It’s Not God

I don’t want to write about race.

But it’s all I talk about these days with anyone, including God.  I’m beginning to bore myself.

I once told a friend that God and I were on the outs at the moment.  I said, “I’m so pissed I can’t even talk to God anymore.”

You know what that joker told me? “It’s okay.  God understands.  God loves you enough to understand your anger, too.”

I near ‘bout split my pants, like a cartoon character with smoke rolling from her ears, face changing colors. The nerve.  How dare you understand…don’t understand!  Do something.

Instead I sighed, “I used to be an activist”.

Can you ‘used to be’ anything?  Can you stop caring when your calling is no longer easy or fun?  Mmm, that’s probably another post.

 But doing something was my specialty. I trained others to do their thing as well.   I lived and breathed Getting Things Done for America.

In any case, I spent the better part of every day pushing for inclusion and diversity for at least a dozen years.  It was exhausting, I worked myself near to death, and then I moved on, the way people do.  No big deal.  Except, coming to understanding with people from all different backgrounds beliefs and experiences changed me in some fundamental ways.   It makes you believe things you didn’t think of before.  Like, I believe in “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

I really do.

diversity

 While I was getting things done, I  met people who were nothing at all like me, and worked with them or played with them or both.  And I withheld judgment, even  when we weren’t actually getting along in the day-to-day drama of getting things done. Not once did I have occasion to say, “We could be cool, but we just don’t have enough in common.”  Not once.  Because I learned that we all have so very much in common.  That human-ness that makes us misuse the free will God allows and use it to hurt others is the primary thing we  share.  Free Will.

It’s not God letting me down when things go crazy, as they most certainly have. It’s more obvious now than ever that things haven’t changed much since the Civil Rights Movement because of smart phones, and Ipads, and social media. It’s mankind.  With our ridiculous insecurities, fading hairlines, car notes, fears and fragile egos.  That’s not God.  That’s us.

Thanks, amen.

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The Bitch Is Back

My bitch came back over one simple word.  Adoption.

I took my dog to a dog park where a lady, let’s call her “Redjacket” asked me when I’d adopted my dog, seeing as how we were kind of new to the clique. I am not a Dog Person- hell; I’m barely a people person.  I just looked like a dog person because I was at a dog park.  I have a dog and I like her, and that is all.

Lucky in the park

My dog has a comfortable life.  She has  shelter, companionship, a good vet and a kennel. Treats. Toys.  She is groomed and trained and sung to sleep each night.  Pretty good for a dog, if you ask me. She is happy.

What she is not is adopted.

So Redjacket asked me when we adopted our dog, and I told her we’ve had her for about a year.  Redjacket encouraged me to adopt another, as a companion for the first.  She, by the way, had three dogs in tow.

“Get a pet for the pet?”  I laughed. I thought we were joking around.  We were not.

“She is not a pet.” Redjacket fumed. “She’s a member of your family.  You make promises when you adopt an animal.  She’ll need a pack.”  She went on like this for a while, stressing the importance of responsible pet adoption.  I nodded, and smiled, or maybe winced, and kept an eye on my dog, which was chasing in a circle after hers.

While she prattled on, I thought of the day my brother came home.  My sister and I got all dressed up, and went to an office downtown with our parents. We all went into a little nursery where we met him, also dressed up.  He was only six weeks old; his black wavy hair brushed down around his ears.  He was lying on his back, gazing at a mobile, until I walked over and put my hand through the slats of the crib to touch him- our new baby.  He turned his head and looked me in the eye.  And then he grabbed my fingers.  I felt like he knew he was my baby brother as sure as I knew I was his sister.

Suddenly, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Animals aren’t adopted. People are.”

And then, I was a Bitch. Me AND my dog.  And now, when we see that lady at the park, and our actual bitches run to cavort, Redjacket and I look the other way.

My brother was adopted.

My dog was not.

He is family.

She is A PET.

The dog doesn’t play a trumpet, or hold my hand when I’m scared or sad.  Because she’s a dog.  Off the furniture, eating dog food, and sleeping on her blankie – where pets belong.

Fine. I’m a Bitch.  I can live with it.

November is National Adoption Month in case you’re interested in supporting a child as well as many support their dogs.

What?

Thanks, Amen.

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September 11th

I used to walk to work in the days before September 11, 2001; to clear my head and stretch my legs before sitting in a cubicle for hours.  I walked on that day, too.  First thing, as always, I checked the sky, and this one was perfect.  I headed out down my street singing a little bit under my breath.  There’s a blue sky, way up yonder… there’s a blue sky over my head… there’s a blue sky way up yonder, that’s a cover for my bed. 

I picked up random litter from my yard, said good morning to that one lady who walked her dog with the painted toenails. It was, by any account, a perfectly normal day.  My only blip was that I was training people who were moving a massive book of business from Minot, North Dakota to Hartford, Connecticut and as I walked I reviewed which button to click when.  Mindless, but it seemed crucial at the moment.  It was not.

World Trade Center

After opening the training, we took a coffee break.  All of us drifted to the atrium of our building, a lovely place that housed 3000 Financial Services employees about 100 miles from New York City, where the world was ending.  By the time I got to the bank of televisions they kept near the traders, the first tower had fallen.  Many of our colleagues worked there and where I’d been going for several hours a week, twice a week, earlier that year. None of us cared about what button to click when, and couldn’t have remembered if we’d tried.  We never went back to training that day, because we were sent back to cubicles in case we had to evacuate the building.  No one worked though, we watched TV from somewhere in that beautiful building; the trading floor, the gym, the barbershop…until it was decided that we might also be a target and they sent us home.

We watched TV there, too.

There was no work for some time after that.  People huddled in their homes and apartments, wondering if we were next.  If we went out, we kind of stocked up on canned goods and bottled water, totally unprepared for a war on American soil or a lockdown, or an evacuation, or any break in our everyday lives.  There was not a single plane in the blue sky way up yonder.

Then came the day when we went back to the lovely building, tentatively at first, until we were full steam ahead.  People streamed in from every direction until we all stood at the Atrium again.  Four floors of people waiting for our leader to tell us about who we’d lost at the World Trade Center, and who had survived. He stood in the center, our leader, and named the dead and the missing.  When he finished, someone started singing God Bless America- really loud from somewhere on the first floor.  Someone started it up everyone joined in.  We were in tune, and even harmonized and all of the words that we’d been taught in grade school flooded our memories, and we sung our hearts out.  We sung our hearts in.

Everything changed that day, for me. I was suddenly a citizen of the whole wide world – not just New England.  And terrible, weird things could happen, even with blue skies over our heads. I wanted my Momma and a big pot of gumbo with French bread. I wanted to run although there was nowhere in particular to run to, because it could happen anywhere; New York, New England, a field, The Pentagon. Nowhere was safe enough, and I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

So we heard the news, and sang God Bless America and we meant it in ways we hadn’t before.  On this day I’ll say it again,

God Bless America.

And when you bless us, sir, don’t just keep us from harm. Keep us from harming others.  Help us to rely on our right minds when we make decisions about how to treat our brothers, how to respect ourselves, how to live.

Thanks, amen.

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New Friends

We love road trips over here.  It’s partly because we can see the sights at our own pace and partly because we get to spend long periods of time with one another and talk.  Besides, when we get there we have a car of our own with enough room to tote all my stuff.  Believe me, I’m able to acquire quite a bit of stuff on a week-long trip.  This last vacation, I came back with school clothes for the little one, two lamps, sheets…

The point is we left home, my family and I, just after Ferguson, headed for the gulf of Mexico. Because nothing’s better than sunset at the gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi Riv

Leaving home, I looked over my shoulder at my kid packed, instead of all my random collectibles, in the backseat and thought, “Mike Brown’s mom must be ready to die.  All of the moms I know are ready to die, thinking about losing a child that way.  I need some new friends. Someone needs to explain this to me and all of my friends are as outdone as I am.”

And then in Illinois, well above the Mason Dixon, we hit a truck stop.  I saw this lovely couple who were laughing and teasing as they crossed the parking lot.  They were gazing into one another’s eyes- lost in that little bubble of love that surrounds the young.  As they parted ways to visit the bathrooms he said, “See?  Now you sound like a Nigger.”

He said that.  Out loud. 

I may have gasped, and the girlfriend’s eyes darted over to me, while her face turned a deep shade of red.  He never looked my way. She scurried off while I watched her boyfriend walk into the bathroom. 

Who knows what they were talking about?  I didn’t have time to ask, because I was I running through the truck stop calling my daughter’s name.  She was somewhere looking for a snack when there were people like this on the loose.  I only could see her as a target just another caramel skinned victim.  I found her standing near the root beer with her father, like she should’ve been – unharmed but wondering why I was out of breath and sweating. “What’s wrong with you?”  She asked.

What’s wrong with me? There was no way to explain what was wrong with me at that moment to my girl.  I don’t even know if I answered her.  I do know that I messed up her giant fluffy hair even more holding her, and said the only thing I could think of, “I love you, child.”

We left the store, me knowing this much:  I do not, in fact, want new friends.  I want my old friends. And I want them to be as horrified by the open season on Black children as I am.  I want for all  of us to do something, other than bust the lip of that boy in the truck stop. I also want to bubble-of-love wrap those I care for and prepare them to be safe in a world that has no respect for them.

And more than ever, I want to continue the civil rights movement, knowing that power and privilege may not lean in my favor in my lifetime.  

Thanks, amen.

Biloxi sunset

 

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Useless

I seem to have taken a summer vacation from church.  It wasn’t intentional at all.  Or maybe it was.  Lately, something about church has made me feel so… useless.

Because I am female, my possible job openings, as far as the church is concerned, involve food and children.  Whenever people try to encourage me to be more involved in the life of the church, I’m expected to select from the following:

  • Teach Sunday School/Vacation Bible School
  • Work with the kitchen team
  • Volunteer in the nursery during services
  • Work in the gardens
  • Work in the food pantry
  • Help in the daycare

Kids and food.  All the stuff I do anyway!  And if I don’t want to share my talents around kids, or food, I am useless. I like kids fine, and I am an accomplished cook.  But I want to be a Deacon – A person who leads the devotions before the service, who helps the pastor to care for the congregation.  And, in 95 years of my church being a church, there has never been a female Deacon.  Never.

I told a former Deacon friend of mine once of how I could serve. He told me to convince my husband to try to be a Deacon and I could then earn the title of Deaconess.  I don’t know about your church, but in mine, Deaconesses support their husbands in doing God’s work.  But, what if I have work of my own to do; more than making sure my family is in working order and eats hot food every day?  Don’t I get a story to tell? Anyway, my husband doesn’t want to be a Deacon, I do.

My friend the Deacon told me we’d have to go to another church if I was determined to sit on the Deacon’s bench because, “We don’t do that here.  Women have other jobs.”  Yeah, like work in the nursery during services and set out the repast for funerals.

And I don’t want to go to another church; I want to go to mine. I want to see my elders, and the choirs, and I want to watch the children grow. 

I’ve never had to be indebted to a man.  I hold my own in conference rooms and locker rooms and still, at church, I find myself mute.  Women are honored at my church one day a year. Women’s Day.  Until Women’s Day, we women sit with our knees together and our lips pressed tightly shut until we are given permission to speak.  Even then, what we say had better be a message that everyone will approve.

Everyone wears white, and extols the lengthy virtues of womanhood. 

Proverbs 31: 10-31

10 How hard it is to find a capable wife! She is worth far more than jewels! 11 Her husband puts his confidence in her, and he will never be poor. 12 As long as she lives, she does him good and never harm. 13 She keeps herself busy making wool and linen cloth. 14 She brings home food from out-of-the-way places, as merchant ships do. 15 She gets up before daylight to prepare food for her family and to tell her servant women what to do. 16 She looks at land and buys it, and with money she has earned she plants a vineyard. 17 She is a hard worker, strong and industrious.18 She knows the value of everything she makes, and works late into the night. 19 She spins her own thread and weaves her own cloth. 20 She is generous to the poor and needy. 21 She doesn’t worry when it snows, because her family has warm clothing. 22 She makes bedspreads and wears clothes of fine purple linen. 23 Her husband is well known, one of the leading citizens.24 She makes clothes and belts, and sells them to merchants. 25 She is strong and respected and not afraid of the future. 26 She speaks with a gentle wisdom. 27 She is always busy and looks after her family’s needs. 28 Her children show their appreciation, and her husband praises her. 29 He says, “Many women are good wives, but you are the best of them all.” 30 Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors the Lord should be praised. 31 Give her credit for all she does. She deserves the respect of everyone.

#AreYouKiddingMe?

Holy Name Of Mary, New Orleans

Holy Name Of Mary, New Orleans

Do you have any idea how hard that is to live up to?  I’ve never seen as lengthy a biblical explanation about what a man’s work is.  We certainly have spent no time on it in our church, and it reminds me of when I was a girl, told in Sunday School that I was to be a helpmeet to a boy one day when he became a man, and the indignation that sprouted, even then. I told my father that day on the ride home that I was going to be the dad in my family when I grew up, not the mom, and he laughed.  It made perfect sense to me; Dads get to take you out, and coach your team, and feed you ice cream before supper, and tuck you in at night.  Mom’s cook. And they, according to all the evidence I’d collected in my young life, love to sweep.  I was far more Dad than Mom. Unfortunately, the Dad role is already taken in my present day family.  Someone’s got to be Mom.  Me.

Deacons are men,

Preachers are men,

Ministers are men,

Most of trustees are men.

And all of these people have teams (of women) making them look great.  They are learned, well dressed, cherished and loving.  I almost hate to say it, but they are able to be these things because their woman made time in their schedules for them to be so.

Mr. Mack was the best Deacon, ever. He knew about life as it happens, in addition to the rules about it from God, and how the two could come together in a functional way.  He offered his opinions freely, without pre-screening from his wife.  HE could stand by you in the good times, and the bad.  

I want to be that.  Not useless. 

I guess I could be an usher, but that would mean standing up and showing people to available seats most weeks.  I kind of hate talking to strangers.  Plus, ushers are supposed to be friendly.  I’m not.

Thanks anyway, amen.

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This Is The Part Where I Lose My Sh*t

My car ran out of gas yesterday.  I was in it, with a wallet stocked with cash and cards, and still, I sat at the bottom of an off ramp.  Honking traffic was backing up behind me, one block from an actual gas station.  

My mind whirled: What if I left the vehicle to go get gas, and someone plowed into me, flashers and all, and ruined the car we’ve had only since June?  Wait, would it be better to stand next to the car because people would notice a big giant person on the off ramp sooner than they would a tiny car?  What if they didn’t notice, and hit me instead? I’d hate to die in the middle of the road for no reason at all except that I’d lost my sh*t.

I could’ve noticed that warning light before I got on the highway. Who leaves home for a Very Important Meeting without looking to see if they have enough gas?  Me.  I was nearly dead with the shame of it.

Since the roadside guy told me to stay in my vehicle, I had some time to just think; the first thinking time I’d had in weeks.  I saw this coming a few weeks ago, and did not act.  Matter of fact, I said to my Beloved And Much Longed For while I ransacked my purse for car keys, “Uh oh. I’m coming apart.  This is the part where I lose it.”

“No, you don’t lose it. You have a lot on your mind.  It’s not you.”

“No, It’s me.  It’s definitely me.”

“Well. Tell me how I can help.”

I did not.  I don’t know, sometimes, how to be helped. 

My company. My baby.

My company. My baby.

It’s only the good things that make me lose it, too.  If there’s bad news, I pull my inner self tight, everything lashed down and ready for battle.  When it’s terrible news, I start cooking – people need to eat no matter what happens, and so I often turn up on the battle field with a warm casserole.

But good news?  I come to pieces.  I am the person who leaves home for a vacation in the Caribbean with no passport.  Who walks down the aisle at my sister’s wedding with wet hair. Who can’t go to sleep the day before I have a baby, so I stop in the middle of the whole thing to take a three hour nap. What?  Labor is exhausting!

And here I am, at the threshold of a dream come true, a 45 minute workshop of a one act play based on my little novel, out of gas on the off ramp.

I remember telling myself when I was in childbirth, “It’s just one rough day.  At the end of this all, you’ll get to meet your baby.”  During the labor, my husband was worried sick for me, as I was in pain and totally silent.  That’s not like me at all. If I’m uncomfortable, someone is going to know about it.  But that day, I couldn’t talk.    I was busy losing my sh*t.

I am trying, in the midst of waiting for this newest baby to arrive, to do something good for my body and spirit each day… but I remain untethered. The world turns around me, but I am with my story- in the hands of the actors, the director, technicians, and an artistic team. It is, like actual labor, exhausting.

Oh, but when she gets here!  There’ll be a party with sweets and music.  

Note the coveralls.  He took the word "labor" very seriously.

Note the coveralls. He took the word “labor” very seriously.

Until then, I’m going to keep working and waiting. And, I’ll check the gas gauge each time I leave the house.

Thanks, amen.

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The Utility Ring

The only luxurious things I do in earnest are linens (no less than an 800 thread count , ever ) and even if I’m flat broke, I’ll still pay exorbitant prices for conditioner.  Outside of that, practicality seems to be my strong suit. 

I broke up with Women’s Magazines in my twenties, as they had a way of making me feel bad, rather than the Get Happier and More Confident, they often promised.  But, sometimes, I pick one up in the salon or spa and check out Beauty Tips or the Latest Trends for Fall while I’m waiting for my latest deep conditioner to step up and do something magical.

Recently, I saw this article in one of those dreaded magazines I find in the spa about how accessories are everything.  The author told women that every accessory counted as a point, and one should never leave the house with more than ten points.  That point system included all jewelry, eyeglasses, scarves, and even shoes with a high heel.  They recommended women take a look at themselves before they leave the house, and take off all the accessories after ten.

I scoffed.

Then I walked past a mirror on the way to get the super-conditioner rinsed out. All of a sudden I became clownish, some kind of sports fanatic gypsy without a closet who wears everything she owns rather than putting things down.  My count was horribly high.  I had:

  1. High heeled boots- stepped into at the back door where I’d kicked them off
  2. A  belt- because I hate sagging jeans
  3.  A baseball cap- I was on my way to the salon.  Who combs their hair before going to the spa?
  4. A scarf – What? It’s freezing out there!
  5. Gloves- See #4
  6. Clip holding my hair down under the cap- obviously
  7. Sunglasses
  8. A necklace
  9. Another one
  10. Two kinds of earrings- one that never comes off and just sits in that back hole no matter what I’m wearing, two that matched one another
  11. A watch-A Mother’s Day present.
  12. A tennis bracelet – A gift
  13. Another bracelet- Charms that I’ve been collecting over the years
  14. A thumb ring my father bought for himself at a street fair, which he later decided looked too girl-y but works just right for me
  15. A right hand ring I got for myself in a fit of pique at a going out of business sale, and three pieces of wedding jewelry;
  16. my engagement ring,
  17.  my wedding band, and
  18. my utility ring.

I bought the utility ring at a discount store after my husband accused me of not loving him enough to wear the rings he shopped for months for.  I explained that I always strip off my fancy clothes and jewelry before starting a dirty project, and I seem to have lots of dirty projects.  Sometimes, I don’t put that jewelry back on for days.  Finally, after he complained- AGAIN- I marched into a store, found the thinnest, cheapest piece of gold they had, and put it on. It was kind of tight, but I figured that would slow me if I got the mind to ditch it.

You think I didn't get dirty restoring these hundred year old windows?

You think I didn’t get dirty restoring these hundred year old windows?

It’s not that I want to be unmarried.

 

I want to be unencumbered.

 

I thought it was a compromise.  The utility ring let him mark me, should some Prince Charming pass through our back yard while he’s out and that’s all.

Fine. I can’t run off with you Denzel, because I’m married.  Happy now, Gregory?

Point made, but it seemed a useless rebellion.  HE’s not trying to make jewelry an obligation and a burden… I am.  To leave the real rings alone in a box seemed the most unromantic thing my unromantic ass had ever done.  Wanting to be able to get dirty without ruining something is practical. And utility has nothing to do with love and partnership.  Sometimes we get dirty – and sometimes we find ourselves doing extra things that we never imagined we’d do.  Like wearing monster diamonds for no reason at all.

And my response to the article which ( surprise) left me no happier or more confident? I took off:

  1. the necklace,
  2. the other one,
  3.  the thumb ring,
  4. a bracelet,
  5. the hair clip and
  6. the baseball cap

The wedding jewelry got to stay.  All of it- including the utility ring.  Just in case I need to be useful while I’m being Romantic.

 

 

 

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