Friday, May 20, 2022

Servant of the People: Fiction to Fact

The Ukrainian television series, Servant of the People (2015 to 2019), is currently airing on Netflix. It stars and was produced by Volodymyr Zelenskyy - yes, actual President of Ukraine -and follows a high school history teacher who, thanks to a rant about government corruption caught on video by one of his students and uploaded to YouTube with 8 million views, becomes the unlikely president of . . .  you guessed it . . . Ukraine. 

I can't turn away from it. Yes, it's subtitled, but you get used to that quickly. 

The storyline is poignant and hopeful and funny and way too true. Every corrupt thing Ukraine faces - selfish politicians who enrich themselves and their cronies, gotcha' media hounds, crazy families, global entanglements - every government faces. Yep, there's even a defeated president who refuses to leave his office. Very prescient (remember, this was 2015). 

And whenever this TV president needs to get the attention of fighting parliament members or citizen hordes, he shouts: "Putin has resigned!" stopping people in their tracks. ("Not really" he apologizes, once he has their attention.) I guess the real President Zelenskyy feels that more than ever now. 

Watching Zelenskyy these last few months, fighting desperately for his country and against Putin, then watching his very political television series is mind-blowing. He is adorable (yeah, sorry, he is), he is smart, he is funny. And he loves his country.

I'm learning so much about Ukraine - a modern, beautiful country. It's also affirming to see that people and politics aren't so different the world over.  

I'm dreaming of a world where we have more history teacher world leaders and fewer lawyers and business folk. It couldn't hurt. 

The good people of the world are on your side, President Zelenskyy. (And thanks for Servant of the People!)

Monday, May 02, 2022

Simple Gifts

Sometimes the most ordinary things bring joy. 

Today I planted a fresh crop of red geraniums in my balcony boxes. Just seeing the splashes of red against the green outside my windows helps me breathe better. My heartbeat eases. Shoulders relax. Stress evaporates. 

Red geraniums are my favorite flowers. Always have been. Mother told me once that red geraniums were Mama's (her mother, my grandmother) favorite, too, and that I must have inherited that love from her. Well, I don't know about that, since Mama and I were never that close, but I do like the family connection.

I also planted a bunch of zinnia seeds. Zinnias were Daddy's favorite. We had this little flower garden next to our driveway at my growing-up house, and every year we'd planted lots of zinnias (he called them "old maids") and marigolds. He especially loved the zinnias, so I do this in his memory. I hope they bloom like crazy, because I love those old maids, too. 

Take joy wherever you find it. Simple gifts are usually the best. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Heretical Thoughts on Holy Week

I've always wondered what Jesus might think about the Christian observance of Holy Week, especially Good Friday. 

"Seriously, people. Why so much focus on the absolute worst week and day of my life?"

"I get celebrating the Resurrection, but the awful week that preceded it? Nah."

"I love what y'all do at Christmas, though, even though it's not really my birthday. (I was born in April, by the way.) The lights, the presents, cinnamon/pine/peppermint - a splendid birthday celebration, so thank you." 

"Really, you can appreciate the empty tomb without making us all relive the trial, the agony, the torture."

"So go forth and bless the incoming of Spring - flowers, bunnies, Peeps, Cadbury Eggs. It's kind of a mini-birthday celebration rolled into the Resurrection story. That I enjoy. But making me relive that terrible week and day over and over and over? I'd rather not."

"And don't even get me started on Lent."

"More Christmas. Less 'Holy Week,' because it was flat-out UN-holy for me." 

"Love y'all. All of y'all. Spend more time living out the Beatitudes. That's what I really want."



Can't Help Falling: Another Elvis Moment

I'm a faller. I just am. I can be walking barefoot on a flat, dry surface, and I'll take a tumble. I have a history, even writing a blog post about a spectacular fall down some stairs at New York's Tabla Restaurant in 2008

Then there was a fall in 2015 when I mis-stepped off a curb when a young couple walking a dog didn't move aside as I approached. Still have the scars from that one. 

So I was due for another klutzy, fabulous trip-up, which happened the other day at work.

Leaving the Swan House to refresh my tea before taking over for a colleague's lunch break, I tripped on the sidewalk, falling forward really hard on the flat, dry surface. (See, I told you!) Tea tumbler and walkie-talkie went flying as I managed to brace the fall with my hands. Despite my arms and hands taking the brunt of the tumble, my head hit the pavement, bouncing once. 

Guests approaching the house rushed to my rescue, retrieving the walkie and cup and helping me sit up. Hands chewed up and bloody from the sidewalk, small head wound, and general body-shock, it took a few minutes for me to shake it off. I notified my bosses on the walkie and assured the guests that I was fine, just a little shaken. 

Security and bosses rushed to assess the damage, document my injuries, and offering to call an ambulance. Nah. I was shaken (not stirred) but felt well enough to carry on for the rest of the work day.

Two days later, I'm still sore all over and the heels of my hands are bandaged, but my hard head only has a small cut, not a swollen lump or anything that would belie the fact that I'd bounced my head of a hard pavement. The band-aid across my right temple makes me look kinda bad-ass, so I'll keep it on for a few days. 

So, yes, another spectacular Elvis moment, because I can't help falling. Sigh.


Monday, April 04, 2022

I do, with God's Grace

Today marks the 40th anniversary of my Confirmation. I was late to the game - just about to turn 31 - because I was raised Southern Baptist and they don't confirm. I have my own thoughts about why they don't offer the choice to stay or move on to teens and adults, but I'll keep them to myself. 

Anyway, we landed on the doorstep of All Saints' Episcopal Church, Atlanta, in September 1981, shortly after a new rector, Harry Pritchett, arrived on the scene. I've often wondered if we'd stepped in and heard a sermon by anyone but Harry on that autumn day whether or not we'd have returned. And returned. And returned. But here I am. Forty years later. 

Harry had the wild and crazy preaching style of a tent revival preacher, but his message was one of love. Always. Harry (and subsequently, Martha Sterne and Barbara Brown Taylor) is foundational to my Christian belief system. It was so refreshing to hear his message of love, forgiveness, justice, and mercy after years of being told repeatedly what a sinner I was. (Yeah, I get it.)

Jack and I were in Harry's first Adult Confirmation class the fall and winter of 1981-82. The class was small, maybe 10 of us, and held in the church library. Jack was Roman Catholic and already confirmed, so he would just reaffirm and be received into the Episcopal Church. But as a former Baptist, I was to be fully confirmed. Coming from a non-liturgical background, I had a lot to learn. All you clergy who want to be called "father" or "mother" can blame Harry for the way I address you for responding to my question of what should I call him. His answer? "Harry." (Anyway, y'all ain't my father or mother, so, nope, not gonna call you that.) Just Harry. 

On April 4, 1982, I was confirmed by the Right Reverend Bennett Sims, bishop of Atlanta, renouncing evil, affirming my faith, and renewing the Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. 

Harry, Martha, Barbara, and many dear parishioners of All Saints' have helped me live up to those vows, even when I do a lousy job of it. In the years immediately following my confirmation, we faced two major crises, homelessness and AIDS, testing those baptismal vows. Do we really want a night shelter for homeless men on our property? Yes! Can this be a safe haven for gays and those suffering from AIDS? Yes! So, I was thrown right into the deep end of the pool of how to respect the dignity of every human being as a new confirmand. 

It's not always been easy to stick around. I had to learn how to deal with clergy coming and going (it's normal and healthy for them to do that, by the way). Harry eventually moved on to become Dean of St. John the Divine in New York City. Martha moved on to her own church in Maryville, TN. Barbara, of course, moved on to teach and write and become really famous. Losing them hurt. Finding out that all clergy don't preach as brilliantly or love as strongly hurt, too. But I learned to abide. There will always be glory moments and desert moments. When you've hung around as long as I have, you learn to navigate the ebb and flow. 

Daugher Kate was born, baptised, confirmed, and married at All Saints'. The grands were baptised here, as well, and the whole family is active in various ways. I will be buried in the church cemetery under one of those fabulous windows. So, yeah. Forty years. Just wanted to honor the journey. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

A Secular Lessons & Carols


Lesson 1 

Song of Alvin 1:3  -  And there was in those days Hula Hoop-craving, Loop-the-Loop Plane-desiring chipmunks who try to alter their usual bratty, destructive behavior in anticipation of the gift-giving season. ~ The Chipmunk Song

Lesson 2 

Impossibilities 4:9   -  And, lo, a child demands a large, mostly herbivorous, semiaquatic mammal and ungulate native to sub-Saharan Africa for Christmas instead of dolls or Tinkertoys. ~ "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Lesson 3

Second Incisor 8:15  -  In want of missing teeth, a young child eschews the usual list of goodies for the ability to say "Sister Susie sitting on a thistle." ~ All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

Lesson 4 

Repercussions 31:45  -  Bewailing the possibility of an empty stocking, one frog-in-bed-hiding, ink-spilling, bug-eating-forcer tries to lay blame for his bad behavior on a tattletale. ~ I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas

Lesson 5: 

First Warnings 6:5  -  Behold, Santa is making a list, checking it twice, and - like your cell phone and Alexa - spying on every little thing you do. So be good for goodness' sake. Until Christmas. ~ Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Lesson 6 

Improprieties 17:12  -  Childhood trauma ensues when mommy is caught tickling and kissing the gift-bearing North Pole resident underneath the mistletoe. Or maybe it was all a big misunderstanding. ~ I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Lesson 7 

Felonians 23:10  -  And it came to pass that a beloved blue-haired matriarch went too far with eggnog-imbibing and met with a fatal "accident" while making her way home after a party. We are left with the question: Was it an accident? ~ Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

Lesson 8 

Rug-Cutting 16:25  -  In spite of misbehavior and empty-stocking fear, merriment is encouraged through dancing around a festooned fir tree in this time of caroling and pumpkin pie. ~ Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Lesson 9

Ohbygolly 12:22   -  All's well that ends well, as humanity is encouraged to drink a cup of cheer (but not the laundry detergent) and greet everyone they meet for the holliest, jolliest, memory-making Christmas ever. ~ Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies?  And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.  ~ Mary Oliver

Monday, November 22, 2021

On Looking at Millais' Autumn Leaves

Live life fully before the autumn
Make sure you blossom and flower
Let life be full of fruitfulness
Don't be afraid! Be a little bolder!
You'll colour autumn when it comes
Rich or poor is not the measure
More important, to live in delight.
Let life itself be your treasure
Scatter the leaves! Enjoy the sight!

~ David Adam

Monday, September 06, 2021

Happy New Year!

To me, the new year has always started in September. I've never been a fan of the one in January. I mean it's not the start of anything new except the month of January, and who needs to celebrate that? 

No, my Jewish sisters and brothers have always been correct on this point. I, too, recognize Rosh Hashanah as a chance to begin anew. The seasons are changing (January is smack in the middle of winter - what's that about?), it's back to school time, and all sorts of other things are getting cranked up again. 

There's a feeling of new possibilities in the air.

I remember a sermon from years ago by my favorite priest about this very thing. How he, too, felt that September was the start of a brand new year, new energy and excitement, so much so that he always found himself singing:  

Here I go again
I hear those trumpets blow again
All aglow again
Taking a chance on love

Well, OK, I'm not planning to take a chance on love, but I do think about this sermon, from maybe 35 years ago, and that song when September rolls around. And there is something about this September New Year that's energizing. The anticipation of interesting beginnings and cool autumn weather, even with masks and vaccinations, give me hope heading into my favorite season.

L’Shanah tovah, y'all! Wishing you a good and sweet year ahead.  

Here I go again . . .

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Labor Day Salute to the Real Workers

 

If we've learned anything over these past 18 months, it's who the actual boots-on-the-ground workers are in this country. It's the folks who keep things running as safely and smoothly as possible, often at danger to themselves and their families. 

Despite fatigue, uncertainty, and the sheer selfish, despicable behavior of a small but loud chunk of our population, these American heroes show up and perform their duties with the utmost professionalism. 

To the teachers, healthcare workers, domestic and sanitation workers, transportation professionals, wait staffs, construction/landscape/infrastructure workers: Thank you to the moon and back. I see you. I honor you this Labor Day, even though I'm sure you're hard at work, not lounging by a pool. You deserve our respect and a whole lot more pay and benefits. 

To the company big-wigs, fat-cats, and billionaires who refuse to honor those who actually do the work of this country by paying a living wage and providing full benefits: a big, fat raspberry!

Happy Labor Day, honorable workers!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

COVIDiary: My Pandemic Rage


I've had it with y'all. We could've saved a lot of lives last year. But no. Granted, there wasn't a vaccine yet, but if everyone had followed the very simple rules of wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance from others, and washing hands, the spread of this thing could've been mitigated. 

Sure, you weren't too concerned because last year's version seemed to strike just old folks or people with health concerns. Disposables, right? 

But this delta variant is hitting children and young people particularly hard. More and more children are testing positive for covid, more are being hospitalized, more are dying. Children!

So what do y'all do? You protest mask-wearing in schools. You protest vaccination requirements for schools and businesses. You send covid-positive kids to school. You're not only bat-shit crazy, you're putting everyone - kids included - in jeopardy. All because you don't want you or your kids to wear masks? Seriously? 

I don't want to hear anything about "freedom" or "God's protection" or any pseudo-science you got off the internet about masks harming childhood development. That's big-time bullshit, by the way. Please check reliable sources. Face it. You failed. You failed every time you - an adult - bitched and moaned about wearing a mask. So of course your little special darlin' feels free to whine about it, too. 

What you're teaching your children by not modeling the importance of the basic pandemic rules is the most dangerous kind of selfish behavior. You're modeling lack of concern for your family and your community. You're teaching them "to hell with everyone else, it's all about me." Great. More of that is just what we need in the public square nowadays.

So, thanks. You've landed us where we are right now. Hospitals full. Children on ventilators. School closures. Immature, life-threatening behavior toward school boards, medical professionals, and educators. 

Yes, I'm in a rage. Hot white anger. 

Wear a mask - certainly in all public indoor spaces. (Yes, that includes schools.) Make sure everyone in your family who's old enough is vaccinated. Stop being the problem. 

All this rage is wearing me out.