Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Being 'special' isn't so great....

So, over the past year, I've had three eruptions of blisters and such to accompany minor wounds on my hand and forearms. I went to a dermatologist who tried to figure out why. She couldn't give it a name. At least she could treat the conditions.

Just this week, after a week of having my bruised foot turn to blisters did I make the connection and call her. She told me that she is now sure I have Epidermilysis Bullona Asquisita (known in the dermatologist world as EBA.)

She can treat the condition. But it won't be the last time. I developed this, like most people who have it, after 50. Another form of the same condition is hereditary. Not mine. I looked it up on line and found about a million hits. I read enough to know I can't understand the medical lingo and far enough to know you don't die from EBA but it is a pain in the ass.

I'd been doing everything wrong. She believes I'm allergic to Bacitracin, which the Dr. at Urgent Care told me to us (he was great, inspite of that). All I'm doing is soaking it twice a day in a 1 to 3 mixture of vinegar and water and taking an antibiotic that is doing as much damage to my insides as the one she told me to stop taking. (But no mention of bowel movements--not me!)

Here's the thing: from what I read on line, 0.25 people per 1 million have this condition.

200 million or so Americans means that I and half a million people have this. That's way better than the "the 1%".

But who said being special is so great....?

Sandy avoids Cheshire

Perhaps it is the oh-so-perfect suburban setting, or the righteousness and loving kindness of the residents, or just some accident of meteorological happenstance. Whatever it was, Storm Sandy ignored Cheshire while battering the shoreline from the Carolinas to Maine and lots of places inland as well.

Here--loaded up with batteries, water, non-perishable food and candles and flashlights--we waited and waited for the Godot of a storm that never came. Electricity all the way through. Internet service as well. Our furnace doing it's job of keeping our house at 62 degrees F.

Just after six, thinking we'd be eating salad by candlelight, I decided to cook dinner. Watching TV later, having imagined we'd be reading books by flashlight, it suddenly dawned on me--Sandy is avoiding Cheshire.

Lucky, you might say. Or, blessed, as I would prefer, the storm of the century made it's way northeast and simply overlooked this little town in CT. Not even any trees down, that I know of. Almost no rain. Wind, certainly, but no more than I remember from a dozen other storms.

Lucky and blessed. Though I watch post storm TV and listen to post storm NPR and their is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. What is it exactly? "Survivor's Syndrome" perhaps?

We were so prepared and didn't need to be.

Cheshire--one of the forgotten spots on the Eastern Seaboard. Lucky. Blessed.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Waiting for the big blow

It's a little (no, 'a lot') eerie to be sitting around waiting for the storm. All the hype has given me some unease--should I move my car from under that tree? do we need to clear the porches? what will we do with the dog who hates even a drizzle or a light wind and doesn't want to go out in it? how many batteries are enough? is there a battery operated stove somewhere? can I get to see my Dr. about my foot at 10 a.m. tomorrow or will Cheshire already be blowing away?

Once, when the lived in Charleston, WV, the snow storm of the millennium was coming. Gov. Rockefeller closed roads and forbade being outside. The stores were stripped down to bare shelves and everyone hunkered down. The day of the storm came...and nothing happened! I mean NOTHING!

We wandered the streets like homeless people wondering what had gone wrong. I mean, we were spared great inconvenience and hardship and possible danger and we wandered around, looking at each other, bathed in cognitive dissonance, filled with shock and awe.

It didn't snow a flake.

I'm wishing and hoping that will happen this time--but I don't think so....

Stay well and ride out the storm safely.


Friday, October 26, 2012

He's the President after all

I just wrote my daughter--my light, my wondrous being, I love her so--and told her not to worry about the election. I may be the last Democrat who believes Obama will win big. The popular vote might be close indeed, but the electoral college, I believe, will be a convincing win--say 300 to 238.

Think was, my spell check rejected 'Obama' as a word.

The choices it gave me were: Baa, Barn, Badman, Bagman, Barman, Batman and Bema (what the hell is that???)

Hey, he is the President, after all. Why doesn't his name pass the Spell Check function?

And what about Barrack? Why doesn't that deserve a Spell Check?

(my foot) I stubbed my foot two weeks ago today. My last four toes were black and blue and green for a week. Then I put on a sock with some Medicated powder in it and went to the Diocesan Convention. The next day, my foot was covered with blisters--half a dozen of them, between the toes and an inch long. I blamed the powder. It took me another week of doing what they asked me to do at urgent care, to remember that I've had 3 previous outbreaks and eruptions of  blisters and rash on minor injuries. So I called the dermatologist who couldn't figure out what was up with those eruptions and told me to call her when I had another--which I didn't want to have--so today I remembered all that and called her and have an appointment on Monday early.

I'm also on an anti-biotic for the foot that causes remarkable bowel movements--but I've been asked to not discuss bowel movements on my blog....

I'm beginning to feel old--talking about Dr. appointments and bowel movements (though I'm not going to say no more about those.....)

By the way.I've noticed the readership of my blog has fallen off. So, if you don't mind and you really get some enjoyment from it, tell people to check it out. Embarrassed to ask, but I would like to know I was spending time writing this stuff so that people could read it.

Just today someone told me at UConn in Waterbury that she was reading my book. Well, I stopped putting chapters of The Igloo Factory on the blog out of forgetfulness and since nobody seemed to be reading it, left it half-finished. Stuff like that.

What a wimp I am, begging for people to read what I write.....Sorry....But DO tell you friends.....

Friday, October 19, 2012

There are some things you don't need to know

So, probably like you, I get lots of emails from places I never asked to send me emails.

Today, I got one from some group NEWSMAX or something, titled, "Five signs you will develop Alzheimer's."

I was about to click on it, just for the information value, when I said to myself, "Why would you want to know that?"

I'd bet at least one of the five--if not more--would be something I experience. "Difficulty opening things" or "losing things" or "wondering why you opened the refrigerator" or "What are you doing in this room when you came here intentionally" or "Forgetting names of people you know well."

So, if I read the 'signs' and had some of them, I'd be spending the next few years waiting for Alzheimer's to arrive....

There are some things you don't need to know.

I deleted it and moved on with my increasingly diminished life....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Facebook is the Anti-Christ

I get all these email from FACEBOOK about posts, messages, updates, stuff like that. "My timeline", whatever the hell that means....

I've been on FACEBOOK for, I don't know, 5 years and have looked at it exactly three times. Each time I had no idea whatsoever what I was looking at or why or to what purpose.

There was an email thing tonight about Monica Tiso, who I adore, being sorry she watched the debate on her I-pad, or something like that. So I go on Facebook for the 4th time in my life and find a list of people who want to be my "friend" that is so long that I never got to the end of it--though I scrolled for five minutes.

I knew about 5% of them! Some of them were institutions, colleges, businesses.

Who are these people?

I have enough friends that I actually 'know'.

FACEBOOK has got to go. The stock is going in the toilet. That's where the whole thing should go!!!

(Apologies to anyone who knows what it is about and loves to have 600 'friends' you don't know.....)


Coming down where you're meant to be....

Tonight, I went to the third and final forum, hosted by the Cluster I serve and led by Ian, our bishop, about the work and missionary concepts of Roland Allen (a late 19th Century and 20th Century Anglican Missionary. Allen developed a way of 'being church' called Total Common Ministry or Mutual Ministry, depending who you're talking to.

The Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry--three churches located in Northford, Higganum and Killingworth CT--seeks to practice (and you're always 'practicing', you never get it right) Total Common Ministry. My contract requires I spend 13 hours a week in my ministry as Interim Missioner. Sometimes, I do more. Sometimes, I do less. So it goes. It mostly averages out.

There are two 'Sunday only' priests--Brian teaches liturgy at Yale Divinity School and Molly teaches at Hartford Seminary and is the Secretary of our diocese. They both have Ph.D's. I have a humble D.Min. But we're all "The Rev. Dr...." These three small congregations have an uber-educated group of clergy. Brian and Molly are remarkable and wonderful, each in their own ways. Brian is British and has one of those British senses of humor that dry and droll and self-deprecating all at once. Molly is young and full of energy and passion. I love them both and am honored to work side-by-side with them in the Cluster.

The meeting tonight made me realize that I have, in some blessed way, come down just where I''m meant to be.

In my years of priesthood, I've served three remarkable congregations. St. James in Charleston, West Virginia--an African-American parish full of people with Masters and Doctoral degrees since St. James was near a historic Black College. St. Paul's in New Haven, CT--a richly diverse parish with both town and gown and black and white and well to do and poor. Finally, I served St. John's, Waterbury, CT for 21 years and retired from there. St. John's was also wonderfully diverse--including a large Hispanic congregation. What all my places of service shared was rich diversity, an urban setting and a profound commitment to outreach and service in God's mission in the community around them.

MACM (pronounced "Mac-Um") and it's congregations also have a deep commitment to outreach and service in God's mission around them. But they are rural, not urban, and not at all diverse in the ways I'm used to . (Someone asked me what was different about MACM and the churches I've served. I told them "I'm not used to being around so many white people!" Which is true but not a problem.)

Here is the astonishing difference between MACM and my service to my three dear and wondrous parishes: MACM seeks to practice Total Common Ministry.

Wherever I've served--and I hope you notice I always say "the churches I've served" rather than "My parishes, reveals that I've always had the intuitive notion that I serve rather than possess. I have always had a role in the communities I've served AND I've had the "authority" in those communities. I've done all I could to give that authority away to lay folks and staff members, but it has always been true that the authority was mine and mine alone. Div-vie it up and pass it around as I could, it always came back to me. In those three astonishing churches, I--an outsider--HAD the AUTHORITY.

Total Common Ministry is another creature altogether. In TCM, the 'authority' does not lie with the priest but within the community. The priest serves as a sacramental minister, but the model is not 'a congregation gathered around a priest. In Mutual Ministry, the community has the 'authority' and the priest 'serves' within that authority.

It is a remarkably different way of  'being church' and one I have come down within and realized it is where I was always meant to be.

I do other things now, out in the world, instead of having my world be the parish I served. I teach at a UConn branch and lead workshops for the Mastery Foundation and live and move and have my being--part of which includes participating in the three congregations and in the Cluster as a whole as a sacramentalist. I tell the story and tend the fire and pass the wine. But the day-to-day life and being of the three churches and the Cluster is under the 'authority' of the people who ARE the three congregations. I get to hang out with them but I'm not "in charge" in any way that matters.

I love this way of 'doing church' and 'being priest'. It is just the best.

I'm not sure most seminary trained priests could lean into it the way I do. There is a distinct 'privledge' and 'entitlement' most priests expect to receive. And that simply doesn't exist in Roland Allen's paradigm. The priest is simply a member of the community with certain obligations to fulfill in the sacramental life of the community. The priest is 'part of the whole', not the straw that stirs the drink. It is a radical shift from the normal model and paradigm--but one I find to be liberating, empowering and transforming.

What a joy to find that you've come down where you were meant to be at last....Joy and Wonder, no less than that.....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

So how was your weekend?

I went to Holy Cross Monastery this week end, up in West Park, NY, which should be a happy thing. And the silence and reflection was good, but nothing else went right....

Friday evening, I went up to my car to listen the Yankee Game against Baltimore. (It was, by the way, the only game they won this weekend!) On my way back, in the dark--and it is Very, Very dark in West Park, I was walking toward the lights of the Monastery and turned to soon, tumbling over into the weeds, hurting my wrist, stubbing my toes and cracking my head on a rock. It was right in the middle of my forehead so I bled (as they say) like a stuck pig. (I don't know how a stuck pig bleeds, but by the time I got up and into the monastery and into a first floor bathroom, my moustache and beard were both full of blood and it was running down my sweater.) It took about ten minutes of paper towels and cold water to stop it and clean off my face. Then I went to Compline with a cold paper towel against my head--but everyone was either too holy or too polite to mention it.

The next day, besides a small goose-egg on my forehead and a tiny wound where my third eye would be if I were Hindu or Buddhist instead of Episcopalian, my middle three toes were black and blue and quite painful. That day, by the way, West Virginia University lost in football for the first time this year (dropping from 5th to 14th in the college rankings) and Derrik Jeter broke his ankle and the hearts of Yankee fans everywhere. (I did see on the game this evening--which the Jeterless Yankees lost to the Tigers to go down 2 games to none in the best of seven--a fan in the stands with a sign that said "What would Jeter do?" And interesting twist of the WWJD craze that drove me crazy a few years ago.

You notice, I'm sure, that both my injuries and despair are caused (directly of indirectly) by sporting events....

Maybe I need to get a life without sports....That or get a flashlight when walking outdoors in the dark Hudson Valley night....

Monday, October 8, 2012

Irish Stuff III

Dromantine has it's own lake. It's much bigger than a pond but probably not called a lake, now that I think of it. And that body of water is populated by swans. Swans are some of the  most amazing creatures I know of. They are so huge, for one thing, and that neck thing they have going on is truly astonishing. I sat out in the rain for half-an-hour watching them one morning. Swans, it seems to me, should have been one of St. Thomas of Aquinas' proofs for the existence of God. Watching them glide and feed convinced me.

The Irish love to sing. Each day, after dinner, most of them, along with me, would gather in a room with an honor bar (Euros and Pounds accepted) and sing. Lots of Irish songs, of course, some in the Irish language, which lots of folks there could speak, but two of the guitar wielding guys loved to sing American songs. They did "Almost heaven, West Virginia" each night just for me, along with Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan and lots of blues stuff. Interestingly enough, they sang with an American or Southern or Black accent when they preformed those songs. I tried to get them to 'talk like an American' and there was no hope! Then I remembered that singing comes from the other side of the brain from talking. I knew a guy once, David, who had the worst stutter I ever heard. He sounded like he might choke when he tried to converse. But he sang in St. John's choir for 30+ years in a wonderful, tone perfect Tenor. Other side of the brain stuff. Not one stutter or halt when he sang. Amazing. (The almost perfect beauty of the human brain--another proof for God's existence?)

Just the lilt of the accents of the Irish is a kind of poetry itself, but they are also good about being able to recite poetry. Each night of singing involved reciting poetry as well. One African Missionary named Jimmy, a guy a few years older than me, recited "The Avowal" by Denise Levertov, one of my favorite poets. Denise Levertov once said, at a gathering of poets and theologians (add in physicists and that would be a meeting of minds devoutly to be wished), "The crisis of faith is the crisis of the imagination. If we cannot imagine walking on the water with Jesus," she went on, "then how can we ever do it?"

Here's the poem Jimmy recited from memory.

The Avowal
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I lear to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit's deep
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Much of the workshop I help lead is about just that--"knowing no effort earns anything, that free-fall is where we find grace."

It's astonishing to notice how people don't give value to anything that doesn't require 'effort'. Centering Prayer, as we teach it in the workshop, involves only this: "put your butt in a chair and shut up for 20 minutes, intending to be present to God".

People want to make that 'hard' and 'arduous' when, in reality, it is anti-hard and anti-arduous and requires only this: 'give up effort...."


Sunday, October 7, 2012

How 'bout them 'eers'?

That's West Virginian for "How about those Mountaineers?" A question posed regarding the WVU teams.

WVU is ranked 5th in one poll and 4th in another after beating Texas, which was ranked 11th.

What a toot!

The football team has, most of my life, had a way of breaking your heart. But this year it's real.

6th in one poll and 5th in the other--this is 'in the nation' mind you--is Kansas State. WVU plays them in Morgantown Saturday after next. Imagine that! I can't even picture what Morgantown will be like on that day.

Really, this is cultural 'high' for me.

How 'bout them 'eers'?

Irish stuff--2

Are free at Dublin Airport, though I thought all of them were locked until I discovered the little bar under the handle that released the brake....At JFK they cost money and you can use a credit card to get them though I didn't. Ireland 1, US 0.

I bought a carton of Marlboro on the trip over on the airplane for $37 dollars--almost $50 cheaper than in CT. But, for some reason, you can't smoke on airplanes anymore. I remember when you could. Sometimes I ride a plane that still has ashtrays in the arm of the seat. Sort of like riding in an Edsel. I feel insecure when that happens.

International flights give complementary wine and beer even in coach. On the way back, the guy on the aisle on my row--I was by the window--drank copious amounts of wine. We were sitting in the emergency row, great legroom, right beside one of the main galleys on this enormous plane. The guy, who was a red-haired Irishman, must have had 3 liters or more of Pino Grigio. I had quite a bit but he left me in the dust. And when we got to JFK he was still, apparently, sober. God bless the Irish....

What an incredible place. A palace above a lake with swans. On the way out in the cab I kept gasping because the vista around the next turn was more amazing than the one before. Finally, after I said, "Oh, my God, how beautiful!" the driver said, "I guess we don't appreciate it enough." How true. Something to ponder: how we don't appreciate the beauty around us enough. One of hymns at St. Andrew's, Northford this morning was "For the beauty of the earth...." The creation is a constant wonder. I'm planning to notice it more and more....

The Irish drive me a little nuts by how self-effacing they are. I'm a master of 'self effacing' and they make me look like a rookie. I heard this at a table at one meal: "I went to get a wee haircut last week and the wee lassie who cut my hair asked me if  I'd like a wee trim of my eyebrows and I told her a wee trim wouldn't be enough!" General laughter. I asked the table if there was anything 'big' in Ireland or was everything 'wee'? They looked at me like I'd asked a question in Bulgarian. The "wee" thing is amazing to me. I even heard someone describe a large man as "a wee big bloke". Go figure....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Irish Stuff

I've been in Ireland since my last post so I thought I get back in the swing with some Irish stuff.

There's too much of it! Every meal, until I started being really stern and all Ugly American-ish with the the servers, I'd leave my plate half-full and the Irish around me would look at me with a mixture of pity and contempt.

Root vegetables are remarkably present. I had rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, carrots and a couple of things I couldn't name though I knew they grew underground from their taste. And the potato thing is still a mystery to me. Mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes and fried potatoes all offerings at one meal and the Irish mostly took them all!

All the meats--ham, pork, beef, beef stroganoff , pork chops--were very good. A little weak on the two fish entrees I had--overcooked and bland. Well, to be honest, most of the food was more bland than I am used to eating. But healthy and good.

I had five desserts, none of which I recognized as something I had eaten before. But all pretty good--and believe me on this, the whipped cream (along with the butter) was far superior to what passes as whipped cream and butter in the US.

It might be the famines in the DNA but my Lord they eat a lot of food! Plus, here's how you eat in Ireland: you put the knife in your non-dominant hand and the fork in your dominant hand and never lay them down, using the knife to push food onto your fork. Elbows always at your side. There was a couple from Indiana who have been working in  Belfast for two years and I noticed they had taken up the eating style. "You get tired of hitting people with your elbows," they both told me. Dining tables seem smaller than here and I kept hitting people in the shoulders with my elbow while eating. I see how you would quickly adopt the Irish eating style.

Getting from JFK to Dublin was a snap compared to getting from Dublin Airport to Newry and then to the conference center--Dromantine. I knew where to catch the bus to Newry from previous trips. I landed and got through customs in record time to catch the 10:20 bus. But the bus was already filled from central Dublin, the only stop before the airport, so I had to wait for the 11:20 bus. That one had only limited seating and their were 30 of us by then, waiting to get to Newry or Belfast. The bus company was amazing. A representative had showed up shortly after the full 10:20 bus and promised us we'd all get on a bus. After the 11:20 bus pulled off he put the Newry people on a local that stopped three times before Newry and at the third place we  had to transfer to another bus for the last bit. Newry is an hour and a half from the airport and it took me nearly four hours to get there. Standing in Ireland's perpetual drizzle for that long meant I was water-logged in the taxi out to Dromantine.

(More Irish stuff later)

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.