Friday, November 30, 2007

The Words of Rachel Corrie

Thanks for the well-wishes for my kick-ass dancing night, but my kick-ass friend called in sick at the last minute and I had a few minutes in which to decide whether or not to go by myself and decided ... no.

Today, however, I had a very different sort of cultural experience. I went to see the one-woman show The Words of Rachel Corrie. This is a powerful play produced by Alan Rickman and a reporter (whose name I forget and I'm too lazy to look up), who took the actual words of Rachel Corrie, from her diary and emails, and created a show about this 23 year old who was bulldozed over and killed by the Israeli Defense while she stood protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes. It has been banned in New York because of the one-sided nature of its portrayal of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Of course it is one-sided. It's one woman's voice. One actual human being who was killed standing up for what she believed in. Rickman has spoken out strongly against the censorship the play has encountered. As for me, censor something and I'll go out of my way to see it or read it. So that's what I did.

The play was held at a local college and was followed by a panel of responders, including a Holocaust survivor. I appreciated the chance to have a conversation afterwards, but unfortunately couldn't stay for most of it because of a work commitment I needed to get back to.

So, at the risk of opening a can of worms I really don't need to open, I will say that I visited Israel and the Occupied Territories in 1990, during the first Intifada. I lived for five weeks on the border between Israel and the West Bank. There was a check point set up on the road right by the entrance to the place I was staying. This was long before the building of the wall, which goes right through that area now, so I didn't witness the demolition of homes and farms that Rachel did, but I did see a lot of difficult encounters and was deeply saddened by the effect that strict curfews, travel rules and economic barriers had on the Palestinian people.

It is a very complicated situation and not one I pretend to have any answers to. But I will say that the dialogue in Israel about the situation is far broader than the dialogue in this country. Jewish Israelis have a wide variety of opinions on the occupation, the wall, the possibility of a two-state solution and they are expressed vibrantly in the newspapers and the public square. Women in black --Jewish mothers who have lost children in the fighting -- protest the occupation daily and young Israeli soldiers complain about the Orthodox Jews (who have a strong influence on what the army has to do, but don't serve in it themselves). There are resistance movements within the military, with soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories. These are just some examples of the kind of dialogues I experienced there that I seldom hear about when this is discussed here.

Peace talks were once again attempted in Annapolis this week. The thought that the Bush administration could have any possible credibility in Middle East peace talks is so far beyond absurd that I won't go there. But that is not to say that I don't pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And all of the Middle East.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


A question for you parents out there: how do you deal with teachers with whom you disagree and principals who defend them to the hilt? I just came from a really, really hard parent/teacher/principal meeting, which his father and I had requested and, Lord have mercy, do I have a stomach ache. I need to get back to work, but I am really wiped out. Help!

(Breathing deeply: remember that your child is doing wonderfully in most areas of his life, in spite of all he's been through over the past year, coupled with his own unique little life issues ... remember that you are a good enough mom ... remember that the teacher is a beloved child of God ... remember that the principal is defending her territory and watching out for her teachers ... remember that this is not the most important thing in life ...)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And the thankfulness continues ...

I'm playing along on this meme for Max, whose wise and witty spirit seemed to have vanished from blogland for a while, but who is back and has tagged me. Also, because as I have said before, gratitude is a wonderful spiritual discipline and one can never be too thankful. Really. So here goes.

Write down five things that you're thankful for.

Tag five friends who you'd like to see participate in this meme. (Optional) Include a link to the original at SmuloSpace in your post, and then visit the post yourself and place a link to your completed meme in the comments section so John can keep track of the thankfulness running around the blogosphere.

1. My son. It is impossible to imagine my life had he not been born. That I get to be his mother every day for the rest of my life is an amazing and wondrous thing. May I have enough wisdom to not screw him up too badly.

2. Tea, coffee, wine and whiskey shared with friends. Each of these things is gift enough on its own, but when consumed in the company of someone interesting and thoughtful and funny and kind, the value increases exponentially. I am thankful that this has happened repeatedly in my life over the last three weeks, with several people. An embarrassment of riches, really.

3. DVDs, popped in at just the needed moment, to get all those fussy children away from the dinner table and properly sedated.

4. Music. The sound of the soul.

5. Almost winning the trivia game at the local pub last night. I never win things like raffles, door prizes, slots. Never. Now, I do win at many board games, because I am one competitive b*t#h, but never at Trivial Pursuit. Never. So imagine the thrill, if you can, of ending round two of the weekly trivia game tied for first place. The last question is final jeopardy style, where you have to decide on a wager. If our team had wagered more we would have won the big kahuna. I wanted to wager more, but got talked out of it by team members. Had we wagered my amount, we would have walked away CHAMPIONS, because we answered correctly. But I'm not blaming my teammates, because they were troopers and, as it was, we walked away with second prize, which was, I kid you not, a thrill. We would not have ended where we did had I not challenged the game leader on one of his responses. Here was the trivia question: What denomination uses the Book of Common Prayer? In the comments, tell me what you think I said and what you think he said was the correct answer. For a bonus challenge, here was the final jeopardy question: Put the following cities in order of distance from NYC, as the crow flies: Moscow, Madrid, Honolulu, Los Angeles. (No peeking at a globe or map or using any electronic cheater toys.)

I have bad luck getting my blog friends to play along on these things, but if you feel like being thankful, in the comments or on your own blog, please join in.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Worship Ramblings

It was a year ago that I began attending the church I currently call home. My ex and I were still living together but were planning the split. I was working a dead-end temp job and was too emotionally washed-out to seek any social life at all. We had been in town only five months. I went to this church one week and then jumped in feet first the next. I made a financial pledge, put my son into the Sunday School, met with the pastors, and have been attending faithfully ever since. This is how I do church. Whole hog. I've tried to be half-hearted about church, but it doesn't work for me.

That said, whole hog isn't working for me right now either. I think I jumped too quickly, too desperate for a community. The politically progressive stances worked for me. The small informal circle seemed like a place I could actually make friends. The weekly potluck seemed almost like having a social life of my own.

The thing is ... the worship doesn't really work for me. It's too informal, to be honest. I have to confess: the kids running in and out throughout the service irritate me. This from the pastor who spent her career convincing old ladies that it wasn't sacrilege to have active children in worship. Wow. Weird to have the shoe be on the other foot. I want to say to the offending parents, "Don't you realize that the rest of us are here to WORSHIP GOD??!!"

OK, OK, it's not that bad, really. I do still enjoy children in worship, acting like children. Just reasonably well-behaved children, at least most of the time, please.

And then there are the sermons. One issue is that there is a different preacher every week. I mean, seriously, in a year, there is only one person I've heard preach more than a handful of times and I don't like his sermons. Which is the other issue. Let me just say that these folks, with a couple of notable exceptions, would have a hard time in a Presbyterian homiletics class. Bless their hearts.

Geez, am I cranky or what?

Also, last year there was an adult Sunday School class while the kids had theirs. I went every week. Sometimes there were only two of us, but that was fine with me, as it allowed me to get to know other people. This year, they dropped the class. Did anybody ask my opinion? Me, the only person who was in the class every week last year? Umm, no. It wasn't like they had to buy curriculum or plan anything. We just got together and read a chapter of the Bible and discussed it.

So, I found myself beginning to dread worship. But having made the family commitment and having this deeply ingrained belief that my child should be in SS and worship every week, coupled with guilt over the fact that the poor child has had seven congregations to adjust to in his 9 years (Presbyterian, Quaker, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Quaker, non-denominational and now Baptist), I am very hesitant to start looking around for another church home.

And yet ... have I mentioned that my son HATES this church? Well, I think he actually kind of likes some of the adults there and he loves a good potluck as much as I do, but beyond that, he has not connected with one single child at this church. Not one.

So today I told him that maybe we could keep going to his SS, but try some different things out worship-wise and only go to our congretation a couple of times each month. I told him about Taize and said maybe we could go to Taize services sometimes and Quaker meetings sometimes and Episcopal services sometimes and that when we didn't go anywhere else that we could worship at home.

And tonight, that's what we did. We went to SS and then came home and had dinner and afterwards had our own worship. We began by putting on a CD of Gregorian chant and then going into the little room off our living room which I call my prayer room and lighting lots of candles and some incense. Then he read (by candlelight) from this tiny little Gideon Bible that he got at the State Fair, which he loves. It's King James, which makes me crazy, but he asked me to give him an assignment and he opened up and read it straight through, with all the "he spakes" and so on. When he finished, I read the same story (the shepherd and the lost sheep) from our Family Story Bible (by Ralph Milton, highly recommended for anyone with young children looking for a children's Bible that won't gross you out) and we discussed it. I asked him if he wanted to read a Psalm and he piped up, "What about the 23rd since it's about shepherds, too?" (He remembered!) So he read it, King James.

Suddenly he asked, "How many verses are in Psalm 119?" (He knows this is the longest Psalm, because that's the kind of Biblical information that will stick with him).
Me: "I'm not sure but it's well over 100."
Him, finding it: "176."
Me: "Why don't you read the last verse out loud?"
Him: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments."
How's that for fitting a theme?

Next, I read a prayer from Edward Hays' "Prayers for the Domestic Church" and we added our own thanksgivings. About this time the dog wandered in, so I found the blessing of the pets in Hays' book and read that, too. We then offered intercessions for several people. I told him how the Quakers speak of "holding people in the light" and how I picture the person I'm praying for in my mind's eye and see them completely surrounded by a warm white light. So we did that in silence for a few minutes until he cleared his throat to let me know he was done with the holding part. (Says he, "I don't want to hold them there too long. They might have to use the bathroom or something. Besides, I was beginning to get bored.")

I suggested we sing a hymn or two. He picked "Deep and Wide," complete with gestures and leaving out words. I picked "Jesus, Remember Me," from Taize. We, or rather I, sang it through about 8 times.

Him: "Does it really go on that long?"
Me: "In a real Taize service it would go on much longer."
Him -- dumbstruck: "Why?"

Finally, we ended with a simple benediction (Me: "Go in peace to love and serve our God." Him (with a little prompting): "Thanks be to God!") and the ringing of my small Tibetan singing bowl.

We agreed that we would do this again, that we'd begin and end each time with familiar words and that it would be his job to sing the bowl.

Now if we could just figure out how to blow out all the candles without setting off the smoke detector.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wait, Wait!

OK, folks, tune in to your favorite public radio station Saturday to hear this week's game of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" See if you can guess which of those laughs is mine. I just got home from watching the show taped in front of a live audience here in beautiful -- CHILLY -- downtown Asheville. (The show is normally taped in Chicago and apparently they brought their weather with them.)

Paula Poundstone is fricking hilarious. I haven't laughed that long and that hard in ages. Nobody looks like I expected them to. That's the funny thing about radio. Peter Sagal is short and bald and very, very funny.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Diary Dots

*I have felt too tired to write most nights recently and nights are the only time I have in my schedule any more. But I think of my blog-land friends every night, whether I'm commenting or not.
*I have the coolest kid. A nine year old boy who knits and throws pots and does martial arts and loves to read and do math and build things and who is beginning (finally!) to show some interest in music. A kid who loves his heelies and new hiking boots (I missed sized 4 completely -- all his shoes were size 3 and it occurred to me he probably needed new ones -- yes, he is now size 5). He, like all young males, cannot go a day without extensive potty and body function language, but he also lets me snuggle with him in bed and cover him in kisses.
*The Bush countdown to the right is going very slowly, though I don't really hold out huge hope for these next elections anyway. But the countdown that really matters to me -- weeks until my boss is no longer my boss and I get to be the boss -- is seven and the last one we'll be on vacation, so really six. Yee-haw!
*Things I love about this town: the Film Festival and the Studio Stroll, both of which happened this past weekend.
*Things I love about this neighborhood: the neighborhood DVD store and the neighborhood coffeehouse and the neighborhood pub and the neighborhood pizza joint.
*I get to have dinner with my folks every week. For 26 years, we saw each other a couple of times each year. Now it's at least once a week. And my mom is a great cook and a lovely hostess, so that's a bonus. And they have a great view of the mountains off their deck, double bonus.
*In an attempt to be more social, I got off my back-end and made plans with five different friends over the next two weeks. Hallelujah, I have a social life! At least for two weeks.
*I can't complain, but sometimes I still do. Life's been good to me so far.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

And now for a poem

"The Worriers' Guild"
by Philip F. Deaver

Today there is a meeting of the
Worriers' Guild,
and I'll be there.
The problems of Earth are
to be discussed
at length
end to end
for five days
end to end
with 1100 countries represented
all with an equal voice
some wearing turbans and smocks
and all the men will speak
and the women
with or without notes
in 38 languages
and nine different species of logic.
Outside in the autumn
the squirrels will be
chattering and scampering
directionless throughout the town
they aren't organized yet.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Empty and Full

Life these days is both empty and full and I am sitting uneasily in the paradox.

Full: work is busy and constant. I never feel caught up. There is always something more I could be doing. I'm just keeping up. There is planning for next year and evaluating each program and improving the website and working with board committees and reorganizing financial records and working on advertising and ... and ... it's like parish ministry without the fun stuff. No worship leadership, no pastoral counseling, no sacraments, no rituals for life transitions. I miss that stuff. That would go in the empty column.

Full: being a single mom. I'm the one responsible for making sure he's fed, bathed, rested, well-balanced, to school on time, to bed on time, all homework done. I have to make sure there are groceries in the fridge, clean underwear in the drawer and money in the bank to pay the mortgage and the health insurance and so on and so forth. Even though his dad has him a few nights each week, I am completely responsible when he's with me -- nobody to pass off any of the responsibilities. Also: full in the sense that this really is the best part of my life. He's my dear, even when he's infuriating. And honestly, he's a wonderful boy. Funny and helpful and smart and sweet.

Full: homeowner and pet owner. Again, it's just me and with these responsibilities I don't get any breaks any days of the week. Every day, I'm the one to walk the dog and vacuum up the dog hair and make sure the furnace works and the lawn is mowed and dishes are clean and the cat has flea medicine and they both are fed and watered and the toilet works and is clean. No landlord, no husband, just me.

Full: having my parents near-by. Full in the sense of wonderful to get to spend time with them each week and full in that I'm spending time with them each week. Watching Dad descend into the land of unknowing and unknowable is hard. Watching Mom care for him and lose her companion of 55 years is harder.

Empty: my sense of what God wants of me. My sense of call. What am I doing here besides taking up space? I know I am called to love those around me, to be in the moment. I wish that could be enough.

Empty: my social calendar. I have no social life. Really. None. I keep thinking I should make an effort in this department, but all those "full" notes above leave me little time, energy or money. I miss having friends, but finding the time to make new ones is tough. And I'll confess, I'm kind of picky about friends. When my time and energy is limited I want to spend it well. I don't suffer fools gladly.

Empty: my bed. Big ole fecking king size one, too. Enough said.

This sounds whinier than I intended. What I mean to say is that life is kind of mixed for me these days. This is a hard time, I won't deny. I long for clarity. I'm tempted to find a palm reader and get some fix on what the future holds. But here I am, in the present moment (wonderful moment, according to Thich Nhat Hahn, but as Jerry May once said, "Yeah, Thich says present moment, wonderful moment, but sometimes the present moment just sucks.").

Empty. And full.