Saturday, December 25, 2010

Blessed Christmas to You

Christmas Eve is my favorite time of the season.

The malls are closed. The traffic has eased. Luminaries line the curbs of well-tended neighborhoods. The churches are filled with the glow of candlelight. The bouncy radio and television Christmas jingles -- accompaniment to all the frantic shopping and baking and wrapping -- give way to the pensive, poignant carols and hymns that always lead to ...

Silent Night.

Holy night.

Son of God.

Love's Pure light ...

Whatever you believe, whatever you hold dear, here's a free night of the quiet soul.


And Merry Christmas to You.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Criminal Intent

I was seven years old when I committed my first felony.

Okay, maybe it was only a misdemeanor.

I blame Mrs. Weinstein, my second grade teacher. Her dislike for me was evident even to my young mind, and who can resist acting out in the face of such disapproval?

Okay, maybe her disapproval started after my crime. I can’t quite recall. I am, however, quite certain that I was at least a little misunderstood, and could have used a bit more monitoring in those early years.

It was Sunday, and I always did my homework Sunday evenings, but this particular Sunday, my parents decided to visit relatives. In those days, I remember us visiting relatives quite often. Later, those visits tapered off. Maybe it was a consequence of my crime.

Okay, maybe it was because a slew of relatives died around that time. I am certain, however, that no one consulted me about visiting relatives. Or about the state of my homework. To be honest, I am not sure if such queries would have done much good, since I remember feeling quite surprised – and chagrined – to realize, upon returning home at bedtime, that I had not done my homework. And, it was due in the morning. And now I couldn’t do it, because it was bedtime. I was not lazy, mind you. It was bedtime, and I was not mistress of the clock.

There it was then: the genesis of my crime.

To appear at school without my homework was unthinkable (testament to my sense of responsibility and work ethic), so I put on my thinking cap and what I thunk up was the need for a note. You know – that golden chit. That get out of anything without a scratch card. That ticket to the mystical land of unaccountability. A note excusing the easily excusable. I could not do my homework at my regularly scheduled time, because I was visiting relatives.

Okay, not sick, troubled, or otherwise imperiled relatives. But this was America! The land of baseball! Apple pie! Station wagon trips to visit relatives!

Okay, we didn’t have a station wagon, but the rest of the story held a teaspoon of water. Who wouldn’t accept such an excuse?

I cannot remember why I decided against asking my parents to write that bullet-proof excuse note. I cannot remember why I thought it was a good idea to write it myself. I do recall being unable to find a pen. Or a pencil. I did find a pad of my mother’s Memo from Frances Rivers customized green note paper. And a crayon. A green crayon.

I practiced writing that note quite diligently, well past my bedtime. See, it’s hard work creating a reasonable reproduction of your mother’s writing and signature in green crayon. Especially when you are just learning to write in cursive. At some point, I convinced myself that my efforts looked authentic.

Okay, I became sleepy and convinced myself that my efforts looked authentic enough.

The next morning, Mrs. Weinstein called for the homework. I trotted up to her, smiled and said, “I have a note.” I recall handing it to her with a bit of a flourish. My teacher opened it, read it, and told me to return to my seat. She did not look at me. The rest of the school day passed uneventfully.

That afternoon, my neighbor Debbie and I skipped home. It was a beautiful spring day, and we had Wednesday Bible Study with Mrs. Carbo. Mrs. Carbo was a warm, heavyset woman with cotton white hair who favored floral print dresses. She was earnest without being simpering, and pious without being overbearing. All of the kids went to bible study whether they adhered to Christian concepts in their daily lives or not. I recall it being more than simply something to do.

We ran gaily into my house to deposit our books. And, found my mother and father seated at the dining room table. In our double income family, it was rare for both my parents to be home at the same time in the afternoon, but there they were, sitting together at the dining room table. Staring at me.

“Debbie, Felicia cannot go to Bible study. You’ll have to go without her.”

Not go to Bible study? What the hell? Debbie did the what-did-you-do? eye roll and left the way she came.

Seems Mrs. Weinstein’s calm acceptance of my forged note was a ruse. She wasted no time ratting me out to my parents as soon as I was out of earshot. I’ll bet it was the scandal of the teacher’s lounge.

So, I was confined to quarters without the benefit of clergy. Come to think of it, why would one deny a sinner exposure to the Lord and all his redemptive influences? Would not a better course have been to rehabilitate me with more religion? This is the same faulty logic that punishes misbehaving, under-achieving students by denying them extra-curricular activities. If they are not performing in school, wouldn’t it be better to rehabilitate them within structured programs than to loose them onto the unmonitored streets of temptation?

Okay, I don’t recall an extended confinement. And, I got to keep the crayon.

What kind of lesson is that?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hunter's Moon

I see the moon and the moon sees me,
Under the shade of the collibah tree. I say to the moon that shines on me: Shine on the one I love.

My Mother used to sing that to me.

In fact, she would sing it to me tonight with very little provocation.

Moms are like that.

The moon - just another mother - is like that.

Talk all you want about reflected light.

She shines.

With very little provocation.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Breath of Bliss

Have you ever experienced a momentary sense of bliss? As if you passed over a ley line, or brushed against a barrier between worlds, or something magical brushed by you – only for an instant – then moved on?

I feel such every once in a while. I felt it this evening. A brief sensation when it seems everything converges to create a sense of right-ness, right now. Always I am driving, and I get this feeling that I just passed something wholly good, and meant for me in particular. A sweet pause, that lingers, captured by inadequate memory. I have no idea what this good is. No thought or action brings it on. I have nothing with which to predict it, or attempt to reproduce it. There are no markers with which to identify the cause. It is invisible and silent and non-manifest. And, yet it gently triggers ever sense simultaneously.

I have come to recognize the ghost of a scent, a taste, a sense of pressure. And, it produces a breath of well being that is just passing by as it registers. Then it is gone, and it is so remarkable that I cannot mourn its passing.

Perhaps it is a coincidence of firing synapses and air pressure. Or a dream teasing from the sub-conscious. Or spirits playing tag.

Whatever it is, it is only for a moment. Then gone. And, I am left in bliss.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good News Story

"If it bleeds, it leads."

That is the mantra of news.

We humans love drama, and drama all too frequently equals blood, horror, and bad circumstances that cannot be fully absorbed by the average guy or gal. We "tsk" and cover our eyes (forgive those who peek expectantly through their fingers, please). We saddle up and rally around the down-trodden whilst gossiping about their victimization and distress. We do our civic duty and wait for things to fall apart. We are the light-seekers who peer into the darkness. We are the audience for the blood-thirsty 6:00 local news. And it is the body counts that make us so high.

Then that damned good news comes along, and we don't know what to do with ourselves.

Do we celebrate the happy outcome? Sure! Yea! Another one for the good guys! Or do we crouch under the weight of our baser instincts and move on, looking for the next disaster, grousing that the body count is low?

Well, allow me to pummel you with this smiley-faced balloon:

There's this dude in Florida named
James King. A girl who attended his former church went missing, and he decided to enter the alligator-infested swamps of Winter Springs, FL to find her, armed only with his bible, water, snacks, toilet paper, and a GPS-enabled phone. She was missing for FOUR DAYS. He found her, bug-bitten, dehydrated, but otherwise unharmed. He called the authorities, and brought her back to her grateful family.

Now in this disgusting social climate, we are a suspicious lot. So, James King was questioned by a dutiful police force to ensure that he was a hero, not a perpetrator. Do your recall a time when we took our heroes at face value? Well that time is not today. James King, however, is apparently a king among men, because he raised no red flags. He is a
bona fide hero. Good for him.

Now I don't care what his politics are, or what his religion is (James King reported that while he searched, he recited the Bible verse that reads: "Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and don't lean on your own understanding. And, he will direct your path.").

This man didn't have to do anything related to the girl from his church. He could have gone to breakfast, watched a game on TV, read a book, worked a crossword puzzle. Instead he went looking for a lost 11-year-old girl with Aspberger's, and found her. Alive.

"There she was, sitting on a log," he said, "looking expectantly, like, 'You're finally here.'"
How is it possible to have a better day than that?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Well, At Least We Did Not Shoot the Children.

Oh, wait ....

View Wikileaks video:

I get it.

I know with certainty that without the brave men and women who are willing to stand watch on the wall against all aggressors, to travel thousands of miles to keep the wolves from our shores, to protect our way of life, to protect our freedom and treasure, to sacrifice blood and limb and soul ...

Without the stout-hearted individuals who answered the call to war, we would be lost. Soft targets in a dark, ever-dangerous world.

But, when these fine, brave men and women travel overseas to pick up a gun, launch a helicopter, and police an area, they take on more than the risk of life and limb, more than training and duty. They take on the responsibility for not just their lives and culture, but that of the innocents who travel within the fogs of war.

I can not imagine the pressure. I cannot image the day-in-day out twitched-muscle fear of soldiers who must measure each mission, each step, each minute in units of survival-units, waiting of the next ditch or block or citizen to be the end of everything he or she has lived for.
But, see? That just makes it more important to do the right thing. We come over here/over there with messages of freedom and justice and unmitigated rightness. Well, if we are going to take on that glowing mantle, then we have to glow.

Being stressed out, or tired out, or bored, vengeful, scared, or rationalized, or preemptive, or in need of one damned moment of humorous respite -- none of that justifies brutality or carelessness or collateral anything.

Hell no, I haven't been to war (unless you count Thanksgiving dinner), and I do not know what it is like when every act or step could be my life. That does not excuse me, just as it does not excuse you from recognizing right from wrong.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Magic of Good Mojo

Tribune Photo by
Heather Charles


That bright spring light of the mind and soul. That boon from god that allows us to get up every morning, to hope for a better day, a better vision, a better apple, car, job, song, story, life. Optimism, even when leaning flat against reality, lets us believe that in the end, EVERY LITTLE THING is gonna be all right. Truly. In spite of everything else.

In spite of the darkness that lurks along our paths. In spite of the sadness, fear, hatred, anger that brushes against us. In spite of all those helpless days and hopeless feelings. In spite of all the things we think we could resist outright, if only we were stronger, smarter, better, prettier, more talented, more MORE.

Well, you have to know one thing: optimism goes a long way toward setting the stage for triumph. Just believing in something - preferably your own self - is a shield of courage that protects you as your dare to take that first step of the journey toward whatever new day that has grabbed your imagination.

And when optimism is mixed with a dream and a plan and willing people who know how to help you mix and bake your personal recipe? People who know how to buck you up when the shadows stretch across the path? Well hell. Suddenly, you find yourself much further down the road than your first dreams ever led you to believe was possible.

So, this month, Chicago's Urban Prep Academy announced that every single member of the school's first senior class - 107 of them - had been accepted to college. Young men who came from destitution and swaddled futures. Young men who had hardly dared to dream of much of anything. Young men who doubted that academic success was in their future. Young men who entered the school unable to read at their grade-level.

Now, you can sniff at the uniforms and complain about the demands and other trappings of a highly controlled environment. But before you do, you should ask the graduating seniors if the jackets and ties, the gender segregation, the extended school days, the constant messages commanding FOCUSFOCUSFOCUS, the extra English credits, and the long commutes were at all worth it. Ask them if the ability to call everyone they know to shout, "I got in!" was worth it. Ask them if forcing the shadows on the road to retreat in shame was worth it.

Class of 2010: Go on with your bad selves.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dear God ...

What the hell is going on?

Now Chile?

Forgive my presumptive complaining, and maybe this isn't your handiwork, but:

An 8.8 Earthquake (because a thousanth of that wasn't enough)?
400,000 made homeless in an hour?
Another opportunity to saddle up, and dig out the dead?
Another opportunity to be woefully unprepared?
Another opportunity to see our daily problems as petty echoes of true suffering?
Another opportunity to rise to our better selves?

Seems to me that someone's nudging us down the highway toward hell.

Can you point us toward a rest stop?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Go World!

photo: Getty

2010 Winter Olympics have opened!

photo: Getty

Oh Canada!

And, sadness for the fallen Georgian athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili who died in practice opening day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Buried - Part Deux

Sometimes, you just have to sigh and put it down.

As my Mom says when she wants us to place things in their proper perspective: "No matter what you do, the sun's going to come up tomorrow morning like nothing ever happened."

Work, politics, relationships. financial concerns, religious conflicts, disaster, oppression. Sometimes it all seems so relentless, like a blizzard birthed clear across the country, flowing eastward, eastward, Eastward, Ho! All the preparation in the world comes down to doing what you can do.

And the sun will rise tomorrow.

And we will start again.

A few hardy souls

DO have to say one thing though:

Hey! Did you have to park so close to my car???

Saturday, February 6, 2010


This is my car.

This is my car on snow.

Any questions?

This is Steph and Ry who started the community car clean-off. Thank guys!

Just goes to show, when the world or life or a random circumstance buries you ...

There's always someone to help you dig out.

Happy Shovelling ...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Day!

Remember those snow days when we were kids?

We didn't have the Weather Channel, Accu-Weather, or Doppler 5, 000,000 (yes, I know. I make it sound like these technological advances are reliable). We had a guy in a plaid jacket and seventies-wavy hair standing in front of a monochrome map with cardboard suns, clouds, H's and L's waving his hands as if conjuring.

And, he gazed hopefully into the camera. Hopeful that we'd believe his forecasts, and hopeful that he would be right. Most of the time he failed, becoming a weather seducer who couldn't deliver the goods.

So we'd hear snow and cross our fingers and pray, only to wake up to grey skies and brown lawns. But, every once in a while, the weatherman would call for empty skies, and we'd wake up to steadily falling snow. Snow on the cars, snow on the trees, snow on the lawns, and - most importantly - snow on the hilly roads the school buses had to navigate.

Snow day!

My Dad would growl about the need to shovel, and curse the passing plows who undid his hard work, but Mom understood. There was nothing more magical than an unexpected day with nowhere to go and no means to get there. Snowmen, snow angels, and Devereaux Hill sled runs awaited!

See, when you are used to the unrelenting brown and grey of the southeastern Pennsylvania winter, the white winterland truly is a wonder. So today, after the weather-scientists forecasted no precipitation, or a snow shower, or a dusting maybe, the snow began to fall. Steadily.



It stopped.

No, now it's started again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Do You Do?

Ivanoh Demers/AP

The sun emerged for the first time in days, but I have this cold spot within that it was unable to reach. What do you do when an earthquake or a tsunami or a war over there brings suffering on an incomprehensible scale, and a hundred or a thousand or a hundred thousand faces of immediate human misery stare blankly from a darkened world stage?

What do you do (emphasis on any word)?

Do you make a contribution? Do you say a prayer? Do you watch? Do you go? Do you slide into numbness before the videos of bodies in the streets and reports of children with shattered torsos crack your carefully crafted sense of detachment?

Do you cheer on anyone capable of lending a hand: the doctors, the nurses, the disaster coordinators, the Haitians working without sleep, the American firefighters who go anywhere anytime?

Do you publicly (or quietly) suggest that anyone who suffers that much must have committed some grave sin? Do you wish we would spend our charity at home?

Do you see yourself, your mother, your father, your child in the man/woman/child on the TV? Do you thank God it didn't happen to you?

What do you do?