Tuesday, March 31, 2015

dog dna

The dog that shares (runs?) our lives is a Puli--a breed of Hungarian sheep dog. The national dog of Hungary, I've been told. (We had a Puli earlier {and didn't learn our lesson!} and I was walking him in New Haven when an old Hungarian man saw him and burst into tears....)

Puli's first came to Hungary with Atilla and decided they liked it better there than on the steppes of Mongolia.

Anyway, DNA runs deep in Puli's and they are genetically incapable of letting anyone leave the house without throwing a fuss. Bela's job, after all, in the keep the herd together and not let sheep wander away. It's a real pain: he throws his 50 pound body at you to try to keep you indoors....

When our children were small and we had Finney (who's real name was Templamkirte Palak Suba--bred in Hungary by a Jesuit priest..."Templamkirte" means 'church yard') he'd herd Josh and Mimi when we were in Wooster Park, circling and circling and keeping them inside the circle.

When our granddaughters are here, Bela is always laying in front of or across the nearest door. When they start running (we have back stairs as well as front stairs--a house built to make children run) Bela freaks out and either positions himself in front of the front door or porch door.

When you gather your things or put on a coat, he starts barking and dancing between you and the front door. Very annoying.

But today Bern was making a grocery list and asked me if I needed anything--no purse or coat in sight--and he started barking that way.

"Why is he barking?" I asked rhetorically.

"He knows I'm making a shopping list," Bern said calmly, 'and will be going soon.'

She gives him more credit than I do. But who knows how deep the herding DNA runs.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My kinda church...

The Right Reverend Marcus Bishop (which would make him 'Bishop Bishop', if I'm not mistaken, is the pastor of The Life Center: A Spiritual Community in some beach town in Florida.

During Spring Break this March, Bishop Bishop turned The Life Center into a club for Spring breakers with a 7 day, $20 a night, BYOB with naked painting and slumber parties.

The parties were called "Amnesia: The Tabernacle".

Ponder that if you dare!

Bishop even installed an ATM machine in front of the church in case college folk didn't bring cash to Florida.

County authorities didn't get the spiritual implications of nude body painting inspired by alcohol you brought with you and (spoil sports that they are) took The Life Center's tax exempt status away.

Shame on them! Spiritual folks like to party too! I'm sure at the drunken slumber parties they were discussing matters of the soul.

Man, you just can't hear enough about Florida, can you?

Marco Rubio, what a state you come from and what a state you're in. Marco could detract from my support for Ted Cruz who comes from only the second craziest state, Texas.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Falling down

So, I went through this whole ice and snow winter without falling down (thought this winter taught me I'm not 35 anymore...I walked slowly, carefully all winter).

And today, going out to get in my car, I slipped on black ice and fell in our driveway, loosing all my coffee from my Starbucks cup.

I fell on my knees and hands and laid there for a minute or so. I wondered if I had my cellphone to call Bern inside our house to come out and help me.

Mercifully, I didn't have my phone with me or it would have been another note on how I needed to go to "the Home".

After a minute or so, I got up and drove to Northford and Church.

Nothing hurts anymore--but for a minute or so there I thought, "I'm an old man who just fell down on black ice in his driveway on Palm Sunday."

Humbling that was.

And something to ponder--getting older....

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Never before...perhaps never again....

When people ask me who is my favorite college sports teams I always say, "West Virginia University and whoever is playing Notre Dame."

I hate Notre Dame in an irrational way (I admit it). I'd like to think it is the arrogant thing and not the Roman Catholic thing...but, truth be known...I'm not sure.

But tonight for 2 hours, I rooted hard for Notre Dame to beat Kentucky in the NCAA Elite Eight basketball tournament. And they almost, but not quite (2 points) did.

It was liberating to root for the Fighting Irish for the first time in my life. It felt good, in many ways.

So who is my favorite sports teams?

West Virginia University and whoever is playing Notre Dame: unless Notre Dame is playing Kentucky.

That works for me.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Tomorrow we're going to a 90th birthday 'tea'. Sounds fancy.

Hanna  Howard is turning 90. She is a remarkable woman. She was born in Germany and had a Jewish grandmother who was taken to the camps and never came back. She came to America and married Lee Howard.

Hanna and Lee were members of St. Paul's, New Haven when I was Rector there. Lee was the organist/choir director and Hanna was in the choir, even though she and Lee were divorced before I met them.Theirs was a divorce that defies the adage that one of the divorced couple "gets the church".
I always admired them for that.

Hanna is an accomplished musician herself--a pianist of no small measure. A long time ago--20 years maybe--she developed macular degeneration and is legally blind. But she still teaches and plays. Once a year or so I go to 'concerts' she gives in her home in Hamden. She still lives alone and manages to have a full life in spite of her limitations.

Every few months I go to her apartment and read her stuff I have written. She loves that--being read to since she can hardly read at all, even on her computer that has a special attachment for extra-large type, about five words a  page.

Once, when she still lived in New Haven, I was at her house and noticed she had a picture of Bern and Josh and Mimi and me on her cork board along with pictures of her children and grandchildren.

That was deeply moving to me, to realize she thought of us as 'family'.

Bern and I have no 'family' near by so we have Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter with our 'adopted family'. Hanna is on the Thanksgiving list. She loves to see Mimi and Tim, Josh and Cathy and our granddaughters.

"Adopted family" is really important to us. Bern told me when she and Sherry Ellis (where we were tonight for John Anderson's birthday dinner) went to Jacob's Pillow to visit Mimi, Mimi introduced Bern to a co-worker as 'my mother' and Sherry as 'my other mother'. Sherry, Bern said, fought to hold back tears of joy and wonder.

You can't 'choose' you blood family. But you can choose you're 'adopted family'--that may be why they're so important.

Do you have 'adopted family' in your life? I hope so. And ponder how fortunate you are if you do.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

OK, give me a few minutes to dream...

John Calapari is the coach of Kentucky's men's basketball team.

Only one coach has a winning record against Calapari.

That coach is Bob Huggins. He's 8-2 against Calapari.

Bob Huggins coaches West Virginia University's men's basketball team.

They play--Kentucky and West Virginia--in about half an hour.

Kentucky is 36-0 this year. West Virginia is 25-9.

No way West Virginia can beat Kentucky--which has probably 8 players who will play in the NBA. West Virginia has, maybe, two.

But let me dream for a few minutes.

WVU beats Kentucky and goes to the Elite Eight!

Imagine that!

Even I can't quite imagine it, but let me dream for a few minutes.


Gooooooo Mountaineers...............!!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Going to the 'young retired' meeting

Come the end of April, I will have been retired 6 years. I retired the month I had 30 years in the Church Pension fund and was old enough to take SS at 62. (I know people tell you to wait before taking social security) but I figured out I'd be 82 before waiting until 66 would draw even with the amount of money I'd get taking it at 62. Seemed a good bet to me (my father lived to 83 and hopefully I will as well, but by then I'm sure I can live on what I get from the Pension Fund and SS--'free money'...well, not really, it's my money the Pension Fund and the US has been holding for me all these years.)

So, I get invited to a 'young retired priest' gathering at the Commons--what used to be called 'the Diocesan House' but our bishop has re-branded things and moved the headquarters from a mansion in Hartford to a former ball bearing factory in Meridan. Much better, for my taste, and calling it "the Commons" is so New England and so inclusive.

I called my dear friend, Bonni McKinney, at the Commons and asked, "Am I a young retired priest?"

She assured me I was and I look forward to the meeting.

Our Bishop, Ian Douglas, (call me "Ian", he always says just as I tell people to call me "Jim" rather than "Father Bradley"...so I like him a lot) says their are four 'buckets' of priests. This is a fascinating thought and, I believe, so true.

Bucket One is seminary trained priests who work full time as priests. That group is shrinking. In the Diocese of Connecticut 20% of 'full time jobs' have disappeared in the last 5 or 6 years. Places that had 2 assistants now have one. Churches that had a full time assistant no longer do. Places that had a full time priest (just one) might not now.

Bucket Two are seminary trained priests who thought they would work full time but don't anymore. Their jobs were down-sized or there just aren't enough full time jobs around. So, they work part time and figure out how to make more money.

Bucket Three are folks like me--seminary trained, full time priests who are retired and work part time in the church. There are lots of us (baby boomers, after all) and we are holding the places for the priests, who don't exist in large numbers, in Bucket Four.

Bucket Four are priests, either seminary trained or ordained in some other way, who never expected to be 'full time' in ministry. Connecticut no longer accepts folks into the ordination process who can't 'make a living' outside the church. This is the future but there aren't many of them yet so recently retired 'full time' priests are filling in until this bucket of priests is finally available.

I even like the image of 'buckets of priests', swimming around like bait minnows in a bucket of water. I like that image, I really, really do.

And moving from bucket one to bucket three has been a joy for me. I love what I do and look forward to sharing a few hours tomorrow with people like me--first bucket folks who leaped to bucket three....

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Basketball as the light fades....

I just went outside on our back porch and realized that the kids in the house next door were out in the driveway playing basketball.

Memory flooded back of playing basketball in our yard as a kid as the light faded.

My father found someone to put up a basket in our yard (he wasn't 'handy' and could have never done it himself--by the way, I found someone to put up a basket for my son, since I'm not 'handy' either) and my friends and I played for hours and hours every day there wasn't any snow on the ground--and sometimes when there was, with a heavy, cold basketball.

Danny Taylor, Billy Bridgeman, Kyle Parks, Bobby LaFon, Jo-Jo Tagnesi, Bennie Graham, others too, wore out the grass on our lawn and played basketball for hours and hours in the summer--nothing else to do in Anawalt.

Who didn't play with us were any Black kids. Though McDowell County, West Virginia was the only county in the US, outside the deep, deep South, to have a 50/50 Black/White population, we were segregated to the extreme.

I only knew two black people by name: Gene and Nora--Gene worked in my uncle Russel's grocery store and Nora was his housekeeper. Amazing how you don't know the names of half the people around you....Oh, I did know the names of a couple of Black guys who hung around my Uncle Del's Esso station. Russel and Del seemed unfazed by the segregation.

And as the light faded, Danny and Billy and Kyle and Bobby and Jo-Jo and Bennie and I would play basketball.

And in other places Black boys would play basketball as the light faded.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ted Cruz for President

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the first two to start a campaign.

This couldn't get any better.

Bring in the clowns.

This is going to be so much fun.....

Sunday, March 22, 2015

OK, OK...

WVU  just beat Maryland to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA basketball tournament. They won by 10.

Now they get to play Kentucky--undefeated and supposedly unbeatable.

Let's try out the power of prayer, alright?

Pray for Bob Huggins and his team as hard as you can and if they beat Kentucky we'll know for sure that there is a God.

That's worth trying, right?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

You'd never know it from what I write

You'd never know it from what I write in this space but I grew up being a potential Republican.

My father never, to my knowledge, voted for a Democrat in a time when West Virginia was a solidlyl 'Blue' state (though that terminology wasn't around back then). And, for a time, as a teen, I was a big Barry Goldwater fan. I even spray painted a building in Anawalt--my only foray into graffiti--with "AU H2O". I should have gotten in trouble but my father and his two brothers were all significant people in our little (500 people) town, so I got away with it.

Then, in a debate, Goldwater (who to me at the time seemed to represent a quasi -libertarian point of view that was attractive to my high school brain) said he would privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority and he lost me. Southern West Virginia got their electricity from the TVA and I suddenly realized I was a socialist leaning, left-wing Democrat.

After that, my father and I had heated discussions about politics. It was my adolescent rebellion to declare myself a Democrat.

And like him, from the other side, I've never voted for a Republican.

And, at this point in history, I'm proud of that.

Republicans want to take healthcare from 11,000,000 people, many of them children.

Republicans want to cut back drastically on Food Stamps.

Republicans (many of them) are Climate Change deniers.

Republicans seek to block the right to vote for millions of Americans.

Republicans want to block a treaty with Iran over nuclear power and weapons (even as Iran is one of the countries most involved in opposing Isis.)

Republicans want the tax code to favor the rich.

Republicans are opposed to raising the minimum raise, a woman's right to choose and equal rights for GLBTQ folks.

Republicans would put boots on the ground again in the Mid-East.

Republicans would back Israel no matter what (refusal to stop settlements and opposition to the Two State Solution not withstanding).

And I come from a Republican family.

My father wouldn't recognize the current Republican/Tea Party group as "Republican" at all. He was an Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Brooke Republican.

"Who are these people?" he would ask, if he could.

I ask the same thing. Is this really one of the two American parties or something else altogether?

Goldwater wouldn't recognize this fiasco as his party. I'm sure of that.

God help us....

Appalachian 'food group'

I've eaten a 12 ounce tub of Pimento Cheese in the last 4 days. Probably more than is healthy since the tub tells me it is 12 servings and each serving has 20% of a day's fat intake and 140 calories (120 from fat). So, I've had 3 servings a day for four days. Not good....

But I was so excited when I found Pimento Cheese in the cooler next to row upon row of hummus (a much healthier choice!) that I couldn't resist.

Pimento cheese, along with gravy, was a food group where I come from. When we go to the beach in September, Sherry Ellis (who's from South Carolina) always stocks up on Pimento cheese and she and I (out of the 6 people in the house) eat it all.

Pimento Cheese is basically mild cheddar cheese, shredded, and mayo with whole eggs and some sugar and pimentos as an afterthought.

I've justified my binging on it by having eaten most of it with either gluten free, no wheat crackers or Pecan nut-thin crackers. The last bit I added some Pecante sauce to make it a tad healthier.

Pimento Cheese in New England--what an unexpected respite from the chill....

(Someday I'll write about gravy....)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Yes! Yes!

One reason I think people love March Madness is how close the games are. With a quarter of the first round games yet to be played, 9 have already been decided by 3 points or less. Exciting.

Which makes WVU's 6 point win over Buffalo a blow out.

WVU plays Maryland for the dubious opportunity to play Kentucky.

I think West Virginia's odd full court pressure all the time might weird out Kentucky, the overwhelming favorite to win it all.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for Sunday's game.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Where's Calvin's grave? I bet you could hear him spinning....

The Presbyterian Church USA (God bless them!) changed their Constitution to define 'marriage' as a lifetime union between 'two committed people'.

The church of Calvin has endorsed gay marriage!

The Roman Catholics embracing birth control would have been less shocking.

Now here is something to ponder: why have the rights of GLBTQ folks (they insist on "Queer", a way of making something insulting honorific--a brilliant strategy in 'branding') so quickly taken hold when Blacks and Hispanics and Women are still fighting for full equality?

Examples of rampant racism and sexism still abound and gay folks are becoming, every day, more mainstream. Presbyterians, for goodness sake!

What is up with that?

Why are women, more than half the population, still struggling while gays (10% at most--probably less) are earning rights left and right?

And our racial minorities--soon to be the 'majority' in this country...by 2020 or so...--are still seeking total inclusion.

I'm not sure what it's all about. Something about how we all 'know' or are 'related to' someone who is GLBTQ while we're not related to racial minorities.

But what about women? We all know and are intimately related to women. So why do they still get paid less and have to endure sexual harassment and feel 'second class'?

Because Men are still in charge?

Something there to ponder long and deep.


March Madness gone mad

OK, they're not even through the first day of play and my bracket is null and void!

I had Baylor, not only going to the final 4 but winning the Championship....

And they lost today on a last second half-court shot to Georgia State.

Georgia State????

I don't even know where Georgia State is located.

All I know is I saw Baylor beat WVU three times this year--something that never happens when you have 2 good teams (WVU is a 5th seed in the tournament; Baylor was a 3rd seed--which means both of them are in the top 20 seeds) but Baylor did it and I didn't think they could possibly be beaten, even by Kentucky.

Shows how much I know!

I'll just tear up my bracket now and enjoy the games....

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Isis really wants

In March's edition of The Atlantic Monthly, Graeme Wood has a long article about what Isis really wants.

I would urge you to find it and read it. It altered my thinking about the Islamic State.

Wood makes the argument that Isis is not "not Islamic" but that they are radically Islamic, only 'Islamic' in the 6th century term of the word. The Islamic State is equivalent to Christian Biblical literalists only more so.There interpretation of the Koran and Sharia law is like a Christian believing in what was believed at the Council of Nicaea in the 4th Century. It is that ancient, what they believe to be true Islam.

He writes that when President Obama said that Isis was not truly Muslim it was a great boon to their enlisting more fighters. Isis, according to this article, is theologically, not politically, based. And part of that theology is that the movement is a player in the drama of the end days.

There is a city in Syria, which Isis holds, that is, in Islamic lore, the site of the battle between the last Caliphate and 'the armies of Rome'. We're talking about apocalyptic thinking here. So Isis has not moved to take more territory beyond that city (I'd tell you what it was but I loaned my copy of The Atlantic to a friend and can't look it up) because they're waiting for the 'army of Rome' to come for the final battle--the Muslim version of Armageddon.

They continue to advance, if they can, everywhere else, but not there. They're waiting for the last battle there.

Wood's argument is that we must understand that, unlike Bin Laden, Isis is driven by theology, not politics. They really mean to bring about the end of days.

I don't do the article justice, so find it and read it and see if it doesn't alter your understanding of what is going on in the Middle East. It will scare the bejesus out of you, but you will 'understand' more clearing why you're so frightened.

Really, this is something we all should read, mark and inwardly digest....

Monday, March 16, 2015

my hands

I've never been 'handy'. I can't fix or build things. My father couldn't either so I never had a way to learn. One of my uncles made wonderful furniture and another built his house from the ground (or basement, actually) up. But not me. I can't do that stuff. I wish I could, but I can't. Bern is the 'handy-woman' in our house. She fixes lots of things. And she can do art. Every Christmas she gives me a piece of art she made for me (one even building me a table in the shape of West Virginia--quite an accomplishment if you know what West Virginia looks like!!) I give her something written--a long poem or short story.

When I think of it, the only thing my hands are good for is to type....

Last week in Plymouth, I began to think about my hands in a new way.

We were playing cards, three of us, with a set of cards made totally out of plastic, instead of paper cards coated in plastic. So, they were very stiff and I found myself struggling with shuffling them.

One of my friends, playing with us, said, "my hands are shot...." She went on to demonstrate that arthritis kept her from making a fist and made her hands not very adroit at small motor skill things.

I've had two bad (9 and 7 stitches 'bad') on two different fingers. I also have some very obvious arthritis in my fingers that is sometimes numbing and sometimes painful and always awkward.

I had thought of myself as simply clumsy--dropping things, not being able to open things, not having a strong grip, (cutting my fingers!) and, in general, having 'all thumbs' in lots of ways.

But when Sherry said that about her hands, I suddenly realized I'm been blaming myself for ineptitude when using my hands (like a moral failure) rather than simply a physical reality.

I can touch five of my finger tips to my palm--but neither index finger or my right hand's second finger--but it would be dreaming to say I can 'make a fist'. Eight of my fingers have little knots on them--which Sherry told me was proof of having arthritis.

You might think realizing my hands 'are shot' would depress me. But you don't know my ability to see empty glasses 'half-full'.

I really feel relieved that my hands are failing me rather than that I am failing my hands.

Knowing there is a physical reason for my clumsiness is much better than thinking (as I have until now) that I was somehow failing to pay attention or work hard enough.

I'm saddened about how my hands are shot. But it's a relief to know why finally. I don't know why I didn't realize it before trying to shuffle to deal for 500 rummy....

Sunday, March 15, 2015


So, I was reading an article on the Huffington Post about Ben Carson, the Black retired surgeon who may be running for President.

The article was about how Dr. Carson had said on TV that homosexuality was 'absolutely a choice' and how he later backed away from what he said.

Well, the article was what it was. Then I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments about the article. I got hooked. Hundreds and hundreds of comments from every point of view from "Dr. Carson didn't go far enough...homosexuality is a Sin!" to "what a load of b.s. this Carson guy is!"

Somewhere in the 30 or so comments I read was one that really got me thinking. I wish I remember what commenter wrote it but I'm not willing to go back and sift through them to be able to tell you....

Anyway, that comment was about, not Dr. Carson, but one of the several comments that said gay folk will burn in hell.

The writer said, "I don't call those folks 'Christians', I call them 'Christianists'."

That really resonated with me. Being painted with the same brush with "Christians" who deny climate change, hate homosexuals, want to cut off food stamps to teach people the 'value of work', support the Keystone pipeline because Jesus wants us to have enough oil, support Israel without reservation--not because they love Jews but because they want Armageddon to come,  want to deny all abortions, believe Obama was born in Kenya, on and on and on...because they say Jesus would believe all that just drives me crazy.

From now on I'm referring to those folks as "Christianists", pure and simple.

As far as I can tell (and this is just me talkin') the length and breath of  'being a Christian' could be summed up like this:
      *love your neighbor as yourself
      *treat everyone as you wish to be treated
      *realize God loves every one of us
      *reach out to those less fortunate than you
      *seek the face of God in everyone you meet

I'm sure I left something out--but not much.

Stop there and you'll be in the company of angels.

"Christianists" want to make God in their own image and use God/Jesus to champion all their causes. I'm through with them. Really and forever. Being a Christian, it seems to me, involves the 5 things above...few enough things to count on the fingers of one hand. Simple enough.

And I think (just me talkin') 'being a Christian' is that simple.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

By the water

We were unpacking the car in Plymouth when I realized I forgot my laptop and wouldn't be able to write from there. (Two people had computers but I don't know how to get to this page anywhere but from my laptop and this computer. On those are icons that I click and come in the back door of the blog....)

It was Jack and Sherry, John Anderson, Bern and I in a house we figured was about 4000 square feet with a 180 degree view of Plymouth Harbor. When it was clear you could see the lighthouse in Provincetown!

It was a wonderful house and we had a great time, reading and eating. No beach walking because we were settling in on Wednesday and the rest of the week was too cold. But we lacked for nothing else. Those 3 are like family to us--for the last few years John and Sherry have gone to the beach in North Carolina with Mimi and Tim and us.

We took a shit load of food to Plymouth and really didn't need to buy anything but some ice cream while we were there. Bourbon, Scotch and white wine made the trip with us too...other good friends....

John and Sherry and Bern and I usually drive together in John's Landrover to North Carolina. But this year we're going to fly to Myrtle Beach to save two travel days and rent a car or two. It will be much nicer, I think, because the drive is tedious and two day and we get back worn out. Hardly the way to end vacation....Plus, there's a Food Lion on Oak Island and we won't be tempted to bring a shit load of food! All the food we took before made even a Land Rover uncomfortable!

I'm not wishing away the Spring and Summer, but I do look forward so much to that time with  Mimi and Tim and our little adopted family.

We came back today so I can do church and because Mimi took her car to Wallingford for some recall work and is spending the night.

What's odd about this little group (including Tim and Mimi) is that we're all avid readers (and eaters and drinkers) and get along seamlessly. Long period of being comfortable without having to talk are the norm. That only makes the conversation better....

There's a word for what we do well--we can simply 'abide' with each other. Where I come from if you were walking down the road and saw a neighbor up on their porch they might just call out, "come up and 'bide a spell."

'Bide-ing had no particular content or expectation. You might talk or you might not. You might have some ice tea or you might not. What it was was the ability to be comfortable in each others' presence without any agenda at all.

I like to 'bide a spell as often as I can.

That's what I've been up to since my last post--'bide-ing a spell with Bern and dear, dear friends....

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Going away

Bern and I are going to Sandwich, MA tomorrow with three of our best friends. We've rented a house on the beach--though this is hardly beach weather!!!

But we'll eat and drink and laugh and read and talk and eat some more and sleep late (I already sleep late every day but Tuesday and Sunday) and eat some more.

Sherry and Jack have been our friends since we've been in CT. Since 1980--35 years....But John for even longer. We knew him back in the early 70's in West Virginia. He was a doctoral student in psychology while Bern was finishing college and I was working for a living.

I often think I don't 'keep in touch' as I should, yet here are 3 people I've been friends with for over a century, all told.

John and Sherry go on vacation to Oak Island with Bern and me and Tim and Mimi each September.
Jack is the head of a day-care center and can't go. But he'll retire this year or next and go too.

And, just to make the whole thing sweeter, Mimi will be with us when we come home on Saturday. Her call got recalled months ago and is now recalled again because Subaru isn't sure the technitions fixed it right the first time....Go figure.

So, the rest of my week is golden, surrounded by people I love.

Hope your week is half as good.....

Monday, March 9, 2015

So lovely

About 4 p.m. (Daylight Savings Time--God love it, though Bern hates it) I stood out on our deck for a long time looking at the sun through the trees on the snow.

And I didn't have on a hat.

I wear a hat in the winter all the time--even indoors--since we keep our house at 65 F. In the winter I'm an Episcopalian equivalent of an Orthodox Jew when it comes to headwear.

Temperature near 40 seems balmy. And the late afternoon sun on the snow, with the shadows from the trees...wondrous and lovely....

Saturday, March 7, 2015

no new dog yet

So, we're going to be away with our friends from Wednesday to Saturday and then Mimi will be with us Saturday night. What could be better?

So Bern called the folks who have Eric and told them we couldn't take him until next week if we wanted him and he wanted us. They couldn't do that because someone might take him this weekend and open up a space for a dog in a kill kennel.

That makes all the sense in the world. So, for now, no new dog.

We'll see.

I'm much more hesitant than Bern, but I follow her instincts over and over and they are seldom wrong.

We'll see.


Like most people with dogs, we've dug out a run in the back yard, clearing it out snow after snow.

It is two circles--the first from the steps around to a tree and back. And at some point in this frigid, snowy winter, Bern broke through the snow at the top of the circle and dug out a smaller circle further out in the yard and down-hill slightly from the original circle.

The snow is considerably higher than the Puli's head and there are few places, because each snow narrows the path, that he can turn around. So, he goes in circles. But it is a God-send, this run, since it saves us from negotiating the walking conditions several times a day. He still gets a morning walk and Bern often takes him to the Canal though it is treacherous since the Town can't keep it cleared down to the pavement.

Last night, out on the deck while Bela was in his run, I thought Bern had expanded it again down to a spot under many evergreens where the snow is not as heavy. I admired her for that work since the snow is ice at this point in the winter.

Then, today, I saw clearly that the run was only the first two circles. I thought I'd been seeing things and wondered if I needed to go to 'the home' already.

Then tonight I went out again, as Bela went to pee, and realized what I thought was cleared areas were only shadows of the tree the first circle goes around.

You can't trust 'what you see' all the time. Shadows change things sometimes.

Shadows fall across our lives in many ways--both externally and internally. Shadows of the heart and mind and soul.

Everyone has to be aware of the shadows in their lives.

Facing the shadows and being aware of them will open up a lot....Really.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

poems from a car wreck

Back in December of 2007, I was driving to do a Eucharist at the Episcopal Church at Yale. It was raining on I-91, but as soon as I took the exit I knew it was ice, being elevated. I crashed and the air bag broke my left arm in 6 pieces--3 is the radius and 3 in the ulna. I had surgery two days later and began physical therapy two days after that. But before that, I wrote two poems. Here they are--poems inspired by a broken arm. And both about my wife, Bern.


They are all inside us, everywhere, I've come to know.
They hold things together, keep things straight,
defy gravity and move our bodies right along.
Just like that...God bless them--bones.

Insects have an exoskeleton--wear their bones outside.
Ours, however, are inside, hiding among the mushy stuff--
muscles, flesh, tendons, blood vessels, organs and all.

So, when we break them--smash them, mash them,
splinter them all to hell, the mush and oatmeal
all inside flops around like a dying snake.

Science can redo them, but we need more
when we break our bones.
We need pillows and drinks of water and a gentle hand.

And that you gave me...
enough and more than enough.

Healing comes from within and without.
You have been my healer--
not just of bones but heart and mind as well.



Trying to type with a broken arm
in a one finger peck,
was the hardest thing I tried to do.
I'd figured out how to open child-proof pill bottles
and carry thing with one hand and a spint.
I could manage showering and dressing
and finally
putting on my socks.
One hand and a splint
works well enough.

But answering email opened me to something
I did not know that I did not know.

Touch typist since age 16,
I have no idea where the letters are
on a keyboard.

I've decades ago transferred all that
to muscle memory.
"A" is the little finger of my left hand--
but where is it
among the black keys with white letters?

I thought someone had come in and removed the ";"
from my computer until I thought to ask my right
hand where the semi-colon might be hiding out.
Oh, there!

Those speedy hunt and peckers, filling the page with type,
have not given over their memory
to the muscles of their hands.

What else have I come to do through muscle memory?
Trace the outlines of your face, my love?
Hold your hand? Watch you smile?
Observe your anger? Listen to you?

Let me break those bones and interrupt that memory
so that I can experience you all new,
without knowing where the keys are...
discovering you again....For the first time.

12/21/07 jgb

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Eric, not Julia, maybe....

Bern and I talked on the phone today with the woman in Tennessee who is fostering Julia Roberts, the dog Bern thought would, maybe, be our second dog. She was remarkably frank and told us Julia probably should be an 'only dog' since she is jealous of Mary, her dog, and lunges at Mary from time to time. Bela, our Puli, is a very protective creature and would react badly to lunging.

But Catherine, this woman in Tennessee, who is fostering 12 dogs at this time, 11 of which live in an enclosed kennel her husband built for her obsession of saving dogs from 'kill kennels' down there, told us about a dog she fostered for a while, a Standard Puddle/Scottish Terrier mix named Eric Roberts (not related to Julia) who is already being fostered in CT.

I wasn't really on board about another dog until I heard her tell us about Eric. So Bern emailed the CT contact and told her we were interested and on Friday, weather permitting, we'll go to Southbury to meet him. We can't take him until week after next since we're going to Sandwich with Jack and Sherry and John for three days next week.

But I'm finally excited.

It will mean we have to go get a King sized mattress for the frame we already have so two dogs can sleep with us. Exciting times.....

(There are crashes from time to time--huge ice cycles falling on our porch roofs. I like those sounds...Spring is creeping nearer....)

It will be '40' soon....

Back in 2000-2001, I visited most of my class from Virginia Seminary, interviewed them about a whole range of things, and wrote a great deal about that experience.

Unfortunately, I have none of that on my computer and can't just copy it into a blog.

But I've been reading it and want to share some of it with you.

The reason I did it was that it was the year and year after of our 25th anniversary of graduation. A quarter of a century into ministry, we were. And this year will be the 40th anniversary of our leaving Virginia Seminary and encountering the world as priests.

So, I'm going to type some of it in for blogs in the weeks to follow.

But it will take me a while unless I can find someone to scan it onto a disc and I can simply copy and paste.

What I've been reading is moving to me.

I hope it will be to you as well.

Most everyone I interviewed was still in active ministry and it was a turning point in the life of the church, back as the century changed. Good stuff.

Look for it....

Monday, March 2, 2015

another dog? Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh no!

We may be getting another dog. Bern found a rescue group in Southington and they have a poodle mix named Julia Roberts, of all things.

She would be near Bela in size and is a year old. She looks as  much like Bela--black and hairy--as any dog not a Puli could.

Bern said, when I asked her if Bela would accept her, "she looks like him, so he would."

I waited three beats until she realized: "oh, Bela doesn't know what he looks like, huh?"


I'm on a web site searching for Poodle mixes within a hundred miles. Over the last couple of years, they've sent me dozens of possibilities. The problem is, they require a home visit and once they met--if not gotten bitten--by Bela, they'd never let us have a dog....

This place may not have that requirement and the truth is, Bela likes all the dogs that have come to visit us: Josh and Cathy's dogs and John Anderson's dogs and even a dog a friend brought by one day who was much bigger than him. And he loves Sophie who lives down the street and we see from time to time on his morning walk. They sniff and jump and pee for each other every time.

So, it might work. I'm more hesitant than Bern about it all because people have told me adding a second dog is three times as much work.

But with a name like Julia Roberts, who could resist?

I'll let you know what happens.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I was giving my friend, Charles, a hard time about Sudoku, if that's how you spell it, last week.

Then, I realized I've played 8047 games of Hearts on my computer. 8047. And I've won 4132 of them--50%!

I even keep track of my games on paper. I play until someone--me or West or North or South--wins 7 games and that's a set. And I play 7 sets at a time. I haven't lost a set in weeks, months--which is why I keep doing it...I like to win.

Maybe I should give up Hearts for Lent. It would be a real challenge. But, what the hell, we're already two weeks into Lent and I don't want to give it up.

Maybe I should stop when I get to 10,000 games. That would seem a good time to give it up.

But, I most likely won't.

I enjoy it and why should one stop doing what they enjoy and gives them pleasure?

Charles, buy some more Sudoku books--you deserve it....

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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.