Saturday, April 30, 2011

more information

So, there was a blog on June 29, 2010 about the end of last year's robin saga.

Just thought I'd let you know.

I'll be keeping you updated on this year's brood....

Everyone needs a robin nest on their front porch....It seems, I think, to make me a better person....

They're baaaccckkk....

I went back and checked the archives of my blog--last May 1...2010...I wrote a blog about the robins who built a nest on the old alarm system alarm on our front porch, just to the right of the front door when you walk out of our house.

There are lots more blogs after that--my thinking they abandoned the nest, cow bird problems, lots of thing, finally baby robins and all the joy that entails.

Well, they're back. The same robin couple, I believe, the look the same but how am I to be able to tell one robin from another? Daddy is 'huge', really big. Today, when I was on the back deck, where I can't even see the nest, he sat on a tree near me and yelled at me for a long time. We see him all over, in trees where he can see the nest, guarding.

Mama is sitting on what I can only assume are more eggs. She's always there. On the Monday of Easter week, when Josh and Cathy and the girls were leaving, I showed Josh and Tegan the nest and Mama flew out, almost bumping Tegan's face. Tegan is 18 months old and the look she gave me when the bird flew so close to her would define 'amazement' and 'astonishment'.

She is used to us now, the bird, I mean, and when I go out or come in, I say, "Hey, mama..."

Last year, if you go back and read my blogs, I was anxious to the extreme about her and the nest and her eggs and then babies, who finally flew away.

This year, I'm mellow about the whole thing.

It's just like your second child. We were frantic and crazy and anxious about everything about Josh. When Mimi came along we were like "well, whatever" and so calm and nonplussed about the whole baby thing.

I love the robins on our front porch. This year, I love them without anxiety.

By the way, a storm blew the nest down in construction and I thought they'd leave, but they build it again and Mama is sitting on it non-stop and Dad is guarding it and bringing Mama food.

I can't wait for the second generation of Robin babies....

What joy.....

Friday, April 29, 2011

the world I live in

I live in a world where there are lots of locally owned, small jewelry stores.

I needed a new watch band, mine about to break completely off on one side, so I went to my local jewelry store to get one.

Problem is, there is not a single jewelry store in Cheshire. I went to the one I remembered, in the same building with a pizza shop and, much to my chagrin, I found a cupcake store where the watchbands should be.

So I got in my car and drove down RT 10 to Hamden. Hamden is, I believe, the largest town in square miles in the state...may be wrong but I think so. I think I drove most of Hamden--down Dixwell and cutting across and coming back on Whitney. Miles and miles I drove. But no jewelry store. None. Not one. I found one place that was a clock and watch store, but it only sold clocks and watches, no replacement watch bands.

Finally, after vowing to the Baby Jesus I'd never do it, I went to Walmart in Hamden Plaza and found a watch band. It is, I believe, only the third time in my life I've been in a Walmart. Once in West Virginia on a whim. And once in CT because I needed something they would surely have. I hate Walmart--aisles too narrow, stuff piled too high, too much stuff. But I broke my solemn vow and went there, there being no little neighborhood jewelry stores in the two towns of Cheshire and Hamden. (Oh, I know I could have found a jewelry store in a mall in Meriden or Waterbury, but I resent malls only a little less than I resent Walmart.)

I was walking the dog this afternoon and realized that all my neighbors had dug up the dandelions in their yards and thrown them out onto Cornwall Ave. I was horrified! Where I grew up dandelions were a food group, just like gravy. You mostly ate them wilted in bacon renderings, but they were also good unwilted. For Easter dinner, we had dandelion risotto Jack made from dandelions he picked on the grounds of Bethesda Lutheran Church in New Haven. It was heavenly. (I even, years ago, had some dandelion's not Pino Grigio, but it is pretty good.)

No local jewelry stores, people wasting dandelions--what else is an illusion in the world I live in.

I live in a world where people drink water from a faucet instead of a plastic bottle.

I live in a world where phones have rotary dials.

I live in a world where most everyone smokes.

I live in a world where people 'drop in' rather than email.

I live in a world where you call your doctors by their first name (since they do that to you....)

I live in a world where people give great respect to the President whether they agree with him or not.

I live in a world where 'please' and 'thank you' are the two things you say most often.

I live in a world where athletes are heroes, not criminals.

I live in a world where everyone agrees that everyone should have healthcare.

I live in a world where FACEBOOK isn't the 'social network', the 'social network' is you friends and family.

I live in a world where strangers are simply friends you haven't met.

I live in a world where God is Love rather than Judge.

I live in a world that includes drug stores that have a soda fountain.

I live in a world where there was a mechanic where you get your gas rather than a convenience store.

I know, I know, I really know--I live in an illusion.

But, it is my world and I prefer it.

Welcome to my world.

Want to join me...?

The root cause of all bad things

Remember how every once in a while Pat Robertson assigns blame for natural disasters on some sin or another? Like Haiti's earthquake was God's judgment for the island's history of voo-doo....

And what about those idiots from Kansas that show up at military funerals to celebrate God's judgment on American for not condemning (and stoning, I suspect) homosexuals....

Clearly such thinking is terrible theology and downright hateful. But I have a suggestion that might just get to the bottom of all the terrible things Mother Nature is doing around the globe....

It's because of Donald Trump's hair.

Truly, the powers that be just can't take Donald's hair anymore. And, since we have to see it so much these days what with his idiotic ravings, I can understand Nature's anger.

What's worse than his hair is that it covers a head without a brain in it.

He wanted evidence that Obama was born in the US. Well, I want evidence that the Donald has any grey matter....He needs to post clear evidence that brain cells exist in his cranium, beneath that hair....That's what I'm demanding to see.

Join me at

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

long time no blog

I notice I haven't written here for over a week....well, it was holy week, after all, and Easter and all that....

So, I'll catch up....


Nothing is signed yet, but I am scheduled to begin a call as the Interim Missioner in Charge for the Middlesex Cluster (4 churches in Higganum, Killingworth, Northford and Westbrook) on May 1. It's really part time--12-13 hours a week--and the Missioner who retired at 72 was full-time, so I insisted it be called 'interim' because if, over time, we discover the Cluster needs more than the 12-13 hours I'm willing to give, that I would fold my tent and move on with no problems. It's a fascinating ministry--four churches that have very different cultures and ethos'--who have been bound together to seek to perfect 'total common ministry' for now 30 years. There was a fifth church in Durham, but a few years ago they opted to hire a part time priest to serve only them and leave the Cluster. Too bad. I really buy the concept because it empowers lay folk to 'be the People of God' and consigns the ordained to liturgical, functionary and supportive role.

I spent Lent and Easter at St. James in Higganum. It is a remarkable community that really buys into Total Common Ministry. They need a priest like a fish needs a bicycle. But they tolerate us (there are 3 other presbyters who rotate, along with me, among the churches).

I even did my first ever 'Sunrise service' at 6:30 a.m. in the labyrinth the community built in memory of Jean Minkler, the mother of my dear friend Steve. There were 25 people there and we left the better part of a loaf of bread for the birds. Then we ate pancakes.

There were some gnats in the woods in the early morning. One of the guys who stayed back to cook the breakfast asked me, "Jim, what was all that arm movement all about?" He'd looked out to see if we were almost through and saw folks shooing gnats.

"We were in the spirit, Wayne," I told him.

(more tomorrow....)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

being happy

My friend John, who is a very unconventional therapist, told me the other day what he sometimes tells his patients.

LISTEN: You can either 'be happy' or have all the reasons you can't be happy.

Did you really read, mark, learn and inwardly digest that?

Here's the question--how can you 'be happy'?

John says, and I absolutely, positively agree: you simply choose to 'be happy'. You either choose that or you choose to 'have' all your considerations, excuses, reasons and stories about why you can't be happy.

I'd prefer to be 'joyful' rather than happy, but I think the same criteria applies: You can either be joyful or have all the reasons you can't be joyful.

So, the search for happiness is solved. It is a choice you make that has nothing to do with the circumstances of your life. The 'circumstances of your life' contribute to the 'reasons' you can't be joyful. You can have them, whatever they all (and I realize we all love our misery) or you can simply choose to be joyful, whatever the circumstances of your life.

That simple.

When I was a young, baby priest in my first parish, whenever I got discouraged, depressed, unhappy, I'd go see Arlene.

Arlene was not much older than me. She had three kids--one in elementary school, one in junior high, one in high school. Shortly after her youngest had been born, Arlene was diagnosed as having muscular dystrophy, which moved aggressively and put her in bed for the rest of her life. Her husband couldn't take it, caring for her and all, and , God bless him, left.

So Arlene was a single mom with a limited income with three kids and she couldn't leave her bed.

They brought her hospital type bed, on wheels, downstairs and she slept in the living room and when it was time to make dinner, one of her kids rolled her into the kitchen to oversee things.

Her children were all honor students though their mom would never be able to go and see their work or talk to their teachers or see them graduate.

And, when I was depressed, discouraged, out-of-sorts, it was Arlene I went to see to get me back on track, cheer me up, convince me of joy.

The circumstances of her life were, at best, horrendous. She had every consideration you could imagine for being 'unhappy' and without joy. And she was the one I'd go to see when I was out of touch with the joy in my life.

Arlene simply chose to be happy, joyful, profoundly alive. She preferred that to 'the reasons she wasn't happy, joyful, alive.

And when I left her, so restricted and in pain and knowing she wouldn't quite live to she her youngest be on her own, I was in touch with the joy and happiness that comes, always and eternally, from within, in spite of circumstances.

Under your castor oil tree, I invite you to ponder this: You can either be happy/joyful or have all the reasons that isn't possible.

It is a choice, as weird and strange as that might seem.

I'd advise that you choose happiness, choose joy and let the 'reasons' and 'circumstances' go the way of all flesh.

Just a thought.

Friday, April 15, 2011

One more reason to send me to the Home

So today I come home for lunch and Bern is out (she left me a note to tell me she was out, which I would have figured out eventually and that the dog had been to the Canal for his daily long walk on the old B and O canal cum horizontal park.)

I ate my lunch--a ham and cheese sandwich (Boar's Head rosemary ham with double Gloucester cheese, mayo, tomato, Boston lettuce and white onion with a little 1000 Island dressing on Everybody's walnut and cranberry seven grain bread...I recommend it). The bread is the best bread I've ever eaten, a meal it itself.

While I was eating and reading the novel about an Alaskan private investigator named Kate Suhgnan (a series I love) I felt a tad chilly. But I had on a very light sweater because I'd come back from doing the funeral of a wonderful woman, Ginny Tillson, in the unheated chapel at Evergreen Cemetery (I wrote Seminary rather than 'Cemetery' until I backspaced it out...something Freudian in that, I suspect.) I loved Ginny and knew I'd need a light sweater under my alb. But I decided to go upstairs and put on a heavy sweater since I felt a tad chilly.)

On the way past the thermostat, I notice the temperature was 60. No wonder I was chilly. We keep our house at 66 or 67, always wearing sweaters. So I went down in the basement to check the oil--still over 1/4 full, the breaker (on) and push the reset button. Nothing happened. So I went upstairs and called Standard Oil--which is a great company from my experience. After a few questions and my checking in the emergency switch at the top of the basement stairs was 'on' rather than 'off' (it was) they agreed to send someone within two hours--and they always do what they say, which is why they're a great company in my mind.

Bern came home and I told her the heat was off.

"Why do you think so?" she asked.

"Because the temperature is 60," I said, "and the funny thing is it hasn't gone down in the last two hours though it's colder than that outside."

"It hasn't gone below 60," she told me sternly, "because I turned it down to 60 since it was such a nice day."

She looked at me for a long time. "Did you check what the thermostat was set at?" she asked, in a way that I knew was something I couldn't fake.

"I don't know how to do that," I said, since our thermostat is controlled by buttons that I never touch, not knowing what they do.

She rolled her eyes, turned on her heel and somehow pushing buttons I don't understand, turned the heat up to 61 and our faithful furnace immediately turned on and pushed warm air through the vents.

"I'd better go cancel the service call," I said.

"I guess you should," she said.

So I did, explaining when the operator asked that it was all my fault, I didn't know how to work the thermostat, the temperature had simply been turned down, all my fault, my own fault, my most grievous fault and there is no health in me and my wife would probably send me to the home. I didn't hear any sympathy in the woman's acknowledgement that she would cancel the service call.

"How was I to know?" I asked Bern.

I think I saw her writing in a little book where she keeps evidence that I need to go to the Home. Alas.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Approaching my 64th birthday, I have come to realize what is my highest value, my core commitment.

It is this, simply this, only this: LOYALTY.

That would make me worthy to be a Knight of the Round Table or, on another level, a "made man" of the Mafia. Those two possibilities reflect light from two very different directions. Yet I know this: What I Value Most In Life = LOYALTY.

I have always told people who worked 'for/with' me that I would be as loyal to them as they were to me and I would 'have their back' no matter what, if they gave me their loyality.

(Here is a scary thing: I value Loyalty more than Truth. If you are loyal to me, I will be loyal to you, even when you LIE. There is something dangerous about that promise, that I know. But it is a promise I make and will keep. In response, when I 'lie', I expect loyalty to overcome your commitment to 'truth' and that you will 'loyal' to me even when I lie.)

Here's where the 'pondering' comes in. God's love, it seems to me, is a lot like that. God will love loyal to us...even when we lie and screw up.

God love us in a loyal way. God will put up with our nonsense and un-truth and out-and-out lack on anything that can remotely be considered 'integrity', so long as we are 'loyal'. All that nonsense and un-truth and lack of integrity is, gosh, I think "who we are". And God loves us anyway.

I'm loyal to my friend when they are really off the chart messing up.

I'm loyal to my wife when I don't agree at all about what she wants to do and does even though I disagree.

I'm loyal to my children when they don't live their lives the way I would live them.

So, what else is new?

Loyalty is my highest value. Highest of all. Even more than Truth.

Ponder that and what it says about me. And ponder your highest value and how, if you can find a way, it is superior to Loyalty.

Go figure that out and let me know.

Puli nests

Bern has been cutting our Puli's hair for several days. She is a mama bear about what she is doing once she decides to do it.

One of the great differences between my wife and I is this: she is a compulsive 'finisher' and I am a remarkable 'starter'. I Start projects with a commitment that is focused and absolute. Bern 'completes' things in a way I never could. So, opposites do attract, I suppose.

Our Puli, Bela, has 'hair' not 'fur'. It keeps growing and growing, as yours does. So, either you have to cut it back or let it grow and help it form dreadlocks so that he looks like Bob Marley's head with four feet, a tail and a face. We did that when we first got him, 6 or 7 years ago. He looked like the Puli's you see at the Westminster Dog Show. He hated it and we hated it, so once or twice a year Bern really cuts his hair back so that doesn't happen.

She cuts on him a lot. But once or twice a year she gets obsessed with it all and really cuts his hair.

He now looks like a different dog. Though he still weighs 50 pounds or so, he looks 15 pounds lighter, a shadow of his former self.

One of the three or four days of Bern's compulsive cutting, she did it out on the deck. So Puli hair was everywhere...I'm not kidding, handfuls of it, a paper bag full, Puli's have lots of hair.

She planned to sweep that hair up, but when she went out there were a veritable flock of birds taking the hair to add to their nest.

So, I am so joyful that Bela's hair will warm the hatchlings of several species of birds. Puli hair is luxurious, fine and, I am sure, warm and soft.

What a gift our bad dog Puli has given. A whole generation of birds will profit from his spring hair cut....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

birthdays and other insignificant stuff

My birthday this year is on Palm Sunday. Pretty neat, I think.

My 33rd birthday, 31 years ago (now you know I'll be 64) was on Good Friday. I had just preached about the 7 last words of Christ, every one of them (God help us!) and was walking home from Trinity on the Green in New Haven, who had asked me to do the dastardly deed of preaching 7 times in three hours, the bells of Trinity started tolling 33 time--the age tradition tells us Jesus was on the first Good Friday.

"My God," I said to myself, crossing New Haven Green, "I'm as old as Jesus...."

My son, blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, is now older than Jesus. My approaching birthday is fine--better than the alternative--but I feel a bit old.

My daughter, on the phone tonight from NYC, which is a real place, said, off handedly, because of something I said, "are you suddenly old?"

I replied, "No, I've been working on it for some time...."

{Warning, Warning, Warning--those who are faint of heart and don't think a priest can utter four letter words...stop reading now.}

OK, I've warned you properly.

Three things an older man should never do:

*Never get in a car without peeing first

*Never waste an erection

*Never assume it is only going to be a fart

Most of all that resides down lower than the brain.

A joke: A female brain cell, by mistake, gets into a male's brain. She is astonished that there are no other functioning brain cells around.

She calls out: "Hello! Hello! Hello!"

Faintly she hears, from way below, "Hello, we're all down here...."


Well, if you outlive Jesus by more than 3 decades and don't anticipate that your end is going to brutal, bloody and excruciatingly painful, that's something to aspire for, it seems to me.

Don't send me a birthday card--just write your birthday wishes on a $100 bill and send that in the mail....

Be well and stay well. May you live as long as I have....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The problem is General Electric

General Electric, part of all our lives for generations, apparently figured out how not to pay any corporate tax last year. The second largest international corporation in the world, after JP Morgan/Chase, paid less than you did in taxes.

Ponder that.

And the Republican/Tea Party folks are balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and lower middle class through cuts in medicare and Medicaid while GE paid no taxes.

Let me tell you up front: I have no dog in this fight. My SS won't be affected, my pension is great and I'm making money from part time priest stuff. Our credit rating is 895 or so and we haven't been late on a payment for a couple of decades. (Our credit rating is SO good that someone called Bern because she had lost--better and more accurately, I had misplaced--a bill. But instead of charging us a late fee, the company called, knowing the aging white man had screwed up and took the payment by credit card over the phone to save us any problems.

So, I'm going to live out my life not being troubled by the current madness about cutting the budget and paying down the deficit--WHICH I MUST REMIND YOU HAPPENED WHILE W BUSH WAS PRESIDENT...HE WAS GIVEN A BALANCED BUDGET AND NO DEFICIT BY THAT WILD TAX AND SPEND PRESIDENT CLINTON....

But cutting anything from social programs and mediciade while GE paid no taxes is insane.

I made more money in 2010 than ever in my life. My total income was several thousand dollars past 6 figures. I paid--ss and taxes combined, less than $9000. I'm getting money back from the Federal Government and only owe CT $700. I'm not complaining, but the truth is, people who make 10 times what I earned probably aren't paying much more than me.

I declare myself a 'tax the rich and support the poor" Democrat.

And I want GE to pay millions in taxes.

I will willingly pay twice as much in taxes as I do if GE will ante up and the rich will give up their G.W. Bush tax breaks.

The problem in the economy is that the rich and the corporations aren't paying anywhere near 'their fair share". No where near.

Republicans and Tea Party idiots need to ante up. Close the loopholes for corporations. Tax US based corporations for their overseas operations aggressively enough to make them bring those jobs back home. Tax imports enough to make American products desirable. Tax the rich and guard the poor as Jesus would...the poor are always with us and our responsibility.

Tax GE's profits, wherever they were made.

Good God, why is this so hard?

I'll pay more. Let's all pay more so long as GE and millionaires pay their fair share.

It doesn't seem that difficult to me.

All for one and one for all....

Works for me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

head's up

A woman who walks her 95 pound yellow Lab when I'm walking my dog, was walking him while on the cell phone. He lunged at my dog, almost pulling her off her feet. (Now my dog has done his share of lunging over time, but I've never been distracted by a cell phone call and have always planned ahead about what to do.) I could hear her telling whoever she was talking to, "sorry, my dog just lunged at a black dog...." (How about, 'sorry my dog lunged at yours'???)

Bern was walking our dog on the Canal and a guy was running with his IPod ear plugs in with his huge dog on one of those retractable leads with it at full extention. There was no way Bern could get Bela out of the way and no way the guy, already triple tasking--running, listening to music or a download about how to be a better human being, while walking (supposedly) a huge dog. So the dog lunged at Bela and the guy, Bern said, didn't even notice....

Multi-tasking doesn't work, it's been shown. Oh, we can do two or three things at the same time, but we can't do any one of them with the same focus and intention we could do if one thing were all we were doing.

(PS why would you be outside with bird songs and trees and water and want to be listening to something on ear phones or talking on a cell phone? Bird songs are wonderful enough....")

Head's up: mono-tasking is good, focused and intentional.

Try it, you'll like it....

And you're dog won't lunge at mine....

The Meeting will happen....

I have a meeting tomorrow night that folks were considering canceling, though it is a vital meeting, because the UConn woman would be playing for the national championship.

I'm sure others in CT had that thought about Tues. night meetings. As did folks in northern California--especially because the UConn/Stanford game would begin at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Well, my meeting and all the meetings in CT and CA will happen on time. It will be Notre Dame and (gasp!) Texas A&M.

It's really the best thing that could happen for women's basketball. Though most people want to see UConn, Stanford, Tennesee, Baylor, Duke--it is a good thing to have two teams noone would have predicted play for the title.

Same with the men's game: no Duke/Ohio State final this year. Butler (go Bulldogs!!!) vs. the team that finished 9th of 16 in the Big East. OK, that is UConn, big name school, but who would have thunk it???

Love March Madness--been really 'mad' this year....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Things I miss....

(By the way, I gave the heresy test to the 50 people in the Mary Magdalene class today. All but three believe in the 'immortality of the soul'. Gnostic heretics all!!!)

It's now been 11 months since I retired after 21 years as Rector of St. John's, Waterbury. I really love being retired, but there are some things I miss. Here are the top 10.

10. I miss the building. The little churches where I am presiding now are fine, but St. John's is a neo-Gothic marvel. I used to sit in the nave and watch the light change as afternoon came.

9. Besides the grandeur of the building, I miss the drop dead beauty of the windows--Tiffany and otherwise--they are imprinted on my heart. Stained glass was invented to 'tell the story' to the illiterate masses. What a story St. John's windows tell....

8. I miss the soup kitchen: the people who worked there and the patrons as well. I'd wander through from time to time and after two decades recognized every face and knew a lot of names. I also miss all the other groups that used the buildings that were part of our 'ministry of Space'. I miss them.

7. I miss the people from the parish who would just 'drop in' during the week--some with things to do and others just to say 'hi'.

6. I miss all the talking and listening I did. I live a much quieter life now--I'm on 'mute' a lot more than I was. I talk to Bern (but we've been talking since I was 17 and she was 14 {cradle robber, I know....}) and I talk to the dog, the cat and the birds. But for over 20 years I talked to and listened to dozens of people a day. I miss that.

5. I miss the kids in the chorister academy. They came in twice a week to rehearse and I would sit with them in the library and try to figure out what makes teens tick. I never did, but it was fun trying. I also miss all the myriad of kids who were in and out and around in Church School and other ways.

4. I miss Pauline and her outrageousness and all the quirky, weird, strange people that end up wandering through an urban church. I miss getting caught up in all that made them quirky or weird or strange. Cheshire is, except for one of two folks, the epicenter of normal-ness. I miss the abnormal--or paranormal, if you will.

3. I actually, from time to time--not always--miss the meetings I had to go to. I kinda like meetings, the process of it all, the give and take, the wondering and pondering that went on. Even the spats people sometimes had. I'm a fool for a good spat....

2. I miss the staff enormously. It took me 20 years to 'get it right' and to surround myself with people smarter and more creative than I was so I could watch their backs and leave them pretty much alone. The staff on the day I retired was a work of art, a 'dream team', people I loved profoundly who were all exceedingly good at what they did and contributed. I miss them.

And the number 1 thing I miss about St. John's is simply this: those good and lovely and oh-so-human and oh-so-lovable people. The Hispanic congregation, the 8 o'clock folks, the people who came to Adult Forum, the incredible folks at the Wednesday Eucharist, the 10:15 crowd, the Vestry and the Christmas and Easter folks. I miss them all, I really do. I really do, believe me....

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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.