31 March 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Six

What is your relationship with people of color or different ethnic origin of your own? I've written about this a bit in a SweetWilliamNow entry called Odetta. In my family the American negro was a particular category. Ethnic origin, well, it's a little different, but often not so much. 

My birth family was white Anglo-Scotch-Irish; not a hint or a whiff of color in our wood pile. My parents were defacto racists and openly anti-Semitic with me and my siblings. My mother taught us to be polite and respectful of all people. Her racism was of the kind that, if I were to openly express what I had heard at home, she'd consider me rude, a disappointment, and punish me. She's use the word "punish." I can't ever recall her once openly questioning her social, educational, and cultural supremacy.

Somewhere around the age if 13 or 14 I considered it my personal duty to welcome and be kind to any person who was of a different ethnic background. When I went to the 1964 New York World's Fair in New York City I must have thought I was some kind of ambassador. I look back on it and I think, "Oh God, please, no . . . ." What a kind little boy I was greeting vendors at the exhibits of foreign nations. I can't imagine my behavior came from my father. It could only have come from my mother.

My birth family's racial and cultural primacy was taken for granted. Caribbean culture was attractive to both my parents. It was exotic, to be aspired to, something like The Copacabana of New York City of the '50's. Yeah, the same one Barry Manilow sang about. They both liked travel. Jews, Semitism, and the State of Israel were foreign. Asian cultures and Arabic cultures were non-existent. African culture was, ironically, accepted. My mother's brother traveled to Nigeria to live and conduct medical research with aspirin amongst Nigerians.

My sister Tara was accepted and was sent, with great pride by my parents, to the International School of America. Tara traveled the world for a year studying at universities and living in world capitals.  As an adult she dated Arabic and Jewish men; she married a Jewish man. She and her husband adopted a girl of African American and Thai heritage. Tara and her husband travel to and from Mexico for their art import business. My brother Tom married his beloved, a Korean woman. She and her Mother had emigrated to America. He was a journalist. He became a public relations professional, a wonderful gentleman and amabssador, and traveled for and represented Mobil Oil Corporation to governements and peoples around the world.

I know how to travel. I like to travel. I do not yearn for travel. I lived in New York City for twelve years. I moved to and remain in East Tennessee. It's a particular southern culture. While similar in ethnicity East Tennessee culture is very different from my mother's famliy's post-Puritan farm culture and traditions. It's not the nouveaux post-World War II suburban New England northern culture my father's family and his bride aspired to and created.

I have the human experience of being an "other," the stranger, the foreigner, the outsider, the alien, of being unwelcome in a new land from my moving.  And I sense this can only come about it one adopts and is adopted by a different culture.

28 March 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Five

What is your relationship with the poor, the sick, the suffering? I define "relationship" as the condition or fact of being related; connection or association. And when I see and read the word "the" in front of poor, sick, suffering, I intuitively sense an association of "class", as in a class of people. This is intimidating because relative to a "class" of people I know I fall short. So for me there are immediate roadblocks to a response to this question.
And yet, all of us know a person, an individual, a man or a woman, who is poor, who is sick, or who is suffering, or who is simultaneously any combination of the two or the three conditions. Perhaps this fifth Lenten question is more easily answered with a particular person(s) in mind.
I used to work in a church as a secretary. One of the scariest and best parts of the work was meeting and speaking with persons who came to the church seeking doorstep assistance. These folks were desperate, often having been turned away multiple times from other churches, seeking an immediate response to an immediate problem,that would serve as a cup of water in a desert of a problem. Alas, in that time of economic abundance during my employment, there was a steady stream of folks seeking help. I liked to believe, and I hope, that I listened to each person and respond in a way that met their need. I was often heartbroken . . . I was often saddened not to be able to wave my magic wand to cure . . . and I was often overwhelmed with the reality of impoverishment, illness, or suffering these folks were coping with. This was, and still is, in contrast to the abundance in my life. I sense that it would be in contrast to the abundance in most of our lives who may read this blog. I miss being in relationship and association with the mendicants who were a part of my secretarial work. I was called to serve as their advocate.
Yet none of us have to be with the desperate mendicants to be in relationship with a man or a woman who is poor, sick, or suffering. What do I do? I serve as a Stephen Minister. I attend and financially support a church whose mission is to feed and tend God's sheep. I work to meet each person as my equal. I work to raise funds for agencies that serve those who are without resources. I write about the meaning of abundance and the meaning of poverty in the hope that one person may stumble on to my writing and be sparked to learn more.

Judd Viburnum

The viburnum is blooming, a sure sign of spring. We've two of these shrubs on a small terraced like mound flanking the upper and eastern property line along Amber.

This year there are abundant multiple clusters of blossoms. Each cluster, called a cyme, is the size of an infant's fist and is comprised of multiple small five-petal blossoms. Each bud is deep pink and blossoms out to a velvety white.

The fragrance is an erotic perfume of that wafts through the air, to strike my senses at odd and unexpected moments. The aroma is intoxicating, caresses, and lingers upon the body. Up close the fragrance is as strong and elusive but loses its lingering subtlety. Near or afar the effect is momentary intoxication.

From a description of the shrub and blossom I've learned my viburnum is a judd viburnum, viburnum x juddii. It says,
judd is a rounded deciduous viburnum shrub with dark green leaves that sometimes turn red in autumn. Its pink flower buds open to reveal strongly fragrant white snowball-like flowers with just a degree of pink. Matures to a height of 4' by 5' feet width.
This particular variety is imported from the east; I've read north american viburnum have little or no fragrance. Years ago when we first moved here the shrub was overgrown to my eye. I cut it back. We have two. The one now in bloom, pictured above, always blossoms first. The more southerly of the two is the late bloomer.

25 March 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Four

What is my relationship to my body, my emotions, and my mind?

I take my body for granted. My emotions are my mind’s thermometer and barometer. My mind, by which I mean my ability for reason, analysis, and my experience memory warehouse, is my partner and emotional and rational governor.
I'm blessed with health, cardio-vascular stamina, hand/eye coordination, muscle memory, strength, and persistence. I take my abundance of health for granted. When my body & I have been stunned or shaken, and I'm talkin’ surgeries, broken bones, mental imbalance, I've been able to summon the medical care, will and perseverance to nurture my body and mind back to symbiosis. My body, mind, and emotions are integrated and symbiotic. I take care of my physical being, but, from time to time, I'm rude to my body. I am conscious of this. I've never abused my body; it hurts too much. I never was an athlete; I couldn't bear coaches yelling at me. I found the on-field experience disorienting. I'm a solo guy.
I have a tolerance for physical discomfort but it's been self-taught and an acquired, cultivated skill. I have a tolerance for pain in my mind too, and if there’s my mind’s deficiency is a predilection to depression’s tidal ebb and flow. I manage it. I treat it.
My emotions are my antennae. I like them. I trust my emotions. I don't wear them on my sleeve but I don't mask them. There's no mystery about my feelings; I express them; they’re plain to see, hear, and experience. This is intimidating to many, which I’ve successfully learned to manage as I’ve aged and matured; no fun intimidating folks.
I'm not the brightest bulb in the IQ chandelier. I've an active mind, but I must push myself to settle down in order to reason. If I’m angry I’ve no problem unleashing my reason and emotion. This is an unsuccessful social skill. I can sit still for ‘bout 90 – 120 minutes, then I got to move. Being in motion helps my reasoning skill. I’ve a need for knowledge, i.e. I need to know the why of stuff. I’m blessed with the gift to learn from my errors; I learn best by doing. I’m not a quant; they’re dorky and cold; I admire the gift; I admire the gift of linear reason and logic. My admiration is insufficient to overcome my dislike of a quants’ seeming alienation from their emotions.

09 March 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Three


I think money is like a sixth sense without it I can't make use of my other five. I work to earn money, feel the joy of my senses, to feel alive.
Money and work are linked. I work for money, yes, money is a driver, yes, but an end in itself, money to acquire and hold, no. I think acquiring money for its own sake is immoral; not that I don't see and feel its' allure. But hoarding money is immoral. And it's boring.
I work to take care of myself and my loved ones. I work to feel I'm contributing to something greater than myself.
I'm no slave to money . . . I think.
It's hard to tell. I'm blessed with abundance. I live in America. I was born into a birth family with an abundance of resources especially new financial resources. I never felt a want of educational, medical, or dental abundance. I was taught social cues. I've learned many social cues, from different domestic cultures. I was taught to travel and felt I could travel anywhere. I have never lived with sustained deprivation or impoverishment. As a result the abundance I have been accustomed to is interwoven with my perception.
I used to take money for granted; I was taught complacency. Later on, I had to work hard to have very little money. When I was making the most money I spent it to the care and nurture of my family, and stuff, just stuff. 
Now I'm keenly aware of its presence and the knowledge of what it might mean to be without it. This knowledge is a fear. I, we, get by, but I see so many who do not or cannot get by. So when I spend for things like a new roof, or an heating and air system, a vacation, or a new car (I'd loathe having a car payment; haven't had one for decades.) I simultaneously experience a thankfulness and a grieving.
If I couldn't feel my senses with the aid of some financial abundance I'd be very sad . . . very, very sad, and I'd feel deprived.

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Two

What is my relationship to my work? Am I a slave to my work?

I'm not a slave to my work. I place my work in a context of study, exercise, reflection and renewal, and thanksgiving. I try to keep work in balance with the other four; sometimes work takes more time, sometimes less time. I've taken forty years to arrive at this conclusion. I'm blessed in that I have enough education and God-given gifts and talents to choose my work. What do I mean by work? I mean labor.

What is my work? My first job was on a maintenance crew in a Republic Steel cold-roll steel mill in Cleveland, Ohio. One of my tasks was to clean unimaginably giant steel rolling-pins used to flatten cold-roll steel to a specific thickness. Another task was to assist a crewman maintain the even bigger machines those pins fit into. We would get underneath those machines. I was shocked by this. I lasted three weeks.

I have worked as a flower delivery person, a door-to-door salesman in a city, a janitor, a taxi-cab driver, a grocery store clerk, an office man in an art gallery, a textbook buyer, a bank teller and then a head-teller, and a bookkeeper. I have done credit investigations to set up credit lines for buyers of fine art at an international auction house in NYC.

I have worked for sustained periods as a bookseller, a photographer, a writer and advertiser in print and radio medias, an administrator in a church, and a toymaker. I'm planning to work for money as a mower of lawns during the coming growing season.

I've been ashamed, especially as a young man, of many of the tasks and jobs I've worked. This is a fact most telling about me and my relationship to my work. Not so much now, but some work was simply beneath me. Alas . . . this is a sadness. So some work was humbling and character building and I continue to learn a great deal from this fact. I hope I never make any person, never make any of my children, feel ashamed of the work they do. It is absolutely appalling to shame a person for the work he or she does.

07 March 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question One

What is my relationship with the most significant persons in your life? Truth to tell I'm not sure I can answer this question in my mind, let alone in a public blog entry. It seems daunting.

I'd begin by naming who they are. My wife Angela, my children Townsend and Caroline, Angela's child Karen, and my sister Tara. So that's good news! I can list significant people.

I'm reminded of the Buddha's 5 Remembrances, and of one in particular. 
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

The above is Buddha's 4th Remembrance. I like all five; they're spot on, all true. And I'm so forgetful of them all. But the fourth characterizes my relationship with my loved ones. No matter how I wish or try my relationship to each loved ones changes and we seem to separate. They're no longer "my" loved one. And I'm filled with heartbreaking when I feel this or sense it. Alas . . . such sadness. Am I prepared to carry my suffering; to accept it and work with it?

The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us suffering can be transformed into peace, joy, and liberation. Transformation is a goal in Christianity too. Jesus, by his living example, reminds us suffering can be carried and transformed. It can be done individually and in community.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control . . . Galatians 5: 22-23a.

06 March 2009

1 Man / 1 Mower

This year I begin 1 Man/1 Mower.
1 Man/1 Mower is a lawn care service; trim, mow, and blow.

I like to mow, it's something I know how to do, and I like to be outdoors.

I know I'll be outdoors, not in an office.
I know I'll be getting exercise.
I know I'll be driving an old '84 brown Ford 150 truck; it's a V-8, 302 cubic inch engine. I test drove it today. I forgot to check the windshield wipers.

Ron Manis of Ron Manis Auto on Clinton Highway found it for me. Ron Manis is one fine car dealer. Ain't no one like Ron Manis. He specializes in Volvos. Michelle Goad is his mechanic. Her dad teaches auto mechanic school in KY. Ron and Michelle are terrific.

I know I'll have an old trimmer and blower.
I know I'll have a new mower; maybe a Honda. I've got to get a new mower anyway for our yard. I've had a Murray for 5 years now and it's literally falling apart as I mow. It threw off a whole piece of metal from its underside last fall while I was mulching leaves and twigs.

I know I must get a business license.
I know I must get liability and life insurance. If I kick up a stone and break a window I need insurance for that. If I have a heart attack in the 90 degree heat and humidity of the East Tennessee summer and die I want to leave some money for my honey.
I guess I must get some equipment insurance and add the truck to our auto insurance.
So I figure with all this insurance I may be have to work three months just to cover my costs.
I know I'll be trimming, mowing, and blowing . . . for a fee.

It's an experryment.
What has possessed me?
I've no idea; I've just gotta move.

05 March 2009

Born into Rebellion

I was born to rebel but it wouldn't happen 'til later. I was a born follower in my birth family hierarchy. Follower was my niche, a survival skill and tool. I'm the youngest of three. My sister is the oldest. My Father called my older brother #1 son and I was #2 son, literally ala Charlie Chan. My dad didn't call my sister #1 child or #1 daughter.

Sulloway summarizes Born To Rebel,
Why are individuals from the same family often no more similar in personality than those from different families? Why, within the same family, do some children conform to authority, whereas others rebel? The family, it turns out, is not a "shared environment" but rather a set of niches that provide siblings with different outlooks.
So rebellion, Sulloway asserts, is not conforming to authority. It's not some bad-ass dude, wearing leather, driving his cycle. I conformed to authority but I've gone my own way.

My dad was the oldest in his family hierarchy, and my mom was the oldest in hers. As alphas my family members competed to tell me what to do. I'm a natural introvert and they all are/were natural extroverts. As the youngest of the three, "the baby", I didn't know anything. I felt beset upon and I learned to peel off.

When I recently told my sister I'd signed up on FB and had 60 friends she said, "Really!"
Hearing her surprise I said, "Tara . . . It's not a competition."
"It's not? Oh yes it is!"

I parried by not doing what my sister and brother did. It was easiest not to follow their examples and  mistakes. Making my path was singular, but because it was mine I couldn't pin a tail on their donkey if I screwed up.

The great equalizer amongst us was our parents proclaiming, "You're all equal." This put a band aid on the clear advantages in experience, maturity, development, and knowledge, older siblings have on younger. I've never grasped the we're all equal idea; never looked like that to me. My view as the tag-along never changed. And I was never a tag-along with my sister who was five years my senior. So being the third child was formative.

01 March 2009

Lords Prayer ~ SMS Style



dad@hvn, ur spshl.
we want wot u want
& urth 2b like hvn.
giv us food
& 4giv r sins
lyk we 4giv uvaz.
pls don't test us,
pls save us.
bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf, & ur cool 4 eva.
ok.


tks b 2 my nees lee.