyone else. I understand this. Maybe in identifying this, I'll be able to let it go.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Car-free October

It's been a while-ten days, to be exact. My schedule has prohibited my doing much writing. My caseload has doubled and my cases are all phone work on both coasts and in the middle. About half my cases have business phone numbers, so I call those people during business hours, and the other half are home numbers which I call in the evening or weekends. Zed has recently started back up to taking aikido on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go to the park on Wednesdays and we're volunteering at the library every Friday morning this month. We ride the bus downtown and have to leave an hour (or more) earlier than we would if we were driving (and get home the same amount later). So for instance, on Tuesday and Thursday, aikido starts at 5:00 but we leave the house at 3:00, get downtown and walk to the library where we rest, drink water, eat a snack, read to Carmac and then we leave the library at 4:20, walk the mile to the dojo and Hammy picks us up at 6:15. Wednesday's even longer because we have 2 buses to ride and twice as much walking to do to get to the park. We leave at 10:30 and get to the park at 1:45 or so (Hammy picks us up at 5:30 or so). Since we're downtown, we eat lunch at a restaurant as a treat (there's great stir-fry place that's cheap and healthy which we all enjoy).

I'm not writing this as a complaint. I actually have really been enjoying the walking and taking the bus. I feel much more connected to my world on several levels.

Of course, in addition to working around 4 hours each day and riding the bus to our scheduled activities, there's the homeschooling work for both boys. I check their assignments with the boys in between phone calls for work. Zed is pretty self-motivated and mostly what Carmac wants is to be read to.

Finding time to be with Hammy has been a challenge. We have to actively make time to do things together. This past weekend Zed went camping with a friend (so we had room for another person in our car) and picked up a friend of Declan's and went to Oktoberfest. We listened to the German band and danced a polka and the "Chicken" dance. It was nice.
I feel more strongly that being car-free is part of my testimony, right now. Yes, it's a challenge and sometimes very frustrating and inconvenient, but it's also eye-opening and positive. Hammy has been talking about "when we get another car" and I'm not sure I want to do that. I'm crazy...I know. We're a family with 3 children who live in the suburbs in the South! People own cars. That's the only way to get anywhere. It's cruel to the kids to not have a second car. But right now it feels really right to not have a second car. It feels right to not be going into debt. It feels right to not be polluting the air nor using more fossil fuels. It feels right to be walking and waiting patiently at the bus stop. It feels right to have to schedule when we can get a haircut or go to Target rather than hopping in a car to run here or there.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Day By Day

This is the song I woke up with. I haven't thought of it in years but it fits my heart today.

Day by day
Oh, dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Discovering That My Place is Right/Here

I've sorta begun to look for a new job. Sorta. I'm still working on the latest social research project and still liking it. In many ways this job is terrific and a great fit for me. There is a great deal of variety in this job so it's never boring. I get to meet all kinds of people and learn about their lives. There's just enough administrative work that I'm forced to stay organized. I get to work at my own pace, play on my personality strengths and improve my weaknesses. I'm trusted to do my job without much supervision. I set my own hours and work when I want to. I always learn a lot when on each project. But...I'm really tired of the constant inability to schedule more than a week or two in advance. I never know if I'll be working in a month, let alone 3 months. At the beginning of a project I work 40 hours a week for the first several weeks and that dwindles down to many weeks of 10 hours at the end (and we never know exactly when the end of project will happen). When a project ends, I never know how long it will be until the next one will start; could be a month, could be 6 or more. This job is wonderful but completely unreliable.

So, I've tentatively begun looking for something else.

I am looking for something in the non-profit sector. I want to do good work-"right livelihood". I really enjoyed the job I had as volunteer coordinator working with families of prisoners several years ago. Unfortunately, even in non-profits, a degree seems to have become required. Used to be that not-for-profits had a lot of flexibility and would look at a person's experiences and enthusiasm but that seems to have changed over the last few years. Now, the job listings all state the minimum requirement as a Bachelor's degree. It's frustrating to me that I can't qualify for a job that my skills, personality and experiences make me perfect for because I don't have a degree. I wonder if I should go to school to get a degree but I don't feel called to a particular direction or vocation and I get bored too easily to spend the time and money to get a degree arbitrarily.

I've written before about my longing to be "called" by God. I yearn to have a clear understanding of the direction I should head and I'd love to know that I'm doing the work God wants me to do.

I sent my resume and a cover letter to a Baptist women's job training organization about a position as "satellite coordinator" last week. Before I wrote, I thought long and hard about whether I would be able to work with a bunch of fundamentalist Christian women. The agency sounds like a good one and I like what I've seen of the work they do. I believe in their mission statement: "Being Christ in our community". I think I've matured to the point of being able to work with others who believe differently from myself without getting all offended and offensive. On Friday, the director called to do a pre-interview. She asked me about my spiritual beliefs. She was enthusiastic about my being Quaker because she and her husband had done a Marriage Enrichment early in their marriage with a "wonderful" Quaker couple. She asked if I would be comfortable praying with the clients. I answered honestly that I pray in silence and would be comfortable doing so with others, speaking only when lead by the Spirit to speak. She responded positively that my answer is in keeping with the agency's goals of letting the clients lead the relationship. Unfortunately, I had to decline the job because it is in another county and I'm still car-free and couldn't get there.

Today was Meeting for Worship. As I was leaving, I stopped one of my GIL companions to see if she and her son would be attending the NFM Fall Retreat. As we were talking, she began telling me about a situation causing her worry, sadness and stress. I was able to offer some suggestions which she seemed to find helpful. Then, another person approached to suggest that I get in touch with some of the members of one of the other nurturing groups to see if they would like me to facilitate their next meeting to help them establish their focus, which I will and am happy to do.

I have been fretting about work and jobs and my place in the world a great deal lately. I feel frustrated that I still, at age 42, don't know what I'm going to do when I grow up. I have a low boredom threshold and can't see doing any one job for the rest of my life (or really more than a few years, truth be told). I sometimes think there is something wrong with me that I can't knuckle down and just commit to something like all the other adults in my life did decades ago.

But today, on my way home from Meeting, I had a little calming of my soul. I had the glimmer that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I had the insight that God is working through me in my everyday life. I don't have to make a big, dynamic commitment to a career in order to be called. I am able to have the time and energy to organize Growing In the Light because I'm not committed to a career. I am helping others on their spiritual path and I am learning and growing so much in the process. God is using me. I am being supported and nurtured and loved by my community and by God through my community. For some time I've felt that everything I've done and learned and studied and experienced will one day add up to something which I can use in the service of God. I trust that when I am ready, my path will lead me there. Today, I am thankful that I am able to give to this beautiful community something of value and that I am nurtured by it, in return.

Friday, September 28, 2007

There is a Balm in Gil

Last night was the first meeting of the small nurturing group of which I am a part from the Growing In the Light spiritual formation group of Nashville Friends Meeting. We have 5 people in our group. We met from 7-9:30 at the meetinghouse. It was wonderful. We all enjoyed it so much that we decided that we don't want to wait a full month to meet again so we're getting together October 8th.

As this was our first meeting, we talked a little about the general outline of the meeting and how it would unfold. We started with a few minutes of silence and then I (as the initial facilitator) read a query about where we are in our individual lives and where God is. At that point, some folks spent a little time writing out their commitment to the group and others sat in silent worship.

After letting folks have about 10 minutes to write, I suggested that we center into silence and then asked if anyone wanted to speak first. We then took turns being the focus of the group. The person who's turn it was would talk about their response to the query, their spiritual "history" or whatever else they felt moved to say for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I would gently suggest that the person allow the group to respond out of silence. As the person was speaking, we participated in active listening and when we spoke out of the silence, we continued to focus on the person, asking questions or repeating back things that we heard which seemed deep, heavy or important. At the end of the second 10 minutes I would ask the group to hold the individual in the Light for a moment and then move to the next person.

At the end of the speaking, we all went around and read our commitments to the group out loud. Some were more elaborate and detailed, some were basic and 'too the point' but they all said how we will make our group a priority and keep what is said in the group confidential.

We then decided on our next meeting. During this discussion, I said that I would like a name for our group so I can refer to it as something. Someone suggested "Gill" (don't know why that name) and I immediately thought "There is a balm in Gill (ead)". It works for me, so I'm thinking of our group as Gill. Or maybe Growing In Light=Gil. Yup, I bet that's it.

I said that we need a closing ritual and one person suggested a song and so we stood together in a circle holding hands and singing a round. I think we were all moved to be part of something so intimate and loving. We're all in a place in which we are willing to open ourselves up to the loving scrutiny of others so we can each grow and develop in God's light. This is a frightening and exhilarating moment. I feel well loved and supported and I'm very thankful to have this group of people to support me on this journey into the unknown.

There is a balm in Gilead,
to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead,
to heal the sinsick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged,
and think my work's in vain,
but then the Holy Spirit
revives my soul again. Refrain

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who Am I?

I have certainly gotten myself into a pickle. Last week I lost my wallet. I've turned the house and car upside-down looking for it and have come to the conclusion that it must have fallen out of my purse at the grocery store. The only things I had in it were my drivers license and around $20-no big deal as I don't carry any plastic cards with me. Yesterday, I was going to go downtown to replace my license. I looked on-line to learn what documents I would need: Birth certificate and social security cards-great! I knew just where they were. Except...they weren't there! I remember taking them with me to my last work project training in May but I must not have returned them to our fire-safe box when I returned home and now I have no idea where I mislaid them! I've searched my desk and file cabinet, book cases and piles of paperwork. I've been looking through books and magazines I may have been reading in May. So far, nothing. I don't know if I can get any of these documents replaced without some of these documents already in possession. And the cost! And the time!

And now, work calls me. I have an interview in a few minutes-a very wealthy man on the East coast. Seems nice. Should be long (I think he owns a bunch of businesses) but I'm guessing he'll be one of those people with all the numbers in his head at the ready.
I wish I were a little more that way. This distraction is driving me to distraction!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hymns to the Silence

So, I committed myself to prayer for part of my spiritual discipline. Why? I guess I thought that making it routine would give the practice depth. But with this chihuahua brain, the only thing I get is frustration. I know that God is and I love God for that reason but I find that I'm usually not able to be aware of God unless I do something to make myself be aware. And the thing with my brain is that anything I do that is outside of ordinary becomes ordinary within a very short time (that's one reason my house is always in chaos; after seeing something out of the corner of my eye once or twice and not attending to it, it becomes "normal" to me. Crooked pictures on the walls, "sock bombs", piles of books all become part of normal almost immediately and then I stop seeing them at all).

Music is one thing that I do to bring myself to awareness of God. Unfortunately, because I spend most of my time working at home, with my children, I'm not able to play my music often. When I put something on that I care to hear, the kids all complain and then they want to play their music, which raises my blood pressure (double kick drums could be used as an instrument of torture on the middle aged. Heavy metal, particularly the Swedish "death metal" that my oldest listens to is created to evoke images quite the opposite of the Divine). I do have the refrain from the Van Morrison song, "when will I ever learn to live in God, when will I ever learn? (s)He gives me everything I need and more, when will I ever learn?" almost all the time in my head, like a mantra or a prayer.

My ex-husband, the guy that brought me to Nashville, was a musician and music journalist. He wrote newspaper and magazine articles about music and wrote a lot of bios for artists. He interviewed bunches of artists and entertainers "back in the day" (20 years ago). I used to go with him to the interviews. I've never been starstruck. I was young and a little shy back when we were together, so I didn't really have much to say to most of the the people he met. There were a few people he interviewed who were really nice (Nicolette Larson and Bela Fleck stand out in my mind) but most were just folks doing their jobs, not wanting to do anything above and beyond and I respected that and left them alone.
Living in Nashville one bumps into all kinds of well-known people in restaurants, book stores or around. Even when I see artists who's work I really like, I don't have anything to say. I mean really, what could I say that they haven't heard fifty-million times before? I just smile the way I would at anyone I vaguely recognize and leave them alone.

I feel differently about Van Morrison. I feel like he's one of my mentors, in a way; an "anam cara" for those who know about soul friends. His body of music speaks to me in a deeper place than most songwriters. His quest is spiritual and he writes from his truth. His songs help to guide me, sometimes awakening me to greater awareness than I've found on my own.
Hammy and I have discussed what we would say to Van if we met him. Used to be that we both agreed that we could not possibly say anything to him that he would care about hearing. Lately though, I've had the sense that I am ready to meet him. I could tell him about how I listened to "Poetic Champions Compose" in a desert in the middle of a beautiful velvet-black night when the bus I was riding on broke down and how the music fit the lonely, excited, scared and contented feeling in my soul. But I don't think he would care about that. I think what I would ask him is if he had ever been to a Quaker Meeting and what he thought about it.
Does this sound crazy? I've never been a "fan" of anyone (well, since I outgrew my crushes on Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson back in 1973). I'm pretty embarrassed to be saying all of this in a public forum but this is where I am. I am sorta of the belief that one has to "voice" one's intentions in order to open oneself to the possibility, so that's what I'm doing. Van Morrison has taught me some wonderful things and, if nothing else, I'm writing this as a way to say "thanks" for what I've learned.
What does any of this have to do with prayer? I'm not sure other than some of Van's songs being hymns for me. And so we'll end with this "Hymns to the Silence."
Oh my dear,
oh my dear sweet love
Oh my dear, oh my dear sweet love
When I'm away from you,
when I'm away from you
Well I feel, yeah, well I feel so sad and blue
Well I feel, well I feel so sad and blue
Oh my dear, oh my dear, oh my dear sweet love
When I'm away from you, I just have to sing, my hymns
Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Oh my dear, oh my dear sweet love
it's a long, long journey
Long, long journey, journey back home
Back home to you, feel you by my side
Long journey, journey, journey
Yeah in the midnight, in the midnight, I burn the candle
Burn the candle at both ends, burn the candle at both ends
Burn the candle at both ends, burn the candle at both ends
And I keep on, 'cause I can't sleep at night
Until the daylight comes through
And I just, and I just, have to sing
Sing my hymns to the silence
Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
My hymns to the silence
I wanna go out in the countryside
Oh sit by the clear, cool, crystal water
Get my spirit, way back to the feeling
Deep in my soul, I wanna feel
Oh so close to the One, close to the One
Close to the One, close to the One
And that's why, I keep on singing baby
My hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Oh my hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Oh hymns to the silence, oh hymns to the silence
Oh hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Oh my dear, my dear sweet love
Can you feel the silence? can you feel the silence?
Can you feel the silence? can you feel the silence?
Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence
Hymns to the silence, hymns to the silence