Whispering

I need to learn to whisper Jesus’ name.

I am more likely to shout it in moments of fear and frustration. But that is not inviting his presence. And it is his presence I need to live a balanced, purposeful life.

I am struggling right now with that purpose. I have my fingers into too many ministerial pies. Then there is my writing, the gift I thought God gave me to use to his glory.

Instead I seem to be wasting it on Donald Trump and what movie I watched on TCM last night. While it is relevant to write about Trump, especially since I see him as a true threat to our nation, and fun to write about movies, because I love them, what purpose is there to it? Who is being moved by what I do?

I write by feeling, by whatever most moves in that moment and then hope others will be moved by it too. I am not sure they are. But then again, I am not sure they aren’t.

I have never been sure of much of anything in life.  That’s why it has felt at times like both a roller coaster and a merry-go-round: all ups and downs and round abouts that never take you anyplace but where you started from.

I need to learn to get off the ride at a new point, and to whisper “Jesus” as I do.

 

 

Marriage, Movies and Lies

As is my wont when I am stressed out, I run away into another landscape unfamiliar to my own.

In other words, I watch movies, especially on TCM if I can find a real classic or any other channel where escapism from what is going on around me can be found.

Last night at 2 a.m. it was re-watching Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  Tonight it was Charles Boyer in a French, sub-titled period piece called “The Earrings of Madame de.”  I had neither heard of nor seen the latter before, but Ben Mankiewicz assured me in his pre-movie set-up that the director of this 1953 period drama was considered the greatest European director of the time – and that the director of this year’s Oscar nominated “Phantom Thread” with Daniel Day-Lewis was a big fan of the French director whose name was obscure to me – I had to give it a go.

(While I love movies, I am not a film buff in the sense of knowing all the production details; it is the stories and the characters that draw me.)

Albee’s story, of course, is raw and rough.  The husband and wife played by Burton and Taylor are mean, spiteful to one another, demeaning of others, physically abusive and only come alive with alcohol coursing in their veins.

The Boyer movie was all perfectly groomed manners and 19th century French ball rooms, with discrete flirtations and seductions, and pretended civilized discourse between spouses.

What connected the movies was that in both cases, what was happening on the surface of the marriages was not what lay at the heart of them.  There were deeper secrets there that the spouses could not name aloud but played their way into a final confrontation with them through gamesmanship and multiple layers of lies woven into stories that were told to themselves and others.

It is watching the games play out and waiting for their revelation that is fascinating.  In the case of Albee’s work, the end of the lies brings the husband and wife to a new reality of their marriage.  We are left to wonder if they will cope with it any better than they have with the elaborately concocted lie of it they lived for so long.

In the Boyer movie, the diamond earrings that are the centerpiece of the drama – being sold and re-bought many times over by Madame de ‘s husband – end up on a literal altar as the final gift of a woman whose heart gives out when reality is forced on her.  One is left to wonder if Boyer’s General re-bought the earrings for a fourth and final time, when he had said “no more” after the third.

Why we all have so much trouble with the truth is a universal issue.  We look for its pure core like we look for the North Star to guide us.  Except there are so many stars in the sky, I am never sure which one it is.  So then I turn within and try to be still and listen for God’s voice.  Too often there is only silence.

Since human history – in Biblical terms – started with lies of a husband and wife in the Garden of Eden, that this continues to be the topic of movie themes shouldn’t surprise.  The lies we tell ourselves are as old as time.  The truth we seek much more elusive.

 

Lara Trump Called Me a Dummy

Am I missing something?

Lara Trump seems to think so.  According to her recent appearance on Fox News, despite my degree in journalism, six years covering such subjects as nuclear energy, big agriculture and education; despite my six years in public relations for what was then the nation’s largest utility, and all the years after working in other corporate environments; I am too stupid to know my own mind.

I guess I should just kiss off all those MBA and Master’s in Administration and Organizational Management classes I took, along with my MENSA card.

According to this Trump savant, I – who marched in the Women’s Movement this weekend in my heart because my body doesn’t let me – don’t know what I am doing or why I am in opposition to the Trump administration.

News flash:  I know every reason I object to what I consider an abominable threat to our Republic and democratic ideals.  I was a reliable GOP voter at the time Trump announced (You’re welcome, Mitt Romney.  Sorry Jeb.).

The minute Trump opened his mouth and declared a racist untruth I was a #NeverTrumper who moved firmly into Democratic territory when he won the nomination and the more often he opened his mouth and said something ghastly, garish and sometimes ghoulish.

It was a quick transition for me.

I like to believe I was a “compassionate” Republican.  I hate war, want to help those who need it and have a secure, stable economy and quality educational opportunities which can still work to lift people out of poverty, as they used to do.

However, I don’t believe we can look to the past to make that happen.  Technology is already so far ahead of us, it makes my head spin.  We have always been a land of innovation – the isolationists among us could never contain the entrepreneurial spirit of this nation’s business owners.

So no, it galls me to stand by and watch Justin Trudeau proceed and other nations proceed with the Trans Pacific Partnership while America “goes it alone.”  To think this is going to help American workers or consumers is laughable.  It is going to make jobs disappear into the 11 other countries participating and prices go down in their economies – ours will only go up.

Just as will our economy with regard to solar technology and washing machines.  No I don’t know much about solar energy except it has been viable for a while now and should be installed on all newly built housing and retrofitted to existing homes, with excess power sold back to the grid to avoid the high cost of building plant which is passed on to consumers in their bills.

But washing machines!  Well, let me tell you, they are EXPENSIVE already, especially the HE (high efficiency) type.  Of course, Donald Trump doesn’t know this.  I don’t even know if Melania or Ivanka do.  But you can bet their maids know.  Thanks, Mr. President, for making it even more expensive than the $1,300 I paid in 2013 for my machine the next time I have to purchase one.

I also don’t get how deporting anywhere from 700,000-850,000 DREAMers who have grown up in the United States, were educated in the United States, attend college and work in the United States, is going to make us a better country.  For that matter, how does deporting anyone who has lived here for a very long time, committed no criminal acts and contributes to the economy make us any better or worse off than we already are?  The only thing it will do is cause disruption in the economy, cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money to force them to leave and make us look very, very bad on the world stage.

So yes, Lara Trump, I know the economic reasons I oppose Donald Trump.  I know the environmental reasons I do not support him.  More importantly, I know the moral ones.

As a Catholic, do I believe life begins at conception?  Yes, I do.  But as a citizen, I have always recognized the law that is Roe v. Wade and the right of other women to make different choices on a legally recognized basis.  So no matter my personal moral stance on this issue, it is not my place to shame those who choose it.  It is my responsibility to spend time in prayer on this issue, to answer any questions put to me about it, and to pray for Jesus to have mercy and grace on ANYONE who makes a bad choice in their lives about ANYTHING.

Are abortion statistics much too high?  Yes, they are.  So are deaths from hand guns, semi-automatic weapons and war.  So are deaths from lack of nutrition, adequate medical care, climate change and migration.

If life is to be honored on its spectrum of life to natural death, then any type of death that does not fit that spectrum is a moral wrong.

Do I believe Trump cares for the unborn?  Since he doesn’t care for the living, it is very difficult for me to imagine him having that kind of faith and respect.  Given what he allegedly did to his wife and new born son with a porn star shortly after his son’s birth, to say Trump is a man of “family values” is laughable.

But I see he is a useful –if unpredictable-idiot in the game being waged between the Congress, the Court and those in his Administration who would see America as a land inhabited only by Ozzie and Harriet, Ricky and Dave, where everyone says “aw shucks” and “gee Dad,” while the milk man still delivers every day and the paper boy will reliably throw the daily news into the bushes.  It is a beautiful idyll.  The fact it never existed is beside the point to those who have purchased Steve Bannon’s vision of Trumpism.

Our country has always had a messy history that we have tried to gloss over with our fables about our leaders, how we acquired our 50 states, an antebellum lifestyle that was so graceful and refined, and a 20s that roared and a 50s that the ad men sold as a time of peace, prosperity and cigarettes for all.  We have always had people who have insisted we return to those “greater” times and putting “America first.”

But the truth is deeper, messier and more intricate than all of that.  You have to read dozens and dozens of books – not just one – to find it in all its shades, characters and layers.  You have to accept it was built on enslaving others, compromising on that issue and then living as a divided country even as one President sought to eradicate that demarcating line that can still be seen on history’s paper despite the attempts at erasure.

It is both awe-inspiring and miraculous that our more than 200 years of experiment with our system of government has survived this long.

I just want to make sure it survives Donald Trump.

Update on DACA

I am hearing a new set of numbers on DACA recipients. It seems to range from 670,000 to the 880,000 I posted earlier. Just trying to be accurate. Also, please note that to qualify for DACA, you can have NO criminal record. This is contrary to GOP/Trump ads about “illegal aliens” and “criminality.”

The Deal that Might Kill DREAMers

Pardon me if I am skeptical about Mitch McConnell’s word with regard to DACA as the Democrats have agreed to terms to end the short government shutdown.

It is not McConnell’s words I distrust as much as I do his tactics.  Democrats need to remember this is the man who successfully denied Merrick Garland the Senate confirmation hearings to which he was entitled when President Barak Obama nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court. He did it because McConnell knew if hearings were held, the GOP had no good reason to deny Garland the seat.

If McConnell can find a way to outmaneuver what he promised by February 8th, he will.  The GOP, as far as I can tell, does not traffic in good faith.

Donald Trump doesn’t traffic in common sense or logic.  He flips this way and flops that way because at core, he has no foundational principles or moral underpinnings.  He doesn’t want to own failure, so he refuses to lead.  That’s not what Presidents do.

For the life of me, I cannot understand those in the GOP that want to penalize 880,000 young people brought to this country before they were 18 years of age and old enough to make their own decisions.  They have been raised here.  They have been educated here.  They have grown up with the sons and daughters of the very people that would put them out of the country.  They played sports with them.  Attended Church with them.

Not only are many of them now university educated, they hold good jobs that are a benefit to this country and the companies that employee them.  To kick them out is to give away a “brain trust” that we have nurtured.

The fact that it is morally wrong isn’t an argument I can muster – even though it is – because morality in no way plays into the decision making process of the Trump Administration.

This is because while Trump himself may have an unclear agenda – other than he wants his Wall – there are those close to him who hold particularly odious ideology on immigration issues.  Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton and others are ruling Trump right now.  Because God knows the man is incapable of ruling his own impulses and controlling himself.

In a “Washington Post” article, Miller is quoted as saying he is just helping Trump follow what is at the bottom of his heart on immigration.  If that is the case, then Trump lied when he said he had sympathy for DREAMers.  It also means he lied when he said he was “the least racist person” one could meet.

How else can you explain deporting DREAMers when 90% of America wants them to stay?

It means that – like Stephen Miller – Donald Trump believes in White Superiority.

Given how he lately described African nations and the country of Haiti, perhaps Miller’s is the right assessment after all.

If that is true, then Democrats will have let DREAMers down, and I will be heart sore.  We will have to wait for February 8th to find out.

My Sister Is One of Donald Trump’s “Victims”

It is with my sister’s permission that I write this story.

Monday, she called me, upset.  She had opened her mail to discover that the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurance that she was paying about $12 a month for had gone up in January to $1,500 per month – more than her house payment and far more than her $8 per hour CNA job allows.

She was confounded and I was angry.  This is a result of the instability of the insurance market due to Donald Trump’s “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” make payments to health insurance companies as required by law under the Affordable Care Act.

This leaves companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield “projecting” its needs – more than likely based on the presumption Trump won’t pay, as he is deliberately dismantling the ACA using every tool he and the Republican Party can come up with to deny healthcare to the poor and working class in the United States.  Somehow, this will make us all “great” again.  I am still working on figuring the “how” of that one out.

Her problem is compounded by the fact that she lives in Texas, a “gray” state that did not take the Medicaid expansion option when it had the opportunity to do so and help people like my sister, who cares for three people in her household:  my quadriplegic niece, who was head injured in an automobile accident when she was 15; my half-sister Jackie, who became brain damaged after a high fever caused by viral encephalitis when she was 29; and my 11 year-old grand-nephew, who lives full-time in her custody.

She is one of the people Paul Ryan’s “Post Card” tax dream has hurt, not helped.  She is hardly the “welfare to work” candidate the GOP thinks is so misusing the Medicaid system (again, she can’t get it).  She is the person the GOP claims it is working for.

Instead, she found out just how far they are willing to leave her behind.  She did not vote in the last election, but vows to vote in the upcoming one.  I will be holding her to that promise.

She asked me to do an Internet search for her and was lucky to find a policy for about $250 per month that sounds as if it will afford her the protections she needs and enough doctors in her zone to have a good choice on who to care for her.  Still, that is roughly 25 times higher than her current rate.  And it will make a tight budget that much tighter.

I am proud of her for keeping up her insurance; you see, before the ACA, she was one of those people who didn’t carry insurance, because she isn’t much on going to the doctor.  She is one of those “plow on” people, no matter how much it hurts.

But, because she “had” to, she took out an ACA policy and over the past couple of years has had the much needed “wellness” check-ups every woman should have.  It also helped when a rabid raccoon attacked her in her driveway, although she still has co-insurance and deductibles she is paying on for that accident, which was no fault of her own.  The raccoon just came out of nowhere while she was enjoying a few moments of sunset on the patio of her carport.

Which is why everyone should have health insurance.  Because who could predict a rabid raccoon would bite you?

And because the rabid raccoon in the White House and his like-minded GOP buddies  will not care about our health care needs going forward.  They have already shown us that.

My sister is their example.  And Medicaid is next on their chopping block.  Our Medicare and Social Security won’t be far behind.

The Geisha and the Lioness

Today did not go as I had planned.

A personal ministry at which I felt I was enjoying some success did not turn out today the way it usually does when I visit with this particular group.  Less than half the size group I normally get to hear me speak turned up.  As I put a lot of thought and effort into my presentation and supporting materials, it was disappointing.  And a little ego-deflating.  But that’s what God does sometimes – prunes our egos to remind us it is His will, not our own, which rules.

Outwardly, I seem like a very patient person to most.  People mistake me as being quiet, timid, and modest.  Inwardly, I am none of those things.  Because my outer façade doesn’t match my inner personality, I think it is the reason that some of my relationships end up falling into trouble at some point.  What people see is not – over time – what they are truly getting.

It is not an attempt to fool anyone.  It was years of childhood training to be unfailingly polite, never ask for anything, never grab at something unless it is first offered to you, always say please and thank you, “yes ma’am” and “no sir.”  As the child of alcoholics, I was always a pleasant surprise to the parents of other children when I was finally invited into their homes.  They expected a wild child.  Instead, I distinctly remember one mother saying she wished her own children were as well-behaved as I.

In some ways I have much in common with the Geisha:  trained to wear my face as a mask devoid of emotions, to never be a bother to anyone, to accommodate whatever the other person wants.

But inside I am every bit the lion of my birth sign: waiting for my chance to roar and make my presence in the jungle not only known, but respected for its royalty.  It is frightening to people when someone who seems so mild in demeanor turns out to have a bite that can be devastating.  They believe the train has gone off the tracks when your true self emerges.  They become leery.  The weakness they presumed in you hides a strength they didn’t know existed.  They expected permanent acquiescence and are caught totally off guard when they meet the stubbornness of your “no,” or when you just simply say “enough is enough” and walk away, not looking back.

I am sure there is some happy medium, some blending of the personas to be had that leaves people feeling less like they have run into Ms. Jekyll and Hyde.  But try as I may to integrate my outward and inner selves, I have never been very successful at it.  Again, another job I am afraid only God has the power to produce.

In the end, though, all I really crave is peace.  To be the lioness that I am, but one stretched out lazily in the sun, letting the dust motes chase themselves in the sun’s rays while the grasses blow in the breeze, tickling my nose.  I want to yawn widely and stretch my body to its fullest length and feel like time has ceased to exist and there is only the ever present moment of now.

Is that what a Geisha feels when her day is done and she slips into the darkness of night, slips off her geta and cools her feet in the chill of a pond?  Like time has stopped and there is only this moment under the silver moon shining through the blossom trees?

Perhaps the Geisha and the lioness have more in common than I thought.

My (almost) 12 Days of Not Writing

I have violated the most sacred rule of writing a blog and building a reading audience.  I have not written daily.  In fact, my last published blog post was December 29th of 2017.

It has been almost 12 days since my last blog post.

In a latent spirit of Christmas, I will try to account for those almost 12 days in an abbreviated short hand akin to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” carol:

On December 30th, a friend and I drove to Knoxville, Tennessee, to stay with her long-time friend, had dinner and went to a record store where I found the Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed” album my parents got so sick of hearing when I was 17.  Also got the “Best of Chicago.”  Score!

On December 31st, I drove to Pigeon Forge with my friends, had lunch on the Island, shopped and checked in early at a hotel where, at 3 pm, we all crashed.  As it was sleeting at 9 pm and there was a winter snow advisory, we got rain checks for the “New Year’s Extravaganza” show we had planned to see and watched Lifetime revenge movies on TV.

On January 1st, we shopped the Tanger Outlet and the New Year’s shoe sale at Dillard’s (not as good as last year’s, imho), watched an old Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie and called it a night.

On January 2nd, we drove back to Atlanta, stopping for a Cracker Barrel breakfast on the way.  That night I rested and did what I swore I was never doing again: I watched “The Bachelor” episodes I had missed. Okay, Arie is a little cuter than I remembered.

On January 3rd, I rested. I binge watched the second season of “The Crown” on Netflix and surfed Safari looking up historical facts put forth to see if they were true.  Yes, Queen Elizabeth did meet Billy Graham.  Just maybe not quite as depicted.

On January 4th, I paid some bills, had my hair done, and attended a steering committee meeting for a major event our Church is hosting during Lent featuring a nationally recognized Marian retreat leader, priest and author.  (If you are Catholic and you guessed Fr. Michael Gaitley, I would give you an indulgence; but, I am, sadly, laity.  Sorry.)

On January 5th, I spent 12+ hours on the computer sending out information about above retreat and finishing up materials for a community wide event on the sex trafficking of domestic minors one of my ministry’s is hosting on February 1st.  Time is short on this project.

On January 6th, ditto the above.  Plus I attended Mass where a visiting priest actually quoted T.S. Eliot in his homily.  I thought I had died and gone to literary heaven.

On January 7th, I rested and binge watched the first 10 episodes of “Versailles” on Netflix. I have a feeling when I get around to reading my downloaded edition of “Fire and Fury,” it will seem very familiar in terms of the political backstabbing that went on in the court of Louis XIV – just in a dumbed down version where instead of “magnifique,” it is all the “best”.

On January 8th, I drove a friend to a town about 45 minutes away in the Atlanta suburbs on a personal errand; showed up in time back in the town where I live for a community resource luncheon that was canceled with no notice; had lunch with a ministry colleague at Cracker Barrel (hey, it’s the South, and the lemon peppered rainbow trout is actually pretty good).  I came back home, paid more bills and worked more on my dual projects on the computer before attending a Liturgy Commission meeting in the evening.

Today, January 9th, I spent more time on the computer doing the same as above, answered e-mails, helped update project timeline and task reports, had a mentoring meeting and prepared agendas and treasury report for tomorrow night’s ministry meeting.  Church has become a job.  If I could work, I would be getting paid for what I do.  I have time to do Church ministry work because I cannot work.  Is there a paradox here?

So, now I have actually written a blog post about why I could not write a blog post before now.

Did I mention my back hurts and I can no longer sit for 12 hours behind a computer without pain killers?  So glad the war on opioids has so far passed me by.  The sciatica that is starting to re-plague me cannot be endured without them, or a shot.  And thanks to my Medicare plan, I am still paying off my portion of the last shot in my back I had in August.  So glad this is year 65 and I can get a more comprehensive Medicare plan than has been available to me now.  Provided Congress doesn’t take away what I worked for more than 30 years to help pay for healthcare when I needed it as I aged.  Because apparently being “entitled” to it is a dirty word.

But why would they do that?  It would be as stupid as, say,  cutting corporate taxes that turn out to incentivize corporations to continue investing overseas rather than creating jobs here.  As stupid as our President trying to have a photo-op about jobs! jobs! jobs! that have resulted from “tax cuts,” only to have that company announce major layoffs the next day.  As stupid as having to tell people repeatedly that you are a genius, and not stupid at all.

Nah, they’d never touch my Medicare.  Didn’t Trump promise me and everyone else the same thing?

Trump would never break a promise.  He promised.

And he makes the best promises.  I mean, Mexico is paying for the wall, right?

Thus ends my (almost) 12 days of not writing after Christmas.

May the partridge sleep soundly in the pear tree.  Because Steve Bannon will no longer be sleeping at the “Breitbart Embassy.”  Perhaps we will have peace on earth after all.