Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Merriment

It seemed an odd birthday gift: a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kit that came in the mail on April 30th. At first glance I wondered whether it might be someone's clever observation about the year I just had, or some clairvoyance about the year to come.

Now this: Just as we're admiring the evergreens and enjoying the plum pudding, a gentle reminder from our friends at the National Cremation Service that nothing lasts forever.

The stitches from my abominable abdominal surgery have yet to be removed, and I'm not allowed to lift more than ten pounds for at least another week. Did I really need another reminder that the end is near?


In the helpful book, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg offers an instructive view of three books in the Hebrew Scriptures, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. Proverbs offers us a view of linear justice, that is to say, you get what you deserve. Job then turns that notion on its head, reminding us that bad things do indeed happen to good people. Finally Ecclesiastes sums it all up with the keen observation that we'll probably never figure any of this out, and that we might as well enjoy the ride while we can.

I now joyfully embrace the Ecclesiastes perspective. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow's mail will probably include a FIT test kit, or some sad reminder of our mortality. Wait! There won't be any mail delivery tomorrow. Yet one more reason to be Merry....

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Climate Change

We certainly don't fault readers for worrying about global warming. From a state and local policy standpoint, though, what Oregonians should fear isn't inaction, but the adoption of unproductive measures that either cost them money or reduce employment opportunities.  (The Portland Oregonian Editorial Board, December 20, 2014)

Someday my beloved, one-year granddaughter is going to ask me what I did in response to climate change. She's going to ask about my efforts to ensure her a livable, sustainable world in which to live. And I will reply that I bought her a Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Stride to Ride Puppy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014

On May 11, 2009 (in case you want to brush up) I blogged about "time-binding", the powerful experience of being linked with other people, places, and times through words, smells, sounds, rituals and experiences. The holidays provide us with countless examples of time-binding: decorating the tree, baking cookies, the music of the season. It is amazing how many opportunities there are to be surprised by the awareness of the past flooding into the present moment through even the smallest cracks in our day to day routine.

Sally made plum pudding again this year, which we associate not only with the season, but with Sally's dad, Joe, who made it each Christmas. When Sally popped the puddings out of the molds in which she'd steamed them, we each tasted just a crumb. As the spices mingled on my tongue I could just barely whisper, "It tastes like Christmas..." before emotion overwhelmed me.

Our desire for this powerful, mystical experience can lead us to a rigid view of holidays and other rituals. Not wanting to miss out on time-binding we try to do things the same, year after year, as if our rote observance will conjure the benevolent holiday spirits. Worse, like mistaken Grinches we think this treasure is best found at the mall or through our on-line shopping. All too often our grasping and desperation for recovering meaning obstructs the very experience we seek.

And then grace emerges in a crumb of pudding, the thin veil between worlds is parted, and we are reunited with times, places and beloved people long departed. Grace in a crumb of pudding, like a communion wafer, or the scent of pine boughs, or lights reflected in a child's eyes....

Friday, December 19, 2014

Catching Up

I note that my last blog post was nearly two years ago. Golly! How much can happen in two years?

  • Retirement from active ministry.
  • Completed interim executive director stints at FISH and St. Andrew Legal Clinic, turned down two others, and recently began one at Schoolhouse Supplies, a free store for public school teachers.
  • Adopted our first small dog, Nyxie, who immediately took over our house and our lives.
  • Became a Grandpa. There is not hardly anything better.
  • Was present as daughter Erin was granted her PhD. OK, that was pretty cool, too.
  • Traveled to Scotland, and loved it.
  • Got back into camping, saw a lot of Oregon, and loved it.
  • Nursed Sally back from myocarditis.
  • Did some neat reconstruction of our deck and back steps.
  • Began grieving my mother's death.
  • Said goodbye to my longtime gallbladder.
It's time for me to start writing again. You may not have missed anything in the intervening months, but I have. Perhaps with a reduction in bile content my ramblings might prove palatable. Probably not. But it's time.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Achieving Unemployment

The Board of Directors at Fish Emergency Service (finally) hired an executive director last night. She will begin serving part time next week, and I will phase out after some overlap.

The volunteers at Fish said that I had renewed bounce in my step yesterday. I don't dispute that. I have been at Fish for 7 months on a 5 month contract. I was beginning to doubt whether I would be able to see the project to a successful conclusion. The organization was beginning to stagnate. They needed to move on as surely as I did. And they did.

So I have again achieved unemployment. I am deeply appreciative of Sally's willingness to afford me this flexibility. And I will do another interim, but not this week....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Losing another friend....

On Friday we made the decision to have Juni put down. We had been struggling with the issue for weeks as Juni's condition declined. At first she had to be helped to her feet. A few days later she had to be supported as she walked until gaining her stride. By Friday she could barely stand. She could walk, but had intermittent collapses. The hardest thing was leaving her in the house: In our absence she would try to stand, but end up sliding across the floor backwards until she reached a wall or chair, where she would remain trapped until we got home.

It was an inglorious end for a dog who had been incredibly energetic for over twelve years. She had lost her ability to run, chase squirrels and birds, and sniff the borders - all characteristics that defined her  being.

As sad as the loss of Juni was in and of itself, it also brought up for us the post-traumatic distress of having lost Cayenne just over a year ago. We have had dogs close to the center of the family for the last 26 years, and all but about two years of our 36-year marriage.

Its only been a few days so I'm not surprised that I look for a dog when I enter the house or come down from the bedroom. Perhaps I'll grow accustomed to their absence in time. Perhaps the freedom to travel or be away from the house all day without figuring out what to do about the dog will grow on me. In the meantime I can't help but feel that my life is significantly diminished by the absence of the love, loyalty and presence of our long-time companions.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Stupid Party?

We've got to stop being the stupid party. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.
- Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, 1/24/13

The government can't change the weather... America is a country, it's not a planet.
- Florida Senator Marco Rubio, 2/13/13 

A point to Mr. Jindal!

February 13, 2013 - A Public Policy Polling survey found that just 37% of Louisiana voters approve of Gov. Jindal's performance, down from 58% in 2010.

Never mind.