Posts Tagged ‘Stories



05
Jul
11

getting from here to there

Late Thursday evening, June 30th, I took a closer look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Illinois Civil Union law. Yes, yes, yes, I thought as I read quickly through, I know all this. Then saw what I should have seen before: …the civil union license and civil union ceremony must take place within the same county. Whoa! That makes a big difference. Judy and I were all set to head out to our county seat first thing the next morning. We would have procured the license and then found that it would not have been valid at our little church at the edge of the city.  Woe would have been us, to be sure. Thanksgiving to God for saving our behinds once again, then a quick online check for the nearest appropriate county office, along with Mapquest directions.

Early the next morning, my sister agrees to come along for the fun of it and we all set off for an auspicious day—one we think will mark the beginning of the end of marginalization and ignominy. It was all sort of romantic in a way, despite our 34 years together. We were ready. Excitedly, we parked the car and entered what we found to be a queue inching its way toward the approving/disapproving swash of the detection wand, judiciously held by a uniformed man.

Once through, we searched, found what we thought was the proper office and presented ourselves. Two attendants look at us quizzically and ask us if we were looking for a divorce. “No, we’re looking to apply for a civil union license,” we blurt out.

“Oh. We do divorces here. You have to go across the way to that other building. Call this number. They will tell you.”

We called the number, got directions, trudged over to the proper building, walked through the door, and found ourselves staring at a darkened office with a sign on the door informing us that the office was closed for the day due to mandated furlough policies.

This was disappointing to say the least. First thought of the marginalized—bad omens—was quickly buried in a unanimous decision to go forward for the fun parts of the day that had been planned as celebration. So we did and my world did not come to an end.

Bright and early today, July 5th, we made our second trip to the county building. Success. I was nervous with accustomed expectation of veiled judgment from the people behind the counter, which I would have to stuff somewhere, as I have for so many years. There was no judgment—veiled or otherwise. Relief was palpable for me and my witty, comedic twin came pouring out with abandon. (She doesn’t get much of an opportunity, so I couldn’t get her back inside very easily. She thanks me for the opportunity to have made this rare appearance and wishes you were there to appreciate her.)

Judy and I have signed our names to a document that will make us part of an historic movement. That, in itself, is exciting. After surviving cancer and the loss of many loved ones, I wanted my life to be meaningful. I wanted to make a difference…and so I am. Thank you all for walking this journey with me for the past several years. I am excited to see what lies ahead, especially our ceremony happening right in our church…in the presence and loving acceptance of our congregation. This is enormously important and supersedes the private commitment ceremony we had in 1995. This time it’s public and legal…and believe me…it makes a difference. I had no idea what a difference it would make. Something like coming in from the cold…into the warm of acceptable and included…being part of the human face of life.

14
Mar
11

not a piece of cake-part 2

Update:

Last week I went in for my three-week follow-up visit with the cataract doctor. I’d been having a fair bit of eye strain whenever working on the computer (which is a lot of the time), and eager to get corrective lenses for the new frames I’d ordered a week earlier. I had all of this organized and coordinated to occur as swiftly as possible. (Frames are now referred to as chassis, same as autos—I think lenses are still called lenses. That’s a comfort.)

When I heard the ophthalmologist express concern for my visual welfare because I was now near-sighted in the right eye and far-sighted in the left eye, I began to replay the scenario I’d heard at my first visit. Did I hear this lovely man tell me that the cataract in the left eye was not severe enough to be covered by Medicare…and that was why he was just going to do the right eye? I think I did, but he doesn’t remember saying that. Okay, I can’t push the point because the memory can be faulty in medical situations. He suggested that possibly one of the technicians said it. Knowing how important it is to keep the docs liking me, I assented to this having been the case. Just between you and me…it was not the case. The doc said it and I took it at face value, thinking one eye would be easier than two.

As it turns out, doing both at the same time would have been easier for me in the long run. From surgery to new glasses takes about five to six weeks. Being a forward minded person, I’d set aside this time thinking that the left eye was in pretty good shape and might never need correcting. Maybe it won’t, but there is definitely a difference between the two eyes in terms of color and light…and of course now, in equilibrium as well. The good doctor says he would like to see me in six months to consider bringing the left eye up to speed. I will have to go through this whole monkey-business all over again. This means planning my projects and life so that I have nothing visually urgent during this time and nowhere to go, since weekly check-ups and an eye drop regimen are part of the program.

So this is where I am now: I will pay $700+ for the new glasses and hope my brain will compensate mightily for the split vision. If and when I can figure out when to have the other eye done, I’ll have to get another new pair of glasses. Ca-ching, ca-ching. It’s only money.

10
Feb
11

on another note…

We, at the little church at the edge of the city, are using themes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, An Altar in the World—A Geography of Faith, this Lenten season. It has been a bit of a challenge to come up with visual art that communicates the breadth of content in this work in a simple, non-literal manner. The bulletin covers,  altar arrangements and lectern will be our main focal points, since the full sanctuary installation will be done by our host-church congregation. Ours would appear to be a fairly self-contained project, but not so, since we will not be relying on traditional purple, but instead, variations of warm sepia.

Once I had all the art finished for the bulletin covers, I turned my attention to the lectern, which will be consistently visible throughout the whole Lenten season. For the last two days the lectern has been running through my consciousness, like a steady hum from some outside electrical source one wishes to high heaven would stop. It has not stopped and is niggling around in my brain, because next week I will have cataract surgery and don’t know when I will have again reliable vision for artful details. Yesterday, ideas came and vanished as I visited several shops looking for something, but not sure what. I was getting discouraged. My God conversations went like this: “Hey, this is your thing! Help me out…give me an idea…bring it forth…please!”

Then I went home and waited. I was discouraged and began thinking again. Suddenly an idea popped into the camera of my brain: Jewish prayer shawl…homespun…something simple and naturally colored that I could enhance somehow with sacred purple. It was a cold evening and I was not going out again, so I looked through my boxes of fabrics and found a length of burlap. It was a little rough and a rather unpleasant ochre color, but I am resourceful. First thing I did was to soak the whole thing in bleach water. Ninety nine percent of the color remained and so did the smell. What next? Keep the cats out of the laundry room and ponder the situation.

While pondering, I served a rather unsatisfying dinner to my dear partner and myself, then returned to the unsolved problem in the laundry room. The burlap was hanging over the tub looking very unpromising. I decided to wash it with soap in the machine. Not to be wasteful of water, soap and energy, I added all the dark clothes in the laundry hamper as well, and looked ahead to a virtuous conclusion.

While waiting for the washer to finish, a recollection came to me that I’d done this before with a bad outcome, but I pushed it to the side of my head. The sight that greeted me upon opening the washer brought the recollection back again, somewhat more forcefully: the burlap was a tangled mass and the dark clothes were covered with its furry mess. Now what?

Like a mother quickly pulling her babies out of harm’s way, I dumped the whole thing into the dryer along with an anti-static cloth that I was sure (!!) would cause all the mess to leap from the fabrics and into the lint trap. I waited, opening the door a number of times to empty the trap, and saying a little breathy prayer as the recollection loomed larger and larger. I knew I had done this before and I was beginning to realize that the price for dumbness was my road ahead for the rest of the evening. I trimmed and ironed what was left of the burlap, hung it up and prayed that it might turn into something useful by morning. Then I began the laborious task of de-furring socks, T-shirts and pants inside and out with strips of silver tape. I was penitent for not waiting faithfully for God’s inspiring thought—for zooming ahead with me-power. Then I went to bed just a little bit doleful.

This morning I surveyed the scene. All the clothes are hanging nicely in the closet with nary a sign of misdeed and stupidity, but the socks called to me and I had to give them a third silver tape massage. Now everything is out of sight and out of mind, except for that drat burlap still hanging mockingly in the laundry room.

I’ve re-learned my laundry lesson, but there are still a couple more fabric ideas to try. Will wait for noon warmth and maybe try a few other retail sources on my way to the grocery. God knows my every need. It will happen and it will be glorious when it does. In the meantime, I have to confess that artful problem solving is a lovely bit of fun and I do enjoy the hunt. So, God be with me—show me what to pick up and what to put down.

Let not my heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

20
Dec
10

christmas letter from me to you

This year we wrote and sent the catch-up, Christmas Letter. There was so much to say and so little blood left in our veins to say it all, that we decided to create a picture-book letter. Between email and the post office we got them all sent out. Then I thought of all of you who read this blog and decided to separate text from art so I could include all of you by posting it here.:

Greetings to one and all,

Time feels completely different at the end of the year. Different than in… say…February. At this time of the year, we think a lot about past; people we’ve met, people we’ve lost, pivotal events, past Christmases….February is more of a future think. Will it snow? When will it be warm again? Just how long will it take to loose my “winter insulation” (you know…the holiday feasts that have taken up residence on our bodies)?

Last year, our circumstances didn’t allow the “time” needed to send greetings to you, so this year, we will try to make up for that with an especially “condensed” greeting.

The benefit to us in writing this may have already eclipsed the goal of this letter. As we started the outline, it was soon clear that the “Gratefulness” list was impressively longer than the “losses” and “challenges” lists. (Granted, some of the line items could have gone either way.) So we start the “gratefulness” list acknowledging that it is God’s grace that allowed us to see the bigger picture of our lives.

We lost some very significant people in the past two years; Naomi’s sister Florence, our dear friend and Naomi’s adopted daughter Bettina, our builder/handyman, neighbor, scrabble playing friend and sage Ken, Judy’s dear special cousin Sam…and her faithful old cat Frank.

Gained: New friends, deepening relationships, reconnecting with friends from the past,*new family, Naomi in remission, Judy still has a job, our 33rd anniversary, Naomi’s art integrated into the worship experience in two churches, Judy’s re-entry into music, the books of Marcus Borg & Richard Rohr…and the list goes on.  Naomi & Judy

*The new family seen here with Big Dawg and me…Darling Daughter, the Captain, Miss Green and Miss Pink…the fabulous grandchildren…just add water and stir. See June 6, 2010 /  Family Plan.

01
Aug
09

the gift of the magae

In my last post I told you all about Bennie and Bella and the joy they are to me and my family. As a child I loved cats, but my mother was frightened of all four-legged creatures. Despite that, my father brought one home once, when I was about 7 or 8. I had her for about a month, all the while knowing how much my mother actively hated her. One day, when I came home from school for lunch I couldn’t find her. My mother had given the kitty away, but claimed that she had run away. I was heart-sick about it—heart broken. I think it might have been my first such experience of loss. I knew my mother was not being truthful and the relationship between us suffered ever after because I could not trust her. I don’t think I could have responded any differently than I did as a child. The kitten had been my solace in a lonely world of blond, blue-eyed Americans. Once grown up, I filled my life with cats, to be sure, and even had a talk with my mother about the incident. She was sorry, I forgave her but we could not go backward in time. We both missed out on a trusting relationship between us.

When I learned that my friend’s family was going to welcome a cat into their home…an orange tabby no less…I was overjoyed for the children, especially the middle daughter who seems to yearn for her own place in the sun. (It’s hard to be a middle child.) I asked and received permission to post a drawing she had done of Jack the cat and he is below, at the very end of this post, watching over us all with grace and peace.

Also posted here is a little story called The Gift of the Magae, that my daughter wrote for me about 10 years ago.  She changed my childhood story to one with a happy ending. Although it is not quite biographical, it is a sweet little story and a sweet thing to do.

The Gift of the Magae, by Darling Daughter

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Merry, who grew up in Chicago during World War II. She lived in an old house with her parents, her two older sisters and a brother. During the summer, Merry and her family went to Lake Michigan to swim.  They took vacations in St. Joe Michigan and went to Armenian picnics in the park. Merry and her friends had lemonade stands and held scrap metal drives to raise money for the war effort. (Merry’s family were not Mennonites!) In the winter, she and her sisters listened to radio shows after school and went to the Saturday cinemas. But Christmas was the most magical time of all; Merry and her family would take the trolley downtown to see the decorations in the big department store windows, shop and have lunch in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field’s. She always looked forward to getting a new doll for Christmas. Sometimes, Merry and her sisters got to decorate the Armenian Christmas tree at the Museum of Science and Industry, or even see the toy train set in the there.

Merry was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet, a warm, furry creature all her own to love and hug. Many times Merry had asked her mother for a cat, but she had said no each time. “Oh, Merry, what do you want that for? It’s dirty, it will scratch the furniture and scratch you too.”

“Please Ma I really want a kitty,” she said.

But the answer was always no. Merry tried her father, who looked at her as if she had lost her mind: “A WHAT! A cat, are you crazy? An animal in the house, no! Go do your homework,” he said.

“But Maureen Finley has a cat,” Merry begged her father. He gave her an annoyed look and sent her off to do her homework.

One day in the late fall, Merry’s sister came home with a small bundle for Merry. “Look what I found, Merry. It begged me to bring it home to you.”

“What is it…a kitten? Oh, thank you, thank you Faith,” Merry cried. “Ma, please can I keep it, please?” begged Merry, as the small bundle of brown tabby stripes nestled into her arms.

Merry’s parents grudgingly allowed her to keep the kitten. Merry was overjoyed with her kitty, which she named Mittens. She fed it every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed Mittens and played with her, and at night, the cat slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Merry and her kitty were very happy.

A few weeks later, Merry came home from school to find her tabby cat was gone. She called and called for it, she  looked in every nook and cranny but still could not find the cat. “Ma.,” she asked, “where’s my kitty? Have you seen her?”

“Oh, she ran away,” replied her mother casually.

“What, that’s not possible! You took her, you got rid of her, you know where  she is, you never wanted me to have it,” Merry wailed in helpless fury at her mother. She was inconsolable over the loss of  her furry friend and cried for days, but there was nothing she could do.

Christmas Eve came and the family prepared to decorate the tree and bake the paklava and lamb for the night’s dinner. Merry was helping her sister cut out paper chains for the tree garland when she heard a faint scratching noise at the  back door. She ignored it and bent her head back over the red paper, but…”scritch, scratch” there it was again. “I wonder what that is,” she thought and got up to look outside. At first, she saw nothing in the fading afternoon light and was  about to close the door again when she heard a tiny mew from behind the door. Merry stooped down and saw a cat. “No it couldn’t be,” she though… her kitty cat? She held out her hand and the kitten came close and rubbed against her hand. It was…it was her tabby cat! She had miraculously found her old home and came back from where ever she had been.

Merry picked up Mittens and brought her inside. She showed the cat to Faith who promised she would talk to their mom. Merry gave Mittens some food and she was soon purring happily in Merry’s arms again.

Faith was true to her word and convinced her parents to let Merry keep the cat. Her mother kept her promise and made Merry’s favorite desert to make up for the loss of her cat. Mittens lived with Merry and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the old house. Merry grew up and had more cats in her life but she nevver forgot the wonderful Christmas and the cat who came to stay. The End.

This is Jack the cat, a lovely drawing by my dear friend’s middle daughter.  I think he is quite grand and will soon come out to play.

Jack by JillHe hopes middle daughter will understand his shyness and wait for him to get used to his new house and his new people.




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