Friday, May 29, 2009

Getting Real

You haven't been very emotionally honest on your blog, says AVI. (Annoying Voice Inside)

I attempt to ignore her. I'm busy. And life's good. Fun trips, good scans, summer's coming.
You said that you would be honest here, she continues. In case anyone else going through something similar wanders over.

I roll my eyes. But she's right.

Good news doesn't mean that POOF, all is good. Much as I'd like it to be so, I do not have the spiritual gift of restricting myself to living in the moment. The past is soaked into my skin, my hair. The future nips at my heels.

And my present isn't restricted to me and my family. Other families whom we've grown close to, whose children were on chemo at the same time as LW -- first or second time -- are connected to my heart.

On the day we got good news about Little Warrior's scans, two of those families got bad news. Very bad news. The "It isn't working and we don't know what else to do" news.

Sunday, LW turned four. Monday, another 4 year old, also with Wilms', died.

Other families get to assume that their child will go to middle school, high school, grow up. Now, the truth is, they are vulnerable, too. That's just life. But making assumptions, taking things for granted ... it's a privilege.

They say that with cancer, a gift you get is that you don't take things for granted.

There are some things you should be able to take for granted.

In 15 months, it'll be time for LW to start kindergarten. But 15 months just exceeds the window we have for assumptions.

I didn't really realize that figuring out how to live with this reality was weighing on me. Til a couple of nights ago. I had what was probably heartburn, but a little sliver of hypochondria made me ask myself, Hmm, should I take an aspirin, just in case it's a heart attack?

(It was late ... hypochondria, fatigue, and attempts to deal with it are not always logical.)

And I said to myself, "Nahhh. I mean, if I died in my sleep, that wouldn't be so bad."

Well, that was startling. I'm one of those lucky people who is aware that life is a gift, an amazing gift, not to mention a mom of 4 who feels a little responsible for their health and well-being. I am -- normally -- the type that if I go, it's going to be kicking and screaming.

So, it was a wake-up call that I need to be a little more deliberate about dealing with the fact that I do have to live a different reality than others. I am a cancer mother. It's not something I can just wish away or ignore. Depression ain't just something you watch on the weather channel to see if it'll turn into a hurricane. (Hmm, there's an area ripe for metaphor.)

Ebbs and flows. Riding the waves. This morning, my coffee is good, I can hear lawn mowers outside and LW talking to her 87 invisible friends. Summer is almost here. Plans are being made. It's a good day.

I hope you have one, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lizard Eater Endorses Rev. Peter Morales

I think we’re quite lucky with this election. I know many people who feel strongly about a particular candidate because they really speak to what is important to them. There are people whom I admire who support Rev. Laurel Hallman for UUA president. They have worked with her personally – their opinion carries great weight with me.

There are also many folks whom I admire who support Rev. Peter Morales. Again, many are those who have worked with him, either in his own church, or through his work in the district or for the UUA.

So, I’m feeling pretty fortunate. These are good people who want good things for our religion.

For me, it comes down to which candidate speaks to me, my religious priorities, and the direction I want to see us go.

For anyone who reads this blog, it’s probably not a surprise that I’m supporting Rev. Morales. He speaks about things that I’m passionate about – classism, growing our religion, finding spirituality in a myriad of places.

I like people who can speak frankly when the occasion calls for it, and put a priority on honest, straight talk. From what I’ve read and heard, Rev. Morales does not shy away from that. Here’s an example that caught my eye: “The practice of transparency also means being willing to share bad news. For example, if the UUA undertakes a program to, say, increase retention of youth and young adults and the program falls short of its goals, that information must not be buried. When we bury bad news we compromise our ability to learn and to succeed.”

So, here’s where Rev. Peter Morales is speaking to me. Apologies to Rev. Morales for unabashedly snipping certain points out of his complete statements. Just call me Readers Digest.
“A religion for our time must be about wholeness, integrity, and engagement. It must promote the spiritual practices that give us depth and insight: mediation, prayer, spiritual guidance, small groups, and music … Our new religion must promote deep reflection, but it must never, never, become an escape from life or descend into navel gazing narcissism.”

“We must always remember that we are a religious movement. We are not a political party. We are not a social club …”

“… every great religious teacher and religious tradition teaches that spiritual reflection is not an escape, or an end unto itself, but rather a preparation for a more purposeful relationship to life.”

“A spiritual practice is something that prepares us to live transformed lives. The measure of our spirituality is how we live and what we do, not what inspiring things we read.”

“I will seek to model and advocate for an engaged spirituality—spirituality that is so deep that it cannot help but act because its love is so deep that it cannot keep still…Love that does not act is not true love.”

“ … We’ve got a ways to go. While there are a handful of women in our leading pulpits, those are still predominantly male… there are all kinds of issues dealing with other women in our movement. The community ministers, religious educators, who are way too often underappreciated in our movement … we really need a new era of collaboration in our congregations that empowers these other women in these other ministries.”

“… But the real work, I think now, is more around issues of privilege, and class, and gender is only a piece of that.…the situation of women who are Black and Latina is very different from the position of women from the dominant culture. … if we focus only on gender, we will miss powerful dynamics of inequality that need to be addressed.”

“Of the Americans who are 70 years of age and older, three quarters are “white.” Of the Americans who are 10 years of age and younger, only one quarter are “white.” The America that is coming into being is an America that is dramatically more multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural than the America of one or two generations ago. If we are not relevant to this new America, we will fade into oblivion." (Plan) "Convene a task force charged with developing a strategic plan for ministry for the next generation. This task force will include, at minimum, leaders from our seminaries, the head of the UUA’s ministry and professional leadership staff group, representation from our ministerial association, seminarians, and people in our movement who have experience as members of diverse communities."

“…one of the things I will bring in as president, is that sense that nothing significant gets implemented without an evaluation plan at the beginning, not at the end, but designed at the beginning, not being evaluated by the person who’s implementing it.”

At the Women’s Convocation, I had the opportunity on Sunday morning of sitting and talking with Rev. Morales. I was struck by his humility, his compassion, and his generosity in giving credit to others. (And also his intelligence – he is sharp!) We chatted about both UUA type stuff and personal. He was encouraging on many different levels. What can I say? I liked the guy.

But that’s not why I’m endorsing him. I’m endorsing him because I believe he has a very specific vision for our religion. His vision is extremely exciting to me, and it also feels very intuitive. I hope to see him have the opportunity to work towards making it a reality.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

4 years old

Tomorrow -- Sunday -- Little Warrior turns 4 years old.

We've already made her "morning" birthday cake.

One year ago Right This Minute, I couldn't even begin to wonder about what today would be like. Too, too scary. Today ... well, I'm grateful for today. But too scared to think about what a year from now will be.

But tomorrow morning, Little Warrior will be surrounded by her family as she wakes up to birthday singing and candles to blow out. Gifts to open.

She won't know that I'm the one who got the best present of all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

3 Months

What would you give for three months?
June, July, August.
An entire summer.

A summer of swimming lessons
A family vacation to the mountains
Visiting grandparents

A summer of playing outside
And the kids of the neighborhood
In and out of your house

Dripping popsicles and sticky fingers
Going to the chilly movie theatre for a matinee
In the oppressive heat of the day

No hospitals
No "don't," "can't," "germs"

Three months.

The three most beautiful letters in the world
No Evidence of Disease

They don't mean cure.
They don't mean forever.

They mean
Three months til the next scans.

An entire summer.

My heart is full.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Scans tomorrow

Back to reality.


After getting Boy Jots off to school, Jots took a little nap. Viral meningitis would be bad enough without a certain reptile-eater dragging her all over and forcing cupcakes and chocolate cake shots on her. She and I (and Girl Jots) then headed to a gorgeous French cafĂ© to meet up with her mama and stepdaddy, who treated us to croque monsieur, moules frites, and sorbet. Really lovely restaurant and I was cursing myself for not bringing my camera, as it looked exactly like the kind of place you’d find an absinthe drinker. Her parents are heaps of fun to be with, and even if I didn’t adore Jots, I’d be trying to figure out how to get back just to visit them.

Walked over to another chocolate shop to compare with the Williamsburg one. Picked up a little sumpin’ for the road, well, airtrip, then went back home to finish packing and get ready for the return trip.

Wait, you mean I have to leave? Girl Jots carefully explained to me that if my house broke down, I (and my husband and four kids) could come live in their guestroom. I so know where I’m heading next time a Hurricane forces an evacuation.

Drove to the airport and as soon as I stepped out of the car, tears started rolling. I began apologizing, but then realized I was effectively looking in a mirror. Well, we are twins. Weeping and hugging, we said goodbye. “And now we can tell them,” said Jots, “You really can find true love on the Internet!”

That was a helluva good anniversary present, Husband.


I had brought a few gifts from my neck of the woods and Sunday morning, it was time to instruct Boy Jots in the careful use of the molinillo. We made a big pan of Mexican hot chocolate. As he sampled his first (of many) cups, he smacked his lips and gave the cocoa his approval. “What all do you taste?” I queried him. “Chocolate … milk … cinnamon!” So he already has the makings of a chef about him.

We went to church and I got to meet many, many cool people (including one who has commented on this blog – my head was swimming, darlin’, sorry I didn’t realize it was YOU at first). I was introduced to their minister emeritus, who began his career as a Universalist minister. I got to chat with him – actually, just listening, trying to soak up everything like a sponge – for a few minutes before we went in the service. Pondered whether I could pack him in my carryon and bring him home. Heard a message from the other minister that is near and dear to my heart. Great music, too.

Went to lunch at a place that looked familiar to me. Odd, since I’ve never been to this town before. Ahhh … Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Shared a humongous plate of black beans on corn cakes with Jots. Stuffed. Optimistic Undertaker was there, with his baby brother. Optimistic Undertaker cracked even more bad jokes, at which point I decided to yet again rename him, this time to Bad Man.

Went home for a quick nap for Jots and some puttering around for me. Boy Jots and I sadly discovered that his silly putty would not pull up the cartoon images from the Sunday paper. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s because this was the glow-in-the-dark putty. I mean, what could be sadder than if you couldn't pick up comics with Silly Putty?

Went in to church for Jots to do the evening church service. (With really cool music – yessir, we were LIVE and PLUGGED IN.) Jots had me read a couple of poems, filled with words I didn’t know how to pronounce. Utsuroi??? I was sitting by Mama Jots during the service and after I did the first poem, she reached over and patted my arm. Awww. Afterwards, I got to hang with Bad Man’s wife, Sweet Thang. We both have 13 year olds, so we got to compare notes.

Went home to find that Mr. Jots, Bad Man and Bad Man’s Baby Brother had beat us there. I introduced them to chocolate cake shots, with the explanation that it’s not a chick drink, it’s a science experiment. Jots introduced me to their home brew. We began playing dueling-iPods. “Okay, I’ll listen to ‘They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore,’ but you have to listen to ‘Whiskey or God.’”

Took a trip around the block to drop off something at Country Gentleman’s* house. He and his purty date pull up as we’re leaving, so we all go in and have some rum punches. It all gets a bit hazy after that.

Oh, I’m kidding. Good conversation ensues, especially about the trips Country Gentleman and Jots have taken to work on rebuilding Mississippi.

Somewhere in all the conversation about good, noble pursuits, Bad Man shares more really bad jokes, at which point he gets his final blog name, BAD BAD MAN. Sweet Thang would probably corroborate the appropriateness of the moniker. Apparently she got tired of apologizing all the time for him, so now she just hands out a printed disclaimer upon meeting anyone new.

Went home, crashed. A very spiritually fulfilling Sunday.

* Country Gentleman, not to be confused with Southern Gentleman. But I’m not calling Southern Gentleman by that name anymore anyway. Keep up, will ya?


Got up this morning and headed out on a short road trip with Jots and the Southern Gentleman to a neighboring town, where the Southern Gentleman will be addressing the Group Formerly Known as the Hemlock Society.

Riding in the car was an experience as he knows every dirty joke that has ever been uttered, and she has brain cloud, so in spite of herself, she was laughing at the jokes as if she’d never heard them. It was at this point that I decided Southern Gentleman, didn’t fit that well, and renamed him the Optimistic Undertaker. Which he is. Oh, I forgot that detail, didn’t I? Okay, the OU is a former undertaker, very passionate about death and dying, which is only one reason out of a thousand that he and Jots are buds.

The Group Formerly Known as the Hemlock Society is a small group, mostly elderly, very passionate about the individual’s right to choose how to end their life with dignity.

It’s always inspiring being around people who are passionate about what they do. The Optimistic Undertaker was forthright and joyful about his work as an undertaker, preferring the older term for the stilted “funeral director.” He explained that the name came because the undertaker “undertakes” all the details that the family no longer does.

“Sometimes, people tell me that they don’t want a funeral. Don’t want anything to do with it. Well, I understand, you’re saying that you don’t want one of what you’ve been to.” He talked a bit about where we’ve gone wrong with funerals – the cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all funerals, led by someone who didn’t even know the person.

After telling about the history of funerals, and where we are now, he opened up the floor for “Stump the Undertaker.” Great questions came from the floor, many wanting specific information about cremation, or DIY funerals and such.

After the meeting, we had lunch at the golf course with the president of the group, a retired Episcopal priest and seminary professor and his wife.

They were so charming, sweet … just not enough superlatives. The priest was sitting across from me and after a few minutes, he stood up, and requested that his wife change seats with him so that he could talk with the seminary student (me). Lovely! He and I then got into a long talk about his experience, and his call. When I mentioned my call, he looked slightly confused. “But I thought you were Unitarian?” Um, yes. “A call from what?”

His grandmother was a Congregationalist, turned Unitarian. He told about how when she went to church, you “rented” a pew. She gave the money for her pew with the provision that anyone could sit in it. This many decades later, it was obvious that he still held pride in that.

We talked all sorts of things, including sex, specifically that clergy needs to be more willing to talk about it. He and I discovered this was a soap box issue for the both of us and had an animated conversation. Poor Jots. She can’t take me anywhere.

I talked to his wife about being “the minister’s wife” and told her about a friend of mine – who is married to the minister, but is not the minister’s wife. Oh, she just loved that. She told about when she decided she wanted to apply for the Vestry. There were some who didn’t feel that was appropriate for the minister’s wife, “but I just …” she shrugged, looking very much like Barack Obama when he famously brushed it off his shoulders.

She did get selected for the Vestry, and there was a church leadership retreat. She was looking at the sleeping arrangements – Vestry together in a bunkhouse, minister and wife in a separate cabin – No, no, no, she told them. In this arena, I am not the minister’s wife. I am a Vestry member. Her husband smiled proudly as she told this story.

As we left, she gave me some advice for my friend. “Be who you are and don’t do anything you don’t want to do. I never played the piano, didn’t really teach Sunday school. I wasn’t interested in that, I didn’t want to do it, so I didn’t.”

Really, a delightful couple.

We three went on our way, stopping to appreciate the historical significance of a Chocolate Shop. Mmm, butter toffee truffles.

Jots was having a sinking spell and fell asleep in the car. Optimistic Undertaker and I kept a running stream of chatter all the way back, about funerals and families, end of life stuff, and personal stories. “I want to tell people – don’t spend $20,000 on a funeral, use that money to hire a videographer or a journalism student to get the stories of all the people who loved the person. That’s worth the money. Celebrating who the person was.”

We came home and Jots sacked out on the couch for a little bit. Mr. Jots and I chatted, I did a little writing. When Jots woke up, planning to make a pot roast, Mr. Jots informed her that X had brought over a lasagna and her mama was coming over with more food. Damn Viral Meningitis, she swore. She knew that, but had forgotten. She picked up the phone and called a friend who lived across the street. “We got grub – come join us for dinner!”

Meanwhile, Mama Jots came to the house.

Mama Jots … okay, Jots and I already knew that we were long-lost twins, but the similarity between our Mamas is a little on the spooky side. Both tall and dignified. (But with all respect to my mama, Jots’ mother is cuter than mine – she’s willing to let her hair down and be funny.) After she left, I turned to Jots. “I bet I can tell you two things about your mama.” “Okay, go,” she said. “She’s a hard nut to crack and her silence is really, really loud.” She cracked up and said yes. Yep – exactly like my Mama.

And she obviously adores her daughter, the apple of her eye.

Later, the Jots’ neighbor and his date (a Presbyterian seminarian student … I’m telling you, the area is just lousy with seminarians) came over for good conversation, bad jokes, and all the good stuff. I introduced them to chocolate cake shots. What can I say? I’m on a mission from gahhhd.

After the good meal, Neighbor and Cute Girlfriend went back home to watch Citizen Kane, apparently for the first time. Behind our hands, when no one was paying attention, Jots and I leaned over to each other.

“Rosebud …” she whispered,

“Is his sled,” I completed.

But we were very careful to keep it quiet. Hey, we got some couth, you know?

Jots was having a hard time – the thing with viral meningitis is that the pain comes from your spinal fluid – and Tylenol doesn’t reach there. She was tired, but the pain was bigger than the tired. So after everyone went to bed, we stayed up, talking into the wee hours the way friends do – our lives, our families, thoughts about religion. And Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury’s novel. Or at least we thought we were talking about the same book. I was talking about Dandelion Wine, a book I’ve re-read at the start of about a dozen summers. I dunno what book she was talking about.

Girl Jots woke up and Jots took her back to bed. After a few minutes, I peeked in there. Jots was asleep, and two pretty little eyes were peeking over the edge of her mother, looking at me. She didn’t make a peep – she had Mama, so she was content.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


“Cuz this is thriller! Thriller Night …” Okay, okay, I’m awake.

It’s time for the before-school dance party. Music’s playing, cereal is snap-crackle-popping, strawberries are being sliced. Crazy hats are worn. Booties are shook. I get to help Boy Jots finish his science fair project. I decide not to tell the Jotses about my unfortunate science fair experience of 1985. Let’s just say that it involved 3 white mice. One was alive at the end of it.

Project and cereal are finished and we are off to walk to Boy Jots’ school. Lovely school, lovely people. Drop him (and his science project) off, walk home, pop in the car to take Girl Jots to school and check on Mr. Jots’ car at the garage. "I am completely envious" becomes my refrain. Girl Jots gets to go to a daycare in a retirement community, where there is deliberate mingling of the two. Gorgeous grounds, too. "I love gardens, I just have no luck in gardening," I mention. Jots hoots. Apparently she had said something to Mr. Jots before I came, like, "Eww, what if she's a gardener, she's going to hate my yard!" No, my thumb isn't green. It's brown and usually covered in cake batter. I grow cupcakes.

Home to call Kismet, who knows me, in an extremely convoluted way, through my blog, and knows Jots in real life. She lives a couple of hours away and drives up to join us for lunch, and cupcake making, and a myriad of conversations. (I have to mention that she’s an incredibly generous person, evidenced not only by her willingness to drive 2 hours to see us, but also the fact that she’s doing a scrapbook for my family of our MAW trip.)

After school, Boy Jots helps me make cupcakes while Jots goes to pick up her pal, Southern Gentleman, from the airport. I believe by now she is being mistook for an airport employee, as often as she’s there.

Southern Gentleman, Jots, Girl Jots and I go to another outdoor concert – this time, with Rusted Root. Rusted Root! That’s it, I’m moving here. About 50% of the attendees at the concert have been married by Jots.

She and Southern Gentleman go for beer while Girl Jots and I plan our takeover of mankind. They come back – sorry, LE, you have to go get your own, so you can show your id. I wander around, find a beer, pay a ticket, get my lager. After I return, Jots says, “You don’t have a bracelet.” Ehhh? “They gave you a beer without getting an “over 21” bracelet?”

Auspicious Jots has ministerial authority.
Lizard Eater has beer authority.

Great lead up to the concert – an Asian guy with dreads, singing reggae. Then, Rusted Root. Auspicious Jots learns an interesting lesson about sound waves. I'll let her explain that one.

Girl Jots and I brave the port-a-potties. Did you know they put hand sanitizer in portapotties now?

Girl Jots and I make our way back from the potties, stopping to look at a swimming dog, skip, and rumpus around.

We enjoy the concert, and watching the hula hoop girls, and the encore. Come home, put kids to bed, eat cupcakes, talk with Jots and the Mister til bedtime.


Being an infrequent flyer, I am at the airport at the appointed 2 hours beforehand slot. I check in, which takes 2.3 minutes, go through security and am on my way down the hall.

I was here, leaving on our MAW trip, exactly 3 weeks ago. I am having multiple Two For the Road moments. There’s where I was when the sophisticated looking woman began running back to security, shrieking that one of the guards had stolen $4000 from her. There’s the first of 876 bathrooms I took the three girls in. There’s the window where they pressed their faces, looking at our plane, as wiggly and excited as puppies.

I pop into the restroom. I knew that I would cry when I had to say goodbye to Little Warrior, so I wisely put my makeup (as little as there is of it) in my bag. I apply it. Granted, I’ll probably cry when I see Jots (I’m a crier, I accept that I’m a crier, after 2 bouts with childhood cancer and me about to turn 40, I’ve accepted that this just isn’t going to change. Jots promised she’d cry, too.)

I go into the bigger of the two shops and browse the reading material. Looking at all the paperbacks, it hits me – wow, I haven’t read a junk book … in like, forever. Couldn’t last summer – when we were going through treatment, Entertainment Weekly taxed my brain. And as soon as she was out, I was back in seminary, and reading all class-related books. Browse, browse. Laura Schlessinger has a book out, In Praise of Stay at Home Moms. I’m a S-A-H-M, but I have a feeling the book would still piss me off. Outliers. Oh yeah, I bought that a couple of months ago. The Husband was supposed to read it. Wonder if he did.

All of the books that are written by African-Americans or about African-Americans are all on a bookcase together. I debate moving Famous Quotations By Barack Obama About Family over by Dr. Laura’s book. I decide I’ll save my adventure with TSA for the return trip.

Look at all the magazines I have aged out of. Modern Bride. Fit Pregnancy. Cosmopolitan. Pick up “O.”

Take my coffee and my O, and sit down in my airport section. Try to get on the ‘net. Sure I can, for $10. I think an uncomplimentary term. Traveling without kids, my mental quips are sailor-worthy.

It’s an hour til flight time. I have to make a connecting flight. I have 50 minutes between ‘em.

The connection is fine, if crowded. The second leg of my journey is short.

Most of our friends can’t believe that we’ve never met, never even talked on the phone. My parents apparently discussed my upcoming adventure with total confusion. “What if they hate each other?” my dad asked my Mom.

That thought hasn’t entered my head. Blogging, we found so many similarities, it was freakin’ spooky. Weirdo coincidences. When we began emailing, even more so.

The plane lands. We’re here!

I exit the plane, very excited. I come past the security area and I see a rather small alien, a tee-baller, and an impossibly statuesque woman wearing about 432 colors.

Oh, here’s one other thing about Jots. She’s tall, slender, and shapely. She’s UU Barbie. (Comes complete with chalice, recycle bins and NPR-preset radio. Find one at a store near you. Limited quantities, no rainchecks will be issued.)

I jam my tiara on my head (I always travel with a tiara, you can just never tell when you may need one) and run toward them. We do the requisite girl squealing and hugging. I think jumping may have been involved. Grab my duffel and we’re off.

Drop Boy Jots at tee-ball, then Girl Jots, her mama and I go to hear Brandi Carlile at an outdoor concert. Lovely, lovely. Meet a cool friend of hers who speaks glowingly of Jots when Jots and Girl Jots are off for a few minutes.

The occasional light sprinkles turn into giant plopping raindrops, so we pack up to go.

We stop at Chez Auspicious, put Girl Jots to bed, and I get to meet Mr. Jots.

Before I have time get too comfortable, we are off again, to a dive where some friends of Jots are playing.


Tiny hole in the wall and great music. They all know her and it’s obvious they’re pleased she’s there. The lead singer and saxophonist introduces us to his father and we sit with him for the show. I even get a shout-out during the show. Hey, when you travel with Jots, man, it’s like being with a celebrity!

Then, oh, magic times. An old, bluesy jazzy singer gets up – even Jots is excited. She’s heard tale of him, but never heard him live. He sings a couple of numbers with the band, and then explains that really, he’s a balladeer. He sings alone, with just the keyboardist playing. “My Romance.” The room swoons.

We finish our beers and head back to Chez Auspicious.

An Auspicious Trip

Hi, all. Well, Auspicious Jots and Lizard Eater were going to blog their trip, but then we decided --

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Oh, I’m just kidding. Her wifi connection wasn’t working well, and we were too busy having fun to go hunt down a coffeeshop. But I was keeping careful notes, so I could post later.

First, here’s some things to know about Jots:

a) She lives LARGE. She can do more with RA and viral meningitis than some completely healthy folks I know. You know, like me.

b) You know that scene at the end of Groundhog Day, where everyone in Puxatawnie knows Bill Murray and is coming up greeting him, thanking him, etc? Well, then you know what it is like going anywhere – and I mean anywhere – with Jots. Chances are, if you’re from her town, she either married ya or buried ya. I say with no hyperbole that this woman is completely beloved and frequently adored.

c) Now, if you’ve seen the bar scene in Star Wars, you remember, the one with all the wild looking aliens? Then you have an idea about the kind of place Jots likes to frequent.

Okay, that was hyperbole. But she does know the places to go for the best live music. And, natch, all the musicians know her. And adore her.

So, there’s your basic info. Feel free to skip all the trip posts. Jots is still suffering brain cloud* and I promised I’d let her know all the things we did.

* “There’s no such thing as a brain cloud!” Meg Ryan, Joe Vs. the Volcano
* “Meg Ryan’s character obviously never had viral meningitis.” -- Auspicious Jots

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Live-blogging the Trip

Well, not quite live-blogging. How about "updates when circumstances and the mood hits"?

I'm at my house, practically all packed except for those last-last minute things. Leaving in 15 minutes. The Husband keeps asking "Is this bag ready?" Stop it, Husband. I'm taking my computer bag and one other bag. They can both walk out with me. 6 people are not leaving this time.

Mother-in-law is here, and I'm overhearing talk by Little Warrior about an upcoming walk.

As much as I'm looking forward to this, it's always hard to say goodbye to my liebchens. I'll be back Monday! C'mon LE. Buck up.

Gotta stop and pick up some cash on the way out. Better get going. I've got a snug AirTran seat waiting for me. Whoo-hoo!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Visiting Auspicious Jots - The Pre-Story

So, whoo-hoo!, as I mentioned earlier, I am about to go pay my first-ever visit to Auspicious Jots. Let me tell you a little how it happened.

Last August (not December, as she says, but forgive her, she seems to have recovered from her absinthe-induced coma, but there's still a few holes in her memory, doctors say that's not uncommon, especially when you get to our advancing age), The Husband and I had our 18th wedding anniversary. Well, nothing says, "I love you," to The Husband like shipping off his wife to a total stranger, so he sneaked around, I think he called Jots' church, got her contact information, and emailed her to find out how she would feel if he put me (total stranger) on a plane for her to feed, house, and karaoke for a few days.

And by "total stranger," I mean, Twins Separated Before Birth.

I'm not entirely sure who wins Most Deranged in this scenario -- The Husband, for doing it; Auspicious Jots, for not only agreeing to the request by the strange-man-she'd-never-met, but emailing him a picture of her with an insane, enthusiastic grin on her face to give to me to prove that yes, she really did want me to come; or me, for being crazy about both of them.

Time will tell.

She and I were busy at the time, what with cancer and RA and work and all that, so we planned on January, but that didn't work, but now, here at last, we're meeting!

I'm busy packing my molinillo and camera, she's busy making an itinerary. I think a make-over (for me) is part of it. I believe it includes items from Cyndi Lauper's closet. I suspect it is not Peacebang approved.

She doesn't know the names of my kids? Puh, big deal. Apparently she's best buds with all of the Village People and I don't know how I'm supposed to remember all their names.

Cupcakes. Dancing. The Hemlock Society.

And I thought Disney World had wild rides.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why I Believe in Going to Church

I've been doing some deep soul-searching lately about church and religion. I know that I'm passionate about this religion, but why? Getting down to real specifics, what is my testimony, in terms of theology and going to church?

It's the latter I've been musing on lately. I believe in going to church. I know that it makes me a better person. Why? I had many thoughts floating around ... community, knowledge, spiritual practice ...

Last week, sitting in church, listening to Rabbi Shaman preach, it hit me.

I think church, ideally, is a salle.

In college, I was a member of the Women's Epee fencing team. I was okay. Not fabulous, but good enough to qualify for Nationals.

In fencing, you have a salle. It's the place you go to learn and to practice. You meet there with your teammates, your fellow club members, and you learn, and you drill. Over and over. You learn a new move.

"Circle C Riposte."

You are taught the move, very slowly. You do the move, very slowly. You begin drilling.

"Circle C Riposte! Again! Again! Again!"

You advance the long length of the salle, drilling, drilling.

You go to a tournament. In tournaments, the moves are faster than fast. You're (metaphorically) fencing for your life. Every once in a while, one of the moves that you've practiced a million times, actually comes out the way you've practiced it. Not often.

You return to your salle, a little bruised. You have a greater understanding for what works and how it works. You learn more moves. And drill.

Another tournament. You try to do a certain move. It's not working. You try again. Again. Your coach gets in your face. "If it's not working, STOP DOING IT!" Excellent advice that I still use to this day.

Everyone has to find their own meaning, their own metaphor, for church. For me and my vision of what church should be, this fits perfectly. Monday through Saturday, I go out into the world, trying out the things I learned and practiced at church. Sunday, I go back into my church, my salle, to talk about what worked, what didn't. I have wise people around me to (in a more gentle way than my fencing coach) remind that if something isn't working, maybe I should stop doing it. I learn new moves.

So I believe in church. Frankly, I wish more people would go, so they, too, could learn and practice how to do life.

En garde! Pret? Allez.

Why Facebook is Different than a Religious Community Themed Blog, Reason #436

If, on a late night of browsing Facebook, you post the idle question of Can you be a UU and believe in original sin, when you wake up in the morning, there will be answers from:

  • A UU friend who isn’t really interested in theology


  • A Unitarian theologian


  • Your old high school boyfriend (Catholic) who is convinced you’re a wacko going to hell, but wants to intellectually join the conversation and fancies himself far more erudite than reality would confirm (meow)


  • A UU DRE (raised Catholic) who can straddle both worlds


  • A UU you casually know who doesn’t go to church but feels strongly about the power of the P&Ps.

Big thanks to He-Who-Knows for the throwdown. You are a great teacher. I owe you a cuppa joe.

Reminder note to self: go back and reset your security settings when this is all over.

Friday, May 08, 2009


If you had not have fallen
Then I would not have found you

Angel flying too close to the ground

I’ve been thinking about angels lately, in different meanings of the word. Yesterday, I went to a local cancer clinic to pick up something I’d won at a silent auction for the Relay for Life.

“Here’s your angel wings,” the receptionist said brightly.

“Fairy wings,” I corrected her.

She looked at me, curious.

Because she’s working at a Cancer Clinic, and this might be helpful information, I explained further.

See, in the world of Childhood Cancer, a common euphemism for when a child dies is, “He earned his angel wings.” It’s a phrase I’ve read too many times. Not that I have a problem with the phrase itself. But whatever the euphemism, the precipitating event has happened too damn much.

In any case – information that someone in Cancer World should have.

And I patched up your broken wing
And hung around a while

Tried to keep your spirits up

And your fever down

For me, I like the idea of angels as human representations of God. And I think during our time in Florida, we were around a whole bunch.

I don’t say that lightly.

There are a couple of staff members at Give Kids the World, but practically everyone I saw was a volunteer. There are some who are there just for the week. Others, such as the woman who met us at the airport, have been there for years and years.

Many of the long-term volunteers are employees at Universal Studios and Disney, there on their own time. Many are retirees.

They treat the families as royal guests. When they tell you it is their honor to wait on you, serve you, you believe they mean it.

The younger people are very energetic, lots of enthusiasm. For many of them, I imagine we Make-a-Wish familes are people they care for, people they want to make smile, people they are (in the best sense of the term) sorry for. They don’t yet know that WE are THEM. But some do.

The older ladies, for the most part, are very helpful, very efficient, very friendly. They want to make our lives easier for the week we are there.

The old men … well, they are the ones that make my chest tighten. They’re silly and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. They want to make the kids laugh. And when they think you’re not looking, they’re giving your child a long, wistful look. And you know, you just know, that if it were within their power, they’d give up the rest of their lives in exchange for the life of any child there.

The goal of Give Kids the World was to make it a child’s idea of heaven on earth. So it’s perhaps not surprising to find angels there.

We found angels outside the gates of GKTW, especially at the parks. Yes, loud, expensive, obnoxious amusement parks. There are angels there.

I knew someday that you would fly away
For love's the greatest healer to be found

Like the old man (again with the old men!) running the Winnie the Pooh ride. “There’s only one thing about you riding this,” he informed LW. “YOU have to ride it twice!” She beamed.

She wore a special pin that designated her as a GKTW child. It wasn’t particularly large, but for some special angels, it was a neon sign.

We were watching the “Dreams” parade at Magic Kingdom, and at the back of the Aladdin float, there were Mary Poppins and Bert.

Little Warrior and I love Mary Poppins and Bert.

From up high on his float, somehow Bert managed to see Little Warrior and her pin. He grabbed Mary Poppins and we could see his words – “Make a Wish.” They began pointing and waving wildly at Little Warrior.


We spent one day at Universal Studios, and I wish we'd made it two. They went above and beyond in their treatment of my family. Talk about royalty ... they'd spot that pin and come rushing over. Special things would happen. 80's teens, we've introduced The Boy to all of the Back to the Future movies. We came upon "Doc," standing in front of the DeLorean. The actual DeLorean used in the movie, he informed us. He spotted LW's pin and got that tender smile we were now familiar with. He gave a special grin to The Boy and reached into his pocket. He pulled out ... car keys? He opened up the car and The Boy got a seat for a pretty cool photo op.

There were some grown men behind us who were envying The Boy right then.

At the end of our Universal day, we were heading toward the exit, when we saw that Spider Man was giving autographs. Now, even LW knows Spidey, so we started heading that way. An employee stopped us. "Are you going to see Spiderman?" he asked. Yes, we said. "Can you wait about 7 minutes?" he asked. He was smiling. We had learned to say Yes to any offers at this point.

He took us around the corner. "Stand right here," he said. "In just a few minutes, you're going to hear an alarm, and then all the superheroes are going to come whizzing around here on their bikes." Oooh, excitement! After a couple of minutes, the alarm sounded, and here came Captain America, Spiderman, Wolverine and other assorted superheroes that I'm not cool enough to identify. (I guess I have to watch X-men, now.)

It's been hard on the older ones, as over the past four years they've had to say No to birthday parties, swimming lessons, and other opportunities for germs. Part of their identity has been "the kid whose sister has cancer."

Well, they got to go back to school with some pretty cool snapshots.

We went to what is called a “character meal” at one of the resort restaurants. This was “hosted” by Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the evil stepmother and stepsisters, who were a hoot.

It was the stepmother, Lady Tremaine to those of you in the know, who spotted LW’s pin, apparently from across the room. She gave us a look. “I’ll be coming to talk to YOU later,” she informed us.

We met the stepsisters, and Cinderella. How many times had LW, when we were in the hospital, talked about meeting Cinderella? Cinderella danced with her, then escorted her over for a dance with Prince Charming.

After that, Cinderella came over to our table and requested that we hang back after the dinner. "We want to give a magic moment to your family."

When the dining room had just about cleared out, the maitre d’ asked us to come outside in the courtyard. She got the children all looking one way … and Cinderella and company came out, behind us.

They spent a good deal of private time with us, taking pictures, talking with the children. All in character. Let me tell, the guards at Buckingham Palace don’t have anything on the Disney folk. Talk about commitment.

It was a magical evening. Angels.

The person who created Give Kids the World is Henri Landwirth, who barely survived the Holocaust as a young boy. He believes the happiness can inspire hope, and hope can lead to healing. He’s seen it happen, there at the Village.

So leave me if you need to
I will still remember

Angel flying too close to the ground

When we fall, whether it’s due to life circumstances, or making mistakes, or losing our spirit, it gives us the opportunity to experience being helped back up. And it gives the other person, the angel, an experience as well.

I wanted the kids to get a little taste of that, of not just being the recipients, but being the givers. Nothing much, but in their little fanny packs, I had some trinkets, stickers, for them to give away. Those who frequent the Disney parks call it "pixie dust" and make a point of spreading it when they can.

At Magic Kingdom, as we waited for the after-dark festivities, The Princess pulled out an extra “glow” bracelet and handed it to a little girl sitting near us. The way people act! You would have thought it was gold!

And then, on our last day at Disney, we passed some twin boys, probably about 3 years old. One was really kicking up a fuss, crying and carrying on. Dad was trying to talk to him calmly, but you could tell, he was a little frustrated. The Boy went over to him. He had two pirate’s patches and clip on earrings. “May I give this to them?” he asked the dad. The father, with a grateful look, nodded.

The Boy handed them out to the twins. The crying stopped. They began grinning and trying to put on their earrings. As we walked away, the mother said to her husband, “Well, that saved the day!” The Boy heard it.

It was nothing. Just some cheap trinkets. But The Boy got to feel like an angel. There was an extra bit of jaunty in his walk.

Fly on, fly on past the speed of sound
I'd rather see you up
Than see you down

I still feel a need to say, Whooey, the price wasn’t worth it. But this experience through the land of childhood cancer has enabled all of us to see another world, one that not everyone gets to see. A world where complete strangers handmake beautiful clothes for you to wear on your trip. A world where characters hug with abandon. A world where you are treated with a little more attention, because compassion is rich and real, and can't be stifled.

Leave me if you need to
I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground

I hope that you never have the need for such compassion.
I hope that if you do, you receive it.

As for me, I've seen angels in action. They're both the ones giving and the ones receiving. We're all those representations of God, because God is in both sides of the equation. We are, all of us, angels flying too close to the ground.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Give Kids the World

Okay, am I emotionally ready to write about this?

Give Kids the World was absolutely incredible. Amazing little touches everywhere. Loving volunteers everywhere. It was such a heart-full time, one that I wish every person could experience. But there's only one way you can stay at the Give Kids the World, and that is to be a child with a life-threatening illness, or the family of that child. And that's an experience I wish no one would ever have to have.

So, I tell you what. I'll share our days with you and then you can go volunteer there or send some money or tell someone about it. No need to go through the qualifying experience.

A big van came and picked us up at our house. 15 minutes early, I might add. Go, monkeys, go go go!

We got to the airport, did the security thing, then went to breakfast. Did you know you can get any type of food at the airport at 9 am? The kids wanted pizza. And cokes. For breakfast. And thus, we went down the rabbit hole ...

The flight was uneventful, other than the fact that every single seat was filled and it was a certain airline that does "first come, first served" seating. Luckily, we were allowed to be some of the first to board.

We're in Orlando, we're in Orlando! I'm already verklempt ... when we were in the hospital, I put posters up around the room with LW's favorite characters, many of whom were Disney. And we talked about going to Disney World someday. And meeting Mickey Mouse. And Pooh. And Cinderella. And then after we come past security, I see this:

And I promptly burst into tears.

Thankfully, the volunteer from Give Kids the World is used to it. She already has two carts for our luggage and leads us first to baggage claim, and then to get the rent car that GKTW has arranged for us to have for the week. She gives us clear directions on how to get to GKTW and says, "See you soon!"

(Warning: if you are shy of tears, just leave right now. Really. I beg you. Because I was pretty soggy the entire trip.)

We drive to Give Kids the World, and go into the House of Hearts to check in. They promptly hand LW a talking Mickey Mouse and a stuffed Shamu to each of her siblings. And tshirts in their sizes.

We sit down with a coordinator to get the basic info, and the children begin wandering around. They look up at the ceiling ...

For a kid, magic. Everywhere.

The kids pile onto a golf cart, giddy with pleasure, and we follow in the rent van. A volunteer shows us to our villa. Every family gets their own 2 bedroom villa, with a huge bathroom for the children (and a regular one for the parents), living room, kitchen already stocked with drinks and snacks, and a gift bag on the kitchen table, stuffed with toys and goodies for the kids.

We're right across from Matthew's Boundless Playground. Brightly colored, covered with sail-type tarps to protect from the sun, and featuring a life-size version of Candyland.

Every little touch is carefully thought about, with how it will affect the children. Light switches are down low, so the kids can reach them. There's a trash receptacle shaped like an elephant with a vacuum inside to suck up paper. There's a giant tree that snores. The Castle of Miracles is filled with what look like drawers that make noise when you pull their handles. In the enchanted forest (inside the Castle), there are little windows here and there -- peek in, and you'll spot a teeny vignette, like a frog at home in his parlor.

Oh, here. I'll show you.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!

I am taking a break from my studying (because memorizing the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Crisis Intervention and Family Systems Theory is starting to make me really punchy, and by punchy, I mean I just walked outside and punched my neighbor in the face) ... to give you some FABULOUS news.

And by FABULOUS, I mean, batten down the hatches, because a hole may be about to ripped in the space-time continuum.

In about a week and a half, my long-lost twin whom I've never met and who has two completely different parents than I, will meet me at her local airport and take me home!

(I believe there may be a few stops along the way ... you know, karaoke bar, blues tavern, her favorite funeral home. Oh, I'm just joking. How could she pick a favorite?)

And we are going to be blogging it! Auspicious Jots and Lizard Eater meet for 4 days of rabble-rousing, knocking over little old ladies, and general mayhem and you will read about it on our respective blogs.

(This is not to be confused with respectable blogs, of which we have none.)

So, start sending lots of healing energy towards Jots, because she's apparently been drinking too much absinthe. Poor woman, here's a recent photo from her husband's cell phone:

Some ministers just can't handle their wormwood.

Just a quick note

Throw the confetti! Toot the horns! My church has a minister!

(A quarter-time consulting minister.)

Rabbi Shaman, as I shall heretofore name him, gifted me with a long, great conversation yesterday. I'm thrilled for my church to get him, and selfishly, ecstatic. That old saying about when the student is ready, a teacher will come. I keep having great teachers drop into my path. (Some of them read this blog.)

And now ... back to studying about Family Systems theory. And crisis intervention. And finishing my paper on having a church Right Relationship team.

I'll see y'all round about Tuesday.