25 December 2010

Celebrate the Christmas

We always found a way to celebrate Christmas; a family ritual that coexisted with, but transcended, all other events. Its harder now. We're dispersed over land and time, loved ones have died, differences exist. Even so the new light and growing season will come again.

I try to remember it's Love in us, that's given for each other, that ties us together; a connection beyond the geographical, the physical, or what we think or feel. Treasure all opportunities to tell a loved one how you feel, and then, use your words and speak from your Heart.

17 December 2010

Buddy

The call was an emergency. Would I go to Jefferson Country Animal Shelter to pick up a basset? He’d been surrendered. The owner had tried to “band” the dog, as in castrate. My words are inadequate; my image speaks more.
An implement, it works inversely, expands a small, thick, rubber band out to ‘bout 2” round, to allow the testicles to pass through. In Buddy’s case there was no mention of device, tool, or implement. Some sort of “band” was placed on his scrotum, no one knew what sort, beneath his testes, forcing them up and behind his penis into his abdomen. A banding is painful. Buddy felt it so. He's chewed the band off. He’d chewed his scrotum and testes off too. He left his duct work trailin’ 2 feet behind.
Buddy was happy to greet me; a happy dog! I walked him, went to my wagon, lifted the hatch, and he leapt into the back, happy and confident as you please, dee-lited, thank you! He went right to the open window. I scrambled to power it up. I was afraid he'd jump out and run. This is a confident dog.
I brought Buddy to Governor John Sevier Animal Clinic veterinary. Thanks be to Belly Rubs Basset Rescue. Buddy’s doin’ fine. His previous owner was prosecuted and convicted for cruelty.

03 December 2010

Allie: An Update

I was at the "heinzie" way-station, again, to drop off rescued bassets. Allie was there, at the door, to greet the bassets.

Allie's picture at the pen door says it all. Standing, above the pack, paws up, eager to welcome to see what's new; bright, focused, engaged eyes and body; no holding back.

I sat on the bench. She seemed to make a point of coming to me, to greet me, and, though she hung around to the side of me, allow me to pet her. She remembered me.

Joy engendered does not go deeper.

01 December 2010

Allie

Allie's a game gal, that one.


Happy to be out of a veterinary kennel, a liberation perhaps, but, once Allie saw the V-wagon, was afraid and trembling. Once in, she cowered to floor; once I started to drive she clung any part of herself she could put onto me. Ohh this breaks my heart.


Motion sickness was a problem; later, it was evident she'd had a full meal. She cowered to fit into an unsoiled spot. I pulled off, cleaned up; we walked a bit. Allie's afraid of the cars zooming by but happy to be outdoors, or out of wagon. We're stopped on deep country road amidst beautiful valley surrounded by late fall-color hillsides. Allie calmed down. I made the pix. Do you see the wariness?


I drive with windows down, most times; I like the feeling of the air. Then more curvy road, Allie spews, and, then, she's just tired out, lays still, head and nose near her spew.


Arrived at Lynn's way-station 'bout 5pm. Allie could not have received a more joyous welcome by the rescued Mobile, AL., heinzy pack Lynn's harboring. Allie was welcomed with a choir of yips, yelps, and barks, and she's clearly into her doggie heaven. Lynn has created a caring St. Regis layout and lair for these travelin' dogs in need of forever homes.


I too was welcomed by the pack with yelps and yips, licks and kisses, all so happy to be in the liberating and open company of care giving humans. My, my, I've never received such a welcome; it brought a big ole grin into my heart.


Allies seems an ambivalent and conflicted creature; clearly mistreated; what was a whole-body mange, according to rescuing veterinary, now almost gone; she'll be happy at Lynn's. Doggie deserves it. I'm filled with a joy.


Thanks to the airedalers, http://www.airedalerescuegroup.com, for calling upon me.

21 August 2010

Ordinary Time

Summertime is ordinary church time, a season of doing, mostly outside. I look outward, bein’ away from church for a time, and choir for the summer. For you, maybe vacationin’ or travelin’ afar, maybe sittin’ round with nothin’ goin’ on, stayin’ connected but mostly bein’ with your kids and family, grillin’ & chillin’, maybe doin’ church worship but not so much focused inside church life. It’s a season of relaxin’ away from church life.

My ordinary time is a growth season; a time when plants grow, no matter the heat, and must be cared for, regularly watered and fed, mowed or pruned, if one wants to nurture them. I work outdoors, in yards, doing lawn-care. It’s piecework a yard at a time. It’s an earnings season, a time that supports the waxing fall season and waning fallow winter season until spring. I work the growing season now. I plan for the fallow season now.

Finance Committee, a committee of Vestry, has three primary tasks. One task is properly account for, oversee, and report all financial transactions, and nurture financial resources. Another task is to envision an operating budget for
St. James’ mission & ministries, and all mission & ministry support personnel, operations, and facilities. The third task is to invite all St. James’ people into the financial planning process.

I invite you to prepare and plan now as you live into the coming days with the link to this booklet,
Spirituality and Money: 7 Questions That Saved My Spiritual Life.

If you choose for it to be so, this booklet can be your prayerful tool in your preparation for your response to St. James’ 2011 annual giving asking. It may serve as a part in your personal daily prayer and study or a part of your Sabbath time. I hope it might prompt a Holy Conversation within you on your relationship with God’s call to you and your relationship with St. James Church.

“Relationship is what ministry is about.” said the Father John Mark, in Saint James’ March, 2010, “The Shepherd’s Voice.” He wrote,
We come together as a community seeking relationship with God. We find that relationship in worship, service, and in sharing life together. The heart of doing ministry is our calling others into relationship with God.
God is calling you. I suggest fellowship at St. James is your response to God’s call within you. You respond in St. James Church to His call within you. It’s a holy call and it’s a holy response. Your response is God’s transformation within you. It’s your heart that calls others to St. James. Your response is you transforming St. James’ life. It’s your community of worship. It’s your community of service, ministry, and fellowship.

I encourage you to ponder
Spirituality and Money: 7 Questions That Saved My Spiritual Life.

19 July 2010

Western Reserve Academy: Open Letter

Thomas Moore
Director of Publications
Western Reserve Academy

115 College Street
Hudson, OH 44236

Dear Mr. Moore:

I've received the Spring 2010 Alumni Record, an impressive document. It packages WRA's purpose: a narrative to alumni on the Special Report: The Future of WRA.
I see a summary of corporate process for alumni whose giving helps sustain it. I see content as process to clarify corporate goals. I see a packaged presentation, worthy of Tim Gunn; an engineered process. I see a 6pt type published for old eyes.
The Board of Trustees must have sensed WRA needed a step-by-step process to achieve clarified strategic goals. The Board has achieved clarity and presented their process for clear goals.
I believe corporate success is derived from student success living into their education and lives. My question is what does the Special Report: The Future of WRA discern for Western Reserve Academy’s students? There is no one-sentence mission statement focused on customers: students and their parents.
What does the corporation say to the parent who asks, “What is WRA’s mission?” A one sentence answer targets the abundance of resources WRA brings to nurturing young women and men for their collegiate scholastic success and beyond.
I, as an alumnus, or were I a parent of a prospective student, would be inspired if the Board had declared, say, just as an example, "Never Give Up," as if that really had been WRA’s mission and packaged The Strategic Plan around that statement.
My suggestion would be something like,

WRA’s mission is educating students through scholastic and athletic achievement to innovate and persevere.
This focus is on the customer, hints at vision, and expects character. In contrast WRA proclaims a pleasing package of process prioritizing prospective plans. I beg the question.
What are WRA students educated for? WRA students are educated pleasing product packages in service of the process to achieve strategic goals? This sounds like current culture. I am not reassured.
I’m reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote:

I have a dream
that my children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.

What is the WRA mission that educates the content of a student’s character? Bill Danforth once observed I behaved like a, “ . . . crass pragmatist.” Yet his direct honest observation shaped my character. I was 16. My guess? I was being manipulative of a caring adult. He might still reasonably say: plain-spoken, presumptuous, ungracious. I hope not.
I’ve enormous respect for the challenges and day-to-day grind of educating young girls and boys. We need grinders; I’m not in the WRA trenches. I’m not charged with the discernment and guidance for the maintenance of WRA’s future. I do sense a struggle to discern mission. It feels like what was once clear is now obscured.
WRA was a core experience. WRA shaped my character. WRA prepared me for collegiate scholastic success. The motto Lux et Veritas still means something to me; it's not uncoupled from its original intent. In another era, culture, and people, it was WRA's mission. I’m saddened what I believed clear, Lux et Veritas, is now culturally obscured.
Faithfully,
Bill Collins, '69

18 July 2010

Blogging Any?

I have a friend who asked, Have you been blogging any?
No, I said, I'm not. I've just sort of stopped.
Why?, my friend asked.
Well, I don't know. I guess I feel like no one reads it any way, and, well, why bother? It takes a lot of work and effort my thoughts into a coherent effort.
But one person might read it. And that person may like it. Besides if you feel like you have something to say its good to write it out.
Hmmmm.

05 April 2010

Washing Feet

I first experienced foot washing in St. James. Maundy is an uncommon word, not often used in the church; it's unused in culture so it stands out. A cultural remnant and commemoration of what?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Jesus said this to the Apostles after He’d washed their feet before their Last Supper.

The foot washing ceremony commemorates Jesus new mandate. It’s servant leadership; Jesus washes his disciples' feet; the master, the rabbonni, washes his students' feet, they who sense the role should be reversed.

As a ceremony in the Passion Week the priest and deacon wash each other’s feet then turn to show how to wash the feet of those in the congregation first in line. There's ususally some awkwardness. Each person seated, whose feet are washed, then rises, to then turn, beckon the next person, who sits, the risen to then kneel to wash the seated person’s feet. And then so on, seriatim, one is washed, then rises, to turn, to wash the next who is seated, through all choosing to participate. At the end of service the altar is stripped of the outer trapping and comeliness that suggest life so then to suggest death, internment, and mourning.

I have been in this foot washing. The first time I pushed myself to go on. “Ooooh,” feeling a revulsion, as if denuded or unmasked. I don’t know ‘bout you, but I feel my feet are nasty, stinky, mishappen, and poor, even though I take care of them.

Who knowingly chooses to take off shoes and socks, in church, at the end of a day, to expose and have feet washed by a person, who might well be a stranger, or a friend, who one encounters often in situations one feels or senses are intimate relative to other human relations in our culture?

The first time I had pushed myself. I discovered I was gently and humbly transformed; no "Ooooh" 'bout it.

I concindently faced serving my ailing 86-year-old Mother that year. I was afraid for her as she prepared for a total left knee replacement. I did not choose to serve her; I felt it a duty. I was nearest, I was most able, I was available, I was standing in for my siblings, and my Mother was facing a surgery alone of which I knew the effects from a similar knee surgery of mine. I had to serve. I was afraid of serving her. I was afraid of seeing a weakened, enfeebled, Mother.

“Bill,” Mother called.

Yes, I answered.

“Come here.” She was in her bathroom.

Yes, I’m coming. The door was pulled to; I opened it.

My naked Mother sat on her toilet, legs moving and spread, struggling astraddle for balance and simultaneously out of balance, in awkwardness, in pain. Skin pale and yellow in shadowless bathroom neon light, straggly whitish hair, tired eyes pained eyes sad eyes, and arms and hands holding her atop the seat.

I saw her removed breast scar, the empty other hanging. I stared.

“Please help me up.”

I saw her knee's misalignment, askew; tectonic plates laterally shifted from their birth alignment; it seemed as if her tibia might slip up into her thigh's skin, next to her femur, for only their end bits were touching.

I knelt at her feet. She put her hands and arms 'round my neck. I put my gripped her waist. We lifted her up.

03 April 2010

Spice

Spice is a lady, and was so on our transport.

Tessa, in the wagon first, was possessive of a bone she had and was unwelcoming to Spice. The v-tek and I, somehow, managed to put Spice in the crate, Tessa makin’ a growlin’ rowdy fuss 'bout the bone all the while; shout out to CM for the crate; coulda' been a little come to jesus meetin' right off. Spice seemed to harrumph, good lord another loud mouth, turned her back, lay right down, and all was well, with minimal shoutin' from the ladys' chauffeur.

Tessa just gnashed on that bone. After a time, I got tired of hearing her workin' that bone. I took it away, no fuss, thank god for the quiet; gives a meaning to biblical gnashing by teeth. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph it was loud. After that Tessa warmed up, she lay down, rolled over, and wanted to play. Spice sniffed the air and listened to T's importuning. Spice gave Tessa her back.

So later I stopped for all types of relief. I walked Tess first double leashed. I gave Spice a longer walk 'round the brand new TN Welcome Center on I-26 east. Hardly anyone there but a few big-rigs. She was quite comfy to me with the leash looped round her neck; no collar and she reassured me right away just walkin' with me.

Spice just stole my heart. She stayed close, happy to be out and about. The tips of her ears bounced up and down as she walked, pranced, on her paws; I could hear her nails click the concrete. She seemed to push out her front legs, as a football majorette might of a 1/2-time marching band, rather than lift them up. She was all show and very happy to be walkin' ‘bout. A big rig was slowly pullin' out; the driver waived at her. I knew it wasn't for me 'cause no one was ever cheerin' for the ass. A scene-stealer that Spice, a confident happy dog.

Thanks for the gig, very nice.

02 April 2010

Random 4

There musta been a gazillion hats hanging from its' ceiling rafters; all types. It was called The Mad Hatter. I have no clue how they got there. All sorts of people hung out there. It did not wear its class on its sleeve; it hung it from its ceiling.

This in contrast to
The Raveled Sleeve, which catered to prepped-out southerners in entry-level Wall Street banks and investment houses. This place was pretentiously proud, filled with one-a-kind-only, take the suit jacket off, loosen the collar and rep tie, ravel-up the sleeves, and let's knock some back, kind of place.

For me the Hatter was a watering hole for singles on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I lived three blocks from it. A friend, a Price
Waterhouse accountant, lived 2 blocks from it. Gary, an NYU MBA grad, was from French Lick, IN. We, and another guy, used to meet there, drink beer, and try to meet women. We were pathetic, I was pathetic, and, well, clueless.

I was clueless and poor as a church mouse. I didn't own a TV. I didn't want a TV either. In summertime I used to go to the Hatter to watch baseball, have a beer, and feel like I was part of a larger group. There were always people in the Hatter. I was a tall borderline skinny dark-haired guy trying to figure out who he was.

So this mid-June night the Yankees were hosting the Red
Sox. I went to the Hatter to watch the game. I'm drinking nothing. Next thing I know a woman, no, a girl, is asking me the score; then she's sipping white wine I'm buying for her. And we are talking. She's actually interested in me, so it seems to me, quite genuine, which I like, interested in what I do, in what I say and think, in what I offer about baseball. After awhile she says, time to go, her friends want to leave, I ask for her phone number, if I may call her? She says "Yes," writes it on a napkin. I go back to baseball.

A time later we marry; at a time much later we divorce. Three decades later, now maybe not so clueless, I figure she may have picked me up on a dare, by or with, her two friends who were keeping eyes on her, and maybe on me too.

25 March 2010

a Rummagin'

Wife and I recently 'tended a church rummage sale. In years past it's been a great one, which means lotsa excitin' energy in the air, lotsa people scurryin' 'round clutchin' lotsa stuff, and lotsa buyin'. It's well sorted, organized, and priced. We've 'bout always found somethin' we like.

My rule is: buy what I like and what I think I need.

I found a towel rack. It lay next to a rolling pin hand-fashioned smooth of a piece of wood; its handles of a-piece with the pin, not inserted so to roll freely. The pin handles would have to roll on, or be cupped in, the palm of a hand. The pin was large and long and had the glow of honey color. I wanted the towel rack.

It's the type my Grandma might've had in her kitchen mounted near the sink to air or sun dry wet dish towels. The swivel rack has three 12" wooden dowel-shaped arms held, one atop another, within a metal bracket, which can be mounted on a window frame. I went to it like bee to flower. The dowel arms had a washed-out honey color. No one will find this at Williams & Sonoma or the Pottery Barn. I need this towel rack at our sink. It wasn't priced.

How much is this? I asked at checkout.

"I was going to buy that. It's vintage!" she replied not answering.

Oh, yes, well, . . waiting . . . politely looking in her eyes . . . saying nothing.

"Are you a dealer?" This question came as a bolt. Her brows pinched, eyes pinning me as insect specimen in collection.

"Are you a dealer?!", demanding again, bringing me out of this little mean shock.

No. I like it. I am not a dealer, I enunciated.

I'm shocked. I'm defensive. I'm accused of so low a behavior as posing as a "dealer" buying an object at a church rummage sale. I'm no "dealer" my pride welling.

In an instant of this exchange of a transaction I felt some scummy meaning, sensing I was engaged in a maladaptive immoral behavior as, say, luring a little girl in all the way in a street corner pool-hall or encouraging a small boy to undo his clean white best-of-Sunday polo-brand 100% cotton shirt-collar button and loosen his tie down, down, down, to his buttons at his pointed collar tabs.

I like it. It reminds me of my Grandma. We can use it.

"I was going to buy it! Dealers do come here and buy. I was going to buy it. They're in all the magazines now, Country Living, Better Homes and Garden, Martha Stewart."

All the magazines, I thought. I like it. How much? pinning her.

"Five dollars."

Thank You. I paid thinking bargain, it's not marked, probly jacked the price; no, no, no, just move on, move on.

"Stinker," she says to me.

I should've bought the rolling pin too; it was marked.


18 February 2010

Secretary

I liked shop. I got really good grades in shop; aka, "industrial arts." I got mediocre grades in other academic subjects; I excelled in shop. Industrial arts linked an academic narrative with hands-on learning to a machine I could manipulate and produce an object that help the prospect for use and admiration. Shop was a requirement for males, just as home economics was for females, in the public junior and senior high school system in the '50's and early '60's of Oakwood, OH. Oakwood was a suburban up-scale town just outside of Dayton, OH.
My parents, especially my father was enraged at my puny grades in math, grammar, writing, and reading. My mother and father had alcohol-fueled physical arguments over my performance. Conversely he couldn't abide that I excelled in industrial arts. Their response was to 1.) label me, I call it a branding; 2.) sequester me to three years, fall, spring, summer, and winter, of remedial private schooling, mostly out of the home; 3.) to see I learned to type on the now old-school Smith-Corona typewriters.
I learned to type in the 7th grade. I was the only male in a class of females, maybe 20 to 25 of us. I picked it up quickly; did well. A personal typewriter, mine was the Olivetti Lettera 22 portable, was the reward in my family, which is to say I was never rewarded with a hammer, pliers, or a saw for my excellence.
This item, "Why Househusbands Are the Future" appeared in the N.Y. Times recently,
"We both agree that we're moving into uncharted waters on the family front. Maybe it'll turn out that working class young men can adapt to the changing economy, which no longer values their physical strength, and learn to become secretaries." - Gail Collins

Our culture and economy has been moving into these "uncharted waters" and the "changing economy" for decades. I worked as a secretary for many of my productive working years. Did well enough. Now I mow lawns and try to figure out how to sharpen the mower's blade.
And I type too.

09 February 2010

Random 3

I'm the father of two, a boy, 24, and a girl, 20. I'm a daddy, which is to say, I feel like a daddy even though I'm the non-custodial bio-parent who never left town. I wanted to be married; it's a mystery, maybe a calling. It may have had something to do with my enchantment with my parents’ black & white wedding photos that I used to look at as a boy. The photos are as much of the setting, the interior of a Connecticut Roman Catholic church, which is now burned down, as they are of my parents and their ceremony and celebration.

I always wanted to be a daddy; as a boy it was my job to take care of the cat. I was the youngest. I was the one who took care of all pets. As a result, when people asked me what I wanted to be, I said a veternairan. Later I wanted to be an artist. I didn't know what this meant so I experimented and found out. Later on, becoming a daddy empowered me and I felt it to be the most natural me in the world. By any standard I was not perfect, but I managed as a Father and Daddy, and I may have been good enough.

Now my children are young adults living their own lives.

And it all happened so quickly! So quickly it's confusing. I came from a confused birth family.

31 January 2010

Family Illness, continued

Granny's life is at risk; she seems to me to be in a place she said she never wanted to be. Certainly it's changed forever. I can't foresee how it will be as it used to be for her or for any of her loved ones.

I walked to the hospital. Her family was gathered around her bed. Granny was tired; she moved her bruised hand when prompted. She closed the right eye she could open. She sleeps. Her right brain isn't in touch with her left body-side. Her right body-side creeps to the right bedside.

I sat in the chair on her right bed-side, and I put my left hand on the bed-rail, which helps to contain Granny, where her right hand might grasp the rail, so her hand falls on mine. I put my other hand on hers and we touch, hand upon hand, her hand sandwiched. She lifts her hand up, then puts it back down, so I put my right hand on hers again. I pray. She lifts her hand up, then puts it back down, I sandwich her hand again.

This ending, this winding down of a life reminds me of the births of my children. There were months of preparation, a winding up, in the pregnancy of an expectation, with no being yet, and then, all of a sudden, a child is born, and we are filled with a presence, a life, that is forever life changing. So too with this winding down, all of a sudden, a life is unalterably changed, a being is dimming, a winding down, our lives are unalterably changed, and I sense the beginning of the emptiness of the presence that will be irreplaceable.

28 January 2010

Family Illness

We have a trauma in the family; Granny's life's at risk; a bleed from cerebral amyloid angiopathy. My interior life has moved into slow motion. It's not sticky or muddy; it's constricted. The sun is bright, the sky blue turning grayish from an approaching snow storm. It's cold in the room where I write. TV's still a content of redundancies of programs I've never liked. I feel danger; there's no danger to me. My interior life just feels slow, preoccupied with a purpose I can do nothing to affect. Death's imminence not yet arrived. I'll walk to the hospital.