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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Who gets to define you? My first step into studying Buddhism asked this very question in a different way – how would you describe yourself? Easier maybe than a definition. I’m a nana and mother, a writer, a wife, stringer etc…easy. These are the simple ways, stating what you DO in the world rather than who you are!

An old friend from high school was visiting this weekend, and though our hair has turned a pale blondish white, we stood out in high school because we were both redheads. Being a “Redhead” has a certain cache. But when I was little I hated my hair, I wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to fit in and belong. I wanted black hair like Snow White!

Edie and I were also both raised as the one and “Only” child in our families. Does that define us?

I woke up this morning to National Geographic’s special edition on Race through an Instagram video. They contend that science defines us by our DNA, but the environment, our culture defines us by the color of our skin. Their mission is to make us re-examine that paradigm; their example was a pair of fraternal twin girls, about ten years old.

The April edition of the magazine, The Race Issue, features a pair of black and white fraternal twin sisters from the United Kingdom, Marcia and Millie Biggs, on the cover (more here). The Biggs twins on the cover are a catalyst for readers to rethink what they know about race. The full issue is available now at natgeo.com/TheRaceIssue.

Now you know, and I know my DNA because I spit in a tube and sent my sample to Ancestry. Although I really didn’t need to know I was almost 100% Irish, because the priest at Sacred Heart School always told me I had the map of Ireland on my face! And I was mortified whenever he picked me out in class, although I’m sure it was meant as a compliment.

When our L’il Pumpkin was born with my exact shade of flaming strawberry blonde hair I was determined to help him feel proud about his carrot top. Well either that or ignore it altogether. But how will his ghostly white skin affect his journey through life? Will his schoolmates tease him when he’s putting on sunscreen before playing baseball? Will he yearn to have brown skin like some of his friends?

I remember when we visited Duke on the Bride’s college tour, and the Rocker, only 13 at the time, watched a group of African students walk by in colorful traditional dress. He thought it was so cool. Isn’t this what we want for our children, to enlarge their cultural influences, to expand their minds beyond a neighborhood of white privilege.

With our nation so divided – by political party, by religion, by geography – I wonder if we can turn inward to see what in fact we all share. Has Mr T unleashed this underbelly of white-neo-nazi terror in order to make us choose sides? Can we reject that? I choose to embrace our common sense of decency and civility, our humanity. We ALL want better schools for our children, schools without guns and active shooter drills. We ALL deserve comprehensive healthcare.

America, in our many shades of white/beige/brown/black, is at a tipping point. On the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s murder, I remember marching in the streets of Boston with my black armband. I was a college student then, and I would have defined myself as a “Dancer!”

Here is our superhero Spiderman. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to see Black Panther.

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Hallelujah! Star Wars the Last Jedi has finally opened on this side of the pond; Bob and I started our Friday morning by buying tickets online for the megaplex outside of town. Out of 21 theaters in the art deco masterpiece, 12 were featuring Star Wars! We opted to go after lunch, thinking other times might be sold out, plus first we had a date with the Little Pumpkin!

The Festival of Lights is in full swing and the Temple Preschool invited parents and grands to a Hanukkah Shabbat service. The sanctuary was shimmering in sunlight as the Rabbi strolled in wearing a dreidel on her head! Children played, the Cantor sang and we all laughed and watched an amazing juggler. Pop Bob even had a few latkes, with apple sauce. I remembered why I liked this religion so much.

As our tiny red head sat on the Bride’s lap, clapping and singing, time was suspended for a moment of pure joy.

Now I don’t want to ruin the new Star Wars movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but we all know it’s about an epic fight between good and evil – the Light Last Jedi side vs the Dark Conflicted Kylo Ren side. Returning to its existential roots, the latest film in the series does not disappoint, and seeing General Leia (always the princess to me) was bittersweet to the point of tears. I only wish the latest villain, General Hux, wasn’t a red head…

Returning to “reality-based” villains, maybe Alabama turning Blue was the last straw for Mr T? Because I awoke today to this little tidbit of news from the esteemed Washington Post on my phone:

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”  

The analysts were naturally skeptical, they thought maybe this was a joke? I thought it must be an Onion satire when I first read about our government banning words from official documents. After all, HHS has already archived information on LGBT rights; isn’t it better NOT to relay critical methods used to stop HIV infections in certain communities? It would seem we are slipping into the Dark Ages, where climate change is challenged, evolution can be debunked, creationism taught, and women senators humiliated via Twitter at the puny hands of our Groper-in-Chief.

After a thrilling Friday, my morning is sunny and bleak. We gave our Little Pumpkin a Star Wars super duper light saber kit for Hanukkah. His sister had painted his nails black and we sat outside looking for “mean guys.” We must do better with this next generation, and teach them to put the earth and science above myth and money. It’s time for every American to choose the Light or the Dark side.

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I’ve heard people say, the day after #HumanRightsDay, that they will lose their faith in people if Alabama elects a pedophile like Moore tomorrow. Granted, seeing pastors and some southern Republicans stick by him is confusing and contradictory if you happen to be a practicing Christian. Listening to Mr T’s robo-call of support is yet another nonsensical stunt from our Groper-in-Chief.

But it’s Moore’s racist point of view, and his willingness to endorse the agenda of the NRA that is truly frightening.

After all, it’s not just what he did as a middle-aged man with a teenager – it’s how he will vote as another old white guy in the Senate that is truly frightening! How can you say you believe the woman who was 14 when Roy Moore sexually assaulted her and simultaneously want the man in office. Easy, Trumpsters write this off as another “boys will be boys” moment. Locker room talk? It never happened. Denial is a powerful thing.

Maybe, but it’s a ‘bless his heart’ kinda Southern thing too, this Fundamentalist/Baptist faith in a God who is all powerful and therefore can take the rap for anything bad that ever happens; this is on the other side of a religious spectrum of ‘it’s a bad idea for one’s religion to guide policy in the US…’ ya know, cause the founders were trying to SEPARATE church and state.

“Moore suggested that a lack of faith in God may have played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as he quoted a passage from the book of Isaiah in a February speech at the Open Door Baptist Church. The passage suggests that because God’s message was rejected, sin will come like a high wall that suddenly collapses.”

Then he compares that high wall to the Pentagon. He indicated that God may be upset because “we legitimize sodomy” and “legitimize abortion.” Families were closer during slavery! He has even blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on Americans who have, “…forgotten the law of God.” He believes we are a sinful people. I believe he is insane! https://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/27/roy-moore-outrageous-things-he-said-243207

Remember when Congress failed to pass a universal background check after the Sandy Hook massacre? That’s about when I lost my faith completely. Our legislators showed their true colors back then, and as my brother Eric likes to say, “We have the best democracy money can buy.”

They are willing to sacrifice 90+ lives a day to gun violence, and would now like concealed carry gun owners to be able to carry their weapons across state lines with impunity. So if a woman flees to a neighboring state, her abuser can easily bring his weapon of choice along for the chase. Republicans really respect women and girls, right? Women who lost their children in a classroom, girls who are being strangled by their gun-toting boyfriends.

Being an old school feminist, I’m really glad the #MeToo movement has started a revolution of sorts, but I wonder how we can bring about the kind of common sense gun reform our country so desperately needs. How about making it easier to vote, instead of harder? That could be a start, along with throwing the money/lobbyist class off the Hill.

Tis the season for sharing. Who cares whether you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays?” Not me. While you decorate your trees and light your candles, while you go to the church or synagogue or nature trail of your choice, while you make your end of year charitable donations, think about ways we can make our country more equitable and just for all our citizens. I’d like to keep my faith in humanity.

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The latest This American Life podcast on NPR was all about summer camp. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/109/notes-on-camp

About those people who absolutely loved camp and still think of it as a highlight of their young lives; and those who either never went to camp, or hated it for one summer. I fall into the former category. I started attending Camp St Joseph (CSJ) for Girls in the Catskills when I was around 10 years old, for the whole summer, and made it all the way to Counselor-in-Training at 16.

Which means I was a glorified waitress, but it was my first real job, and I was ecstatic.

Of course I was homesick that first summer. I had been contemplating moving home with the Flapper, and she was a working single mom at the time. So if I wanted to make the move work, she and my older sister Kay insisted I go to camp. CSJ was run like a military base camp. A bugle woke you at dawn and points were deducted from your team if you were late for the flag raising, if your uniform was wrinkled, or if a nun couldn’t bounce a coin off your neatly made cot/bed. The rafters were open so evening temperatures plummeted – we slept in our sweaters and socks.

Did I forget to tell you that each cabin had a nun sleeping in it?

Or that we went to Mass. Every. Single. Morning.?

But this is the place where I came of age. Where we sang Ave Maria on our way through the woods to a secluded grotto with a statue of Mary. Where I played Sir Lancelot in the play because I was taller than the other girl with a voice. Where I learned to play basketball like a pro. I can still remember the smell of the basketball court’s wood floor. The stomping, the cheers from the crowd, the ice cold Pepsi bottle from a machine after all our games.

I think the Flapper was pleasantly surprised that I cried when it came time to leave camp that first summer. After all, there were no smart phones to keep in touch; in fact, the camp didn’t want us to contact our parents at all. Every now and then we’d have to sit down and write them a letter, but that was voluntary – hence the phrase, no news is good news! After my first letter pleading my case to return home, my Mother never heard from me again.

Separation is an essential part of human development. Who really wants their kids living in their basement forever? Every year, when it came time to sew my name tags on all my camp clothes (khaki shorts and white polo shirts), the process of mini-individuation would begin. Raised as an only child with my foster parents, I learned how to handle conflict. I was also free to ride horses, learn archery, and play a mean game of jacks on our cabin’s front porch!

Today parents can keep track of their kids at summer camp via social media. I hate to sound stodgy, but IMHO this is not a great idea. Instead of separating parent from child for the summer, and allowing your child to blossom, constant virtual contact can give rise to separation anxiety… for the parent. Why isn’t Johnny in the river rafting picture? Where are Jane’s bunkmates in the craft cabin photo?

If I remember correctly, there were certain things I’d rather NOT tell my parents. Today, privacy is a thing of the past, and we Boomers are to blame. Kids share every detail of their lives on so many sites I can hardly keep track. Which is why I find it particularly hard to believe that Donald Jr didn’t say anything at all to Donald Sr about the possibility of digging up some dirt on Hillary via Russia last summer…

Now I get that Don Jr was raised as an entitled, elitist prep school snob. And I get that he thought he could pretty much get away with anything he did because Daddy’s money and power would bail him out of trouble. But I can’t buy into the “rookie” mistake language, or that he was an “innocent” bystander in all things Russian.

I think the President’s son needs to ship out to summer camp now, yesterday! Get off Twitter, remain unplugged and take a canoe out on a lake somewhere far away from reporters. Because even if his meetings with Russians were pure, and not illegal, they were certainly not saintly.       IMG_0809

 

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“What should I write this morning?” I asked Bob. He mumbled something over coffee that sounded like, “I dunno thatsatourriff.” This is what happens when you talk with your mouth full, cause I’m pretty sure he actually said, “I don’t know that’s your gift.” Or gig, or whatever. So I said,

“I know, facelifts!”

Well, actually I don’t know much about facelifts except, that every celebrity of a certain age is starting to look the same. And when you go too far under the knife, or too often, you could start to look like a lion. Beware, that image you see in the mirror may no longer be you!

But I DO recognize that schoolyard bully who might tell a young girl her lips are too big, or her hair is dirty, or (pick a body part and insert a slur). Mr T has got a huuuge problem with smart women, like Mika Brzezinski, and fast, tiny fingers that tap out his stream of putrid consciousness almost every morning. This is horrifying to the civilized world but somehow continues to delight his followers. Leaders don’t do this, they don’t intimidate, harass and belittle others into compliance. They certainly don’t talk about women bleeding…

When I opened Twitter this morning, one of my favorite authors, Joyce Carol Oates, popped up with this:

“Face-lift? Who needs a face-lift? All of US badly in need of soul-lift.” 

Here are a few things we can do for our souls, instead of trying to dissect the Presidential Twitter feed – which is simply vindictive nonsense.

  1.  Do something good for our planet. Plant a tree, pick up garbage on your street, bring tote bags to the grocery store if you’re not already. Donate to an environmental agency like The Sierra Club, or pick a non-profit: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2006/03/guide-environmental-non-profits/  We only have THREE years to get right with the world, so what are you waiting for? http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/06/29/we-have-3-years-to-act-on-climate-change-before-its-too-late-s_a_23007680/
  2. Become someone your grandchildren will admire. Pick a cause (and not cyber-bullying, FLOTUS has that covered y’all) and throw your body and soul into it. Is gun violence driving you mad? Guns kill nearly 1,300 children each year in our country. Join “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” and help them #disarmhate https://momsdemandaction.org. If you think women’s rights are human rights, see what your local Planned Parenthood is up to, that is if they are still open?
  3. Go Deep. Turn off all those devices and listen to the world. First of all, your inner peace is depending on you. Meditate, even if it’s just for ten minutes while you’re watering the garden. Did you know walking the dog could be a meditation? You don’t have to sit in a lotus position and chant things. Great Grandma Ada said she would have to get up and dust if she ever tried meditating. But once we make peace with ourselves, we have a ripple effect on the rest of our lives. Acceptance is a form of grace, and it doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning.

Wasn’t it Lady Gaga or the Dalai Lama who wrote about self-acceptance? Everybody has a body part they don’t like, and we women are notorious for being critical. Her nose is too long, her hands betray her age, if only I could just lose that last ten pounds…The Flapper didn’t like her freckled, ski jump nose. She told me she would rub lemon juice on her nose to try and bleach out the freckles. For me, I was a tomboy just as flat-chested as the Flapper, and there were some boys who liked to remind me of this fact.

Lucky for me, I never succumbed to the ridicule by placing sacks of saline in my chest.

Stay Woke people. Get out there and enjoy this glorious weather and remember you don’t need to eat and breathe politics. When I was young, we had one half hour at night to watch Walter Cronkite and complain about the news…as a family, around one TV set. Daddy Jim read the newspaper, you remember those, in peace and quiet. It wasn’t all consuming all the time. Mr T’s Tweets are bad for our collective health. Here’s the latest Dalai Lama’s Tweet:

“We experience happiness on a sensory level that is relatively short-lived. But lasting happiness is related to our state of mind.” 

Enjoying a frozen hot chocolate with cupcake bear can also be soul-lifting.

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While cleaning and decluttering my aviary, I discovered a wish list I had made back in February of 2002 while still in NJ. At that time my son was applying to college and my daughter was working at her first post-college job in DC. I was anticipating the dreaded Empty Nest syndrome. It was fun to read the 25 wishes; many have already come true! Though I do not have an agent or a cook…yet.

Strangely enough, the very first thing on my wish list is to get more organized! Which is exactly what I’m doing; I now know where every single utensil is in my kitchen, I have the perfect amount of towels, and I have thrown out all those files I kept of Rumson Borough Council meetings. I did however keep the random thank you note from readers. It’s always nice to know your copy was read, and not just used to line a bird cage. Newspapers, good stuff.

As you probably know I am NOT a list-maker. But I did pick up a book during the Cville Festival of the Book titled, “52 Lists for Happiness,” by Moorea Seal. Anita and I were talking about how we could have more fun during these Trumpconian years, how we could avoid being dragged down by politics. When I read on my Facebook feed yesterday that we had dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan, during the holiest week for Christians and Jews, I thought it must be fake news. But I knew Gail, the person posting this, she is a devoted activist and feminist in her church and our community.

She held un umbrella over our heads when we marched in Cville to support Planned Parenthood. She helped organize our first trip to Richmond to march for women’s rights. Gail knows a thing or two. She probably makes lists because she knows how to get things done! Gail quoted a minister, Rev Emily Heath, who said:

Next time someone tells you this is a “Christian nation” remind them that we just bombed Afghanistan during Holy Week.

Specifically we did it on the day that Scripture tells us Christ said these words:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Number 9 on my wish list was to have a “writing room.” A retreat from the world that was not just a corner of the dining room. As I sit here this morning looking at the journal I bought that might prompt me to make lists, I am profoundly afraid for our nation. We have an unpredictable President dropping bombs with alacrity, because his daughter was moved by dying Syrian babies, but not by a dead Syrian baby who washed up on a Greek island. But no, we can’t let Syrian refugees into our country. God Forbid.

At least Assad has decided to move civilians out of their war-torn cities, Sunnis go to Sunni territory and Shia go to Shia. That’s a step, to get the proxy war moving along. The Russians must be just as worried as we are! “The meeting in Moscow on Friday between Russian, Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers was the first held between the three allies since the US launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase in response to the alleged chemical attack.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39597630

I am now packing up my home, about to start a new chapter. What will I carry with me, what about all the Flapper’s correspondence? Yes. The elbow noodle pictures from preschool? Probably not. Will we be welcomed into a new community? Will people ask us, as they do all over the South, “What church do you belong to?”

Well, I belong to the church of peace and love, to the people who don’t run their lives by dogma or dietary dictates. I belong to my family of all colors and faiths. I belong to the sisterhood of brave, smart women. I’m going to start my first list – The Things That Make Me Happy Right Now:

Classical Music

Ms Bean

Birds Singing

The Mountains

Spring

The GIF of Our 2 yr Old Grandson Dancing

Bob in the Buddha Garden

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What’s happening in the world. As Tillerson jets to Russia with a “Make my Day” kind of deal, an Asian physician is dragged off a United plane while passengers documented every minute. This morning, the United CEO has done an about face, finally apologizing for the incident; and simultaneously lovely Melissa, oops, Sean Spicer got his apology right on the third try. Yes Sean, Hitler DID use chemical weapons on innocent people, they just happened to be Jews.

The Jewish people are used to this kind of thing. In fact, a dear friend just told me that one of her son’s friends/acquaintances is a Holocaust denier. And that they actually don’t say it didn’t happen anymore, just that it was more like what we did with the Japanese internment camps…. You know, like a “Holocaust Center?!”

Over the years, I’ve met relatives with numbers on their arms. My first supervisor at an outpatient mental health clinic was a child of Holocaust survivors. One of our Big Chill friends was conceived at a refugee camp in Italy after his parents were liberated from a concentration camp in Poland. I’ve been attending Seders now for almost 40 years, and yet this was the first time I actually ran the show. I knew something would go wrong. I forgot to give everyone some parsley, so I started a new tradition of a parsley posey.

This is the first time I’m actually afraid for the survival of the human race, not just one group of people. Seriously – will Russia decide to sacrifice another pawn. Or maybe North Korea will put us into checkmate?

What kind of plagues should God rain down upon us this time? At least I didn’t poison anyone at my Seder. I’m a compulsive germaphob in the kitchen. Ever since I nearly killed my first husband with a salmonella infested sandwich I picked up at a deli in Harvard Square. I made Great Grandma Ada wash her hands all the time, and we cooperated on the prep for the haroset. Maybe Mr T will get a bad case of boils? Or locusts could infest the Rose Garden?

Our trees are greening and birds are singing. Spring is a time for rebirth, not sarin gas and armageddon. In fact Sean, you were right in one detail, Hitler did NOT use sarin to exterminate 6 Million Jews, “innocent” people, even though it had been discovered by a German scientist. Some speculate it was because he was gassed in the First World War. But most scholars say it was because Churchill would have retaliated if he tried to use gas on the battlefield or in the camps.

“War is chess. Hitler would have sacrificed a lot of pieces that he couldn’t afford to lose.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/04/11/hitler-refused-to-use-sarin-gas-during-wwii-the-mystery-is-why/?utm_term=.9dc38985fc9d

The Nazis constantly searched for more efficient means of extermination. At the Auschwitz camp in Poland, they conducted experiments with Zyklon B (previously used for fumigation) by gassing some 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 ill prisoners in September 1941. Zyklon B pellets, converted to lethal gas when exposed to air. They proved the quickest gassing method and were chosen as the means of mass murder at Auschwitz.

At the height of the deportations, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005220

6 Thousand a day, 6 Million in WWII. Holocaust centers, killing camps. Sarin gas vs Zyklon B vs chemical weapons. A gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe. And this whole Trump administration is one big gaffe.

Today we rode along Skyline Drive to get the long view, the balcony shot. I wish we humans could just decide not to play chess with our lives on this planet.  IMG_0305

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