Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Answered Them All

"Mama, do fish get seasick?"

"Mama, I know my Spanish teacher says 'rosabado' for pink. You must have forgotten that word."

"Mama, how does the holodeck work?"

"How much more of this do I have to eat, Mama?"

"Mama, is this going to hurt?"

"When will I be rich, Mama?"

"Mama, where do Dolly Parton and Jollene live?"

"Mama, is this breakfast or lunch?" (This one is karma at work: this was my favorite question to ask as a child.)

"Mama, how many ghosts can get into our house?"

"Mama, where did the first person come from?" When that was answered in light of science, "So what will we become next?"

"Mama, can I marry Wesley Crusher and live on the Starship Enterprise with him?"

"Mama, does Santa bring Christmas to someone in jail if they've been good all THAT year?"

"Mama, why did the dog scratch me?"

"Mama, when our dogs die can we get two dogs and name them both Honey?"

"Who wants to pick me up and swing me around the kitchen... Mama?"

"Mama, how tall will I be when I grow up?"

"Mama, what's a geezer?" And when that one was answered, "Well then... what's a keister, Mama?"

"Mama, can I warm my heine in front of the fire?" And when answered in the affirmative... the child dropped the PJs and sat bare rumped on the warm hearth.

"Mama, why did Janie Belle and Spock's daddy both have a brain sickness? Did they know each other?"

"Mama, how did you and Dada get those wrinkles?"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Post-Christmas Malaise

Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts comics fame was known to suffer from a post-holiday disorder that involved depressed mood, aches and pains, and lethargy. I have many things in common with many Peanuts characters, but this time I am all Lucy.

The remedy for this post-holiday ailment was mentioned in one of the strips I read the kids tonight, but that book is downstairs and I am just not up for long distance travel.

In spite of opinions expressed on our local editorial page, Unitarian Universalism is not a lazy religion. The holidays are a perfect example of why this is a religion for over-achievers.

We believe that all in our family are welcome to discuss matters of faith and belief, observing and celebrating accordingly. My son is a pantheist at 7, but also believes that Jesus is the son of God. So that gave us Christmas and Solstice observances complete with readings, theological discussions, and Native American history lessons per his prompting.

My daughter and I embrace Jewish theology and culture which accounted for eight crazy nights of story telling, candle lighting, and her ability to bless the candles in Hebrew this year at 4.

My husband is a loving son who supports his parents in their celebration of Boxing Day in spite of its unknown spiritual meaning for the family. We did enjoy a family google search, though, which determined it is unlikely that we celebrate it for any of the reasons cited by Wikipedia. As his mom would probably say, "It's a good day for a party." And so it was.

And we all love us some Santa. Are you keeping count of observances here? I lost count around December 21.

All I know is that this holiday season I prepared 150 sausage balls, 1.5 gallons of clam chowder, 4 liters of holiday punch, 5 lbs of shrimp, yams that fed three parties worth of guests, 30 dim sum yummies, Muffaletta for 20, Jezebel for 30, a Mississippi Mud cake, a pear bundt, a gingerbread chalet... and I am still cussing because I forgot the latkes. No wonder I have developed a disorder. I am relishing the possibility of an agnostic phase for any or all of us by next year.

Happy damn New Year and leave me alone while I take a nap. I've got to get myself together by Passover when I hope to have the energy to take the tree down.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brilliant Holiday Ideas by Children: Ages 7 and 4

4 year old:

"I asked Santa for a skateboard. He said he thinks we can work that out."

On the eighth night of Hanukkah: "Can we do Hanukkah again?"

"I think Santa becomes a baby so he can get down the chimney."

What are the names of the reindeer? "Prancer now Dancer... Vixen... I know Cupid and Honor... and I forgot the other ones."

7 year old:

"Why is it the Mama gets to light the candles? I don't like that part of Hanukkah. I want to light them." (This may be amended when he is no longer so frightening in behavior around fire.)

"Let's have a cocktail party for our friends for the holidays. We can have food and drinks and give them presents we made. I'll be the host." (This somehow passed the committee and we are cleaning house today in preparation.)

"There is the real Santa and there are other Santas. But you gotta' be nice to them all because they've got connections and you never know..."

"I'm going to pull out my loose teeth on Christmas Eve so Santa and the Tooth Fairy can hang out."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friendship over Recession

I prefer to buy things from people I know. It is a preference that has bitten me on the hindparts on an occasion or two, but I stick with it.

I found many a source for business cards online and at the chain stores around town. There were all kinds of bargains, deals, and the "hottest" looks. But on paper - cheap shows and I'm no longer 25. I don't need a business card to affirm my hotness. And neither does my husband.

So I went with friends. These are friends I have done business with before. They are not convenient because they are three states away. They are not the cheapest. And they did not offer hot, so I am not sure if they carry it.

But today the most gorgeous cards showed up on my front porch. They are the "Cheap and quick" version to tide us over until the raised ink ones can be printed. (Their idea.) My husband swooned. He normally saves swooning for canoes, chocolate and a firm mattress.

This is why I like buying from people I know.

The gorgeous cards would have been enough. The mouse pad/calendars and the ginger bread house for the kids to build that we found underneath the recyclable packing peanuts... that just makes me fall in love all over again. If you follow this link, you'll meet my friends but you will not see their business cards. Gotta' call them for that. They do a nice wedding invitation, too, I hear.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Details from last post

Turns out that half of my blog fans don't know who Jason Statham is.

Mom, click his name and it will take you to a YouTube montage.

The other half of my fans (my Dad) just did not care.

Short Attention Span or Dementia Onset? Disappointment Either Way

I am swamped. How can this be? I am unemployed. My children are in school all day. I am not sleeping too much, am not addicted to anything, don't watch TV for more than an hour or two a week. I can only conclude that I am being abducted by aliens for three to eleven hours a day.

Wait, this is the internet: The author does not believe she is being abducted by aliens. She is fully aware that her family, neighbors, friends and an evil demon named Facebook are filling her hours with amusements and requests for her attention. She likes alien abduction as an image only. And if she could please have an alien who looked like Jason Statham, that would be just grand, thanks.

I never have time to blog so the only way I am going to make my remaining two blog fans happy is by writing in small bursts. Nothing so radical and asinine as a twitter feed, mind you, but brief nonetheless.

My conclusion of the day is that adulthood is all about realizing that you are a sad disappointment to yourself. You have three choices in how to respond to the disappointments.

1. If you can move past your daily failures in your own eyes, you get to have a fulfilling mature life.

2. If you are unable to get past your own disappointments you develop a voice like Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, or Ben Stein.

3. If you don't disappoint yourself you are a self-important blowhard who rides around in a bus with your own name on it. So wrong.

With this in mind I am going to take in stride the fact that I have never been to Egypt to visit one of my dearest friends whom I adore and fret over often. I will not obsess over the fact that I almost never go out dancing even though at 20 I swore to myself that I would not be one of those sad sacks who goes out dancing less than three times in a month. And I will calmly realize that there is a block mother on our block and she is not me.

Adult decisions done. Now I am going to have some cookies before dinner and dancing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Funeral Directors Congregate - Boston Runs Low on Whiskey

My apologies to the fine people of Boston, Massachusetts. I have spent my fifth work related trip there but have failed to see the sights or have a decent meal yet again. Somebody could make a fortune directing business travelers to a real restaurant, but that is a rant for another day.

Let's talk death, my friends! I went to another Funeral Convention. This was my fourth national convention and my worst fears have come true. A person CAN get used to walking into a convention center to the sight of acres of caskets, hearses, and urns. For the first time I did not get that jolting urge to run or laugh too loudly out of nervousness upon entering the convention center. Bummer.

As I do every year, I have some great offerings for you of the latest products and innovations in the death care industry. What I choose to blog on each year is the absolute best the convention has to offer. Or the weirdest things you could possibly think of, depending upon your point of view.

First up - for those of you looking to go green but wanting something cozier than bamboo. How about a casket or urn made entirely of wool?

Yes, let that sink in there for a minute. The Brits are always my favorites at these conventions. The English will make you a wool casket while the Irish chat you up about old Father Ted episodes (more on my beloved Pat in a moment.)

The company is Hainsworth. The products are completely biodegradable wool. Yes, they are soft and sturdy. And I think this is brilliant!

I have a devoted reader originally from across the pond who has been gently nudging me to get my green cemetery going before he takes his final saunter through this life. Jim, I think you would look stunning in the brown casket. That and a couple of tens of thousands in a personal loan to me, will get you the green burial you have been looking for.

My buddies at the Irish Dirt company came back (See last year's posts from Orlando.) The economy has been hard on Irish Dirt according to Pat, my main dirt man, but that's a story as old as time. It is such a great product, though, that I have decided to sell it on my Death Club website. It should be available in January if I can get the kinks out of the website.

Just a refresher: It is dirt. From Ireland. You can be buried with it, have it sprinkled over your grave, get your ashes comingled with it and scattered together; or, for the unimaginative, you can grow shamrocks in it.

My buddy Pat, the Dirt Dude, has this fantastic accent that is often impenetrable as he mutters something that sounds like it could be laced with expletives, rue, and innuendo. Turns out when I get him to repeat it - he is not talking dirty - just talking about death and dirt. He also supports me in my love of "Father Ted" reruns. I love him.

While yukking it up with Pat at Irish Dirt Convention Headquarters one afternoon I was heckled from my buddies a few booths down who yelled out, "Look out, Pat! She'll flirt for dirt!" (Funeral Insurance guys sure are a jealous bunch.) Will someone please inscribe Flirt for Dirt on my tombstone?

It was a funeral convention. There was whiskey involved. Sadly, I missed ALL the antics. Pat and the insurance boys assured me that having missed escapades at half the Irish bars in town (and in Boston that is saying something) my life is meaningless. What a comfort.

Next installments from the funeral convention: Bad jokes about salad shooters and cremains, some beautiful urns, the hottest hearse ever.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Ghouls' Day

This is a solemn day at Auspicious Jots. We take this holiday very seriously and are appalled by all who would undermine the reason for the season with irritating jingles, crass merchandise, and blatant consumerism.

Tony Hawk (pictured below) and I wish you a very serious Halloween full of contemplation on the meaning of your life as witness to carved pumpkins, door-to-door neighbor visitations, and bright blue hair. See our disdain? We are overflowing with our self-righteous indignation aimed at those who are inappropriately mindless of the power of mayhem and empty calories in our lives.

May all the good tidings of the season be yours. And NO, you may not have the t-shirt.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Death Club in Life

I have been working the extensive behind the scenes building of my death club website and had hoped to have it half up by November 1 (Day of the Dead). But deep down I am a Luddite and this has made me want to hurl my laptop into the river. There have been considerable complications in the site creation process. The Undertaker Buddy and I have even been reduced to mutual fussing which is not what either of us had hoped for. It is his fault, however. (Ha ha ha ha ha ha. He doesn't have a blog so I can just hurl lies about for my own amusement. Not his fault at ALL.)

I've also been on grief delay losing my aunt and grandmother within two months of each other and having the responsibilities for the funerals of both. It makes picking out t-shirts for Death Club feel a little too close to home.

Updates to come include my report on the 2009 National Funeral Director's Convention with pictures, the link to Death Club, Death Club's holiday calendar, and the latest Death Club video. I will also probably post a tribute to both my aunt and grandmother. All of this and Halloween just around the corner. I am feeling ike I am more than the president of Death Club - I am living Death Life.

At least they serve peanut M&M's here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Video from Death Club

Blogspot, please accept my apologies. I have been working on a Wordpress site and it is the hardest, most infuriating thing ever!!!! I never should have disparaged this nice little blog helper.

Hi, Reader - my neck hurts, my shoulders hurt, and I am cursing like a madwoman because I have spent almost 5 hours today messing with MovieMaker, Wordpress, and trying to upload to Facebook. All with questionable performance from my computer and internet service.

And the purpose of this industrious frenzy was a one minute video noting that I have not completed any of my Death Club videos yet. (Death Club is my new website which will take as long to build as the Cologne cathedral.)

So NOW I STILL have not completed any videos, nor is my website running, but I have a video telling you that. I'm linking and hopefully adding now... (Don't let anyone ever tell you that being a Luddite is pain free.)

(Hope dashed on the adding, GRAUAGKFJGFKJVS!!!!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Brad Tucker is Richmond's Jackson Browne

While you are sitting there chewing on your nails and wondering what to microwave, there are millions of musicians vying to be the BEST Musician you have NEVER heard of. Millions of them waiting for you to do a little web surfing, sniff around or drag your tail to a venue to hear them and realize the folly of your lazy non-music hunting ways.

You don't even have to pluck your thumb from your belly button. Let me tell you that TODAY the best musician you have never heard of is Brad Tucker. He lives right here in River City. He is sweet and funny, friendly and non-pushy. But he also happens to be a musician before whom you should toss your favorite coat lest he dust up his moccasins.

Brad Tucker is probably best known for his role in good time band The Taters as the funny one. No, they're all funny. He's the one who smiles all the time? Again - not narrowing it down. How about the one that sings like a songbird? Well, that's multiple choice, too. Never mind. You can find him singing with the Taters among others. He's the one that waves when you yell, "Hey, Brad Tucker!"

I am ashamed to say that I took Brad's talents for granted until today. Some people make it look too easy. They can play with anyone. They're always cheerful and don't screw up. They arrive on time, if not early. And at the end of the night you feel like you've been at a great show. But Brad is not showy, so one could just come to expect greatness from him and take it for granted. That one would be me.

But today, TODAY Brad Tucker came to a castle turned museum on Monument Avenue. He arrived plenty early and looking dapper. He warmed up. (Other musicians- please take note of that one.) Then he stood up before a room of strangers and sang at the Richmond version of my aunt's memorial service.

Singing at death events is not easy. Singing at death events for someone you did not know can be awkward. Singing at a death event that is suicide related? Very bad. But not if you are Brad Tucker.

Brad sang 4 songs beautifully and played his guitar with finesse and grace. And here is the kicker: he had never performed most of them until today. Want another kick? He had 36 hours to rehearse.

There are millions of musicians who think they can do this and almost all of them are wrong. Too often, in music and other skills, we all rest on the praise of former greatness and do not push ourselves to the next level. Not Brad. He worked hard learning these songs and was then humble and apologetic because he had to use a lyric sheet. Singing like that - he could have worn a Valkyrie battle helmet with horns and long blonde braids hanging down and not had to apologize. It was awesome. It was perfect. The room, his tone, his phrasing, his lovely voice - perfect.

You need to hear Brad Tucker. That's all there is to it

And when you do, you need to pay very close attention. Because while he is playing well and being unassuming and friendly - he is also sharing an incredible gift of talent and hard work that will amaze you if you let it.

Today he made a little magic that helped start the healing of this great big hole in my heart. Thank you, Brad. Come out and see Brad with the Taters or hunt his fanny down online. You owe it to yourself.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Future Planning

When we last checked in on our intrepid blogger she was napping, reading the paper, wondering about her purpose in life and doing part-time shift work with a government agency. In other words: the same daily activities of 78.3% of all bloggers. (The other 18.5% are trying to sell you something. 3.2% have nothing better to do while waiting for their court date.)

Then there was the unintentional four day cliffhanger that illuminated for me why soap operas and Charles Dickens use them. Cliffhangers are GREAT for ratings and require no work. Just ignore your audience for four days and let them speculate. My cliffhanger came not for dramatic purposes but late summer ennui, but the effect was the same.

"Will the blog continue?" (Dramatic chords via organ or timpani go here.)

And we resume with our program already in progress. The answer is...


We here at Auspicious Enterprises are building ourselves a website, yes indeedy. Does anyone recall this blog when it first began and I could barely post without some major technological complication? Now imagine that same mind trying to build a website. CODE. There are expectations that I fiddle around with CODE. You gotta' be kidding me.

But the money has been paid. The domains are purchased. The hosting has begun. The writing, research, photo snapping, and web-building are all underway. As with every renovation project, virtual or residential, here I am up at 0315 wondering what I was thinking. Meanwhile a small little part of me is holding onto hope with a tinny little mantra of, "T-shirts. There will be t-shirts."

Here is the part where I tell you all about the new website. I include my lofty goals and enough tidbits to ensure your belief that you will not be complete without my website in your life. I woo you with a subtle combination of wit and poetry. I act cool. I get you humming Lucero songs even though you haven't a clue who they are. But you feel so Hip!

As the final deal clincher I reveal the catchy name and a snazzy, dazzy link. It is like the lush velvet curtain rising. It is like the "A... NEW... CAR!" moment on The Price is Right. It is like the ultrasound tech saying, "Mrs. Sherman, you are going to have TWINS." It is like...

None of these things because I just tried the link and was informed quite impersonally and somehwat snidely that I have not uploaded the site correctly. So it's back to Auspicious Jots - home for the e-pathetic. I am trying not to curse around the kids but at 3AM there are no children so...

{SITE ERROR error code dfs271// Foul language was loaded improperly. Website administrator is a total moron//}

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Will the Blog Continue?

Mother Confessor, it has been 39 years since my last confession. I went to see a movie tonight. With my mother. At a movie theater. First Run. Without coupons. AND it WAS NOT a documentary! REPENT! REPENT!

Yes, dear reader - it is TWUE like Princess Bride love. I did a normal American event and it was great. Mama and I saw "Julie and Julia" or we might have seen "Julia and Julie" and it is possible that we saw "Who knew Stanley Tucci was such a cutie?" Whatever the name - we enjoyed it.

I enjoyed the following elements: tall women were featured; incredible beef stew was cooked three separate times; they flashed Virginia Diner peanuts - the best peanuts in the world; Stanley Tucci looked very sexy (who knew?); and they made the Auspicious Jots/Lizard Eater friendship into a plotline. My mother was also featured in the film in the role of Julie's Texas mother. My mother is sweeter. But my mother is sweeter than all Texas mothers from what I hear.

I was not aware that the film would feature blogging so prominently because I do not do normal American things like see previews of movies or read reviews. Or did not do until the career change, retirement, sabbatical, or whatever it is I am doing with my life these days. Maybe this is why I did not get the Tucci Cutie memo before now.

But it was not the blogger who had the AJ/LE relationship. It was Chef Julia herself and some gal named Azil or Alberta or another appropriate mid-20th century name. They were best of friends and did not meet for 8 years because they were pen pals. It took Lizard Eater only two years to get to me in person. But had her husband not bought the ticket, it would have taken us 8. At least.

The movie made me think of all the nice things that have come into my life thanks to blogging.

* You, of course, are the best part of it (don't tell the others that you are truly my favorite.) But I also have met other delightful people all over the country and even in some land north of us that I still believe may be myth.

* I have had the unnerving but flattering experience of meeting people in person who said, "I read your blog" with an honest to goodness smile on their faces.

* I got to know my congregation better through face to face conversations inspired by the blog.

* And a few people each year, sitting in their PJs at 3 AM got to meet their first Unitarian Universalist.

All good things. Might I even hazard these are... auspicious?

The less auspicious moments are mostly predictable.

* My mother thought it was the stupidest thing she ever heard of. She groaned and rolled her eyes every time it was mentioned for at least six months.

* I ticked off a band with my prediction that they would burn out or become wildly famous. I was sadly right about the burnout, it would seem.

* The only thing I really enjoy writing about is death and dying which is hard to build a fan base on.

* I live with chronic illness and sometimes rotten luck, so I often did not want to write honestly about those things.

With all of this in mind, I gave myself a September 1 deadline to decide if I would continue the blog in my post-ministerial state.

I have decided.

THURSDAY Evening Death Club

A late summer Thursday evening in the hopping capital of the Commonwealth can only mean one thing: Death Club!!

Death Club is a group much like Fight Club of Chuck Palahniuk/Brad Pitt fame except the first rule of Death Club is: spread the news about Death Club. Oh, and unlike Fight Club where you have to fight - we don't die in death club. Not yet, anyway.

Death Club has two presidents and no members, a temporary state we hope. If we don't get members we are going to have a coup between us and that is just going to be ugly. Presidente Numero Uno is my undertaker buddy and the guy who puts the fun back into funerals: Richard. The President most likely to not meet the Pope but ask you to kiss her ring anyway is, well, that would be me.

When my undertaker buddy and I are at funeral director's conventions we say, "Death Club!"

When we are speaking on issues of death and dying at memorial societies, rotary clubs, church groups, and ethics in dying groups we shout, "Death Club!"

When we were the only people at the theater to see "Death at a Funeral" and we watched it on DVD, our only defense was, "Death Club?"

And we are calling to order another meeting of Death Club this Thursday at 6:30 PM at the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond's historic and beautiful Shockoe Slip. This time you are invited. The authors of Grave Expectations are rolling into town for a chat, schmooze, and, unbeknownst to them, Death Club meeting.

Come out and join us. Maybe we will elect you Sergeant at Arms of Death Club. Maybe we will put you on the Death Club e-news list. I'm positive we can get a cool t-shirt out of this eventually. And you will be bringing peace and harmony to Death Club thus avoiding a sham election, executive corruption, or Richard and I renting both seasons of "Dead Like Me". Again.

The meeting agenda includes talking about meaningful death rituals, examining how coming to terms with fears about death and dying can make life more enjoyable, and post Death Club cocktails somewhere in Shockoe Slip. (My stomach still hurts so I'll be throwing back ginger ale if you are looking for a non-alc buddy to hang with.)

For more on the Fountain Bookstore or Grave Expectations follow this link.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Life

I would hope that the costs of leaving a congregation based ministry would be obvious to all. The short list is: love, people, love, and thinking about really important things every single day.

There are benefits, however. (Ministers might want to stop reading here and go back to their copies of Augustine's Confessions and ironing their khakis with Gregorian chants playing in the background. If you choose to read on, don't say I didn't warn you.)

1) When you leave they throw you an amazing party and give you thoughtful gifts and make you feel like you should not leave. Oh, wait. That was going along pretty well before the end there.

2)I can truly wear whatever I want. The biggest shock to my former congregation would probably be that I was holding back on the clothing thing. Today I wore white, black, maroon, pink, silver, and purple and was happy happy. My custom made Converse they gave me are a STAPLE of my wardrobe and possibly my favorite shoes ever.

3)I am returning to my "I will listen to whatever I want and read whatever I want" self. I have read: Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith, The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love by some crazy woman, and have started not 1, not 2, but 3 others.

As for music I have recently downloaded the new Delbert McClinton, Band of Skulls, Bex Marshall, Cage the Elephant, and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. Almost none of it would work in a worship service. Not even one of mine.

4) If you are miserable with grief, but not ministering to a congregation, you are not required to get up before hundreds of people and talk about really deep things that only make you hurt more. And you don't feel guilty when people ask "How are you?" and you lie lie lie.

5) People say outrageous things. People hold back on the outrageous around the minister. I blushed half a dozen times today just on what I overheard because no one knew a minister was in the room. Not kidding - I blushed so much it was starting to hurt. WOW!

5b) People curse alot more than I ever imagined. And more cleverly.

6) I have had dinner with my children every night for at least two weeks.

7) My husband and I go to bed and wake up at the same time.

8) My cleavage tattoo is almost healed and is stunning.

(Hee hee. Because my mother is alive, healthy as a horse, and taller than I am I must admit that I am lying on #8 or risk never getting fed her amazing shrimp and grits again.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Now What?

What do you do after beginning what is scheduled to be a 2 year sabaatical and ending the worst 10 days of memory?

Start a scrapbook? Knit? Watch a Spongebob marathon?

I don't know what to do. My kids, parents and I spent 9 days in Florida and travelling after hearing of my aunt's suicide. I performed the funeral, technically memorial service. We are now home. I have what I used to counsel people as "alien syndrome."

Alien syndrome comes as the aftermath of any major emotional event. You return to "normal" life and nothing is normal. You cry and laugh at the wrong times. You can't get on a normal schedule. In my case, I am having a hard time digesting and breathing. Any time anyone asks about last week my stomach starts to roil and churn. If I start talking, I begin to feel like I'm having an asthma attack. Writing this is unpleasant, so I'm going to move on.

I have been talking to myself.

The Rev. Me says, "Don't rush. Don't push. Don't commit to anything on a schedule. Don't do retail therapy. But go ahead and buy more Tums."


The Rev. Me says, "That is a perfectly healthy reaction."

The Niece Me says, "Shut up, you holier than thou, know-it-all, snot weed!"

The Rev. Me says, "Anger is an appropriate..."

The Niece Me interrupts, "Get me TUMS NOW!"

These have not been productive discussions.

The Rev. Me is calm that this is all going the way grief goes, particularly in the almost immeasurable grief of suicide. The Rev. Me understands that the pressure of having to do the service was immense and I was not allowed to grieve fully, nor experience healing through the service. The Rev. Me feels that blogging about grief after losing a loved one to suicide is healthy and removes some of the stigma for others.

The Niece Me just wants to be alone. No, with the kids. No, walk with the dogs. Wait. Let me try to eat. No, that did not work. Listen to the Rev. Me. No, she's an idiot. Talk to people. No! Don't talk. Take pottery lessons. No, drawing! No, go to bed.

"This is healthy, Niece!"

"Shove a sock in it, Rev."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Huge and Monumental vs Small and Fecal

Don't sweat the little shit.

I think I get to say things like that now that I am not a regular fixture in a pulpit. Not that I don't know dozens of ministers, priests, and rabbis who say that sort of thing on a daily basis. Nor do I know that I really get to say it now. But that nuance is some of the little shit I decided not to sweat today.

But if I had a nice roadside sign for my backyard wedding chapel that I have yet to build, it would read in fine Roman stencilling: Don't sweat the little shit.

I had 4 days off. 4 days of the rest of my life. On day 5, I was playing in my bed with the children at a luxuriously late hour, like 10. I had some nice plans for the day before I pulled my evening shift in training at a part-time job. (I'm lying on that "plans" part. I don't know what I was planning. I think I was trying to figure out how to get pizza delivery brought to me and the kids in bed.)

My mother called. She didn't invite us to swim or ask what we were doing. She did not say hello. My mother told me that her youngest sister was dead and we did not know why. I called my cousin, her son. I found out why she was dead. She had chosen, maybe accidentally maybe not, to be dead.

Five hours later there were five of us in a car to Florida in August. At some point I thought that we were the ones who had died and that post mortem reckoning had gone unexpectedly poorly. After 6 days of this, I am still not completely sure that is not the case. But eternity in Florida is no more than the usual little shit. I may be sweating, but I ain't sweating it.

My uncle is grieving in such a way that it is painful to be with him.

Meanwhile, my aunt kept a beautiful home, but not the best organized place. How dare she? My house is neither beautiful nor organized. This is why I plan to live until I am 115 because it will take me that long to clean it up.

My large extended family, many of whom I am meeting for the first time, is grieving.

I am grieving.

But I am not sweating any of that. That all has become little shit.

Why would I say such a ludicrous thing? How can I be so dismissive? What on earth would make me consider these huge, monumental issues small and fecal?

Because I am doing the funeral. I am presiding over my aunt's funeral. After she took her own life. No one will agree to speak. No one will stand with me. My uncle doesn't want anyone else.

Excuse me while I go hyperventilate.

But I am NOT sweating the little shit.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Or Maybe Not

When leaving a place of employment, subtlety and decorum are your keys to a successful transition. On your last day of work be friendly, kind, and unassuming in your presence. A successful departure from one job will lead to a fruitful beginning at the next. A graceful, quiet last day is the mark of a true professional.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

As Nina Simone so memorably sang,

It's a new dawn.
It's a new day.
It's a new life... for me.
And I'm feeling good.

Well, I'm actually feeling pretty tired. But this is the first day of the rest of my life, so what do you expect?

I worked my last day of my job yesterday. My high profile, high stress job that was full of constant human interaction and rewards that most people can only dream of in their professions. My job that I mostly enjoyed. My job that was how I was defined by many, maybe even how I partly defined myself.(?)




I am lucky to say in 2009 that I left my job by choice. (Lucky, stupid - I have trouble with my adjectives at times.) I am very lucky to say that I have other work lined up that will pay the bills in the short and long terms. I am working in law enforcement now. I will be working in a law office eventually. I am lucky.

But Nina Simone neglected to mention that the new dawn of the new day in a new life feels mostly quiet and foreign.

And messy. My former office held 10 boxes of books, 5 large boxes of miscellany, 2 pieces of furniture that were mine, a queen sized quilt, roughly 2 dozen pieces of art, and hundreds of files in paper and e forms. Then there was the wardrobe full of work clothes. Those are neither done, nor gone, nor over. They are sitting in my living room. And my car. And a friend's garage.

I have spent the past two months NOT posting to this blog as I decided what to do with it after I left the job that made me take up blogging in the first place. In a sense, it has been sitting in the middle of my living room getting tripped over, too.

If I end the life of this blog, it will be after the living room is clean. Since that will be awhile, and anyone in their right mind would choose cleaning a website over cleaning their real house, I did some redecorating around here. If only to prove to myself that I can still locate my right mind.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Candlelight Vigil this Thursday

There will be a candlelight vigil in reponse to the murder of Dr. George Tiller of Kansas, an advocate of women's health, who was slain in his church this past Sunday.

The peaceful vigil will begin at 7 PM on Thursday June 4th in the courtyard of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond. The vigil is being led by Planned Parenthood of Richmond with participation from other groups and individuals, including Rev. Miles of First UU.

This is a peaceful gathering, but security will be provided for the peace of mind of attendees.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Some Long Awaited Photos

I know. I owe you some photos. I often promise photos on Auspicious Jots and don't deliver for months. Obviously I have not worked out a system of ease with my digital camera. And I'd feel worse about it if I didn't know that 80% of all digital camera users feel the same way. (Of course, I made that percentage up.)

First up - the before and after shots of Tyler the Sexton's haircut. In review: Tyler needed to be shorn and didn't want to spend the moolah. He came to the kitchen one night, which is not a clever salon name. He came to my kitchen and I cut his hair.

BEFORE: note the tangles, the disarray, and mocking glare of the small pajama clad child.

AFTER: See the carefree happiness in the sexton's eyes. See the Superman curl at his brow. See whatever you want, the haircut lasted less than 48 hours. Seems that Tyler suffers from PSLD: post-stylist let-down. This is a condition in which your hair looks great in the salon (or kitchen) and then you can't figure out how to recreate the magic. This occurs in 88% of all women (made it up - it's the year I started dating my husband). Percentages for men: unavailable. But Tyler got the ole' PSLD bad and shaved his head which is why no one saw my handiwork.

And speaking of no one seeing my handiwork...

For Easter I made matching clothes for my family. My daughter had pants. Shorts for the son. Hubbie had a snappy bowtie and I got a skirt. You can see none of these items in the one photo of the four of us and my husband's hat got smushed giving him a Yosemite Sam air that says many things, but not Easter.

In unrelated news, that purse was mistaken by a golfer in Williamsburg for being real grass. At first I thought he was a ding dong, but then I thought - ART! Or Ahhhhhht as "Cute with Chris" genius Chris Leavins likes to say. Nothing says going green like a living purse. 73% of Jots readers agree.

Finally, I had a great photo of my dad and his brothers from 1961. It relates to today's sermon. It was the reason I decided to blog at 7 AM on a Sunday when I have to preach in two hours.

I deleted it somehow while typing. Do you ever feel like the dude behind the family at the Easter parade? I do right now. And you thought I'd lost my Luddite ways...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Lizard Eater visit

Prelude: Two bloggers arrange a 5 day visit after a couple of years of e-communication. They have never met. They have never spoken. Most say they are out of their minds. They retort - "Yeah, and?"

Enter Lizard Eater: A cute as a bug Texan with impossibly long, pretty hair and the pariah of her high school reunion because she looks so young. She comes bearing gifts - LOTS of them. Toys for children, shirt for hubby, funny car hats for me, food, and something that looked like a weapon from World of Warcraft (yeah right, as if I would know) but which benignly mixed hot chocolate.

Boring Plot Twist: Of course we didn't hate each other. Didn't dislike each other. Only found more things in common. She does have this freaky fruit aversion, but even that didn't keep us apart. More fruit for me.

Divine Intervention: We had the most beautiful weather while she was here. Cool, breezy, beautiful cloud patterns with plenty of sunshine. Have you ever seen a Texan weep for joy in May? Put them in 70 degree weather and hand them a free beer.

How to win me over for life:
Blurt out that I look like UU Barbie. (God bless that sweet, blind woman!)
Be discreet in your blog posts about my napping habit. (Reclining at both outdoor music venues, fell asleep in the car, on the sofa, in the recliner, in my daughter's bed.)
Wait until the end of the visit and then with diplomacy gently pronounce, "Your bout with viral meningitis is definitely nearing completion. You make SO MUCH MORE SENSE now than you did when I arrived!" (It sounds sweet when she says it.)

The Cupcakes: She's known for her cupcakes. Big deal these cupcakes are. She doesn't brag, but she does admit that people place orders for them by the dozens. It was the lack of bravado that made me beg/cajole for her to bake cupcakes on Friday. I am not overstating it one bit when I say: those were the best cupcakes I have EVER had in my ENTIRE life. (And, yes, my NYC friends, they are better than Magnolia.) We chose chocolate with chocolate icing. Absol-flippin-magni-stupendo-licious. She claims the caramel ones are better. I'm a bit of a Puritan and not sure people are allowed to be that happy, so I am sticking with choco choco delight. This was the point in the visit when the children started calling her mama and the husband tried to steal her return ticket home.

Ordain her now: I introduced this gal to the full breadth of my "eclectic" friends, neighbors, family, and congregation. With ease she bantered with the musicians. She talked sex education with a retired priest and his wife. She entertained my children, charmed my parents, helped my husband out when I was on my latest nap. She laughed at my best friends' jokes. (Not funny ones either.)She fell in love with our minister emeritus only moments after I said, "Liz, you are going to fall in love with our minister emeritus." AND she beautifully read the poetry of Lynda Hull and Mark Doty at the evening service. She's a Texan with theatre experience, four children, and a lifelong UU. Seminary education ain't got nothin' on that.

Boring Plot Twist 2: She will tell you that I was a great hostess. She lies. I did not make a single meal while she was visiting. Luckily, several meals came in from my mother and the church care committee. And it turns out that cupcakes can be a full meal.

God's work got done, too: We are religion geeks, after all. We talked theology, religious education, polity, ethics and more; all with my feet propped up on the couch and her in the recliner. That is the only civilized way to do something that geeky. We also compared music libraries of apocryphal holy music. Her best contribution: "Jesus loves me, but he can't stand you" by the Austin Lounge Lizards (I think.) My best contribution: "Whiskey or God" by the Texan Dale Watson.

Closing Credits: We boo hooed at the airport. I cried all the way home. I then took another nap and slept ten hours. We have plans for Houston in the Fall or maybe meeting in Mississippi. There's always New York. And the children want her back where she belongs - in the guest room - as soon as possible.

Photos to follow as soon as I can find the camera. And the thing to plug into the computer. And get the internet to stay up. This could be awhile. Check out her blog "The Journey" while you wait. I've paid her good money to say nice things about me.

Yes! Magazine

One habit formed out of years of ministry for me is magazine subscriptions. I have 10. I refuse to admit that this might be excessive because
a) some of them come only 6 times a year
b) two of them are gifts
c) I save, recycle or regift many of them
d) I don't wanna

One of my favorites for sermon study, general enlightenment, and enjoyment is Yes! magazine. I met the delightful crew that run Yes! in Portland, Oregon at the General Assembly of UU's that was held there a few years back. They were incredibly friendly which is my highly discerning way of deciding to subscibe to a magazine.

Check them out online and be sure to enter their cartoon caption contests. Can I put on my resume that I have placed in the "favorites" category TWICE? Surely that's relevant.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lizard Eater and Auspicious Jots join for Blogging Super Power

(Insert choice curse words here) I forgot the whole reason I turned the computer on in the first place. Lizard Eater is coming! My long lost twin is coming to visit! This is the choicest thing I have done lately as a grownup. I mean producing life twice was cool and all, but this is over the top.

Lizard Eater is my blogging buddy (see the sidebar for her link.) Her sweet, deranged husband gave her a ticket to visit me for Christmas. I say deranged because he knew that he could email me and I would agree to it, even though I don't know him from Adam.

Have Lizard Eater and I ever met? No. Have we ever talked on the phone? No. Can I remember the names of her posse of children in the right order? No, but I am working on that one.

Is my house fit for company after two weeks of my being bed ridden? Heck no. Do I want her to come anyway and has she agreed? Hell yeah! My husband has already asked if it is ok to call her Liz. The children think I am kidding that a Lizard Eater is coming to live with us.

She asked me for a packing list awhile ago. Those of you who have seen my daily fashion choices know that she should probably raid her Halloween costume stash. I told her to bring all the clothes that she doesn't feel gutsy enough for at home. And her dance shoes. Let's hope I am well enough to live up to the fashion.

This is like a pen pal coming to visit. Or for those of you who have not been mated since the dawn of time (as both Lizard Eater and I have) it is like long distance internet dating. It is also imminently bloggable. So stay tuned to hear both versions of five days of infamy and giggles.
Here's her link to the first installment. We welcome all ideas for activities and mayhem.

Melange de Malaise

Ever notice how you finally call for help, the villagers come running, and as soon as they get there the wolf disappears? Or maybe that's just me and my computer tech.

Sorry to leave everyone in the amnesia lurch but it would seem that the one area in which my viral meningitis is contagious would be my relationship with my computer. This really feels inappropriate to share, but my computer had a Trojan, whatever that means. One of the many problems from this was that I was not allowed to log in to Auspicious Jots. Bummer.

Or as my husband says, "Thank God!"

But I bring it to Mr. Fixit this AM and he calls Auspicious Jots up no problemo. Durn Trojan Wolf.

Thanks for the emails, comments, etc. as I have been mending my brain. I've been comforted by the other viral meningitis sufferers who healed up fine and let me know. I probably have another week of semi-cluelessness before I resume my normal level of clueless. Ongoing headaches with a side of amnesia continue to be my chief complaints and truly, if you're going to be sick for two weeks, this is the way to do it. For those at the Center for Disease Control, YES I missed my Mississippi trip and kept my Virginia germs at home. I'd be mourning that loss more if I could remember it.

I have tried to think deep thoughts during my two week convalescence. I came up with a lot of ideas about memory loss. Most of them forgotten, naturally.

I came up with a few cogent ideas on why Anne Coulter was an inappropriate choice to comment on Sarah Palin in the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People issue. Then I remembered that I couldn't care less.

I also had many things to say on why Elizabeth Edwards coming out about her emotional process in light of her husband's affair was not healthy in any way. It sounded like it would be healthy, but when I read it - wow. Just my opinion, but I think the betrayal of publicly sharing details as she has done is an equal betrayal to the one she received. It didn't seem like that was her goal, but that appears to be the consequence. Then again, maybe I should re-read it in a few weeks. That one can be found in Time magazine, too. (Thanks for the subscription, Dad!) I would hyperlink but I have a headache coming on, so you need to seek it out on your own.

The election for the head honcho at the Unitarian Universalist Association is driving full steam toward June. My choice is Peter Morales and I can be found on YouTube saying as much a year ago. This is the first time I have chosen to endorse someone, but I felt strongly about Peter's strengths particularly on the subject of membership attraction and retention. I'd love to say I remembered the election on my own, but they sent me an email.

Ok, here comes the headache. The lesson of the last two weeks - stop talking when the headache comes because you can't remember what you say. When I was a bartender I longed for people to follow some version of that rule.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Turns out temporary amnesia IS funny


I've been in bed for 6 days. Bed also means sofa. Bed also means guest bed.

I have viral meningitis. It started as a simple ear infection and with the loving support of a compromised immune system spread to my sinuses, bronchial tubes, and spinal fluid. My immune system is compromised because it attacks itself (rheumatoid arthritis) so I put it in timeout (by taking a drug called methotrexate which is also a chemo drug.) It responds by no longer showing up to work when infection calls.

What was I saying?

Oh, yeah. Viral meningitis is some bad juju. I am able to move around for less than three hours a day. Those three hours feel like I have a cold. The other 21 feel like a have a medium case of Alzheimer's with a side order of concussive brain injury.

But am I worried about this? NO, dear reader! Let me bring you in on a little secret: amnesia is your friend.

There are reports coming in from rather reliable sources that I have been absolutely miserable this week. Tears, pain, yelling in my sleep, not sleeping, loss of appetite, agitation. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? But here's the thing: what you don't know really WON'T hurt you!

144 hours I've lived with this and I remember maybe 12 of it. And those 12 are really iffy. What I do recall is this: people are very funny. I feel like I have laughed a ton. My family assures me that I have not. In fact they say this rather grumpily. Wonder what that is all about?

My point is... and by my point I mean what I am thinking at this very moment, not whatever was in my head when I started this, whenever that was.

What was I saying?

Oh, yeah. You are so funny. You could do stand up.

Friday, May 01, 2009

VM - what are you thinking?

I had a lot of hopes for keeping a blog. Good writing practice. Connect with church members. Get discovered at long last by some blues band.

Little did I know that my blog would have a different legacy: Evidence for some future epidemiologist that I was patient 0 when the big one came.

Had a swab stuck up my nose and tickling the back of my eyeball yesterday so that I can say I do not have swine flu. Seemed like that would have been simple enough, but they kept asking questions. And more questions. And a lot of eyebrow lifting by the doc.

Then the pronouncement: Viral Meningitis.

Now, for my regular readers, here's the funny part. The telltale symptom was confusion. Guess I've had viral meningitis for at least 6 years and it seems to be caused by pregnancy, childbirth, breast feeding, and motherhood.

As usual, the blessing of knowing a lot of people means I know a lot of people who have had viral meningitis. The prognosis is great. Only half of them wear bibs in public because of it.

I did not go on the arthritis walk. Thank you to everyone who pledged. I would like to recommend to the Arthritis Foundation that those of us who raise $1,000 by selling indulgences earn the right to keep our weary, wobbly cartilage in bed on walk day. (I did do a memorial service and a wedding that day, but neither required ambulation before 9AM. Say what you will about the UUs, but we are civilized about mornings.)

My prescription is to stay in bed until Monday morning when I may or may not go down to Mississippi. We'll see. Hint to the epidemiologist of the future: people who are willing to admit in public that they have viral meningitis that they had tested for swine flu and that they will go from their sickbed to a mission trip are most likely to cause the global germ apocolypse. But please note- I took all of my antibiotics and did not show my face in public with a fever. So, nyah.

I've also been out of touch blogwise because my internet at home has been "erratic." When will customer service reps finally say the word "broken?"

Then again, maybe I am evidence for some future programmer that I was techno idiot 0 when the big one came.

My husband has just received his third "I dunno" from me in response to a question. Not my fault. He's grilling me. When did the internet start working? What time did I eat lunch? Where is our 3 year old? Geez.

He has also pointed out that the swelling around my brain should keep me from making public pronouncements via the erratic internet. Would there be any blogging in this world if we all followed that rule? There he goes with the raised eyebrow. I seem to have an illness that causes other people's eyebrows to leap.

He has also pointed out that when searching my compacted brain for the name of my diagnosis the other night, ole' tight skull came up with: Vehicular Manslaughter, Virginius Mobeley, and Vagina Monologues.

Put that eyebrow back.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


You know that running list that starts ticking along when you try meditation, prayer, or sleep? Sometimes it is searching for the name of that guy that dated that girl who lived near you twenty years ago. Other times it is the list of all that you need to do as soon as you are finished this meditation that was item 14 on your to do list. (And for meditators - yes, I meant for that to be funny.)

And then there's the regrets. The medley of "I wish I had not done thats". Of all the useless lists I run in my head, that is the most useless of all. I wore the dress. It looked like crap. The photos prove it - why do I need to go through that all again?

Here is my latest list keeping me from spiritual enlightenment. Hope it helps clear out yours.

File name: What was I thinking?

Contents: Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization . Death by snobbish, irrelevant drivel can happen so much more pleasantly in other ways. At least I bought it used. But why am I STILL reading it?

The Arthritis walk. 3 miles on a Saturday morning? I've been having trouble after the second block. Brainstorming graceful ways to show up, stride a bit, and spend the rest of the day on my tail. 7 days of "training" (read: napping) to go.

Not sending that Pho back. Tripe is still tripe, even when you move it to the side of the bowl.

Those fancy vitamins keep making me nauseous.

The lost, great spiritual discipline book. This explains why I am stuck with Marcuse.

Time not spent in organization, decluttering, and filing efforts. Must attack office files. Must do Spring cleaning. Must hit garden like a yard ninja. (Begin list of the 462 other things I'd rather do here.)

The pinwheel quilt requires 2,500+ pieces And I don't figure this out until after I finished piece number 314.

Missing (because it makes me feel better to run a list of close calls on regret):

Resisted that $30 Easter bonnet on Monument Ave. Probably a rare case of haberdashed wisdom on my part.

Resisted that $60 Ikea kitchen island and shouldn't have. Must have for the sewing room. Oh, drats - that means it's a regret.

You see what I am working against here on that whole enlightenment quest?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hell, Redemption and the Arthritis Fundraiser

There are times in one's life when a person is extra grateful for friends.

Like when I fell and broke my hand at my son's elementary school and a few friends suggested I lay off the 10 AM happy hours.

Or when I walk into a room and a friend says, "Now that is an outfit only you would invent."

Or the friend who called me "Crash" for years after I was rammed in a bad accident. He started with that nickname before I left the hospital.


Those are not times when I am grateful for my friends. And admitting that I fell stone cold sober was a bit shaming.

But TODAY is a time when I am grateful for the whole motley bunch. Today I checked my arthritis website and I had raised a tidy sum of money by sweet people who said sweet things. Today I am grateful for them all.

But there is a bit of a curveball to these kind-hearted, generous types. With a few lovely exceptions who will be shown special prizes by Vanna White later, most of them responded to the following email:

Subject: I limp. Give me money.

Howdy, friends!

I've been trying to think of clever, fundraisy ways to say this. Here are a few outtakes:

*In this economy you can save your last ten dollars for some gasoline and a taco, or you can sponsor me in a charity walk!

*I have a crippling disease. Wanna' give the Arthritis Foundation some cash?

*I lost a poker game with an Arthritis Foundation fundraiser and owe her $500. Please give 10 or she will hit me in my swollen arthritic knee.

And my personal favorite:

*Even though I don't believe in hell, you will probably go there if you don't pony up at least 10 bucks for my arthritis walk. $100 and that whole drunken incident of infamy is completely forgotten by God and everyone.

So there you have it. I'm doing an arthritis walk because I have taken more than my share of benefits from the Arthritis Foundation this year with my crappy health. They expect me to both raise money in this economy and walk. For miles. In the morning.

And people say the Pope is unreasonable.

Here's my link if you are willing to save me from myself:

Catchy link, huh? Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

And if you would rather boogie: arthritis fundraiser at Shenanigan's on Thursday April 16 from 6PM until they throw us out.

Thanks! Hope this is one of the better appeals for money you get today.


So, that is what they got and the sweet punkins started sending money by the fistfuls. But here's the thing, several have mentioned that the clincher was the line about that whole drunken incident of infamy coming off the books. And they have followed with some confessions that would make The Lady Chablis blush.

Which is why I am extending my fundraising for this event. I'm sure there are some of you out there needing to get some guilt out of the way for some wee indiscretions of the distant past, or yesterday. Turns out that sponsoring a hobbled minister in a charity walk can get that done for you. Follow that link, help out the good people of the Arthritis Foundation, and use me as a character reference for that next job application.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Having a Party

Short version - Come to an Arthritis Foundation Fundraiser on April 16th from 6PM until you are too tired to stay any longer. It is at Shenanigan's Eatery and Pub on MacArthur Ave. in Richmond's northside.

Long version - There will be a band, a bar (with non-alcoholic choices as well), and nice people like me asking you for money. Three gals who love music, love to dance are throwing this. Oh yeah, we also all live with Rheumatoid Arthritis, a crippling auto immune disease that destroys connective tissue throughout our bodies. No, this is not the achy knee from a football injury kind of arthritis. But should you have that kind of arthritis (osteoarthritis) we are raising money for research for you, too! Who loves you, baby?

Longer version - Can't come? Go to my website and sponsor me for an arthritis foundation walk in a week.

Yes, it does seem kind of cruel to make people with deteriorating joints walk for money. But we like to think of it as - hey, I'm still walking! Plus I've got my trusty canine sidekick, Chicken, assisting me with the walking part.

I'm trying to get 50 people to give $10 or more each as my goal. The idea is that through donating, 50 more people will know what RA (rheumatoid arthritis) is and may NONE of you get it. (And if you've already got it... come to the party, I'll buy you a soda since we can't drink on these @&#$ meds.)

Thanks for your help. Come out and dance with us on Thursday night!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rocking in the Lean Times

I was born for this economy: love coupons, enjoy tracking spending on a spreadsheet, capable of gardening as long as we can survive on radishes and cherry tomatoes. But most of all...

I am crafty. And I am passing it on.

The Little Man and I entered a challenge at our local quilt store in honor of our quilting buddy Phoebe's birthday. I did an Amish pattern on acid and tricked it out with hand-embroidered Rilke. He did a pattern from the latest issue of Quilter's Newsletter and tricked it out with a Gwen Stefani inspired title: "The Ship's Called Bananas!" (We are each holding the other person's quilt in the photos.)

And we won some prizes. Unlike many quilters, there has been a lot of fist pumping, high fives, and jumping naked on a bed in celebration. (That would be the Little Man.)

We both have already spent our prize gift certificates in our minds. I asked my husband to comment on our own "quilting adventure" for this blog and he said, "It isn't easy living in the shadow of two crafting giants."

(What a great guy. We need to make him a pillow out of an old favorite sweater.)

For those not on Facebook, get ready for the Easter premiere of the family fashion line. Think Von Trapp family if they lived in Charleston, South Carolina. And members of church, wait until you see our sexton's new haircut! He is morally opposed to paying for a haircut, but he was about 18 months past due for one so I chopped away in my kitchen last night. I'll try to upload the photos along with the Von Trapp tribute after Easter, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

For my next economy trick I will replace the billions stolen by a certain Ponzi loving financier through making homemade pasta, brewing my own beer, and hosting potlucks. (If only...)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Alzheimer's Letter

Dear Night Shift,

My grandmother is the patient in room 561. She broke her hip and will be having surgery to correct it tomorrow. There are a few things that we want you to know tonight.

1) She is what she used to call when she wasn't and so it was funny, "stone deef". But now she is and it hasn't been funny for years, so be loud and in a place where she can see you when you talk. But don't expect a verbal response.

2) She is anxious. She broke her hip because she is a wanderer. Six, eight hours a day she would wander the nursing home halls. It was her new "job." Like so many of us, she is now out of work and it makes her anxious.

3) She's a picker. That bandage, that IV, that name bracelet... they all need to beware. And you need to pay attention when that IV starts beeping unlike you did when I gave birth to my children and you'd let that thing beep for 45 minutes at 3 in the morning. Ok, so that wasn't you, but it could be more serious for her, so please pay attention.

4) She's boy crazy. If you send in any man you can find every four hours or as needed, all will be well. They just need to smile at her, talk nicely, and if they had the time, hold her hand for a minute. That would be more than her husbands ever did for her, and she does have her wits about her enough to remember that.

5) Please be nice to her. We don't know this new version of her. She's a different person to us. We loved the person who used to live in that body, so we're riding it out with this new person, but we don't know her well. Sometimes it is hard for us to be around this new grandmother who doesn't talk much and doesn't make eye contact much and only remembers us sometimes. The rest of the family has no contact with her, and at this point, we understand. We don't like it, but we understand.

We've been sad for a long time now. But you, you're just meeting her. You don't look into her eyes and remember how it used to be. You don't feel fear, regret, anger, and sadness when you look at her. It doesn't disappoint you when her eyes don't light up when she sees you. So you could talk to her in a sweet voice like we try to do, and it would be a true sweet voice, not one you are just trying on, hoping it is enough.

6) Call her by her first name. She still remembers that. I was named for her. It's my first name and I don't use it except at the doctor's office, but it is one of the many parts of her that lives on in me. I hope that the name and the memories are all I carry, and not this disease.

She is a good woman. She is loved. She is completely vulnerable. Please take care of her.

Thank you.
Her granddaughter

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Photos Anyone?

One of my favorite quilts at the show. It was in a section of quilts based on punchlines.

Birthdays call for key lime pie and the soft hues of candlelight. (Note my buddy Stephen in the back pondering, "I bet she wishes for more pie.")

I don't know what to say here. I opened my door one afternoon and there was a Mucha Lucha match playing out on my front porch.

The new babies. Darwin giving me her seductive, "Let me lick your hand" stare while Chicken exercises his God given right to curl up on the bed. Or so he tells me.

This Message is Self Destructing as You Read It

A not very subtle fan has noted the lack of jots lately. He pointed this out by emailing me and telling me to write. He avoided threats. Mighty nice of him.

I wish I had an internal alarm like that.

"Warning: BEEP. You must write within the next 36 hours.
BEEP. It is time to get your eyes checked.
BEEP BEEP. That book you put down 17 days ago has slipped under the couch. BEEP BEEP, I SAY! You have not shaved the back of your calves in 3.5 weeks."

Instead I make my eye appointment when I bump into my eye doc at a bluegrass show. The book gets found when we move. The writing happens if the fan reminds me. And I discover the hair thing on the first warm day.

In my life: I had my first Facebook birthday. Turns out that you don't have to be a rock star as long as you've got Facebook on your birthday. That was really wonderful. My fave Happy Birthday came from a high school classmate who gave me the great opening by asking (tongue in cheek) how old I am. I told him that I had 24 more hours at 38 before I began the next 25 years of 39. My mom gave me a framed drawing of that eternal 39 year old, Jack Benny.

Birthday weekend I saw a favorite opera, "Tosca", my fave locals Billy Ray Hatley and the Showdogs, and a favorite national act, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. In no particular order - all the musicians kissed me, they played all my favorite songs, and everyone died. You figure it out.

After that wonderful weekend I woke up Monday morning feeling happy, got dressed up, was having a great hair day and then threw up while driving my daughter to school. Flu.

Let's move on to going to the annual quilt show, seeing my cousin perform delightfully in "A Trip to Bountiful" out on the Northern Neck and a big honkin' snow storm.

That's me.

Warning: BEEP. You promised your husband that you wouldn't be up half the night working on the computer.
BEEP. Tonight is the night to finish reading the article on the transformation of war into playable entertainment.
BEEP BEEP. The inspection sticker on your car expired in February.
BEEP BEEP, I SAY! If you don't get your liver test tomorrow your brilliant, mild-mannered rheumatologist is going to go howler monkey on you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pet Funeral

One of my pushy fans reminded me that I never posted the pet funeral pictures. Did I say pushy? I meant adoring. Did I say fans? Well, that's what I pay all five of them for...

In case you are a sixth random soul who stumbled on this blog, my two dogs died within three weeks of each other in October. They were 15 and 16 and in love until the day they died. The 16 year old stopped eating after the other one died, and died of heartbreak. We also had the ashes of the cats on the front porch for a couple of years because I could not bear to bury them and they loved the porch in life. My husband laid down the law: give all pets a proper burial or no other animals enter the domicile.

I do funerals for a living, so this became a BIG event. First we have the prep which took all afternoon. We had balloons to fill for the balloon release, cookies to bake for the reception, four graves to dig...As you can see, I did none of these things. Let me also point out that my pushy/adoring fans can see my beautiful, renovated kitchen if they look past my beautiful, baking cousin. I would also like to note that one of the many benefits of having one's own personal funeral director is that he will dig a grave for your pets.

I wrote the names and life dates for all of the pets on the sidewalk in front of the house and a nice epitaph.
This is the altar for the service with the ashes of our four pets and their photos. Each family member put something in the grave along with their ashes. I gave tearful but funny eulogies. And our sweet pet sitter said a few words.

Afterwards we lit candles and had the balloon release. Most everyone has lost a pet at some point, so the balloon release was for all of their beloved pets, too. We all said the names of our pets as we let the balloons go and said together, "We love you!"
Then the children enjoyed the family grief meal: ribs. They make a heart less healthy, but they can lift their share of mourning.

I must say that this greatly helped my grief. It was nice to be joined ny friends, neighbors, and family. And I feel like I was able to give my dear animals a loving sendoff as we had given them a loving home in life.

Oh, and yes. That is a Snow White costume.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Buddhist Pet Peeves

"Pet peeve" is such a strong, negative way of putting it. Let's think more along the lines of ironies and the elements that make me laugh.

Most people know how ridiculous I find Buddhist advertising and catalogues selling... junk. Pretty junk. Cool junk. Sometimes even useful junk, but by my understanding of Buddhist beliefs, it is all still junk.

Junk to keep us tethered to the same old way of seeing life. Junk to collect dust in the house and dust in the mind. More junk to get attached to.

The other element I find ridiculous in these ads is the dependence upon hotties. I just got one on Facebook. A VERY attractive man grinning at me with a knowing look from the margins of my computer screen beckoned me to "Enlightenment Bliss."

I didn't think nirvana. I didn't think escape from the cycles of suffering. I looked at that guy and, to be perfectly honest I thought, YUM.

And YUM gets me no closer to enlightenment. Last time I checked, cutie quotient wasn't on the Buddha's lists of requirements for sages. I told the Facebook hottie that "No, I will not drink the kool aid, thank you very much." And then I mumbled, "Even though you are VERY cute." You know, just to be nice.

And to end my tongue in cheek tirade - my last Buddhist Pet Peeve - telling people not to swallow in meditation groups. Silly. Silly. Silly. The sounds of other humans in the room are part of the reason we meditate together. You might be a Buddha mind genius in the quiet, undisturbed nook in your attic. So what, if you can't pass the life in the world test.

At least that's what I am thinking. If I am wrong about all of this, I'll be getting my enlightenment bliss soon from a dude that looks like a cross between Patrick Swayze and Tom Selleck. And I'll be wearing some sweet purple meditation pants I saw in a catalogue, but I'll be very, very quiet.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I. At Lunch

Me: As an atheist, you...

Lunch Guest: I am NOT an atheist.

Me: Well, you used to be an atheist. You gave me all those great atheist articles over the years.

Lunch Guest: Yes... I used to be an atheist, but... I... well...

My Husband: But then you found doubt! My brother, welcome!

II. At Breakfast

: I like your shiny basketball pants, Mama.

Me: Thank you, sweetie.

Daughter: I want a pair of shiny basketball pants. Will you buy me some?

Me: Hmmmm... I don't know. What am I going to use for money?

Daughter: You could use those coins with the chocolate in them we had at Hanukkah.

III. At Supper

Friend: So how is it going talking to church members about your departure?

Me: They have been mostly understanding. We talk about the changes in the congregation over the past five years...

Son: Mama...

Me: I see my call as more of a community ministry...

Son: Psst... Mama...

Me: ... elements of polity and the calling of the next...

Son: MAMA!

Me: What?!

Son: You can't do that. That's fibbing. You can't tell lies. Just tell them the truth. You are leaving to hang out with me and my sister and dada.

IV. A Monologue

Daughter to new dog as she rubs his ears and looks into his face: You are a good doggie. What a pretty doggie you are. You are a cute doggie. I love you. You are so cute. And when you die we are going to get another pretty doggie who is as cute as you are. Good boy!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Good-bye leads to I Love You

Three funerals, all men, one week.

Bill's Memorial Service, Life Celebration, Party of Honor was a huge shindig last week. It was a total bummer because he wasn't there. It was his kind of party. There was a military presentation, a bagpiper, an open bar, musicians, food, tons of people, and then there was that open bar.

An endless stream of women stood up, many of them wearing stick 'em mustaches in his honor. The comments all were of a theme: Intro - "Bill, that bastard"; Middle - some crazy Bill story involving wanting to kill him; Second Verse - some crazy Bill story involving him doing something sweet and selfless; Closing - "I love you, Bill, and I will miss you."

The carpenter shared Bill's feeding of salami and gorgonzola to his dog. I kept mum. I was feeling a little full emotionally. I was also wearing heels as I do about once a year. That meant I was about 6' 3" and the air is really thin up there, so I just yelled "Here Here!" and "Amen" and even once "Huzzah!"

The next funeral was for "the Boat" who also died too darn young, whom I adored, and who, imagine this - was also a character. One of his buddies said it best when he said, "The Boat was complex." Absolutely.

A few factoids about the Boat which I am glad were included in the service... he was gutsy. He practiced law with courage and conviction, defending those that most lawyers do not or can not defend. He was also known to warm a bar stool every now and again. He felt that the "Emotional Rescue" LP by the Rolling Stones was one of the truly great accomplishments of modern society. He was ornery, argumentative, and over the brim with brains. In short, the Boat was an unconventional, non-conformist bad ass. AMEN! HUZZAH!

I knew the last man the least. His was one of those funerals you attend out of respect for who he was and what he did. This one was a funeral director. His funeral home helped out my family on a few occasions. They did a good job, were thoughtful, and didn't do anything stupid. I greatly appreciated it. He was not a cutting edge funeral director, did not think outside the box much, and we were not more than acquaintances. But I did not want to miss his service.

Funerals are not just for the people who knew them best, loved them the most, owed them some money. Funerals are an opportunity to honor another human being and what they lived for. It is a chance to show the people who mourn them that their loved one made a difference to others too. I hear too often, "I'm not going to the funeral. He's gone and I won't know anyone there." SO WHAT? You knew him and if he meant anything to you, don't you have one last hour to give him?

The thing about funerals for me is that, when I am lucky enough to not have to conduct them, I always get something out of them. I think about the people who showed up. I remember something about the person that I had forgotten. I think about others with whom I'd like to reconnect. Even if the service is the pits I can get something out of it. I think what I would have said, how I think they should be honored, what I want to remember about them.

I grieve at funerals and it helps; helps me to remember what I hold dear and why. After this week I should really have a good grip on that, I guess.

Maybe that's why I overdid it on Valentine's Day. The husband got tons of chocolate and a CD from a favorite band. (He already had "Emotional Rescue.") The kids got toys and candy. The best friend got bacon. (He's on the all meat diet.) The carpenter got pop rocks. The dogs got belly rubs... it goes on.

It's a good week. It's a good life.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Am Amos

This past Sunday I announced that I am leaving my position at the church as of September 1.

Here is an excerpt from the sermon. At this point I was talking about sacred stories of unexpected personalities in ministerial roles...

What I love about these stories is the strange cast of characters all playing holy roles. There are bandits and gamblers, fishermen and farmers, mothers and nuns and they all have these risky attributes. They are the Huckleberry Finns of Scripture. Imagine Nicholas Cage, Parker Posey and Kanye West playing them in the movie versions.

The prophet Amos of Hebrew Scriptures is my favorite example. Amos is not on the greatest hits list of Hebrew prophets. His is a short book of prophecy. Dated to the era 786-746 BCE, the action of Amos takes place during the reign of Jeroboam II who was king of Israel.

You don’t have to know biblical history for this one. Let me just say that there were two kingdoms – Israel in the north, Judah in the South. Jeroboam was king in the north and Amos is a prophet from Judah the South, but his prophecies are all about Israel. You can imagine how well this went down. People always enjoy it when someone from another country comes rolling in to tell them how to do things, don't they? So it was for Amos.

Amos has all kinds of dire prophecies for Israel he sets forth (strange ministry, but there it is.) What I love about Amos is not these acts of his ministry, but his call to ministry, how he got that strange job. Amos reveals this call when he is verbally attacked and told to head on home by Jeroboam’s priest, Amaziah.

This is the response of Amos: I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I was a herdsman and a trimmer of sycamore figs. Yet God took me out from behind the herd and said to me, “Go. Prophesy to my people Israel.”

I can see you are underwhelmed. Remember I had to pore over these words for hours in seminary as they were an assignment we translated from the Hebrew. They made a huge impression on me. Let me rephrase in case they are not having the same effect on you. Imagine Amos saying this:

Look, Amaziah – you are chaplain to the king. Got your fancy robes, your world class degrees, your snazzy mustache. You look like a priest, you talk like a priest, all the world recognizes your power.

That is not me. I… I am not this. This is who I am now, because I am called to do it, but I did not seek it out. I’m not trying to get power or riches or fame. I work on a farm. I used to nap in a warm field after lunch before I had to lead the flock home. In Spring, I climbed trees to trim the blossoms so the figs would be fatter in the Fall. Up in the trees I would daydream, but in all my dreams never did I imagine myself here.

I have come because I had to come. There was something deep inside of me that was called to be here and I will do my job, am honored to speak this prophesy. But that is not all of me. I am not comfortable in this skin. I have things I have been called to say, but once said, I will move on. I will go back home. I can never be just a farmer or a tree trimmer again, but so too, I will not remain the prophet to Israel.

My reasons for sharing Amos and his story with you are two-fold. (I have edited out part 1 for space reasons here.)

...My other reason for telling you his story is because it is my story, has always been my story.
I seem to keep finding myself the farmer strolling into the royal court.

Now after a long time, I find that the flock and the sycamore figs have called me back.

That is not me. I… I am not this. This is who I am now, because I am called to do it, but I did not seek it out. I’m not trying to get power or riches or fame. I was sitting on my warm front porch in 2003 playing with my toddler son when I was called, in my case it was on a phone, by this church. “We need you. Just for six months, we really need YOU,” you told me.

I have come because I had to come. There was something deep inside of me that was called to be here and I have done my job, am honored to be your minister. But that is not all of me. I am not comfortable in this skin. I have things I have been called to say, a ministry that I treasure… but I am not Amaziah.

I am Amos.

I hope you will understand how I can love you and still leave.

They teach you a lot in seminary including how to live with being hated. No one ever taught me how to live with being loved. How can I say no to love? How can I give just 25 hours a week to the love of hundreds of people, some of whom I have known all of my life? How can I say – this job description, what my role has become... is not what I do; am called to do?

I don’t know. I don’t know how to say these things and my greatest regret is that I have not known how to accept the breadth of your love without driving myself into the ground with work.

So, like Amos, before me, I will head back to a place that is not here. I do not know what my next role will be.

But I do know this – when I came this congregation was smaller, was hurting, was wary of strangers. I was brought in because you knew me. You trusted me. And although I did not want to be the minister of a church, I didn’t mind being your minister.

That mutual trust has served us both well. Now we are healthier, and friendlier, and you let me bring all kinds of people in here to talk to you, to play music for you, to do all kinds of worship with you. You are good ministers: to Richmond, to each other, to me, to our children.

You will continue our ministry after I leave in September. Trust one another. Bring your best intentions and your hopes for making sense out of life. Please don’t turn any of the Huckleberry Finns, Eddie Haskells, Oscar the Grouches, or Billie Hollidays away at the door. They’re friends of mine. I told them they could trust you.

And know that for every day of ministry I give, I receive two in return.

May you be so blessed in your ministry, as well.

I love you. Peace be with you always.

I will continue blogging, but I have no idea what direction it will take. I have six and a half months of work left, so more of the same for now. (Whatever "the same" has ever been for me...)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 19 - The Diagnosis

Pediatricians seem to understand things like double appointments. That's a good aspect of today. Two kids. Two coughs. Two red noses. A combined fever of 205 degrees. One trip to the doc's office.

Even the best doc, which we believe we have, needs some work on delivering devastating news of the snot variety, though.

"It's a virus. Prepare for 10-14 days of it. Keep them hydrated and comfortable." No prescriptions. No sleeping drugs. No valium. No narcotics. Nothing. She says that since she's not my doc she can't give me a thing!

That's like telling Moses and the gang, "It's a desert. Prepare for 40 years. And no manna for you, Mom."

The little snot blossoms were pretty cheerful about it all because we all know what that diagnosis means, even to a pseudo hippie mom like me: TV.

But since I have been off the TV vibe for so long, I get easily annoyed and yell at the screen alot. Maybe we can make a spelling game out of it for my son.


As I put on my whining filter, I can also add - I continue to be virus free. B-I-G W-H-O-O-P.

Day 17 - St. James' Infirmary

After a funeral visitation and a speaking engagement out of town, I was supposed to come home and then hop back in the car with the family to visit the in-laws.

I came home. But a fire was going. Nice. Movies were being watched. Nice. Pajamas were still on all bodies. OK.

And all three of my family were hacking, sniveling and feverish. Not NICE.

Excuse me while I wash my hands for the 33rd time and take another hit of Vitamin C.

Day 23 - The Younger Models

Today marked the arrival of the replacement puppies. No, I am not being cold and callous. We are not like those pet owners who pick a species, color combo and name and have the pet for 30 years.

What? You haven't heard of this?

Here's how it is done - Species: Cat; Color combo: Orange tabby; Name: Lucy; Age: 30 How?

First version of Lucy got hit by a car when the child was 2 and had just learned her name, so she had to be replaced, and fast. Second version of Lucy died of feline leukemia when the kids were 9 and 6 and you weren't ready to have the death talk. Luckily there were orange tabby kittens in the neighborhood so... Third version of Lucy disappears when the kids are old enough to handle it, but your memory is so bad now that all orange tabbies are Lucy.

We are not these people. Having said that... the replacement dogs arrived today. Children are giggling. I'm tripping over dog bowls again. We can no longer wear black pants. All is right with the world.

This is also a story of the economy. We are the foster/adoptive parents because their parents are getting divorced and there was no way for the dogs to live comfortably in the two new sets of digs.

And finally, this is a story of why I like having quirky friends. The dogs, ages 3 and 8, are named Darwin and Chicken.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 16 - Early Riser, Early Writer

Good morning. After a night full of dreams of Mayor Ray Nagin I am embarking upon a surprisingly busy day, so I thought I'd do a morning blog. This is most likely the first and last occasion for that sort of nonsense. Mornings are for eating, reading, bathing, and running after children. Mornings are also occasionally the time to go back to bed. Mornings are not for blogging.

Mayor Ray Nagin?, you ask.

Yes. I did all four hours of Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" yesterday. As a result, I spent my sleeping hours back in Mississippi and New Orleans. Mayor Nagin was my tour guide. The carpenter and I are considering imminent return to Mississippi. My husband hasn't been, but agrees that I should get there as much as I can before the camps close. With or without Ray Nagin.

Speaking of rebuilding, I read Rev. Chris Buice's article in Newsweek this morning. It is a good way to start the day.

I have not been sharing my sabbatical discernment in these last few posts. I have been collecting them, however, and here are some in no particular order.


Youth is the age when you make memories that later provide the stamina for putting up with the disappointments of adulthood.

What people think about in hell: why they spent so much time making money, keeping the house perfect, and being right when they could have been clumsily but freely sharing their love.

At the end of every shift at a fast food restaurant, there should be a receiving line of hugs for the workers.

No one ever tells you that consistently preparing healthy home-cooked meals for your family can be harder than writing sermons.

When you have a hard day at work, think of Mayor Ray Nagin in 2005.

I put down No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew it Cauze Bill Bailey... and I have no intention of ever picking it up again. No, I did not finish it. I have a cardinal rule about fiction and movies: no brutal rape scenes. I could write a chapter or two on why I have this rule, but most people I know, particularly women, say it's a good rule and it stands alone.

Instead, I have been reading the paper, Music USA - the Rough Guide, Yes!, Tricycle, McSweeney's, bedtime stories, quilting magazines, and assorted tracts from animal welfare agencies. I also read three collections of poetry in an effort to find a poem for my son's oratory contest.

The reason I have been somewhat tracking what I read is Nick Hornby. Nick Hornby writes a column in the Believer about what he reads, as well as how and why. It is oddly fascinating. I am no Nick Hornby. Hey, Nick - stay away from the euthanasia guidelines. Trust me.