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Mother’s Day started with a power outage this morning around 9 AM.

Hm. Looked at my phone. Only half charged.

Can’t use the internet.

I’ll read my books on Kindle. But… no service. My books are in the cloud.

Well. I’ll go start my coffee.

But. No water.

Hm. Oh wait! I saved my coffee from last night. It’s in the fridge! Yay.

But. No microwave.

Getting chilly in here. Let me turn up the heat.

But. No heat.

So I went back to bed to bundle up. Just then, I heard a car pulling into my neighbor’s driveway, music blaring. Man, that’s loud. What an idiot. Had to catch myself there. No need to be unkind.

It reminded me of the time my father was teaching me to drive. “Watch the idiot,” he said, as another driver encroached on my lane. I had to laugh at the memory. He was always glad to see me when I would visit the house. And my mother would greet me by saying, “You’re the greatest!”

It’s fitting that this happened on Mother’s Day, as we all have a mother (here or in Heaven) and we often take for granted how much she means to us.

In today’s climate, just reminding yourself not to be unkind is an act of kindness. Usually, people aren’t blasting their music to annoy you, but to enjoy their own life. The power goes out sometimes. It’s nothing personal.

This was a gift to me today. A reminder to appreciate the power, all the way up to the power source.

Do something today to show appreciation for all that God provides.

Or at least, don’t be an idiot.🙂You’re lucky, and you know it. This is a good day to remind yourself of the blessings you take for granted.

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Tell me about a complicated man.

Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy, and where he went, and who he met, the pain he suffered in the storms at sea, and how he worked to save his life and bring his men back home.

He failed to keep them safe; poor fools, they ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god kept them from home.

Now goddess, child of Zeus, tell the old story for our modern times.

Find the beginning.

These opening lines of Emily Wilson’s translation of “The Odyssey” struck me like a lightning bolt.

Some critics believe that her choice of words may affect the classic’s meaning.

“I want to make them see that all translations are interpretations,” she said.

The same can be said of the Bible. People curate specific texts and tailor them to pet peeves. Maybe they want women to “stay in their place,” so they quote Ephesians 5:22. They cherry-pick passages to berate gays, immigrants, trans people. You know. Anybody they don’t want in the neighborhood.

I was amazed to read an article about priests trying to deter annoying parishioners from becoming part of their church.

Sometimes we’re not even aware that we treat people who are different from us, well, differently.

It doesn’t take much to create a compassionate community. Just an open door. A kind manner. A heart for humanity.

It’s trusting that God knows what he’s doing. In a nutshell, it’s a timeless story with a happy ending. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get lost in translation.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Despite my beloved mother’s best efforts (God rest) and the hours she put in playing Bach on the piano, I’m still nowhere near as cultured and refined as she was. She’d quote Chaucer for me, in middle English. She’d school me on the origin of words.

Still, I’m just an easily-distracted, uncultured, good-natured gal from New Jersey.

Doesn’t matter if I’m looking right at you as you tell me your long-winded spiel. In my mind, I’ve gone to Carolina.

Watching this video of Hilary Hahn, I was reminded of my mother playing Bach on the piano.

I’m amazed at how beautiful even one note can sound in the right hands. At the same time, I’m also utterly distracted by the fact that her producer looks like a combination of Fred Mertz (of I Love Lucy) and Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong).

Then I realized that her conductor looks like Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel). 😎

So whilst (little faux fanciness for ya) I try to be good at culcha, alls I can really do is appreciate it in my own New Jersey way. I’ll never have tea with the queen, p’raps, but I like to spin a yarn and have a good laugh.

I noticed that when Hahn plays, her whole body moves in a particular choreography. It’s as if she knows that she can’t reach the notes with her hands unless her feet move in a certain way at the same time.

Her whole body is her instrument.

In the same way, your whole life is your testament.

Most of the people you meet would never stand still and let you convert them to your beliefs.

All of the people you meet are seeing, hearing and feeling your beliefs every time you speak.

With all that’s going on in the world, all I can do is offer you this cozy corner where you’ll always be welcomed like a friend and we can share our stories. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, kind people. You’re okay with me.

Justice is not “just us.”
It’s everyone.
It’s every one
doing what that one can
and eventually, it is all of us, together.

So it really is just us. There is no “them.”
You and me again become we.

Step one: take one step.

Well, if you read the news these days, it’s discouraging, but there are still good people in the world doing positive things.

Like this flight attendant who saved one young girl from a sex trafficker and this tightrope walker who saved one man stuck in a ski lift.

These individuals didn’t save the whole world, they saved one person. Just one. But that one person really matters. To their friends, to their families. To God.

Both of these things happened in mid-air, so there was no other way to get help. Sometimes God puts a person uniquely equipped to save the day in exactly the right place.

We’ve all seen the protests, picket signs and caustic comments online. There are small pockets of positive resistance forming out there, waiting to connect with each other and spread peace instead of discord.

With all of the drama going on, that may be where the next groundswell sets in. Singular acts. Small gestures. Just you. Just me. Just us. Being neighborly. Keeping our words civil. Treating each other like extended family.

Hopefully, the next hashtag that catches on will be #JustUs. We’re all in this together, and there really is no Us Versus Them. We’re all “Us.” U.S. We all live here. We all belong here. We don’t all have to agree, but we can get along if we all agree to try.

Even aliens – and by that I mean, from outer space – should be treated humanely. The other type of “alien” doesn’t really exist. We all came from somewhere else. Now we’re here.

Post-election, my vote is to get past this ugly chapter and get on with the “one nation under God” thing. It’s time to put aside those weaponized words and meet each other as human beings with healing hearts. Somebody’s got to take the first step.

no-sign

Luckily, I heard the words in my head before they made it out of my mouth, blocking them at the very last moment – like a “No-You-Don’t!” Ninja.

This is what I almost said to an acquaintance: “‘Course it’s her own fault. Can’t drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney and think you’ll dodge the bullet forever!”

A dear friend was sick in the hospital and I was concerned about her, so of course, I tore her down in my own mind and nearly engaged in a form of germ warfare. Because, truthfully, such words are toxic, even infectious.

It may well be that we judge others to deflect the spotlight from our own unchecked boxes.

◘ Never finished that college degree
◘ Never got that promotion
◘ Never found that soul mate

Perhaps we feel so small in a vast universe that we subconsciously seek to squash others – like bugs on the sidewalk in our way, when we could easily step around them – that we steamroller over their humanity, their beauty, their divinity, and focus solely on the things they failed to do.

We do the math in our heads and assume that we can subtract from others while adding to ourselves. It really doesn’t work that way. It detracts from us both. From us all.

If I were to say anything, it should be something like this.

You’ve been through so much in your life, and I’ve long admired your determination. You’ve watched out for me like family from the minute I moved into the neighborhood. If there’s anything I can do to encourage you to take steps to improve your health so I can have you around as a friend for many years to come, I’ll be here for you.  

There’s only one surefire way to safeguard your soul and clear the air pollution of thoughtless comments: put a spiritual Ad-Blocker on your words.

Scanning the headlines this week, I found myself leaping to conclusions and making assumptions. Before I knew it, I was psycho-analyzing public figures I don’t even know.

Governor Paul LePage of Maine found himself in hot water last week when he left a profane, threatening voicemail for a Democratic lawmaker. He’s ignited a lot of controversies lately, most of which are exacerbated by his brash style. I came to the conclusion that LePage was still fighting battles from his hardscrabble childhood. Okay. Figured him out. Next subject.

Flipped over to the Entertainment Section and read that actress Blake Lively had a baby shower that singer Taylor Swift attended. Hmm. That Taylor Swift has been collecting famous friends for years now. Probably a direct result of Kanye West ruining her VMA award moment.  Must be trying to prove that people really do like her. Okay. Figured her out. Next subject.

Of course, it did occur to me that these are people I’ve never met, and never will meet. The only “facts” I’ve got at my disposal are those found on the internet. I have no degree in psychology, so everything I’m assuming is just my own best guess.

One of my favorite sitcoms is The Odd Couple with actors Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. In one episode, Randall’s character, Felix Unger, says, “Never assume. When you assume, you make and ass out of u and me.”

We all make assumptions about each other, but we don’t know the whole story. It’s a good idea not to take our own meanderings too seriously. Lest we forget, people are making assumptions about us, too.

So even as I find myself putting on a judge’s robe that I never earned and banging a gavel in my own mind, I’ll also send up a quick prayer. “Bless them,” I’ll ask. “And forgive my little lapses.” I’m more grateful than ever that God’s grace is such a big umbrella!

“Are you a teacher?”

The Uber driver had looked at me in the rearview and asked the question.

“No, but everybody asks me that. Must be the cat’s eye glasses,” I said. “I did teach ESL years ago.”

“Really? How’s my English?” he asked.

“Not bad,” I said.

“I’ve only been here four years and I’m always trying to improve my English.”

“You’re doing fine,” I told him.

He said, “It’s more important than ever to blend in. Trump is making my life harder.” He felt the difference in the last year in the way people look at him, talk to him. “They think I’m here to cause chaos. I’m just trying to feed my family, y’know?”

Just like everybody else.

Last week in the news, police in Nice, France, were filmed forcing a Muslim woman wearing a burkini to disrobe on the beach while other sunbathers watched. A person on the scene said that some even applauded. A local official said that if people don’t feel safe, or are offended by someone’s outfit, it needs to be addressed. It’s a risk to public order, he said.

Thong bikinis and speedos are okay, but a fully-covered woman is a public crisis.

But what I want to know is this: what’s the difference between a burkini and a scuba suit?

Everybody has biases. One of mine concerns t.v. reporters wearing casual clothes. It seems every female reporter is wearing a tank dress to show her toned arms, and every male reporter on a news scene is wearing skinny jeans. You’d think they just came from a nightclub!

Of course, I know it’s just a matter of taste, and it’s my own hang-up. No need to hassle them, as happened when this weather reporter was told while live on-the-air that she needed to cover herself up.

Just as the Uber driver profiled me as a teacher, we can choose to view others through the filter of faith. Ah! Another blessed, beloved child of God on the road of life.

And maybe, just for today, the fashion police can take the day off.

 

Auto-Pilot OptimismSo many times recently, I’ve found myself railing against something. Standing in opposition. Fed up with the ways of the world. Shouting at the anchor on the evening news, “How can these things happen?” as if the stiff guy in a grey suit actually controls the events of our day.

I felt I was reaching a threshold of sorts. A dear friend passed away over the weekend. I had to stop taking a medication that was bolstering my health. The things going on in the political arena have been infuriating.

Bad things happen in life. That’s just a fact. But wonderful, positive, uplifting things are going on at the same time. I decided not just to count my blessings, but to let them know, personally, that I appreciate them.

Tapping my son on the shoulder, I exclaimed, “Blessing!” Cole just nodded, smiled, and went back to his video game. He’s grown accustomed to his mother’s quirks by now.

Following the cat in his stealthy tracks down the hallway, I said, “Blessing!” In standard feline operating procedure, KitKat slow-blinked in my general direction and continued his meandering mosey.

Sometimes, though, it seems it’s hard to find the silver lining.

Garry Marshall passed away recently. He produced one of my favorite sitcoms, the Odd Couple. He also seemed to be a down-to-earth, likeable guy, and it saddened me to hear of his passing.

But soon, I was watching old reruns of his shows, and I felt blessed again. Sorry for the loss, but grateful for the legacy of blessings he left behind.

“It’s nice to be important,” Marshall once said. “It’s more important to be nice.”

So, at least for today, I’m on Auto-Pilot Optimism, and I’ve got only two modes: To Be Blessed, and To Be a Blessing.

And, to you, dear reader, I’ve got just one thing to say: Blessing!

Over the weekend, we all awoke to news of yet another police-involved shooting.

In most of the cases in the news recently, those involved have been men, so allow me to tell a story from a mother’s perspective, looking at the loss of lives from the male population.

We love our sons. Our brothers. Our fathers, grandfathers, cousins. Our neighbors. It would be devastating for any man that we love to be cut down in the prime of life.

Watching the press conference held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the mayor, the sheriff and the governor spoke of the horrific events of the day. Behind them, police officers stood in silent solidarity.

I watched, riveted, as these normally stoic officers showed the world their obvious pain. Some even wiped away tears. On the way out of the press conference, two of the officials hugged. 

It was such an unusual thing to see, since, as a society, we expect men to keep a stiff upper lip.

One of the officers killed, Montrell Jackson, had posted on Facebook the prior week, “In uniform, I get some nasty, hateful looks, and out of uniform, some consider me a threat.” As an African-American police officer, he felt the pain from both directions.

To me, it summed up everything about the volatile situation in America regarding police and communities of color.

All any of us are looking for is respect, and it’s the one thing missing from all of the encounters we hear of in the news lately.

We can’t afford to keep losing our men in this way. The three officers involved will be mourned by wives, mothers, daughters, sons, colleagues and the community. I have to believe that the shooter himself will be mourned by his own family as well.

The Sheriff of Baton Rouge was moved, and spoke from the heart. He said, “This is about what’s in men’s hearts. Until we come together as a nation, to heal as a people, this madness will continue, and we will surely perish as a people. I ask for your prayers for this parish, this state and this nation.”

Or, put another way, we really just want our sons to come home to us.

My block is a true cross-section of America. African-American families live on either side of my house. Across the street, there are a few White families. Next door to them, a Latino family. A Native American family lives at the end of the street. There’s a lesbian couple, an older lady and her dog, and a foster family.

In my own home, there’s me – a tiny, little “ginger” (5”5), so white that, in a snowstorm, you’d miss me; ☺ my tall (6”3) bi-racial, teen-age son who wears his brown hair in an Afro; and our cat, who’s black, brown, and white – the perfect mascot for the family and for the neighborhood.

I’ve got to be honest. In all my years here in New Jersey, I’ve never used the word “diversity.”  The reason for that is that it’s a part of my life, so it doesn’t need a label. It’s just, y’know, my block.

My theory is that most people who use the word “diversity” really have no experience of it in their lives, so their views may be based on stereotypes or misconceptions.

I’ve heard a lot of people rail against the Black Lives Matter movement, and the usual argument is this: why should any one group matter more than the others? Don’t all lives matter?

SueBe wrote the book on this issue, literally, with Professor Duchess Harris, and critics piled on, even before the book came out. Lori spoke for me when she wrote of her anger toward people spewing such hate without having all the facts.

I look at it this way. I’m a proponent of the “Faster Care for Veterans Act.”

While I support the idea of veterans receiving faster care, that doesn’t mean that I think everyone else should receive slower care. I just believe it’s long overdue that this group should have their specific concerns addressed and resolved.

Supporting a group’s right to have their issues heard doesn’t mean that nobody else matters. It means that we’ve still got some work to do. We live on the block together. Can’t we live in the world together?

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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