Saturday, November 30, 2013

Late November

When the time for blogging comes around, I begin to feel topics in my gut.  I start weighing what topic is working on me and then I try to figure what a reader might get into.  At this juncture on this cycle, it would seem, the gentle reader gets a potpourri of grandpa thought.

When the most recent internal alarm clock for this blog entry tripped a couple weeks ago, it was at least a week before the 22nd.  I decided then I had to write about the JFK assassination. 

I asked an old friend who was a classmate of mine on that Friday afternoon fifty years ago — us in the 8th grade  — what she remembered.  It was nice to have the accuracy of my memory confirmed.  

It was around 2:00 EST, after lunch for our classroom at Immaculate Conception School.  The academic week was pretty much over.  We were finishing up business by having a classroom civics club meeting with yours truly facilitating. 

I must have chaired a number of civics club meetings that year.  Can’t remember anything about any of ‘em — except for November 22.  Singed into memory: 

I was sitting up behind the teacher’s desk running the meeting.  Mike Yosik had the floor and was talking about the benefits of our installing an aquarium in the classroom.  I can still just about make out his complete face in my memory, though I can’t recall if was sitting or standing.   

In the middle of what Mike was saying, the principal, Sr. St. Augustine, clicked on the PA in the office, an audible click we students had learned meant stop talking and listen to the announcement.  Her voice was a bit subdued, unlike the raucous football punter we all knew and loved on the afternoon playground.

I don’t recall Sister’s exact words, but the phrase ‘the President has been shot’ seared like a hot iron making a memory indelible.  I was stunned.  I distinctly remember thinking that he can’t die.  He couldn't die.  He meant too much to the world.  He was an exciting family guy, just about my dad’s age, who from my point of view was succeeding in making the world a better place.  Besides, he was the first Roman Catholic President this country had ever elected.  He was one of us.  He couldn’t die.  

My friend remembers the meeting and the announcement, too, but she remembers a next thing that 1) she couldn’t believe, and 2) I don’t remember.  I suspect my head was still analyzing the odds of a ‘shot’ President surviving such a thing.  She remembers another of the guys in class picking up the aquarium discussion like nothing happened.   

Next thing I remember is Sr. Ann Mary climbing out of her seat at the back of the room, making her way up an aisle saying we would continue our discussion and meeting at a later time.  I returned to my seat.  

I don’t remember how long we waited until we were dismissed for the day.  I have a sense the classroom was pretty quiet.  We were standing in dismissal line when Sr. St. Augustine came back on the PA.  I imagine her voice cracked a bit.  The President is dead, she announced.  

I can remember my very place in line when I heard her unfathomable words.  Within as few minutes as possible I was running down Fauver Avenue eager to get in front of our old black and white television to watch the news.  I had sat for hours watching space shots over the last couple years and had really gotten a sense for history in the making.  I could not begin to imagine what the news looked like when a President of the United States was shot to death.  

Though I wanted to sit in front of the old Westinghouse all evening, I had work to do.  I was a morning newspaper carrier who had bought those papers from the Journal Herald and I had to collect from each and every customer so I could pay my weekly bill regardless of world history.  My guess is I set out sometime after 5 to collect my 45 cents from everybody who was home.

I think it was at Mrs. Sengle’s house where I stood in the living room for a few minutes watching with her as Jackie Kennedy disembarked Air Force One in her pink dress stained in her husband’s blood.  Only later did I hear she refused to change clothes when offered on the plane, saying she wanted the country to see what we had done to her husband.   

What else can I say about the brutal and bloody death of an eighth grader’s personal hero?  It wasn’t the day the music died, but something felt very different after Jack Kennedy passed.  Lyndon Johnson turned out to be okay in terms of Great Society legislation, but he was no charismatic Jack Kennedy.  It was a hard time.  

And in just a touch over four years from that November 1963 day, the deaths of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy would make the omega bookend for us kids in the high school class of 1968.   

Well, that was longer than I thought it would be.  But here’s what else I wanted to mention today: 

Waffle Shop was amazing this year.  Thanks to all who made the effort to come down.  I like to tell people that if we get 1600 in the door in four days, we had a good Waffle Shop.  We had 1800 this year.  We set a modern record for lunches served.  All good news, indeed.  

Be advised that Outreach Grants applications are due either to me via email or in hard copy to the Christ Church office by 16 February 2014.  We’re very proud in our $89+k in Outreach Grants over the last 10 years.  If you’ve got a good idea, let me know. 

I have been moved of late by the concept of living a life with enhanced gratitude.  

I try in a zen kind of way to lead a life of gratefulness.  Every day I have on this marvelous planet is a gift unto itself.  

Living a life of gratitude seems very grounded to me.  
On my office door hangs, among other things, the saying ‘Practice gratitude.  Honor the ordinary,’ a line I picked up from James A. Autry, author of the book Choosing Gratitude and guest of Bill Moyers a couple months ago.  I was so taken by explanations that I ordered Autry’s book before the show was over.  

Then the other night I’m catching up on some TED podcasts and I come across one from Edinburgh this past winter by Br. David Steindl-Rast.  His topic?  Living a life of gratitude. 

Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine brother, cited studies showing the commonality that happy people are most often grateful people.  Sure, he says, one would think happy people would be grateful for their happiness.  He contends it really goes the other way:  Folks who lead a life of gratefulness are most often pretty happy with the the gifts life has given them. 

He says that even when one is dealt a hard blow, like loss of a job, or death of a parent or child, one can be grateful for the opportunity to rise to the occasion.  Those of us who have buried loved ones know something about that. 

The David Steindl-Rast TED link:

For those of you who are aware of my attempts to write a book on Hog Island, be advised that Shannon Wood, a long-time friend, has offered me use of her lake house at Lake Cumberland, Kentucky.  I’ll be on my own January and February next down there getting my focus tightened and making progress on chapters.  

It feels like the time is now to make good progress on The Dressy Adventuress.  I’ve tried different approaches to writing in the past with minimal success.  Getting away and getting lost in my work seems the best way to go.  Wish me luck. 

Today’s elder idea:  Say what you want to say and let the words fall out — honestly.  I want to see you be brave…

Sara Bareillis
Very cool song…
images:  Top:  Early November at Wild Grace.  JFK:  borrowed off internet.  Bottom:  Thanks, indeed!  ;-)

Monday, November 4, 2013


 You know, it really is a cool thing being in love.  

I hope everyone gets the human experience of loving another sometime in their lives.  I hope, too, that everyone gets a generous helping of second chances because relationships first time around don’t always have the best track records.  

I offer this blog/meditation today on having a partner to love because of the amazingly good time Cindy Lou and I had on our trip to England and Ireland.  After the laundry has been washed and put away, phone calls responded to, the yard raked and tended, with jet lag not completely shed, we still feel a glow between us that had not been unknown to us, but now is perceived in a deeper and more connected way.  We have, in fact, fallen more deeply in love with each other.  

Cindy Lou and I have gone on plenty of trips over our twenty+ years together, some longer than others.  Thirteen years ago it was three weeks in Alaska.  We’ve spent lots of time in New Orleans.  We do Hilton Head every spring of late.  We’ve driven to California and Montana, the Maine coast and south Florida.  We frankly look forward to spending time together in restricted travel space because at home we often find ourselves living different lives in different places.  She has her TV spot and I have mine.  I like sitting outside under that canopy in the summer.  Her, not so much.  It’s a bug thing.  Can’t blame her.  And now I’ve found sleeping in the guest room with music playing more to my liking.  Music just keeps her awake.

I spend lots of time reading and writing on my Mac, often many hours a day.  She has her computer time in front of the TV on the couch, too, and also spends a couple days a week with the wee friends she babysits.  Such means we sometime don’t spent time eating our evening meal together.  

These revelations might have the reader conclude we don’t spend enough time together, a conclusion with which I doubt we would disagree.  Cindy has talked for years of going to dinner and a movie one night a week.  Great idea, but we seldom do.  We both end up feeling comfortable in our home space and hate to leave it.

The balance of being together and being apart reminds us both of the dance Anne Morrow Lindberg explained to all at so many weddings we attended back in the day.  The reading I refer to is from her book Gift from the Sea, and explains the ‘country dance’ healthy partners perform:

A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules.  The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart’s.  To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding.  There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing.  Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back — it does not matter which.  Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. 

I fancy the image of our both dancing to our couple melody while performing our own songs as we feel them.  Feels mighty healthy, actually. 

I’m not saying Cindy and I did not find moments to be cross with each other on this trip.  It happened a couple of times, both while we were dragging too heavy luggage down a London or Holy Head street with another heavy bag draped over a shoulder.  Cindy said last night one shoulder still hurts from bearing the weight of the bag that included a few magazines, a laptop computer, and her Kindle.  We have since concluded that whatever impatience we encountered with the other was really the product of stress.  Nobody was trying to piss anybody off.  It’s just that when one is tired, it just feels that way. 

In the truth of knowing that and how much each wanted the other to have a really good time on this trip, a newly recognized flower bloomed within us sometime on our travels. I’ve seen something similar happen to Cindy before when we go to the beach.  She is, in fact, a beach girl, and sheds accumulated winter by walking barefoot on the sand.  

This time we didn’t have much sand to walk on, but in a different way of doing things, we both played big hands in how this trip came off.  I usually do most of the travel planning, which is why this unfamiliar overseas trip didn’t come together for so many years.  

This time in planning, we both had more to say about how our time would be spent.  Cindy got her days in London and Norwich, special places she wanted me to experience.  I got a quiet week at Holy Hill in County Sligo, which is another link in the chain of experiences fostered by the disparate likes of Paul Winter, the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado, and the Spiritual Life Institute.   Don’t get me wrong:  Cindy wanted Ireland, too, as I wanted to see London.  Still, we had different agendas when the planning began. 

I told Cindy throughout the trip that she did not take a bad picture.  Every time I turned the camera her way, she was beaming.  If you followed our escapades on Facebook, go back and look at the selfies we took.  Every single one of ‘em.  She’s flat out gorgeous in each.  Such a smile!  ;-)

I am grateful for the chance to accompany Cindy Lou on this magical trip she’s been waiting for.  It was supposed to happen eight years ago when she retired from teaching.  Now, as it turns out, we celebrated a 60th birthday and a 20th year of marriage, to boot.  

Truth is, we’ve grown together as we’ve grown older.  We love each other deeply.  And it feels damned good, I don’t mind telling you.  

Today’s elder idea:  ‘If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone.’
Gregory Alan Isakov
‘Second chances’
freebie from iTunes a while ago

images:  Cindy Lou in London; a ‘selfie’ at Stonehenge.