Steinbeck and our Marriage

“Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck. I’m more than halfway through it. Just met the part where the guys plans to give him a party went tragically awry.
 
This is a strange experience. I have seen the movie, like it very much, would look at it again. Reading the book is not at all what I expected. Steinbeck has skillfully given us a host of characters and each one is someone we now know and care about. His writing is then a lesson in fairness and caring for humanity.
 
And this is more personal. The book has been on our shelf for many years. Turns out it is my wife’s book. Reading it now brings forth a strange mix of thoughts.
 
We met at 31. Our experiences in our 20’s were as different as they might be. I had married young. Too young. I had burrowed ahead with my studies in theology. I got a Masters degree and entered the ministry. I had a series of small churches. We had children. We lived here and there eventually landing in Minnesota and isolated from friends and family. That wife had enough. Wanted out. It was the end of our family.
The woman who after a few years came into my life on the other hand deferred marriage until much later. Through her early 20’s she traveled with her parents. Many trips between the US and Argentina with stops in the Caribbean. She taught a year in Honduras. She got a Masters degree at Catholic University and began her college teaching all the while living alone in a small apartment in Washington DC. She married at 27 and that didn’t turn out well at all. We will leave out the sordid details.
 
So when I’m reading Cannery Row it awakens a a new closeness to her life that I did not know. She had read this very book. It had engaged her mind, entertained her. She also got to know Steinbeck’s characters. Her memories were becoming our memories though decades apart. She’s not sure if she ever saw the movie. Maybe we’ll find it on Netflix.
 
I spent so many years reading for others. I thought my reading, my library, was to advance my work as a minister, to give the truths I need to hand on to my parishioners. I wasn’t reading for myself.
Over the years there aren’t many novels that interest me. I find most to be bloated, padded, making sure the reader can feel he’s getting his moneys worth. As a result there are very few novels I find engaging. When I do they are exceptional.
 
Do I feel any loss in taking so long to read “Cannery Row?” Not really. But now, over 40 years later, I am joining my wife after all these years. This is one of the things that made her what she is today. She is an interesting young woman with an inquisitive mind and and acquisitive spirit carrying this little book down to the capital mall, to a bench, to a place among the monuments, perhaps to an atrium in one of the museums to read, to be, to get away from her tiny basement apartment. It’s like finally our time together, our date.

Facebook Thoughts

Somebody did it again. Wrote comment to correct me. That person really didn’t know the situation I was describing and had the option to just say nothing. I don’t post to be corrected. If you MUST “correct” something I post, send a private message. Play nice or go home.

“…but I cannot make any more sense out of “triumphant Christians” than I can out of “conquering servants” or “warrior babies.” If Jesus meant for his followers to rule the world, then why did he teach them to wash feet?” —Barbara Brown Taylor, “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith”

If the road you’re on needs to go left you are a fool to keep going to the right and crashing. And “the middle of the road” no longer makes sense. You can’t stay in the middle. Turn the wheel and go the correct way. Same with politics. I make no apology for being rabidly “liberal” or “progressive.” The current situation is a crisis much like our grandparents faced in WWII. Let’s right the ship of state when we can. In days or months ahead we will certainly have to make corrections. But for now, the middle of the road shall bring us disaster.

It’s 7 am, I can hear the morning sirens. Engine Co. 8 is on their way to help. Is it a heart attack, so common in the morning? Is it an accident during this commute time? They have very little information as they head out. They must be ready for anything. They are union members. They have sworn an oath to protect and defend the constitution. We have Democratic Socialism already, in the fire and paramedics, in the police, in our streets. They are our employees. They work for us. Get used to it.

Don’t let chickens get your “member.” An elderly relative in an expansive mood many years ago told me of a particularly memorable dream. He was on the hay wagon, bringing in a load, when they reached the barnyard his “member” fell off and the chickens were delighted. He had to jump off the wagon and get the precious away from the chickens. Probably a lot of psychology in that if I understood.

Twice today: On the way out and 40 minutes later on the way home, Engine 8, the Fire Station in our neighborhood went out for calls. Democratic Socialism at work. All of them qualified union members. Working for us in ways we could not. In ways that “contractors” never would.

Contractors, Privatization: Several years ago I was in the yard when an elderly retiree across the street gestured frantically for help. She wanted me to give her husband some juice as he was in a diabetic emergency. I knew better and urged her to call an ambulance. She did and it took him to Corona Regional Medical Center, about 8 miles away. He later told me that ambulance ride cost $3500. Ambulances in our town are private. Contractors. No evidence that operators are qualified.

Twice today: On the way out and 40 minutes later on the way home, Engine 8, the Fire Station in our neighborhood went out for calls. Democratic Socialism at work. All of them qualified union members. Working for us in ways we could not. In ways that “contractors” never would.

Contractors, Privatization: Several years ago I was in the yard when an elderly retiree across the street gestured frantically for help. She wanted me to give her husband some juice as he was in a diabetic emergency. I knew better and urged her to call an ambulance. She did and it took him to Corona Regional Medical Center, about 8 miles away. He later told me that ambulance ride cost $3500. Ambulances in our town are private. Contractors. No evidence that operators are qualified.

Twice today: On the way out and 40 minutes later on the way home, Engine 8, the Fire Station in our neighborhood went out for calls. Democratic Socialism at work. All of them qualified union members. Working for us in ways we could not. In ways that “contractors” never would.

Contractors, Privatization: Several years ago I was in the yard when an elderly retiree across the street gestured frantically for help. She wanted me to give her husband some juice as he was in a diabetic emergency. I knew better and urged her to call an ambulance. She did and it took him to Corona Regional Medical Center, about 8 miles away. He later told me that ambulance ride cost $3500. Ambulances in our town are private. Contractors. No evidence that operators are qualified.

Don’t grump about the all too few HC parking spaces. They are usually full. Bet you don’t notice the many ways that the ADA has moved businesses to create solutions not just for HC persons, but that benefit everyone.

Those yellow dotted surfaces when you leave the store. Not comfortable when one is in a wheelchair. But a solution for the blind. I watched a guy make his way the other day with his white cane. He had to negotiate the chairs in the restaurant and tried at first to use the wrong side of the exit door. Outside his cane tapped my car wheel and he knew he was going in the wrong direction, turned quickly and found his way.

One major purpose of the Americans with Disability Act is to allow people as much independence as possible. When these adaptations are done to new buildings they add very little cost to the project but a world of difference to the users.

More from Barbara Brown Taylor, “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith”

“…I had arrived at an understanding of faith that had far more to do with trust than with certainty. I trusted God to be God even if I could not say who God was for sure. I trusted God to sustain the world although I could not say for sure how that happened. I trusted god to hold me and those I loved, in life and in death, without giving me one shred of conclusive evidence that it was so. While this understanding had the welcome effect of changing faith from a noun to a verb for me, it was an understanding that told me how far I had strayed from the center of my old spiritual map.”

Old timers can remember a small herd of deer in the hills behind our house. But now development has so encroached on these hills and fires have burned away the cover, there isn’t much left for deer. I think the coyotes have taken over. There is a route that wild animals can take from the Santa Ana River. A mountain lion could easily travel in these bushes. I don’t think it would be interested in our yards, probably it would want rabbits and ground squirrels. As there is no natural water that also limits wild animals.

Old timers can remember a small herd of deer in the hills behind our house. But now development has so encroached on these hills and fires have burned away the cover, there isn’t much left for deer. I think the coyotes have taken over. There is a route that wild animals can take from the Santa Ana River. A mountain lion could easily travel in these bushes. I don’t think it would be interested in our yards, probably it would want rabbits and ground squirrels. As there is no natural water that also limits wild animals.

“And although I never found a church where I felt completely at home again, I made a new home in the world. I renewed my membership in the priesthood of all believers, who may not have as much power as we would like, but whose consolation prize is the freedom to meet God after work, well away from all centers of religious command, wherever God shows up.” –Barbara Brown Taylor, “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith”

I am on the road to repentance. One summer day, in a pavilion with a couple thousand people watching. I stood in front and felt the sincere prayer of H. M. S. Richards lay his hands on my shoulders. It was a solemn moment.

I felt then what I still feel today and which I now confess I have nearly forgotten. This ordination was not for any particular church or employment. It was for a life. I allowed myself to be assigned this duty. And I accepted it. In subsequent years I was forced out of employment by functionaries but that didn’t change the fact that I had made a solemn vow.

That didn’t change my ordination. It has been many years, but I was ordained, that is stamped on my soul. I have accepted direction and duty. As the years went by I got a different education, I wasn’t tending day to day to any congregation. That didn’t change the fact that I had a life to live, that I had accepted being set apart. I was called upon to marry some couples. I returned to leading in worship and felt the weight of it. There was always a place in me that remembered my vow.

I have forgotten so much of this. But my life goes on. Perhaps I can still redeem the days with a servant’s attitude, perhaps my heart can still be broken. I have a lot of thinking to do.

‘I made a new home in the world. I renewed my membership in the priesthood of all believers.” I will begin by less grumbling about the people I meet in the supermarket. Instead I must see in them a life meeting the struggle, growing old, with frustrations and disappointments. People just trying to live.

(To my SDA Friends….today the church is confused about ordaining women. They seem incapable of simply doing the right thing. My blog says a little more about that.)

The Letters

IT STARTED: It was early 1978. In a few short weeks everything fell apart. Someone I thought I was building a home with wanted “freedom.” To satisfy that we moved 2,000 miles. She took the kids and began the legal process that would ultimately take everything apart.

I had only despair. My livelihood was gone. I have never been so alone. In time I met a few friends. If I told you who you might be surprised. But I turned to writing for publication. Feature articles. Through those assignments I began to meet and interview a range of people. I began to see hope for myself. I could do something Maybe there was light, however dim it seemed now, at the end of this dark tunnel.

FORCING THE HAND OF GOD: Through this I turned to a crutch I thought I understood. My bible. There was a scheme popular at the time called the ABC’s of prayer. One had only to find the right bible promises in the bible. Ask God to keep those promises. Believe that He would do it. Then Claim the promise. Ask, Believe and Claim.

I began to carry around a sheaf of 3×5 cards with the promises written on them. I wore them out bringing them out of my pocket and reviewing the promises. Making a deal with God. Forcing God to do the right thing, to keep His promises. I honestly believed if I could only get God’s attention, to grab Him by the arm and get God to do what He promised, we could make a deal.

Then I began to realize what a foolish idea this was. Whatever God would do or not He would do. Many of my “promises” involved forcing someone else. I began to realize that God was not in the business of forcing anyone.

Let Barbara Brown Taylor describe it in her book “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith” she writes:

“As it turned out the edge of the map was not all that far from the center. It was not as if I or anyone else had to take a mule train for three weeks to find ourselves in the wilderness. All we had to do was step outside the Church and walk to where the lights from the sanctuary did not pierce the darkness anymore. All we had to do was lay down the books we could no longer read and listen to the howling that our favorite hymns so often covered up….There was just the unscripted encounter with the undomesticated God whose name was unpronounceable –that and a bunch of flimsy tents lit up by lanterns inside, pitched by those who were either seeking such an encounter or huddling in their sleeping bags while they recovered from one.”

BOOKS: My center included a few books, even the brown leather bound bible which I had marked and carried into the pulpit for years. Now, I couldn’t look at it. It had become an idol and stood in the way of any honest meeting with God. To this day I’m not sure where it is and I can’t read that one. I put it on the shelf no help to me and no danger either. I have others now that have taught me many things. But that one seems so very wrong, too much a reminder of my trying to get God’s attention. As I write there are two bibles within reach but they are not ruined by my marks, instead they are ready to speak to me what they have to say.

DECENT PEOPLE DOING THEIR BEST: My journey has taught me that the bible is the collected thoughts, through hundreds of years of decent people just trying to figure things out. Just like me. They did their best. They collected what they thought was history. They wrote down genealogies that they hoped connected them and their tribes to God. They collected the poetic expressions that gave meaning to their worship. When they saw danger they wrote prophecies they hoped would turn people to their God. They did the best they could.

I learned to look at the bible then not as some code book, a collection of ideas about how to force the hand of God, rather as a collection of the best that my spiritual ancestors could share. They became a community of men and women all just trying to figure things out.

THE LETTERS: I relaxed and met these ancestors in a new way. After my Dad passed away I found a bundle of letters my mother had kept. There was nothing written by her. They were all from him written at the close of WWII from ships in the Pacific. He was courting her. He was smitten. The paper was fragile and sometimes there were mysteries. Wartime meant censorship, there were some things you didn’t say. But he said enough. In all the years we had together I got only one brief letter from him. But writing to my mother he expressed all the anxiety of the war, in times the optimism as it wound down and at last the end when a normal life could once again be hoped for.

In a few months they married. In a year I was born and a quiet life began. Mom put the letters away. She kept them all those years. When she died in 1993 Dad never cleaned out the house. He lived in his large motor home and the house became a time capsule until his passing in 1998. That was when I found the letters. I never had the chance to talk to him about them. He probably would have been embarrassed and said nothing. Today I just have to read them and treasure them for their place in family history. And I will find some grandchild thoughtful enough to pass them down. I hope they will be treasured.

Perhaps in some way the bible is like that. Love letters from the past. Words we can treasure about people and places sometimes we can only guess. Written for someone else but containing thought from which we can be inspired. Maybe some words we’ll never fully understand.

When I start these ruminations I really don’t know where they’re going to go. It may be enough here to say that ancient words can be healing or feel condemning. Let them be what they will be. See them for what they are and enter in. Join your ancestors, respect them and just be part of the family that has given you such richness.

Redtails and Rattlesnakes

 
It’s winter now. The ground is colder. The ground dwelling creatures have to find a hole and curl up, waiting for warmer soil. Beneath the soil they are safe. And we are safe in their world. I am keenly aware that the hills behind my house are home to rattlesnakes. I have boots. I have watched where I step.
 
Other years this is the season I can tramp the hills. I can find the views and breeze that have been such a part of living with these dry hills. But now I can only remember the freedom of the hills.
 
I have gone there with my little children who came close to stepping on rattlers. One boy was boldly forging ahead when I stopped him steps before he got too close to a young rattler. Another boy sat on a boulder just thinking as teenagers do. When he jumped off he found he had landed next to a very upset rattler.
Perhaps the most worrisome encounter was when we were going in and out of our old shed and my wife said something was leaking. Perhaps a spray can was ruptured. Closer inspection found a very frightened rattler buzzing warning behind the shovels and hoes by the door.
 
We killed it and took it’s body up on the hill being careful to cut off the head and bury it. Yes rattlers have a role in the ecology but the same work is done by our other snakes, more friendly, such as the gopher snakes. Better to make room for them to prosper.
 
In death rattlers can still have deadly venom that can hurt dogs and cats that might come across something they thought to chew on. So we bury the head and fangs.
I had a Golden Retriever, Mel, that kept me alive by needing a walk two or three times a day. He began to stop each time we went out the back door and sniff. After a couple days of this I decided to look for what he found so interesting.
I had a plum tree and had put netting over it. At the end of the season I had removed the netting and casually left it in a heap at the far end of the patio. I found a dramatic story. A rattler had pursued a fat lizard into the netting. Once there they both lost traction and had both died. Mel had smelled their death.
I cut them out of the netting, it was severely damaged. Again I cut off the rattlers head burying it. And leaving the remains on the hill I also left the netting which by now stunk hoping the sun and wind might cleanse it.
A week later my neighbor told me he had found some kind of fabric that the wind had blown into his yard. It was my netting. A gopher snake was tangled in it but he was able to free it. A few months later and another neighbor, a young woman came to me to help her know if a snake was dangerous. It was a young gopher snake, a garden friend.  It was injured and tangled in some netting  but we took it to a reptile special specialist on the nearby campus and he watched it while it healed. We later released it to our garden with our blessings.
We have some bushes, like pomegranates that are huge, make shade hanging to the ground and dropping fruit that attracts rats.  The rats attract snakes so we are careful around those.
But we have other mixed blessings. A roadrunner regularly wanders our yard. Despite their reputation for taking snakes I’ve never seen it. I have seen them on the ground dashing out and catching songbirds. And though they can’t fly worth a darn I’ve seen one high in a tree hopping from limb to limb raiding nests.
The real predator is the Redtail Hawk. These patrol the dry hills and down above my garden. These are large powerful birds, the largest raptors in our skies. Redtails are looking for anything small enough to carry back to their babies. They grab ground squirrels and when the opportunity comes along…rattlesnakes. I have smiled when I see a a redtail rise and carry a writhing rattler on it’s last flight, back home to her chicks.
The best we can do is create the conditions for success for all predators. I poison the ground squirrels when I can.  But they will crawl down into their burrows when they get sick.  Poisoned ground squirrels are not a hazard to hawks.
The hawks do their work by day. But the predators we don’t see are the owls that patrol by night. The rattlers are not as easy to see then but owls have the night vision to take anything.  They keep down the skunks. I have also seen a cat carried into the sky by an opportunistic owl.
Yes. Value our friends. Nature is complicated. The same owl that eats skunks eats cats. The roadrunner that eats bugs also eats baby hummingbirds. Our privilege is simply to be part of nature, to watch it and if possible to make it easier for our friends.

Of Making Many Books

IT STARTED: It was early 1978. In a few short weeks everything fell apart. Someone I thought I was building a home with wanted “freedom.” To satisfy that we moved 2,000 miles. She took the kids and began the legal process that would ultimately take everything apart.

I had only despair. My livelihood was gone. I have never been so alone. In time I met a few friends. If I told you who you might be surprised. But I turned to writing for publication. Feature articles. Through those assignments I began to meet and interview a range of people. I began to see hope for myself. I could do something Maybe there was light, however dim it seemed now, at the end of this dark tunnel.

FORCING THE HAND OF GOD: Through this I turned to a crutch I thought I understood. My bible. There was a scheme popular at the time called the ABC’s of prayer. One had only to find the right bible promises in the bible. Ask God to keep those promises. Believe that He would do it. Then Claim the promise. Ask, Believe and Claim.

I began to carry around a sheaf of 3×5 cards with the promises written on them. I wore them out bringing them out of my pocket and reviewing the promises. Making a deal with God. Forcing God to do the right thing, to keep His promises. I honestly believed if I could only get God’s attention, to grab Him by the arm and get God to do what He promised, we could make a deal.

Then I began to realize what a foolish idea this was. Whatever God would do or not He would do. Many of my “promises” involved forcing someone else. I began to realize that God was not in the business of forcing anyone.

Let Barbara Brown Taylor describe it in her book “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith” she writes:

“As it turned out the edge of the map was not all that far from the center. It was not as if I or anyone else had to take a mule train for three weeks to find ourselves in the wilderness. All we had to do was step outside the Church and walk to where the lights from the sanctuary did not pierce the darkness anymore. All we had to do was lay down the books we could no longer read and listen to the howling that our favorite hymns so often covered up….There was just the unscripted encounter with the undomesticated God whose name was unpronounceable –that and a bunch of flimsy tents lit up by lanterns inside, pitched by those who were either seeking such an encounter or huddling in their sleeping bags while they recovered from one.”

BOOKS: My center included a few books, even the brown leather bound bible which I had marked and carried into the pulpit for years. Now, I couldn’t look at it. It had become an idol and stood in the way of any honest meeting with God. To this day I’m not sure where it is and I can’t read that one. I put it on the shelf no help to me and no danger either. I have others now that have taught me many things. But that one seems so very wrong, too much a reminder of my trying to get God’s attention. As I write there are two bibles within reach but they are not ruined by my marks, instead they are ready to speak to me what they have to say.

DECENT PEOPLE DOING THEIR BEST: My journey has taught me that the bible is the collected thoughts, through hundreds of years of decent people just trying to figure things out. Just like me. They did their best. They collected what they thought was history. They wrote down genealogies that they hoped connected them and their tribes to God. They collected the poetic expressions that gave meaning to their worship. When they saw danger they wrote prophecies they hoped would turn people to their God. They did the best they could.

I learned to look at the bible then not as some code book, a collection of ideas about how to force the hand of God, rather as a collection of the best that my spiritual ancestors could share. They became a community of men and women all just trying to figure things out.

THE LETTERS: I relaxed and met these ancestors in a new way. After my Dad passed away I found a bundle of letters my mother had kept. There was nothing written by her. They were all from him written at the close of WWII from ships in the Pacific. He was courting her. He was smitten. The paper was fragile and sometimes there were mysteries. Wartime meant censorship, there were some things you didn’t say. But he said enough. In all the years we had together I got only one brief letter from him. But writing to my mother he expressed all the anxiety of the war, in times the optimism as it wound down and at last the end when a normal life could once again be hoped for.

In a few months they married. In a year I was born and a quiet life began. Mom put the letters away. She kept them all those years. When she died in 1993 Dad never cleaned out the house. He lived in his large motor home and the house became a time capsule until his passing in 1998. That was when I found the letters. I never had the chance to talk to him about them. He probably would have been embarrassed and said nothing. Today I just have to read them and treasure them for their place in family history. And I will find some grandchild thoughtful enough to pass them down. I hope they will be treasured.

Perhaps in some way the bible is like that. Love letters from the past. Words we can treasure about people and places sometimes we can only guess. Written for someone else but containing thought from which we can be inspired. Maybe some words we’ll never fully understand.

When I start these ruminations I really don’t know where they’re going to go. It may be enough here to say that ancient words can be healing or feel condemning. Let them be what they will be. See them for what they are and enter in. Join your ancestors, respect them and just be part of the family that has given you such richness.

Ordination: My experience, reflections

I’ve been reading Barbara Brown Taylor. She writes an intensely personal reflection on her transition to private life. Read on.

“And although I never found a church where I felt completely at home again, I made a new home in the world. I renewed my membership in the priesthood of all believers, who may not have as much power as we would like, but whose consolation prize is the freedom to meet God after work, well away from all centers of religious command, wherever God shows up.” –Barbara Brown Taylor, “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith”

I am on the road to repentance. One summer day, in a pavilion with a couple thousand people watching. I stood in front and felt the sincere prayer of H. M. S. Richards lay his hands on my shoulders. It was a solemn moment.

I felt then what I still feel today and which I now confess I have nearly forgotten. This ordination was not for any particular church or employment. It was for a life. I allowed myself to be assigned this duty. And I accepted it. In subsequent years I was forced out of employment by functionaries but that didn’t change the fact that I had made a solemn vow.

That didn’t change my ordination. It has been many years, but I was ordained, that is stamped on my soul. I have accepted direction and duty. As the years went by I got a different education, I wasn’t tending day to day to any congregation. That didn’t change the fact that I had a life to live, that I had accepted being set apart. I was called upon to marry some couples. I returned to leading in worship and felt the weight of it. There was always a place in me that remembered my vow.

I have forgotten so much of this. But my life goes on. Perhaps I can still redeem the days with a servant’s attitude, perhaps my heart can still be broken. I have a lot of thinking to do.

‘I made a new home in the world. I renewed my membership in the priesthood of all believers.” I will begin by less grumbling about the people I meet in the supermarket. Instead I must see in them a life meeting the struggle, growing old, with frustrations and disappointments. People just trying to live.

Today the church I once served is locked in a struggle to treat women fairly. There are women serving around the world as ministers, pastors. They have been ordained by local conferences, people who know them. But the “World Church” being jerked around by a scheming leadership and a third world culture, have been unable to do the right thing.

Should I revoke my ordination in protest?  I’ve considered it.

The Steinway: Fur Elise

I woke this morning to the dulcet tones of “Fur Elise.” If you also got very far in those childhood piano lessons you also might have made it to Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” I found her in the soft easy chair, watching the sun rise taking coffee from her new Mr. Rogers mug. “I’m centering myself” she announced. I remembered when I could play “Fur Elise.” It was centering. It was a way to be satisfied with having my fingers could travel the friendly keys and create melody and those quiet meditative sounds from our 100 year old Steinway. Now it sits, another piece of furniture.

Metastasis made me get off my precious road bike that so often took me 60 miles round trip from the dry Inland area to the mouth of the Santa Ana River, to the Pacific ocean also took the dexterity in my right hand. I can no longer play “Fur Elise” except on the stereo.

Wife got this stack of CD’s from NPR, they came this week. The old war horses Rhona once called them. She’s gone now. So are the two elderly sisters whom my wife befriended in Washington D.C. They sold her the Steinway. Their father had once been “the Secretary of Agriculture” they proudly said.

Adeny moved the piano to Loma Linda. That’s where we met. I was intimidated by that piano…by her. I rarely played such an instrument. I was intimidated by her having attended the national conservatory in Buenos Aires.

In time I got the courage to sit down at that piano and discover it. And thankfully, I finally got the courage to discover her. We moved the piano to our new home in Loma Linda, and finally here to LaSierra. Here we raised five kids in a big old house where they all had their own bedrooms. One day we’ll part with that piano.

She brought us two sons. One of them used a toy hammer on the piano keys. Chipped the ivory a little bit. Memories. He’s married now to a beautiful lady. They live in New Mexico. He has continued his interest in keyboard. Their sweet Emma is five months old. She may learn to play “Fur Elise” on this piano. And send centering sounds across the Sandia mountains.

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Showering past 70:

The problem with showers, they’re in bathrooms. And bathrooms have mirrors. Yuck. Past 70 we don’t look that good in mirrors.

I go into the shower, you really need to get naked, but it’s no party looking down at an emaciated body. There’s nearly 100 lbs difference between when I was too fat and now when I’m too skinny. Leg bones stay the same. But as meat grows less and less legs are just skeletons.

A year or so ago one of my sons installed grab bars in the shower/tub. He did a good job, solid and even. Now I need them. And I need the little aluminum and plastic stool that I take in and out of the shower.

And I sometimes make it on my own. But it is nice when my significant other helps me dry off.

Showering past 70. It ain’t for sissy’s.

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From a reasonable idea of God?
“…and if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to bring your tithe….because the place is too far from you…then you shall turn it into money…and spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves…and rejoice, you and your household.” -Deuteronomy 14:2
…..What does that mean, “If the way is too long?” Perhaps the way is too long because the “Priests” have become so strange, corrupt, so self centered, that you cannot bring yourself to their kneejerk support. Use your God given mind to simply do the right thing.

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What jobs did you do that no one would suspect?

For a few years I wrote freelance for LaSierra Today, and in house for The Loma Linda Observer. I also co-edited a monumental work for the California Dental Association.

But that body of work was not enough to get a job as grant Resources writer, for which the director wanted to hire me. The LLU Academic Vice President stopped the hire saying simply, “We don’t want to hire a divorced person for that job.” Clue. I later was instrumental in bringing to LaSierra University what was then their largest Federal grant…..and married the LSU Academic Vice President. Karma.

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From the memory hole. If a “B”level celeb like Billy Bush can “egg on” Trump….then what kind of pervert is he. Now he has the gall to defend “judge “Moore and tweeting against Al Franken….. let’s now review the long held rules about living in glass houses and throwing rocks, et.al……been in lots of adolescent locker rooms, adult locker rooms, never heard such crudities. Glass houses…. Franken has ASKED FOR an investigation, he has apologized. His is so far only one incident. She’s wearing battle armor…his hand appear to hover. Get real here. So Donald, when do YOU admit it and when do YOU ask for a thorough investigation. You’re a failure and boorish pig. You don’t have enough integrity to EVER do the right thing.

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Kenneth Field The main problem here is that our current president can only be held accountable for impeachable offenses. Otherwise, Cheney would be rotting in an Iraqi prison right now. Franken and Moore can be held accountable by the Senate Ethics Committee, but they’re all hoping he won’t win Alabama’s election, and they won’t have to do anything while expounding on all the things they “would have done if he’d been elected.” They’re liars, and they don’t care that we know it. Franken, however, is a decent human being caught by his own misbehavior. He has done everything such a man could be expected to do. He will probably suffer politically, whether the whole thing was a setup or not. Which is entirely what the plan was. I can’t help but think the GOP was involved in that somewhere, but it doesn’t matter. Franken made a big mistake, and it was caught on film, and someone accused him of it openly. He’s got to deal with it. I’m sure he will. Of all the senators in D.C., he is actually one that will try to do the right thing.

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WHAT WORK DID YOU DO THAT FEW WOULD SUSPECT YOU OF?

The junior year of high school I worked as the electricians helper. We wired a new chapel, rewired the girls’ dorm, and installed a telecomm to every girls room. I went everywhere, did a lot of the work independently. In the attic once the electrician wonder if some wires were “live” so he touched the with his fingers. Wow.

An Old Man’s Rumination

I want to walk in the Redwoods. One more time. Down that trail, behind the locked gate to the valley little known and little visted with those stout tall trees. The valley the rangers told us about. So green, so alive.
I want to see again the rocky southern coast of Oregon, the creatures that make life in the tidal zone.
I want to see that beach in Bandon Oregon where an old man and his volunteers rake an elaborate labyrinthe in the sand, washed out with the tide, then raked in again the next day.


I want to hike in the Yoemite Valley, up the trails to falls.


I want to walk the flowered meadows of Mt Rainier and the meadow North of Mt. Baker.


I want to ride the funicular up to Murren, hike the meadows above Lautenbrunner Switzerland and hear the cowbells again. See the Jungfrau across the valley. Visit the waterfalls I missed then.


I want again to glide on a ferry through the placid water of Alaska’s inland passage past trees with sentinal bald eagles and waters alive with humpback whales.


I want to look again at the now 100 year old rural schoolhouse that was across the road from us all those years of growing up. In front of it this kid sold strawberries to passing travelers each sunday in season.


I want again to visit Chartres cathedral with its windows of light.
I want to be in the top of the Eiffel tower and see again the City of Lights.
I want again to look out from that tiny hotel room across the Seine to the extravagance of Notre Dame then to the right to that humble chapel Eglise St. Julien the Pauvre.


I want to see again the happy people of Kirkenes, high above the Arctic Circle enjoying ice cream in the summer sun.
I want to see again the Coast of Norway with its fjords and islands and wonder which were homes to my ancestors.


I want to see my grandchildren grow up, build their lives and families as their parents have done.
I want the love of my life to go on, this blessed woman, her heart, her determined kindness and wisdom. This house, it’s memories, it’s views.

And this, from the poet,

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the day.”

—————Dylan Thomas

DACA and Me

Me and Dad

DACA and Me:
 
I may seem like a white bread Yankee American white man….but am I really? No matter where you stand on the issues of immigration, we all came sometime from somewhere.
 
I got to remembering a few nights ago those now gone but real people that I know now live in me, my children and grandchildren.
 
The year was 1634. A flotilla of ships appeared in a New England harbor and on board one was an excited boy of thirteen, John Viall. The son of a rural English clergyman, John’s passage was paid by a more wealthy family. As an indentured servant he would spend the next eight years working in their custody until age 21 when he could register with the colony as a “Freedman.” He soon married and started his own family. John Viall was my first American ancestor.
 
In 1860 Annie Anderson traveled unaccompanied from rural Sweden landing in New York and making her way to a colony of fellow Swedes in Minnesota. She became my Great great grandmother. One might speculate about an eighteen year old girl making such a journey alone, but probably some incident “you don’t talk about.”
Alas, as the politician has  said, “They don’t send us their best, they send rapists and murders.”  Or as my people, they bring tumble weeds. Here’s the story.
In Nineteenth century Russia there arose a new queen, Katherine the Great, Czarina. She was a German powerhouse and among one of her initiatives was improvement of Russian farmers. She enticed German farmers to settle and many Amishmen started farms in the Ukraine.
As the years went by there arose a new Czar who was recruiting young men for his armies. The Amish found a way out so in 1874 over a thousand left the Vilhainaya region for the United States and Canada. My great grandfather settled  his family near Yankton South Dakota.
These Amishmen brought their precious seed grain and therein were the hidden seeds of Russian thistles, tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds were not native to the Americas, and though they had previously been seen in the colonies they did not take hold like they did in the vast open prairies of the West. You might say my people were among those that brought tumleweeds to the American West.
The bible has a Jesus parable about weeds and tares, and of enemies causing mischief by sowing seeds of weeds. The farmers found this new weed in their fields and were sure that these Amishmen were intionally sowing mischief. Remember, Immigrants “Don’t send their best.”
Other, now my great grandparents were teenagers in a new world, Christian Albrecht and Annie Sutter, part of that Amish migration, who married and began their family, My Grandfather was their third child, the first boy, born in 1887. Sometime after the fourth child, Jack, Annie died.
Christian married again, Annie’s niece, whose name was also Annie Sutter. They went on to have six more kids. As a sidenote, my granfather reappears in 1900 as Albright, and later adopted Sutter. To his dying day he carried grudges against his family that he wouldn’t talk about. Tumbleweeds, thistles, the troublesome weeds that are easily rooted out if you have the will and catch them before they get too big.
Around the turn of the century my great grandfather Knute Nelson was brought as a teenager from Norway. His family settled in Minnesota and when he married a descendant of Anna Anderson, of Sweden they produced my grand father LeRoy Nelson.
We can follow the Viall family through the Revolutionary war, the civil war and finally the marriage of young Katie Viall, my grandmother to LeRoy Nelson. And they made mom.
I am a mixture. One grandma I haven’t spoken of traces to Swiss Amish stock, The Sutters and Albrechts to the Ukraine. The Andersons and Nelsons to Sweden and Norway, the Vialls from England and most certainly to France.
We’re here. The people I’ve talked of all came as minors, brought by their parents. Who know what these kids wanted. It was not their choice.
And there’s one more, I’m married to an immigrant. My wife Adeny was brought here from Aregentina by her parents at age 17. She has told me she really didn’t want to come here and she tells me stories about going to a new school, feeling out of it, not understanding the public speaker in the hallways making announcements. And though she returned to Argentina for one more year she came back to the US for college and a masters. And finally, in 1982, for me. She went on to become college professor, finish her PhD and a career that included College Dean and Academic Vice President.
We all come from somewhere. I’ve shared with you some of the kids that make up ancestors. Kids who at this moment in history would be subject to the very strict rules for DACA, Deferred Action on Child Arrivals.
In DACA Ameria has a sound and reasonable, even compassionate program to take care of kids.  And they are proving to be the Best of the Best. We are a big country, let us have a big heart and do the right thing for 800,000 kids who have had no say in where they were taken, settled.  Yet they are building a life.  They are contributing paying taxes yet they cannot collect benefits. They are the best. We need them.
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