Sunday, January 25, 2009

Waiting for the Garbage

A friend of mine went to see Seinfeld on Friday night and told me about some of his favorite Seinfeld jokes of the evening:

"All the stuff we buy is just waiting for the garbage."

About it Seinfeld said something like:

"We buy something and put it on the table. It sits there waiting for the garbage. One day we say I don't like it there anymore and put it in the closet. It sits in the closet waiting for the garbage. Next we move it to the garage, which is just a big holding place for garbage."

Maybe I needed to be there, but this strikes me as more profound than funny. I'm looking at my stuff differently. I have an HP LaserJet 3100 sitting on my desk waiting for the garbage. It's a perfectly good printer, but the USB is no longer compatible with new technology. I've used it for copies, but now it's out of ink and I don't plan on buying another cartridge. And there it sits.

I'm consider myself really good at not having a lot of excess stuff; yet when I walked through my house this morning, I found loads of stuff in purgatory waiting for its final resting place. Without even hitting the garage, an iomega hard drive back up thingy, a VCR, a lovely wooden box, and a set of jacks, hand clappers, and bubbles left over from Tuesday night's party winked at me and whispered, "I know you're stalling."

What's whispering to you?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Still Ga Ga

My blog has no focus. Pam has a rule that she doesn't blog about current events. I don't know how she does it. These days it's all I think about.

Thursday night as I got into bed and started to chit chat with Jeff I thought about Obama and Michelle. What must it have been like for him to crawl into bed with her at the White House at the end of his first day? Did they say, "Can you believe it?" The work part is probably easy for him; he's known what he was going to do and he's just doing it. But this must have been a moment. Did George W leave Obama a note like Reagan left Bush? What did it say?

Yesterday, while I was waiting for Ann, I was thinking about the scuttlebutt about Yo Yo Ma's prerecorded performance, (so what, btw) and it took me back to the absolute joy he exuded playing that day (he was playing). The performance was so much more than the music. Without his beaming in-the-moment expression, it wouldn't have been the same. I had chills all over again just in the remembering. The best video I can find of it is here at 2:22 minutes.

I spent this morning reading the paper like it was Sunday. I caught up on bits I didn't have time to read from cover to cover throughout the week. I want to know what Obama says and how he says it. Give me the details. I'm fascinated by stuff like Eric Cantor, the number two house republican's, description of Obama's reaction to Cantor's points of opposition on the stimulus plan:

[Cantor] said the president had told him, “You’re correct, there’s a philosophical difference, but I won, so we’re going to prevail on that.”

“He was very straightforward,” Mr. Cantor added. “There was no disrespect, but it was very matter-of-fact.”

Somewhere else I read some writer commenting on the difference between Obama and Bill Clinton and how Obama is so self contained. He doesn't need the validation that Bill needed and how that makes Obama able to maneuver so cleanly and clearly and build relationships with people who differ from him.

My mind is all things Obama all day long. Today, I even sent my first personal, not-for-work letter to the editor on the subject.

I heard a Jay Leno joke I've been replaying and laughing over all week.

Barack is upstairs sleeping in the White House.
Michelle and her mother are downstairs in the kitchen.
Marion says to Michelle, "You could have done better."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"I felt full"

I got this message today from a Focusing message board, but wasn't successful finding the video clip. I'd love to see it if anyone is able to unearth it:

Dear Focusing Friends,
Maybe some of you saw the clip on one of the networks these last days, in which a young angelic boy--his name and appearance suggested he was of Middle Eastern or African and white parentage--met and talked with Obama. He actually looked like a young version of Obama. After they conversed, a reporter asked the boy how it had been, how he felt, to talk to the then-President-elect. The boy got very quiet. He went inside. Then, very seriously, he said, 'I felt full.' You could see him checking that with himself. He nodded. 'Yes, I felt full. Full of my self." He emphasized 'self.' 'I feel like I can do more now, do more things in my life." Then he checked inside again, sensed he was finished, and smiled."
Joyce Kornblatt

Beautiful stuff. Pure.

I remember this being mentioned on CNN. A reporter told the broadcaster that this is what the kid said. The broadcaster laughed nervously and said something like, "oh, okay...well, there you have it." She obviously thought it was strange.

Her response reminds me how alien felt experiencing is to our culture. The boy reminds me that it's our natural state of being and access to it is takes just a little bit of pause and listening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Favorite Obama Inauguaration Moments

I still can't believe it!
Doug Mills/NY Times

Oh, Baby!! Doug Mills captures in 10-month old Jedi Scott the joy and awe so many of us feel about Obama. (on the eve of the inauguration)

Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem: A gorgeous, sensory experience, although with the last line, it ended too abruptly for my liking.


Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

—Elizabeth Alexander

Text of Rev. Joseph Lowery's inauguration benediction

Monday, January 19, 2009

In Church

I had the pleasure of catching Rev Gene Robinson's pre-inaugural prayer for Obama on Talk of the Nation today. Rev Robinson said he wanted to give a prayer that would surprise in the tradition of the Franciscan four-fold prayer.

"Dear God of many understandings," he opened. Now, that's a God I can embrace. He's not the God of my childhood or the God of this religion or that. He's more than belief and doctrine.

On the rare occasion that I pray, I'm usually praying for forgiveness and compassion. To no one in particular, I'm usually wishing to be rid of my character flaws. If only I didn't have a direct route to the autobahn of anger, there wouldn't be such unpleasantness. But "bless us with anger?" Wow, there's a transformational, turn-conventional-wisdom-on-its-head prayer.

I was in church this weekend for my great aunt Helen's memorial service. Sitting in the Episcopal pew with my cousin Mary Katherine on my left, Jeff on my right and surrounded by my Italian cousins, I had a view of my great uncle Wayne who sat in rapt attention as each of his surviving grown grandchildren and his three children eulogized his wife of 64 years. The service began in song and with little forwarning, my dormant grief came crashing through like a torrent. Fortunately, before the service I asked Jeff to switch seats with me so I could sit next to Mary Katherine. She knew just what to do and held me tight. Never needing to glance his way, I knew Jeff had his own revisiting of losses quietly quaking inside him and he was grateful Mary Katherine was taking over.

There was lots of getting up and down and while I was crying outwardly, inwardly I was laughing as we rose and I heard my dear husband belting out the refrain, "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord...I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, etc." I'll tell you, there's nothing like one's wife falling to pieces next to you in the middle of your own seismic activity to help you find Jesus Christ. Seriously, those words could have been anything. The point is we were all holding on through the saying of those traditional words together.

Over the weekend we gathered seven times to visit, be together, and tell stories. As our time unfolded, the roots of my grief revealed themselves in a story, a comment, or a photo. Some grief was for Aunt Helen and the welcoming open heart she extended to me. Some was for those I love who passed long ago. Some of it was for my own irretrievable losses. Some for the pain of current challenges. Still some more of it is grief that existed long before I was born and that has been passed down through the generations. It even occurs to me now that some of that grief may have been my Aunt Helen's. Grief she never mourned that I picked up. Grief that passed through me on her way out. I'll leave the definitive explanations to the God of many understandings.

What I've come home with is a washing through, fatigue in the wringing, spaciousness and expansiveness in the holding and belonging, and vulnerability in the knowing that this life passes quickly leaving us ravished with beauty and pain.


I'm also including here Aunt Helen's beautiful obituary, written by her daughter, my cousin Cynthia:

Helen C. Roberts
Aug. 21, 1922 - Dec. 20, 2008

A memorial service for Helen C. Roberts, 86, of Vacaville is set for 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12, in Epiphany Episcopal Church.

Mrs. Roberts passed away peacefully at home in the care of hospice, with her family near her side, on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008, from complications related to cancer.

The Rev. Terry Gilmore, a longtime friend, will lead the service.

Though she resided in her adopted community of Vacaville for the last 14 years, Mrs. Roberts always considered Los Angeles her home. She was married and raised her three children there.

The youngest of five children of Italian immigrants Achille and Concetta Marinucci, she was born in Detroit on Aug. 21, 1922. In 1935, her family moved into a house at 1508 Temple Street in the city of Los Angeles, a home her father later remodeled into a small apartment building.

As a young girl, she loved the movies. In school she discovered the joy of books and literature. A 1941 graduate of Belmont High School, Mrs. Roberts had a generous, fun-loving spirit. She once took a friendly dare and jumped into the ocean off the end of the Santa Monica pier.

Shortly after high school, she moved to National City near San Diego and completed aircraft training school before going to work for Ryan Aeronautical Co.

In the summer of 1942, at a USO dance, she met a tall Texan on his first leave after Navy boot camp. She not only liked the looks of Wayne Roberts, but the devoted way he talked about his family back home in Burkburnett, Texas. They dated until he shipped out to the South Pacific in November 1942. They wrote back and forth unfailingly for nearly two years. Upon his return, they were married in St. Athanasius Episcopal Church in Echo Park on Sept. 10, 1944.

Her hard-working immigrant parents taught Mrs. Roberts to value education. She relished learning about the world, a passion she passed on to her three college-educated children.

An FDR Democrat, rarely did she miss watching the Sunday news show, "60 Minutes." Although her Italian heritage did not endow her with the gift of song nor language, she had the skilled hands of a Michelangelo to craft whatever her imagination or family need might be - children's play clothes, matching Christmas outfits, prom and party dresses, wedding gowns or a grandchild's christening dress.

Her culinary skills were generously practiced in her home of 44 years on Bracken Street in the San Fernando Valley town of Arleta.

Her extended family knew Aunt Helen's was the place to celebrate birthdays, holidays and Sunday family dinners.

Even her Christmas fruitcake, bejeweled in cherries and pecans, was a prized gift.

There were spaghetti dinner fundraisers and craft projects for her beloved Girl Scouts, pecan pies and angel food cake for the St. Mark's bake sale, a bright dessert table for a bridal shower, picnic potato salad for the Fourth of July and Texas icebox pudding, her husband's favorite.

A willing volunteer who cherished doing good works, Mrs. Roberts cared for her aging parents, making sure her mother, who lived to the age of 101, got her hair coiffed regularly. She was her chauffeur on errands and to family gatherings.

Mrs. Roberts enjoyed her garden of roses and azaleas - and all things lemon. Swimming at the local YMCA was her pleasure and her exercise.

Her last volunteer project was baking brownies and pineapple upside-down cakes for Epiphany Church's Friday dinners in Vacaville.

Mrs. Roberts was preceded in death by her sister and three brothers, and by her granddaughter, Emily Roberts, all who lived in Los Angeles.

She is survived by her best friend and husband of 64 years, Carl Wayne Roberts of Vacaville; daughter and son-in-law Cynthia and Steve Huddleston of Vacaville, daughter and son-in-law Donna and Clay Dluehosh of Albany, Ore.; son and daughter-in-law Dana Roberts and Bessie Kouvara of La Canada; grandson Gavin Dluehosh and his wife, Jana, of Valley Springs; grandson Tyler Roberts and his wife, Alicia, of Pasadena; granddaughter Lindsay Dluehosh Harrison and her husband, Tim, of London, England; grandsons Henry and Thomas Huddleston of Vacaville; great grandson Wil Dluehosh of Valley Springs, and many nieces, great-nieces and great-nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement, in care of NorthBay Healthcare Foundation, 4500 Business Center Drive, Fairfield, 94534.

A second memorial service will be held in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 17 in St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys.