Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Bern always buys our family wonderful, funny, funny scary Halloween presents. She's a real Halloween junkie.

This year my favorite is two zombie flamingos for Tim! They are like the pink lawn ornaments but black with vacant eyes and fierce teeth. They have no yard to put them in, but that's just as well--they'd be stolen in a heartbeat!

Zombie flamingos, pretty funny, huh?

What I don't get is our culture's fascination with all things Zombie. There must be half a dozen TV shows about zombies, along with two 'talk shows' that following "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead" to recap and discuss each episode!

I don't get it, but lots of people must. Bern is hooked on the two shows mentioned above and on most any zombie movie or show. She is one of the most rational people I know--and she loves TWD and FTWD. Go figure.

I can watch them but usually lose interest in 15 minutes or so and drift out of the room.

I just can't figure the phenomena out. What is so mesmerizing about apocalyptic zombie stuff and how horrible being around zombies tends to make human beings?

Is it something about the 'out of control feeling' that Donald Trump has locked onto and milked for all it is worth--which in my opinion, isn't much?

I just don't get the fascination with 'undead' things.

Any ideas?

But I do like those undead flamingos!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Enough about me...

After Wednesday's surgery, I'll be living upstairs in our house for a couple of weeks and have every opportunity--since my office is upstairs--to keep you up to date on every detail of my recuperation.

So, for something completely new: the Presidential race!

I can't wait for the first debate tomorrow. I really have no idea what will happen, but I'm anxious to watch it. Trump has never had to be on a debate stage with only one person for 90 minutes, no commercial breaks and no audience reaction to play to.

I'm really anxious to see him try to pull that off!! (Actually, I hope he implodes in the first five minutes and stalks off the stage....)

I'm rooting for Hillary to be more personable, good-humored and smiling than she usually is. That's what I'm praying for. I don't doubt for a minute that she'll be impressive in the content part. She will run figure 8's around Trump on policy. I just hope she can not get bogged down and seem more 'approachable' as she does it.

I think I'm still one of a vanishing breed who believes enough in Americans to think there is no way Trump can win the election. I'd just like a result  on Monday that makes it certain...the imploding and storming off the stage scenario, for example!

We shall see.

Most of the news channels have a clock ticking down to the time of the debate--about 27 hours now....

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wrestling with feeling 'helpless'

I utterly hate feeling helpless!

I'm sure you do too. To rely on others for basic stuff....Oh, at this point, still getting around and all, I could still do a lot that Bern doesn't want me to do. I couldn't walk the dog, but I could cook dinner--I can move around the kitchen without my cane. I could clean dishes and load the dishwasher. I could feed the dog---but Bern's already taken over all that.

And it will be worse after my knee surgery. My mobility is going to be more limited, I know. I already and dreading crutches. I don't know the  last time, if ever, I walked on crutches. I can get up and down the steps--one at a time--but on crutches? I'm just not scared.

But then I pinch myself and remember 'helpless' is relative.

I'm sitting at my computer in no pain, in my house in Connecticut with my dog behind me and my wife washing my clothes. And she's been great about the injury.

I have an upstairs book and a downstairs book since I need both hands to do stairs and when I through a book down this morning, Bern came running, thinking I had fallen. So now I have something to read both places. I stay on one level as long as I can before going to the other level.


How hollow that sounds when I watch the news: the police shootings in Texas and North Carolina, the millions of refugees around the world...people in poverty, people in prison, people in nursing homes and in hospice care, people with disabled children.

I should wash my mouth out with soap for even voicing the word "helpless" to refer to myself.

That's the Theory of Helpless Relativity....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What it's like right now....

Having a ruptured max muscle is strange. It isn't as painful as it sounds but I can do nothing that requires it--like get my leg in bed.

Everything takes three times as long and twice as much effort--like sitting down and standing up, walking (especially up and down stairs--but our front stair case has a great banister and with my cane I can do it) and never mind getting on and off a toilet! I know now why handicapped bathrooms have all those bars....

I noticed in the last days how my emotions devolve. At first I was frustrated and disappointed in myself for being so clumsy. Next came self-pity (which hangs around a bit). Then anger and rage at the whole thing. Then (still in this phase) strategising and optimism.

I am one of the most 'glass half full' folks you'll ever meet--so all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well. Optimism is my middle name.

I'm already making lists of what to ask the surgeon--real, practical things. And planning out how to map my 'space' during the first couple of weeks and coming up with ways I can 'be' that make it easier on Bern after the surgery (though it will very hard on her even though I behave as a 'perfect patient). I'll still be a patient! For more weeks that I want to think about yet. It's one day at a time time!

I'm going to focus on what this injury teaches me about myself. I already know this will be a long course in patience and focusing on the moment. Good could come of that.

I can also be guilt free about how much reading I do since I won't be doing much of any of the day to day tasks for a good while!

I joke about how "I'm so incompetent, Bern does most everything around the house." This will teach me how much I actually do--cooking every other dinner, handling trash and recycle, washing clothes, cleaning up after myself--since Bern will have to take that over for a time plus cater to me more than I like being catered too. By being helpless, I might come to realize what good things I do normally.

I will learn to deal with disappointment: I had just started (one session) teaching a course at UConn in Waterbury on "Reading the Gospels side-by-side" and I called today to cancel it. Big disappointment. Bern and I were also planning to see when in October Josh and Cathy and the girls would be up for a visit that now won't happen. And we would surely have gone to NYC to see Tim and Mimi and Ellie a time or two. I don't have a lot of disappointments in my life, so maybe this is a chance to be more aware of and compassionate toward those who do.

(See what I mean about 'glass half full"?)


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I'm back...actually, I never left!

At 6:30 Saturday Morning, I was coming down our back stairs in near darkness. We were about to go to New Haven to meet John and Sherrie and catch the limo that would take us to Laguarda Airport and our flight to Myrtle Beach, SC where we'd rent a car and go to Oak Island, NC.

About a week before that day, Bela, our Puli began to refuse to go down the back staircase. It annoyed me no end that I'd have to walk to the front staircase and down then walk through the house again to the kitchen. It occurred to me this evening that he was trying to give me a warning.

I was two steps from the bottom when I turned to say something to Bern, who was in the kitchen, and missed the last step. I've done it before, but this time I landed so hard on my right foot that I blew out my right knee.

We called John and Sherry on the way to the ER to tell them we wouldn't make the flight.

The ER (I won't tell you which hospital because I plan to write a letter to their CEO tomorrow) Xrayed my knee, told me there was no 'permanent  damage', gave me a brace and a cane and recommended that I consider going to an orthopedist 'just in case'.

It hurt like hell, but Bern found a Sunday afternoon direct flight to Myrtle Beach from Newburg, NY that was quite cheap, one way (since we had return tickets to NYC). There were issues: how to retrieve our car from Newburg? Was I really ok to travel? But John was happy to come to Myrtle to get us and it was missing just one day. Besides (mostly from adrenaline, as I reflect) I seemed to feel so much better by Saturday evening. So we booked the flight and set off to Newburg on Sunday morning (about 95 miles away). We got on the plane on time and started to be pushed away from the gate when the little machine that pushes planes back broke and damaged the plane. We were assured a mechanic would clear the plane for takeoff...but no mechanic was on duty!!! They unloaded the plane after an hour, still assuring us they just wanted us more comfortable, and handed out free water and sodas. After several 'updates': the mechanic was called...the mechanic was on the way...the mechanic would be there soon, anyone leaving the security zone would not be let back in!--which took up another hour and a half.

Bern finally went to the spokesperson and said something like, 'you know this isn't going to happen. You're just waiting for people to get fed up and leave, so you don't have to compensate them!'

After a phone call up the line they admitted there would be no flight. We'd become friendly with some of the other passengers by that time and they practically cheered Bern.

They offered motel rooms and promised another flight the next day (usually flights to MB were only Sunday and Friday) but after all that my knee was feeling worse than it had the day it happened. So we came home.

Monday I called the Orthopedic Group that had fixed a broken arm for me and said I needed to see someone in the Hamden office that afternoon. I got a 2:15 appointment because I sounded so pitiful, but the truth was, my knee was better again, so I drove myself. Driving was actually more comfortable than riding and my ankle worked fine, though I had to lift my right leg into the car and scoot it to the pedals. That should have been a clue....

They did more X-rays and the doctor came in to tell me I had ruptured my left quad muscle, pulled it totally away from the knee and I would have to have surgery (now you know what my letter to the hospital CEO and ER chief is going to say!)

I'm not bad hobbling on my cane. And there isn't much pain (unless I bend my knee too much) but I have to lift my right foot into bed or onto a foot rest since the Quad muscle does that and it's torn away.

So, that's why I'm back blogging so soon.

I have other tales to tell about my leg--but that will be tomorrow. I'm going to bed (if Bern will lift my right leg up for me). I'm sure she will and Ill push it with my left foot to the middle of the bed....

Friday, September 16, 2016

Puli to Holiday Hill

When we board Bela, it's at Holiday Hill Pet Lodge in Wallingford. If you live in Connecticut and have a dog or cat, GO THERE!

It's family owned and run and they are great. Besides, our Vet, Dr. Matz, is on call for them.

It's 13.5 miles from our house and Bela barked the whole way in spite of the bread and peanut butter treats Bern made. He is a nightmare in the car. He is a nightmare all the time, really, but especially in the car.

He is so protective it drives us crazy. Knocking on our front door will get a 50 pound creature with really sharp teeth leaping up at the window in the door, snarling and acting really dangerous. Which he is.

The folks at Holiday Hill tell me he's a dream there. I saw him lick the young woman who took him away today. He doesn't lick me! She says he walks like a dream, never snaps, is friendly with other dogs....on and on....

It's like when your friends tell you how polite and kind your children are at their house!

I guess going to the pet lodge is a vacation for Bela. He doesn't have to be so aggressive to protect Bern and me. He can relax and just be sweet.

We're the problem for him!!! He has to guard us!!! There, he can chill out.

That's the way I'm thinking, anyway.

I'll be off-blog (is that a term?) until September 24th. But don't stop reading. There are over 1700 posts. Go peruse the past of the Castor Oil Tree. Lots on stuff to ponder.

Be typing again in a week.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Love is abject apology

Love Story, that Eric Seagel novel and movie, said--abjectly wrongly--'love is never saying you're sorry.'

Love is, in my mind, abject apology. Being in love is always admitting you're wrong and apologizing.

Just today, asked three times by a Washington Post reporter, if Donald Trump believed President Obama was born in the USA, Trump did not apologize for his 'birther' nonsense.

Trump is unable to say he's sorry for anything. He cannot apologize to anyone.

In my mind, that makes him incapable of love.


No kidding.

Do you want a President incapable of love?

Ponder that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oak Island

We're flying to Myrtle Beach on Saturday morning and will be on Oak Island, North Carolina by 2, just in time to check into our beach front house almost at the end of Long Beach.

I wish I could tell you how many times I've been there. It started in the late 1970's because Ted and Beje, two of my classmates at Virginia Seminary in Alexandria, knew about it and asked Bern and I to go. We went back with the kids as babies for as long as they would. We even threw in 'taking a friend', but at some point being on an island where nothing much is happening won't make it with teens.

Then 7 or 8 years ago, Mimi called to ask where we 'used to go in North Carolina' and she and
Tim went and when they got back she called to say "We're going every year and you guys are coming with us."

And we have--Labor Day week, for those years. John and Sherry go with us so we need 4 bedroom houses. We put it off two weeks just in case Tim and Mimi would feel good traveling with Ellie. They aren't ready to do that--but next year Ellie and Jack (Sherry's husband who will retire before them) will go with John and Mimi and Tim and Sherry and Bern and me.

There's really 'nothing' there. A water slide and miniature golf course, Food Lion, a couple of places to eat, a killer BBQ place, but not much.

I love it.

A South facing beach which means you aren't looking toward Europe but the Dominican Republic. Which also means the sun comes up on your left and sets on your right, never shining right at you.

You can go into Southport and get seafood off the boat--which we do a time or two.

Oak Island is one of the centers of population of Brown Pelicans. They fly up and down the beach all day in great numbers. Dolphins too--they show up most days.

So, if you look up from your book, you might just see Pelicans and Dolphins.

It is a place that is dear to my heart.

And, since my only connection to this blog is through my desktop computer--which, I won't be taking--the Castor Oil Tree will be silent for a week. But there are 1700 posts, for goodness sake, go back a few years and check them out.

I'll be here tomorrow and Friday, then away to a place I've been too maybe 20 times and that is so important to me I've left instructions that some of my ashes be scattered on Oak Island if I ever die....

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

West Virginia again...

Back on August 3 I wrote a post about a candidate for sheriff in Berkeley County, WV, who was arrested for heroine possession when he was found unresponsive in his home with a needle in his arm.

Well, another West Virginia law officer twist. A police officer in Wierton, the other side of the state from Berkeley County, has been fired for, get this, NOT shooting a man who had an unloaded gun!

The officer, Steven Mader, came to the home of R.J. Williams, who was waving a handgun and telling Officer Mader, "kill me, now!"

Mader deduced, rightly, Williams wanted 'suicide by cop' and was talking him down when another officer arrived and killed Williams with a shot to the head. Williams' gun was unloaded. Mader was right.

And now he--a trained Marine--has been fired for "endangering the life of another officer". If the gun wasn't loaded, no one was endangered.

Cops get blamed, rightly so, for using too much force.

Apparently, in Weirton,WV, they get fired for not using enough force.....

Go figure....

9/11 sermon

9/11/16 Sermon (St. Andrew’s, Northford)
        Fifteen years ago today, I was brushing my teeth, listening to Imus in the Morning on my clock radio. (I know, I know…I’m not an Imus kind of guy…I’m a Public Radio kind of guy…but he was, from time to time, dreadfully amusing--accent on 'dreadful'!)
        Imus said something about a plane flying into the World Trade Center, so I went to our TV room, upstairs, and turned it on.
        Bern had left early for a dental appointment, so I was alone when the second plane hit the second tower. I had my toothbrush in my mouth and couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Suddenly I heard Bern’s pickup truck skid into the driveway outside in a way I’d never heard before. I listened to her tear open the front door and run up the steps calling my name as I watched, stunned and numb, as two skyscrapers burned.
        Bern ran into the TV room and said, horrified and breathless: “The kids…the kids!!!)
        Suddenly it occurred to me that both our children lived in Brooklyn, just across the river from the World Trade Center and I should be worried and terrified, not stunned and numb.
        It took a couple of hours to reach both Josh and Mimi. Mimi came up out of a subway near 890 Broadway and saw smoke in the sky. It was her first day of work at the American Ballet Theatre. We would talk with her as she walked back to Brooklyn.
        Josh was a law student living with a classmate who is now our daughter in law and mother of three of our granddaughters. He could see the twin towers from the street where they lived. Cathy Chen, his love, had taken a subway to Manhattan just a half-hour before. He was frantic. He couldn’t call her on her cell phone. Her train would have stopped at the World Trade Center exit.
        Josh stayed outside most of the day. Cathy got in touch as she walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and Josh called us. Mimi and Tim, her boyfriend and now husband and parents of our fourth granddaughter, found each other walking home over the Williamsburg Bridge.
        They were all safe. Praise God. But thousands weren’t.
        I went to St. John’s in Waterbury because I expected people might want to talk to someone about all this that was happening. Harriet and Sue, our office folks, and I were watching the news on Harriet’s computer—still total confusion and terror. We watched the buildings fall.
        My assistant at the time wasn’t watching with us. She was doing busy work and calling people about other things. I asked if she would come and watch with us.
        She told me this: “it’s just the chickens coming home to roost.”
        I let out a gasp and said, “you can’t say that Right Now. Maybe, years from now you can connect what our nation has done to this. But not now, not for years. Thousands are dead and dying. You can’t say that!”
        She ignored me and left a short time after. Our friendship and working relationship was over. She left St. John’s a few months later.
        But losing a friend and a colleague is nothing at all compared to the sons/daughters, wives/husbands/lovers, fathers/mothers, sisters/brothers lost that awful day. Nothing at all to that pain. Nothing at all.
        The pain of 9/11 is beyond calculation. It continues still, 15 years later. And it will never be healed. It may be ‘moved beyond’, but never ‘healed’. Never. Not ever.
        But we must not forget this: the lost sheep, the lost coin in today's gospel. We must not lose them.
        A great deal of irrational hatred was spawned by 9/11—hatred of good people, good Muslims, good Americans.
        In 2001, there was a mosque that met in the parish hall of St. John’s in Waterbury. We had shared much with them. We knew them well. We stood by them—they were the lost sheep, isolated by the hatred around them. They were the lost coin, branded because some, claiming to be of their faith, had created terror.
        Here is what I believe (and this is ‘just me talkin’) this painful anniversary calls upon you and me to do. We must love, not hate. We must embrace the stranger, not reject them. We must know the value of the ‘lost’ in our midst. We must never let pain turn to hate, fear turn to anger.
        All Americans were attacked that day, not just some of us.
        That is how we give honor to those who died, by refusing to be divided and set against each other.
        We must seek out and save those ‘lost’ because of irrational hatred. We must sweep the floor of those who would polarize and divide us.
        We must remember that we all arrived on these shores lost and rejected and celebrate how diverse we are as a people: racially, ethnically, culturally and spiritually.
        To truly move on from that awful day 15 years ago, we must embrace the diversity that truly makes us strong…that truly makes us One.
        To do less than that is to dishonor those who died that tragic day.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Colin Kaepernick has the First Amendment on his side

It all started with Colin Kaepernick (I had to google his name's spelling and my spell check has underlined it!) but it has spread. Athletes and others are finding ways to make political statements during the playing of The National Anthem.

I've never once put my hand over my heart for the National Anthem though I'm sure I did in grade school when saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It just never occurred to me that a hand over the heart was necessary. But, of course, I stand. I stand out of respect for a country and a flag that has, more often than not, delivered on it's promises to me.

I've never missed a meal except on purpose. I've always felt safe, wherever I was. I've always had everything I've needed and some things I didn't need but 'wanted'. I've never been spoken harshly to by a police officer (well, there was that peace protest or two...but that was part of the reason we were protesting, to be spoken harshly to and, if really lucky, to be arrested!) I walk through 'my' American Life like a kid through a field of 4 leaf clovers. I can, from time to time, resent the super-rich Americans...but who doesn't!

I've blogged again and again about how 'blessed' I am in many more ways than I could ever deserve. Just the facts, Ma'am.

But the First Amendment's promise of 'free speech' and free expression means that if I have not lived the life the Constitution and Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence has promised me, I can speak out about that--literally or symbolically.

And believe you me, I know I'm one of the 'chosen' in all this. I know minorities--racial, cultural, religious minorities--aren't always treated like me and this country hasn't delivered on the American Dream for them.

So, Colin Kaepernick and all the other minority folks who are finding a way to make a statement about the Star Spangled Banner not waving for their people (though for the professional athletes involved, the American Dream is theirs...but not for all their people, not by a long shot.

My pondering is 'should I join them' since 'their people' are 'my people' too--Americans. We are, in all our diversity and perhaps, just perhaps because of our diversity, ONE. Maybe, just maybe, those of us who have been 'blessed' need to identify with and support and 'be One' with those the Dream has left behind and forgot.

Maybe, just maybe, until all of us are truly equal, none of us are 'blessed'.

I'm going to ponder that. You're welcome to ponder it as well.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Colin Kaepernick and his supporters, are pointing a way forward for us ALL.

I'll ponder that greatly and deeply.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

a steel cage match might work...

Honestly, the way Clinton and Trump are going after each other I'm beginning to think a steel cage match might work better than debates!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Vice Presidential candidates were supposed to be 'attack dogs' for the head of the ticket. That's the way it's seemed in the past. But not time time. Pence and Kaine are the adults in the room. I almost wish we could flip the tickets and the two of them would be the candidates for the White House.

I can see Pence and Kaine having a real, college level 'debate'. But watching 4 between Clinton and Trump may be more carnage than any of us can stomach.

My primary problem with the way the two of them are railing about each other is that is just making the electorate more and more polarized--and I don't remember us ever being the polarized since Goldwater and Johnson.

The 'moderates' usually decide elections. However, in this campaign it's hard to imagine who those folks might be.

Could we start over and have Biden run on the re-run and have the Republicans figure out how to stop Trump this time around?

Really! I'm a yellow dog Democrat but the curs all seem to be at the top of the tickets....

Friday, September 9, 2016

Brooklyn and back

Going to see Ellie and Mimi and Tim is always an adventure. We went on the train from New Haven to Grand Central and Bern wanted to do an Uber car to Brooklyn. OK, in my mind, Uber officially sucks!

She had our location on her smart phone--42nd and Vanderbilt, on the other side of 42nd from the station and Uber said they'd be there in 9 minutes, then 5, then 3, then 9 again, then 5, then 9 again...on and on for an hour in the heat and humidity of Manhattan. Three cabbies said they didn't go to Brooklyn though they're all supposed to. In near despair we took the 4/5 train to Atlantic Avenue and Tim met us for the 5 minute walk to South Elliot Place.

We had two children and three other granddaughters, so we are not without experience. But to my knowledge, I've never seen a baby like Ellie. She nurses, sleeps and looks around. She seems almost Zen-like in her calmness. Since the day she was born--when she was in a lot of distress--I haven't heard her cry. She gets fussy and Mimi nurses her and she sleeps and then looks around, very interested in sights and sounds. Mimi put her on her stomach on a wonderful cloth with lots of stuff she'll be interested in later, and she turned over onto her back! I've never seen a month old baby who could turn over!

Well, enough. I could go on and on....how Zen-like Mimi and Tim are with her, how lovely she is, how smart and talented she's going to be...grandparent b.s.

The trip home was good. Subway from Atlantic Ave to Grand Central, train to New Haven, home before dark. I let Bern out to go deal with the neglected Puli and went to get a pizza (white pizza with sliced tomatoes and lots of garlic and fresh basil--wonderful) and wine.

I ate a grilled cheese sandwich Mimi made me all day, until the pizza. Bern only ate a banana all day until the pizza. But Ellie is worth half-starving yourself.

She truly is. I kid you not....

But I'm getting too old to go to Brooklyn and back in one day. I truly am. I'm worn out. To bed though it's not 10 p.m. yet....

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Going to see Ellie tomorrow

This time we're taking the train to Grand Central and the subway to Brooklyn to spend several hours with Mimi, Tim and Ellie.

For 14 years now, I've referred to "Mimi and Tim", so it is new to include little Ellie--one month old--in the same sentence.

Yet, there they are, waiting for us in Brooklyn tomorrow, their little family--our beloved trio.

What a jarring difference a baby, a granddaughter, makes.

Numbers are expanded. Thoughts are altered. Life changes.

Bern bought Mimi and Tim a red snapper, frozen, that will take along with other food and gifts.

Every year for the past seven, Tim and Mimi have gone to Oak Island with Bern and me and John Anderson and Sherrie Ellis. We usually go this week--Labor Day week. But because of Ellie's pending birth, we put it off to September 17-24, hoping they could come. They don't feel they want to travel--and I don't blame them--so we'll go without them.

Everyone of us are readers and eaters so what we normally do is read and eat. And on the Friday before we leave, Mimi and Tim go to Southport, to where the fishing boats dock, and buy Red Snapper for our last dinner of vacation. Since they won't be there, we'll take the fish to them.

Oak Island is where we went on vacation for about 20 years--before either Josh or Mimi were born until they didn't want to go, even bringing a friend.

Then 8 years ago or so, Mimi called and asked where Oak Island was and we told her. She and Tim went and when they got back they called and said they were going every year and we'd go with them! So, that's what we've done.

Since we go after school starts Josh and Cathy and the girls have never come, but John and Sherrie come (and next year, Sherrie's husband, Jack who is retiring this year). And next year, as well, our new little trio of Mimi, Tim and Ellie. Ellie obviously won't be a reader and she'll distract us joyously from our books. But it will be heaven.

We rent these huge and wonderful houses, right on the ocean and walk and look for shells and read and eat and do nothing much. Just the kind of vacation I'm about....

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Humbled, again....

My cousin, Gayle Pugh Keller, sent me a check today that was part of our Aunt Elsie's bequests to her many nieces and nephews. I never dreamt of such generosity or thoughtfulness on the part of my last aunt/uncle to depart this mortal coil.

My Grandmother, on my mother's (and Gayle's) side of the family was Lina Manona Sadler who married Eli Jones. They had 5 children who lived to adulthood and 2 that didn't.

My Grandmother, on my father's side was a McCormick who married a Bradley. They had five children.

Here's the humbling truth--all my twenty aunts and uncles were decent, hard-working, honest, loving people. Everyone in both sides of my family was. All my myriad first cousins were.

Not a 'bad apple' on either tree.

I had an idyllic childhood in a part of the world most people couldn't imagine as being idyllic!

Places like Conklintown, Jenkinjones, Pageton, Anawalt, Princeton, Waiteville--all tucked in the mountains of southern West Virginia, were places where it was safe and nurturing and wondrous to grow up.

That check from Gayle, who was distributing Aunt Elsie's largess to her kin, made me literally weep.

I am often struck by how lucky (or in theological terms: "blessed") I have been. What loving, gentle people raised me.

From beyond the grave, Aunt Elsie's generosity to me--to all the cousins--gives me pause to give thanks for the life I have lived and the people who lived it with me....

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

school starts next Monday...for me...

Kids in Connecticut are back in school. Since there are 7 kids living as our next door or next-next door neighbors, the school bus picks them up and drops them off in front of our driveway. That gives Bela an excuse to bark for 5 minutes or so, just as he does for the mail carrier. I wish he had a switch that would turn off his bark, but he doesn't. I'm sure he thinks he's doing his job--alerting us to activity near the house.

My school starts next Monday. I teach at the Osher Life-long Learning Institute (OLLI) at the UConn branch in Waterbury. This term I'm doing a 5 week session on "Reading the Gospels Side-by-Side". One of the things we do that annoys me no end is 'conflate' the 4 very different stories of Jesus into one narrative. So, I teach this course, making sure people realize Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are distinct and different.

I'll jump to the end and share with you what I share to end the class.


          Most of us are looking for Jesus.
          One place we could expect to find Jesus is in the Four Gospels. So we turn to them. If we read them critically and carefully, what we discover is not Jesus but Four distinct Jesus'.
          When confronted with that reality, there are two obvious reactions. Either I (I'll speak only for myself here and invite you to ponder your reaction)...either I despair and give up my search OR I walk the road with each of the Gospel writer's Jesus' and glean what I can from the four of them.

          When I am doubtful, it is Mark's Jesus I want to walk beside because he too struggled with doubt. He spends time with the wild beasts. He can't seem to understand what is being asked of him by God. He agonizes in the Garden. He feels abandoned on the cross. Mark's Jesus is a good companion in times of doubt.

          When I am confused, it is Matthew's Jesus I turn to. Matthew's Jesus is jerked away from his home to a foreign land. His earthly father relies on dreams and visions of angels in his confusion. The Magi visit him and give him great gifts. Matthew's Jesus knows that traditions and boundaries and scripture can help in times of confusion. Matthew's Jesus knows right from wrong, truth from Falsehood, the sheep from the goats. Matthew's Jesus stands on the mountain top and speaks wisdom to those who are in darkness and confusion. The Jesus of Matthew has correctives to my confusion.

          John's Jesus is my traveling companion when things are going well and I am feeling confident. John's Jesus is certain and resolute and convinced of his purpose and his way. John's Jesus has an ego to match my own. Nothing much bothers him. His eyes are on the prize. His feet are firmly on the ground even as his soul soars to heavenly places. In 'good times' John's Jesus is the ideal companion. He can validate my confidence, inspire me to even greater things, teach me that I am loved and meant to love others. He breathes on me and wishes me “Shalom”, which means fullness and health and hopefulness. There is nothing like the Jesus of John when God's in his heaven and all is right with the world. Walking the road with him just reaffirms my optimism and hopefulness and sense of well-being.

          But when I suffer, when  I am in pain, only Luke's Jesus will do. He will walk with me to Emmaus and calm my fears and set my heart of fire. The breathless, timeless songs and poetry of Luke soothe me, heal me. Luke's Jesus is the healer, the non-anxious presence, the font of all Compassion. Luke's Jesus walks with those in distress, in pain, in need. Luke's Jesus is constantly standing with the marginalized and outcasts. Luke's Jesus teaches us on the same level where we stand. He is always on my level, near me, suffering with me, forgiving me, holding me near. Luke's Jesus walks the road of our world's suffering. He knows me through and through. He bears my burden. He lightens my load. He touches me and makes me whole.

          Seeking Jesus and finding four is 'good news'. Four companions on the Way to the Lover of souls, four brothers with various gifts for various needs, four faces of God, four revelations of the Almighty.

          A hymn from my childhood says, “What a friend we have in Jesus....” It is wondrous and precious to have a friend. But to have four, all of whom love me and care for me and walk my road with me. What could be better than that???

Sunday, September 4, 2016

46 (actually 52) and counting

I was 17 and Bern was 14 when we met in Latin class. I was thinking of going to Shimer College in Chicago and they wanted a year of language. Latin was the only language taught in my high school, so I signed up. I didn't go to Shimer, but I met Bern, a Freshman while I was a Senior.

A month or two later, we kissed under the bleachers at a Gary High School football game. I was hooked, really. Six years later we were married.

Labor Day (September 5th) is our 46th anniversary. I don't usually share things I write for Bern, but thought I would share the poem I wrote her for this anniversary.

The Poem I Can’t Write

For days now I’ve been trying
to write a poem that just won’t come.
It’s for our anniversary and about my love,
so it should flow out without any effort,
since I love you so very much.

But the poem is hiding from me,
peeking at me from around the corner,
avoiding me at all cost, it seems.
Page after page I throw away
(or, more accurately, erase from my computer).

Forty-six years of marriage (and years before that)
of loving you—the words should pour out,
full of passion and wonder and amazement.

This time I realized something,
my love for you isn’t something ‘out there’,
that I can examine, reflect on, put into words.
That love is in those letters in the attic.
That love has altered, changed, become incarnate.

The love I feel for you is, quite simply, me.
I am my love for you. It is my very ‘being’
That cannot be captured and enclosed in words.
That is ‘who I am’. So, I am your poem.
This poem is ‘me’, my very being, the “I” I call myself.
I am yours. Your anniversary poem….

September 5, 2016

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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.