Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanks given

A quick read at Wikipedia this morning says that few countries on this planet have a holiday called Thanksgiving set aside in appreciation for life and gifts given.

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving, though our neighbors to the north pull up to the table on a different Thursday, theirs in October. Granada and Liberia have one, too, and even a town in the Netherlands celebrates Thanksgiving. That town, Leiden, just happens to be the place where Pilgrims lived before they set out for the New World back in the 17th century to found Plymouth Plantation and, after much hardship, to eventually celebrate that First Thanksgiving we commemorate this week.

Much about our ‘Puritan ethic’ lifestyle in the United States tends to keep us tightly focused on work and the acquisition of wealth and other stuff most of the time. It is good that Abraham Lincoln and his Union Congress institutionalized Thanksgiving as a national holiday back in the middle of the Civil War in 1863. Times had to have been terribly tough then, too, for many American families. Taking time to remember a good harvest and the gratitude of Pilgrims, even in the midst of war and other hardships, is a fine American tradition we can be proud of.

I surely hope your Thanksgiving was a good one. We had a delicious free range turkey raised locally and a tableful of other good food. And around our table sat my 89 year-old mother, Cindy & me, and a family of friends whose maternal head had to survive a war in Bosnia, pregnant with twins, before she could make her way across the Atlantic to her ‘New World’ experience.

Life is not great for all those who gathered around our table this Thanksgiving. My mother struggles with her balance, trying not to fall when she walks. She is very aware of her own mortality and realizes a broken hip is something to avoid at all cost. Her eyes have been doctored for years and still work well enough for her, but are always a concern. Her hearing is another ‘lost gift’ she contends with using hearing aids. Still, she was all smiles this Thanksgiving and even brought along a pecan pie baked at the retirement place where she lives. Cindy Lou thought it was one of the best pecan pies she’s ever tasted.

Our other guests, too, have many concerns. First, working one full-time job and a couple of part time jobs doesn’t bring home enough ‘bacon’ to keep a mom and three kids financially afloat. Child support from the ex-husband, necessary for the mortgage payment, has been irregular of late and the source of much concern. The twins are now in high school and have young-adult expenses that mom would like to provide, but just can’t. I’m afraid the kids’ cell phones will be a casualty come first of the year.

Still, there was laughter at our Thanksgiving feast, and much gratitude. One story was told of the 12 year-old at our table, who at the age of two, while on a family visit to Syria, was left in a coma after hitting his head hard after coming down a park slide. In that male-dominated Mideastern world, his visiting mother could hardly find a doctor who would accept her authority to treat the boy. Still, she did not relent until she found a doctor who performed brain-saving surgery and today, that beautiful young man does quite well in school. So do his lovely sisters.

Maybe we save the deepest thanks for those hardships and tragedies we somehow survive, whether by the grace of God, medical miracles, good fortune, or some metaphysical combination of energy.

In any case, I’m very grateful we in America have a Thanksgiving holiday. I am thankful for cultural ancestors who set aside a time after the annual harvest to give thanks for both tangible and intangible gifts given. I give thanks for the opportunity to pursue life, liberty, property, and happiness in this wonderful land we call The United States of America. We are a blessed people.

Today’s elder idea: The prayer offered at our Thanksgiving table this year:

Mother, Father, God, Universal Power:

Remind us daily of the sanctity of all life.

Touch our hearts with the glorious oneness of all creation,

As we strive to respect all the living beings on this planet.

Penetrate our souls with the beauty of this earth,

As we attune ourselves to the rhythm and flow of the seasons.

Awaken our minds with the knowledge to achieve a world in perfect harmony

And grant us the wisdom to realize that we can have heaven on earth.

Jo Poore

from Earth Prayers: From Around the World, 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth.

Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, ed. (Harper 1991)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Waffle Shop

Heavens, but it’s been busy. Sorry for not having posted sooner, but Waffle Shop has been the target of just about all of my energy these days. There’s no energy left for anything else.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I did set out our birdfeeders over the weekend and it was absolutely amazing how fast those little buggers discovered we had food out again. After months of no feeders during the summer, it couldn’t have been fifteen minutes and we had chickadee, titmouse, and white nuthatch working pretty hard. Having birds coming to feed just a foot away from a picture window is a beauty to behold. Those exquisite little bodies! Such a treat to just sit and watch.

But back to Waffle Shop: Last weekend I scratched out a half dozen pages of thoughts I wanted to share here about Waffle Shop. It has an amazing energy that has withstood the test of time and links us to so many Daytonians in the past. And we’re the current links in a very long, 81 year-old chain. Very cool.

But, alas, the powers of time and energy have defeated the hope of hitting deadlines and I have failed you. Sorry. I’ll get to it, but this week Waffle Shop herself -- that harsh mistress -- is demanding just about all the energy I have to seeing that she’s okay. And she is. And I’m whipped.

It would be great if you could come down and join us. All profits go to good causes. Shoot, just coming to listen to the live music is worth the trip.

But you have to hurry. Just two more days and we pack it all up again for next year. Come on down! ;-)

Serving lunch from 11 to 2

Tuesday - Friday, 16-19 November 2010

Christ Episcopal Church

20 W. First Street

Dayton / 937.223.2239

See for menu

You can even fax in your order: 937.223.2426.

Today’s elder idea: Waffle Shop is the oldest holiday tradition in downtown Dayton.

Dale Huffman

Dayton Daily News

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quiet walks

As I still lick my election wounds and get ready for Waffle Shop, I was moved the other day by a poem from the new Mary Oliver collection just out. The collection is from Beacon Press entitled Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.

The poem, posted below, takes me back to my Colorado quiet retreat. Quiet is a good thing, you know? ;-)

How I Go to the Woods

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single

friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore


I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds

or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of

praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit

on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,

until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost

unhearable sound of the roses singing.


If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love

you very much.

Mary Oliver

from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

Beacon Press 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The morning after

It is not quite 9 am in this part of the world on this day after the election. Part of me says to refrain from writing too much about yesterday’s outcome while it’s smarting so much, while another part says to get to it while the reality is fresh and just starting to sink in.

I suspect some regular readers of this blog are pleased with yesterday’s results. The Democrats are now punished for daring to pass health care reform and reestablishing limits on the financial markets. The economic problems local communities feel with lack of work and falling home values were officially pinned on the party of the president, and boy did they pay. Especially here in Ohio. Republicans tossed out the governor, kept the Senate seat, and retook the state House. (I must admit, I thought the GOP already controlled most of Ohio. They surely do now.)

Mid-term elections always favor the non-presidential party, it seems, so Democrats were fighting an up-hill battle from the get-go. I remember last winter when the health care bill came up for final vote there was talk that if the Dems were going to go down in the mid-term election, at least go down for a good cause. Pass the bill and let the cards fall where they may. I think it’s safe to assume this morning that the cards did, indeed, fall, and the GOP took the pot. Well, maybe not in California.

I just wonder how the Democrats would have done if they had conservative radio yakking their talking points all day, every day? The GOP has Limbaugh and Hannity and Beck spewing all afternoon on radio stations all across America. The Democrats have nobody. AirAmerica, as limited as their broadcasts were, went bust long ago. And every time I stop in the local McDonalds for a quick bite, there’s Fox News on their television. Last Saturday Fox’s Neil Cavuto’s top story was how Obama is torpedoing small business. I know Rush wanted to take credit for delivering the House to the GOP back in Clinton’s first mid-term election. My guess is he and the cadre of conservative commentators can take some credit for this election, too.

And, of course, with a Republican Supreme Court that awarded George W. Bush the presidency in ’02, we now have the Citizens United decision that allows corporations to spend as much money as they want to elect their own candidates. After all, according to the Roberts’ court, corporations are the same as individuals. They can take money made on products we buy to influence legislation that benefits them and their stockholders. Disclosure of donors? Not necessary. Fairness and justice aren’t for everyday Main Street Americans. Corporate and lobbying money talks. Why am I surprised?

I must admit, I was not an activist for this election. I wrote a couple of checks, but I refused to go door to door or make phone calls. I was pretty bruised and hurt before it all began. I was offended by Palin and the Tea Party set calling me unpatriotic. I was offended by references to my president as being a communist and a Nazi at the same time. I was repelled by the ugliness. Oh, and by the way, Obama isn’t really even an American. He is one of the evil Other we’re all so scared of.

I’m not much a fighter. I’d really rather get along. I assume people will do what’s best for each other, especially those in need. Here in Montgomery county, Ohio, a big social services levy passed yesterday with little trouble. That’s good. But I have little else to feel good about today.

I’ve heard a few folks say that this too, will pass. America is big enough to withstand political shifts. After all, we survived Reagan and Clinton and W. Still, it was Reagan’s penchant to deregulate that brought on the financial crisis and W’s war in Iraq that still cripple us financially. Were the Republicans held responsible for any of that? No. The Democrats were left holding the bag. I am really discouraged by Americans' short memories.

On bad days like this I just tell myself that America gets what it deserves. So I guess when John Boehner moves to repeal health care reform -- and if the Grand Old/Tea Bag Party succeeds -- that’s just what we deserve. After all, giant health care companies have our best interests in mind. Just ask the bankers who encouraged Reagan to push for deregulation.

Today’s elder idea: Some Americans want to criticize a dark-skinned man for offering too much help to the poor. They seem to have confused our president with Jesus.

Poor paraphrase of something I heard.