Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thank you, Senator Webb

At a recent White House reception, Jim Webb, Virginia's new senator and father of a currently deployed marine, was asked by President Bush how his son is doing. Senator Webb replied that he wants them out of there. And that was it. When President Bush continued to press, Senator Webb walked away.

Now, I can't speak for Senator Webb. I've never even met him. He claims as his two favorite presidents two that drive me nuts, Andrew Jackson (whom I see as very similar to our current president) and Ronald Reagan. The only characteristic that I know we share is having a loved one who is currently deployed. But I can tell you that the question of how he's doing is one that worries me a lot. When will he be in convoy? I don't know. When will he be in the air? I don't know. What are the conditions on his base? I don't know.

On Christmas, will he have a chance to watch the various versions of "A Christmas Carol" that I sent him with? No clue. I somehow don't think it'll be a magical day of peace for him. (I hope, though, that he catches his favorite bit from his favorite version.) I do know he won't be having apple cake, not even the kind sweetened with that wierd pseudo sugar stuff. I know that he won't be headed to Florida to spend time with his aunt. I know I can't just ring up his cell phone to wish him a Merry Christmas, or invite him to the polka hall I just discovered (4 hours of polka for $5, and inexpensive refreshments!) I know it'll be summer before I can bring him to a local spot for Carolina BBQ.

I'm pretty sure that when he comes back, it'll be like last time. He'll watch televisions that have been turned off. He'll jump when a truck drives by the restaurant we're eating at. He won't be exactly the person we said goodbye to.

Until, President Bush, you've said that goodbye to your daughters, don't ask us about our loved ones. You're not qualified.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Leave it as a sign on the doorways of your house

Over at Thee, Hannah!, she has an entry about an HOA that attempted to force the removal of a peace sign wreath from a woman's door, claiming that the peace sign is divisive and they'd have to allow "Bomb Iraq Now" signs if they did. That is, those neighbors not claiming that the symbol is satanic.

*Sigh* My initial response was to say they think that's bad? I'd leave the curtains to my living room open every evening and develop a habit of laying out solitaire patterns with Tarot cards, dancing in front of the fireplace during major astrological events, especially the solstices and equinoxes. (And I've studied liturgical dance.) My fireplace smoke would *reek* of incense, and my doorknocker would subtly (or not so subtly if I figured I could) suggest a Greenman. And I'd take up wearing a really blinged out star of Solomon. When I was a girl, I knew a woman who *in Appalachia* kept an upside down cross in her living room, along with some other symbols that many people think of as "occult" today. She would gleefully wait for someone to criticize them, and then point out their significance in historic Christianity. (Her favorite, though, was the St. Peter's cross.)

Heck, the peace sign for this holiday is definitely more Christian than pine wreaths which came from pagan practices. Remember that bit from Isaiah? Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace? Obviously not.

A few things disturb me about this.

1. A peace sign is considered that divisive?
2. I thought religious discrimination in housing was illegal.
3. What happened to "Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men"?
4. I can't believe we're destroying the First Amendment to protect property values.

Friday, November 24, 2006


I sat there yesterday, in a lovely room at a beautiful table set with a feast of plenty - squash, mushrooms, turkey, gravy, potatoes, salad, dressing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce in 3 different styles, even asparagus that had to have come all the way from South America and wine from Germany. The table was loaded with family and friends, and yet I felt the empty spaces this year. We ate from Grandma's china, but she was not with us save in spirit. Oma wasn't feeling well, and stayed home. My family was in a different state.

And my dad is on a military base. I'm sure he got turkey, but not the fake turkey we always had for our Thanksgiving feasts. (Even my husband is hooked on that stuff - it tastes nothing like turkey, but it is good.) Were the mashed potatoes any good, or were they the watery stuff we were served the last time I ate at a military base? Is he with folks that he knows? I don't know. Hopefully soon he'll be checking his email.

I'm not feeling thankful. Is that officially unAmerican right now? I want a different Thanksgiving. I want one of rice and beans, even, stripped of the lovely candles and overflowing bowls of ritual foods. I want one with my dad. I want one with the prayer he always begins with that we all turn ourselves outward, that we be given eyes to see the opportunity to share our bounty. I don't want Pilgrims and Indians. I want Americans and Iraqis to be able to sit together. I want us to look with radical eyes to see the opportunities for peace and justice that are there even now.

I want the world to open their hearts. I want to be thankful together.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Along the roadside.

Peterson Toscano, at his wonderful blog, contemplates whether his spiritual journeys constitute serial monotheism.

I also have travelled from spiritual home to spiritual home (though mine have not all been Christian - I've studied Islam deeply, gone through conversion to Judaism, a process that takes a few years, and was part of an eclectic Pagan circle (and am still friends with every single other member), as well as Episcopalian, Catholic, Methodist, Spirit-Filled Evangelical (Oh, how I loved that one. It spoke to me deeply, but one day I knew it was time to leave.), and a few others.

Now, I seem to be just seeing God on the streetcorner, in the grocery store, surprising me at the office. Sometimes, She's there at my weekly stitch-n-bitch, and I've met Her for coffee and bonding at the Quaker meetinghouse. Today, I've been crying in Her arms, letting myself be held, and praying my favorite reminder in Hebrew, which translates out to "Nation shall not make war upon nation; neither shall they learn war anymore."

She understands. She understood yesterday, when I literally was sick with worry over my dad's deployment, but still needed to leave the house to say goodbye, whether or not I was developing a migraine with nausea. I had no words to pray, but she understood anyway.

I don't see my journey as going from god to god, but like a not-so-wise-at-times person following a brilliant star wherever it may go. From time to time along the way, I spot a track in the wilderness, and join the folks who are travelling there. They, too, are following the star, and the companionship and warmth of their fires are marvellous. Each path has given me something, has shown me something about that star that I hadn't noticed before. I often feel less like the three wise men than like the fool, with my foot hanging over the edge of the cliff. And yet, even then, my star is with me, has been with me from the start.

Perhaps my quest is more of a dance. When I was recently in Maui, I had an opportunity to see Ulalena. If you ever get the chance, go. Toward the end, there was a moment that struck me powerfully, a dance. The drums were quiet, sounding almost like surf at receding tide, and there were two women on stage. One was actually hanging above it, dressed in brilliant white and obviously meant to be the moon. The other was dressed in a sarong-inspired dancing dress. Each separately danced, never once touching, and yet it felt like a dance of lovers, intimate, longing, and yet together despite the distance between them.

There are days that I wish I could stay on one path, but I also desperately want to follow that star, wherever she leads.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sacred hospitality

Recently, Greenleaf, Idaho passed a law suggesting that locals arm themselves against possible refugees from natural disaster. At first, it was opposed by the local Quaker minister, but then he talked to the item's sponsor who toned down the language a little bit, and then the minister went along, saying he wanted to be "a team player".

Excuse me?

Are you really suggesting that it is better to be a "team player" than to oppose the idea that one should add to the misery of refugees by threatening them with guns (at least)? What kind of "ministry" is this? And since when is being a minister about being a "team player"? Ignorant me, I thought it would have to do with ministering to the suffering, rather than approving suggestions to make their lives harder.

I think on the story of the Samaritan who helps the man that was robbed and beaten, and wonder if the man shouldn't have considered himself lucky that the next town he came to didn't offer to kill him. Who is my neighbor, teacher?

Bauccus and Philemon, in the new script, should apparantly have met their divine guests with an ambush and demand to know what Zeus and Mercury were doing on their land. Abraham should apparantly have tied up the angels until they'd properly explained themselves. Apparantly, we should ask with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" And what is this nonsense about treating the stranger well, "for you were strangers in the land of Egypt..."? "Whatsoever you do to the least of these..." Ring a bell? Apparantly not.

Because, of course, we know those refugees are out to commit murder and mayhem, and we've gotta show 'em that their criminal selves are unwelcome in our community. We'll show 'em that we're a decent, Christian community, and those strangers better stay out.

And if one of 'em happens to be pregnant, well, maybe they can use the barn.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Last night, I talked to my dad on the phone, and it was hard. I just wanted to sit down and cry, and luckily, I was among friends. My friends heard me out, heard my anger and my sorrow, and sat with me, just being there. I know at least one of you will read this today. Thank you. She even told exactly the kind of stupid joke I usually tell, which made me feel incredibly better.

And she offered what I know to be a very precious gift: her time. This woman and her husband have the most overbooked schedules of anybody I know. They work, stay involved with their local community, their families, their church, and volunteer to feed the hungry in a very direct way. I can't even count the times she's spent visiting time with friends boiling eggs, making soup, prepping sandwiches. And yet, she told me to make sure to call her this weekend, so I'd have someone to be there.

Another friend gave me a gift that I don't even know if she knows how precious it is. While she heard me out in my frustration, she put a skein of yarn in my lap - and what a skein. Left to my own devices, I choose dark or bright yarns - royal blue or purple, teal, burgundy, a deep grey infused with other colors, just to name some currently sitting in my knitting bag. They don't stain easily or show the dirt, yet with a little bit of something bright, they shine. They work with glow in the dark pale ole me. She put a skein of baby blue and deep gold shading to khaki yarn in my lap and told me to "play with it".

Today, I took my #9 bamboo needles and cast on just a few stitches of that impossibly light yarn (and not just the color - this is the Paton wool and soy fiber blend, so it's pretty lofty for you knitters out there) and I just felt her love in that gift, an offering of comfort, of something to do with my hands instead of wringing them, of softness, of brightness, of a little bit of hope. That pale blue is a little bit like knitting a bit of air, a shimmering brightness. And I didn't realize how much I needed it until she gave it. Thanks, y'all.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

At what cost?

Thou shalt not bear false witness.

As I think about those words, I realize how very important they are. Each of us is called to bear true witness, to speak our truth or be silent. Right now, I'm thinking of how many people have been hurt by a lie - the manufactured "intelligence" of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. How many people have died? How many been wounded? How many now jump at sounds, with restless eyes that search the shadows?

How many people are touched by those who are directly affected by the war? Were their National Guard forces not abroad, the folks of the Gulf Coast might have had a better response to Katrina. Certainly, there would have been more doctors, nurses, engineers, sanitation experts, and bus drivers, had they not been at war. How many doctors, nurses, techs have we sent to deal with the aftermath of bombs and guns? How many communities here in the U.S. desperately need medical care?

Each of the nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers who have so far died as a result of this lie affected others, if only their comrades. Each of them is a hole in our society that we cannot fill. Each of them had a truth that they could each witness to, but we have spent that truth on a lie. It's time to start working to rebuild what we've torn down, to bring our truths into the light, and to begin building instead of tearing down.

Tonight, I've been furious, sad, worried, and grateful for the love of my friends who are helping me to face the next few months. It's hard to know that my dad will be sent into a war zone, hard to know that his love for his country and for his fellow soldiers is being so basely used. It is hard on the families to hear news of fatalities, such as last month's terrible wave.

It's hard to hold in my heart the mixed love and sadness and anger. It's hard to pay the price for someone else's lie.


Last night, I found myself watching television with my husband - he likes to watch NOVA because part of his job involves promoting science to the general public, so once a week, the little TV in the corner of our living room gets turned on and he settles in to watch, while I grab some computer time or some reading time.

But I decided last night to watch along with him. Oh, boy. After I'd just posted on pigeonholing folks over the way different people process information, I was appalled to see this episode. You see, NOVA last night was talking about a family that has some members who are unable to walk upright easily. The family has experienced discrimination from their local community, on top of the difficulties arising from (apparantly) some differences in brain formation, probably due to a recessive gene passed on from both parents (who appear to have been first cousins once removed.)

The suggestion was made that this represented a "backwards step" in evolution. Oh, for pity's sake! This is a disability exacerbated by poverty and isolation. A child born with the exact same condition in the US would probably receive at least some physical therapy, or at the least, crutches. And there would be no suggestion whatsoever that they were some sort of "backwards step" in evolution.

This kind of nonsense does no favors for those who wish to teach evolution. (Hmm, let's set up the world's easiest strawman...) nor does it help the family. A little respect, folks, okay? Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

ADHD kids

This morning, as I turned the radio on, I heard the unfortunate phrase, "ADHD kids" and immediately turned the radio back off. It felt to me as though those two words reduced down living, breathing, complex people into a collection of symptoms.

Perhaps I should confess here - most likely, if I were a child today, the school would be trying to force my parents to put me on Ritalin. You see, I thought faster than most of my teachers, and would consequently get bored in class. So I'd stop paying attention to the teacher and pay attention to something else, just about anything would do, really: the spider living in the space between the wall, the pipe, and the ceiling, perhaps some birds flying outside, perhaps only my own thoughts. And yes, sometimes the book I had concealed inside a textbook or between my skirt and the desk. By 6th grade, I'd tested out of enough that they let me go to the library more frequently, and I had dance and music to get me out of the worst classes. (I could never understand why we had to listen to the teacher spell words out, especially words I already knew how to spell.)

Yes, my brain is wired a little differently, but there's more to me, to the essence of me, than the mere biological fact of my brain.

In the same way, I'm concerned about how many pigeonholes we have to lump people into: by gender, by sexuality, by income, by political affiliation. (I'll let y'all in on a secret: I've had dinner with a republican, and neither of us was hit by lightning afterwards.) Two of the blogs I follow have recently posted something on pigeonholing by gender, even as traditional gender boundaries are blurred.

And I recall the words of a man of deep wisdom, my great granddaddy, who patiently listened to a boy declaring he wouldn't do "women's work" and observed "I never heard the work complain about who done it, so's it got done." Folks, right now, we got a lot of work ahead of us, crying out for hands to plow that barren earth, to sow the seeds and plant the trees. And it can't be done alone - we need every available hand, so isn't it past time we stop looking for convenient pigeonholes and instead turn our hands to that heavy plow?

Monday, November 13, 2006


I've got a week left. One measly week before the worry takes over again.

Dad's going soon. Friday and Saturday, I get a weekend with my parents, and then...

When he went the first time, I spent 2 days waiting for news after we'd been told that he was travelling the road to Bagdad. It was during those two days that I realized I couldn't read or listen to the news. Someone who had been kidnapped was beheaded that week, and my sadness for their family was compounded by the ulcer inducing worry for my dad.

I mean, this isn't like the Christmas I begged for a Nerf fencing set and Dad and I (and my sibs) had those foam foils pretty thoroughly destroyed by Christmas dinner. We were Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, buccaneers, and Wesley from the Princess Bride rolled into one,all over the living room, down the hall, even up the tree in the front yard. With each successful round, the victor would call out, "Hey, you're dead. Toss the sword over." and the next round would begin, while the defeated person would catch their breath and snag some applecake and cider.

Guns and explosives don't allow for cider breaks afterwards. This isn't like historic reenactment, where the two sides often retire to a neighborhood pub after practice for something to eat and a game of darts.

And neither fencing nor reenactment leave behind participants who visibly shake when a coal truck goes past on the road outside. I want my dad back.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Folks, head on over to Peterson Toscano's blog for his entry on Ted Haggard's recent public shame. All I can say is that this was a truly compassionate and moving bit of writing. As my entry below says, I've been struggling today with snideness and divisiveness within myself, and this spoke to me. Please check it out.

The good news and the bad news

The good news is that it looks like we will get some much-needed gridlock, here inside the Beltway. Good. Gridlock slows things down so folks can think. That was supposed to be the whole point of the checks and balances system, in case we've all forgotten. (I was incensed to hear someone talking about how we need to be electing people who won't cause gridlock while trying to recover from my most recent migraine. Aaargh!) Gridlock means that there's more than one viewpoint for folks to struggle with.

Given that we all seem to be divided into two armed camps, I think it's important to hear from both sides. I sincerely hope that whomever wins the currently still contested Virginia Senate seat (less than 3,000 votes apart) will keep in mind the bitter division that has been caused by this campaign and begin to work to hear all their constituency. Hopefully, gridlock will slow things down enough for that process to begin. Hopefully, it will force folks to begin working slowly together.

The bad news, however is that this was approved. Oh, for pity's sake. You've already got a statute enacting prejudice. You don't need to put it into the State Constitution. Or are you afraid those statutes will go the way of the ones you enacted to attempt to prevent people from marrying each other before? I hate to tell y'all this - well, actually, no I don't. I want tell y'all this, but I don't think you're listening. Bigots like you are a much more serious threat to my heterosexual marriage than my brother getting a chance to marry some hypothetical true love will ever be. Because people like you, worried about "protecting sanctity" were the driving force behind laws that would have prohibited my husband and myself from marrying.

I'm really struggling here with my worser self, who wants to write a snide comment about sanctity that needs protection. I've erased 4 thus far. I did, however, find an article that says a great deal of what I want to say without snideness.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Peterson Toscano, over at his blog, has raised an interesting question about praise. He asks whether we spend so much time and energy on praising God that we don't have it left to work in the world, lifting up so much to God that we fail to spend any on our fellow human beings. This is sort of the enriched version of a comment I left there.

I've also been involved with many different faith practices involving praise. I have sung hymns of praise, stomped and shouted Hallelujah! in an ecstacy of praise, whispered a prayer while lighting a candle and a touch of incense, covered my eyes while lighting candles for the Sabbath, and praising God for giving commandments. I've even sat up on a ridgeline in the hills, smoking tobacco under the full moon, and simply feeling the praise wash in and out of me with every breath, clear air or tobacco scented.

Jews interpret the commandment against taking the Name in vain to mean that one must never offer up a prayer that isn't connected with actual practice.

For instance, the prayer over bread goes:

Blessed are you, oh God, ruler of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the ground.

You don't say this prayer unless there's a piece of bread in front of you that you intend to eat and eat soon, as in right after you finish saying Amen. One of the more interesting customs that springs from this is that one should sing a wordless tune between washing one's hands for dinner and saying the prayer over bread, so that the blessings over handwashing and bread aren't interrupted by other speech.

And yet, as I wrote this spring, I think that the sheheckianu:

Blessed are you, oh God, ruler of the Universe, who has kept us and sustained us until this moment.

(it's gorgeous chanted in the Hebrew) should not be so strictly kept for certain occasions as it is now. (for instance, on certain holidays, it is held that one should wear new clothes to "justify" saying that prayer in services.)

For me, I think that so often we make our "thank you"s into a ritual to distance ourselves from that genuine feeling of gratitude, that feeling that if indeed God has kept me until this moment, then I need to be looking at how I can work to make this world, this creation, even better. I can't tint the leaves in their seasons, but I can work for justice, I can treat people with lovingkindness, I can be the sort of person I was meant to be, listening to that still, small voice.

There are days when I am caught up in awe of the beauty of creation, and that awe helps me to reach out, to share that beauty with others, to give that piece of myself that is so caught up in awe, the piece that is watching the marvellous colors that have developed just outside my window - golds, browns, scarlett, yellow, pale green, wow. The piece that listened to the sax player in New Orleans one rainy day and was comforted, despite the fact that my grandfather lay dying of diabetes, and his eldest son, my father, couldn't get military leave. The piece that has gone dancing with the stars in the sky and the waves of the ocean. And over and over, it's come back to me, sometimes a little worn, but always a little deeper, a little more open.