May 08, 2013

It was 20 years ago today...

no, not that.
Twenty years ago today, the Giants still played their games at Candlestick park.
 from Google images
Twenty years ago today, I had no idea how to get anywhere in San Francisco. 
   completely foreign territory.

Twenty years ago today, I was the same age that my daughter is now.

Twenty years ago today, I was still working in my first eyeball job, for Jim Tearse in Redwood City.
 yep, and I can probably still figure out how to change the thermal paper roll.

Twenty years ago today, I was living with my two teenaged kids and my parents.
aw... so cute!

Twenty years ago today, Princess Kimbersuds the Wonderdog was not yet in our lives (but would be soon.)
 goodness, she was adorable!

Twenty years ago today, I spent the first day I'd ever spend with one of the great loves of my life. 

We drove up to the Woods - Aaron needed to be there early, for a day-long counselor training, I think.  I knew I'd need to be up there all day long too, and on a whim I asked him if he'd like to come along.  He, on a whim, said yes.  We spent the day talking, non-stop, about love and death and Spirit and family and all manor of things.  We hiked up to the cross.  We walked along the banks of the Russian River.  We drove all over the place.  We used the word "amazing" a lot.  We ate outside at the Union, drinking in wine and sunshine.  It was simply an amazing, dreamy day.

We returned home, all aglow at the spark our spirits made that day.  It was as if they recognized each other.  We would never be the same again.

He is no longer in my life, but I am so very grateful for that day, and for his presence throughout the last 20 years of my life.  It is true that I've endured a great deal - too much - heartbreak through him, but it is also fair to say that I've endured far more joy and love from his care.  The things I have learned... the gifts he imparted... the path upon which I have traveled... I would not be the person I am today without him.  And he would not be who he is, without me. 

He's been gone for more than a year.  My heart is still broken.  It is still hard... to drive through his neighborhood on my way to work, to hear organ music, to see certain photos, to have something to tell him... to remember.

And if I had the choice, I'd do it all over again, I would.  I am thankful for that wonderful gift.

If they cracked me open today, they would see his handprint on my heart.

March 08, 2013

kill the beast...

... or: things I've (re-)learned about URIs this week

1.  If an enormous yellow cloud of pollen literally envelops you while you are simply minding your own business, drop everything and head for the nearest shower.

2.  While you're at it, rinse out those sinuses really, really well.

3.  If you have one of those afternoons where you lock your keys in the car, can't find an open restroom, and then drop your phone in the sink, all within an hour, consider locking yourself inside until the storm passes honey, 'cause it's comin'.

4.  Use every trick in the book.  Even if it might not help.  Rinse, spray, inhale, vaporize, decongest, and anti-inflame until you drop.  

5.  When you drop, go to bed, and stay there.

6.  When you wake up with one side of your sinuses completely blocked, and your face is grotesquely misshapen and one eye is nearly shut, don't panic.  Not yet, anyway.

7.   When your sinus cavities are filled with cement and nothing will move it, call the doctor, because all bets are off for home remedies, and you are doomed. 

8.  At some point, take your temperature because everyone you talk to will ask if you have a fever.

9.  When you go to see the doctor, be polite.  It's not her fault you're sick.  Try to sound intelligent (because you are) without being dismissive (because that doesn't help).  Be specific and descriptive of the things you've tried so she knows you know what you're talking about.  If she doesn't respect that and enter into an intelligent conversation with you, go talk to someone else.

10.  When the medical treatment is having no effect, and it's Friday, and you're actually getting worse, call the doctor.  Don't take no for an answer, and don't take "you need to come in again" for an answer, either.  Hold out, and they will eventually give you what you need.

11.  Keep lots of liquids in the house.  Herbal tea is a nice break.  Just keep drinking.

12.  It's fun to make fun of yourself when speaking to other singers, because your voice is at least an octave lower than usual.

13.  Laughing will always make you cough, so just be ready.

14.  It pays to spring for the softest kleenex possible, and get it by the case at Costco, because it is not in the least bit difficult to go through three full boxes in as many days.

15.  Even if you don't feel like cooking, get into that kitchen and make some Chinese penicillin.  It's nothing fancy, but you will be so glad you did.  Even if you'd rather stay curled up on the couch, all bundled up and cozy, get off your arse and make it. Now.

Hot and Sour Soup, KQ-style

4-6 cups (a fairly large pot) water
3 chicken bouillon cubes, or about 1 per cup-and-a-half of water
1-2 tsp white pepper
¼ cup white vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use the Trader Joe's frozen garlic cubes)
1 tsp minced cilantro, to taste (TJ's has frozen cubes for this, too)
fresh sliced mushrooms, to taste
fresh sliced green onion, to taste
frozen dumplings (again, TJ's to the rescue!)
sesame oil
yeah, I'm out of fresh veg.  they turned while I wasn't looking.
Boil water.  Add bouillon and pepper.  Cook for a minute or two.  Add vinegar, garlic, cilantro and veggies.  Simmer for 5 minutes, adjust to taste (but remember that the broth should be REALLY spicy and vinegary, so don't go erring on the too-gentle side.)  Add the dumplings, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes more.  Drizzle with oil, to taste.  Be well.

February 22, 2013

Christian Politics

I've been using an online Lenten devotion this season.  I have been pretty faithful to it, no small feat for me, and I am glad for that.  This week's theme is "Vulnerability", and today's scripture is Luke 4:5-8, about the time when Jesus was in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry:
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.  If you, then, worship me, it will all be yours."  Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and worship only him.'"
When I first remember hearing this passage, in adolescence probably, I thought that the devil had shown Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world of his time - what we think of as ancient times.  I did not yet think about or realize that God is not confined by time, and I probably was thinking of the story more of a history lesson than a spiritual one.  

Now I believe that this story is probably saying that Jesus was shown all kingdoms; past, present and future.  To me, this means that Jesus saw what it would be like to rule our world, too, every country, every government.  China.  Somalia.  Denmark.  Great Britain.  Afghanistan.  The United States.

[It's a paradox to me, because I do believe that God in Jesus (or by whatever name we understand God) is sovereign on Earth, Creator of all we know and all that we don't know.  On the other hand, Jesus rejected that sovereignty in this story - at least, as it was presented to him by the devil.  Perhaps this means that although God is ruler of all whether we acknowledge God or not, God lets us choose to acknowledge Jesus - or whatever name we understand - and does not insist on it.  Thank God!]

Another thing that I missed in this story when I was young is the part where the devil says, "I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please."  Interesting, isn't it, that here we hear that the devil actually was given (presumably, by God) authority over every kingdom.  I just kind of skipped over that part every time I read this story.
So this is how my mind wandered to politics today when I read this passage - if Jesus was shown every "kingdom", including the US in that moment of temptation... if Jesus rejected all authority over our nation... if the devil has the glory and authority over every nation, including ours, and is free to give it away to anyone [he?] pleases... then I really don't understand how any Christian, fundamentalist or otherwise, can hope for Jesus to have authority over our nation.  Or any nation.  After all, our book - the Word of God as they/we know it - says that the devil has this authority and Jesus rejects it.

To me, this means that anyone who claims to be working for the dominion of Christ over anyone but themselves either doesn't understand scripture (admittedly, in the way I understand it) or is actually working for the devil.  Which is kind of how I view Christian conservatism in this country.

To me, any Christian person who, by their word or deed does anything to turn another away from Christ is not doing the Lord's work. ("If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea." Mark 9:42, full context here.) This includes exclusion of any group, campaigns against any legitimate freedom of expression or belief, and any personal offense towards another human while representing Jesus.  And every Christian, by definition, represents Jesus to the rest of the world.  I am certainly guilty of some of these sins, though not by intention. However, to actively pursue the exclusion of a group, or legitimate freedom or belief, to make that exclusion an essential tenet of your belief system, is the devil's work.

it's on Amazon...
Perhaps this is why conservative Christian dogma offends me so.  Their loud, offensive, hurtful, belligerent claims to be the exclusive keepers of Jesus are not just annoying.  It is that when they claim to represent Christ with that point of view, they are doing spiritual violence against all people, including themselves.  It is because when people hear their claims - especially since they are very, very loud - people believe that this view is what all Christians believe.

But here's hope: the politics of the conservative right wing is beginning to change, oh-so-slowly.  Some of their people are actually coming out for equal rights for LGBT people.  It's a start.  Why, just yesterday someone who was once a close friend contacted me and apologized for writing me off as a non-Christian because of my political beliefs and LGBT-positive stance.

I thank God for these changes, and pray for more, so that the spiritual violence ends.

And I remember, when all is said and done, that Love always wins.

All images found on Google; no copyright infringement intended.

February 17, 2013


The Bethany Quartet, at our 20th Anniversary (and only) Recital
I have done some singing in my life.  I have an okay voice.  It has never been strong - and lack of use and middle age has not helped that.  It has rarely been confident - aside from a brief, egotistic period in my high school days, I do not like to sing in public without at least three other people around me.  But I don't have to! 
The "Bay Belles" in the early-mid 80's
I know some extraordinary singers.  I have been blessed to meet, sing, and grow friendships with the owners of some remarkable voices.  Outside of family, I believe that I can trace every significant relationship and event in my life to singing.  I met the father of my children in choir.  I met each of my closest friends singing.  I came back to church in my 20's because of someone I met in choir.  I met my soul mate in choir.

It began in high school, this singing-makes-friends thing that has really been central to my life.  It was there that I was first exposed to the joy that is acapella singing.  It continued in early adulthood, as I joined an acapella group - we sang chamber music in Renaissance garb, and called ourselves "The Schleptet" - which formed out of the local community college. 

a reunion photo of some of the Schleptet (and our kids)
Four of the men in that group were in a barbershop quartet, so three of the women and I formed our own quartet. (This is where I first learned that long talks and sharing our lives together during rehearsal is just as important as singing!)  When the Schleptet sang together, it was sublime.  Rehearsal time was intimate, in somebody's living room, standing in a circle.  We'd quit goofing around and begin to sing, to each other really, watching the beat, eyeing each other for cues and cutoffs. 

Sometimes it was all I could do to just close my eyes and absorb the amazing, transcendent sound of 10 people, each singing a different harmony.  Talk about soaring.
The Bethany Quartet on a road trip in 2000
As those groups grew up and faded away, a new singing era began for me, at church.  We formed a women's quartet - inspiringly named "The Bethany Quartet", ha! - just over 25 years ago.  I also joined the choir, and have participated off and on over the last few decades.  More recently, my quartet and a men's quartet have joined forces.  The "Super Quartet" is the latest incarnation for me of the ability to make transcendent music with only the human voice.  Oh, my goodness, it is heaven to sing with those seven people.

We had a rehearsal just the other night.  Unfortunately, one of us is having voice troubles.  We sat around a table and discussed what to do.  The conversation was laden with love, respect, and humor.  We came away deciding that we would not sing together for a while, to allow that one voice to heal.  This was a sad conclusion to reach, but we know that we will sing together again.  We left the building, stepping out into a balmy, pre-Spring evening. I stopped to listen as we each called out quietly to the others our good nights, reminders of the next time we would meet, that sort of thing.  It all seemed so dear, it made me tear up a bit.

I love these people so much, I said to God.  Thank you.


NPR has a series called "Tiny Desk Concerts".  When I clicked on this one from the Minnesota group Cantus, it captured perfectly for me the essence of the intimacy that singing together brings.  This is not something you will see in a concert hall.  Watch how they look at each other, how they curl around each other, their body language when they are singing, and when they are not.  This is bliss.

February 14, 2013

a valentine memory

San Bruno Park, this time last year
Mrs. Sundberg, a columnist for A Prairie Home Companion, and I are good friends.  Well OK, we've never met.  Still, I consider her a dear friend because after reading a brief letter (and recipe) from her every week for the last seven or eight years, it feels like we know each other.  I am also her facebook friend. ;)  Today, Valentine's Day, she posted this:
My best part of the day so far? Watching what Rocky Sandy (see somewhere below) calls "the earnest hearts" choosing flowers and cards and chocolates at the grocery store. I love that. Grown men searching for the perfect thing. Concentrating, serious, thoughtful men in love. I imagine the women have other plans in mind or already did their shopping, doesn't matter. Heartwarming and entirely sweet. One man chose a dozen white roses. Another, an enormous bouquet of crazy wild flowers. A younger man, one single red rose and a Whitman's sampler. You guys have it going. May the kiss ensue.
You see?  Such a generous spirit.  

It reminded me of one of the events I've been mulling over this week, as the "this time last year" memories come tumbling in, and the anniversary of Dad's death approaches.  This strong memory that has been haunting me is about being one of those people standing in the aisle of a Hallmark store and looking for just the right card.

As I've mentioned before, my folks had a 62-year marriage and had been together just shy of 70 years - since the 8th grade - and Dad never missed a Valentine's day. Actually, there was one he missed - it was eight days after his first heart surgery.  Mom says he was terribly upset about not having a card to give her that holiday.  

Last year, Dad had not been home for a couple of months, and was now in Hospice. I asked him if he'd like me to pick out a few cards, then he could choose which one he wanted to give to her.  He said that would be fine, and I could see the deep appreciation in his eyes.

this is the kind of thing that keeps you married for 62 years.
Dad liked to give Mom big, gushy, romantic cards.  So on Valentine's day eve, I found myself standing with several gentlemen in the "For My Wife" section, seeking out the biggest, fluffiest, most romantic card - and I picked out not just one, but three of them! I'll tell you, I got some weird glances from a couple of those men... that was definitely the fun part of the mission.

I brought the cards to Dad, and as he read each one, he began to cry - the sentiment in each of those mushy cards was true for him.  He was a romantic, and loved my mother beyond measure.  He picked a favorite, and then it was time to sign it.  I handed him a pen, and stepped away so he could write with some privacy.  But he couldn't write - he had to stop.  "This is the last... this is the last one", he said, trying to shake away the tears and the realization.  He managed to sign the card, and I placed it, unread, in the envelope and sealed it.  I left the card there, knowing that I had witnessed something precious and heart-breaking.

The next day I heard from Mom.  She said that she had been prepared for Dad to be pretty upset about missing another Valentine's day, and she was ready by bringing a stack of her saved V-day cards with her to the hospice house so that they could enjoy them together.  She was surprised, and Dad was so pleased to give her his card.
in our family we sometimes call these "Valentine Trees"
My heart still breaks when I think of it, but I am so glad that that tiny gesture was so meaningful for them.


One of these days, I'll find something else to write about besides Dad. For now, it seems to be helping to write these things down.  Thanks for reading.