Thursday, October 30, 2008

Canadian Humour

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You can look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Alaska, which she does not fancy.)

Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter "U" will be reinstated in words such as colour, favour, labour, and neighbour. Likewise, you will learn to spell doughnut without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise." Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary up to acceptable levels (look up vocabulary.)

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as like and you know is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S.English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter "U" and the elimination of "ize."

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (formerly called gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French Fries are not real chips, and those things you call potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are, pound for pound, the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them! American brands will be referred to as nearly-frozen-gnat-urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors as English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football, it is called soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies.)

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

14. An internal revenue agent (aka tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due backdated to 1776.

15. Daily Tea time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, saucers and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes, plus strawberries and clotted cream when in season.

God save the Queen!

I don't know who wrote this - but this is the kind of thing Canadians laugh at. Just in case you were wondering. (Especially the part about the beer.)

God Save the Queen!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

huzzah! huzzah!

Sometimes life is profound and sometimes it is delicious and sometimes, well, it stands on its head. This morning my baby finches fledged - left their nest - all at once. I was hoping the three we had seen survived, but wondered often if we might find the carcass of one or two laying in the nest.

Well surprise, surprise. Not only are they all alive, but there are five of them! All jammed into that tiny nest, all mostly adult size, all juvenile gray except for Little Dove who is all white.

Apparently a white Zebra finch, while not exactly rare, is an anomaly of a kind. I love that we have one! It isn't an albino which is very rare, and will have some color ... but it is lovely. I smiled all day after seeing my juveniles flitting around, the male whipping his wings in pride and the mother hovering one branch to another. Family like I understand it.

The White Zebra was one of the earliest mutations to occur in captivity. Its exact place and origin is unknown. The White mutation is recessive. True Whites are devoid of all markings and the entire plumage is white. Whites retain the beak color, dark eye color, and orange pigmented legs. The beak color is the only reliable way in which to sex White Zebras. Males have a dark red beak, females retain an orange beak. The eye color can vary from being dark brown to reddish brown. This difference in eye color of Whites reflects the ancestry of the White. For example, Whites with dark brown eyes are likely descendants of a Grey lineage, whereas Whites with reddish brown eyes are descendants from a Fawn lineage. The eye color can be most easily recognized in newly hatched White chicks and becomes less obvious as the birds feather and mature.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

on sabbath

someone said that when you start to actually keep a sabbath you will look forward to it with all your heart. this has happened to me. i long for the one day a week when no one puts expectations on me, when i can gently participate in life like a human who belongs on the earth.

just to notice things. to see that the leaves are changing. to revel in a taste or watch the sky. not to feel obligated to change what i see, to save the world so to speak, but to just see it and know that i belong here too. isn't this what holiness looks like, as well as all the trying and doing and responding?

my response on sabbath is simply to acknowledge. to know i am alive and others are alive also. to crouch like a toad under a flower and feel the soil and smell the scent. yup. a good day. a very good day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

witchy women and imagination

I just got this picture of my girls all agrin ... all decked out for 'trick or treating'. Lots of people have opinions about hallowe'en but I remember my mom reading a book called "Honey for a Child's Heart" which was all about the necessity of play and imagination. My mom, who was on the conservative side, took it to heart and told me to encourage my kids to enter into fantasy. I'm glad she did that.

Walking through a park today JV reiterated that he had been 'costume deprived' as a child. Always the 'homeless' person ... and his brother a 'hockey player' - which he was. Rae was usually an old man ...which somehow fit her and tickled her funny bone.

In light of these bits and the overshadowing financial crisis in America, I am thinking about what we really need, and what we have. Our expectations have grown. Quite a bit. We expect real life to be what imagination used to conjure up.

The seeming deprivations of my youth were the same deprivations of my husband's youth - albeit we lived in the same city, same neighborhood, dad's both worked at the steel mills. Perhaps there was great wealth in someone's life, but we and our friends had pretty ordinary dreams - to one day own a car, have our own 'place', order a pizza now and then, and to see Detroit Red Wings play live (that last one wasn't my dream but it seemed to keep coming up.)

Our dates were mostly walks, down to the escarpment across which hoards of crows flew every night on the way home from the dump ground, to look at the city lights and lake Ontario off to the NorthEast, or to the old Chinese restaurant beside the 25cent theatre. Sometimes we played tennis in the open tennis court by the school, sometimes we sat on the gravestones in Hamilton Munipical Cemetery. On a good date someone would be being buried.

But we laughed til we were almost sick. We imagined and played and cavorted and never once felt ill done by. Only now, looking back from the mountain of goods my life sits on do I feel regret.

So maybe we need to sharpen our imaginations, begin to walk and to play and to create our magic along the sidewalks of life. Maybe we don't need fantastic experiences, newness always and procured happiness. Maybe we need a magic wand made out of a stick and a shared box of Kung Pow Chicken with fried rice. And a 25cent movie.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

on old friends

We were surprised today by the grinning faces of two old friends - Jake and Elaine from Calgary Alberta. Jake and Elaine are, perhaps, the generation ahead of us, but during our time in Calgary they were staunch supporters and often a generous, parent - like resource to our family. Every young busy family needs someone just ahead of them to keep the lights on for when times seem dark.
Jake and Elaine met us at our first home in Calgary and brought a car load of food for our pantry. They loved our kids and gave us quirky gifts on special occasions. Elaine's big sunny kitchen was a place familiar to me, the pot of coffee always on. Jake would give me that weird 'I'm old but I'm hip' handshake and talk nonsense and make me laugh.

It takes years to make a friend you've had for years. We've started to make those kinds of friends here. But when someone whose been your friend for 19 years! walks back into your life, it is a big fat smiling moment. That's what happened today.

Friday, October 17, 2008

on irony

Yesterday I was in a hurry. I had 18.7 miles to get to my destination for a 3:45 appointment. The traffic was horrible. The slow lane was, well, slow. And the fast lane was clogged by some kind of pokey truck ahead.

We crept along... I wove in and out of the traffic, passing one car and another. Not a good habit for driving but I was in a hurry. And to my credit I did not answer my cell when it rang.

After a good long struggle I found myself behind the culprit. A van/truck, with two red bulls on the back. And suddenly it dawned on me.
I was being held up in traffic by a truck advertising and delivering Red Bull. The drink that is so caffeinated that it is banned from the middle and high schools in Jessamine County. The drink that makes promises you'll go 0 - 60 in ten seconds flat.

And this Red Bull-ish truck/van was slowing traffic. Talk about irony.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

twins... again!

Actually triplets. While we were at the beach Phred and Ethel had three babies - each the size of jelly bean. Finch babies. It has been a week and the babies are still alive, little messes of feather and stretched skin. Their faces are not yet to be seen ...but the movement in the nest proves their viability. I found this picture of what they look like - exactly!

Something about life, new life, just entrances me. I love it all. New babies, new finch babies, new kittens. I love a plant that grows just because it happened to land there... I love strange old trees that get new leaves, I love calves and messy feathered juvenile cardinals that feed on my lawn.

The cycle of life is one of the best gifts we got on this old earth. While I get older there is a never ending stream of newness that is the promise of tomorrow. Really, for all purposes, I am done. I have somewhat ensured the next generation and my hollow womb will never again hold life. But I share it wildly all around.
In the skin on my granddaughter's face. In the endless dreams of the students at my school. In the finch nest upstairs. The best gift. The gift of tomorrow and this old woman gets to see it emerge.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

things I've seen

I saw a mom with her very close to newborn baby enjoying the ocean, the baby laying in a little shallow swirl of water kicking its feet - it was a beautiful sight but the sun was too hot for a baby of that age, to this gramma.

I saw a woman sitting in a beach chair, utterly calm and creating calm all around her. She was reading a book, wearing little shorts and a small t shirt - with a gold chain around her ankle. Something about her captured me as I walked past. On the way back I saw (without trying) that she'd had a double mastectomy - clearly some time ago as she looked well. She wasn't trying to hide it or pretend, just in the moment, alone. Her peace radiated out from her. I am still taken with the image of it.

I saw a dad standing on a sand dune fishing, with a little girl about three wandering away from him. The disconcerting thing was that she was in water to the top of her neck, walking out toward the deeper side of the gulf, and he was oblivious. She did not have a life jacket on. I was ready to go get her... finally he called her back and she struggle toward him. He caught some bait to continue fishing.

I saw a woman with her 84 year old uncle. She was his companion at the beach, and coaxed him into the pool, tenderly. Later I saw him, alone, trying to get the door to his room open with his room card. It didn't work and he looked confused, and he went to the next door and tried that one. He went from door to door trying his card, poor fellow. Confused. I was not in a place where I could get to him.

I saw a huge toad thumping his way from bush to bush, across the sand by the hotel.

I saw a wedding on the beach - set up with white chairs and a little fence, and tropical flowers. I saw the wedding dance by the pool from my second story balcony - ordinary people of all sizes in pretty clothes, dancing and tripping and laughing. I saw the bride in the center of the group laughing and socializing. I saw the groom standing at the side drinking quite a bit. I wondered.

And I saw a bird I have never seen before. A kind of sand piper, but larger and more colorful, alone among a group of less impressive birds. Loved that one - trying to fit in.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

on the beach this time, I really do mean ON the beach. Working hard on St. Pete's beach ... at this moment sitting in my air conditioned room, sucking on pistachios and sipping a non-alcoholic beverage.

This is the first time I've had a workable computer and a viable internet in a week. Can't say I really missed it.

There's a wedding happening right now on the beach. Chairs set up, a little fence around ... it reminds me of how a burial is set up for mourners. But enough of that. No nudes this year as far as I can see. I have had to change my life long adage this year ... you know how I've always said brown fat looks better than white fat. I was wrong. And the two words that ring in my ear as I reflect on the rest of my life are simply this... "remain clothed."

So that's all... got work to do. The sun will set soon ... can't miss it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

on promoting imagination

Today, Sunday October 4th (or 5th?) I went into the Halloween store for the first time. It is tawdry. It is grotesque. It is of the poorest taste. It is over priced. So what was I doing there?

I was shopping for a wizard hat, a wizard wand, a pair of pink horn rimmed glasses, and an orange wig. For my granddaughters. For Halloween when they will go to a Halloween BBQ and trick or treat event in N. Carolina.

I never ever spent money on Halloween when our kids were young. Both Vincent and Rachel remind me that every time Halloween came up I made them be, and I quote, "a homeless person." Or a hockey player.

But to my credit you have to realize that Halloween in Calgary was bitterly cold and whatever costume you had on it was obliterated by the down filled parka, mitts, scarves, not to mention the ice fog.

I remember once I made a spider costume for Ben. It was his idea. We blew up a big round balloon and paper mache'd it into a ball, popped the balloon and painted the ball black. Then we cut a hole in the bottom of it for his head and stuffed women's black hose with newspaper, attaching six of them as legs. We painted on eyes and added long eyelashes - I thought and still think it was a masterpiece of mothering.

But today I went into a store and bought costumes that will end up in the dress up trunk and will get tons of play, considering they are on book five of the Potter series. So there you have it. Not only participation in Halloween but Harry Potter junk. Hell in a handcart my mother in law would say. I did it because this morning on the phone my girls told me their dream of being Harry Potter characters, and they wondered if I had anything around that would help them be that. And I told them I would look. And I did.

I expect that The Girls will add a big dose of imagination to the costumes, and wear them out with fantasies and play games. I am okay with that.

Friday, October 3, 2008

don't wink at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay- I apologize, before I even begin, for the length of this blog. I actually do my best blogging over the sink in the morning while my husband is shaving and I have a captive audience. Poor man.

Now... I well know that what you see depends on where you stand. Can I just name that reality and say that none of us see without seeing from a vantage point. (I have actually considered having a 'secret' blog I only reveal to a few close friends to say what I really see from my vantage point.) In this I am acknowledging my blog is about me, mostly, and secondarily what is on the political stage right now.

I am a woman who has lived in a man's world all my life. My early formation was within a strongly hierarchical family supported by religious conviction and practice that confirmed male leadership. Boys got possibilities. Girls got married. Men had power. Women had men. As a young girl in the middle of a large family devoted to religious views that could not be questioned, I had no power or voice, on any level.

By the time I was thirteen I learned the power of sex. (A quick study on most anything, still.)
By the time I was fifteen I was pregnant. Okay, didn't use the power well. Knew it. Still know it. I had to grow up and learn that although a woman can gain advantage with little girl sexuality or sexy mature woman allure, these are not the ways I want to get my power.

All my life I have been surrounded by influential persons who believe and teach that women have an ordained role in the human story, and I have experienced the repercussions: women in these circles often do not have legitimate voice, do not have their own power. This is not a philosophical debate for me. It is the soil I stand on, the air I breath, the beatings I have taken. (Let me say here, that my Steve is NOT hierarchical and is a champion of my voice and my power. Bless him. Nor, do I believe, is this an accurate or necessary outgrowth of the Christian faith.)

So, a story - A few years ago while in a doctoral program I was in residence for one year with 20 men. I was the only woman. We lived in community and spent most days together learning or traveling. I was constantly aware of the pitfalls of my woman-ness in that setting. Without compromising too much, I worked to be a person in the group - to give and take and not pull the sex is power card.

Then a certain one of the wives of my colleagues would come in. Whether consciously or unconsciously I don't know, she would bounce into our class space for a visit exuding little girl sexuality and flagrant sexual vulnerability. My classmates would melt. The entire dynamics of the room would change as the men changed their posture, their voice levels, their conversation and their focus. Male profs would begin addressing her almost exclusively even as she sat as a guest at the back of the room. It agitated me beyond the telling. I could not go there, and greatly resented the impact she could have by simply being the vulnerable, girlish, sweetheart of the class. Can I say too, this response is not connected to being comfortable with my woman-ness. Exactly the opposite I would say.

Even now, at some point every week I have to choose whether to go to this kind of power or not. I think I am a pretty good reader of what a man might like as far as ego strokes, soothing, or a woman in his presence to make him feel strong and wanted. And every week I choose away from it. I want to be a person who thinks, connects, respects others for who they are, and contributes thoughtfully to any given moment.

And let me say - this isn't about whether or not I am cute. Or the man is handsome. Or young. A woman, using the sexual power card, whether the little soft girl or the fascinating woman, can hook the notice of a man and shift power.

So last night we watched the Palin/Biden debate. Honestly, I give Sarah Palin credit for her guts. She stood up and handled herself without acting nervous or illiterate. But I have to say, the little girl/sexy woman, wide eyed, conspiratorially winking and almost giggling just made me want to cry. It was demeaning and did not build my confidence in her by any means.

Sarah Palin speaks of things she has learned in "the last five weeks." If a man had said, "I've only been at this for five weeks" the rejoinder would be, "And that, sir, is the problem." Palin speaks of issues like she read them in a book. Or learned them last week. Biden speaks as if he has been there. Which he has.

When a woman plays the little girl sex card it is impossible to be people together. All kinds of interpersonal/ male-female/ power-gender-undercurrents are at play. To do so in a vice-presidential debate is unconscionable. And some people love it. Eat it up.

I am not a hockey mom, or a soccer mom. I was a good devoted mom. I did drive my kids to hockey games. I did sit in a stadium seat with my feet frozen to the floor watching my son try his splendor out. I drove my daughter to gymnastics classes. I have shared a six pack of beer with friends. But I am not Josephine six pack. I am a woman who is a contributing person who wants to be invited to the table to participate in life as a welcome thinker and worker.

To say oh come on kids... don't look at all our trouble in the past, let's just go play on the merry go round and be friends, wink wink. Oh I want to cry. I need more than that from a leader of our country.

This morning I wondered what Condoleeza Rice felt like watching that. She is a woman who enjoys womanly things - love to see how she chooses to dress and present herself. But she doesn't cross the line and use the sex power card. She is a powerful person, and a woman, but her woman-ness isn't used to trip up those who relate to her.

Now - I have seen, even here at the Seminary, that women who want to be thoughtful can slowly lose touch with their femininity ... and I am sad about it. Men are not going to become more womanly to even the playing field, so women become more manly. There must be a way we can be true to a personal articulation of gender without resorting to demeaning personas. That is what I think, anyway.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

you don't have to be pretty to eat at my place

Dove season opens in October, here in Kentucky. People armed with shot guns go out and blam away at the soft gray birds ... I suppose if you get enough, and do the work to clean them, you might have a dinner. You MIGHT.
But at our home the doves are safe - safe and fed and fat. Here is what I've seen of doves.
Doves navigate the air like June bugs do - they are like a drunken sailor (no offence to the Navy) and flap back and forth careening toward their target.
Doves fill their cheeks like squirrels. I have watched a dove fill its cheeks so full - maybe a half cup of sunflower seeds crammed in - that the dove, when it lifted off the ground to rise to its perch, did so with its head sunk lower than its body under the weight of treasure.
Doves are ground eaters. They can't perch on feeders and so make due with what is dropped - which is a lot, frankly. With undisguised malice they attack each other to gain advantage.
Sloppy flyers, greedy stuffers and bickering kids at a playground, mourning doves remain a pleasure to watch, and stay all winter to entertain any birder. My home is a no hunting zone! Welcome doves~

on dreams and little women

Well ... are these not the cutest little girls? They are mine... sortof. smile I so wish I could touch them and feel them and smell the cookie baby breath I so love.

I had a dream last night, a recurring dream I've had for a decade or more. I haven't had it since the day I met Mark. But last night it came to me again. In the dream I have a baby and I forget to take care of it. I mean forget to feed it, forget to remember it even exists. And then the horror and fear as I remember and rush in, only to find the baby is okay, perfect.

Last night I dreamed of overwhelming doing and working - for everyone else ... and then with horror I realize that in all the doing I have forgotten MY baby.

I rush into the baby's room and there she is, all curled up on her tummy and not asking for anything ... the dream baby never cries ... just waits. And I pick her up and although it is three in the afternoon she just yawns and I know I have to change and feed her. The dream is so strange ... I am horrified with myself, ashamed, and yet the baby is thriving and soft and okay. But I also feel at the edge of danger in that I know I am responsible and am being irresponsible ... all that kind of thing. It is a high emotion dream.

So last night I had the baby dream for the first time in l8 months. I wonder why. I am thinking of it and feeling it today. I will choose to act somehow...

I think I know this about dreams. They are only rarely 'messages from heaven.' Mostly a dream is my own inner soul - call it my subconscious or my unprocessed life - trying to speak in the quiet moments when my mind is not so busy measuring and connecting and integrating. My inner unattended-to self speaks in the early quiet hours of the morning and shows me pictures loaded with messages just for me.

Today I add another layer of depth to my day as I let that dream float on my pre-focal mind and see what it might mean. At least life isn't boring.