Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

I am very good at New Year's Resolutions. I only resolve things that I am absolutely sure I will or will not do in the next year.

Here are 2016's resolutions.

*I will not vote for Donald Trump or any Republican running for President.

*I will not buy a hover board or a new car.

*I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the CT primary and for whoever is the Democratic nominee in November.

*I will not join the NRA.

*Also, I will not buy a gun in 2016.

*I will not lose 25 pounds or shave my beard.

*I will eat an egg every other day.

*I will not drink Scotch.

*I will walk the dog every morning and night.

*I will drink Pinto Grigio a lot.

*I will not travel to Syria or join Isis.

*I will smoke as many cigarettes as I will.

*I will not swim the English Channel.

*I will sleep as late as I want every day but Sunday and Tuesday.

*I will shower when I think I should.

*I will love Bern absolutely--and my children and granddaughters as well.

*I will write on my blog a lot.

*I will not eat raw liver.

*I will not eat cooked liver either. Or quail eggs. Or calf brains. Or the intestines of pigs. Or duck (I just can't eat a duck.)

*I will grill on the deck as much as is possible.

*I will not ever drive 100 miles an hour.

*I will not apply to graduate school in psychology.

So why is it so hard to keep New Year's resolutions....?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The sixth day of Christmas (really, this time)

Yesterday's post was a day off--me and linear time again. So, this is the sixth day of Christmas.

My daughter, Mimi, is pregnant--two months so, she already heard a heart beat at a doctor in Chinatown whose English wasn't good. She has an appointment for Jan 4 with the gynecologist that will be with her all the way.

What a shock! I'd already decided Tim and Mimi wouldn't have children. But now they just might.

What a wonder and a joy.

It's early yet, so I'm not making plans for a 4th grandchild--but I would be joyful if it happens.

Tim and Mimi would be great parents.

Keep them in your hearts and pray (if you do that) for them.

Any child from that union would be wondrous.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The 6th day of Christmas

Black lives matter.

I was following a 'string' (I think that's what they call them) of comments on an article from the Huffington Post about the unseemly events of police violence toward Black folks.

I grew up in the southernmost county of West Virginia that was, at that time 50% Black. Many of the older Black people called me "Mr. Jimmy"--something I didn't realize was wrong until I was in my late teens. It's just the way it was. And that's the problem--'just the way it was' is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I only went to school with 5 Black students. In 1964-65 Gary District High School (the Black School) sent over three male athletes and two brilliant girl students because the next year (65-66) would be the year all the schools in the county would be merged. They wanted to break down the walls. The two basketball players were the two top scorers on the Gary Team. The football player would have made All-State as a Tackle if he hadn't used his helmet to hit an referee after a bad call and gotten thrown off the team. The two girls finished 4 and 5 in our class, I think. (I was # 1 of course!!!)

I had a friend in college who was Black and went to Gary District while I want to Gary High. His name was Ron Wilkerson. He used to tell his friends, when he introduced me, "Jim and I went to different high schools together."

So, my formative years were in as segregated a world as the deep South.

Then the first parish I served--St. James in Charleston, WV--was a Black congregation. Upper middle class folks, for the most part--highly educated and many of them associated with the historically Black college, West Virginia State. St. Paul's in New Haven was fully integrated with both upper middle class and not so upper middle class Blacks. St. John's in Waterbury had many Blacks and a lot of West Indian folks--Blacks with an accent. Plus a huge Hispanic congregation.

When I first started working in the Cluster, very part time, my bishop asked me what was different for me. And I said, truthfully, "Ian, I'm not used to being around so many white people."

I'm certainly around a lot of white people in Cheshire, CT. And one thing I know is this: when I see someone pulled over by the police on the road in Cheshire, they are more often than not, Black or Brown.

Institutional and Societal Racism is real and here and among us.

To be white in this society is a foot up. To be white and male is to be able to be 'on the top'.

It has to stop.

I wrote a long response to the responses on the article about 'Black Lives Matter' and then realized I had to be on Facebook (God forbid!) to post it.

So, I've written it here.

Until America has an honest and meaningful and transformative conversation that makes a difference about race, we will be hobbling along, not aware of what is wrong with our culture.

The conversation in the political space is horrifying. Nevermind that Black and White isn't center stage, the hostility to immigrants is astonishing.

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave??? I think not.

"Send me your huddled masses hoping to be free???" I think not.

We have lots of work to do to even begin to live up to who we think we are as Americans.

The Season of Light is the time to do that work. The light is coming--little by little--let us make the most of it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The 4th day of Christmas

So, I decided to send Christmas cards to some of my first cousins. I wrote them a letter and copied it and stuffed the envelopes yesterday.

Today I went to the Cheshire post office and the line is out the door with only two Postal Workers dealing with it. So I went to Stop and Shop because I know they have stamps at checkout.

After buying $32 worth of stuff and taking it to my car, I start the engine and realize why I went to Stop and Shop was for stamps.

I have to go back and get them.

What a dope. And not, as you know, for the first time.

(It just occurred to me that I may be publishing my growing dementia...not a good thing in any sense....)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The third day of Christmas

What is it three French hens?

One of the things that makes me glad I am an Episcopalian (as hum-drum as being that is) is that we really realize Christmas is a 'season' and not a day.

There are twelve days to the Christmas season and then comes Epiphany.

One of the things I talk about in my class "Reading the Gospels side by side" is how there are two Christmas stories we conflate into one. Luke is Mary's story: Gabriel and Elizabeth and the shepherds and angels and stable and all.

Matthew's story is Joseph's story: dream to marry Mary even though she's pregnant, the Magi, dream to go to Egypt, dream to come back.

Epiphany is the coming of the Magi. And if we can be certain about the timing, they saw the star on Christmas night and it took them two years to find the baby. So, the wise men aren't at the creche as we always show them.

When I was Rector of St. John's, we'd put the Magi in the window farthest from the creche on Christmas Eve and move them from window to window until the feast of the Epiphany on January 6.

That still didn't make sense, since they didn't come to the creche but to the home of Mary and Joseph--but, heck, it's the season of Christmas, why be pedantic?

But I have the addresses of some of my first cousins and I'm sending them Christmas cards in the next day or so (since it's still Christmas) with letters. Seeing 6 of them at my Aunt Elsie's funeral--and my son, Josh's, retort that I should 'keep up with family'--made me do it.

Mejol and I are fine. I'd like to reach out to some of the others as well.

Since it's still Christmas and will be for 9 more days.

God, being an Anglican is the best!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

One good thing

One good thing about this computer I have so many complaints about--I somehow told it to use my photos for screen savers until it goes completely to sleep.

The first one is always of Mimi in Sidney, Australia, gesturing with you to the bridge and opera house from a field across the water. Then they are random. I must say, I probably stopped taking pictures 8 or 9 years ago--so the ones I can sit mesmerized and watch are from back then.

The twins as babies.

Our dog, Sadie, with Josh and Cathy's dog, Sumi--both dogs RIP.

Baby Bela in the back yard.

Shots of Block Island...Bern and Sadie and me and the water and the land.

Pictures of plants.

Mimi, Josh, Cathy and Bern (a little before Tim was a staple....)



Sometimes the fact that my computer turns off much sooner than it should is mitigated by 10 minutes or so of watching pictures of the past.

That's one good thing. Memories....

Well worth the search...

I'd been wanting to see "Spotlight" since it came out--then "Star Wars" came out (which I saw--wonderful and more like the first movie than any others) and the big cinemas suddenly devoted a dozen screens to it and it disappeared to the smaller theaters.

I finally caught up with it today after being too late for a show in Middletown and not being able to find a theater I thought I knew in Plainville. I saw it at the Cinema 1/4 on Rt 17 in New Haven. Cinema 1/4 is really low budget--nothing like the Cinema Infinities round and about. Only 4 screens playing movies (except for 'Joy') that slipped down to the second tier of cinemas. I went to the early show and they don't start popping the pop corn until people start coming in. They actually 'pop the popcorn' instead of bringing it in in huge plastic bags! The seats don't rock or recline and feel like my desk chair. The previews are for the other three films they are showing. You can hear the muffled sounds of the theater next door through the wall. The bathrooms are a horror! But they had "Spotlight" and I was there for the 11:50 a.m. show. There were 30 people or so for the four films and I may have been the youngest person there! Several walkers and lots of canes....

"Spotlight", if you don't know, is a movie about the Boston Globe's expose' about the abuse of children in the archdiocese of Boston by well over 100 Roman Priests that had intentionally and systematically covered up by the hierarchy of the church, including Cardinal Law. All this happened in the first couple of years of this century and the work was interrupted for months to let the 'spotlight' team of four reports and an editor work on 9/11 stories.

But it all came out. The Globe eventually did 600 articles about the abuse. Cardinal Law resigned. The heavily Roman Catholic population of the Boston area were stunned and horrified. It had been a cover-up of Watergate proportions--but it wasn't burglary but the sexual abuse of over 1000 children that had been hidden.

I love a good newspaper movie and this one goes beyond 'good' to 'great'.

The show, it's director, the screen writers and at least three of the actors--Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keyton and Rachael McAdams should get Oscar attention. It's that good. Really.

Find a way to see it when you can.

It is profoundly troubling but shows the positive side of the media we all seem to criticize--what journalism can do for 'the good'--in a remarkable way. It makes you proud to live in a nation where freedom of the press is part of 'who we are'....

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Eve Sermon--2015

Christmas Eve 2015
St. Andrew’s, Northford

          Sing, Choirs of Angels, sing in exultation….

          Hark! the Herald angels sing, glory to the new-born King….

          It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
          From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold….

          Angels from the realm of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth.
          Ye who sang creations story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

          The shepherds feared and trembled when lo! Above the earth,
          Rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Savior’s birth.

          It’s all about the angel-song. A dark, chill, starlit night, shattered by the rustle of wings and a sound not heard by human ears before.
          There were shepherds, of course, there to listen. And the mother and babe and dear, good Joseph…and the animals in the barn…. All of it is necessary to bring the Night alive…. But it begins with the angels, with their voices raised in song….
          The first Nowell, the angel did say, was to certain low shepherds in
                   Fields where they lay….

          The angels hovered ‘round and sang this song,
          “Venite adoremous dominum…”

          Angels we have heard on high, singing sweetly through the night
          And the mountains in reply, echoing their brave delight.

          Oh those angels….those angels….and their song….

          About a dozen years ago I discovered that I had developed tinnitus—commonly known as “ringing in the ears”.
          It began one chilly night when I was on the back porch, letting our then dog, Sadie, out and listening to the crickets. When I came back inside to the warmth, I realized I could still hear the crickets. Then, almost at the same time, I realized what I heard wasn’t crickets—it was below freezing and there were no crickets singing….
          So I went to the doctor and was first examined by his 3rd year Med Student intern. I told the Med Student about the crickets.
          He looked dutifully in my ears and asked: “are they crickets or cicadae?”
          I told him, “Well, I thought of them as crickets, but I guess they could be cicadae.”         
         “It’s tinnitus,” he told me. Then he said, “tinnitus can be quite severe…some people are so troubled by it that they commit suicide.”
          “You can’t tell people things like that!” I said, “What Med School do you go to?”

          Looking back, I realized the first symptom was hearing music after the music was over. At night, just before I go to bed, I switch off the radio in the kitchen that is usually tuned to classical music. I’d get half way up the back steps and realize the music was still playing. So I’d go back and check the radio. I must have done that a dozen times before I realized the music was in my head—echoing on long after it ended.
          Which causes me to think about the angel song—how it must have stayed with the Shepherds all the way to Bethlehem and back, how the echoes of that celestial music must have still been in their heads when they laid down to try to sleep…how it must have greeting them the next morning when they awoke at dawn and lingered through the day.
          How long must that angel song have stayed in their ears? Did the shepherds just get used to it and go on with their lives—or did it sing within them always? How could you ever let go of music like that? Why would you ever want it to end…?
Once, again years ago, In Saturday’s Waterbury Republican American there was a large block ad on page 3 that said: DEAR FRANK, GIVE US ANOTHER CHANCE. I LOVE YOU, BONNIE.
          The pathos and pain of that ad touched me deeply. I could hardly breathe thinking about Bonnie and Frank—their broken relationship, the anguish of it all.  No angel song echoes in Bonnie and Frank’s ears—all they hear is suffering and loss.                      
          It is not a good time to hear the Angel Song. Things collapse around us. Isis is making us all afraid. The political campaign has turned toxic. The sounds of fear drown out the Angel Song. 
          At this holy time—the birthday of the Prince of Peace—the Middle East is in chaos, tens of thousands of refugees have no home, climate change brings killer storms to the South, heavy snow to the West and a Spring like Christmas to normally chill New England.
           The sounds of war and weather drown out the Angel Song.
          Surrounded by the affluence of the richest state in the richest country in the world, we cannot help but see the sharp contrast of the bitter poverty on the edges of our wealth. The cries of need and want drown out the Angel Song.
          And all of us—like Frank and Bonnie—have heartache and pain in our personal lives that tend to distract us—like ringing in the ears—from the Angel Song.
          The writer, Madeleine L’Engle captures all this well. Listen:
                        “This is no time for a child to be born,
                        with the earth betrayed by war and hate
                        And a nova lighting the sky to warn
                        That time runs out and sun burns late.

                        That was no time for a child to be born,
                        In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
                        Honor and truth were trampled by scorn—
                        Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

                        When is the time for love to be born?
                        The inn is full on the planet earth.
                        And by greed and pride the sky is torn—
                        Yet love still takes the risk of birth.

          The clanging of greed, the tumult of war, the sharp cries of injustice, the shrillness of fear—a cacophony of noises drown out the Angelsong.
          Yet love still takes the risk of birth.
          Again, the Child is born. Again, the Gift is given. Hope, like a fledgling, spreads her wings within our hardened hearts.
          When is the time for love to be born?
          There is no time but this. And even in this dark time—on one of the longest nights of the year—a Light will shine if we can be the people who take the risk of love.
          A Light will shine if we can let Hope find a home in our hearts and Justice spring new born in our lives.
          A Light will shine if we only still the clamoring of fear and greed and hatefulness long enough to once more hear the Angel song.
          “Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long;
           beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled two thousand years of wrong;
           and warring humankind hears not the tidings which they bring;
           O hush the noise and cease your strife and hear the angels sing.”

          Once more, once more as always, Love takes the risk of Birth.

          O hush the noise and cease your strife and hear the angels sing….

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Chistmas dinner on the grill

Hey, I'm not complaining, I love the warm weather, but I'll be grilling the steaks for Christmas dinner out on the deck!!! Never done that before. Ever.

I always write something for Bern for Christmas and have a two year ban on sharing it. So, you'll get to see it in 2017. And I already posted a blog about how she got it early because I'm a dope.

Turns out, she was glad to get it early because she always feels pressure to read it and Christmas day is not a good time to slip away and read. So, my being a dope worked.

I opened my gift tonight--she always makes me something.

So, she made me a hat--but not just any hat: a Puli hat.

The hat looks just like our Puli dog Bela and I love it!!!

She wrapped it in a box that had my name and address on it and I thought--she didn't 'make' me something this year. And when I saw it, I was sure she'd found a Puli Hat on line and ordered it--that's how well made it is!

It is remarkable. I'll be wearing it when it gets a tad colder and try to find a way to put a picture of it on my blog (which is doubtful since I'm such an anti-nerd). She had to convince me she sewed it and the label she put it in finally let me believe her.

A Puli Hat, for goodness sake! Amazing!

Be well and stay well, my friends. And Merry, Blessed, Peaceful Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The eve of The Eve

Bern and Mimi and I went to see the new Star Wars movie this afternoon.

I haven't seen a couple of the sequels, but I know this: on the ones I've seen this one most closely recreates the original.

Hans Solo and Chewy are there, as is Princess (now 'General') Leia. And Luke Skywalker is in the last, super-dramatic scene. Another movie is surely in the offering.

But the two main characters are Rey and Finn--she a girl who was a scavenger on a desert planet and he a storm trooper who defects. They are terrific.

Hans Solo's and Leia's son is the new incarnation of Darth Vader and truly evil, though he seems conflicted when he meets up with Hans.

What makes Rey special (as Bern pointed out) is that she is a female character who is a hero in a big way but without reserve or explanation. She is the star of the movie and wonderfully and understatedly acted.

It's a winner--lots of special effects and battles and noise.

See it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What a dope! Really!

As I get older, one thing I notice is that I'm not good at doing things in a reasonable order.

Big Example: I always write something for Bern for Christmas and she makes me something--usually paintings but once a table shaped like West Virginia! I'd finished what I wrote for her this year and went down stairs to wrap it in the dining room, Saturday night. On Sunday morning, I came downstairs to be greeted by a kiss and a "Thank  you for my Christmas present!"

I had no idea what she meant and said so.

"Well, you left it for me here," touching a tall table beside the dishwasher, "it said, 'for Bern' right on it."

I was half-way to church when I remembered I'd come down to wrap it and saw the dishwasher was finished and emptied it....Then went on to do something, having forgotten why I came downstairs in the first place and not noticing the box with the writings that said 'for Bern' on it.

What a dope. Really.

I need to have a list with me at all times.

I used to blame being an off-the-scale "Intuitive" on the Meyers/Briggs test. Intuitives are notoriously bad at doing things in the right order.

Bern is an intuitive too, though not nearly to my degree, and we once arrived at the beach for three weeks with two kids but no swim suits or towels! Intuitives need lists.

But I'm getting worse than I used to be--staring into the refrigerator not knowing why I opened the door, finding myself upstairs without knowing what I was on the way to do. Looking for my glasses long enough to sort of forget what I'm looking for...stuff like that...stuff like going to wrap a present and emptying the dishwasher instead and forgetting about wrapping the gift. Stuff like that. Going to the grocery store to buy olives and dog food and spending $40 and coming home without olives. Go figure!  What a dope doesn't go far enough.

So if you see me with a little notebook in my hand and a pen behind my ear, it's because I'm having to keep a list with me to avoid giving a Christmas present 5 days early....

Alas, poor Bern, having to live with me....

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mimi's home

Which is always good. She is my love. I love Josh too, terribly much, but Mimi just slips into our lives and barely makes a wave and is so welcomed.

I probably did before, but I'll share again, a poem I wrote about her on her birthday when she was in Japan with the American Ballet Theater.

                          PHOTOS OF MIMI

The house is full of pictures of her.
In some of them, she is a tiny, chubby baby.
In others, she is a little girl possessed.
In one she gains speed, running
down a hill in front of my father's house,
her tongue out, her blonde hair flying,
her small arms churning
like the wind.
In another, taken the same day,
she is solemn, not looking at the camera,
considering something out of the frame,
unsmiling, gazing at the future, perhaps.

She grows through the pictures—though they are random
on the walls and shelves, so she doesn't grow evenly.
A beautiful, awkward teen, smiling in spite of braces,
her jeans decorated in ink, a hole at the knees,
her shoes half-tied, embarrassed, I think, by the camera.
There is a sagging Jack-O-Lantern at her side,
smiling a smile as crooked as her own.

A whole group pictures when she was finishing
high school—a lovely, wistful, long-haired girl
exploding gracefully into life and what comes next.

I love the photo from her college graduation,
the four of us, this little family, her brother posing,
Mimi—short-hair and sun-glasses—smiling.
Just the four of us, a tiny clan, so different and distinct,
frozen in time on a mountain in Vermont, timeless, eternal.

I walked around the house today, looking for her visage--
bride's maid at Josh's wedding, clowning in a hotel doorway,
holding one niece or another with her boyfriend
(she natural, laughing, Morgan content on her lap,
Tim is a bit anxious and Emma is pulling away from him),
sitting on our back deck at an age I can't remember
when her hair was a color not found in nature,
and she is, as always glancing away from the camera,
playing on the beach as a toddler, sandy, nude,
hands in the sand, staring backward through her legs
(a photo a camera shy person would hate later on!)

I made my circuit, stopping before each photograph,
amazed at the memories that leaped out of the frames
and enthralled me.
Amazed more that such a beautiful child and woman
could have lived with me so long
and left imprints on my heart so deep.

She is half-a-world away.
In a land I can only faintly imagine.
I will not talk with her today—her nativity day.
I cannot even remember, as I gaze at photos,
if it is today or tomorrow in Japan.
Or yesterday.

Then there is the photo I love most.
It is pinned to the cork board beside my desk,
where I sit and write.

She is framed in a glass doorway. Her hair is long.
I can't remember how old she way—in college, perhaps--
and beyond the door you see, fully lit, dunes of Nantucket.
Mimi is in shadow, almost a silhouette cut from dark paper,
in full profile. Only the back of her hair is in sunlight,
shining, translucent, moving in the wind.

I love that picture because it is Mimi stepping through the
Door of Life, moving away from the infant shots,
the little girl, the teenaged child,
moving into life beyond me...half a world away.
All grown and still, all new....

jgb/July 21, 2008

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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.