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Showing posts from January, 2007

What They say about Assumptions

Assumptions can be very dangerous, especially when we act on them without checking them out. I have heard it said that assumptions are premeditated resentments, and I believe it's true.
Quote From:
Meditations for Living In Balance
Daily Solutions for People Who Do Too Much
by Anne Wilson Schaef

The Shaman of Friendly's

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As I sit alone in a computer lab and sip my morning coffee from a paper cup to ward off the cold of this January morning, I am reminded of a woman I know who used to serve up coffee every weekday to every kind of human being imaginable in a small Connecticut town--painters, photographers, May-December lovers who had slipped away from their spouses to start the day together, truck drivers, sanitation workers, bankers, secretaries, shop clerks, ne'er-do-wells who always had just enough change in their pockets for that morning cup....

They would sit on stools around the bays of the diner where this woman worked or, in the case of the lovers, they would slip into a booth as if the walls of their seats somehow made them invisible to passersby outside the plateglass window. This waitress would bring them their coffees in the diner china mugs that kept the heat for a very long time, and they sat over the steaming brown drink as if there were no other place to be.

Lined up in their row arou…

Loyalty, Friendship, Good Reason

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I weep whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner. I am not a Republican. I am not a right-wing Christian. I do not believe in this bloodbath in Iraq. I don't bowl. I can't stand country music.

The point: I weep whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner.

I weep for a special and dear friend who fought in a horrific war for no good reason he could think of except that he was called to fight by a President who was the boss.

I weep for this special and dear friend whose first brother also fought in that war but on a different continent. And his second brother who also fought but did not come home because he was blown to bits by the designated enemy. This was the youngest of the three who went because of an abomination in the Pacific that made him itch for justice and fair play and who, damn it all, was going to be a part of getting that justice and fair play.

Mostly, though, I weep for the special and dear friend who was my great uncle and my dearest friend, Alan Isbell. He loved me for…

Time to Say Thanks

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I came across this in my email today and immediately thought of several very dear friends to whom it applies. This is for them--Jeanne, Caroline, Ed, Rita, Mama and Papa L., Jo-Anne, Lois, Brian...--because we all need to know we're loved and to be grateful for the beautiful gift of sincere, selfless friendship.

A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities. (William Arthur Ward)

Belief versus Unbelief

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"Unbelief is as much of a choice as belief is. What makes it in many ways more appealing is that, whereas to believe in something requires some measure of understanding and effort, not to believe doesn't require much of anything at all. "

Quote From:
Beyond Words
Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith
by Frederick Buechner

Ethan Frome and the Prodigal Son: to sin or to sin?

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If you want to kill off a social conversation, bring up Edith Wharton's novella Ethan Frome. It's that torturous tale of the woe of three miserable New Englanders living out their damaged little lives on a hardscrabble farm where their is no relief from the pain of life.

The show-stopper question is, "Whose fault is it?" (More)

The Genesis of it All

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There's as much joyful as their is almighty in the God of The Genesis of it All. Luci Shaw's picture book (illustrated by Sr. Huai-Kuang Miao and Sr. Mary Lane) about the Creation of the Earth and its occupants is full of swirls and twirls of teeming life and streaming light that merge and emerge anew with more and more of the metaphorical, magical truth of Genesis 1 as God's work week moves out of the void and into a resplendant paradise. Take hold of a child's hand while you read this book and become a part of the story and you'll feel the abundant love of a joyful God wrapping you in light and life and transcendence all at once. It's a fun book, the first few pages of the biography of a Creator God who just loves to make things, who rejoices in every form of life.

It's not my Mother's Fault...

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...she raised me better than to go around with images of a Pin-up Boy. But beauty is as beauty does...and we all need a little beauty on a cold winter's morn.

The facts of life a la the rodent men

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Tapper, who was a cheerleading captain in a previous life, is quite the manly man in this one. He's been trying to mate with his step-brother Delmo, who puts up with him because--what else can he do? The cage is only so big. The first time my daughter saw Tapper in action, she thought he was playing. We wondered what we would tell her if she asked.

We live in the Age of Tell Them Everything Even if They're too Young Because Honesty is a Great Cover for Foolishness. I usually prefer ignorance to that kind of honesty. "I have no idea what's going on," has gotten me out of some tight spots with small kids. To wit: "How'd you get a baby in your tummy?" a five-year-old daughter of a friend once asked me. "I have no idea," I said, "but as soon as I got to the bottom if it, I'll let you know." Worked like a charm. Does an eight-year-old need to know she has a homosexual guinea pig who regularly sexually assaults his step-brother? Do…

Movie Review: House of D

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Though it has been panned by the brand-name critics as trite, sentimental, and forced, House of D is nonetheless a great story—for kids on the verge of adolescence or stuck in the middle of it and not really enjoying themselves perhaps in large part because of the adults around them. (More)

Movie Review: All the King's Men

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In a word, All the King’s Men is a movie about betrayal. At every level of relationship in this 2006 film based on Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the career of hick politician Huey Long in Louisiana in the 1930s, every character in this story betrays the essential personal truth that makes them who they are. (More)

Poems from old Records

I've been copying poems recorded by their writers from vinyl to MP3 files. I'll upload to my podcast as often as I can. If you're a fan of Dylan Thomas or Robert Frost, you might enjoy the two that are there now. Scroll down to the podcast in the toolbar on the left.

Andy's Back, God is in his Heaven, and all is Right with the World

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I cared nothing for baseball until I watched Andy Pettitte pitch during the 1996 World Series. Then I watched poetry in pinstriped Spandex motion. The poise, the gracefulness, the clean movement....He stood in sharp contrast to the tubby, 4-o'clock-shadowed, gum-chewing slobs in need of haircuts. He brought art to the game.
Suddenly, this great American game had a place in my life. Next thing I knew, my husband bought me one of his autographed balls. My brother-in-law gave me a 16X20 portrait. Another friend bought me not one but two Andy Pettitte T-shirts.
Now that he's back in New York, we see Newton's First Law of Physics (what goes around comes around) come home to roost in Steinbrenner's little barnyard. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has called Pettitte the Perfect Employee. All I can say is, bring on the perfection. And Amen.

My Grandmother's Scarf

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I love the cold:
I can wear this long brown acrylic muffler
With the tatty fringe
My grandmother once wore
With a matching cloche
That was just too plain
Until she sewed on a yellow pom-pom
That looked like a dollop of sunshine
She pulled together.

There she would stand
Not at all like a young flapper--
Free-spirited, open-minded, and on occasion
(and by her own account) intemperate--
But like a lavishly built grandma in the 1970s
Who carried in her heart
All the magic of those earlier times--
The deep joy of being who she was
And burning bright.
You could see every delightful moment she had ever known
In her eyes that shone brightly from under that cloche.

It's cold out, finally, and I love it.

Living with Dummies

She called them dummies. They were four men who had been out clamming in Long Island Sound for the length of a bitterly cold afternoon in the heart of winter.

Darkness was falling by the time they came into her kitchen with their bushel baskets full of cherry stone clams, wet clothes, and flasks of blackberry brandy. First came her husband Harry Denney, Dummy 1; my Godfather John Cox, Dummy 2; my father George Carlson, Dummy 3; and lanky and lean friend of all Tommy Edwards, Dummy 4.

The names stuck. They loved it. They were warm all over with brandy as they stood in her little kitchen filled with the aromas of Italian cooking, and they thought it was hysterical and true. They were Dummies. (More)

The Rodents in my Life

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(Love does not dominate, it cultivates. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Recently we brought home a second guinea pig to keep company with the one we had purchased for our daughter’s eighth birthday. Tapper had looked lonely in the cage, so it seemed right and natural to get him a companion.

A friend who is a Protestant minister cautioned me against ascribing human emotions to a rodent. On a separate occasion, a friend who is a Catholic nun remarked that the two guinea pigs would teach Adella many life lessons.

This was not quite an ecumenical moment. That came later when this lifelong Protestant found herself on the side of the Sister. Here’s one of the first life lessons the rodents taught us—or rather lived out in front of us. (More)

Of Labels and Pieces of Meat in Friendship

When warehouse shopping came into vogue, my mother was ready for it with her gigantic freezer, rolls of waxy white freezer paper, and permanent markers. Every piece of meat that she wrapped was labeled according to the cut and the date she bought it. Our freezer was always very much like Lucy Ricardo’s when she bought that side of beef. There was always something to eat, and knowing what it was and if it was safe to eat contributed as much to our sense of well-being as the meat itself.

That’s the way it should be with meat. People are another story, though in this day and age it’s sometimes hard to remember that. Pop psychology, dime-a-dozen talk therapists and social workers, talk shows, self-help mags, and the like have taken the business of labeling out of the kitchen and imposed it on just about every human relationship.

Now, instead of being just plain interesting—or even boring—we’re neurotic, depressed, insecure, paranoid, passive-aggressive, bipolar, borderline, manic, and on an…

My Uncle's Drive-by Shootings

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Today I replaced the batteries in my digital cameras and removed the battery from my good old 35 mm Minolta. I’m not sure when I’ll use it again, and I don’t want the battery to corrode and eat up this old memory maker.

I’ve had this wonderful, heavy thing since I was 18. I learned to use it with my Uncle Bud, who died at 95 last year. He was great for drive-by shooting from his Buick.

On weekends, we’d meet at his house in Danbury and drive up to Kent to see what was new in the galleries. It was our way of keeping up with New York. Along the way, if Uncle Bud saw something interesting, he’d stop and photograph it. He’d been visiting the galleries over so many years, that the vivacious young docents were only too happy to bend the rules and allow him to photograph the artwork. He brought his camera into those galleries like a schoolboy proud he had earned some rare privilege. He made their day.

My uncle shot the good, the interesting, and the ugly. He didn’t have to like it—that seemed t…

Night at the Museum

One age’s veni, vidi, vici is another’s Manifest Destiny. History is a sequence of stories about one person taking what he wants from another just because he can. It’s about the effects of unbridled power. The lesson we all know but never quite process is that we’re doomed to repeat the history we don’t learn from. We’re doomed because the unlearned lessons are about the pain and misery that result from behavior born of limited knowledge and understanding. These are the limits that kill off the part of us that can empathize with others. (More)

Charlotte's Web

There is an objectivity and predictability about farm life that would seem to be a source of comfort: the cycle of life, the cycle of time, the food chain, the survival of the fittest. There is a connection to the earth that reminds us all life begins and ends with and in the earth—yet, when someone comes along to inject that world with a dose of passion, of sincere and open-faced love for all life—wherever it links to the food chain and however fit or unfit—the objective and predictable give way to delightful chaos. (More)

Thinking about blank books

When I was a kid, my great-grandparents finished their lives in the home they had built in Darien, Connecticut in 1914. My maternal grandparents shared the home with them and provided much of their care but not all of it. My great-grandparents were beloved, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren came to see them at every opportunity. It was easy. It was natural. We were all at home. (More)

Edna St. Vincent Millay, Fatal Interview

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Edna St. Vincent Millay’s 1931 collection of 52 sonnets Fatal Interview on the one hand charts the course of a failed love affair and on the other celebrates the enduring mystery of the power of art to make whole and beautiful the sometimes sordid experiences of the human soul. (More)

Sound to Music

As music is to sound
So poetry is to letters,
Bread to flour,
Wine to the grape--
What am I to you, then,
And what are you to me?
What application of heat and light,
What friction
Causes us to dissolve--
Me into you, you into me,
Hearts into souls into soul...
Us into them,
Until the sentences of our lives
Contain neither subject nor object--
Only that grand verb
(Called by some the helping verb
And thought, funny enough, not much of),
To be?

Meditations on Nature, Meditations on Silence

Meditations on Nature, Meditations on Silence edited by Roderick MacIver and Ann O’Shaughnessy is a retreat between two covers.It is an eclectic collection of insights into the quality and nature of silence and of the silence in nature. (More)

The Heart of Christianity

Jesus scholar Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity throws open the windows of the Christian church and blows out the cobwebs that have clouded the view of the living post-Easter Jesus and his vital place in our lives. Published by HarperCollins in 2003, the book proposes to bridge the yawning, deepening, darkening gap between belief-centered dogmatic Christianity (what Borg calls the "earlier paradigm") and the "emerging paradigm." (More)

Stories Behind the Best-loved Songs of Christmas

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Back stories are big these days--and they're fun and worthwhile when they illuminate and expand literature or events that pique our curiosity. They're bad news when they amout to little more than peeping in through back windows or when they trivialize complex truths.

Stories Behind the Best-loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins falls into the Illuminating category. They are the stories of why Christmas is Christmas and why its truth survives despite the glitz and gift-wrap. (More)

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