Thursday, October 28, 2010

Signs of the Times

There I was, making a positive faith statement, and I had an uneasy sensation in the pit of my stomach. What is up with that? This kind of spiritually-inclusive proclamation had me worried a bit. Now that has at least as much to say about the times we live in as it does my anxiety level. I told an ordained UCC minister friend in Wisconsin about my feelings. She reminded me that I live in "liberal Massachusetts." I reminded her that my home is about 20 minutes from the African-American church that was burned down the day after Obama was elected ... yep, right here in liberal Massachusetts.

In April, I wrote a post about how liberals and progressives were letting the Tea Party folks have all the visibility, while we spoke mainly to each other, preaching to the choir, as it were. I spoke about how "we" need to be more public. And that meant "I" needed to do something. I decided it was time for me to step forward and broadcast how I felt about America; what I wished for in American public life. So I worked with a printer to design five big signs for my lawn.

The signs stand about 3 feet high, are four feet wide and have text that is about a foot and a half high. Here are pictures of all of them, most of which were taken today in the rain on my back patio. (The one in front of my house does not feature the sentimental little statues from my mother's gardens that I keep on the patio.)

I rotate the signs out for two weeks at a time. The first one I put out was this one:

This one expresses one of the foundational beliefs on my faith. I am downright passionate about it. But when I set it up on my front lawn, I started to have some strange feelings. Will there be a negative reaction to this? Will there be vandalism?

There I was, making a positive faith statement, and I had an uneasy sensation in the pit of my stomach. What is up with that? This kind of spiritually-inclusive proclamation had me worried a bit. Now that has at least as much to say about the times we live in as it does my anxiety level.

I told an ordained UCC minister friend in Wisconsin about my feelings. She reminded me that I live in "liberal Massachusetts." I reminded her that my home is about 20 minutes from the African-American church that was burned down the day after Obama was elected ... yep, right here in liberal Massachusetts.

Well, so be it. As it also happens, I am promoting inclusive faith in a town with a big mega-church that espouses the opposite. I am usually private about my faith in my neighborhood, and here I am with a honking big sign about God's love on my lawn.

I did get a few of positive comments. One was from the young Russian lad who delivers my newspaper, one from my lawn guy, another from the postman.

Lots of people go on evening walks down my block. There is a park at the foot of the street and playing fields across from my house. I watched people walking their dogs. They'd scope the sign and keep on walking. I couldn't get a read on their opinion.

OK. Two weeks ago, this is the sign that went up the day of local primary elections. I have had no response about it in the two weeks that it has been up. I do not know how to take that. My guess is that people do not know if I am liberal or conservative with that statement. But I'm unsure how it is really perceived.

Here are the next three that will go up. This one goes up tomorrow.

I'll follow with this one:

And then this will round out the five that I had made:

I gave a lot of thought to what I would have on the five signs. I tried to synthesize what I hoped for; believed in. I didn't want to promote specific policy, specific laws. I wanted to talk about how we ought to be as a nation, about a God that includes rather than excludes, about speaking with respect, treasuring diversity, and about moving this country forward into a better future.

I wanted to promote values -- values about working together, promoting community, acknowledging our connectedness. I wanted to say that not all people of faith are right wing.

And I wanted to go public. I wanted to stand by what I believe -- openly and visibly. It isn't as easy as I thought it would be. But I am glad I am doing it, and learning from it. I "came out" as a faith-based progressive.

After I started "signing," I saw news about Jon Stewart's upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity on the Daily Show. It's coming up on October 30th. Maybe he'd like some bumper stickers from my signs? In any case, I'm glad someone else is making a quiet and positive fuss about the state of things.

Everything we do to promote civility, respect, inclusion -- it all helps. One thing I know for sure. My silence wasn't helping anybody.

Monday, October 25, 2010

White Dog, Pink Hindquarters

I have, as regular readers know, a Bichon Frise rescued dog named Zoe. Zoe, like many white haired dogs, is prone to getting "hot spots", skin irritations that are so insanely itchy that they have them madly biting themselves to the point where they even pull out their own hair, leaving the skin bright pink and angry looking. This can be due to nervousness or allergies. During the spring and fall, Zoe can get an occasional hot spot. But when I first got her (she had been abused) she was so nervous that she chewed off about a two inch strip of beautiful hair from her bushy tail. It was six inches of lovely fluffy white fur, then a bright pink piece of bald rat tail and then furriness again. After attempting several remedies, my vet settled on an ointment that calmed the itch and all Zoe's hair grew back. Since then she has never been through anything even nearly that dramatic.

But last night I looked at her as she walked away from the kitchen and I noticed that her entire backside was bright pink. It is often possible to see the color of her skin (white, pinkish and some spots depending on where one looks) through her hair. I lifted her up and tried to get a good look, but she wriggled free. Was it just the hair that was pink? Was the skin naturally a pink color there, or had she been chewing at it? I had just had her groomed a few days ago, so maybe the groomer used something that did not agree with her skin?

Or, worse yet, was it her skin at all? Her rectal area looked especially pink as did her urination area -- oh Lord -- was this the sign of blood? Had she bled and rubbed herself off? I had seen her "butt scooting" the other day...was there a problem? And she had chewed her paw when she got a little pricker seed stuck in it.

OK, call the vet. No sense worrying myself witless. If it was something serious and I waited too long, I would never forgive myself.

As I was getting ready to dash with Zoe to the vet I noticed a small, round, flat plastic jar of purse-sized blusher on the floor with a hole poked in the lid. I grabbed it and stuck it in my pocket. Had she eaten this and then defecated...?


Here I am, with Zoe, racing to the vet for fear that her tiny life was in peril. There she is, sitting calmly with a glowing pink butt and rear legs, especially red around the rectum.

The vet listens to the story, looks at my dog's behind and says "Let's take a sample of this blusher." She takes the tiniest bit on a Q-tip and touches my dog's shoulder with it. It immediately spreads. She tries to brush it off. It spreads more. She tries to wash it off. It spreads more.

And now my dog's shoulder matches her butt.

Bottom Line
My dog grabbed my blusher from the end table near the bed. She bit a hole in it. At some point the blusher turned over and a bit shook out. Zoe sat in it. And probably butt scooted (to discharge the little bit of stuff in her anal glands that the vet found.) So my dog stole blush and then smeared it all over her own ass.

Zoe checked out perfectly in all other ways. The vet is glad I found the make-up or, as she said, "We'd still be here trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with your dog!"

She also said she could confidently say that this was a first. Never before had she had a dog come in because she had blusher on her butt.

They took her in back and washed her off and toweled her dry. I walked out with a white pooch, with only the slightest hint of a pink bottom.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Computer flood and perspective

Saturday night I went upstairs from my basement office thinking all was well. On Sunday I went downstairs to check email around noon. I screamed. My computer, printer, cable modem, router and a ton of paperwork were standing underneath what looked like an indoor rain shower that had been going on for many hours. I threw down towels and grabbed cords, pulling them out of the power strip that had shut down. I tried to get things out of harm's way, but it was too late. Harm had been done.

I work from home. It is not an option to be without a computer. After getting a plumber out on a $unday to fix the leak in my pipe above my desk, the week has been a dizzying array of telephone calls to my insurance agent, my actual insurance company, the cable company, handymen, etc. The whole week is a blur. I still have yet to see an adjuster, but I got a new iMac, had the cable company put in a new modem and am working below a hole in my ceiling on a trashed out oak desktop.

I went through the drill, called all the right people, assembled documentation, and now am waiting. I shocked myself with how non-freaked out I was. I knew I was doing all that I could do. After a certain point one has to just let things unfold.

My getting flipped out would not have advanced my cause.

When I was in my 20's and 30's I did not know that.

So I suppose that awareness of spiritual change is a happy thing. Why not? It's better to focus on that then the fact that I am still waiting for the adjuster to call.

I found myself laughing Monday when the lawn guys were reseeding the burned out parts of my little half acre, while the handyman was putting up these magic plastic things on my porch windows to keep the cold out, while my friend's grandson was transplanting shrubbery for me, while the furnace repairman was cleaning my furnace and installing a "non-metallic sheath" to my fuel line so that it was insurable under a new law (for any fuel spills). That was the day after the plumber and the day before the gal who helps me clean every few weeks. So it's been quite the week. Open wallet and hear the sound "Cha--CHING!"

Oh well. I had some good breaks. The plumber worked much less expensively than I thought he would. All in all, everyone had a fair and reasonable price and I had the money to pay it. So life is good. The various events may have felt annoying, but what is that? Not much.

I have people in my life who love me, whom I love right back. I have a nice roof over my head. Good neighbors. A swell dog. Food in the pantry and fridge and freezer. I live in America. My friends are great.

So, did I tell you I had a wonderful week?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eventually, I learn

I basically have one living relative. She is 88. She said something that irritated me the other day. When I hung up the phone, after having the good sense to not say anything, I fumed around for a moment or to.

Then I paused, and I thought -- when she dies, I will even miss moments like this. And I will feel how petty it was to get irritated in the first place.

So I decided to thank God that she irritated me, that I love her enough that I let her get under my skin. I thanked God that she and I have an emotional relationship.

I'm lucky to have her. I probably grate against her nerves on occasion, but she learned her lessons more quickly than I have, I think.

So, I choose to not be irritated. I choose to be thankful that she is in my life, and to celebrate ALL the moments we have left together. They are precious in ways one only realizes when one is near the visible end of them.

Now, make no mistake, I hope she lives a much longer life -- but at 88 one starts being aware of the finite. She is near the end of her life's ledger, but what is true for us now, is really true for everyone -- we can choose what we feel. In common everyday moments we can select gratitude as a reasonable choice. It feels so much better. And in the end, it is so much more deeply true.
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