Tuesday, November 19, 2013


When I was 9, I had to leave the "new school" and spend my fourth grade year at the "old school". That's what we called them in Roswell. The old school (across town) had grades one through seven, but the new school only housed grades one through three. During my fourth grade year, however, they built on to it so I could return for the rest of my elementary years (through seventh grade). So I just had that one year at the old school.

Attending the old school was considered very cool. After all, that's where the big kids were. My brother went there and all his friends and the older girl across the street who had boyfriends and wore make-up. To me it was like a year at the Academy Awards...sneaking peeks at celebrities in hallways, watching them perform in chapel programs (yes, we had them every Wednesday), overhearing their chatter in the restrooms.

The year I was there, it was trendy for the girls to wear varsity jackets,  the kinds with leather sleeves that are supposed to display the letters you earned in athletics. Of course, being children, no one had earned a jacket or a letter. They bought them at Tolberts (not to be confused with Talbots which didn't exist back then). Adoration would not be too strong a word to describe how I felt watching the 12 year old safety patrols directing hall traffic in their green and white Roswell Hornet Hollywood splendor.

So when I had wiped the drool from my chin and popped my eyes back into my head, I begged my mother for a varsity jacket for my birthday the following August, the month before I went back to the new school. I distinctly remember the look of horror on her face (my mother had a tremendous sense of style) and hearing her ask my brother if it was true, that this was really fashionable for girls my age. He concurred (for which I will forever be indebted to him) and on August 18, 1964 (and all the days after) I could be seen savoring the leathery smell and clickety snaps of the most beloved piece of outerwear I have ever owned.

I could go on recounting stories of showing off my jacket throughout the year (and the torture of not being able to wear it right away in August).  I'm sure I was obnoxious to some, but envied by most. It was glorious!  Now I was the one on the red carpet, having my photo snapped, anticipating my Oscar for Most Gorgeously Dressed Girl At The New School.  I just loved that feeling.

In Florida we don't wear coats much. I bought a bulky, all weather type thing several years ago for the occasional days I would need it. I wore it every single day in Alaska (because it was cold every single day!) I was known in the native village as She Who Walks In A Winter Coat Even In The Summer. I'm not kidding! I wore that coat out and got teased for wearing it.

So I've been keeping my eyes peeled for a new coat. I know I'll be wearing it a long time so I have a check list in my mind: Not too heavy, can be worn with jeans or a dress, neutral color, affordable but not cheap, classic style but definitely not plain.

I was in Roswell yet again this past week. Morris' CAT and PET scans showed no signs of active tumors. He is going on a maintenance chemo schedule.  My brother's father-in-law, who was in so much distress, passed away and his wife is living peacefully and contentedly in a very nice ALF near the family. My mother is thinking seriously about moving there also, to relieve her anxiety and simplify her life and the lives of her caregivers.

The family is daring to exhale for the moment, a little reprieve from the chaos that plagued them all summer. We played cards, my mother shopped for new glasses, Morris went for groceries. Normalcy.

And, at a little vintage style boutique that just opened downtown, I found the perfect coat.  It's perfectly me and I'm so happy of myself for finding it.  It made me think of the varsity jacket and the exuberance of my youth. But it didn't exactly recapture the feeling. Sometimes I wish I could go all the way back to those innocent days but alas, childhood is over and, as William Wordsworth so wisely observed, "nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower" (or in my case, clothes euphoria)..."but we will grieve not". For now, normalcy is enough (and something to keep me warm).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back Again

I wish I could say I've been going through one of those hectic periods, when life scoops you up and tucks you under its arm, kicking and screaming, heading for a goal line. That would be my excuse for not writing. But the truth is.....I just haven't had much to say. A little down, but nothing serious.

The last two weeks, I was in Roswell (GA) once again. Morris has recovered from his surgery completely. He has started very aggressive chemo treatment and I was there being my favorite thing to be: part of the family. It rates low on the cool scale for ministries and is anything but glamorous, but it's exactly where God wants me to be. And like any good ministry, it tests my patience, makes me sometimes snarly, causes unexplained outbursts of laughter and tears (well actually, I could explain them) and guarantees a good night's sleep.

In the extended family there are six elderly members (three couples) who are in crises varying from Alzheimer's to cancer to broken hips to just too feeble to be alone.  My mother and Morris are the most independent and are the only ones living in town, and so I had it relatively easy. I had time for practicing music, reading and reflecting on all this. My brother and sister-in-law are still on the move between our parents and her parents and full time jobs. It's a mess for them.

Before I left St. Pete,  I took out a bag of letters that I had found about ten years ago in the attic when my mother moved out of my childhood home. They were the letters I had received my first year of college from my parents, grandparents, my brother, high school friends and three (count 'em....one-two-three) boyfriends. I sat in the middle of my bedroom floor and had myself, as a country singer once wailed, "a night to remember" (get it?)

It took me back to another world, another me and yet the same. I wondered what the me who received those letters would have thought of the me reading them on the floor......one me full of anticipation of a college degree and a great career, and the other me savoring the fruit of retirement.......one me anxious to meet the beau who would win my heart, the other me once divorced and now widowed.....one me dreaming of someday moving to the seashore.....the other me recollecting beach walks and snorkeling days with my children ....one me smiling as I read my parents' letters full of pride and encouragement......the other me still missing my dad and wondering how things could change so much so quickly.

This passage of time thing is profound to me. I have gone through periods in my life when I was stuck and couldn't move past this or that. Then I have had times when adventure pounded on the door like Tolkien's rollicking dwarfs, and I couldn't wait to leave a trail of dusty memories and head out for Rivendell.

Right now, I'm somewhere in between.  Spending time in Roswell gives me perspective on my life's timeline.  I have coffee with friends I knew in first grade, revisit stories that help define my place in the family (Yep, I'm definitely the smart one!) and try to forge a highway that will take me back and forth, not just from state to state, but from then to now.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Other World?

I'm sitting here at Morris's bedside in his hospital room. It's been six days since his colon surgery and they say he is recovering well. The white board over his head specifies his diet, records his latest blood pressure and names his staff de jour. (Two days ago Morris groggily asked his nurse if they have much staph in this hospital to which she enthusiastically replied, "Oh yes, we have lots of staff....several buildings just full of staff., more staff than any hospital in this area."  I'm sure she didn't understand the look of horror on Morris's face, unaware of his almost paranoid fear of staph infections).

Since my last post, I have heard from several of you regarding coincidences (or is the plural coincidenci?) And really, when you start paying attention, they're everywhere. It seemed to a couple of you a freaky coincidence that I wrote about coincidences on just that day, because you had experienced one also. I just love that, when I realize that what was on my mind was what was on your mind.

How 'bout this? When I got to Roswell,  I sat down to talk with Morris for the first time since his diagnosis. I wasn't sure what to say (Duh......who knows what to say at times like that?) He is a very independent, self-sufficient kind of old guy and didn't even want anyone to know about his cancer, much less fuss over it. So I just waited to hear what he'd say and it was this (slightly paraphrased):

"Kim, I was in Kroger this morning buying groceries and I was fumbling with my discount card at the checkout counter. I thought the man behind me might be getting irritated so I turned to him and apologized for the wait. He said it was no problem at all, that he had all the time in the world. We compared ages" (What is it with old men comparing ages?) "and he couldn't believe I was almost 92.  He was 72. He said he felt very blessed to be thriving at his age because he had been through colon cancer and had survived. I told him I had just been diagnosed and was about to go in for surgery. He looked me straight in the eye and said I was going to be fine. He said it was a piece of cake. He said I would be absolutely fine. Later, he found me in the parking lot and walked over to again remind me that I would be fine."

Morris concluded his story with........"Coincidences like that don't just happen!"

I told Morris it must have been a man-angel and he nodded, smiling like he believed me. Of course,  my heart was pounding because I had just written about the subject of coincidences and Morris had NOT read my blog.

I know it's all around us, the everyday comings and goings of another realm of existence, what the science fiction writers call a parallel universe and Christians strongly believe in but aren't sure what to name it.  Did you ever read about string theory? ......... the scientific evidence for that other world  we encounter........ confirmation that what we see isn't all there is........that there is "immeasurably more than we can think or imagine" and it's not in some far away galaxy called heaven. It's right here.....right now! God's spirit and His emissaries, busily intervening in ways that make us look up and over our shoulders and wonder who's there.

Last night I talked to Vivian on the phone for an hour and caught up on news. She asked if I was reading anything worth reading and I shared my latest Kindle acquisitions. Then she recommended Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I had heard of it. She went into detail about the section on the Beatles having played all through many nights, honing their talents and preparing for their big moment of discovery. Sounded interesting.

Over coffee this morning my brother told me, out of the blue, that I should read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers. Before I could gasp, he started describing the section about the Beatles having played all through many nights, honing their talents and preparing for their big moment of discovery. I wondered if he had told me that yesterday, had forgotten and was telling me again (it wouldn't be the first time),  and maybe I had dreamed it was from Vivian. But no, I clearly remembered it coming through the phone from Vivian, just 12 hours earlier.

As they would say in Roswell, "Wudea mayka that?" (I'm definitely reading Outliers).

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Our view
Where do you stand on the coincidence issue? You did know there was an issue, didn't you? Most Christians I know are not believers......they think those things that appear to be random associations are actually providential and have meaning in the scheme of things. They are coincidental atheists.

Yesterday Sharon and I set out to find a place for brunch. We had nothing in mind except to maybe find a new place. After driving a couple of blocks down Central Avenue, Sharon, who has a life and doesn't like to waste time,  reminded me that my iphone knows everything. So I pulled over and googled "brunch places on Central in St. Pete". What came right up was a quaint little cafe one block away from where we were.

We ate at a table on the sidewalk. There were only two tables outside. That was probably because there were ants in the sugar jar and derelict types wandering around being loud and creepy. We didn't mind. The weather was beautiful and we were feeling our urbaninity.

Right across the street I commented on the stately four-story Alexander Hotel. I had never really noticed its classical revival architecture before, though I've driven past it many times. I was wondering when it was built and by whom when Sharon reminded me that my iphone knows everything. I googled it and discovered it was built in 1919 by Neel Reid (and that it was classical revival architecture).

I went on to read that Mr. Reid had once lived in my hometown of Roswell, GA. Roswell is a big city now, but was a small town when I was growing up. My ancestors founded it in the early 1800's. Mr. Reid had lived in Mimosa Hall which is one of the founding father's residences, built in 1830. I would guess that my great-great (and maybe another great, I'm not sure) grandfather, Valentine Coleman, had been a guest there at some point.

AND.............Neel Reid died in 1926, the year my mother was born. AND...............it was on February 14, the day she married my daddy (but of course not the same year because you can't get married the year you're born, unless you're from Alabama where I always heard there were no marriage rules). Anyway, these little connections fascinated Sharon and me, as we flipped ants off our coffee cups and avoided eye contact with the passersby.

Then there's this:  You know that our family has been grieving the passing of Greg's parents, both gone within the last four months. Just as our hearts were feeling the twinges of relief,  we find that Morris, my mother's long time, loving, might-as-well-call-him-husband.... has colon cancer. His surgery is scheduled for Wednesday.  He's 92. I am really worried as I set off for Roswell on another leg of this peculiar, yet familiar journey.

There's a circle of sorrow swirling over my head from the generation of my parents. They seem to have formed a line at the bus stop, as C. S. Lewis mused, awaiting their turn to board the Greyhound that will take them from world to world. Vivian's dear father found his seat just this past week. And another friend's mother has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

It hurts because it isn't natural. God never intended death when He created the universe........didn't plan for us to suffer......and yet we do. Man has been googling that one since he left the i-garden........and still no easy answers. Of course, we have to take responsibility for sin (and thus pain) in the world......and believe that God has taken responsibility for redemption. So many cycles in motion, each dependent on the others, interlocking, interwoven......a master plan.........no coincidences allowed (well maybe a few, like Neel Reid from Roswell).

But btw, Morris's last name is also Reid. You'd have to be seriously mystical to read anything into that, but nevertheless, it's there. Just like the grief.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ideal Date

Sometimes I take myself on a date. Not that I'm that desperate. I do have some cool guy friends who I go out with occasionally. The last one commented that my cute new floral jeans looked like a nurse's uniform from All Children's (I know you're reading this, Date, but don't worry.  I'm protecting your identity so my girlfriends won't come beat you with clubs).

Anyway, sometimes it's just nice to be with me. Like today. I asked myself if I'd like to go to a movie and I said "yes".  I asked what I'd like to see and I said "How 'bout that Oz movie?" So off we......er, I went.

I know how to do movies right.....in traditional Vermeer style. I have a movie purse that has stood the test of time. It holds microwave popcorn,  Reese's Pieces, water and a thermos of vanilla-flavored coffee.  I no longer have to share these with my children, so my date and I can smuggle it in and consume it all...even if that elicits some curious stares from the coupled-up theater patrons (are they still "theater patrons" if its a movie theater?)

I can walk to Muvico from my house. I don't have to ask my date to pay for parking. My date always agrees to sit exactly where I want to, near the middle.  Our opinions of the movie never conflict and neither of us likes to stay for the credits.

When it was over I asked myself if I'd like to walk over to Beach Drive for a latte and people watching. I enthusiastically agreed. Sitting there outside Paciugos, just for a split second I wished I had a guy friend across the table to talk to. I pictured it and almost started a conversation then thought better of it. I could easily get carried away with that (both figuratively and literally). Many of those people you think are on drugs in the street have probably just been single too long. 

I decided it would be healthier and more comforting to picture Jesus sitting there with me. He is, after all, my constant companion and best friend.  But he isn't really my type for a date. That long wavy hair and beard are so .....'60's. I'm really glad we have no sketches or even descriptions of God, the man. That would screw a lot of us up. Bad enough Mary is always showing up in loaf bread and such.

After sipping and people watching I chivalrously walked myself home and heated myself some leftover collards and beans. I told myself I was too full from the latte for supper, but I reminded me I would be hungry later so I might as well eat. Then I could relax, sit with me on the sofa and watch TV and blog.

I like myself. I have a lot of style...for a cheap date.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Above my loveseat
When Greg got sick, over seven years ago, the world went cubist.  The buildings all slanted, people's heads dropped below their shoulders and twisted, trees looked like they had been watered with vodka and were swaying under the influence. Everything was slow motion and asymmetrical. The universe was out of whack.

I remember doing simple, ordinary things like grocery shopping. I wondered why all those people in the frozen foods didn't look depressed. Didn't they know what lay ahead? Where was their anguish? What was wrong with them? They should all be in therapy before they cracked, maybe find a way to get those misshapen faces back between the ears.

A few weeks ago I bought some vintage museum posters to hang on my walls. They're by Matisse and Braque and LaFarge. Impressionistic. They are soothing to me. A little surreal but not disturbingly so. Realistically so. The world isn't always "real". Things don't always appear as our reason tells us they should. You've probably noticed that rationality likes to jump the track.

Our pastor has been teaching a series on the book of Job. It may be the oldest manuscript in the Bible. The world hasn't really changed much since then. Read it and see if you don't identify, if not with Job, then with one of his three friends and confidants.

I hope you read "The Gift", a post on this blog on December 12. Greg's mother was diagnosed with leukemia the same year Greg was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She fought a hard fight to stay with us but finally left this old world three months ago, just before Christmas. We grieved, but it all made sense. She had struggled for seven long years and was ready to go, as they say. It matched the Nocturne on my wall ... a  lone flower, muted and beautiful, open and expressive, but very still and shadowy....a hopeful sadness.

"Paper or plastic?"
Three weeks ago her beloved husband, Wally, began feeling ill on the golf course while visiting his son in Phoenix.  Brent was alarmed and called the paramedics since Wally had hardly been sick a day in his life. On Easter Sunday we will fly back to northwest Iowa to lay him to rest beside his wife.  They're saying he also died of leukemia, only a week after diagnosis. We are all in shock and disbelief. 

When I went to pick up some things at the downtown Publix, I noticed there was something not quite right about the cashier.  Guess she's been that way all along, but I'm just realizing it.....again.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


If you know me, you know that my mind often goes foggy. You've been telling me about your crisis and seen a far away look in my eyes (probably wondering if I remembered to change Daffodil's water). If you don't know me, well....yes, you do...if you know any middle aged, active, multitasking woman.  We seem to be all alike and we're good with us. We've earned this period of flakiness.

But we aren't too proud to want to get better. So today I dropped by Rollin' Oats, St. Pete's primo health food store,  to pick up some caffeine tablets. I find that drinking coffee helps me focus and doesn't give me a buzz like it does most people. I can take my last sip of java at bedtime and fall into a peaceful sleep. (I am often maligned as a coffee guzzler but the truth is......I sip a lot but rarely consume more than two cups  a day). So I thought maybe a greater dose would yield a greater result.

Walking into Rollin' Oats can be intimidating.... All those natural looking people milling around becoming healthier by the minute, just by brushing past so many supplements. All I wanted to do was grab my goods and get out before someone noticed I was wearing make-up. But where to start looking? Someone must have recognized my look of bewilderment and approached  me with "How can I help you?"

"I need caffeine!" Suddenly the milling stopped. I think the entire store came to a grinding halt. I know I heard whispering. You'd have thought I had asked for a piece of fried chicken.


When I think of  Boost,  I think of my mother who drinks Boost.

"No, I don't need Boost, I need caffeine" (more whispering). 

"Have you considered Omega-3's?"

"Yes, I already take fish oil."

"B-12?  Exactly what do you hope to accomplish? " I was pressured into confessing that I wanted to try caffeine to help me focus... that aging is taking its toll on my concentration. They should have at least put me in a curtained booth for this, with an ordained health priest on the other side to grant me absolution (They also had many "ab"- solutions in Rollin' Oats but I didn't want those).

I felt publicly humiliated. Where were the other middle aged women at that point? I think I saw one dive behind the organic pineapples. Others were slinking out the door.

Ten minutes of more interrogation and I was on my way with something called  Up Your Gas (I kid you not!)  It has green tea extract in combination with other health food store sounding additives (although we don't use the word "additives " in there). Guess I'll drop by Walgreens wearing a hoodie and dark glasses to pick up my bottle of Bean-O.  Sounds like I'll need it.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Last weekend I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought a memory foam mattress pad.  I have still been forgetting things these last few days. I don't think it's working.

It's just another rung in the ladder of extravagance I've been climbing lately. It started with the round rug. Then I bought some interesting museum posters that were a sweet deal, but having them framed negated the bargain.  Then the major spree in BB& B (although I'm happy to say they honored the 20% off coupon that came in my email five days later). All things for the yellow bungalow.

I may be obsessing over it. It is, after all, my dream house. Not because it will ever be featured in House Beautiful, but because it's all mine......my vision, my taste, my sanctuary.  It's a musty old book I chose because the words speak to my heart, and now I have the privilege of some editing and revising. Being single affords you the luxury of personal choice. When you mess up, you face the music on your own.  But you also get to have a lot of things your way, and that can feel pretty good. When I moved in just over a year ago, I focused on the big things: knocking down walls, refinishing floors, adding a bath, etc. That was normal, right?

I'm not so sure about now.  I find myself micromanaging the floor mats and taking things on and off the mantel. I think I dust too much. Productive people don't usually dust, do they? Yesterday I bought a house plant whose teal leaves with a streak of pink match the tiles in the guest bath.

Is this the way of retirement?  All that creative energy has to be channeled into something, doesn't it?  I'm not complaining! It's just that my new priorities are glaring at me against the backdrop of last month's teaching.  I do miss being in the trenches but like I said, I don't want to go back. But neither do I want to become shallow, and spend time on things that don't matter or, worse yet, convince myself they do matter.

It's not the moral dilemma I wrote about earlier, not all about what's right or what's wrong. It's about me being happy with me, being interesting to me, having worthwhile issues to contemplate and satisfying contributions to make.

I'm okay at the moment (still doing my music, volunteering, meeting new friends, etc.) But I see how this shopping thing could get way out of control. I see why homemakers have notoriously had to struggle with it. First a rug, then a poster.  What if I become a hoarder? How will I find Daffodil in the debris? Will she insist I go back to work? Nah, she likes this new gourmet cat food I bought her at the trendy pet store.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Back To Work

Taking a break from the homeless dilemma (before you offer me a room, read the previous post),  I spent these last two weeks subbing in the same second grade class every day.  I haven’t taught regularly in nearly three years, but let me assure you that two weeks ago I started strong. Within an hour I had untied myself and established order. Bribes should not be underestimated when the ratio is 17:1 and you’re the 1. They are to the substitute teacher what the swinging watch is to the hypnotist: MIND CONTROL!

I carefully followed all the teacher’s lesson plans when I remembered to look at them…but you know my memory.  I made sure every student’s needs were met, unless they needed to make obnoxious noises during one of my "be responsible"  lectures. Within just a few short days I became……..not attached……not bonded…..but vaguely  familiar with each child.  That’s the best I can say.

I’ve been passionate about teaching since my junior year of college when I realized that being an astronaut would make me throw up. I set my sights on a more noble cause (that’s not sarcasm, it’s true) and I have never regretted my choice.

These last two weeks have been stressful and challenging and I have loved every minute.  I may not have loved them without the bribes, but a great time was had by all.  It’s much like I imagine grandmothering will be….. over-indulgence, over-stimulation, party party,  then "ta ta"  ("God, please don’t let that principal read this"). 

The teacher‘s plans were spotty since she was not expecting to be out so long. So I whipped out some instructional arrows from my quiver of experience and watched them once again hit the mark.  By my last day, every child in the class could subtract one digit from two digits using regrouping (so it will only have to be taught ten or twenty more times before they retain it),  AND they were using the word "scrutinize" on a regular basis with their classmates (as in "Stop scrutinizing everything I do"). That cut down on tattling.

I worked long full days and came home exhausted. It reminded me so much of earlier days. I even caught a gratuitous sore throat and cold. What would teaching be without sniffling and bumming meds?

 So do I want to go back?

I see it like this:  middle age, retirement, widowhood and empty nest all lined up end to end and connected to form a bridge that has taken me from one side of life to the other. It was one of those swinging bridges for sure, scared the bejeebers out of me. It was high as the sky and many times I lost my footing and almost fell like a bomb into the proverbial "abyss" (I love that word "abyss"…… if a bomb explodes in the "abyss" does anyone hear it…..or get blown up?)

Now that I’m on the other side (not to be confused with dead, of course), I feel a sense of past and future both within view but just out of reach. I don’t want to be a full time teacher again. I don’t want to mother young children again. But… I would like to fall in love again…… and be a grandmother ….. and occasionally substitute teach.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In The Park

I had a dream the other night that went like this:  A group of widows, including myself (I don’t know how I knew they were widows, I just knew) was standing around the conveyer belt in baggage claim at the airport. The belt started moving and out came the “baggage”.  There were no suitcases, just piles of men flopped on top of one another, squirming around like giant scifi maggots as they passed before us. It was an awful sight.

I’m no Daniel when it comes to dream interpretation, but this one seemed like a no-brainer. Kristen and I had just come back from Williams Park where we spent the afternoon with the homeless.  It was the epitome of baggage and much more. There were a few disabled and elderly guys who tugged at my heart strings, but mostly drugs dealers and scary people. We sat with Pops as if we were on a church picnic… snacking on peanuts and french fries, tossing bits to the pigeons, picking out gang symbols (well maybe your church doesn’t do this). Pops was obviously a fixture as he was warmly greeted by everyone who passed. We asked lots of questions about where people go at night, where they go to the bathroom, do they skip from park to park or mark their own territories. 

One young man told us he was selling……he named two street drugs that I’d never heard of and then, surprisingly, looked at us with a twinge of something that might have resembled remorse. He said he knew it was wrong to be doing this and thought of stopping. But he knew someone else would do it anyway so why not get the profit for himself.  Funny, when he said that I felt a twinge of something that might have resembled remorse. I believe I have justified my actions before, using that same reasoning. The mother in me wanted to shake a finger at him, but I knew the drug dealer in him also had a working finger, and I reminded myself I was just there to observe.

About 3:00 Pops nudged me and drew my attention to the stage area. A church van was unpacking rolled up blankets and care packages.  They had a microphone and announced their gifts to the masses. People started heading that way and lining up. Pops told me to go undercover, line up and see how it felt. I did but was immediately asked by a “resident” if I was REALLY going to take stuff. Wow…..busted before I even got started! Pops said I should have worn rattier clothes, but I explained to him that these WERE my rattier clothes.

I have to say I was proud at that moment to be associated with the Christians, who were putting their faith into action, displaying the compassionate heart of Christ through their generosity. But then the scene changed.  Instead of passing out the gifts to the patiently waiting, the leader announced we’d have a chorus of Amazing Grace, which ran into four or five badly sung verses. I saw a few of us politely trying to sing along. Then there was another hymn or two that were less familiar. All this time the blankets and care packages were stacked in the background, hostages waiting for the end of these negotiations.

Then…… a sermon…..a long one………one that was hard for me to follow…… involving Bible characters I can’t remember.  Still everyone stood in line… staring with blank expressions (I think they were used to this drill)……as the blankets stared back. I wanted to shout out, “GIVE UP THE GOODS OR GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!” Gee, was I becoming absorbed into the collective…even with my good clothes?????

I had to walk away. Then Kristin and I vented our frustration with the well-meaning Christians and how we would have done it differently. But… we weren’t doing it.  And I don’t know anyone else who is. And I’m not sure they should really. The question is raised, when does Christian charity become enabling destructive behaviors?  You’ve asked yourself that when you’ve slipped a 20 to a man on the corner with a sign. Or maybe you haven’t .  I don’t know.  There are lots of questions.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Adventure

So this was a very unusual week for me. I actually worked……..all five days!  By Friday night I was spent but my crisp new paycheck wasn’t. So today in Home Depot when I saw the round rug I’d been looking for since last January…..well, do you like it?

There was a tiny little moral dilemma rolled up in its Belgian threads. You see, I have been spending some time with Linda, who is the semi-homeless woman we met on the street in front of my house the night we went caroling. As you recall,  she walked around singing with us then came in for cider and presents. I remember thinking at the time……this MIGHT not be a good thing! But what do you do when a homeless woman appears on your doorstep during Christmas and wants to join in the fun? Uhhhhhhh…..

I’ve been giving her a little money here and there and some food and toiletries, and then reading online that giving handouts to the homeless is a bad idea. But she tries to work when she can (cleaning houses) and is living at a “no-tell motel” down the road. That seems to be a common practice of the impoverished. They can’t come up with first and last month’s rent and security deposit, so they pay a fortune to stay at a motel at a daily or weekly rate. Does that make sense?

Today I had lunch with Kristen, the young woman who had assisted Linda before, and “Pops”, a local semi-homeless man (moteler) who has been an outspoken advocate for homeless rights. Kristen and I are taking a crash course in Homeless Issues 101 in hopes of helping Linda and maybe others as well. Pops is taking us to Williams Park tomorrow where the seriously homeless hang out.  It will be an adventure on par with Alaska, I’m afraid.

So what’s the dilemma? Oh, you know. Just thinking how decadent it is to spend so much on a rug, when there are neighbors who can’t afford a floor. When I stand at the pearly gates, is St. Peter going to have a photo of my lovely new rug in the power point presentation…..the one entitled, “Why Should I Let You In?”

Talk about contrasts (see previous post)!!!!  I have all these beautiful THINGS to enjoy AND a full week’s work behind me.  I’m squirming!  The good little angel on my shoulder reminds me that Abraham and all the Old Testament guys were blessed with stuff from God (goat rugs and such) and He enjoyed watching them enjoy it. On the other hand, Paul and the New Testament guys apparently took on poverty as an example to us of the righteous living Christ expects.

Sheesh! I’m filtering. Looking for that comfortable place between the testaments. Too bad there isn’t a “Middle Age” Testament  between the old and new, like with people.  I’d be there about now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I have begun to think more and more about the circumstances of life in terms of contrast (I know you and the Chinese were already doing this and I am just learning it late). Things don’t always make sense until you flip the pancake. For instance, “up” would have no meaning without “down”.  “Go” doesn’t mean anything unless you know to “come”. When we teach little children to read (which is mainly teaching them to think linguistically), we always start with those basic concepts. Even before a child can sound out “big” and “small” phonetically, he can read a little story with picture clues if the concepts are familiar: “The elephant is big” only because “the snail is small.”

The world presents itself to us in dichotomy. Some places are brutally hot and some are deathly cold. For every tree that is old and rotting, there is a seedling that springs new and vital. Then there are those physics laws which we are glad someone discovered but we can no longer recite: For every action there is some kind of reaction of some sort that has an equal opportunity to be opposite. Close enough?

These realities of nature act as basal readers (remember those: Run Spot Run…) to prepare us for our earthly schooling. Sometimes I feel like what I’m going through can only be understood in terms of an opposite. King Solomon (who’s fame lies in naming my blog) got it right when he said that for everything (Turn Turn Turn) there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. He goes on to name some of those seasons: a time to be born, a time to die, a time to love, a time to hate, a time to scatter, a time to gather together, etc.  And you and I both know those seasons intermingle and overlap.

This morning I was reading the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. I think God can match Tolkien in storytelling (although God doesn’t use as much detail, but His stories are true). Joseph, as you may know, went through some very horrific struggles, being sold by his brothers into slavery then imprisoned on false charges (not unlike Jean Valjean who’s movie I saw yesterday and I highly recommend although the singing is a little off). Joseph was delivered from his enemies, appointed Pharoah’s right hand man and became very prosperous and happy. He named his son Ephraim because “God made me fruitful in the land of my suffering”.

Fruitful in the land of suffering. That was my meditation this morning. Greg died 5 years ago today. This “season” of my life has been a land of suffering at times.  And yet fruit has always covered my table and more than ever I am savoring the sweetness. I relish it because I have tasted the bitter.

It seems the design of the world allows for, and even demands, that opposites coexist. It’s God’s way.