When I married in the 1950’s, the domestic, house-proud woman was the cultural norm. Unfortunately, I was neither domestic nor house-proud, but self –awareness also wasn’t one of my strong points back then. My mother’s despair over attempts to teach me to cook as a teenager should have been my first clue.
She tried to start as simply as possible by just setting out a box of corn bread mix along with the other ingredients and utensils for me. I read the instructions and combined the ingredients in the bowl. That seemed simple enough. I might have actually managed, but mom came in at that point and said, “Wash your hands and put the mix into the pan.” After she left, I thought, “Why am I washing my hands? Is this one of those baking things I’ve read about that you do with your hands?” So, I used my hands to scoop the mix out of the bowl and to sort of shake/fling it into the pan. When not a whole lot of it made it into the pan, I began to suspect than my intuition about using my hands was off base. As I was trying to figure out how to get the rest of all the corn meal off my hands and into the pan, my mother returned to check on my progress.
She lost it. “What in the world are you doing?” she shouted. “What a mess! Why is it all over your hands?” I, in turn, had a meltdown, starting to sniffle, backing away from the mess on the counter into the stove behind me, where there was a pot of melted butter. As the butter poured into the burner and down the front of the stove, I ran crying from the kitchen with half the corn meal still on my hands. Neither mother, nor I, ever found the courage to attempt to domesticate me again
These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:
The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals..
The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’
Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house… Bring your husbands.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community.. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you.
Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall.. Music will follow.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice ..
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered..
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow..
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon…
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin..
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church Please use large double door at the side entrance.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: ‘I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours
Tony Brown almost never fails to disturb, challenge, make me question my most cherished beliefs. And his style, though versatile, is powerful. Be sure to read to the end.
If I tell you that I was surprised to see
one ferret out of her cage
when I got home from shopping,
to find her strolling into the kitchen
to greet me, shoulder to shoulder
with the usually disdainful cat,
all because I’d left her cage partially open
by accident after filling her food bowl
an hour before, I will also have to tell you
of my complete lack of surprise when,
upon catching her and returning her
to the cage and latching it more securely,
I discovered her cage mate still sound asleep
in her hammock, apparently unaware
both of her botched chance of an adventure
and of her sister’s wild hour on the loose
with the cat who, when all was done,
simply returned to her usual spot
on top of the fridge and also
went to sleep.
Somewhere in here is a metaphor
and a moral and a meaning
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I used to think I had some sort of jinx about clothes, but I finally figured out that God just created me for comic relief.
I’ve already told about slipping on my strappy little high heels and bumping down the stairs on my tush when attempting to make a grand entrance wearing a new sexy and sophisticated black cocktail dress for a college date.
Another time I was wearing my more generously endowed debutante cousin’s hand me down evening gown. It was strapless with a lovely flowing soft chiffon skirt with a slight train. I felt like a princess. As I stepped forward to meet my date’s parents in the receiving line, he accidentally stood on the train. I almost made my own debut when I went forward and the dress did not.
In high school I was dating a very nice boy pretty steadily, but out of the blue, he asked another girl to a party at my best friend’s house. I was crushed. Particularly, since the other girl looked so much like me, we could have been sisters. Another boy invited me to the party, but he was a bit of a dork. So, mother took pity on me and let me spend more than we could afford on a wonderful dress for the party. I arrived at the party confident that my new dress would make me look prettier than the other girl.
I don’t know which of us was more stunned when we saw each other…….both of us were wearing the exact same dress. It struck me as funny. I think I made some comment like, “Which twin has the Toni?” But she not only didn’t laugh, she struggled all evening to always be in a different room. Humor won however. My boyfriend asked me to officially go steady the next week.
The clothes jinx tradition continued into my early forties. My husband had started a new business in what turned out to be a recession while we had three children in college, so money was tight. I was applying for a much needed civil service job as an Associate Director of Religious Education for the Chaplains’ Division on a nearby Army Post. I had recently been given several very smart hand me down dresses by my sister-in-law. I chose a tailored A-Line dark blue dress with a high neck and a zipper down the front. I combined it with a camel jacket and matching camel and dark blue colored neck scarf. I felt very chic.
I had to go through several interviews, first with the civilian Post Director of Religious Education, then the head Chaplain for the post, and finally the head Chaplain of my denomination. I made it through the first two feeling pretty comfortable. But, I could tell that the last Chaplain, an old time Catholic priest, had some reservations about working with a lay woman with the credentials required for the civil service job instead of a docile volunteer or nun. I would be working directly for him, but in a secure Civil Service position. I did my best Southern Lady imitation trying to come over as non-threatening. It seemed to go well and I was told to go get some lunch and come back in an hour after all three of my potential bosses had conferred.
As I went out the office door into the January cold, I felt a freezing blast on my chest that took my breath away. I looked down and realized that the zipper that ran from my neck to my waist had broken and pulled apart totally exposing my bra and upper torso. I hastily pulled my jacket closed and ran for my car. In the nearest McDonald’s, I scrounged in my purse and found one safety pin. My jacket had only two low buttons, so I used my safety pin at bra level and arranged my scarf to cover the rest of the gap. By the time I managed to get decent, it was time to return and learn my fate. Nervous and self-conscious, sneaking peeks at my chest, I struggled to sound delighted that I had been accepted for the job and restrain the overwhelming urge to bolt out the door.
I never knew when the zipper had come apart or whether anyone else had noticed, but later when I got to know the very Italian Chaplain, I always wondered if flashing him got me the job.
Well, according to Paul, “Everything works for good for those that love the Lord.”
Some have read this a year or two ago. But I realized from the response to my last post which was semi humorous, that I have been overly serious and perhaps preachy lately so, I’m going to re-blog several or my early attempts at humor.
Not long ago, one of my friends mentioned that she no longer had fingerprints. They had worn off. So, several others of us in our late seventies and early nineties checked, and discovered that ours had all pretty much worn off also. The thought that we could turn to a life of crime now tickled our fancy.
As we speculated about this, mental pictures of us attempting to rob a bank had us laughing helplessly.
Our scenarios varied from the image of us making our getaway on our walkers at a snail’s pace, to attempting to escape with one of us waving a water gun around, another holding the money bag, while the third struggled and had to ask the guard to open the door.
Another possibility got us howling. Since I’m the only one of us able to drive anymore, but am also known for distractibility and erratic short…
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Okay….maybe two old people shut up together in an apartment most of a month isn’t good for mental health. Conversation at lunch.
Me: “If I die before you, I’d like my ashes in a beautifully wrapped box like a birthday present, carried down Royal Street in the French Quarter in a little red wagon with our grandchildren and great-grandchildren leading the procession throwing yellow rose petals. And I want mummers marching and playing after the wagon with my family and friends following them.”
Husbands reply: “Well, maybe throwing dead flower petals would be cheaper and I thought you wanted salt shakers so all five kids could have some ashes.”
Me: ” I’m worried that there will be bone fragments left and that won’t work in salt shakers.”
Husband: “Well, didn’t Mike have some experience in sifting those out in Cambodia?”
Me. ” But not his mom’s!! Let’s stick with the box and you can distribute the ashes later or not. I’m not sure I trust Tommy with them after he said that he could drop my ashes over Paris on their way to Italy out the plane’s toilet!”
Husband with sly smile: “Okay. You’re going to trust me?”
Me: “Maybe not. I’d choose Steve, but then there was that thing about me gluing his plastic Easter egg with the money in it together with cement glue. Anyway when the procession gets to Jackson Square I want a really good party there with Dixie Land music and dancing and everyone gets a yellow helium balloon to let go at the end of the party.”
After thinking a moment, Me: ” I wonder if helium balloons cause problems and law suits by maybe coming down and causing wrecks or something. Oh well. Not my problem.”
Pretty much all my life I have hungered for God except for a time when personal losses and the suffering in the world overwhelmed me and I sought escape in the diversions the world offers. But they did not satisfy that longing and I began to seek Him in most of the main religions, both Christian and others. But did not find Him. Finally He found me through friends who not only witnessed verbally to the love of God expressed in Jesus, but literally gave up all they had to follow him. I returned with great joy to a Christianity that included people from many denominations who had found a life changing relationship with God through Jesus. As I grew in my relationship with Him, it changed and I found Her in even more and sometimes unexpected places and people who were on the same journey, but a different path. God was bigger than any of our “breadboxes.” I struggled with the differences I found even within denominations between those who had a vibrant obviously growing personal relationship with God and those that seemed to just cling to a spiritual tradition, a spiritual club, a spiritual insurance policy, or a set of rules or formulas that made them feel spiritually superior. (To be continued in: Which of These Is Not Like the Others? Which of These Doesn’t Belong? Child of God, Loved Unconditionally, Born again, Personal Relationship with God, Personal Relationship with Jesus, On a Spiritual Journey, Spiritual Seeker, In a Dance of Grace and Response, Process of Sanctification, Saved, Law Abiding, Righteous, Finished?)
A: Age – 78 ½. Favorite ages: 35– after doing miserably in college, I went back finally actually wanting to learn and got my degree Summa Cum Laude. 60 – Took up painting and loved it. 75 –started my blog and did my first stand-up comedy gigs.
B: Biggest Fear – Losing my voice. Stopped smoking cold turkey after 3+ packs a day for 28 years after noticing a lump in my throat. Fear of death never motivated me, but the possibility of not being able to talk did. :) C: Current Time:– 11 pm. Should be sleepy since I woke up at 5 am and never got back to sleep.
D: Drink I Last Had – A Sprite Zero, no caffeine, no sugar, why do I even bother?
E: Easiest Person to Talk To: Myra, my best friend from high school and college. We’ve stayed connected across long distances for 59 years by mail, phone, a few visits and for the last 15 years by face-book and e-mail. My husband is the easiest person to just be with, without talking.
F: Favorite Song – Dream, Dream, Dream by the Everly Brothers. It was my husband’s and my song when dating in college. (Our teen-age daughter was very outraged when she found that out, because it was her and her guitar playing boyfriend’s song. :)
G: Grossest Memory – Had an unexpected visit from a General , who was a friend of my husband’s family in another state. As our toddler was running back and forth in the living room, I nervously served coffee from our seldom used silver tea service. I realized to my horror that he was dropping small balls of poo all around the coffee table. I grabbed him under my left arm while scooping them up as quickly and casually as I could with my right hand and excused myself quickly to change his diaper. Unfortunately, before I could wash my hand, my husband called me to come say good-bye to the General who needed to get to a ceremony in his honor. Of course, he held out his hand to me and I couldn’t think how to avoid shaking it. I often wondered if anyone got a whiff of poo when he was standing in the receiving line shaking hands.
H: Hometown – New Orleans, Louisiana – Lived in the French Quarter in the Pontalba Apartments on Jackson Square until I was four. Would love to have my funeral in Jackson Square with a Dixie Land Band. (Not going to happen.)
I: In Love With – My incredibly kind and low maintenance husband of 57 years who helps me laugh about the challenges that come with getting old.
J: Jealous Of – People who can write beautifully and touch other people’s hearts.
K: Killed Someone? – Not that I know of, but I did once have a confused looking pedestrian simply walk straight into the front of my moving car. I was driving very slowly and stopped immediately, but he sort of bounced off the car and my heart stopped for a moment, until he just rubbed his arm a little and walked on down the street. I still remember the horrible sick feeling though.
L: Longest Relationship – My husband: we dated off and on in college for 3 years and have been married 57 years.
M: Middle Name – Fatherree, which was my mother’s maiden name.
N: Number of Siblings – One, a brother almost 10 years younger than I am, who treated me like a princess when I went to visit him in Houston last September. It’s amazing when you’re the last two people in your family of origin how much more you appreciate one another. All those bratty little brother and bossy older sister memories just fade away. Another one of the few perks of getting old. O: One Wish – That I and all those I love and they love will become the people God created us to be. I know it sounds hokey, but it’s true.
P: Last Person I Called – A friend, to invite her over for homemade soup on Wednesday, when the snow is supposed to finally all be gone from the streets.
Q: Question You Are Always Asked – Are you Julian’s wife, Chris, Mike, Julie, Steve or Tommy’s mom?
R: Reason to Smile – 11 smart funny wonderful grandchildren and 7 smart funny delightful great-grandchildren whom I either see in person or on face book frequently, and even when I don’t , I have thousands of marvelous, often hilarious, and many very touching memories to pull out and savor.
S: Song You Last Sang – “When the Saints Go Marching In.” I sang it to try to show a friend from Norway what the Dixie Land Music I want at my funeral sounds like.
T: Time You Woke Up – 5am…….not my normal time…. Woke up mentally struggling over problems I’m having with a piece I’m writing for try-outs for a stand-up comedy show.
U: Underwear Color – plain old lady white. (I really wanted to lie about this!)
V: Vacation Destination – Took a challenging, but very scenic trip to the South West of France in October. One of our sons drove us and since we had a wheel chair, a walker, two CPAP machines and six suitcases, we had to rent a large SUV. It was a lovely car, but not really sized for narrow winding roads in medieval mountain villages and along cliffs and river valleys in the forests. I’m afraid when we returned it, it was a smaller car than when we started out. My favorite city is still Paris, but I also love the visual beauty of Salzburg.
W: Worst Habit- snacking – absolutely terrible about it. In fact, I think I’ll go scavenge through the cabinets after I finish this, even though it’s almost midnight! I’m sure I hear some chocolate calling me.
X: X-rays You’ve Had – (MRI’s, CT Scans, Mammograms included) Brain, sinuses, carotid arteries, various fingers, chest, breasts, gall bladder, stomach, left hip, lower back, knees, ankle, feet. (Does that leave anything?)
Y: Your Favorite Food – Lobster, but I don’t get it often, so fresh artichokes are a favorite that I get to have more frequently.
Z: Zodiac Sign – Cancer, which sounds so awful…..I think it used to be Moon Children or something equally strange, but not as sinister sounding as Cancer.
“Simply realize who is hidden within you.” –osho
“Story telling has always been at the heart of being human because it serves some of our most basic needs: passing along our traditions, confessing failings, healing wounds, engendering hope, strengthening our sense of community. …………….when our discourse becomes more abstract, the less connected we feel.” Parker J. Palmer (These are quotes from the blog: makebelieveboutique.com)
They really hit me where I live. Not very many people relate to my writing because I tell, instead of show. I’m a theory person in that I explore the world through concepts, connections and possibilities.
But my responses to daily experiences come straight from my emotions. That makes me feel very vulnerable, so I stay focused on the outside world of theories as much as I can.
I have many “God” experience stories that are beyond statistical coincidence. But most of them came out of my struggle with repeated failures to love, because of being a bottomless pit of needs and wants. Needy people are not people who are able to love unconditionally. We may do a lot for others, but it is at least partly, if not mostly, out of our need for constant confirmation that we are worthwhile people.
My favorite autobiographical spiritual writer is Anne Lamott, because she too is a needy person who has often messed up big time because of it, but has found the grace to be open about her flawed humanity through her ongoing experiences of God and His love.
To be honest, I’m not sure I really want that kind of courage enough to ask God for that grace. But I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with where I am, so like it or not, that may be where God is calling me.
The heart of true religion is spirituality. Then and only then can it become communal. If our faith communities are not made up of people with a humble personal relationship with God based on our own ongoing needing and receiving forgiveness, our faith communities will become legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, about pride and power, and ultimately conflict ridden.
The heart of the spiritual life is a personal journey from recognizing our human weakness and failures, then experiencing forgiveness and unconditional love, to an ongoing response to this grace of becoming more and more able to love others in the same way. It’s an ongoing cycle of repentance and grace and growth in the freedom to love.
The heart of unconditional love is forgiveness. No one is perfect. We all need forgiveness and new beginnings throughout our lives. Truly accepting forgiveness and forgiving others are interdependent. And forgiveness and love are inseparable. We can’t accept or give one without the other.
Each day we are called to open our hearts and minds to God, to find God’s grace in: a first cup of coffee, morning birdsong and sunlight, star filled darkness, storms, fear, difficult people, beauty, a tearful child, a faithful pet, sharing our daily bread, our own and others’ brokenness, sorrow, joy, forgiving, laughter, loss, love, every moment, every human experience, every human relationship, and every human being. When we have “God” eyes, we see God and God’s love everywhere. When we are filled to overflowing, God’s love can pour out for everyone, even those who need our forgiveness.