Archive for the 'Stories' Category

02
Jan
15

Scam Alert

2014 has been another roller coaster for us. I’m beginning to think this might be the new normal for western culture…perhaps for most of the world! Time seems to have tripled…hours can seem like days. What once was the standard for fast communication has been replaced by instantaneous messaging. Never mind the dry, witless, impersonal nature of it; this new world has no time for politeness, graciousness or tact. Too bad if you are suffering with a cold, flu or broken leg and can barely think straight. Reply, Reply, Reply. The show must go on!

Question: What’s an aging brain to do?

Answer: The best it can under the circumstances.

My aging brain has been keen on recognizing and avoiding scam emails—particularly the viral ones that want to foul one’s hard drive. Of course, having a Mac computer affords me an edge on this wave of sophomoric pranksterism, but I went a bit farther and thought myself pretty savvy…until last Tuesday.

I was expecting delivery of a USB SuperDrive from a trusted New York supplier…one that often requires signature upon receipt of electronics.

Apple SuperDrive

Feeling unwell and slightly foggy, I would be gone for a few hours in the afternoon. I don’t have neighbors who can take in a package, so, when I received this email, instead of thinking clearly, I clicked on Get Shipment Label.

SmartPost 1

Clicking on Get Shipment Label brought me to a site clearly stating: Not compatible with your operating system, followed by a list of Microsoft PC programs and systems. That should have been sufficient to bring me back to sensibility, but no, I clicked again with the same result!

Googling FedEX SmartPost and seeing that this was a less than successful coordination with USPS my annoyance increased, since mail delivery on my street is erratic at best. In a stupor, I hit Reply and typed out my request for additional information. I wanted that SuperDrive and I didn’t want to jump through hoops to get it delivered.

Slowly, my brain began to make connections. Check the Reply address, it said. Did I immediately understand the hoax? Took a few minutes, checking back to my original paperwork with the seller, to understand that no brand of FedEx, Smart or otherwise was delivering my order.

Many of you already know what happened next: Yes, my email was returned and there it was: the pirated email address used to scam me. Oy vey!

SmartPost 3

Next step was to look up the seller’s paperwork for delivery date and carrier. UPS was clearly stated, as was the history of transport, the tracking number and promise of delivery that very day. The big green arrow said: On Vehicle for Delivery Today, but for some reason that escapes me now that I am no longer feverish and ill, I still harbored doubt that this equipment would arrive and that I would be at home to sign for it. I was doing a version of Woe is Me from the Life Sucks chorale.

UPS Tracking

I returned home from my afternoon appointment: Nothing on the porch, no notice from the UPS driver. I quickly removed my note and nervously waited, checking the front porch numerous times. Finally, about 7:00 p.m., the UPS driver brought the package and rang the doorbell. Just as I got to the door the driver was scrambling into the truck. No signature required, obviously. I should have realized this since the paperwork did not contain that stipulation. OY vey again! No matter. I had my SuperDrive and I was happy. Apple does everything beautifully—even the delivery packaging is a perfect delight to the senses. Can’t bring myself to discard it. Maybe it can be re-purposed?

02
Apr
14

sharing & caring, a cat story for all ages

This is a story of feline sharing and caring from my yet to be written, therefore unpublished, AdvoCat Studio anthology: My Life With Cats.

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Frankie, the polydactyl, tabby cat, began his life with us under the care and tutelage of Nicky, our big, luxuriously furred, Himalayan-Birman mix. With patience and forbearance, Uncle Nick taught Frankie the ABCs of cat behavior and etiquette, a sometimes daunting task.

Frank & Nick 150

Frank was already a grown up with a long track record of caring and tutoring each kitten that came to live with us just as he’d been taught, but like any cat, he needed his rest and had his favorite spots.

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One fine winter’s day, when Frankie was asleep on his favorite morning spot atop the radiator in my studio, dreaming dreams only cats really understand… in walked Beau, the sleekly, beautiful, young prince of the household.

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“Ah, there’s Frank… must be a great spot for a nap,” he said to his cat self as he gracefully leaped up to join his friend.

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“Oh bother’ muttered Frankie through his sleepy cat lips. ‘Patience, forbearance… that’s the key…”

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“Okay, you’re cute, I love you: lay down now.” In truth, Frank was just a tiny bit annoyed, because he’d been dreaming the most wonderful dreams that morning and wanted to get back to them as quickly as he could.

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Beau sighed, deeply content with such loving acceptance, but he just couldn’t get comfortable.

 

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“I’ll give him another minute to find his groove,” Frank thought… ‘he’s just a kid.”

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“You okay, there buddy?” Frank asked in his best uncle voice.

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“I think my feet are too long,” whined Beau as he twisted about, certain that with perseverance, he’d find his perfect spot right next, and as close as possible, to his friend.

“Feet? Something like that,’ Frank whispered to his own self… ‘something like that!”

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“Got it, Uncle Frank! Thanks”

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“This spot feels great; I’ll just do a quick wash, be done in a jiffy. You don’t mind do you Uncle?”

 

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“Musn’t forget the hips ‘n haunches… so important to a cat’s graceful beauty. Appearances are important.”

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“Okay, all done, I’m back now. Thanks for waiting Frankie.”

Frank, running a bit low on patience said ever so quietly, “I’m sleeping now, gorgeous. Try it, you’ll like it… we’ll both like it.”Image 12a_Neg JI-26A_cropped

But Beau wasn’t ready to sleep yet. Settled near enough to hear his friend’s heartbeat, he said coquettishly, “Tell me a story and then I’ll go to sleep.”

Frank, reaching the end of patience as well as forbearance, thought: “I really don’t have time for this.”

” See you later…bonne nuit,  Beau, sleep well.” He said warmly, and slipped away to where grown-up cats go when they really, really need their rest.

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Beau was bewildered; he couldn’t understand why Frankie would just up and leave like that.  “Where’s he going,’ he mused, ‘I’m kind of lonely here all by myself… but I do look good, don’t you think?”

 

AdvoCat Studio Logo

18
Dec
13

A Most Magical Christmas

A Most Magical Christmas is an adaptation of the original story written for me long ago by Korin Heinz. As with all Armenian stories, this one was…
and was not…

karenswhimsy.comOnce upon a time, there was a little girl named Melineh, who lived with her parents, her sister and her brother in a big house. Melineh liked to pretend and play imaginary, magical games, especially at Christmastime. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, and right up to Christmas, she listened to The Cinnamon Bear on the radio and imagined herself right inside the story.

She was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet—not just any pet—a warm, furry kitten all her own to love and hug. She asked her mom and dad for a kitten many times, but the answer was always no, because they thought animals should always be outside—not inside the house. Then one day, after thinking it over carefully, Melineh’s father came home with a small, tabby kitten that he found near where he worked.

“Look what I found, Melineh,’ he said, ‘He begged me to bring him home, so I did.”

Melineh, filled with joy, held out her arms and begged her mom,  “Can I keep him… please?”

“Well… if you will promise to take care of him and not let him scratch the furniture, then we will try it for a little while,” Mom said, rather reluctantly.

Melineh named her new kitty, Buttons. She fed him every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed and played with Buttons and sometimes even put doll clothes on him. At night, Buttons slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Melineh was happier than she’d ever been in her whole life!

A few weeks later, just before Christmas, Melineh came home from school to play with Buttons, but couldn’t find him. She called and called and looked in every nook and cranny, but could not find him. “Mom,” she asked plaintively, “Where’s Buttons? Have you seen him?”

Mom looked away and said quickly, “Oh, he must have run away.”

Melineh wailed helplessly, “No, that’s not possible! You know where he is!” Inconsolable, she cried for days. There was nothing she could do but wait, hope and dream.

Then, on Christmas Eve, while Melineh was making make paper chain garlands for the tree with her sister, she heard a faint scratching noise at the back door: scritch, scratch. “I wonder what that is,” she thought, and got up to look outside in the fading afternoon light. At first she saw nothing and was about to close the door when she heard a tiny mew from under the porch. Melineh bent down and saw something dark and furry; “No, it couldn’t be,” she thought, but there, rubbing against her hand was Buttons, back from wherever he had been!kitten_in_holly 2

Melineh brought her precious tabby kitty inside and gave him some food. Buttons, once again in Melineh’s loving arms, purred happily. This was the very best gift ever—for sure!

Buttons lived with Melineh and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the big old house in the city. When Melineh grew up she had lots more cats, but she never forgot that wonderful Christmas when Buttons found his way back home.

And, of course…they lived happily ever after…

Visual images in public domain from:
karenswhimey.com and clipartpal.com

24
Sep
13

Dancer Down: an unexpected seclusion

The morning of August 7 was unusually bright and sunny. A series of personally difficult life challenges had come to resolution and I was filled with immeasurable joy. Driving to my dance session that morning, I felt glad to be alive. Normally an experience like this would have made me eager to dance, but I had a vacation coming up in two days and things to do in preparation. I didn’t really want to go, but the body can get rather lazy. Like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, it can come to a rusty impasse. I didn’t want that, so I drove on and arrived—all smiles—without a hint of the disinclination I really felt.

Jane, my teacher/partner, was not her customary, cheerful, and optimistic self. Something was off. Normally we will match each other in body-spirit whether we start out that way or not, so I didn’t think to question, nor did I state the truth of my disinclination. Undaunted by the disparity, I was confident we would find each other eventually, and so we began as we often do, moving in our separate spheres, performing for each other. Midway through the hour Jane put on the album I’d brought with me: Picture, by Night Ark (a quartet of musicians known for their fusion of instrumental jazz with tradition Armenian tonalities). Little did I know: I was about to meet my Waterloo.

I felt this hypnotic, seductive rhythm as a call of connection to the culture of my ancestors, hidden deep within my DNA, and my joy quickly increased to excitement. Although far beyond my improvisational abilities, I threw myself into moving interpretively to this hauntingly beautiful music, without the willing consent of my aging hips, and in a manner I think may have looked something like my little diagram drawing.

Within minutes, there was an audible a POP sound, followed by white-hot, searing pain! I knew something had torn inside. Groaning, IThe fatal twist 2 crumpled to the floor, where I stayed motionless and incoherent for several minutes, as the shock of the experience overtook reason. Time lost dimension and I was swimming in painful slow motion—a curious 4th dimension of my customary reality.

Having spent much of her life as a professional dancer with a collection of her own dancer’s injuries, Jane sprang into action, as I laid there in stunned disbelief. Prone to responsible problem solving and somewhat stunned herself, she tried her hardest to get me to consent to an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital emergency room. There was no way I was going to see the inside of one of those buses, before my time was up! Absolutely not! I took ibuprofen and arnica and continued to try… unsuccessfully… to reach my partner, Judy, by phone as well as text message.

As an InterPlay leader of 20+ years, with a talent for cleverly overcoming roadblocks, she reassessed the situation and applied InterPlay’s signature principal of incrementality to moving things along. She would suggest a move and I would try it. Little by little, I was miraculously on my side, then sitting up, then standing on one leg, and then leaning on the back of a chair. Using the chair as a walker, with Jane cheerleading, I hobbled to the elevator, out the door and into the car. Within 10 minutes, Judy arrived on the scene and drove me to an immediate care facility, where we learned that no bones had broken, but the pop had indeed been a tear, requiring weeks of rest, ice, pain medication, and a walker, along with patient acceptance of the situation (a challenge for me).

A stunned state of shock persisted for the first week, deepening as Judy and I felt our way around and through the daily realities of a crippling injury—a disability of unknown durWalker after immediate careation—to a person of a certain age. This was something I couldn’t accommodate without anticipating a measure of public chastisement. Had I been a bit too pleased with myself for having a fairly agile, old body? Perhaps I’d pushed it beyond reason…colored too far outside the box? Won’t people think I fell and broke my hip, like many older persons before me? But I knew I hadn’t crash-fallen; Jane taught me a dancer’s fall and that’s the way I went down.  Still, the idea haunted me and I didn’t want the humiliation of being thought of as a silly old lady playing at dance in her old age. The truth is: if I could have been anything in my life beside a visual artist, it would have been a dancer. To dance now, even past reasonable age, has been life affirming. All things considered I was even pretty good at it…for an old lady. 🙂

It wasn’t until a follow-up orthopedic appointment 10 days later that I learned my pop had been an avulsion, i.e., a tearing of the Sartorius tendon where it attaches to the iliac spine area of the pelvis. (The Sartorius is the longest muscle in the body, resolving in a tendon attaching to the pelvis.) This accounted for both the bone and tendon pain I was experiencing. No bone chips, no fractures—just a painful separation between the tendon and its point of insertion. I was assured that it was a common athletic injury—particularly in football—one that occurs when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity. Well, I clearly did that, without doubt…but football? That was worthy of a laugh out loud!

Laughing or crying, in 3 weeks I would begin a course of physical therapy that would help me regain 95% of my former function. My inquiring and restless mind finally had an understanding of what had happened and a course of action. Between the relief I felt with the diagnosis and prognosis—along with the homeopathic care I knew would hasten healing—I returned home ready to welcome this secluded time out as an unexpected gift.

The story continues…

25
May
13

doodling like a rolling stone

Bob Dylan, the poet-singer-songwriter of the Baby Boom generation, in his 1965 hit, Like a Rolling Stone, asks plaintively:

How does it feel how does it feelto be without a home… like a complete unknown… like a rolling stone?

Between each of the song’s four verses, comes this haunting refrain—pointed, probing and challenging. The song references societal expectations of the 1950s and 60s, which may no longer carry quite the sting it did then; nonetheless, the refrain lives on timelessly in the Boomer Generation—invincible in 1960—not so much in 2013.

We are aging…sometimes gracefully, sometimes awkwardly. How does it feel and what does it all mean as we roll along toward the once, unthinkable senior citizen horizon? I am not a true Boomer, just an honorary one due to some life events that put me back a few years, but I have a good Boomer friend who wrote an essay for this blog about her experience of aging and transitioning. It comes complete with a graphic she calls a doodle.

April 15, 2013 • How it feels and what it means…

There’s a little ditty we used to sing as kids: Head and shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes (repeat) while touching each of these body parts as a form of exercise. Now, in my senior years, it seems that there is a problem with each of these (maybe not my toes, but my feet). Memory is fading, can’t hook my bra in back due to bursitis and tendonitis in my shoulder, old knee injuries have been flaring up, and plantar fasciitis causes pain when I walk.  I was feeling old. As a former dancer, these physical losses take on a lot of significance.

Our church made plans to offer a grief recovery workshop starting late March by a specialist in that field and I was considering if I should participate to process my grief around aging. However, it was a ten-week commitment with homework assignments and I questioned whether I had the where-with-all to do the work.

I learned of Sybil MacBeth’s book, Praying in Color, from a friend and presented a short segment on February 23 during a weekend Lenten retreat at my church, where we all tried our hand at this form of prayer. I decided to use this method of spontaneous doodling with words and color as a process of discernment, but it became clear that I wouldn’t get my answer in 20 minutes.

Basically it sat there in my journal until a women’s retreat I attended in Santa Fe the following month. During a movement ritual I needed to sit down because my knee was complaining and I began feeling sorry for myself again because I could no longer move as freely as I once did. As we went around the circle sharing why we were there, a huge realization dawned on me. Seven years ago on March 1, 2006 I had a hysterectomy because various tests and scans pointed to probable ovarian cancer. As it turned out I did not have cancer, but if I had, I would not even be at this retreat because I would no longer be alive, as life expectancy with ovarian cancer usually does not exceed five years.

The next two nights I continued with the doodle, noting that I could be dead, but I wasn’t and asking why. The second night brought it to a near completion, but only after participating in a craft project with the group. In the afternoon we had walked out on the high-desert land to each collect sticks or a piece of weathered wood to create a “Spirit Doll.” There was an array of beads, feathers, ribbon, fabric, glue, wire…you name it…available to dress our wood into something that resembled…well, some sort of doll, I guess. I immediately went into a familiar insecurity, comparing myself to everyone else who would create something profound, more meaningful, and just plain better than anything I could do. So, with a slightly rebellious attitude, I decided I would create an alter ego. Using part of a pink boa around her torso, pink feathers in her hair, which was actually sagebrush, and sparkly netting for a skirt I called her “my lady of the night” who stayed awake nights for reasons different than my insomnia-ridden ones. With a few added doo-dads she was sufficiently garish and I felt satisfied.

Anne's Doodle Design

Back in my room the doodle grew. Of course there was much more happening in my thoughts and emotions than appear on the page but it is a good summary. And what I also realized was that I had created something meaningful in the doll; that in her flamboyant attire she represented not what I had set out to create but rather a celebration of life! I finally had a clear answer to the question I had posed several weeks earlier. My conclusion: Rather than grieve my losses, I need to celebrate the life that is still before me.

01
Apr
13

looking backward / going forward

Every now and again an old friend or acquaintance will come to mind and I wonder what they are doing now…where they are. Sometimes I Google to find out. Maybe it’s a way of measuring the length of my days in years? Some time ago I found an artist friend through Facebook that I’d known a dozen years ago and wrote about the encounter in my June 13, 2012 post, art then / art now. A few weeks ago I reconnected with another friend through Facebook that I’d known in the glorious, early 1970s (when some of us were still young and others, not yet born). That was great fun.

Last week…in a more serious mood…I looked for a person I’d known six years ago in a cancer support group. I’d been thinking about him for a while. I wanted to thank him for all the invaluable help he’d given me—help that changed the course of my recovery for the better. We both have a form of incurable lymphoma that can capriciously become active or lie inactive at will. I’ve been in remission for five years and wanted to know how he was. I Googled him, and found his name in connection with a cancer support group’s phone listing. I called and was delighted to find that he is a survivor and continuing with his cancer support mission. It felt good to send a message of thanks and affirmation. Many cancer survivors like to pay it forward, including me.

A few days ago, I thought about two persons I’d known from my days in the art world.  Despite that association ending badly, I Googled them hoping to find an avenue for constructive reconnection. To my dismay, I found pages and pages of articles linking them and the gallery to fraudulent misappropriation of federal grant funds from 2004-10. I was shocked and wanted to know what had happened. I began reading the articles. When I got to the FBI Press Release dated December 14, 2011 what I considered the most reliable—I stopped to take stock. My partner and I had known these women for many years. Until my last show in their gallery in 2002, we had considered them close friends. The exhibition—Inheritance: art and images beyond a silenced genocide—was a production showcasing Armenian-American artists and the Armenian people. It was nearly a year’s work and a major undertaking for me as artist, curator and producer.

A few weeks before the exhibition opened, our tax preparer urged us to ask the two women for an accounting of the money contributions that had been donated toward funding the show. Asking for an accounting touched off a firestorm of angry accusations toward us, and threats to cancel the show, which put me in a state of ongoing anxiety for the two months of the show’s run in the gallery. Naively, we assumed the contributions that came in from our contacts were earmarked and set aside. We had virtually no understanding of non-profit gallery operations at that time, and no idea of the potential threat this request to the gallery directors would be.

Historically, the gallery had been an important outreach to the community and an alternative for rising artists to the traditional, market-based gallery system. I do not know how the current situation happened, when, or why it happened. I only know my own experience in what would be my last show there. It had been my labor of love. We were fortunate to receive in-kind donations that included a four-color catalog, marketing/advertising help and a marvelous array of catered, Armenian food and drink for the opening reception.

Everything was in order, but the enmity that ensued—the demands and constant threats to close the show at a moment’s notice made a basket case of me for most of that time. Trust was broken on all sides. What had been friendship for many years became a battleground and a living hell. I didn’t understand it then and mourn the emptiness of it all now. I am sorry to have lost the friendship we had with these two very interesting women, but in light of this new information I am thankful to be on this side of current events…thankful…but still sad to have all that collateral damage sitting in the roadway of my past. I cannot think of it without great regret for relational carelessness and wasted time.

Looking back, I remember the government shutdowns of arts funding hitting the small enterprises hardest. I am not excusing anyone or anything, merely seeing two sides of what has become the vanishing coin of the power-Study in time–3x2.5elite. I have compassion for these two people, regardless of circumstances, because I knew them at their sincere best…maybe not as deeply as I’d thought, but well enough. We are all looking for our way…our path in life. I am sorry about detours and sink holes and broken pavement. I do not know where these women are today, or how they are coping. There is nothing online past December 2011, so I assume the allegations are still pending. I am a bit of an idealist. I love resolution and reconciliation. I would like that with these two, but I dare not dream of it. I don’t really know how to swim with the bigger fish and my skin has not yet hardened. ~¿

Waiting

09
Feb
13

cats ‘n dogs love food

Today, I want to post a couple of simple blessings to bring smiles on a cold winter day.  For dog lovers, a YouTube doggie video compliments of klaatu42 . Enjoy!

Speaking of Cats…here is one for cat lovers originally posted (in part) on my Facebook page:

I am trying to work. Bella thinks I need a break. I haven’t even started, Bel. Please get off my key board. (What I will have to do in about 10 minutes is “put her to bed”. Really! I’m not kidding. Oy, vey! She is now laying across my left arm, making it difficult to type accurately. She just decided I’m not worth waiting on and left. Bless her.Bella and her keyboard trick

By 1:30 P.M. Bella’s brother Ben awakes from his morning slumber and stretches out in all his princely glory. “It is time for lunch,” he says and proceeds to set himself between me and the keyboard much as his sister did this morning. He is much bigger than dainty Bella. No matter his tricks, I know how to open the fridge and he doesn’t. Lunch is always 3:00/3:30. Ah, he sees a bird outside the window…off he goes.Bennie and his keyboard trick

Or so I thought… When I closed down the computer and got up to leave the studio, there he was, under my desk, waiting for me to get the message and go down to the kitchen. In fact, both of them were quietly waiting, Ben under the desk and Bella at the doorway. When I rose from my chair, both of them got excited and ran ahead to the kitchen. But it was only 2:00. They waited patiently for about 5 minutes. These cats are smart. They aren’t going to waste energy mewing and fussing…no. They chose their spots to wait it out and I chose mine.

Doggone it! I couldn’t manage the last 5 minutes. They got their lunch at 2:55. If there is reincarnation, I want to come back a cat and live with a push-over like me. Of course, I will be well behaved, like Bella and Bennie.

01
Feb
13

hornet’s nest of good intentions

Imagine a situation that is simple enough if kept to the surface and dealt with as is, but it has legs, roots that go deep into the ground of your being. It could be work oriented, family oriented, school or church oriented…something that is private. You’ve inadvertently lost control of that privacy and now there are people trying to help who don’t know the whole story. You don’t want those roots made public, but with each attempt from loved ones to help, comfort, aid…the roots become more and more exposed, igniting fire-stories in your memory bank that cause more distress, not less. You try to keep it simple…to say more will be overwhelming for everyone…you try to graciously say just enough, but not so much that the exposed roots cause you, or anyone else pain. Finally the effort becomes muddled and confusing between yourself and those with loving intentions. You begin to think that maybe you are speaking a foreign language, but you know you aren’t, so what is the problem? Why are you causing pain in others? That is not your intent. You go over your letters and your conversations. They seem clear to you. What is going on?

Type Embellishments_H 36pt_white.

Maybe you identify with this scenario and have your own hornet’s nest of good intentions, maybe not. This is my story today. This is what is happening. My effort to draw personal boundaries has alienated some loving friends. I feel quite sad about this. I’ve done all I know to fix it and don’t blame anyone but myself. Time will lay it’s mossy blanket in a while.

The sun is shining cold on white today. It is a bright, crisp day that hurts my tired eyes. The gray of yesterday was a better fit. “Too bad, take what you get,” the Oracle of Life says to me. I don’t answer back. I just keep breathing.

I’m thinking about an island somewhere in the south pacific where this drama is not happening and my eyes are not burning from lack of sleep. “It will all work out,’ says the Oracle, ‘this is only one page in the Book of Life and it happens to lots of people. You are not unique.

“Good,’ I say, ‘that’s good to remember.”

31
Oct
11

aging, not old

I hear people, mostly women in their 50s, say they are old. I am astounded by this. We live in a youth culture. I want to tell them about the stages of life…that they are not old, but merely transitioning from the first half of life to the second, which if done mind fully is so much richer than the first. Ages 40-60 are sociologically classified as mid-life; 60 and beyond as elder life. I certainly don’t want to denigrate anyone’s experience, but the truth is that aging is a process we are engaged in from birth onward. It is not the same as old. Further, the term old has been replaced with elder, which can have a nice ring to it. (So much nicer than senior citizen!)

We grow older, not old—older. I am pleased to say that very often the process includes a bit of wisdom—the older we get the more experience we have. If applied thoughtfully, experience can produce at least a modicum of wisdom. Each decade has its own hallmarks—highs and lows—but the trajectory for all living things is conception, birth, bloom, fade, demise. I propose that the latter 50s and 60s of a person’s life is a fading, not into demise, but into new bloom—or second bloom, if you will. (Sociologically, we may have the baby-boomers to thank for this.)

Now in my early 70’s and feeling more rather than less, I propose the 70s may very well be the doorstep of maturity or the beginning of insight. Whether it is or isn’t, my experience is an awakening to the precariousness of time. I see endings now rather than distance and time becomes precious. I think back to my mother at this age…her joys, sorrows and pervading loneliness. I did not understand any of it. I was 40…building my life and blithely ministering to my own needs. I could not understand her because I was not developmentally able to do so, yet I could have tried. I could have listened. I did not. I regret, and am shamed by this egocentrism.

I could babble on, but I’d be late for my InterPlay session, so here’s what an elder in training has to say to all the 50 year olds out there who fear 60: Each decade will be a bridge to the next station of life; and every now and then you will be really glad to have experience and wisdom in your back pocket. Practice a healthy life-style. Wrinkles are not important. Only babies are wrinkle-free.

28
Apr
11

on unholy ground

Another costly decision to exclude has created unholy ground for my dear Mennonite denomination—a church whose focus includes peace, justice, non-violence, and walking in the Way of Jesus. Mine is not the only denomination struggling to makes its way in the 21st century. The Christian Church is struggling—with greater and lesser success—at achieving relevance in the current age; however, my immediate concern is with the leadership of Mennonite Church USA who has recently cut off its nose to spite its face.

There is a saying among church folk today that is posited as a loving stance. It goes like this: Love the sinner, but hate the sin. It’s a strange juxtaposition of terms for followers of Jesus, and I don’t recall this notion presented in any of the Gospels. I don’t know if that particular sentiment was the slogan Randall Spaulding, pastor of the Covenant Mennonite Fellowship in Sarasota, Florida, heard in his ears for the past several years of his indictment proceedings. Maybe it was softened in some way, maybe not, but I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t matter what the words are—what the rationale is—the end result is the same: betrayal that hurts to the core.

Randall Spaulding’s situation began in 2008 and burst forth in 2009 when his desire to live openly with his covenanted partner was met with the revocation of his pastoral credentials by the Southeast Conference of Mennonite Church USA.  For an account of this, read Celeste Kennel-Shank’s articles in the Mennonite Weekly Review: 10/20/08 and  10/5/09.

Promises for loving dialogue were made. We all hoped and prayed they would be kept. Then on April 12, 2011, a letter from Randall appeared on the MennoNeighbors listserve. Devastation and lamentation rippled through the supportive community. Many of us have our own experiences of betrayal, either personally or in association with loved ones. This was inconceivable, because Randy’s music has become part of our worship life in many, if not most congregations!

Dear MennoNeighbors,

Some of you have probably heard about my recent expulsion from the Binational Worship Council.  You can read a bit about it here: http://www.mennoweekly.org/2011/4/18/pastor-removed-worship-council/.  The council is a US/Canadian group of Mennonite music and worship leaders considering the possibility of a future new hymnal or collection of songs for Mennonites.

Once again, the process of “loving dialogue” has, in my opinion, been subverted. I was not invited to dialogue or conversations that were taking place between Ervin Stutzman, Mennonite Publishing Network and conference leaders. I had one conversation with an executive leader on March 7 (after the decision had already been made to expel me), and the next day I received an email saying that on behalf of Ervin Stutzman and others in leadership of MCUSA my role on the council was over.

While the action isn’t surprising, it’s still disappointing and hurtful. I grow weary of always having my integrity and Christian character maligned because I’m gay and desire to live in a covenanted union blessed by God. I’m attaching my letter of response to the expulsion that I sent to Ervin Stutzman and Terry Shue. I hope it will come attached to this email.

Please pray for the Binational Worship Council as they continue their work, and pray that God will guide us all to a vision of healing and hope that embraces EVERYONE in the non-violent hospitality of Jesus.

On a brighter note, I’ve been accepted at Yale Divinity School and will be moving to Connecticut with my husband, Gary, this fall where I’ll be working on an MDiv degree. I’m sad to be leaving my wonderful and courageous congregation in Sarasota, but I’m also excited about the journey ahead.  Please keep the Covenant Mennonite Fellowship in your prayers as they prepare for this transition and discern their next steps.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of you at Pittsburgh this summer where I’ll be serving as Covenant’s delegate.

Peace,
Randy

Randy Spaulding, pastor
The Covenant Mennonite Fellowship
Sarasota, FL
www.covenantmennonite.com

I am confused. Is the executive board hating the sin or hating the sinner? (I use the term sinner only to make a point.) Solomon’s dilemma over whether to split the baby in two to satisfy two women both claiming to be its mother, comes to mind. We are all sons and daughters of God. Jesus showed us that. So how do we love the person in whom God’s face shines, but reject the face that shows us God? How do we separate the gift of music from those who bear it and bring it to us? I wonder if Randall Spaulding’s name will be erased from our song books and his songs torn out, or will a rationale be constructed that will allow accepting the gift while rejecting the giver?

The outcry has come from gay and straight corners of the denomination. Here’s what Martin Lehman, a wise, generous, straight elder had to say in response to Randy’s expulsion:

Dear Neighbors:

Some time ago I wrote the following unpublished paragraphs.  I think the insights relate to the expectations, mercy and grace of God in changing times:

“Once upon a time God created the first human beings and instructed them to be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth. A semen of a single male carried millions of sperm and one female produced a monthly egg or two. To fill the earth required that the sperm and egg meet for conception.

Nothing could be wasted. A man who spilled his semen on the ground to avoid impregnating an egg-bearing woman was considered a wicked man. A man who was wealthy enough to support multiple wives and have many concubines and used his sperm to beget many sons and daughters could still be

considered a righteous man. A widow was given to a brother of the deceased man in the hope that she could conceive children in the name of her late husband. A barren woman was disgraced.

“Now, leap with me over the millennia to the present and acknowledge that times have changed. Now, overpopulation is feared. The pressure to have babies is off. The early customs of God’s people, the law of Moses, many of the psalms and proverbs in the Bible were written by men under pressure to multiply and fill the earth.

“The rules governing sexuality developed for the people of a long gone-by era no longer apply.”

I understand and grieve over the pressures on denominational and conference leaders. However, I grieve more deeply when big and little congregations and their conferences band together to override the witness of a small congregation that has found what seemed good to them and the Holy Spirit. The MC USA has lost, and Randall Spaulding has gained an open door.  We have not heard the last. The story is not finished.

Indeed it is not finished. Here is a letter from a Mennonite Weekly Review reader:

For five years I have greatly benefited by having Randall Spaulding as my pastor at Cov­enant Mennonite Fellowship in Sarasota. But in 2009 Southeast Conference of Mennonite Church USA took away his credentials, not because he was ineffective but because he was gay.

Randy also served MC USA and Mennonite Church Canada as project editor on the hymnal supplements Sing the Journey and Sing the Story. He was also on the Binational Worship Council until he was recently expelled, presumably because his gayness would taint Mennonite music. Does that mean all copies of Sing the Journey and Sing the Story should be recalled or destroyed? Do the decision-makers assume God is not able to work through a talented pastor and musician whom God created gay?

Randy is reliving the Anabaptist experience of the 1500s as a victim of ignorance, violence and persecution. How sad that his primary persecutors are Mennonites who claim to be descendants of independent-thinking, nonviolent Anabaptists. By committing psychic violence on Randy and Covenant, and by deliberately being blind toward the unfolding of new truth about homosexuality as a given and not a choice, these zealous Mennonite descendants have betrayed the values of their Anabaptist martyrs. Hiding their prejudice under the garments of remote biblical passages and their own view of God’s will is an affront to all truth seekers.

David A. Ryan Sarasota, Fla.

And in another corner, a person with centuries of ancestry tied to the faith, has decided he cannot remain in an organization or church that prohibits membership based on sexual orientation. You can read his views and decision to withdraw membership in the April 22 posting  of his blog.

The effort to broaden the doors of the Church in the love and by the grace of God—which Jesus lived his his life—continues. Today is Thursday, the 28th of April, just seven days following the commemoration of the death of Jesus and four days following the Resurrection.

It’s not about sex. It’s about love…the way God made each of us as persons to be loved, and to love as we are born, not made.

Respectfully submitted,
Called by Name

Postscript:

Pink Menno Campaign has written a letter to the MC USA leadership. If you would like to add your signature, pull down the About Pink Menno tab and follow the instructions.

Chicago’s, Windy City Media Group has reported on a recent talk at Elmhurst College, by Bishop John Shelby Spong that fits very well with the  subject of this posting. Hey, New York Times…are you listening?




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