Monday, September 30, 2013

Deposing the Bishop

My friend Alice Sea was really something. She lived to be 99 and had a lot of fun doing it. She was much loved by everyone and a power to be reckoned with in the Episcopal Diocese of California. Not wealthy, not a society woman, not a clergy member, but so charming and so much loved that people really listened to her.

Alice was especially fond of the Franciscan friars and she adored Bishop C. Kilmer Myers. Me, too, and like everybody else, I adored Alice. She and I were besties and we had a lot of fun and shared adventures. This one was the best one of all.

Alice and I used to go to a retreat center every summer, the Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg, California, for something the Diocese of California put on called The Adult Conference. It was a week long summer camp for grownups, with indoor plumbing and a cocktail hour. I ran the arts and crafts program. Alice was the social center. Every year we had one night when people put on skits and displayed their talents of one kind or another, just for fun, and the year the Episcopal Church decided it was OK to ordain women as priests, Alice decided she was going to go General Convention one better and declare herself to be the first lady bishop of California. This would include firing the sitting bishop, her good friend Kilmer Myers. We had a lot of fun setting it up -- she wore her long purple dress, I made her a paper miter and we used her cane to make a kind of crosier, which I, as her chaplain, carried, preceding her. Someone else went ahead of us carrying a paper thurible, pretending to spread clouds of incense ahead of her as she majestically entered the room.   When we entered, someone read a proclamation, announcing her as first lady bishop and deposing Myers. It was great silly fun.

What we didn't know was that Kilmer Myers was actually at the ranch at the time and got wind of  her plan. Just at the critical minute, he appeared from an anteroom in full episcopal vestments with his real chaplain and real crozier and real incense, and deposed her on the spot. It was hilarious. Couldn't have gone better if we had planned it that way. As a gift, he presented her with a real bishop's miter.

Fast forward a few months. The bishop had to go to NY on business and left instructions for his staff not to change anything while he was gone. As luck would have it, all the Cathedral House locks were about to be changed for whatever reason, and the staff thought it would be fun to also turn his entire office around - move the bookcases and the desk and everything else, as a joke. His real chaplain, Br. John George, one of the Franciscan friars, had an even better idea. He called Alice.

The evening Bishop Myers returned from NY, his chaplain picked him up at the airport and drove him back to Cathedral House, where he lived and had his office. They pulled up in the parking lot and parked in a different spot than usual. The bishop's reserved spot had a new sign taped to it that read "Bishop Sea." What? They went inside and John George told him, "I'll take your luggage to your room. You go ahead to your office and check your mail."

When the bishop got to his office, he found his key didn't work. That couldn't be right! He fumbled around with it for a minute, and noticed there was an envelope taped to the door, addressed to "Mr. Myers". He removed it and as he was opening it, the office door opened and the "secretary" greeted him. Not his real secretary, Binnie, but a young man! "Oh, hello, Mr. Myers. Would you like to see the bishop?"

He was totally disoriented by then and nodded agreeably, wondering just what had happened in his absence. What he knew and we didn't, was that he was having real problems with the powers that be in the diocese and wasn't at all sure these sudden changes weren't real.

When he entered the totally re-arranged office, he found Alice in her purple dress, wearing the lovely white miter he had given her, her family pictures on the desk and his gone, the air perfumed with her favorite fragrance, and me beside her in a cassock, holding her "crozier." The phone rang and it was the diocesan officer, also a good friend, calling to congratulate her.

What could he do? It was a clear coup. He walked over to her, went down on one knee and kissed her ring.

All the while, our parish priest, whose best friend was playing the secretary role, was quaking in the drapes -- he wasn't sure if he would still have a job after this, but of course he did.

The letter that had been on the door informed him that he had been replaced and his new office could be found in the cathedral undercroft, to the left of the stairway. (in the men's room...)

We all laughed until we cried, Bishop Myers as loudly and freely as anyone, in great relief that it had all been a joke. Truly a night to remember. We all had a drink of very good scotch.

I miss those two a lot.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thoughts on the eve of my 75th birthday

I opened my email last night and there was a beautifully made e-card from our friend Sandra. A lovely bouquet of flowers held the caption: Happy 75th Birthday!

Shock. I felt slightly disoriented for a second -- what! Seventy-fifth birthday? Me?

Yes. The old broad has been on the earth for 75 years, raising hell and exploring all the edges.  Balancing on the knife edge for three quarters of a century, and only lost my balance and fell flat a few times.

In the picture, taken via Photo Booth just as I began writing this, I am wearing my new red silk birthday scarf, a gift from Sundance. They sent me a $50 gift card for no particular reason except thatI hadn't bought anything from them for a while. That's the kind of customer appreciation I like -- send me money.  So I got this scarf and a pair of lapis lazuli earrings. Only went a tiny bit over. I'm a good shopper. I'm saving the earrings for tomorrow, my real birthday.

My beloved asked me this morning how I wanted to spend the day. It was early, before I had my coffee or did my morning practice of 20 sit-ups, an energy exercise or two and some chanting.  Now that I have all that out of the way, I'm ready to come up with a rundown of how I would really love to spend the day.

On an ideal day before my birthday, I would be surprised out of my wits by all my kids and grandkids showing up to celebrate with me.  They would whisk Laura and me away to a green park with a beautiful creek and we would have a huge picnic with my mother's fried chicken and potato salad and a big apple pie my grandmother baked. My aunt Lucy would have brought several jars of her best bread and butter pickles. Uncle Dale and Aunt Mary would be there with a big pan of Grandma's enchiladas. My best childhood friend, Marylou English, would be there, and we would draw pictures and giggle together. My best teenage friend Joan Menzemer would be there, and my other college roommates, Nancy Crystal and Jeanette Allen, would show up and we would act silly and be outrageous and have a blast remembering our nonsense. Ernest Alexander and all our old buddies from the Coexistence Bagel Shop would be there. My first husband, Bob Marchesi, would show up with his bass and a pick-up band, maybe with Johnny Baker on piano, and they would play the best jazz you ever heard and we would all dance to it. My friend Nichoe would be there. My old friends Lois and Judith and Alice and Jeremy and Harley would show up and Alice and I would tell them yet again how we deposed the Episcopal Bishop of California, Kilmer Myers, and took over his office, scaring the wits out of our parish priest who was afraid he would lose his job. Nina Alexander would be there and we could swap stories about how wonderfully well each of our single-parented families of 5 kids turned out even though they must have felt nearly abandoned while we were in nursing school together. Steve Swadesh would be there and bring his amazing paella, and sangria made with California wine. Winston Ching would drop by and bring dim sum. Harley would do a brilliant Tarot reading for me, and Winston would call me "sexy" and throw the I Ching to predict how my year would go -- which is even more fun because both of them are Episcopal priests and really do that stuff. Art Weinberg, the psychiatrist I worked with at the maintenance clinic, would be there and he would say, out of the blue, "and that goes double for your dog!" and we would go into fits of laughter. Linda, the nurse I worked with at the Detox clinic, would come and we would have a drink and tell funny dope nurse war stores.  Alden Whitney would show up, lovely man, and I would hug him and we would laugh about the time the pirate ship unexpectedly sailed into the Port Jefferson harbor with all its cannons firing while we ate ice cream cones and clam rolls and laughed hysterically at the absurdity of it, and the time we misbehaved at the New Mexico state crafts fair in Albuquerque or the time we met at the Dallas airport Sheraton and ate chicken fried steak three times a day and the maid stole my lipstick red Christian Dior pumps. Dee Dobson would be there, and we would bicker about everything and laugh and giggle like school girls and gossip about the friars. Our friends Diane and Dottie Sue would come and bring their choir to sing happy birthday. All the people that came to our wedding at Micah would be there, including Julian Kantor, who we miss terribly. My friend Francine would be there, and she would bring a birthday cake made with the star-of-David pan I gave her yesterday. Many, many other people, including my late husband Richard Jackman, and a whole lot of animals, both living and the dead, would show up and hug and laugh and wag and reminisce and a good time would be had by all.

And there would be See's chocolates for everybody.

Of course, that's not going to happen. My kids are scattered too far away to come. Many of those other people are dead: My mother and grandmother, Aunt Lucy, Uncle Dale and Aunt Mary, Bob, Johnny Baker, Ernest Alexander, Alice, Winston, Steve, Alden, Dee, Julian... some I have lost track of and don't know about.

Thanks to all of them for the memories. For a life full of wonder and joy and music and laughter and endless surprises.  That is party enough for me. I'm full, just thinking about it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Refuah Shelaimah: Chanting the World Back Together.

Tikkun olam. The Great Work. Healing the world. These words express the goal of many religions.  We broke it, now fix it.

A couple of months ago I started taking an 8-week online course called Crafting a Daily Practice. Each week we would add something to a morning practice of breathing, meditating, chanting, physical exercise, writing... to develop a regular habit of taking time to connect with body, soul and deity every day, and to work on knowing and integrating the parts of ourselves. I had tried this alone a year ago, using the book of the same name, but joining with others in this online class made a huge difference. So did having encouragement and guidance from our excellent teacher, Thorn Coyle.  I now have a solid, regular daily practice, and many broken places in my life have healed.

One of the things I tried that really stuck with me from the course was chanting. I had used this technique before, but not for a long time. I have acquired many spiritual tools over a lifetime, but I forget to use them! This time I tried out different chants and found pairs of Hebrew words seemed to work best for me. I found myself settling on two pairs of Hebrew words which I used interchangeably.

The first pair I tried was Eloha Neshama, a feminine variation pulled from the traditional Jewish morning prayer Elohai neshama... (God, the soul you have given me is pure.). I used the feminine because it represents me as a woman made in the image of God. The two words each have three syllables, and the accent in Hebrew is on the final syllable. They rock when you chat them. I rock when I chant them. I can really get into it. It would be even better with a little drumming to go with it,

The second chant I tried is Refuh shelaimah. Refuah means healing in Hebrew, and shelaimah comes from the same Hebrew root as shalom, meaning wholeness, peace, completion. The words together mean complete healing, or as I like to translate it, healing wholeness. I began to see great possibilities for this. I could call out names or situations as I chanted, with the intention of healing them. Refuah shelaimah, refuah shelaimah, refuah shelaimah, Syria. Refuah shelaimah, refuah shelaimah, refuah shelaimah, the world. The possibilities are many. Now, this is the chant I use most.

Chanting is very powerful, and it works. It doesn't matter what your faith or lack of it, it works. My theory is that it changes our own energy in some way that extends outward and brings larger changes. Whatever the reason, it works. There are some cautions in using it. It can turn into an earworm and get obsessive. You have to be disciplined about it. (For a good description of what can happen if you don't set limits, read J.D. Sallinger's Franny and Zooie.)

I am inviting you to join me in chanting to heal our broken world. Just two words, repeated, rhythmically: ref-oo-AH shah-lay-MAH. Make up a little tune to go with it. Rock with it. Let your soul dance with it. Let your body dance with it. Call out your intention for it at intervals -- I probably do it after six or seven repeats, but find your own rhythm: The world. The earth. A political crisis somewhere. Victims of violence. Climate change. Broken relationships. Someone you know that is ill or hurting, or maybe for all the people who have no one to chant for their healing. All the brokenness. Make your own list. Sing it out. Try doing it for about 10 minutes every morning.

Lets heal the world with chanting.

photo image: Google images

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A few days ago we were horrified at pictures of children dying in Syria. They had been exposed to poison gas, chemical weapons, and there was nothing that could be done for them. People watched in shock as they drew their last breaths. It was truly horrifying. Worse, their own government had poisoned them. When a country kills its own children, something has gone horribly wrong.  

There was some wobbling on whether or not they had actually used chemical weapons. Our President had said if Syria used them, he would act militarily to stop it. Nobody wants any more military actions going on, so he was waffling a little on this promise. Well, nobody knew for sure if it was chemical weapons or not... no smoking gun... hard to tell...

But then they did know. They had the chemical signature of it. They knew it was poison gas that killed those children. There was no denying it anymore, though the British Prime Minister is still saying it's not a sure thing, one can never know, etc...

The warships are standing off the coast of Syria. Armed to the teeth, if ships had teeth. You get the idea. Missiles at the ready, aimed at Syria. Ready to blow it to smithereens. Clean, no troops, just technology. It is the new war. 

Can someone please explain to me why blowing up the people of Syria is better than blowing them away with chemical weapons? It's the same poor souls who will get hit, the kids, the old grannies, the young mothers trying to shelter their babies, the old men hanging out and reminiscing with their friends, those people... the same ones who were being gassed. Not only will there be "collateral damage" in the form of the civilian population, but also the infrastructure, the houses, schools, hospitals, bridges, transportation systems, plumbing, water systems, all the trappings of a civilized existence.  If you need help imagining this, just take a look at the before and after pictures of Iraq. We blew Iraq back to the stone age. Who knows when, if ever, they will get back what they have lost? 

Explain to me how military intervention is going to convince Assad that chemical weapons are a bad idea. How is this going to win over the hearts and minds of a government that has produced over a million refugees and and 100,000 dead, so far? 

When are we going to realize that military intervention is not the solution, but only an escalation of the problem?  

Let's leave blowing things up to the special effects guys in Hollywood. 

Photo credit: Google images

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Intentional Living

This beautiful bowl was a gift from a friend about 20 years ago. All my dishes were mass produced, made in China reproductions of Fiestaware or odd plates and bowls collected for no particular reason over the years. My friend's husband is a noted ceramicist and all their dishes were made with love by this favorite potter or that.  Unthinkable that a carefully thought-out and prepared meal should be served on an ordinary dish, or that one should eat soup from an unbreakable melamine bowl left over from a time when children prevented the use of anything else! 

And so my friend took me to visit one of her friends, a potter. First we had a meal. The potter and his  wife served us scrambled eggs and freshly baked muffins and home-made jam. There was also butter, and I will never forget it. That butter was served on a slab of wood, and placed very carefully on a bright yellow leaf from a Bigleaf Maple (it was fall) which had been freshly chosen and picked exactly for that purpose. The entire meal was an artwork. Nothing had been neglected. It was elevated from the ordinariness of scrambled eggs to a banquet fit for royalty not only by the care with which it was cooked and served, but by the amazing style that went into serving it.

After the meal, we went into the potter's studio, which was attached to the house. Shelf upon shelf of beautiful plates and bowls and vessels were on display there. My friend told the potter that I was to choose whatever I liked and it would be her gift. 

The bowl in the picture is what I chose. It is small and beautiful, and decorated with  maple leaves. The glaze is rough, textured, unlike anything you can buy at Target or BuyMart, where I got the dishes I was using. Every time I see it, I remember that beautiful breakfast and the butter so beautifully plated on a leaf. And my friend Cynthia Kokis, with whom I have lost contact since moving. 

For a long time, this bowl sat on a shelf, unused, because it is too beautiful for ordinary use, or so I was thinking. I missed the lesson of the scrambled eggs and the butter on a leaf. Now I am using it as often as I can. I want all the beauty in my life that I can find. I want to feel the roughness of that glaze and see the thought that went into the placement of the colors. 

We can bring a lot of beauty into our lives by intentionality, by thinking about each act before we do it, by taking the time to serve the butter on a beautiful leaf, by taking the time to see the beauty of the leaf in the first place, and recognizing the value of ordinary time and ordinary acts. We can choose to make a beautiful life or to sleepwalk through it. 

What we choose to serve our butter on can make all the difference in the world. 

Photo credit: MaryAnn Jackman

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Hierophant

I am now taking two classes from T. Thorn Coyle, author, teacher, Pagan priestess, soup kitchen worker, human rights advocate, the list goes on. Her teaching helps us to explore our inner workings, bring things into balance and to become more effective at living and loving and being fully human. And better at what she calls the Great Work, which I equate with what Judaism calls Tikkun Olam, the work of healing and repairing the world. 

I liked the first class so much that I signed up for her ongoing classes, called Fiat LVX. Right now we are working on the Pearl Pentacle, an energy exercise developed by Victor Anderson, one of Thorn's teachers and one of the founders of Feri, a non-wiccan pagan path. The Pearl Pentacle explores five points: Love, Law, Knowledge, Liberty and Wisdom. Each aspect flows into the next one. We think about how these relate to us, what they mean to us, and look at them in depth. Each month we study another point. This month it's Love we're looking at. Very interesting discussion. Her videos on the topic, one a talk and one a meditation on it, offer wonderful insights and ask us to explore our own take on it. 

As an added exercise, she has us (if we are so inclined to) use Tarot cards or Rune stones, or whatever divination device we might choose, casting one for each of the points. I am no expert at Tarot cards -- though my oldest daughter is a Tarot maven. I am not a Rune person, either. So I decided to try the Tarot cards and do the exercise. I had a Motherpeace deck -- feminist, native american-y and round. I also have a Rider-Waite deck somewhere but can't find it. The image above is from that deck. I also have a newer deck loosely based on Rider-Waite, and decided to use that. Lots of decks for someone who doesn't use them! But I always mean to learn them! Well-intentioned... I lay them out, look the meanings up, then meditate on the card image and the meanings. I use more than one source for the meanings so I can get a multi-dimensional grip on it. Cards are just tools and have no real significance except to open you to what you already know. 

I did fine with the first four points, relating fairly easily to the readings I got, and then I came to Wisdom.  What card came up? The Hierophant. You can tell from the picture that this guy is a hard-nosed institutional figure. He's wearing the triple crown! He's the Pope. He represents tradition, ritual, "but we've always done it this way!" -- the institutional, conventional, unchanging traditions, upheld in spades, to use a different kind of card term. 

Is that what I conjure up when I think of Wisdom? Could it be that there is a hide-bound traditionalist in there that thinks the culmination of love, law, knowledge and liberty is dogmatic institutional religion?  Am I, always the bohemian, the hip girl, always the unconventional, artistic one, always in the avant garde, always the one who's poking the hornet's nest, secretly a Square? Is becoming a Square inevitable as we age? Say it isn't so! 

My grandmother always said, "The cards don't lie." She meant it. The cards she read were an ordinary deck, stripped of everything below the 7s, and she could tell you anything. I wonder what she would have to say about this guy? Who would he be in her deck? Probably the King of Spades. A dark man. Maybe the King of Hearts. 

Maybe he's like the new Pope, who is a breath of fresh air in the Vatican these days. Maybe this Hierophant is transforming into the unconventional one. I can only hope. But I did come across one other meaning for this card that makes me a little more comfortable with it. It also represents Torah. 

That, I'll take as wisdom. 

Photo credit: Google Images

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sitting like a Mountain

I have been taking an online class at T. Thorn Coyle's Morningstar Mystery School, re-learning the discipline of daily meditation and spiritual practice. I used to be a whiz at this, but have neglected it for a time, or become hap-hazard with it. It really helps to sit every morning with a prescribed routine and do it every day, as unfailingly as possible. Good things happen, both mentally and physically, when you do that. 

 T. Thorn Coyle is a really fine teacher who pays close attention to physical as well as spiritual and psychological exercise. I have been reading her books for years and the chance to study with her is something I never expected to be able to do. We have worked up from candle-gazing and written conversation with our internal Seekers (what are we seeking in doing this exercise) and Resistors (what within us is trying to resist our doing so, and why) to sitting meditation and some dancing/yoga/exercise added into the quiet stuff. We always begin by centering and aligning, balancing our souls or psyches or whatever you would call it, through breath work. This is something I have been doing for a long time, even when I have neglected the rest of it. Back in the days when I was a Franciscan, we prayed the daily office, which did not suit me and always rankled. We also did daily self-examen of our consciences and attitudes and inner workings, which I found a really important tool for spiritual growth. This class is very much about learning about yourself and involves a lot of that.

And then there is the sitting meditation. From long habit, I used to be able to fall in and out of a deep meditative state at the blink of an eye, but have lost that skill through disuse.  Thorn gave us three suggestions about how to get into it and of these, I found the Sitting Like a Mountain meditation really worked for me. In it, using a guided meditation narrative, we become a mountain which nurtures and supports a variety of life on the surface and has a cavern inside with a deep pool at the bottom of it.  I enter the deep, still pool and stay there in silence with myself for 10 minutes. It is very peaceful in there. I am gradually learning to go deeper and deeper, as I used to do. 

The Jewish image of God has neither form nor gender. According to Torah, God's name is "I am what I will be" which is basically translated from a Hebrew word meaning existence. The word itself is so holy that no one ever speaks it, and it has been unspoken for so long that no one really knows how anymore. With this as background, here is the fruit of my mediation from a few days ago when I was Sitting Like a Mountain.

I am life itself.
I am the beating heart of the rain
I am a stone at the bottom of a pool
I am the moon, the wind and the sighing of the sea, the crash and bang of thunder
I am mountains, rivers, all
I am dancing
I am love
Where I am is all the earth the stars the universe and space beyond it all
I am life itself
I am.

Photo credit:, with thanks to Lady Moonraven for sharing it.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Sizzle Fizzled

I've been mulling over the Paula Deen disaster for days now, amazed at how much attention it is getting and how little people seem to understand about it. So many are saying things like "How can we condemn her for something she said 27 years ago?" Or, "Who hasn't said something they regret 30 years ago?" Paula herself asked, tearfully playing the victim, "If you can say you've never said anything wrong  then throw the first stone, please, as hard as you can." As if one word spoken several decades ago were the problem...

This is not about one word spoken in the past. This is about the whole private persona of Paula Deen, wealthy southern white woman from a slave-owning plantation heritage with consequent social beliefs, versus the genial, down-home, warm fuzzy Paula Deen of commercial success: the real woman versus the marketable commodity. Paula Deen is a product, a brand, a commodity on the market. Her empire is vast and lucrative, her marketing is intense, she is in it to make money and she is the sole face of her brand. That is what her sponsors and publishers and TV producers are banking on: her smiling, genial persona selling her product with southern charm and grace. The lawsuit against her and her family has brought to light behavior and attitudes that are far from her projected public persona. Because of this, the Paula Deen brand has been damaged, perhaps irreparably. 

Some of the things brought to light in the court documents are very disturbing. No one wants to be associated with such behavior. It is alleged that in her restaurants, and with her knowledge, her brother refers to their African American kitchen staff as "monkeys," and once told a supplier who sold them game for the restaurant, "You don't have to go out to hunt. I have a whole kitchen full of coons you can shoot." It is said employees of color are not allowed to use the front door or bathrooms commonly used by whites. Paula Deen admitted in her deposition wanting to have a slave-themed wedding for her brother with black waiters dressed up in short pants and bow ties "like slaves." She stated on camera that she does not know if using racial epithets is demeaning or insulting to African Americans, but admits having used them more than once, and far more recently than the 27 or 30 years ago her supporters allege. All of these things together have tarnished her brand to the point she is damaged goods and many of her sponsors have dropped her. Her publisher has also pulled out of a 5-book contract. They were selling the sizzle, not the steak, and the sizzle has fizzled. 

Her tearful appearances on TV have not helped. The opportunity to apologize and move on has been lost and she has damaged herself further by claiming to be a victim. It isn't pretty. 

People, this is 21st century America. In the midst of this "Is Paula really a racist" bruhaha, the Supreme Court has overturned the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  No one is paying attention to that, possibly the most racist legal ruling that has come down in this country since 1965,  but instead we are devoting all our time and attention to an aging southern bell who has besmirched her own reputation and is drowning in bad publicity. Martin Luther King's legacy has been overturned by the courts and we are too busy gossiping about a fading TV personality to notice this serious damage done to the social fabric of our nation.  

It's time to wake up and really do something about the persistent racism in this country. Stand up and make your voice heard on this issue! 

Link to the original complaint document:

Link to Paula Deen's deposition:

Photo Credit CBS News

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Family of Cooks

This is my grandmother, Florence Leeper, and her sister Leota, known as "Aunt Otie".  Nannie was a cook par excellence and made a living as what in the grandiose parlance of our day is called a "private chef" but then was simply called a domestic cook. Her food was unforgettable and I learned my love of cooking from her. Nobody could make a pie like hers. 

Her daughters Alice (my mother) and my Aunt Lucy ran the restaurant end of my father's nightclub during the 1940s. I learned to cook from some highly skilled women. Nannie favored the southern-style cooking of her Indiana heritage. My mother was more classically trained, with a strong French influence.  My aunt favored seafood and not only made the best clam chowder I have ever had, she dug those clams herself. She also taught me to fish and crab. My own cooking is a blend of what I learned from them and an Italian and Mexican influence from having grown up and spent most of my life in California. 

All our gatherings were centered on food. Some of my best memories are from those times.  Unforgettable feasts, like the time our family friends Clara and Louie Sala came over and cooked the most delectable chicken cacciatore with polenta that I have ever eaten. -- one of those taste memories that you keep forever. We all stood around the pot tasting the sauce, saying "It needs something. Let me taste that again..." and laughing. It was  . It's a wonder there was any left for dinner after we got through "tasting" it!

All my kids cook, too. One, Madelyn, is a professional, but the rest are very competent in the kitchen on their own, sons as well as daughters. There is a rich heritage in that, and a lot of love goes into it. it makes me happy to see them carrying on that tradition. No prepared foods for us. We're all scratch cooks using fresh ingredients. Bon Appetite! 

Miss Emma 's Triumph

Emma Alice is 8 years old. There was a time we weren't sure this would ever be. She had ALL, childhood leukemia, and went through years of chemotherapy and hospitalizations and stuff no child should ever have to endure, but today, Miss Emma, Warrior Princess, has triumphed and her doctor says we may now use the word "cured" to describe her. 

Since her diagnosis when she was barely 4, her family has had quite an adventure. When she had been in treatment for a few months, the family's insurance company, United Healthcare, decided she had a pre-existing condition and not only refused to pay for her care, they demanded the doctors and hospital pay back every cent they had been paid to that point. If anything would help you appreciate the Affordable Care Act, this should. Insurance companies can no longer get away with such stuff. Her parents were in that awful bracket where they made too much money to qualify for aid, yet could not in any way afford her care. Chemo costs $10,000 per treatment, and Emma was in for 2 1/2 years of it. They held bake sales, they did whatever they could to find resources. Beckstrand Cancer Foundation came to the rescue with much help and support. 

She got the very best care at Children's Hospital of Orange County (California) where they make very sick children as comfortable and happy and well as can be done. Her family did everything in their power to see that she and her brother got all the love and care and fun that was humanly possible. And they have triumphed. 

May Miss Emma have the very best life possible from now on, with the very best health and the biggest scoop of happiness that can be served up. She has proven herself to be a Warrior Princess of the first rank. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bye Bye DOMA

What's a nice dragonfly like this doing here? I put him here because dragonflies have a special meaning to me. They represent awakening to and overcoming self-deception. This particular dragonfly was photographed by my son-in-law, John Kereny, who has a gift for capturing wonderful images with a camera. I really love this image. I am hoping we can, as a nation, overcome our destructive self-deception and recognize that being gay is not a sin, a compulsion, or some abhorrent deviation from the norm, but is simply a normal variation of human existence, like having blue eyes or red hair. 

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States did something that took me by complete surprise. They overturned DOMA, the Defense of Marriage act which had narrowly defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. I really did not think they would do that. When I heard the news, I burst into tears and it was hard to stop the flow. A lot of us did. I can't begin to express the depths of my gratitude to the court for doing that. That scared little girl who knew she was too different to even tell anyone about it back in the 1940s felt a big hug from the Universe when that happened. I hope this will go a long way in helping the little girls and boys who are discovering they are different today to understand that they are exactly who they are supposed to be and that they will be loved and accepted, and that it helps them to grow up whole and healthy and strong with the possibility of living up to their full potential. Bigotry and homophobic hate have exactly the opposite effect. Lives are destroyed by it. 

This decision means a lot to same sex military spouses, who are now eligible for the same benefits their straight counterparts have been receiving. There are thousands of legal benefits straight married couples take for granted that are now also available to gay married couples. Inheritance tax relief, social security survivorship, joint filing for income taxes, no longer being taxed on spousal insurance benefits, just a host of relief for everyone.

Unfortunately, for the most part, these things only count in the 12 states (and the District of Colombia) that have legalized marriage equality. Those of us in states that have not legalized it are still stuck with second-class status. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called our situation "skim-milk marriage." The southern state we live in is so backward that I don't see an enlightened attitude toward marriage equality happening here in my lifetime, but I was wrong about the Supreme court overturning DOMA, so maybe I am wrong about that, too. The tide is definitely turning. 

In an ironic twist, we are legally married in our religion, Reform Judaism, but not recognized as married by the state. That's the exact opposite of what one might expect. There's something truly hopeful and comforting in that irony. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Whoopie Pies

(A bit of fiction fun that came to me as I woke up this morning. )

Lillian Meece Owens lived to be the only woman ever to eat 40 whoopie pies at a single sitting. This was no mean accomplishment, since Ms Owens was only 4’9” and scarcely weighed 87 pounds in her heaviest clothing. She was so full of energy and bounce that she often appeared several times her size and a full foot taller, but in reality, when she shut the magic down, she was really a shrimpy little thing.. She could pass for a child or slip invisibly through a crowd without being noticed at all.

Her invisibility is what led her to eat the whoopie pies.

There were several bullies that lived on her street, and every day when she came home, they were standing around waiting to taunt her. “Scrawny!” “Skin-and-bones!” “Will-o-the wisp!” She hated them. She made herself even smaller and crept alpng the edge of the sidewalk, staying close to the walls. When she finally made it safely into her tiny house, she always fixed herself a cup of cocoa with cinnamon and a big spoonful of rum to make herself feel better.

it was after one of these run-ins with the bullies that she decided to make herself invisible. It wouldn’t be difficult, really. Create a distraction elsewhere. Wear gray clothing. Make no sound. “Think it as hard as you can, Lillian,” she told herself. “Think yourself invisible.”  And next time she saw the bullies, that’s exactly what she did.

She passed them without a word being uttered,or any notice from them at all. She had done it. This was such a useful trick, she decided to employ it everywhere she went, bullies or not. What a joy, never again to be  pointed out or poked fun at. She could do her shopping and walk in the park and even sing and dance if she felt like it, and not a soul would notice. It would be heavenly.

This worked very well for a long time, but she grew bored with being invisible. “If I can make myself invisible, why not make myself be bigger than I am? It should be easy enough. Wear bright colored clothing. Make a lot of noise,. Bounce up and down.” She told herself to think herself big, think it very hard. So next time she went out, the bullies were there as usual, but this time they backed away, saying “That’s the biggest woman I ever saw. Stay away from that one!” It made her very happy, and when she got home, she made herself a cup of cocoa with chocolate sprinkles and two big spoons of rum to celebrate.

“What a wonderful thing to be so imposing that bullies leave me alone! I think I’ll stay big from now on.” And that is what she did. Wherever she went, she was shown respect and given deferential treatment. It was a wonderful feeling. it made her feel grand, whch is how she appeared to people in this guise. The unnecessary kindnesses shown to her because of her size began to weigh on her and she soon tired of them. She longed for the day she could be invisible again. 

The next morning she resolved to go back to simply being Lillian, without guise or magick. She stepped out her door and the bullies immediately began to shout at her, making up for lost time with their cries of “Elflet!” “Scrawny legs!” “Teeny-tiny!” She  could scarcely bear it and became so enraged she very nearly became big again, but instead, she marched straightaway to the baker’s and bought the 40 whoopie pies, which she then proceeded to eat, one by one, until every crumb was gone.

People were astonished. Forty whoopie pies! No one had ever done such a thing before. The baker could not believe her eyes. Innocent bystanders wept. Mothers shielded their babies from the sight of it. Even the bullies could not believe it, and as we well know, bullies will believe anything. .

With a sigh and the smallest of burps, Lillian Meece Owens rose from the baker’s cafe table and marched out the door. The ranks of bystanders parted like the Red Sea before the Hebrews. She proudly stepped out into the sunshine and made her way home, unmolested by bullies or anyone else.

Never again did she need to make herself invisible or larger. Ever after she was known as the woman who ate 40 whoopie pies at a single sitting .No one knew what to make
of it, and rather than try, they simply let her be. .  

And she never, never ate another whoopie pie, as long as she lived, which was a very long time, indeed.  

Whoopie pie image courtesy of Google images 

story c MaryAnn Jackman
all rights reserved