Monday, December 24, 2012

Coexist with Christmas


Diane Vogel Ferri

Coexist with Christmas

Like a bird singing in the cold of night,
when multitudes of angels
crawled and hovered above 
God walked into the world with a child in His arms.
The shepherds gave a reception, the stargazers
brought gifts to the harbinger of heaven,

the wise men momentarily lost their wisdom
to seek the sunshine of His face.
Then he grew under our sky, under the same loving Eye,
drank the planet’s water, browned in our sun,
for a brief moment – an alien in this world
just as you and I.

In this earthly rotation: blossoms break forth,
summer scorches, leaves fly, snow flies
to bring us to this annual déjà vu,
when hearts thaw and generosity
puffs out its proud chest, and we rush
in the frenetic, glorious mess of holidays.

Now, in this moment – coexist
with the reality of the day.
When the first wet snowflake touches 
your windshield, and you are singing
with the radio about roasting chestnuts,
hear the bird singing in the night,

sense God waiting to greet you
when the celebration is over,
give the midwinter gift of forgiving yourself,
and cast the remnant of your heart to Him.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pie Jesu


Oh sweet Lord
untwist the harsh days of this world
and usher us into pure joy.
We are on our way to sleep,
wrapped in your infinite love.
Now, let the sky close
on all pain, and gift us
with our unearned requiem,
grant us everlasting rest.
Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give Thanks

When you take a breath, your lungs filling,
your heart pulsing with your life
give thanks
for the daily unending gift.

When you gaze upward at the untouchable sky
give thanks
for it is infinite and awesome
beyond human understanding.

When you look into the eyes of someone you love
and see those eyes looking back at you
give thanks
for only a loving God could create and sustain that love.

When you sit at a table with an abundance
of food for your taking
give thanks
for you are among the privileged on this earth.

When you look up from your day, your life,
your fears and sorrows
give thanks
and remember God.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Two Cents - The 2012 Election

I have spent more time reading and reflecting upon the politics of the United States during this long and tedious campaign season than I ever have in my lifetime. I am a progressive and believe in the social policies of the Democratic party. However, I made a true effort to understand the conservative Republican way of thinking. Many years ago I identified myself with the Republican party, so it was not as difficult as you might think.

But, as I have written in the preceding posts, my life experiences opened my eyes to the reality of the country I live in.  It is not the country I grew up in - or at least the one I perceived in the 50's and 60's.  After the election one commentator said: "The Republican party is a "Mad Men" party in a "Modern Family" world.  ( In reference to a TV program set in the 1960's versus one set in 2012 with a diverse extended family.)

The fact is that we do not live in a country made of middle-class white families with two children and a dog. Maybe we never did. Maybe that was our own personal experience.

We do live in a country of Hispanics, Blacks, immigrants, gay people, Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists and many struggling people - sometimes through no fault of their own. People who did not have the opportunities, encouragement or support from their middle-class families as many of us did.

I get the fact that there are those who would take advantage of the welfare system. I get the fact that many people resent paying their hard-earned money to care for those people. The problem is that we all pay for the consequences of poverty anyway. Think about it.

I think everyone agrees that government should not constantly interfere in our lives. It's just that we look at that two different ways.  I think preventing people in committed relationships from marrying is government interfering in their lives. I think the government telling a woman what she can do with her own body is interfering in her life.

I see posts on social media by people I know to be very patriotic in their thinking. But those posts today reflect a negativity and unwillingness to respect our re-elected president. To me this is the opposite of patriotism. It is saying  - my way or no way.  It is what we have identified as being wrong with Washington - the inability to work together for the good of the country.  There were Republicans who admitted that their main goal was to make Obama fail. It was heard by many pundits and news anchors as well. If that is one's stance then they can call themselves a party member, but cannot call themselves an American. Because we are all America.

Obama received 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney's 203 and it was clear that the minorities, women, and immigrants in this country favored Obama. As soon as we all face the reality of what our country is, not what we wish it was,  and we begin working together - only then will be truly to call ourselves the UNITED States of America.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Umoja

I wrote this poem years ago after reading a newspaper article on Umoja.  PBS just ran a two-night show called Half of the Sky about women in third world countries.  And I saw Rebecca and Umoja in the show!  It is from my chapbook "Liquid Rubies".


Umoja

Sitting cross-legged on a sisal mat

thatched roof and the equator sun above,
Rebecca holds the 13-year-old girl’s hand 

You don’t have to marry that old man 
even if he is my brother.
Rebecca goes house to house
You don’t have to have sex with a man
that beats you, exposes you to HIV,
a husband with other wives.

Shamed by rape then abandoned
Rebecca’s women grow a circle of mud 
and dung huts in parched and barren grassland
and call it Umoja, in Swahili, unity.

A sanctuary for Sarah’s little girl body
from bearing a child that would have shredded
her insides, causing her to leak, to smell,
to be shunned into a beggar’s existence.

No men live in Umoja,
a haven for Mary from circumcision,
mutilated gentials that would have forever 
brought pain and denied pleasure.

In Umoja, children go to school for the first time, 
women work in the cultural center
inviting tourists into the beauty of Kenya,
selling red and white Samburu beaded necklaces.

Rebecca ignores spiteful men setting up
their own village, spying, failing to imitate
Umoja’s success but hiring the men to haul firewood 
as women change the rhythm, the power of a village.

Rebecca throws back her brown cloud of hair, 
laughs at stone throwing and death threats 
as she boards a plane to a world conference on
gender empowerment an ocean away.
If you remain silent no one thinks you have anything to say.




Monday, September 17, 2012

COEXIST XXXVII - My Worldview Part 5

(See last 4 posts)

The tragedy in the lives of most of us is that we go through life walking down a high-walled land with people of our own kind, the same economic situation, the same national background, and education and religious outlook. And beyond those walls, all humanity lies, unknown and unseen, and untouched by our restricted and impoverished lives.
Florence Luscomb
architect and suffragist
1887-1985

My last five posts have encapsulated my worldview on current topics. I think this quote sums it up nicely. I have just a few more topics to touch on.

I watch a lot of TV reruns from the '60's like "I love Lucy", "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Andy Griffith Show." I realized a long time ago that I was still drawn to them because they reminded me of my childhood. I was the same age as Opie Taylor and Richie Petrie so it is like watching those wonderful years all over again.  The sense of simplicity and security and love in those shows has always been comforting to me. We all wish for "the good old days" in some respect.  But we are not living in those times any longer:
China will soon be the #1 English speaking country in the world.
The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
There are 5 times as many words in the English language as they were during Shakespeare's life.
The amount of technical information is doubling every two years.
While reading this - 67 babies were born in the United States, 284 in China and 395 in India.
Students in school now are being prepared for jobs that do not even exist yet.

Wow. I am fully aware that my COEXIST way of thinking is idealistic. It is an ideal, a hope, a dream for the world. But if we have no ideals or dreams we have no hope. I believe those of us who have been blessed to be raised and live in middle class America are often short-sighted and sheltered. We have values that we feel strongly about. But our values do not align with reality sometimes. There is a whole world out there that is nothing like ours - with billions of other human beings - all God's children. As human beings we need to care for each other, resist judging each other and strive for peace.

Guns - kill people.   I say - just because it's a right doesn't mean it's right. Same with freedom of speech - when it moves away from civility and respect it's just abuse of a right.  I wonder how many people who carry guns around really ever have to defend their lives (with the exception of certain inner city areas).  The teenage boy in Florida would still be alive if the self-appointed neighborhood watchman hadn't had a gun. That's just the truth. That boy did nothing to deserve to die. Do we really want to revert back to the Old West?

Global Warming - There is overwhelming evidence and agreement of climate experts that humans are causing global warming. They have been warning us since the 1970's. If people are concerned about the world we are leaving to future generations in terms of economics, why are they not concerned about the planet they will live on?
(The hottest decade on record was 2000-2009 with 2010 being the hottest year on record - in the world - not just where we live.)
I remember years when Lake Erie was too dirty to swim in, but this summer I swam in its crystal clear water. I remember doing reports in school on dozens of endangered animals that are no longer in danger of extinction.  Things are better because of agencies like the EPA. Sometimes we need to be saved from ourselves.

If you do not believe in science then I hope you are not going to a doctor or taking medication. It is another case of entitlement - believing we should be able to live the way we want regardless of consequences. I have heard that some believe that God will save us from our consuming ways and abuse of the earth. But when has God ever done that? He does not intervene in tragedy. He does not prevent cancer or tsunamis or accidents - why would he save the planet He entrusted to our care?  Human lives are created by our own free will. It's what makes us human. Free will causes pain and suffering. Free will makes mistakes, but it also allows us to choose truth and beauty sometimes.
See 1 Peter 5:2.

So that's all for a while. I have no idea if anyone has even read any of this, but I am proud that I have come to the point in my life that I am able to articulate what I believe and why.  There were decades of my life when most of these issues never crossed my mind for various personal reasons. But now I am more aware of the world around me, and more aware of what I have learned over the years.

If you've taken the time to ever read this blog - thank you. God bless you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

COEXIST XXXVI - My Worldview Part 4

(see last three posts)

Coexisting and Diversity
It is not against the law to be Muslim, an atheist, or speak a different language in this country.  Immigration and diversity are why we are all here. If you believe that everyone should look, think, act, believe and vote as you do maybe you have forgotten that  the family of man is over 7 billion strong and most of them are not white, middle-class or Christian. Only 33% of the world is Christian.

I do not align myself with any person, publication or organization.  I cannot respect or understand the opinions of some inexplicably popular pundits who have been known to speak out viciously and disrespectfully against blacks, women, Iraq soldiers, 9/11 families, Katrina victims, people who "deserve" to lose their homes in forest fires etc. (You can look these quotes up easily on the Internet). These people fuel intolerance, fear, and a desire to move backwards to an era before civil rights in this country. How sad.

A house divided against itself will fall. Luke 11:17

The most off-putting agenda of certain groups for me is the idea that they are entitled to have everything their way. They appear to take no responsibility for less fortunate fellow citizens, to care for the environment, to tolerate other religions and cultures, to support quality education for all American children or to ever support what is good for all in this country.  Just because you live in America does not entitle you to have everything suiting your personal preferences.

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. George Bernard Shaw 1856-1950

When Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor" did he mean only those of your political party, race or sexual orientation? When he spent time with the poor did he say "take a bath and get a job"?  No, he just fed them. His whole ministry was based on social justice. On his last day Jesus's greatest example was of washing others' feet. He was not belligerent, angry or insisting he was right - just humble and serving.

I do not believe in a paranoid, doomsday approach to life. This contradicts faith. I do not believe that attacking others solves anything. Any fool can spout hatred and intolerance. Hateful emails and rhetoric only serve to divide us further.

In my Bible Christian morals do not include intolerance. Jesus loved the outcast tax collector, the leper, the prostitute, the poor. If you are a Christian then you must believe that Jesus brought a new covenant of love, compassion and forgiveness, supplanting some of the Old Testament ways.  We are all imperfect, all sinners, all need forgiveness. Don't hate someone just because they sin differently than you.

The highest result of education is tolerance. Helen Keller

You can safely assume that you have created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do.  Anne Lamott

And.... there is no War on Christmas.  We should be thankful we have have the freedom to celebrate it. Insisting that everyone respect one holiday while disrespecting their religious freedom ( or freedom from it)  is shameful. In American no one will prevent you from praying or worshiping. Is one's faith so small that someone not saying Merry Christmas will hamper the celebration? Jesus does not care whether someone says Merry Christmas, but he does care that you love your neighbor and honor Him through love and respect for all. Many of our ideas about "the way things should be" were formed in our childhoods, but we are not living in those years any longer.  Let God do the judging.

And finally in the words of Betty White: I don't know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs and don't worry about other people so much!

Let's be FOR each other instead of AGAINST each other.
Come let us reason together - Isaiah 1:18

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

COEXIST XXXV - My Worldview Part 3

(See last two posts)

Education - The government response to education is often punitive instead of supportive. Firing teachers and starting business-run schools is not an answer to better education. I believe in quality education for all American children, not just those fortunate enough to live in a prosperous school district or those lucky few who get into a charter school. School choice is not the answer because it only helps some children and siphons money away from public schools. How is that improving American education?  Do we really support the demise of our public school system?
The government should leave education to the educators and support all schools, not use money for trendy experiments. It has been proven that government mandates, especially "No Child Left Behind" have all been colossal failures, but the government is never blamed, just teachers.

Teacher's Unions -  In my 30+ years of experience I have found teachers and teacher's unions to be overwhelmingly in favor of whatever is good for kids. We take pride in our jobs and our job is to educate and nurture children.  My district recently proposed a longer school day and it was unanimously approved - no extra pay - in fact, we are on a pay freeze, which no one opposed either. Schools run efficiently, in part, because of union negotiations for class size, discipline policies, support for troubled and disabled children - and the list goes on and on.

Prayer in School - I don't get it. How can you stop someone from praying? If the issue is that everyone needs to do it that's not very respectful to those who choose not to, is it?  (See Romans 14) Religious freedom is for everyone, not just Christians. I see groups on social media post things about children not being allowed to say the Pledge of Allegiance anymore, but it's not true - my school building does it every day. Don't make people angry for nothing - and if you want to pray - go ahead. The insistence that everyone believe the same thing is not American or Christian to me.

Evolution vs. Creationism - This is a no-brainer to me. I believe in both. If God created the earth and all that is in it - and called it good - then he created the laws of science as well. If we believe that God created human beings why do we need to agree on exactly how it happened? When I learned evolution in school it had no effect on my faith.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

COEXIST XXXIV - Part 2

(see below for  introduction)
I could write pages on the forthcoming issues, but I will keep them brief:

Gay Rights - if you have ever known or loved a gay person, if you have ever had that person look you in the eye and say "no one would choose this" you would never say it is a choice or a sin. Gays have always existed and always will. They are all races, faiths, and cultures. It is a human reality. They are not capable of changing someone's sexual orientation any more than you or me.  They desire lifelong , loving relationships, as all humans do and deserve to have the same rights as the rest of us.  The US government Accountability Office sites 1,138 rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples that are presently denied to gay couples.  Almost 10,000 young men and women who were willing to serve their country have been thrown out of the armed services because of who they are. (2008 data)

A couple of verses from the Old Testament are used to condemn these fellow human beings without acknowledging that the Old Testament bans dozens of things that we do everyday. Just a few:
Do not eat shellfish (Lev. 11:10)
Do not wear two fabrics together (Lev 19:19)
Men should not cut their sideburns or beard (Lev 19:27)

If you are a Christian then you know that Jesus came to bring a new law and a new covenant of love. Jesus did not condemn gay people and neither should we. His commandment was to love one another. It is beyond me how Christians choose a verse in Leviticus over Jesus's constant command to love one another and not judge one another.

"It is impossible to tell people we love them if we deny them the basic rights we enjoy. And loving people - all people - is clearly preached in the red letters of the bible.  (Matt 22:39)
Tony Campolo - renowned evangelist

Abortion - I personally would not have an abortion. I remember the first miraculous flutter in my belly. But I do not believe in making this choice for other women.  A woman's body belongs to her, not the government. Although 73% of abortions are economically motivated, people who are vigilant about the sanctity of life do not seem to believe in federal support of all the children born into poverty or help women who are not prepared to raise or support children.  We all pay for unwanted children through foster care, special education and social services.

To me, if you are truly pro-life then that means you should also be anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-nuclear weapons, anti-gun, and anti anything that kills human beings. One human being is not more valuable than another.

Poverty - Jesus told us repeatedly to care for the poor and hungry. There are over 300 biblical references to this. Jesus told us to be peaceful and love others. It is not up to us to judge why someone is homeless or hungry. It is not up to us to dictate people's lives. When Jesus met a crowd of hungry people he did not ask questions, he just fed them. It is a fact that the world produces enough food for everyone.

In 2009 - 39.8 million Americans were classified as poor in the US census which grew from 32 million in 1999.

49 million Americans go hungry every night according to Food Research and Action Center and 22% are children.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough for those who have little.  FDR

Monday, July 23, 2012

COEXIST XXXIV- My Worldview

As I wrote on June 30 I am losing steam on this blog. Have I actually said and expressed everything that I think or believe?  Probably not.  Recently I have been pondering why I believe what I do and I think I will share that with you.  This will be an ongoing collection of posts. Today is my introduction.  Please feel free to comment.

Everyone develops a worldview and political opinions based upon their own life experience.  My view has changed over the years and I simply attribute it to living the life I have been given. I do not ascribe to any particular news channel, pundit, author, magazine or organization.  I am repelled by the constant negative, mud-slinging, doomsday attitude that many people seem to thrive on.  I do not believe in being continually angry because the world is not exactly the way I want it.  As a teacher, I am particularly interested in and drawn to social issues.

There are four things that I believe have formed my opinions:

1. My faith. As a Christian I believe that Jesus is the exemplar for the way we are to live.  I do not believe it is my job to judge the way other people live. Jesus said he who is without sin throw the first stone. Jesus came to bring a new way of love, forgiveness and compassion.
A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)   He repeated this commandment 23 times in scripture.

Jesus taught us to love, forgive, feed the poor, be humble, serve others and not judge each other. In our present society there are many who loudly claim to be Christian, but spew hatred and judgement of others, refusing to allow programs to help those less fortunate.  Jesus said this is the only reward they will ever receive. (Matt 6:5)
I want to add that it is certainly not only Christians who are kind, tolerant, and work for social justice. Most religions stand for the same values.

2. Reading - I average a book a week. Reading has expanded my understanding of other cultures, given me insights into other people's lives and circumstances, more compassion, and a perspective on history. The more I read the more I understand the human condition as it exists, not as I wish it to be.

3. Teaching - for 34 years in 7 buildings and 4 districts - particularly my last 20 years in an inner-ring suburb of rich diversity. It has made me a better person. I have learned tolerance and respect for people who do not live as I do. I have seen firsthand the long-range consequences of poverty and neglect.

4. My own life.  My life took very unexpected turns that I was not prepared for. I struggled with clinical depression and great emotional turmoil for many years. I learned that you  never know what is really going on in an individual's life and should not assume or judge anything about other people. My new motto became - anything that can happen can happen to me.

Next: My views on certain political and social issues.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thank you Andy

I can't recall actually crying over the death of an actor - but I'm still teary today. He was more than an actor to most of us. More like a beloved uncle. The world was a better place because of Any Griffith. Rest in peace.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

This Blog - Post 775


This blog has been a blessing to me. I can express myself as I wish. I have met new friends through it and I had hopes that it would further my writing audience. However, I can't say that has happened. Some of you have been very supportive.  Facebook has made it possible to post my blog and get many comments and encouragement.

After 775 posts I'm losing steam.  I used to plan my blog week and collect my thoughts and ideas, awake at night with an idea, or scribble away at my lunchtime.  I constantly looked for inspiration and photos to use.  Originally I posted several times a week - then about twice a week - then once a week - and now I find myself going longer than that.

This blog was a way to generate an audience, as well as hopefully sending some inspiration your way.  I have two novels that I spent years writing. I have a poetry chapbook that was published by Pudding House - but there is no market for poetry and most people won't take a chance on my novels - even some friends and family.

So I am left with the self-expression component.  I still need that, but not as much as I used to.  I understand if I do not put effort into this no one else will.  I guess I'm saying THANK YOU if you are reading this.  And if I have something to say I will still say it, but it may only be two or three times a month.  If you are loyal enough to check in - I appreciate it.  If not, I understand.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Black Dress

The black dress had a singular sound and feel,
the Audrey Hepburn dress, the clerk said, and it was sold.

A wide décolleté draped with a wavy collar framed my cleavage.
It wrapped around my ribcage like a baby's swaddling

pulled me in tight and feminine, the swishing skirt flared
to my calves with the urgency to twirl.

The rhinestones on the cuffs and swinging from my earlobes
matched the ones on my shoes and around my neck.

I opened my handbag to check on the two cotton handkerchiefs
I had been given, then I momentarily put my carefully made-up face

in my hands, but caught the tears before they marred my visage.
I moved down the aisle in a happy trance and sat down

to watch my son begin the life I had always dreamed for him.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Biblical Teachings About Marriage

The Bible does not teach marriage as being between one man and one woman in a covenant of exclusive, spiritual and legal mutuality as well as an expectation of sexual fidelity. This is why Jesus was so clear in challenging the excessive and repressive practices of civil marriage that abused women and which were sanctioned by the all-male priesthood.

Clergy preaching that the Bible, in the name of God, defines marriage as between one woman and one man are wrong.  Further, the hostility, self-righteous bigotry and condemnation of gay and lesbian couples that their "priestly"comments enflame are examples of the very same religious bigotry that Jesus challenged 2000 years ago.

What the Bible really teaches is the importance of a loving, committed relationship that liberates the heart and soul from the power of hate, loneliness and despair.

Are we not all entitled to have such a relationship recognized and protected by law? I believe such a relationship is already blessed under heaven.

The Rev. Kenneth Chalker
Senior Pastor of University Circle United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio

(Taken from an article in The Plain Dealer June 9, 2012)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Words from a Child

This is a poem written by a fifth grader in my school. I will not print his name but you can trust me - he's a fifth grader.


Cause sometimes I feel that way
Sometimes I need a friend
Sometimes I am all alone
I don't want to be a loser
Don't want to be bullied, NO
Because that's not me anymore

I'm right
I'm not a lonely
I'm not a loser
I'm not getting bullied anyway

Well, maybe sometimes that may happen
Maybe sometimes I fell bullied
Maybe sometimes I feel sad
Maybe sometimes it felt like they walked away
Because they don't like me

Let me tell you a story about my life
It started in third grade
People always call me words
People called me gay

People called me stupid
They called me gay because I hung out with girls
They called me stupid because I didn't get the answer right
But my mom said don't worry
They called you that because they got made fun of
So they do that to other people just for fun

They still call me gay
They still call me stupid
They still do that for fun
But it's really not fun for me
But I just ignore it now

Monday, May 28, 2012

Quotes on Equality



Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths. They are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes. And whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, out friends, and our neighbors. Being gay is not a western invention. It is a human reality.

Hilary Clinton

The truth is that male religious figures have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have for their own selfish ends overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuous choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world.

Jimmy Carter


Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Highland Park Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. Every year people put thousands of flags out and a few days take them all down. It's worth seeing if you are driving down Chagrin Blvd.
God Bless our veterans.  Thank you to each one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Teachers and Classroom Realities

In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor, the highest responsibility anyone could have.
Lee Iococca

In a recent Plain Dealer article by Mark Naymik it was refreshing to not detect any agenda or opinion - just the realities of Cleveland school teachers. It mentioned that tardiness is a real problem. One reason is students as young as 13 years old are often in charge of younger siblings. Students show up hungry, distracted by a difficult home situation or event over the weekend. Some are not clean and draw ridicule.

Instead of complaining about things they cannot control, or blaming students for their difficulties, teachers said it was a testament to their character that these youngsters could show up to school every day. They face challenges that most suburban children never face.

When a teacher is angrily told to F--- off, instead of punishing the students teachers often reach out to that child, especially younger ones, to see what is troubling them. One teacher said they try to replace the angry behavior with something else. Although it would be easy to say this is the parents' responsibility, the fact is, when it enters the classroom, it is the teacher's problem.

And teachers DO buy many school supplies for needy students or things the school district no longer can afford.  If there are computers or Smart Boards in the classroom they are there because resourceful teachers wrote grants or raised money for them.

Teachers recognize that, no matter how difficult student behavior may be, school is the only safe place for many children. Teachers are like their family.

Personally, I am often greeted by hugs from younger children who seem to be longing for affection and validation.

The article ended - "Such a dynamic is hard to evaluate and categorize in contracts and through legislation."

I often hear that the answer to failing schools is to fire teachers - maybe they should be supported instead.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological experience of having to hold inconsistent ideas in one's head.

The following is from an interview with political scientist Brendan Nyhan on NPR and subsequent article by Shankar Vedantam.  Fascinating.

When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about it, and two-thirds of Democrats say he can't.

But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed. Three-fourths of Democrats said Bush could do something about gas prices and the majority of Republicans said gas prices were outside the president's control.

Partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over facts!

Last time it was Republicans who were against a flip-flopping, out-of-touch elitist from Massachusets and now it's Democrats!

In 2004 Democrats were outraged that Bush was politicizing the September 11 attacks for political gain and now Republicans think Obama is exploiting the killing of bin Laden for the same reason!

When Democrats hear the argument that the president can do something about high gas prices, that produces dissonance because it clashes with the loyalties these voters feel towards Obama. The same thing happens when Republicans hear that Obama cannot be held responsible for gas prices - the information challenges their dislike of the president.

Nyhan hypothesized that partisans reject such information not because they're against the facts, but because it's painful. That suggested a possible solution:  If partisans were made to feel better about themselves - if they received a little image and ego boost - could this help them more easily absorb the blow of information that threatens their pre-existing views? Researchers found that when people were feeling good about themselves they were more willing to take in information that challenged their pre-existing views.

This answers so many of my questions about the seeming hypocrisy of everything in politics today - we accept what we want to accept and reject what it painful for us - regardless of the facts!!!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

These are a Few of My Favorite Things



The one blooming' thing in our yard, but it's worth waiting for.
My two favorite creatures - Rowdy the cool canary and Stella the magnificent mutt.
The Rodin sculpture room at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
A deer in my yard.
A happy house plant.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Anne Frank

"As long as this exists," I thought, "and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy." The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature, As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.

Anne Frank
From The Diary of A Young Girl

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Thought to Consider

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others.  His culture is based on "I am not too sure."

H.L. Mencken, writer, editor and critic (1880-1956)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rembrandt

Rembrandt in America is a touring show at The Cleveland  Museum of Art right now. It will only be in three other cities in this country. Art lovers are truly blessed in Cleveland.  I have seen the exhibit twice. The appreciation of art can only be experienced in person with the help of an abundance of information. The museum provides a detailed audio tour that is essential no matter how much you just like looking at paintings.

The photo shown here is from Rembrandt's later years in a style you may not recognize as Rembrandt.  As always when I include art on this blog I will reiterate that this small photo, in no way, can reveal the beauty and intensity of the real thing.  I was  moved to tears as I viewed this painting of Lucretia and the heartbreaking pain in her lovely face.

 I was not familiar with Lucretia's story.  It is debated whether Lucretia was a real or mythical character, but evidence points to a real woman who died in 508 AD. She is a legendary figure in the history of the Roman republic. According to the story she was raped by the king's son and her shame was so great that she chose to commit suicide to spare her family her shame. The red streak on her gauzy clothing is her stab wound.  Her suicide was the immediate cause of the revolution that overthrew the monarchy and established the Roman Republic.

As for the rest of the show - well, go, learn, appreciate -  if you can.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Look Up

Pull your eyes away
from electronic interlopers.
Stave off all urgent replies and forwards.

Gently lay your burdens down
as a baby enveloped in a crib
of blankets and soft comforts.

Guide yourself out where
the humid winds move through you
like shape-shifters,

and the spring peepers
noisily mate in the twilight.
Look up, look up.

Don't wonder how it happens
every night of your life.
Don't say it's beautiful.

Say nothing at all.
Forsake the moment.
Disremember the day.

Look up, look up.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Live the Questions

I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke


Monday, April 9, 2012

Timely Quotes from Women Long Ago

A woman's body belongs to herself alone. It does not belong to the United States of America or any other government on the face of the earth.. . . Enforced motherhood is the most complete denial of a woman's right to life and liberty.
Margaret Sanger, 1937
Founder of Planned Parenthood whose work led to the legalization of contraception in the US.

I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.
Edith Cavell
Nurse, humanitarian
1865-1915

Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.
Jane Addams
Women's suffragist and founder of Hull House
1860-1935

Because man and woman are the compliment of one another, we need women's thoughts in national affairs to make a safe and stable government.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Women's suffragist 1815-1902

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday



What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee dearest friend?
For this Thy dying sorrow
Thy pity without end.
O, make me Thine forever
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
outlive my love to Thee.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Example

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
John 13:15

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Three Crosses


Three crosses
like three Valentines
on the hill
flourishing on a green stage
reminding

fifty miles farther
into the Virginias,
three crosses
like three birds on a branch gazing down,
singing

thirty miles towards Ohio,three crosses
like three grace notes
in the symphony of sheltering trees
calling

a small wooden cross
plastic flowers, a name and a date
steps from the highway
buckle up

 a palm frond cross
hangs from the mirror
my hand floats to my throat, a silver cross
remember

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do We Admire Lies?

I think we can all agree that politicians tell outright lies. Sadly, the consequences for lying to us are minimal to none. Recently the Plain Dealer reported that corrections of misinformation frequently fail to change people's minds and sometimes makes things worse. There are many fact-checker organizations and the PD has one called Politifact.

The Ohio Republican state treasurer and aspiring US Senator, Josh Mandel, has received three of the Politifact Ohio's seven most recent "Pants on Fire"rulings. Of his 14 statements evaluated on the Truth-O-Meter since 2010, six have been deemed "mostly false", False, or "Pants-on-fire". But no one seems to care as he travels quickly up the political ladder.

Politicians of all parties have been lying since the beginning of the republic. My question is - Why do we believe them? The PD article said that "most people don't base their opinions on the accumulation of factual material...instead, people will weigh their own values and discussions with others when formulating opinions."

A commercial playing frequently in the area is of the perfect Pat Boone. He states that an in pendent payment advisory board created by the health care law "can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments." It's a complete "Pants-on-Fire", a completely made-up lie - but still it plays daily to people who want a reason to be angry and fearful of their future.

The truth is that people believe what they want to believe and from the number of ridiculous emails that float around it's clear that very few people check their facts.

To me, it's like the person on the witness stand who says something, and even though the judge overrules the objection - the jury already heard it.

Too bad people who are supposed to represent us don't have the decency to tell the truth or stand on their own merits.

But yeah, I know - that's in my dream world, isn't it?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Sun, Wind and Tide

We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy - sun, wind and tide ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Thomas Edison
Inventor
1847-1931

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rilke

In deep nights I dig for you
like treasure.
For all I have seen
that clutters the surface
of my world
is a poor and paltry substitute
for the beauty of you
that has not happened yet.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Civility

In the wake of the awful Limbaugh debacle and listening to so much uncivil discourse in the political realm I was glad to read a couple articles in this week's Sunday paper about civility and integrity.
James Calvin David, a professor and author says,
Wouldn't it be nice if we could talk about these issues with some civility? Civility means the exercise of patience, integrity, humility and mutual respect in conversation, even (and especially) with those with whom we disagree.

Civility does not require us to retreat from our convictions, but it does ask us to engage people who disagree with us and truly listen to what they have to say. It asks us to consider modestly the ways our own perspectives might be shortsighted, misinformed or hurtful. Above all, it demands that we express our convictions without demonizing those who hold other views.

American politics is now almost devoid of civility, and many of us think the vitriol is hurting our national community.

David also points out that those who are (rudely) calling for Christian values might remember that the virtues of civility are the same as the New Testament's Fruits of the Spirit - patience, integrity, humility, respect for example.

Right under this article was one on Ronald Reagan, still considered a hero and icon of the Republican party. The author, Mike Collins, states:

Problem is, those who most fervently claim to adhere to Ronald Reagan's principles don't seem to understand Reagan's greatest principle: decency.

As a man, Ronald Reagan had a sunny optimism and faith in the goodness of his fellow Americans. While his political opponents disagreed with him over policy, he did not consider them his enemies. He viewed them as his fellow citizens, and right or wrong, he valued them. He was a true gentleman.

If some Americans now are so intent on trying to force us all back into the way things used to be - maybe they should be intent on emulating the decency, civility, good will and patriotism that was Ronald Reagan.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Did You Know???

I just spent two days at a training for my school building to become an accredited International Baccalaureate (IB)school. IB is a worldwide movement that promotes global learning and student learning from their own inquiry and discoveries. It's very involved, but to me it looks like it may put some joy back in the learning process after over a decade of making learning (and teaching) only preparing to take tests. We still have to give tests, but IB concepts have spread throughout the world for the past several decades and is now spreading through the US.

The following is text from a video you can view on You Tube if you'd prefer. It closely relates to this way of learning. Either way it's worth knowing.

If you're 1 in a million in China there are 1300 people just like you.

China will soon become the #1 English speaking country in the world.

The 25% of India's population with the highest IQs is greater than the total population of the US - translated - India has more honors kids than the US has kids.

The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been in invented in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet.

The US Department of Labor estimates that today's learners will have 10-14 jobs by the age 38.

1 in 4 workers has been with their current employers for less than a year. One in two have been there less than 5 years.

1 out of 8 married couples married in the US last year met online.

The #1 ranked country in Broadband Internet Penetration is Bermuda. US is #19, Japan #22.

WE ARE LIVING IN EXPONENTIAL TIMES.

There are 31 billion searches on Google every month. In 2006 this number was 2.7 billion.

The first commercial text message was sent on December 1992. Today the number of text messages sent and received everyday exceeds the total population of the planet.

Years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million:
Radio - 38 years.
TV - 13 years
Internet - 4 years
Ipod - 3 years
Facebook - 2 years

There are about 540,000 words in the English language - about 5X as many as during Shakespeare's time.

It is estimated that a week's worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime on the 18th century.

The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years.

For students starting a 4 year technical degree this mean that half of what they learning their first year will be outdated by their 3rd year.

By 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capabilities of the human brain.

While reading this 67 babies were born in the US. 274 babies were born in China. 395 were born in India ----and 694,000 songs were downloaded illegally.



Thursday, March 8, 2012

If Only.....

The epic novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (1967) is one of my favorite books. It is lovely and magical and beautifully written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He also wrote "Love in the Time of Cholera"(1985).

I recently read this quote by Marquez and, as a wanna-be writer, just said "Ahhhhh... if only."

People spend a lifetime thinking about how they would really like to live. I wish my life could have been like the years when I was writing "Love in the Time of Cholera". I would get up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning. I need only six hours of sleep. Then I quickly listened to the news. I would read from 6 to 8 because if I don't read at that time I won't get around to it anymore. I lose my rhythm. Someone would arrive at the house with fresh dish or lobster or shrimp caught nearby. Then I would write from 8 til 1. By midday, Mercedes would go to the beach and wait for me with my friends. I never quite knew who to expect;there were always people coming and going. After lunch I had a little siesta. And when the sun started going down I would go out on the street to look for places where my characters would go, to talk to people and pick up language and atmosphere. So the next morning I would have fresh material I had brought from the streets.

Ahhhhh.... if only, right?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Haikus by Diane

Slashes of scarlet
birds in a mass of gray twigs
at rest in the cold


Amidst the purple
clouds like spilled ink in the sky
then peach-pink of dawn


Deer huddle in snow
silhouetted in stark white
just head and ears now.


This shell, this vessel
can succeed or disappoint
fighting fat daily


Many years gone by
I believe much more in that
which I cannot see


In my creation
a solitary journey
to heights unknown


Brought to each new day
fellowship in mere living
survival of love

Sunday, February 26, 2012

THINK

Before you speak THINK

T - Is it true?
H - Is it helpful?
I - Is it inspiring?
N - Is it necessary?
K - Is it kind?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Final Flight

When wings expand at last, each of us
will have one singular moment:
airborn, lifting free, voiceless.
We are made for final flight.

In this time between flights,
theirs and ours,
we wait out the unanswered days,
our senses permanently altered,

gliding through dreams and daydreams
tendrils of a spirit entwining us,
yoking us so close
to the line that we cannot cross.

Our hearts float in their own seas,
alone, searching for the voyager
who has crossed the uncrossable line
and left us behind.

Memories relentlessly skimming the edges
of our brains, sheathing themselves in eternity,
while ordinary life goes on
outside our earthly windows.

But someday the veil will be lifted
and we will be invited to the party
in the unknown Kingdom
in joyful reunion with our Maker.

Now we hold each other in broken arms,
we lift each other in hopeful prayers,
until we take our final glorious flight
away from the rabble of this known world.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carry

lyrics by Tori Amos
from Night of Hunters



Love hold my hand
Help me see you with the dawn
That those who have left
Are not gone

But they carry on
As stars looking down
As nature's sons
And daughters of the heavens

You will not ever be forgotten by me
In the procession of the mighty stars
Your name is sung and tattooed now on my heart
Here I will carry, carry, carry you forever

You have touched my life so that now
Cathedrals of sound are singing
The waves have come to walk with you
To where you will live in the land of you

I will carry you forever

(Thinking of Louie 2/14/84 to 2/23/11)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whitney Houston


The photo is from the video" How Will I Know". One of the cutest videos ever. When my daughter reminded me this week of dancing around the living to Whitney's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) I thought about why we're so sad when some singers leave us. After all, they were just singers and we didn't know them personally, right?

Singers often give us happy memories. We love their songs, we love the way they interpreted them with their singular talents, we love the memories attached to them. The songs remind us of a different time in our lives. That's why.

Yes, celebrities are just people like us, but to me, Whitney, just like Michael Jackson, came to us with God-given talents. They had no choice but to share them with the world. And they did, but they also paid the price of a greedy world. I think being so famous is life-altering. It's not normal. They must feel infallible and untouchable and maybe that's why they leave us too soon. We all know drugs take us away from reality, and the unreal lives they lived as worldwide celebrities is probably too much for human beings to handle. I believe Whitney, like Michael, came to do what they were supposed to do,and it's OK if we miss them.

If you've never seen the videos for "How Will I Know" or "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" find them on You Tube. You'll dance.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Sad, Sad State of Education

Cleveland is one of the poorest, most racially segregated, and lowest-preforming school districts in the nation. According to data in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Cleveland's school population is 85% black and Hispanic, and 100% of its students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Diane Ravitch is a Research Professor of Education at NYU. From 1997-2004 she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board which oversees federal testing programs. In other words, she was all for charter schools, an abundance of testing and the voucher programs. But after all of those years she witnessed the failure of those programs. She noted that there was no evidence that they worked in the past 10 years. The following information is from Diane Ravitch's speech at Cleveland's City Club last week after her investigation of the Cleveland schools:

About 100,000 of the state's 1.8 million students are enrolled in charter schools. The average public school teacher in Cleveland is paid about $66,000, while the average charter school teacher in the city is paid about $33,000. A big cost savings for the city and state.

As in other states, charters in Ohio get no better academic results on average than regular public schools. There are more charters at the bottom of the state's academic rating, but not much difference at the middle or the top. The biggest charter chain in Ohio is White Hat Management, a for-profit corporation run by Akron businessman David Brennen, who has contributed millions of dollars to Republican candidates. According to information complied by NPR in Ohio, "No Ohio White Hat school earned higher than the equivalent of a "C" on the state report card. Most are in academic emergency. In the company's view the state grades are unimportant, all that matters is that parents are making a choice.

The state has pumped more than $1 billion into virtual schools over the past decade with disappointing results. Of 23 e-schools in Ohio only 3 were rated effective by the state, have been called "Vastly under-performing". Children are 10 times more likely to receive an "effective" education in traditional public schools than they are in e-schools. What a surprise! E-schools consist of one person monitoring 50 or more computers for profit. Sponsors of these schools make huge amounts of money, and where there is money there are lobbyists and campaign contributors.

The Voucher system has been in Cleveland since 1995, but students have not performed better on state tests than students in public schools. So why are we continuing this ineffective and expensive program while decimating the public schools that are available to all??

The mayor of Cleveland and the governor of Ohio have decided that the answer lies in firing teachers, closing public schools, expanding the number of vouchers, and possibly expand the voucher program! Vouchers are only for the select few. The ineffective schools are run by wealthy businessmen. Somehow the evidence, the proof, the data means nothing to our elected officials. They are NOT thinking about the children or their futures. They are thinking about how to cut costs. The political allies of these people may profit, but the children will be the losers. Disgraceful. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What Do Our Words Really Mean?

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." Thomas Jefferson.

"Only in America can you be pro-death penalty, pro-war, pro-unmanned drone bombs, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-guns, pro-torture, pro-land mines AND still call yourself "pro-life"
.
John Fugelsang

What do our words really mean when they can be interpreted in any direction? The Jefferson quote, I imagine, could be used as pro-life (anti-abortion) in a debate today - no destruction of life. But it could also be taken as pro-gay marriage since it promotes the happiness of all citizens and does not suggest that we deny them basic rights. It could also suggest pacifism since lives are always destroyed in a war.

Is the purpose of government to take away choices from its people? Many politicians promote less government interference in our lives, but maybe for them that only applies to taxes. Does it also apply to who can be married? Who can choose to have children or prevent having them? Who gets to serve in the military?

As this election year goes on all I can hear are contradictions.

With all the "Christian" rhetoric flying around - when Jesus said "Love They Neighbor"( over and over again) did he mean only those in your chosen political party?

When He said, "Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1) Did He mean only those who live a life according to your standards?

When Jesus said He had compassion for the thousands who were with Him and had nothing to eat - did he tell them to take a bath and get a job - or did he, out of His compassion, feed them?

We keep hearing this is a Christian nation, but what does that mean if we continue to judge, deny rights and basic human needs to our citizens?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder


Today is the birthday of writer Laura Ingalls Wilder, born just north of Pepin, Wisconsin in 1867, author of the wildly popular children's book Little House on the Prairie (1935)and other books about growing up in the Midwest in the 1800's. They are all part of the Little House series, which she began writing in her 60's. THAT gives me hope! Since her death about a hundred different titles have appeared in the Little House series that she created. From her books have come a wonderful television series on NBC (1974-1984) - in my opinion, one of the BEST shows ever on television. Also, a 26 episode animated Japanese cartoon series called "Laura, The Prairie Girl", a couple of made-for-TV movies, an ABC mini-series (2005) and a musical.

All of her books have remained in print continuously since the time they were first published, have been widely translated, and have sold millions of copies. Little House in the Big Woods begins, "Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs."

Those words must have captured me because, although I don't have too many specific memories of elementary school, I clearly remember reading the first book and anxiously anticipating library day so I could check out the next one. I read all of them in succession and loved every one.

The TV series came on when I was almost an adult,so my fondest memories are of watching the shows in syndication years later with my own children. I think my daughter saw all 10 years of the series multiple times. I loved it because each episode taught a wholesome, loving lesson about how to treat each other, knowing wrong from right and the importance of always doing the right thing. I believe the show had a positive impact on my children and for that I honor Laura Ingalls Wilder today.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Reader's Dilemma


I am an avid reader and have always loved books. I love to see my books displayed around my home. Lots of bookshelves. One time a neighbor was at our house and was browsing my bookshelves (where I have them in order - my favorites on the top shelf then moving downward). She noticed that we liked many of the same books and thus was born the neighborhood book club. We've been going strong for 8 years.

But what if all of our books are on a portable device someday?

I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. Originally I did not want one. I try to stay open to change and technology so I wasn't someone to say that an electronic device to read from is evil. But it wasn't for me. Book lovers love to hold books, love to own books, love to look at their books, lend them to friends and maybe reread their favorites someday. With an electronic device all of those joys are vanished. Our book club may have never come to be if my books had not been regally lined up on their shelves.

For 15 years my husband and I spent many evenings at our local Borders, browsing, reading in a corner, drinking tea and coffee. Browsing leads to finding. You don't have to know what you want - you spy it, you pick it up, you like the cover, the summary sounds interesting and you buy it. (Or maybe write it down and go home and request it from the library.) The point is - how do you browse on Amazon? You go on Amazon when you know what you want.

The Kindle has thousands of free books, thousands of books for less than $3.99, thousands, millions of choices. How would you ever browse through all of that to see something you wanted?

The demise of the big book stores is devastating. My only hope is that small, independent book stores begin to flourish as people miss browsing and discovering an unexpected find, hold it in their hands and take it home.

Best-selling author Jonathan Franzen has spoken of his fear that ebooks will have a detrimental effect on the world - and his belief that serious readers will always prefer print editions.He says a "sense of permanence has always been part of the experience."

How will you hand down your favorite books to your children - by giving them an outdated and obsolete rectangular electronic device? Because surely these reading machines will evolve and change as fast as an iphone.

Now I can get library books on the Kindle. This is something worthwhile. Because library books are borrowed anyway. you don't keep them. But if I ever read a borrowed book that I love so much that belongs on my top shelf, you can bet I will go out and find the print edition so I can keep it, lend it, refer to it, reread it and have it forever.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My Birthday

Today is my birthday. I have a book on my new Kindle Fire that gives readings from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke for every day of the year. I was struck by the one for January 30 so I thought I'd share it with you all. It reminds me of something I would write myself.

Alone

No. Of my heart I will make a tower
and stand on its very edge,
where nothing else exists - just once again pain
and what cannot be said, and once again world.

Once again in all that vastness
now dark, now light again, the single thing I am,
one final face confronting
what can never be appeased.

That ultimate face, enduring as stone,
at one with its gravity,
drawn by distances that could dissolve it
into some promise of the sacred.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor


When you hear potential leaders of our country disrespecting each other,
When you hear millionaires say that poor people should just get a job,
When you hear them say that people without health care should die,
When they judge some fellow Americans and would deny them the same rights that we all cherish, the same ones that allow us the "pursuit of happiness".
When they claim that abortion is wrong but not funding programs for all the impoverished unwanted children is ok,
When they believe they should decide whether women should have access to contraceptives -

When these people call themselves Christians,
ask yourself what "Love Thy Neighbor" means to you.
Look in your Bible for a list of exceptions to that rule.
You won't find them anywhere.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pure Beauty


Of course, an upload on a blog on a computer screen could never do justice to a painting like this - or any other work of art for that matter. Art is like the Grand Canyon - you have to see it in person. My mom and I went to the Akron Art Museum to see a wonderful show of Impressionists - but the difference was that the vast majority of this show was American Impressionists, not European - many I had not heard of before.

This painting literally glowed from across the room -the sunlight shining on the faces and reflecting under their chins. The sky so clear and blue you believed you were there with them. I was drawn across the room and did not want to leave it.

Every time I go to an art museum or special exhibit I always choose my favorite before I leave and this was definitely it. Yes, the theme is a bit sugary and prosaic, but how can you argue with pure beauty?

It is called "On the Heights" by Charles Courtney Curran. It was painted in 1909. Curran was an extremely successful American Impressionist. He lived from 1861-1942, born in Kentucky and lived in Sandusky, Ohio. This beauty hangs in the Brooklyn Museum in New York so I am grateful to have seen it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coexist with Kindness

So many gods,
so many creeds,
so many paths
that wind and wind.
While just the art
of being kind
is all the sad worlds needs.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
poet, 1850-1899

(Artist listed only as Sawyer.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For the Love of Winter


My abundance is in winter.
I dwell in the peace of the silent snow,
sitting by the yellow light of a lamp
with a blanket and a book,
or comfortably close to him on the love seat.

I find joy in the lack of humidity and
the offensive noise of lawn mowers.
I feel happy covering my homely limbs
with sweaters and jeans instead
of sticky sunscreen and sweat,
and justified in drinking another hot tea.

There is beauty in the stark outline
of trees and squirrels against whiteness,
or watching my little dog sniff deer tracks
and race inside with a snowy nose.

To come out of the quiet cold
into a warmth of a home,
to hear the furnace kick on,
to snuggle up to a warmer body
under chilly bedsheets
is the abundance of winter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

God is Good

We've been to so many funerals this past year. I have a feeling that this trend will not let up as we get older. Two of those funerals were of family members and my husband and I were the recipients of condolences. People say many things that sound like cliches or benign comments just so they have something to say. But I reminded my husband that people often say things that they truly believe. Many years ago I said something that I meant to be comforting but was distressing to the mourner. I will never forget that and try to think before I speak in those situations.

None of us can truly know the mysteries of this world. Why do some people seem to have easy lives and others suffer? Why are there wars, crime and natural disasters? If you are a person of faith you must decide what you believe God's role is in this earthly life we live. As I've written before I believe that we are given free will and the vast majority of our circumstances result from our own choices. God allows us to make our choices he doesn't cause them.

At the time of a death many people, in their desire to accept and understand, will say it was God's will. Or they may say that God needed another angel in heaven. While these notions can be comforting, they also blame God for the death. Do you believe God wants to hurt us? Make us suffer? If so, we are doomed, aren't we?

An essay in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Saturday made excellent points. The essay was written by a well-known local pastor, Rev. Kenneth Chalker. His writings and ideas make complete sense to me and are so reasonable. He wrote on the topic of whether God is good or whether he causes disasters and suffering. You no doubt heard that God was punishing our nation with Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Rev. Chalker writes:

There is, to be sure, a living, loving Creator of us all. God reveals God's self, not in the cause of our suffering but rather in the great mystery of good. God is in the inspiring presence that motivates discovery and encourages science and learning. God heals through the development of medicine, thrives in the hearts of first responders and long-term caregivers. Look for God there.

God is not in the earthquake and the storm. God is found among the emergency crews and those doing the best of things in the worst of times. God is the still small voice within us that brings joy. God is the presence that encourages, uplifts, transforms, does justice, resists evil, strengthens, gives hope and is the source of purpose in all our days.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

COEXIST XXXIII - The Kindness Alternative

On New Year's Day we had 45 friends, family and neighbors fill our home with joyful chatter and laughter. It was a wonderful way to start the year. Associating with so many dear people made me think about how kind and loving most people are - as opposed to the impression we are given of human beings through the media, news, TV, movies etc. I have a great deal of trouble listening to politicians and talking heads who do nothing but criticize and belittle others.

So this year as the presidential race gets going I propose the "Kindness Alternative." Don't let the animosity of those who have a platform cause you to lose faith in the kindness and goodness of people. Pay attention to your own speech and when you may be offending someone. Turn off divisive news and radio programs. Fill your life with good people. Stop all gossip, which is nothing more than judgement. Listen to others. Express yourself in a respectful manner. Be the change you want to see in the world.

So many of the presidential candidates boast of their Christian faith - but remember the example of Jesus. His example was of humility, forgiveness and grace. He told us to pray in private. His whole ministry was based on advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy and powerful. He told us to "turn the other cheek", which superceded the Old Testament "eye for an eye." He accepted and dined with the lowest members of society. He loved, not hated. He was a pacifist.

If you do not see the difference between the example of Jesus and the powerful, famous "Christians" we hear from in the media and politics then open your Bible and reread His words. Notice the things that Jesus did NOT say that are somehow attributed to Him now. I think you'll see the difference.