Saturday, October 29, 2005

Random Fall Thoughts

It's a beautiful fall day here in Ontario--sunshine, cool but not cold, and colorful trees. It's days like this that make me say "I love fall!" Tonight the church is having a Halloween Dance (we always have two dances a year, one at Halloween and one for Valentine's Day). We'll decorate the social hall to a fare-thee-well (lots of pumpkins, corn stalks, black cats, rainbows, etc.). We have a great DJ coming in, and we'll have a silent auction (always popular), and door prizes as well. Also, people's choice awards for best costumes. Yes, I've got a costume--I'm dressing up in a slinky halter evening gown, with heels and evening bag and my diamonds (such as they are), and my rainbow feather boa... Should be quite a sight! No, photos will NOT be posted!

Well, the church has a lead on space to rent. So we have to decide if we want to decide to go with this space or wait. The option may not be open indefinitely, so we have to "make haste slowly." We don't have to move now, we just need to make the decision soon, I think. We have so much else that we're dealing with that anything that can be settled should be settled!

One of those issues is bingo--and I don't mean whether we should be doing them in the first place, that's a whole other discussion! We are. An there are changes coming in the way they are done, procedurally and in how much the charities will get. Hard to say at this point how it will affect us, but I'm sure it will. And then there's the provincial no-smoking regulation, which goes into effect in January, I think. Which addiction will prove stringer, cigarettes or bingo? Will people give up smoking for two hours at a shot and play bingo, or will they go elsewhere where they can smoke (across the border to the bingo halls in the US)?

I have my first free Saturday in a while--no bingo, no weddings, just finishing the sermon and enjoying this evening! How nice!

I do plan on emoting about Scooter Libby and that mess--but later. Sermon first!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hello Out There in TV Land!

I'm not a TV addict by any means. While I was in seminary I rarely watched TV. I had no time! During the day I was either in class or at work, and in the evenings I was either in class or studying or spending time with my son. TV was one of those things I gave up during seminary, like contact lenses, obedience training my dog and building my garden railroad.

I never was a big TV watcher. In high school I'd watch Emergency!, and my mom, my sister and I had our Sunday evening habit of 60 Minutes and Masterpiece Theater (yeah, the whole family's geeks--and proud of it!). And on one memorable occasion, before the days of stereo TV's, the local PBS station simulcast Bernstein Mass--I stayed up late to watch it. But mostly, it was the movie of the week if it was good, maybe Jeopardy! or the morning news shows when we had a blizzard. Otherwise--meh. I was a reader.

This was true for a very long time. My roommates and I didn't have a TV in our room in the dorm, and my ex-husband and I were married for four months before we got a TV. Then we went overseas where all we had was AFN (since I wasn't fluent in German). It wasn't until my son was about a year old, during Desert Storm/Desert Shield, that I started watching TV regularly. By that time, AFN was showing the morning news shows (at noon in Germany, but still) and Nightline and kids shows in the morning. We had our lineup of Nightline, AFN news, Sesame Street, then at noon the Today Show. Even then, I didn't have to see it every morning.

Shocking secret and possibly TMI--I never had a TV in my bedroom until I got together with DP. She always had, and so we did (we also each brought a TV, so we had one for the bedroom).

Now? It's the Today Show in the morning (rarely all of it; usually part of it in the middle), and then sometimes Dr. Phil or Ellen in the afternoon if I need a break. The news in the evening, with Jeopardy!. After that, I've found myself watching more TV than I want to admit, especially the reality shows... I know they are edited for maximum drama and slanted to make you like or dislike people at the drop of a hat, but still... Amazing Race and Biggest Loser and The Apprentice and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Three Wishes...but NOT Martha Stewart's Apprentice (that's a whole 'nother rant!). And Thursdays, the congregation knows not to call unless it's an emergency--Will and Grace, The Apprentice, ER... Of course, on Wednesdays there's West Wing and Law and Order.

So what is all this in aid of? I'm wondering if it's a good idea. Perhaps the very fact that I'm wondering means it's not good. I can rationalize it and say I need to keep up with popular culture and what my congregation is interested in, but that's what it is--a rationalization.

I am a reader--I get up early to get reading done. I read during lunch. So why am I so wrapped up in TV?

Is it escapism? It's easier to passively sit and watch TV than read or work (there's always something I could be doing). On the other hand, usually I've escaped by reading.

Is it because DP likes TV? That may be part of it--on the other hand, she's as likely to spend her evening updating her website or baking as she is in front of the TV (except Thursdays, of course!).

Well, I don't have an answer right now. But for sure I'm going to get off the computer and read (until time for West Wing, anyway...).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Just mulling things over...

So what have I been cogitating over the last few days?

The absolute insanity of the Roberts confirmation, the only slightly less insane question of Meiers, my fear for my friends and relations in Florida as Wilma gets bigger and angrier, how much I’m enjoying “Commander in Chief,” the high cost of being social, and the fact that I’ve somehow lost the thread of the whole Plame/Rove thing.

So many scandals, so little time…

One other hand, I read a great article on the whole mess, in which the author points out that scandal in the White House is not new—look at Jack Kennedy, Grant, Harding, Nixon, Lincoln, Cleveland… The question, I think, is what else has been done by the politician in question. Ted Kennedy managed to bounce back after Chappaquiddick, after all. What’s that? What’s Chappaquiddick? Oh, go Google it, child.

It’s hard for us to take a long view—we only live for 80-90 years (less if you’re into Krispy Kreme doughnuts), and so asking us to look forwards or backwards even a century is a lot to ask. This seems even truer of Americans than of, say, the French or Germans, or, heaven forbid, the Italians, who have ruins that are older than God. Americans want everything now, johnbrownit, not in fifty years.

I see this in the GLBT liberation/equality movement as well (yes, I am aware that those are two very different issues; but the reaction is the same, so I’m lumping them together for the moment). Even if you mark the beginning of the movement in the late 1940s, with the returning military and the dispersal from the farms and so on that led to the formation of the “gay ghetto” in many coastal cities (SF, LA, NYC, NO, Chicago, etc.), that’s only 60 years ago. It took 150 years for women to get the vote in the USA, a much more immediately logical idea for the average person. And we’ve come a great way in that time—coming out is painful, and may mean you have to leave your current job, or change employers (especially if that’s Uncle Sam…), but it’s not so usual anymore that you lose children, or access to them. You aren’t automatically slammed into a mental hospital. Granted, depending on your family and where you live, you may be expelled from family and/or church, and I’m not trying to pretend that’s a trivial thing. It’s not. But insane neo-Nazis aside, it’s not a given thing that you will be attacked on the street. Four nations now grant same-sex marriages. Even ten years ago that would have been thought out of the question.

I once had an HIV+ acquaintance tell me he thought that HIV/AIDS had a positive impact on the GLBT community. He wasn’t discounting the terrible toll the disease took—how could he? But he pointed out that the threat of death had done several things:

  • It allowed gay men an “excuse” to settle down—many had felt they were ridiculed for wanting commitment and one partner.
  • It drew the gay male and lesbian communities closer together, as the women often tended to the men—not because it was their “natural role,” but because they knew and loved these men from working with them on political issues, and many of the men had no families or partners to care for them. (an aside-- at a retreat shortly after I came out, I was thanked, “as a representative of all lesbians” for the care and love women had shown to PLWA (Persons Living With AIDS); I was so stunned I could only stutter a “we only did what was the loving, human thing to do”).
  • It made all members of the GLBT community realize how fragile their bonds were with their partners, legally speaking. There are far too many stories of biological family members coming into the home of a dead son or brother and taking literally everything, even those things he had bought with his now grieving partner, let alone things the partner had brought into the relationship, to include the house itself. The exclusion of partners from the grieving, from the funeral, from inheriting what he and his partner had worked so hard to create together—this was so horrifying that it was probably a main impetus behind the same-sex marriage movement. I won’t even go into the denial of benefits to surviving partners from companies, governments, and the military.
  • It also sparked an interest in a spiritual life for many GLBT people. In connection with this, I’ll make a partisan statement here that in the early (and not-so-early) days of the AIDS crisis, many pastors of mainstream denominations refused to visit church members with AIDS, even after the routes of transmission had been established. So who did the friends of PLWA call for spiritual support and comfort? MCC pastors, very often. OK, commercial over.

    What I’m trying to say is that progress appears slow to us, living at the pace of one human life. But in the longer view, progress has been rapid. We’re not going back into the closet. We’re not going to settle for second-class citizenship. We’re not going to hide anymore. True, many folks still don’t come out. But more and more, the young folk are seeing it as not such a big deal. A friend of mine came out to her son and the response was, “Cool. What’s for dinner?” That cannot be taken away. It may be difficult to see how far we’ve come, when we still have so far to go, but we have travelled far enough down this road, we are never going back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Delegating and renting

Wow, more than a week since I've posted! I worked for seven days in a row--is that a good enough reason?

Remember all that stuff I had to do? Well, it all got done, some of it better than others... Had a great time with the one wedding that happened this weekend (the other was postponed--the paperwork didn't come back in time). The sermon went very well Sunday, which is always a good sign. And I tried to take Monday off, but ended up planning worship for the next few weeks!

I do my worship planning differently now--here's why. I was exhausted most of August, and couldn't figure out why, until I thought about how much I was doing. So one Sunday afternoon after church I sat down and wrote down everything I did for the church. Then I sorted them out into things I had to do per my contract, the ones I felt I should do as pastor, the ones that could be delegated and the ones I had to delegate. And then I delegated! I also looked at where I could get more help, such as organizing weddings and creating worship. I got together a worship committee, and I'm already seeing a difference!

The next challenge for our congregation is going to be finding a place to worship. The church where we meet has decided to move to a smaller building, so we have to move as well! They would be delighted for us to move with them, so we have that option. But we're planning to look around and see what else is available. Which means more meetings and visits.

I really would like to see us in our own space. I like the pastor of the congregation we rent from--he's supportive and funny and generous and an all-around great colleague. But there's something about having your own space--where you don't have to take down the altar decorations every week, or bring them out, for that matter. Where you're the ones in charge, and can change things as much as you like without having to change them back. Where the worship space reflects your congregation's personality. Leasing space in another congregation's building is like renting a room for your weekly family dinner--every week.

The truth is, however, finances won't let us do anything else at this point. So we'll find something and make do. This congregation has survived for almost twenty years, sometimes renting, sometimes in our own space. We'll hang in there!

Monday, October 03, 2005

We're Back!

What a wonderful week! The weather wasn't all we could have wished for, but that's the risk you take this time of year. We slept late (easy to do when there's no morning traffic, no street lights, and you're deep in the woods with lots of tree canopy overhead). We browsed in the art galleries and shops (pottery, painting, glass); had a couple of good dinners out; wandered along the marina, ogling all the fancy boats; and we lounged all of Sunday afternoon on the deck, drinking blueberry wine and reading the big newspapers (New York Times and Chicago Trib)--I even did the NYT crossword (not completely...)! I haven't had a chance to do that in years!

One of the highlights was a canoe trip down the river. It was a perfect day, warm enough that you wanted to be outside doing something, but not so warm that you were uncomfortable. The sky was completely blue, a beautiful shade of deep royal blue, and some of the trees on the shore were beginning to change color. We saw lots of great blue herons, an osprey, and some bald eagles. The couple who were kayaking (while we canoed) were just ahead of us, and they saw deer, which of course took off by the time we got around the bend! But there were lots of turtles, and blue jays, and woodpeckers, too. What a wonderful time we had! I'll try to post some of DP's photos, once they're developed.

We came back and were plunged right back into it! However, there are some changes going on at the church, so there's a lot going on with that. It's certainly keeping me busy this week--a fundraiser, two weddings this coming weekend, as well as a Blessing of the Animals, a lunch appointment and a breakfast meeting, the discussion group (not to mention preparation for all this...) and of course, the service next Sunday! The thing is, it's all good stuff, so that at least if I'm busy, I'm enjoying what I'm doing. It's reinforced for me that I am not ready to leave here and I do not plan to do so anytime soon.

On another topic...The dog is getting old. Being away from him for a week really brought it home to me, the fact of his aging. He's ten now, and starting to fade a bit. We're having to put him in his crate at night, or else he wanders around the house and makes messes. He sleeps with his back against the chair or couch, and upstairs in the study, with his head in the corner. We think it's so he knows where he is by feel--his eyesight is going. We take him out at night by the front door, instead of letting him into the back yard, because the back steps are steep and uneven.

He and I have come a long way together. I got him with a unexpectedly large birthday check from my father. I researched different breeds and settled on the Pembroke Welsh Corgi--fun, not too big, easy to train, healthy. He's been a joy! He has a sense of humour, I swear it. I was the one who fed him, who took him out in the middle of the night when he was a puppy, I walked him in sleet and rain and heat. I took him to the herding instinct test, and to obedience classes. I thought about training him in obedience or agility--and then seminary happened... He was there through the divorce, and came with me when I moved in with DP, whom he thinks of as Momma. He traveled with us to Canada (the only hotel we could find at 11 pm in a rainstorm had a no-pet policy, so we took a room way on the end and snuck him in and out, along with the cats). He's made new friends here, and is happy. Except for his eyesight, he's healthy--good weight, breathing OK, and so on. Long may he last!

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...