Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christine Gibson, Rest in Peace and Give 'Em Hell

Okay, Auspicious Blog regulars: a quick test.

Does anyone recall how I always say, "Go see live music! You never know what you might miss. GO!"


The life of Christine Gibson, punk goddess and cool chick extraordinaire, is the latest in my long line of examples of why you need to see bands live. Christine was the front woman for one of Richmond, VA's proto-punk bands Beex.

Christine in her younger years was known to throw a punch or two if things got too rowdy at a show. Christine was known for her showmanship, her gutsy growl, and her wide knowledge of rock-n-roll. Christine was about as wide as a pencil and was known to carry a box cutter in her pocket at all times. Just in case.

In recent years, Christine was known for her longevity on the music scene, her love for all canines, her career with Vatex, and her phenomenally successful work as a wife to Tom and mother of Maria (two more of Richmond's coolest residents).

If needed, she could whup yo tail on the game cube, too.

Before I understood the complexities of motherhood, I used to pray to the goddess of all mothers that I could be a punk rock mama. I am not up for the job. Christine Gibson was up for it and is the image I had in my mind.

Chrisine Gibson died this week at 55. Her husband says (go to video - click on photo of Christine in glasses) that if you didn't see Beex live, you just can't get it. On January 13, 2007 they had their last show at Alley Katz. The Offenders played, too. I was supposed to go and didn't. My life is a little less bright because of that omission.

This Friday at 1 PM at Hollywood Cemetery Christine's family, friends, and fans will gather to celebrate her life. We are going to do this woman up right. If you would like to visit her remains before she is cremated there is a visitation this evening at Bliley's on Augusta. She is wearing sunglasses, as usual, and has a box cutter. Just in case.

May she rest in peace AND may her spirit keep on kickin' ass and giving 'em hell.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I would be a dreadful Buddhist. This makes me kind of sad. I know some great Buddhists. The ones I know are smart, compassionate, and surprisingly calm people. They smile frequently. They are good listeners. I like to think that I have some of those characteristics, but I would still be a rotten Budhist.

I have been thinking these thoughts a lot lately. I'm not sure why. I mean, I have never claimed to be Buddhist nor have I had conversion in mind. So, I don't exactly know where all of this is coming from. It's probably the reading.

I read a lot of Buddhist stuff. Books, articles, blogs. I like reading Buddhist stuff, that is - until it reminds me that I'd be crappy at it. I have attachment issues. Big time. Chronic terminal attachment issues. Here's how this has been going.

I put my daughter to bed. I read a rhyming bedtime story. I sing some songs per request. I rub hair, back, legs per request. I tolerate the not-so-subtle hints that Dada does it better, because I love Dada, too, and can see her point. And then I gaze at her face and fall in love some more and I think, "I wish this moment could last for the rest of my life." Shortly followed by, "I would be a rotten Buddhist."

I have been in the bed more lately due to a seasonal flare-up of my joint problems. I invite my children to join me. My son was upside down in the bed explaining his life philosophy and how I should let him watch more TV. His foot was in my armpit. I picked it up and fell in love some more. And I thought, "This foot is huge. I remember smooching on his newborn toes. He's growing up too fast." And then, of course, "I would be a rotten Buddhist."

I visited a dear friend this afternoon. I have not seen him much this year. His work, my work. He fell in love, had his heart broken - all the usual things that will keep adult friends apart in spite of the fact that they live three blocks from each other. As we were catching up and laughing I worried about how much weight he's lost. I fretted over his decrepid and lovable dog. I wanted to put out an all points bulletin for a new girlfriend. I thought about offering to help paint his house... Bad, bad, rotten Buddhist would I be. Monkey mind indeed.

What put me over the edge, though, was the report from this friend regarding another friend of ours. "More chemotherapy," was all he had to say. My stomach turned over. Twice. And I fell in love with both of them and the stinky dog some more.

If I had to boil down my philosophy of life into simple instructions it would be this non-Buddhist tenant: fall a little bit in love with everyone.

Good philosophy, yes? Based in some pretty sound theology, too. In fact, it is almost Buddhist in its universal regard except...


There's no such thing as "a little bit" in love.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Holy Precipitation

It is snowing. First snow of the season. Big gooshy happy harmless puppies of snowflakes dancing down from the sky.
As the children and I left the house this morning, we saw approximately five flakes. My son began to dance. My two year old daughter used her newly acquired sentence formation skills to holler, "I get to put the nose on the snowman!!!" She repeated herself a few times in case someone in a ten mile radius hadn't heard the news.

I had a staff meeting and the religious education director looked out the window, smiled and said, "Should we cancel Sunday services?" Yes, it is still Wednesday and the temp. should reach 65 degrees by Sunday, but I told her I would consider it.

Now the church is empty. The snow is sticking to the grass more than when I took this picture 20 minutes ago. The sky is dark. The snow is steady. I've opened the window a little so I can feel the snow breeze. It is very quiet because I am at the "country" church today and in between appointments.

When I dreamed of becoming a minister, this is what I imagined. Quiet snowy days of thinking about life and being grateful. I think that's happened half a dozen times in the 13 years I've been working this holy gig. The job is mostly people, not much quiet snow. I often like it that way, but today, today is something different.
Sloshy snow. Silence. Gratitude. And because I've become the people minister, not the quiet snow minister, I thought I'd share it with you.
Brrrr. I just went outside to take this one for you. Thanks for joining me.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dirty Dozen Brass in Richmond

The fantastic Dirty Dozen Brass Band out of New Orleans is playing TOMORROW night and no one seems to know it. I bought my NINE tickets today and even the people at Plan 9 were surprised.

So go get your tix now. I will see you there. Canal Club. Doors open at 8.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

As the soon-to-be leader of not two, not four, but FIVE Christmas services and one Hanukkah service, I had to get that holiday ball rolling early this year.

There was shopping on Black Friday for the first time in years. (It was online. But the money was out of my account by dusk, so I'm counting it.) There was a Saturday post-Thanksgiving trip to see the jolly man in red for list delivery and thanks for last year's presents. This weekend there was the Illumination downtown followed by the Ukrops parade followed by tree decoration and Hanukkah preparation.

And this morning I continued the decades long holiday tradition of sewing at some crazy time to finish a project in the 13th hour. This year it was the Advent Calendar I promised my son.

Yes, I am perfectly aware that this is December 2. The child brought that up both yesterday and today. He was quickly appeased when I pointed out that he gets twice as many treats today.

But here's the weird thing. Today is December 2 and I have 95% of my holiday shopping finished. The cards are ready. The house is 2/3 decorated. The rush is averted and the hip satellite radio holiday station plays in the car. We may put up a second tree just because we can...

And this really doesn't feel like the holidays.

Holidays to me are exhausted gatherings where the glitter is still stuck to various body parts from an all-night craft extravaganza. Holidays are the simultaneous delivery of the card, the present, and last year's thank you note. The holidays are about giving up and getting a gift certificate. The holidays are about being so stressed out for weeks of frenzy that "all I want for Christmas" becomes a nap.

Wait a minute. I have six services to do, then I drive a 2 and a 5 year old 13 hours to Florida for a "vacation" to do four more services at church camp, then drive the 13 hours back to throw a 40th birthday party for my husband. That feels EXACTLY like the holidays.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

All Praise Stuffing

There is much to appreciate this Thanksgiving. This past Spring two of my four parents were seriously ill and are now recovered. I have not one but two congregations to serve. My daughter has lowered her standards enough to urinate in a few potties instead of her diaper. I live in a beautiful part of the country and am not a victim of mortgage fraud. My son's eccentricities and gifts are appreciated by his kindergarten teacher. My husband and I still have our own teeth...

See? Lots to be thankful for. Then there's the stuffing!

My father-in-law is a computer whiz, a crafts king, a cancer survivor, and the only person who makes stuffing I adore year after year. I had six helpings this year. Yes, six. But we did two dinners so that makes up for it, right?

There's a lot to be upset about in this world of ours. So many errors, so much to repair, so much work to do. But today isn't the day of repentance.

Today is ours to say thanks.

For the times we didn't say the wrong thing.
For the ones who won't leave you.
For the loyal pets.
For the good enough jobs.
For the courage to get up and try again.
For the heart to give and give some more.
For the beauty of the weeds who always find a way.
For the potential in each of us.
For all who forgive.
For those who know the right thing AND manage to do it.
For faithful cooks of good recipes.
For all this and more, today we give thanks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Best 4 Gigs

I've been saving up my music reviews of the past few months. I have re-entered a cycle in which I can go out and hear live music every couple of weeks. I've been fortunate and daring enough to hear some really great stuff, with considerable variety. Here's the best.

#1 Richmond Symphony Pops & Out of the Blue Radio Revue - This was one heck of a show with the symphony conducted by Mark Russell Smith and the Out of the Blue Radio show hosted by Page Wilson linked. Smith "brought it" with the symphony sounding particularly rich and Wilson "brought it" in the form of the Piedmont Souprize and the Showdogs, along with Wilson's own Reckless Abandon.

I am not an unbiased reviewer since I knew at least 15 of the musicians onstage. For those who tuned in on radio, I could be heard shrieking my support most loudly during the Showdogs set since, unbeknownst to me, I was very close to a live mic. Ooops. But I loved the arrangements with the symphony composed by Doug Richards. I loved the symphony. I loved my bands. Fun night.

#2 The Virginia Opera's production of Tales of Hoffmann was spectacular. One of the greatest shows they've put up in the years we've had season tix. (This is our 13th, I think.) Great stage direction, powerhouse voices, good acting, nice costumes, great cast, coolest set in years.

In our seating area the average age was 55 and that's with my bringing it down about a decade with my presence. Please, people my age: I know how much you spend on eating out. Get a decent seat at the opera so I can talk about the show with you later.

#3 Lucero at Alley Katz. I had waited MONTHS for this show. Wore my boots, stood in the pit, did a little gentle thrashing with the crowd, had a blast and was home by 11. My favorite part of the show was singing along with the crowd who were at times as loud as the band. My least favorite part was the exclusion of 3 or 4 of my fave songs because the set was only 90 minutes.

In my thrashing area the average age was 21 and that's with my bringing it up a few years with my presence. Please, people my age: Buy some boots and earplugs and meet me on the floor of Alley Katz. Lucero is worth it and the beer that appears to rain from the sky in there does wash out.

#4 Hank Williams III and Reverend Horton Heat at Toad's Place. I can't print the name of the opening band here, but they did not thrill me. I had a blast otherwise. I was just trying something new by going to this show. I only have one Hank III CD of his country variety, and knew Reverend Horton Heat only by reputation. The antics of the bass players of both bands was worth the price of admission.

There was one teenage moment of the evening. At the end of their encore, the Reverend Horton Heat himself zinged his guitar pick into the balcony at me. It scratched my arm but I didn't catch it. However, I choose to believe he knew that I was his only colleague in ministry in the house and was giving me props.

THE ONE I MISSED After all my big talk about my friend Rex Richardson in a recent post, I missed his faculty recital due to a church meeting. I sent my mother. She said it was AMAZING. If you haven't seen Rex Richardson live yet, the time is now. I can't imagine he'll stay in our fair river city forever, and I can only coax him into a church gig once every 2 years.

I guess that's my general message. Get out there and hear some music. The seats aren't always great. Sometimes it rains beer and you have to wear earplugs. Other times it seems that no one around has anything in common with you. Who cares? Live music is full of amazing surprises and connection with strangers in a unique way. It is entertaining, instructive, and if you're lucky, inspirational.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Big Kids Do Cry

I've always been a bit tender-hearted. I blame my grandfather. After multiple children, grandchildren, and decades of marriage, he still teared up EVERY time he told the story of meeting my grandmother. My dad can be rather sentimental, too, but he usually deflects it with a well-placed obscenity and people forget the soft heart.

My husband was playing Sara Arthur's Talk of the Town in the car this weekend. I warned him weeks ago that Stephen McCarthy's stunner of a song "When You Get Back Home" makes me cry EVERY time. We've been together almost 20 years, why does he doubt me?

He played it.

I boo-hooed.

He looked at me amazed and asked, "EVERY time?!?!"

I answered with my father's deflection trick.

The next night I was reading Berke Breathed's "Mars Needs Moms" for my son's bedtime story. There is a tough passage and I could not make it through. My son laughed gently and gave me a big hug. (He's 5! This is getting ridiculous.) In the end, I laughed and made it through, but in an effort to regain the adult role - the truth came bubbling out.

"Sweetie, mama isn't sad. I work with a lot of people and they tell me their stories. And sometimes some story reminds me of one of their stories and I cry. That's all."

That's all? I didn't even know that. But that IS it. At our best, isn't this why we cry?

At funerals we remember all the stories of the one who has died and sometimes cry. We cry for the stories we will no longer get to share with them. We cry for the ones they loved. We cry because this service reminds us of another service that we are not done dealing with.

In bittersweet moments that are not necessarily connected to death, we remember, too. Songs remind us, books remind us, smells and recipes and family gatherings remind us. We remember great trips, funny friends, fantastic nights, kind neighbors. I know that not everyone tears easily like I do but, if we are lucky, we still remember.

I just happen to have a memory accompanied by liquid. I try to think of it as my way of offering a toast. I try to think of it as family legacy. I try not to think about it because it makes me cry.

So today I was checking in at Cul de Sac Blues . I've mentioned this blog before. I think of this guy as the Franz Kafka of the blogosphere. (Day job of indistinct character, great writing on the side.) Check out the link. It made me cry. No real surprise there. But maybe it will remind you of something dear, too.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

November Parental Haiku

Had a minute for some brief blog browsing. Went over to the big daddy of UU bloggers to see what's up. Here is Philocrites on haiku. I love poetry but am a rotten poet. In the spirit of stretching boundaries and seasonal musings though...

November 1
Halloween candy.
Sweet bouncing kids, dogs, dada -
Mama loves Heath Bars.

November 2-4
M&Ms, Reese's
Raisinets and Junior Mints
Sugar high. Can't sleep.

Back to the gym
Personal trainer -
Buff, smiling until she says,
"BMI too high."

Circles are a-rollin!

This year we have worked very hard at FirstUU to get our small group ministries cranking. And it is a classic rabbit hutch scenario. People are jumping in right and left. Almost all of the groups are full and we are deciding when to start some more. I have been to the meetings of four groups and people are really enjoying this.
Feeling left out? Come on in. Small group ministries are a way for this growing church that has over 500 people actively involved to get small. The groups meet monthly and get to know each other through informal check-in and a more formal discussion on a pre-determined theme. Currently most of our groups are discussing the same themes. Believe it or not, that is it.

Or is it? Small group ministries allow for a depth of connection, discussion, introspection, and interaction that is difficult to find anywhere else. They are low pressure, high kindness. They are about time well-spent and people appreciated for their gifts and ideas. They are really quite amazing in their simplicity and their power.

And... to put on my other hat... we have them at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Glen Allen as well!!! How cool is that? Check us out. All of us.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Grumbly Fussy Snarling Halloween!!

There was bickering in my hallway this AM as I tried to have a very cool, but now mostly forgotten dream. I opened my eyes to see my offspring preparing to spar 10 feet from my bed. Clock says I'm 25 minutes behind schedule already. Grrrrrr... this is no way to start my favorite holiday.

There are black crayons stuck in Darth Vadar's light saber. He cries and rubs his tears away with the sleeve of his dark lord turtleneck. Princess Leia demands that Darth Vadar hand over some of his cereal to her. I make the poor guy share. His lip pokes out and I see the little Anakin within.

We get to Darth Vadar's school just in time, but he still has to run in his big black boots. But he doesn't fall. Leia keeps hollering, "I wanna' hear my song!!!" from her carseat. Calm is not the mind of this Jedi mama.

At Leia's pre-school someone dares to tell her she's a fairy princess. She scrunches her face and stomps her tiny pink boot. With hands on pink, shimmering tu-tu-ed hips she declares, "NO! I'm Princess Leia." Hopefully her daddy will be Obi-wan later and get her in line. Obi-wan her daddy is my only hope today.

I returned home and re-dressed a few times. Once in costume, sort of. I pulled out my old black shirt and priest's collar from my hospital chaplain days. Made me look kind of creepy. Gave up. Went with black and orange stripey socks and boring everywhere else. People who know me have already expressed their disappointment. I bite my tongue to keep from expressing my...

Tonight I'll be on the front porch in our giant Winnie the Pooh costume handing out the goodies. The Star Wars gang will be roaming the streets gathering loot. I'd better improve my mood by then. Nothing scarier than a Pooh Bear who growls like Chewbaca. Now that I think of that image, my mood is lifting already.

If there is any overarching theme to my career in ministry it is: Laugh through it! To be grumpy on Halloween? Now that I've mulled it over awhile... that's kind of funny. I'm the only person I know who gets to smooch on Darth Vadar, tickle Princess Leia, call a Jedi master "Cutie", and do it all in a giant Winnie the Pooh costume. What's not to like about this day?

Monday, October 29, 2007

If you were a famous poet

As I recall, I corrupted Ms. Kitty through the meaningful internet quiz discovery that she is most like Carole Lombard on the oldies film star quiz. I corrupted Sisyphus through the internet quiz discovery that he is worth $50 less than I am as a corpse. The latest chapter in this insignificant but lots of fun internet quiz saga is thanks to Ms. Kitty. Let me know how the quiz turned out for you.
gURL.comI took the "If You Were a Poet..." quiz on
I am...

Do you tell it like it is, even if "it" ain't pretty? Then Sapphire, (aka Ramona Lofton) may be your poetic predecessor. Sapphire is a jewel of a poet, but you won't find any precious language in her books. Read more...

Which poet are you?

Evening Service a Success

My goodness, that went well.

Our first evening service was last night. Over 70 people came. We had a wonderful poet in First UU member Susan Williams. We had an enthusiastic and generous artist in Lori Valenti, who not only made art but encouraged children to make an artistic response. We had the 6 man band of the century. Only two of these dudes had played together before I put them in a band for a week. All of them said they'd like to do it again. They were fun to work with AND they are all talented.

We had teens, young adults, wee ones, grandparents, the thirty-fifty somethings, and one service dog who prefers not to have her age revealed. We had ten to fifteen visitors, one of whom came out wide-eyed and exclaimed, "Is this what all of your services are like?!?" In a word... no. But more will be.

There are some details that need some ironing, parts I want more or less of, mistakes I don't intend to repeat, but for our first time out the whole thing was, well... great.

Thank you to the many, MANY who helped behind the scenes. And for all who not only came out, but also brought your friends. See you again on January 27, 2008, 6:00 PM when the theme is The Blues.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


A delightful poet.
An energetic sprite of an artist.
6 men in a rock/alt country/ funk band.
A minister on the edge, hopefully the edge of something good.
And a great theme...

Why haven't I blogged all week?
Night after night of preparation for our first evening worship service.
6 PM. Tonight.
All ages are welcome.
We will rock you.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fast Friends

It may seem to the outside observer that my life is so packed with work and children that I must resort to desperate and odd measures to have some semblance of normalcy. This observer might imagine that I eat standing up 4-10 times a week. Or perhaps he/she/you believe(s) that I nap at any possible opportunity. Or maybe even that I pick sermon topics in order to explore ideas you and I wouldn't have time to think about otherwise.

If the observer thought any of these things, he/she/you would be 100% accurate.

I have just arisen from a much needed nap, am about to stand in my kitchen (whose days are numbered) and wolf down a snack, and I am thinking about friendship. I'll be preaching on it twice in November.

In recent days I have had very brief encounters with my friends. To be a minister's friend you need to be the kind of person who has many other things to occupy your time. You need to have a calendar to plan out months in advance for a cup of joe and a 45 minute visit. You need to be comfortable with last minute cancellations. And, MOST OF ALL, most days you need no ministering unto.

This week I've exchanged emails with the college buddy who is super-realtor in Manhattan. It is even harder being the realtor's friend than the minister's friend. We are perfect for each other that way, and he knows my secret college nickname, so I'll never cross him.

I had a great phone conversation with my maid-of-honor, college roommate, I-performed-her-wedding buddy who is 9+ months pregnant. WAITING was the theme of that one. Bless that darling. She missed our high shool reunion in June because she was working in the Cloud Forest. I was sure that was a euphemism for something, but it is just Costa Rica.

I took the long way home from work one afternoon and stopped by to see my favorite music guru pal at the local record store. Our friendship is sustained by a shared sense of humor, his constant presence at his place of business, and my constant presence at mine half-a-mile away. In the two years of our friendship, we've never seen each other when one of us isn't working.

I had a 2 minute check-in with my country undertaker from Dinwiddie county while driving back from a wedding. He was setting up his house for his youngest's 1st birthday party. We promised to talk again before November. Are you sensing a theme?

My friends are crazy-busy people. Friendship in my circles is no longer sustained by dinner parties, beach vacations, and weekly interaction. We are held together by the bonds of email, telephones, and eating standing up. Sometimes I am sad about this. Today I am just grateful that we are able to maintain any connection at all. Sound familiar? I hear that this has less to do with my profession than with our culture at large.

So that's me on friendship today. You want any more you've gotta' show up in Durham, NC or Glen Allen, VA in a month. (Like you've got time for that. The fact that you made it to the bottom of this post is a minor miracle, right? As a reward, I leave you with the funniest of all the friend stories this week, and this time the preacher is naming names...)

My friend Rex. I love this guy. Rex's life makes my life look like a slow inner-tube ride down a lazy river on an endless summer afternoon. I'm not even sure we are allowed to call each other friends. We spend YEARS trying to find time to have dinner. A glass of wine takes 6 months to schedule. I called him today to check in. (Yes, I was waiting for my next appointment, but don't be impertinent. At least I called.)

Here's Rex's voicemail: Hi, this is Rex. I am in the UK right now and don't have access to this cell phone. You can reach me by emailing me at .... or, if it is an emergency my UK cell phone is 5767877902-34847486189111-0076582490-940825739404-727553. Otherwise, leave a message on this line and I'll get it eventually.

I laughed so hard I triggered some system and it booted me, so I had to call back to rag on him mercilessly. Which, of course, I did. The funniest thing of all? The last time that I had time to call Rex was a month ago and then he was in some other foreign country with some other foreign cell phone with 43 digits. Good thing we're friends.

Friday, October 19, 2007

UU blog update

Finally got to catch up on some UU blogs last night. Ms. Kitty got all kinds of interest on her cleavage post. Mile High Pixie wins my vote for funniest comment. Are other religions posting on cleavage? I did a google on Hinduism and breasts, but got some leads I did not want to follow.
Shed a few tears with Lizard Eater over the death of a 5 year old from cancer. Then to balance emotions out, it is always a joy to catch up with Never Say Never to Your Travelling Self.
For my congregants who are new to UU blogs, browse my links when you get a chance. Then when you go to other UU blogs, you'll find other UU blog links. There's a lot of variety out there. Many of them take themselves a lot more seriously than yours truly, which may be a nice change for you. Or not.

Upcoming Services, both churches

Because I am constantly surprised by where I will be next, it might be a good idea to blog a bit on where to find me. This Sunday I am at UUCC in lovely pastoral Glen Allen where I will be preaching on the Ramayana. The Ramayana is an Indian epic and I will be using it as a springboard to talk a little about Hinduism.

For those who have yet to go out to Glen Allen, it is a pretty place, nice views, kind people, and they serve snacks! Services are at 9:00 and 11:00. Meanwhile at First Church, my buddy Rev. Jeanne will be preaching at 9:30 and 11:15 on Creative Interchange. Gallery (our annual juried art show with 100 artists of many media) is up at First Church and is quite lovely. I have already been relieved of some of my cash.

Next Sunday I'm at the 6:00 PM service at First Church. This is a cool new service with a band, a poet, an artist, and yours truly. The theme is "Borderlands". All ages are welcome.

Lyrics and Paper Plates

I am doing the most miserable thing I can think of. No, I'm not going back to Vegas. I am having my kitchen re-done. "Agony. Heartache. Starvation." These are the words that come to mind.

"Hideous. Useless. 11 years of crap... " These are the words that come to my husband's mind concerning the current state of the kitchen. He won. The demolition begins Monday.

The demolition and remodeling are being done by none other than my favorite singer/songwriter Billy Hatley and a man we'll call Dave. In honor of Billy's work and to calm my anxiety I have begun to put graffiti all over my kitchen. They are snippets from Billy's songs and they are on the walls, under drawers, in cabinets.

Over the stove: "I can't complain, how bout you?"

Under the trash can: "Don't you worry bout the hoot owl hootin' in the tree. He's not hootin' at you. He's not hootin' at me."

Where the Tupperware lived: "You gotta' go to school, so get your ass out of bed!"

Where the paint has peeled: "Teenage beauty queen, leader of the whole scene, went and got your nose stuck in the wrong thing..."

None of them make any sense on their own. But together they remind me of songs, concerts, friends, dancing, and laughter. That is SOOO much better than agony, heartache and starvation. I've also let Billy know that I fully expect not only a new kitchen but a new song to come out of this. Knowing Billy, he'll claim to have written it on the sub-flooring after they lay the new one.

Vegas Recovery Almost Complete

Is it any wonder I'm still exhausted from the Vegas trip? So, the rest of the story in as brief a summary as possible...
The Fountain at the Bellagio, sad to admit it - it is that good. The juxtaposition of the sheer excess of the fountain and the choreography to "Tis a Gift to Be Simple" was more than odd, however.
Yes. I was reduced to taking pictures of bathrooms in famous casinos. It seemed wholesome compared to my surroundings.
In my final hours I was chased by Klingons and the Borg; saw Treasure Island, the Venetian, Casino Royale, and the Mirage; made appointments for future meetings with an embalming supply rep. and the president of a stationery company who assures me he can meet my picky demands on a funeral register book; packed, ate overpriced food, mistakenly ordered a 32 oz. beer (mama's not real good with numbers), did not drink it, and took the red eye back to the Commonwealth.
It was the strangest 72 hours of my life. Next year's convention is in Orlando, another destination I have no desire to see. Then again, I do have family there...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ten Seconds of Something New

My attempt to capture a fave Vegas moment. Sorry it is crooked.

Classes at Convention

My purpose for going to the NFDA convention was to take classes. I teach continuing education for funeral directors in Virginia. I pride myself on being up-to-date and informed in my course offerings. This convention is how I stay up-to-date.

I took several very good classes. I have yet to take a bad one at NFDA. My flight came in too late for me to attend the Thomas Lynch class, but I bought the recording. I'm greatly looking forward to istening to it. You can see Thomas Lynch on Frontline on October 30 at 9PM, PBS. He ROCKS!!!

I was glad to hear what Justin Zabor had to say about cremation. Justin is part of a family owned funeral home in Ohio. He speaks at conventions on the "F words of funeral service" among other things. Justin and his family are about innovation. He knew his audience would not be 100% behind him on this so he talked about innovation in terms of value.

Essentially he said that the modern funeral consumer has different values than they used to have. They would rather take a trip or throw a party than spend 20 grand on a funeral. The role of funeral service is to offer services that people value now, not the model that is 50 years old. Simple, right?

No, not really. That means embracing cremation and offering other services that more resemble event planning. That means losing the profit in traditional areas and becoming more technologically savvy. And it means making new allies with, for instance, progressive ministers with new ideas about services, ritual, and meaning making. (Justin didn't mention that one, but he doesn't know me yet. He will mention it next time.)
I thought Justin did a great job in saying what needs to be said. He was very gentle and positive in his "Change. Or your butts are history." message. Oh, and I forgot to mention. Justin is on my Men of Mortuaries calendar. And so is his brother. Here Justin is with some of his fellow models. Sorry to the nice man on the right for getting him with his eyes closed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Best Dressed Person at NFDA Convention

In a previous post on the convention called "Oddly Loving It" I described the sartorial class evident at this convention. I'm a bit old school on attire. I believe the Old Navy aesthetic kills the pulse of your soul. To put it mildly.

There are plenty of fashion nightmares in the funeral biz. But their ratio of snappy dressers to putzes is much better than in the general population. I also think business casual was the worst fashion idea in the modern world, and the funeral homes I work with have no part in business casual.

Now anyone who knows me knows that my fashion sense in how I dress myself is somewhere between Lucille Ball and Cyndi Lauper circa '85. I can spot a gorgeous suit a mile away, though. Do as I see, not as I do.

I saw many beautifully dressed men and women at the National Funeral Directors' Convention showing pride in their profession through their outward appearance. What is truly amazing is that they find gorgeous clothes that can be worn for 14 hours. The best clothes I see on male and female funeral directors are as functional as they are fashionable.

I didn't intend to pick a best dressed person. I was thinking I'd take half a dozen photos of nicely dressed people. Then the holy grail of tailoring walked by me. The most beautiful suit of the convention was worn by Anthony Papavero, Jr. of New Jersey's own Branchburg Funeral Home.

The photo cannot do this gorgeous piece of art justice. The colors called to mind chocolate and hibiscus. It felt softer than anything I ever wrapped my precious newborn babies in. And the cut looked like Versace himself was resurrected to tailor this suit! Gorgeous.

Our man Anthony had it beautifully accessorized, too. His tie probably cost the same as a meal at the Stratosphere, and the shirt... perfect. I know I'm going on a bit, but give me a break. I'm a Unitarian Universalist minister - unless someone dies, where the hell am I going to see a suit like this???

As for our man Anthony, as you can see he is friendly and nice. He is fourth generation funeral service. I met his daddy, and he was also just as sweet as can be. (But the fashion sense is the junior Papavero's forte; the papa is more subdued.) Anthony says that he is always stopped and asked about his clothes. He said that even at the New Jersey convention where they all have access to this kind of tailoring, he gets comments. The guy can dress, no doubt about it. If I should make my earthly departure suddenly, somebody call Anthony to pick out the suits for my entourage of funeral directors.

Anthony, thank you for setting the bar, and for not calling security when an amazon blogger descended upon you with her camera and notepad.

Fremont Street's Little Show

See previous post for "before" photos. These are during the show.

TV Conversion

I watch almost no TV. It's not completely by choice. My husband talked me into disconnecting the cable which took me away from my favorite shows. I just never got around to getting new favorite shows. I turn on the TV twice a month to see what happens. It's always a commercial and I shut it off again.

But then I was introduced to the TV on Fremont Street, Las Vegas. The TV in question is five football fields long. It serves as the roof for a pedestrian mall. There are speakers the size of my refrigerator all along the street. When not on, the TV serves as an arched roof to the mall. It is "ON" every hour on the hour for a "little show."
See next posts for the "little show."

Fine Dining at the Barf-o-sphere

Does Vegas make people crazy or does it just attract the crazies? I'm still not sure, but I am CRAZY for eating a meal at the Stratosphere. For those of you not in the know about Vegasian interest spots, I'll give you the short version.

107th floor
Helicopters flying below you
Fine dining (And Kudos to the chefs, it was a very good meal.)
Spinning floor (They called it a slowly rotating restaurant experience. I say otherwise.)

Why combine heights, expensive food, and movement? Why, why, why?

In my case, you gotta' add death care specialists, though. And they made the evening worth it. Great company. View was wowsie. Thank you VFDA for choosing the spot. But, no joke, I'm getting flashback nausea writing this. Perhaps the blur of the photo will help you to share in the experience.

Vegas Got Me, Baby

I did way too much, and fell behind on my blogging. So I will ask you a favor. I'll start posting the FANTASTIC stuff I did and saw, and you pretend that I'm still there.

Sorry for the delay. Vegas ain't a blogging kind of place. Baby.

(See? I almost got that Baby thing down!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Other Interesting Funeral Tidbits

It seems the stationery industry continues to be in a rut. The convention hall is packed with cards, programs, announcements, and acknowledgment cards that I can't imagine anyone I know ever using. It doesn't have to be this way, does it?

The good folks at Peka continue to have superior colors in their products, but still not exactly what I imagine the people in my congregations preferring. They were my favorites last year for their variety, vibrant look, and desire for suggestions for innovative looks to try.

This year I salute The Regal Line who are trying to break some tired patterns of the industry at large. They have "Thank you" cards that are decorated by Flavia and have wording completely appropriate to the sentiments of many of my congregants. (When I told the Regal Line representative Dallas that I was UU, he pointed me right to them. Smart man with a great name.)

I also like the Regal Line's multi-cultural offerings, although I recommend that they stop calling them "Ethnic Sets." Immediately.

What I found at the Regal Line that filled a need best, though, was envelopes for memorial contributions. These things are great. I know this is a big yawn for any of you who don't do this kind of work, but trust me on this. Currently, if someone wants to give a memorial contribution they have to send to the charity themselves. Sometimes they come to church with a donation at the service, and we don't have a great way to collect it.

These envelopes have a simple way to collect the donation and have the donor record what it's for, and who gave it. The envelope is sealed so the privacy of the donor's gift is maintained. And there's an adhesive backed label where the donor writes his/her address. That label can then be attached to the thank you card for sending. One less step for a grieving person. GREAT idea.

You may remember from last year my fondness for a good scrapbook. Notable Legacy has one that takes a lot of the work out of it. Many scrapbook enthusiasts like the work part. But most of us end up procrastinating and not getting around to recording the memories. Notable Legacy takes care of much of that for you. They are run by a cute-as-a-bug woman named Jean who can tell you about this better than I can. Follow the link. They are a little pricey, but when you look at the materials list and the binder itself, it is worth it for most of us to not have to go shopping for all the parts and accessories.

Jean also has a sideline selling lacy garters to hide one's ID and money in while travelling. She's a versatile gal. I mention the sideline mainly to explain the photo, though.

Beautiful Urns

Unfortunately, I don't find enough urns that pass the Unitarian Universalist aesthetics challenge. When at the National Funeral Directors' Convention I am always on the lookout for an artisan who does an urn I think my congregation would like.

Here's a delightful craftsman. His name is John Berger and he is out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. For those of you looking for affordable, handmade, natural, and not "urny" looking urns - this is your man. He has great prices. I mean GREAT. And the photo doesn't do justice to the work. They are maple urns in a variety of sizes with tung oil finishes that can be natural or dyed most any color in the rainbow.
This is John's first NFDA convention. If you would like to contact him, he's at

No Words are Sufficient

Oddly Loving It

You are going to hate Vegas.” he said.
That place is the pus hole of the world,” said another.
Somewhere between the two is where I find myself at this moment after approximately 12 hours in sin city.

Not much to report on the sin side of things. The energy and water waste is abominable. The waste of human potential and spirit at the omnipresent slots and tables is deplorable. The second hand smoke is gag-rageous. But I am not here for any of that, so my spirits are actually quite high.

As a reminder, I am here for the 126th National Funeral Directors’ Convention. It is the oddest thing I do all year. And I love it.

Odd- The opening session began with a gospel choir led by a Chaka Khan look-alike in the most extravagant wedding dress I’ve ever seen. She accessorized with a white feathered hat the size of a wedding cake and a voice that could carve the Grand Canyon. In a good way.

Love it – I’ve already seen a guy in a “Men of Mortuaries” t-shirt. M of M is a calendar that combines beefcake, lessons on the death care business, and funeral director pride. Also falls under odd, but I own a copy of this thing and am glad to see that it has taken off. I’ll pre-order you a copy. As for the guy in the shirt: very cute but I’m not sure he’s your type.

Odd –There’s a whole lot of praying going on with this crowd. Lots of “God bless” and praising going on. And I am saying this as a preacher. If I feel it’s a little much, it is more than a little. I’m also sniffing some ou want to roll out the holy, let’s have the convention in Iowa. In Vegas? Baby, I ain’t buying it.

Love it – The women are all shapes, sizes, shapes and colors. Meanwhile, there is an unbelievable percentage of the men who you’d peg as a funeral director no matter what they did. And then there are my perennial favorites – the Mack-Funeral-Daddies-and-Mamas These folks are styling. Now it is a conservative chic, but it is still chic. And the best part is, I know that the shiny wingtips, silk ties, pocket squares and Gucci glasses are their version of business casual.

On the floor at NFDA

Yes, I am really here. I don't know which is more shocking: the fact that I am in Las Vegas or the fact that I am at my SECOND National Funeral Directors' Association Convention and having a grand ole' time.

I am standing outside the exhibit hall this very moment so I have to make this brief - but a few highlights...

A giant convention center full of coffins, hearses, and embalming chemicals doesn't seem one bit weird in Las Vegas. (The convention next door is for car washes. Now that's weird.)

I had a great green burial discussion. Will be letting you know more about the future of that worthy and essential movement.

No, I have not gambled unless you count ordering a salad for lunch in a convention center. It was pretty scary, but it worked out in the end.

Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Cher are all here. I think they all work for casket companies and hearse companies now.

That's it for now. Got some cool photos and products to tell you about shortly. Hope this made your day seem just a wee bit more normal.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Natural World

My buddy Guy Wonders over at Cul de Sac Blues was talking about the fauna in his neighborhood. He isn't exactly in an urban wonderland from what I can tell. But he isn't in the backwoods either. Where the wild and civilization meet is often a strife-ridden and violent place. Or a little bit of paradise depending on your perspective.

I've had some nature shock at the new church. At First Church we use the sound of traffic like white noise for meditation. At UUCC there is quiet, and breezes. At First the moon looks really cool when paired with the bell tower and the street lamps. At UUCC the moon is a powerful and palpable, but a lonely luminary presence. At First Church people walk by on the sidewalk with their dogs. At UUCC there's nature. NATURE.

I'm not real nature-fied. I'll fight all day long for wetlands, national parks, and natural habitat preservation. But that fight occurs in my urban home or office. I love to walk. On sidewalks. I love to watch the sky. From my front porch.

UUCC has given me some nature shock. Around UUCC things rustle in the grass. There is much hopping and flying away when my steps approach. Until I learned the way of the grass, I walked through a strong sticky spider web EVERY time I approached the building. And at my first fellowship event, butterflies were flitting about the picnic tables. Emerson would be in heaven. Thoreau would approve. It makes my nose itch.

But I am getting used to it. When I arrive, I close my eyes, relax, and sigh peacefully. When I leave, I look around and smile. Autumn is going to be great over there. But, isn't autumn great everywhere? Outside of First there is a gingko that turns yellow seemingly overnight. I take its picture every year. I will NOT be taking pictures of the hopping mysteries of UUCC, but there will be much sniffing of the air in reverence.

As long as I can still see my car, it is wonderful.

You're Gonna' Hate Thursdays

My best friend has a dreadful and inappropriate joke about hell, the pun of which is, "You're gonna' hate Thursdays." This is his stock phrase whenever he knows something is going to be unpleasant. It essentially means, "When things look like they won't be too bad, they get worse."

He went to the dentist last week and discovered he's going to have his gums deep root-scaled. As he shared his impending misery he quipped, "You're gonna' hate Thursdays." When I took on two churches and realized that I'd suddenly be working over full-time when I hadn't planned to go full-time for another 2 years, he said the Thursday remark. And, as is the case, when you hang out with someone long enough, his line is becoming my line.

I am thinking about this line now because I will be going to Las Vegas soon for the National Funeral Director's Convention. I can't wait for the convention. No, really. Check my blogs from last year's convention. I love this convention, but Vegas?

I'm not really a Vegas kind of gal. I don't gamble. I don't wear make-up most of the time. I don't like conspicuous consumption. And the water and electricity waste alone might put me into a funk for years. (I'm still not over a trip to Phoenix at the turn of the milennium.)

I met a man who travels for business at a birthday party a month ago. He talked to me for ten minutes and when I told him I would be going to Vegas he said, "Oh, you're gonna hate Vegas." Uh Oh. Hate it as much as Thursdays?

Why? "You're a Unitarian Universalist minister. You are going to hate Vegas!" Dang.

Well, I leave on Sunday the 7th. I will be posting while there. So you'll be finding out shortly whether I'm in funeral heaven or whether it is Thursday all week. Let's hope that it is better than projected. I mean: me and 1600 funeral directors for three days. How bad could this possibly be?

Besides. I 'll be back home by Thursday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jefferson Bible

In a week and a half I will be giving a sermon on The Jefferson Bible at First Church. I read in the preface that the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church credits the book with his calling to go into the ministry. When I opened "my" copy I noticed something equally auspicious.

It turns out that my copy isn't mine at all. It belongs to my husband from the days when he wasn't my husband. (The Glory Days, I joke. The Dark Ages, I mean.) It is thoughtfully inscribed by my mother on the occasion of his being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

Little did she know that 7 months later he and I would be married 11 days before he rushed off to the first Iraq War. 3 years later he was out of the military and there was much rejoicing. 4 years later I would begin my journey to ministry. 6 years later my husband, like Jefferson before him, became a lawyer. 10 years later (almost to the day) I was ordained. 12 years later our first child was born and we named him Jefferson. 17 years later I finally give a sermon on the book.

My mother will happily take the credit for all of this. Or she'll give Thomas Jefferson the credit. Either way she is happy. I, on the other hand, feel like she should be giving this sermon. See you on the 7th of October and one of us will deliver a sermon. Who knows what wheels this could put in motion.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Trying to break out and giving up

Now that I am working two jobs, I am sleeping great. By the time my head hits the pillow I've been a wandering zombie for at least two hours. It turns out that reclining sleep is always better than sleeping while walking, talking, and working.

I am unaccustomed to good sleep, however, so my nightly habit of cracking open a book continues in spite of the fact that I can barely get to 10 on my sheep count. And what does a weary double minister read to escape from the day?

I was asked this at our Church Book Sale this past weekend. I was standing surrounded by very good fiction and people who love it, but I had to admit that my bedtime reading has been Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. Sometimes I am too ministerial for my own good. What kind of duckbrain clergy works too many hours and then fades to black at night wiith a holocaust/pschology memoir? Okay, well, most of us, but that's what I mean. So predictable.

I believe that accountants should go to sleep reading art books and poetry. Artists should be working their way through Carl Sagan and some string theory. Rock musicians should be slogging along through Sartre... again, undertakers need to brush up on their Carl Hiasen and absurdist Irish plays, and ministers... well, obviously I think something other than Frankl is called for.

I wanted to break the mold so I picked up The Confessions of Max Tivoli and gobbled it down in about a day. Why do I do these things? It felt like wolfing down a whole bag of Peanut M&Ms. I'd already read this book. It had a different cover, a different author and was called The Time Traveler's Wife, but it was the same book. Great premise, but the actual novel, ummm, it will be a very good movie.

I'm back to Frankl, now. Predictable? Yes. Geeky minister? Absolutely. But I had my walk on the wild side. It's not for me on a daily basis. I can't handle the pressure of popular fiction. When I finish Frankl, I'm headed straight for Bertrand Russell and no one can stop me. Except maybe Paul Ricoeur.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Can't Say I Didn't Warn You

Since the inception of Auspicious Jots I have been honest with you. You know it is true. It's right there on the header: may revert to her low-tech ways without warning.

What? Did you think I was kidding?

My lack of postings has not been due to my innate luddite inclinations, however. It is for a more reasonable cause.

I am now a minister in TWO churches. "How did that happen?!", you may be asking yourself. You are not alone in that questioning. The members of both congregations, my family, and I are all asking that same question.
The short version: the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Glen Allen resigned at a time when it would be difficult and perhaps impossible to get an interim. I was asked if I could help until they get an interim. (I was asked realllllllllllly nicely.) My regular place of employment (First UU Richmond) felt that this was a good idea and encouraged me to help out. And one month and no blogging later, I am the minister of two churches.

This will not be an easy year as I try to give faithful service to both.
This will be a great year because I get to meet 150 more Unitarian Universalists.

This will be a challenging year as I try to help UUCC through their transition quickly.
This will be a wonderful year because the congregation at First Church is reaching out to support their sister congregation in their time of need. (And because I have a great colleague in ministry at First who reminds me what day it is, helps in any way she can, and points me in a westerly direction when I need to head to UUCC.)

This will be a rough year because I am always getting lost in the West End where UUCC is located.
This will be the best year ever because First Church is near Can Can, Smoothie King, and Plan 9. AND UUCC is near Bottoms Up Pizza, a sushi spot, and Tropical Smoothie.

Two smoothie joints? Aw yeahhhhhhhh!!!!!

So, that's what I'm up to. It would make for some great blogging if I had the time. I'll do my best, but with two smoothie joints I'll be very busy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Social Consumerism

My buddy Guy Wonders strikes again over at Cul de Sac Blues. One of his cronies termed group shopping trips as "social consumerism". Not sure if he coined the term or not, but it is a handy term indeed.

Like most other people of the heavy left leaning persuasion, I've had consumerism on the brain in recent years. My right leaning buddies don't seem to talk about this as much, but they do seem to warm to the subject when I bring it up in conjunction with, "Where the heck is all my money going? And how did all this crap end up in my basement?"

I resonate with those photo spreads in Yes! magazine showing the sea of abandoned cell phones and the island of forgotten Ford Fiestas. I'm forever frustrated by ridiculous packaging, the wasteful "simplicity" of so many items in grocery stores, and the inability of Richmond, VA to take up recycling 5/6 of the plastic containers I end up with. I don't find shopping relaxing. It creeps me out.

But then there's "social consumerism" which is the co-mingling of interaction with others and buying. This combination is very alluring to me. I LOVE charity auctions. We have one in our congregation, as does our sister congregation and I get all excited about those. In Cul de Sac Blues, Mrs. Wonders and other neighbors go on a second-hand-store odyssey. And here at our church quilting group, we love to go on a fabric and notion binge together. These are wonderful, memorable community occasions, but there's the eternal consumerism problem - I always end up with too much stuff.

I don't have answers to this. It is something I struggle with as I try to lead a sustainable lifestyle and be a good role model for my kids. Then my son and I go to the quilting store and buy twice as much as planned because he wants to make a quilt with frogs and race cars.

My daughter seems to have a plan, however. This morning in our ongoing struggle to get her potty trained she made the defining statement. She peed on the bag of quilting stuff.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What are weddings?

Those in my profession spend a lot of time waxing about the meaning of marriage, the purpose of a wedding, the religious and spiritual significance, and blabbady blabbady on we go. I include myself in the blabbady crew.

One of my brides just sent me this photo which takes all the blabbady out. The photographer snuck this while I was greeting guests after the ceremony. For all we say about weddings, marriage, and the timelessness of love - yes, it is all true. But on a hot summer day - this is what this minister is feeling.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What I did Without a Summer Vacation

Still laughing about Lilly the dog (see yesterday's post) and I'm glad some of you are, too.

This summer, in addition to much travel and way too many conferences, I have had the joy of some summer reading. I always appreciate when others give me a thumbnail of the books they've read. Maybe you do, too? Maybe you agree, maybe not, but here's my take on some of the more recent books I've read.

Good to Great, Jim Collins - Non-fiction, business leadership. Believe the hype. Very thoughtful book, incredibly well-researched and mostly well-written. How his team comes to their conclusions is as interesting as the companies they profile.

Fish!, Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen - Non-fiction, business leadership. Skip it. Nice idea, but I'd rather read interviews with the Seattle fish guys. This felt like an infomercial.

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard - Non-fiction, business. Better than I thought it would be. Borrow a copy just so you can be in on the jokes.

March by Geraldine Brooks- Fiction, civil war. I think I may be done with the "fill in the blanks on a minor character" books. (See The Red Tent, Ahab's Wife, etc.) But I loved Little Women as a child so this was a must. Brooks is a writer with a gentle and subtle touch.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk- Fiction, pseudo-mystery. Chuck Palahniuk is a real cool guy in a creepy, cross to the other side of the street sort of way. Reading his uneven stuff is still better than other ways I could spend my time. My favorites on this one were the leitmotifs of what they don't teach you in art school and the weather reports. It's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, but using your eyes instead of your nose. And it's way funnier.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk - Fiction, oral history form. I was sick and in bed anyway so I went for a Palahniuk two-fer. I really think that this is his best work since Fight Club and Choke. Different feel for him because of the oral history format. Some weasel book reviewer ruined one of the best surprises for me, though. When I find you, evil reviewer, I will give you my ear infection.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk - Fiction, Nobel prize winner for literature. This is a re-read for me. I'm a big Kafka fan and had heard there were similarities. There are. One of which is that if you put the book down for more than a day, even if you are on page 347, you gotta' go back and start again from page 1. I make myself read a Nobel Prize winner a year to keep my literature degree feeling meaningful. This is certainly doing the trick.

I've read a couple of others, but they didn't make lasting enough impressions. I spent 20 bucks on one of those Harvard Business Review books only to find that it's written on a fourth grader's reading level. Grumble, grumble. And I've been reading things for sermons and Vespers but I don't usually count those because I read differently when I need things for work. Perhaps in a later blog I'll do a thumbnail of the half dozen religious book I've read this summer.

But I would like to share one more.

Possession by Susan Williams - Poetry. Susan is a member of my congregation and a delightful poet. I was looking forward to this coming out, but little did I know. I laid down to browse it on a hotel bed in Virginia Beach. 1 hour later I had devoured every poem like they were my beloved peanut M&M's. But Susan's poems are better because they never run out. I got to the end and just started reading some again. Congratulations, Susan! There was one of these on Amazon when I checked. Go for it or order from Finishing Line Press directly.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Laughter reigns again

I've been travelling all summer and have just returned in the past week. Sorry for the blog silence, but I couldn't get internet most of the time.

So now I'm back from outer space, as Gloria Gaynor says, and everything is a wreck. The server at work is angry angry.

A seal blew out as the guy was power washing the window directly above my desk. That was wet.

I have what the doctor called "air trauma" in one ear. I call it deafness.

And then there's just the usual summer stuff.

All of this is to say that maybe blogging is not what I should be doing with my half-deaf, soggy, internet-deprived self. But at least it's all in perspective.

In the past 3 days I've been to a funeral and a visitation for two different men I've known. One lived a long good life and I'll still miss him. The other died suddenly and tragically. All who knew him will be troubled by his death for a long time to come. That kind of experience makes the little things more obviously little things.

To show that I'm not all gloom and doom, I give you Lilly. Lilly is a Weimaraner who belongs to one of my mom's friends. She has some ailment, obviously. She's undergoing acupuncture therapy. And, sorry Lilly, but I can't stop laughing at you, girl.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Time Changes Everything. Yay.

I have been so swamped with summer activities that I have had no time to blog and unlimited, wonderful, mind-blowing experiences to blog about. Somehow it doesn't seem fair to the world that the best experiences in life are to be savored, treasured, and forever out of reach of the snare of language. Meanwhile, words abound with sniping, grumbling, and fussing. Here is my one feeble attempt to balance that unkind tilt just a little.
Profound but untranslateable event #1 - The Silvermans' yard sale
My family has known the Silverman family for 30 years since they moved to Richmond. Last month they left Virginia and went back to their homeland, New York City. They had a big yard sale. My son came dressed as a magician. We bought too much. I cried because I love them and will miss them. (My first time crying at a yard sale.) They passed around a picture of us from their first Virginia days. I'm the very '70s looking girl in the middle.
I was deeply moved by the whole experience. In one small sense we lost friends we love. In another sense they are amazing risk-takers. The following photos are views from their Virginia home and from their NYC home. How does a person move from one to the other at any age over 25? How did 30 years go by so quickly? And how is it that you can go months not seeing someone but just get comfort knowing they are a short drive away?

Profound and lovely event #2 - Spending time with my cousins as adults

I mentioned that I saw my cousins while in Portland. It has been at least 15 years since I had seen them, and longer since I really had time to be with them and talk. It was so great to realize that I could meet these women and their families on the street and that I would like them as strangers as much as I do as family. It was also really helpful to talk to my women family about the joys and agonies of raising our own families.

Amazing event avoiding all attempts at re-telling #3 - My high school reunion

I should not even try to capture this one in words. Last weekend was my high school reunion. Of those who attended, I had only seen two of them in 20 years. It was like meeting a whole room of adults who've been secretly picked to be compatible with you. They are all different. I found all of them to have aged beautifully both inside and out. I can't wait to keep in touch with them. And those of us who attended the Sunday service had an exchange afterwards that went deeper than I've ever gone with a group of adults before. Words cannot capture it, but I see the arc of life very differently now, and I'm a whole lot happier with aging and maturity.

One of my best friends who could not be there thinks I've gone off my rocker and that we all drank some kind of kool-aid. It was iced tea, Amber, and our classmate Ari made it so if there was doctoring, he was the master physician. Two caveats: I was not completely looking forward to the reunion beforehand feeling I'd gotten too... I don't even know what... in twenty years, so this was a wonderful surprise. AND: I graduated in a class of 56 so there were no strangers.

Immeasurable and Immutable #4 - Watching my cildren play together

After two years, it is finally happening. My kids are hanging out together and enjoying each other's company more than they enjoy mine sometimes. They chase each other. They roll like puppies. They laugh at jokes I don't get. They are building their own private relationship that is unattached to me or my husband. It is frightening, but also natural and beautiful.

Are you seeing a theme here? Maybe it's the death and danger of the past few months. Maybe it's the big milestones. Or maybe I'm just starting to see the breadth of the mysteries of time and love. Whatever it is, bring it on. But don't expect me to be able to blog about it regularly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

That's right. Death.

Whoa. Everyone at the blogging dinner was talking about their blog rating according to mingle2. Mine is rated PG which is fine by me, but according to them I have only one reference to death. Ha! That'll be the day.

Went to the site and while I was there used the cadaver calculator. I'm only worth $4225 as a medical specimen. Bummer. Then again I guess it is nice to be confirmed in the knowledge that one has more value alive than dead.

Yeah, that's right mingle2. I said it. Dead.

Which reminds me, while at the funeral convention, I picked up some state anatomical board information for donating one's body to science. This will be available at the church next week along with more of the final wishes forms I handed out at services two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the groovy hearse pictured in my previous post will not be at the church on Sunday.


Sorry for the LONG silence. I had a funeral convention followed by a church convention. Aren't I just the party girl? (In other words: could I outgeek myself any more?)
Funeral Convention was a blur. I didn't get to stay as long as I have in the past and I missed seeing some of my favorite funeral directors. But it was at the beach, which is always a good thing. Beautiful weather, hearse displays, over-worked bartenders... would have been the perfect vacation had I not been working.
Then again, this is me "working"after dinner out one night, so I guess I actually had a blast and would prefer not to admit just how much I look forward to this convention EVERY year.

The next day I headed off with Little Man to Portland, Oregon for the national convention of Unitarian Universalists. Bad news: the exhibit hall displays were better at the funeral convention, AND I had neither the time nor money for a tattoo. Good news: lots of good workshops, good speakers, great food AND I had neither the time nor money for a tattoo.

I went to the UU bloggers dinner complete with cheese on fire and a belly dancer. That was a great time. Got to finally give Ms. Kitty a hug in person. Chalice Chick was a sweetie pie. Rev. Ricky was a delightful meal mate. Philocrites was friendly and helpful. And Never Say Never is beautiful and funny, as well as a great writer. The UU Update king put up with the antics of Little Man (my "4 and 7/8ths" year old) as he was putting the moves on Update's lovely wife. And those were just the folks sitting right beside me.
Great night! When in Portland, go to Alexis. Friendly staff who look like models and yell fiendishly every time they set food on fire.

And then there's the belly dancing.

Other highlights of the trip included visits with various Portlanders including college buddy Chris, his wife-thanks-to-me Megan, and their beautiful tiny baby Mira. Multiple visits with my dad's other brother Uncle Dick, and his family. This included two laughter-filled nights with my wonderful cousins Cathy and Shari and their families. (No belly dancing or fire cheese, but some chicken stories that are too amazing to write. You'd never believe me. And a snake.)

And then there were over 30 hours of workshops, worship, meetings and such at the convention. Little Man accompanied me for all of it and was a total trooper. I can never thank the Young Adults enough for all the many times they made him feel welcomed and treasured. The most amazing was at Soulful Sundown where he was a featured worship artist (along with the delightful Kimberly - shown here), but there were many other times. It meant the world to both of us.

Before we flew out we had Dim Sum at the House of Louie in Chinatown and got soaked at the incredible disappearing fountain of the Pearl District. Great city, Portland is. We loved the weather, the public transportation, and the food. We were a bit thrown by the 10PM sunset and 5 AM sunrise, however.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Blog Sublime

It took awhile, but I caught the blogging bug. I now greatly anticipate the postings of certain bloggers. I look forward to hearing what they are up to, how they are doing. They become friends of sorts as I hoot and holler in support along the margins of their blog life.

And every now and again, one strikes some gold and writes something just beautiful. So is the case with my Canadian agent Guy Wonders who blogs neighborhood life in Cul de Sac Blues. Now, I've been a fan of "the Sack" for over a year. Mr. Wonders makes me laugh myself silly with his aptitude for capturing conversational nuances. I know that this kind of blog isn't for everyone, but he struck gold this week so I have to share.

Head on up to the Sack. I know all the characters, but you don't have to for this entry. A jogger has begun running through their cul de sac and everyone notices. Guy Wonders could be a woman named Sherri who lives in a high rise in Nairobi, but this posting is so true, so sublime, and, as is the Wonders way, so damn funny, it transcends space, gender and time.

Thank you, Guy Wonders, for this wonderful window into your life. Print this one out. Put a copy with your will. Have it read at your funeral services. And for the rest of you, if the Sack reminds you of any other blogs, send me a link please.

Speaking of the Beloved Family...

The superhero Uncle Dan rolled through town this week with Super-aunt Sharon. They are doing a whirlwind summer tour visiting family in Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Georgia. I didn't talk him into fixing the front door, the doorbell, the broken light fixtures, or doing yard work. I did get him to play in the front yard for over an hour, however.

We played one of those childhood games in which the rules, equipment, and teams change with every round. It was like horseshoes, but with a scoring system trickier than Bridge, and equipment from the toy chest. The kindergartner was amused by it all, mostly because we made him in charge of rules and scoring. The rising seventh grader was willing to stoop to our level and was a good sport.

But the ones who had the most fun? The ones laughing until we almost cried? The ones doing the most G-rated but still adamant trash talk? You guessed it. The two retired guys and the mouthy minister.

That's what makes superhero Uncle Dan super. He's seen too much life to take any of it very seriously. He's absolutely devoted to his family. He brings out the kid in us all. For me and my Daddy, that's our best side. We have a tendency to get a little too serious and bookish and Uncle Dan smacks us right out of that. (Aunt Sharon was using her superpowers on the toddler, thus allowing me to play lawn toss for over an hour. Wonderful woman.)

I realize that I'm pretty sentimental these days. It's been a hard year with too much loss, illness, and close calls. But the flip side is that I'm really appreciating the time my family and friends have together. Savoring it more than I have in years. The weddings, the front porch dinners, the super yard toss tournament, the thunderstorms... it's all feeling like the sweet nectar of life right now. For that I am incredibly grateful.

Got a sermon on this topic tomorrow at 10 if you want to come. This is probably the better version, though. Lord knows it is SHORTER. And there are pictures!

Oh, one more thing. For the record, my Daddy cheats. Rematch!!!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Adventures in Reading for the Wedding

The Auspicious Jots clan journeyed to PA for my brother's wedding last week. The drive was horrible. The rehearsal dinner was great. My bro looked like a stud muffin and his bride was beautiful and gracious. (Trust me on that one, none of my pics turned out of her.) The groomsmen wore matching brown Converse. The band at the reception played that oldie and goodie whose chorus is something like "Then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you" and the singer sang it to me. (Yeah, I'm a sucker for that move. If you're not, your heart has turned to cold slick granite. Or so I told my husband when he returned to the table after the song and asked me why I was grinning like a fool.) All around blast.

Lots of pictures were taken. The cousins pulled a few pranks, mostly goaded by yours truly. Nothing like a minister to up the practical joke ante at a wedding. Luckily my cousins range in age from 16 to 26 and they were down with the program. Below is the masterpiece that awaited me after a trip to the ladies' room. They tell me it was a group effort.
My sister is always up for some fun so she kept the rug cut out on the dance floor, had a hawk's eye on our rambunctious children, and looked like a goddess in a bridesmaid dress. Honest to holy, I do believe she could wear that dress again. No, really. The sunglasses, however...

Weddings are times for nostalgia. Many of us talked of Grandma Frances who died a few years ago in her nineties. We sorely missed my brother who could not make it, but whose son stood for him in the groom's line. We marveled at the fact that Grace can legally drink a gin and tonic. ("For Pete's sake, I'm 26!") And some of us quietly said prayers of thanksgiving and hope for the family member undergoing radiation treatments who was loudly shaming the rest of us to join her on the dance floor. We could barely keep up with her.

One of my favorite moments of the weekend, I uncharaceristically managed to capture with my camera. There was a thunderstorm after the rehearsal dinner. My son and I were still awake and he watched the spectacle out the hotel window.

This picture speaks volumes about my life, and about my family. His little askew jammies with astronauts. His sister's little pink sandals and his father's big shiny shoes together. His attempts to be the big man, but still being amazed by all kinds of little things I take for granted. My attempts at capturing some of the dozens of charming, funny, sweet things that my family does every single day. It's all there. Luckily, wedding nostalgia had a hold of me and I got a picture of it.

Mazel Tov to the bride and groom. Last I checked they were in Istanbul being mistaken for American soap opera stars. Long live the beloved family. Somebody find that lead singer. I want to hear Cole Porter's "So in Love!"

Shameless plugs and Unintentionally shameless plugs

Found a great post at The Cleaner Plate Club. Attention single women who are pro-organic farming, looking for a male mate, and ready to work your tails off. This guy is uber impressive. (If only I could find an umlaut on this keyboard...) Bravo to Cleaner Plate Club for giving him a shameless plug. I include his photo as an encouragement to head over to her site(for the farming info, of course) and also because he bears an eerie resemblance to one of my best buddy funeral directors who is about the same age, but hanging out in rural Virginia.

Speaking of shameless plugs... it would appear that I am not an unbiased, common gal on the street reporter. Went back to Kitchen 64 for a quick lunch with the kidlets today. Turns out that I know most of the honchos and honchettes around that joint. Distantly, but I still know them.
Oops. Please believe me when I say, I really didn't know that when I posted before.

But now that I know, please let me also say that these are REALLY nice people. I mean REALLY. Hard working, kindhearted, haven't been home in 3 weeks because they're slaving over the labor of love that is Kitchen 64 kind of people. And thanks to an anonymous comment on my last post I checked out the entrees. Wow. So what do ya' say, Northside? Let's keep this one going after all the tourists stop filling it.
Shameless plug transmission ended.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Peace and Remembrance

Here's something to make you wake up and smell the grumpee. Do I need to reiterate my Emerson quote from Sunday? Somebody isn't paying attention.

See D. Haffner's post on the emcee heckling she and other peace supporters received on Memorial Day.

Crib notes on peace for those with limited attention spans...
When soldiers don't die at war they can be with their families and hopefully die of natural causes at a much later date. This will make for less parades, yes. But, oddly... it seems to make the soldiers and their families happier.

It is an amazing thing, but you really can respect and honor the sacrifice of veterans while praying for peace.

History class in the UK - rated I for inane

The Good Atheist strikes again, thus earning himself a spot on my links and a hyperlink for you. This time he is taking on history curricula in the UK and good for him.

From the Daily Mail...

Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid
offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed. It found some
teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students
whose beliefs include Holocaust denial. There is also resistance to
tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for
control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local

The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using
history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.

The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history
are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in
which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."

But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory
government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness.
Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether
palatable or unpalatable."

English and history classes in my day were sometimes rough. Emotions ran high. Teachers and students disagreed. Students and students disagreed. And I remember a couple of days when I seemed to disagree with everyone. We were different races, classes, genders and religions, but we all survived those discussions. I also recall getting into a good university and not being shell-shocked by in-depth class discussions because I'd already experienced them in high school.

As I stand on the precipice before my 20th (public) high school reunion, I (like every other reunion attendee in this world) am not thrilled by all of my memories or the thought of re-living them. But I am grateful for the times my mind was stretched. I am glad I shared years with people who tested me, annoyed me, openly called bull on me, and were honest in their mostly civil disagreements.

As adults we find ways to limit the human thorns in our sides. As high school students, we don't have that power and, yet, for many it is the most educationally significant time of their lives. I believe there's a connection. You can't take the edge and the ire out of adolescence by hinkying with history. Or biology. Or sex ed. The holocaust, species diversity, and sexuality are all hard to talk about in depth. Whether you agree with your conversation partners or not. Therein lies the education. We learn, grow, and sometimes change.

Speaking of which, my son and played on my public elementary school playground the other night.

"Is this where you went to school, mama?"

"Yes, indeed! The place where I learned to read. The place where I learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. The place where I learned how to boogie. I still have some of the moves. Wanna' see them?"


Come on now. You didn't think I got these moves from church did you?