Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Wherein the Geezer Talks About Being Poor Yet Contented


Two posts here in one day! Will wonders never cease.
 
2014. . . One of my most contented years, all told. Strange, though, that I was so contented.
 
The challenges of 2014:
 
Back in 2005, I made two very poor real estate decisions that have impacted my family and me big time in 2014. After retiring completely in 2010, my income was halved. In 2014, I had gone through all my reserves, money that I had set aside for retirement travel, etc. We didn’t travel, but our standard of living continued as before until 2014. This past year, we have had to account for every penny — literally. So far, thanks be to God, we have eaten well and our bills have been paid. I haven’t lived like this since I got my first apartment in 1973.
 
Our daughter, Sarah, has been through hell, and we have been there supporting her. Family difficulties, tetanus, money problems. . . all these have made the year a horrible one for her and a struggle for us as we try always to help.
 
I had a third bout with pancreatitis. This one was the least severe of the three, but it reminded me that I am getting old and that my gallbladder–less body needs a lot more TLC than I give it. My pancreatitis comes not from alcohol (I don’t drink) but from a love of rich food, especially desserts, that my body can’t handle since my gallbladder was removed in 1997.
 
The great parts of 2014:
 
Beni and I marked 39 years of being together, having met on Christmas Eve, 1975. Our life together has been a huge adventure with lots of sturm und drang, but now we seem to have grown into a friendship that sustains each of us but no longer has the drama that once took so much energy.
 
We all grew to love out pets even more than before. Three dogs and one cat, with three grand puppies here most of the time, make our lives much more human, loving, and enjoyable. I can’t express the sense of peace and contentment I feel when we sit down at night and all the puppies are in their places with us.
 
Other than pancreatitis, which lasted about a week, my health was fine. . . no thanks to my neglect of my body.
 
I continued to participate in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at the parish in Winchester, Virginia. Twice a week I am there — just Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and I — for the hour between 2 am and 3 am. These two hours of prayer, meditation, and silence have changed my life. Thank you, Lord, for giving such a great gift to me.
 
Beni Marie, our youngest daughter, continues to live here with us. She takes care of the house, cooks for us, cooks dog food (really!!! None of the "store–bought" stuff for our pups!!!), feeds the pups, and still has time to pursue her career in phlebotomy. She is a very sweet, caring woman who makes Ben’s life and mine much easier, healthier, and full of joy.
 
I pray more than last year. The older I get, the more I seem to want to be in God’s presence. Maybe its nature’s way of getting me ready for the next step.
 
So. . . No money, but still the most contented I have ever been.
 
I am grateful. Truly grateful.

If Teachers Were Paid Like Football Players

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-education-crazy-south-korea-top-teachers-become-multimillionaires/2014/12/29/1bf7e7ae-849b-11e4-abcf-5a3d7b3b20b8_story.html


When I was a senior in high school, I won a New York State Regents’ award for achievement in a State-wide Latin contest.  I did so well because I loved Latin. I still do.
 
Why did/do I love Latin? Because I had teachers who excited me about Latin and who taught me well. They loved Latin, too, and they showed their love in their excellent teaching.
 
All my Latin teachers — in the 7 years of Latin I had — were Franciscan priests. Back then, all Catholic liturgies and our Franciscan house prayers were in Latin, but not every priest was good at it. And not every priest, regardless of the subject taught was a good teacher, although most of the priests who taught me anything were really good teachers.
 
The point of this reminiscence is that good teachers make a huge difference in the accomplishments of their students.
 
The article linked above, from this morning’s Washington Post, talks about teachers in South Korea, specifically, the salaries of good teachers. One teacher of math earns $8,000,000 a year. That’s 8 million U.S. dollars!!! A year!!!
 
Some professional athletes, specifically football and baseball players, earn that much and more a year, while teachers are lucky if they break $100,000 a year. My daughter, who teaches students with autism and other emotional/learning conditions, earns less than $50K a year and she has a Master’s degree in special ed. Her salary is probably above the median in Virginia where she teaches.
 
What is wrong here?
 
The Washington Post article says, "It’ hard to exaggerate the premium South Korea places on education." That’s obvious from the salaries teachers there earn. A similar article about the U.S.A. would have to say, "It’s hard to exaggerate the premium the United States places on professional sports."
 
Why are we willing to pay millions to sports players and pittances to teachers? Why do plumbers make more than teachers? Why, for that matter, do most people make more than child–care providers? Our social priorities are obvious, and, to me, they stink to high Heaven.
 
If teachers had the potential to earn millions, I’m pretty sure, given the depth of talent in our country, that we would soon have the best–educated population in the world. I have no doubt of that.
 
With a well–educated populace in the inner cities and rural peripheries as well as in the suburbs, I doubt that we would have many elections like the last one in which people vote against their own self–interest because of insecurities based on misinformation and prejudice about race, sexual orientation, and immigration. An educated electorate sees bullshit for what it is.
 
Maybe that’s why teachers earn less than almost any other professional group. As with immigration, Republicans don’t want an educated electorate because they don’t want another group that they fear.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

For the USA: Pride Goeth Before the Fall

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/after-senates-report-on-cia-interrogation-tactics-its-time-to-see-who-we-really-are/2014/12/10/6114e89c-809e-11e4-81fd-8c4814dfa9d7_story.html

Some days, it doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Like today. Having read this morning’s paper, along with the paper every day this week, I’m sick at heart.
I don’t write or comment about politics anymore. The reasons: (1) it’s useless – nothing is changed, neither reality nor minds; and (2) thinking about the USA and its government makes me very angry and ruins the equanimity with which I want to live out the rest of my life.
But I still read the Washington Post every morning and I still care very much about what’s happening to us.
This morning, this essay appeared in The Post. It’s by Philip Kennicott, a writer who usually reviews arts and architecture and who occasionally writes personal opinion pieces that are printed in The Post’s Style section.
This essay says so much of what I have been thinking lately. It addresses the revelations from this week’s Senate report on the CIA interrogation crimes. But, to me, it also addresses a much larger issue: the evolution of our government and country from a place where freedom, tolerance, and openness are held as ideals (though ideals never yet totally fulfilled) to a place where the values of the Spanish Inquisition, the Soviet paranoid mind set, the rage of ISIS, and the totally baseless self–love of the narcissist reign.
I have come to believe in the philosophy of "exceptionalism," but not the exceptionalism that is based on Ronald Reagan’s oratorical emptiness. I believe that the USA has become exceptionally immoral, cruel, full of hate, full of fear, and – I hate to use this word – stupid.
We gleefully abused and tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
We committed unconscionable cruelties against people being interrogated by the CIA.
We close our borders to people–CHILDREN–in great need because the Republicans don’t want to give citizenship to people they believe will become Democrats, denying the immigrants the safety on which their lives may depend, and denying all of us the richness of their talents, culture, and enthusiasm.
We idolize and promote ignorance in our public life, in our schools, in our churches, in our entertainment, and in our own acceptance of absolutely unacceptable know-nothingness.
We reduce benefits to infants and children in need, making it harder for the poor among us to raise healthy and integrated people.
We allow our political masters to make decisions based on absolutely false theology, and we sit still as Republicans bring us closer and closer to a new and infinitely more destructive "Christian" war on Islam.
We force women to jump through hoops to prevent or end unwanted pregnancies yet do NOTHING to assure the quality of life of the mother and child once the baby is born.
We sit still while poor, uniformed, and uneducated people elect philosophical monsters who act against the interests of these same poor supporters.
I could go on, but I won’t.
I wish, really, that I hadn’t started.
Scripture tells us that pride precedes (and contributes to) decline. As I pray every day for the USA, I’m beginning to understand that, maybe, God’s only recourse is to let people in the USA go down the path of prideful self–destruction so that, at its end, we all can see that we are as flawed as any other people, that we are NOT exceptional in the history of the world, and that the charism of the USA was and is its openness and love of freedom.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?


I am a product of the 1960's. That decade was for me the period of greatest growth and greatest learning. What happened then forms me still, each day, as I struggle to understand what the hell is going on in our world.
Two deaths this past week have knocked me for a loop: Marion Barry, former Mayor of DC, died yesterday; Mike Nichols, former comedian and great stage and film director, died last Wednesday.
As a white boy growing up in Alexandria, Virginia, right outside DC, Marion Barry, in his dashiki, mesmerized me with his demands for equality for African Americans. He was one of the people who made me understand what African Americans had endured in the history of the U.S.A., and who made me think about justice, equality, and what it means to be a human being. I owe Mr. Barry a lot.
As a young gay boy in the late 50's and early 60's, I was entranced by the comedy sketches of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. They spoke to me of New York, sophistication, and a life beyond the life I endured with a tyrant of a father. I had an album of their routines and I listened to it constantly. When I was a Franciscan novice, it was the tradition of the house for the novices to present a skit in honor of the Novice Master on the Master’s feast day. Our Master was Fr. Theophane Larkin. The Feast of St. Theophane Venard is February 2. So, on February 2, 1967, a fellow novice and I replicated, from my memory of it, a Nichols and May skit about a woman who has a meeting with an undertaker to arrange for her dead husband’s funeral. I can’t remember anything more about the content of the skit, but I do remember the hearty and fairly constant laughter my brother and I got from the performance. Afterward, Father Master told us how much he had enjoyed the skit, but said he felt a little strange having a skit about an undertaker performed in his honor. I’ve never again been so great a fan of any performer that I would be able to replicate from memory a 10–minute piece of performance art. Mike Nichols grabbed me again, later in 1967, when I saw The Graduate, a film that, in its way, defined life for people like me who were just hitting 20 and starting life.
All the people who meant so much to me in the 60's are dying. . . one by one. For me, there have been no icons in the years since who can replace the ones that made the 1960's such a great time to be alive. Who in DC today has the wit and grace and moxie of Everett McKinley Dirkson, the great Senator from Illinois and leader of the Senate Republicans, who, with President Lyndon B. Johnson, got so much done in the realm of civil rights in such a short period of time. Senator Dirkson and President Johnson knew that politics and compromise are arts, not obscenities. Who in the government today has similar compassion, wisdom, and vision to change us into something better than we have been? Where have all the flowers gone?
I thank God for being born when I was born and having had the experience of that time and those places. I am today a much more vocal proponent of the values that the Church and society gave me back then, but the values and the understanding of life that produced those values were given to me in the 1960's by my Franciscan brothers, and by people like Marion Barry and Mike Nichols. Thank God for their lives and their contributions to so many other lives.
Some other of my personal icons from that time who have died this year:
Ben Bradlee, Editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate years
Lauren Bacall
James Garner (an early crush from his time on Maverick)
Maya Angelou
Elaine Stritch
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., from the TV show 77 Sunset Strip
Mickey Rooney
Maria von Trapp
Sid Caesar (Your Show of Shows)
Pete Seeger
May their souls rest in peace. All of them, in my book, were great. All of them are a part of my life forever.

Monday, February 3, 2014

What God Hath Joined Together





I wrote this last week. I didn’t post it because I thought it might offend some people who have time to waste and waste it on what I write here (see my post on being "Wishy–Washy"). I have edited it to remove most of what I wrote about my Mom because some people might construe what I wrote about her as denigrating, and I would never want to be seen as posting anything negative about her. So, here it is, almost all of it.

Fundamentalist Christians, especially including fundamentalist Catholics like Ratzinger and JP2, almost ruined my life. They did it by referring over and over again to homosexuality as, among other things, an "intrinsically disordered" state and an "abomination." I love my Catholic faith. I have loved it at least since I was 3 years old. It has given me most of what is best in my life. Its challenges, ideals, heroes, art, music, and traditions are the things that have enriched, elevated, and given sense to my life. I almost threw all that good stuff away because of these so–called believers in Jesus who not only condemn the sin but enjoy condemning the sinner. I do not accept the interpretation of Sacred Scripture that tells me who I am is God’s mistake. I do not accept the Christians who believe they can say horrible things publicly about gay people without consequence. I do not believe that having to respect gay people is being "politically correct." I do not accept that any believer in Jesus Christ has the right, under the rubric of "religious freedom," to condemn me or any other LGBT person.

The same people who despise me see nothing wrong with full acceptance of divorce among Christian couples or the acceptance of those Christians who are divorced. This acceptance is given in direct disobedience to a very specific teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19/1–8:

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

"Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

Jesus never spoke about gay people or gay sex. Never. He did, however, very clearly speak about the morality of divorce. Most Christian Churches, including most fundamentalist sects, accept the fact of divorce and welcome divorced people into their fellowship, even allowing divorced people (mostly divorced men) to be ordained.

So here I am, having absorbed the hatred of me and my sexuality, angry at that hatred, believing that Sacred Scripture simply does not address the modern understanding of gay people and gay sexuality, having to put up with this basic moral inconsistency, in some cases hypocrisy, from people who believe that Scripture condemns gay people and gay sex.

I raised this inconsistency of acceptance a few years back with a good friend of mine who was a fundamentalist Baptist (unerring truth of every word of Scripture, creationism, total lack of acceptance of gay sexuality). He also was divorced and remarried. His answer was to give me a copy of a book popular, apparently, among divorced fundamentalists, Hard Sayings of Jesus by F. F. Bruce (IVP Academic, 1983). I would love to be able to write a new chapter for that book about Jesus’s hard words about homosexuality. The problem, of course, is that Jesus didn’t have any hard words for gay people or gay sex; he had no words of any kind on those issues.

I believe in divorce. My parents never divorced through 35 years of misery that harmed all four of us in our family. My mother, God rest her, thought about it constantly but was steered away from the idea by priests whom she consulted, by the belief of her family, and by economic concerns. She, my brother, and I would have been better off had she divorced my father early in their marriage.  My father would have been miserable either way—he was miserable in his marriage and he would have been miserable divorced—so I don’t include him in my "what–if" equation.

I am thankful to God that God has allowed me to keep my faith. My prayer always is that the harsh people who believe in God and God’s Son will admit to the fallibility of their understanding and belief and end their persecution of LGBT people, especially young LGBT people.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Wishy-Washy










I’m of two minds. . . often. You would think that, at my age, I’d know what I want to do, what I want to say. Not so. I am now, and I always have been, wishy-washy.

Twice in the past week I have written pieces to use in a forum and, after an hour or so, deleted them. One was about divorce (not mine), the other about abortion (again, not mine or ours).

In both cases, I wanted to write about intense feelings that I have, or have had, about these things. The pieces I wrote were honest and revealing. The “honest and revealing” part is just why I deleted them. Although my family and friends don’t know about the forum in which they would have appeared (so that I can be “honest and revealing”), one never knows what Google will do, does one?

One of my many faults: I want to please everyone at the same time, all the time. I’ve met other gay men with this same trait, and all of us have had a rough time in life because of it. When I was in school (seminary), I lived 24/7 with my Franciscan brothers. We all got to know one another really well over the period of ten years when we were together. My brothers told me hundreds of times that I was “wishy-washy.” What they saw that prompted this characterization is the same trait that made me delete these two essays. I can’t make up my mind because I can’t figure out how to do something without – possibly – offending someone who is important to me. My brothers also characterized me as “nice,” by the way. This characterization was another result of the same please-everybody obsession that caused “wishy-washy.” I have come to detest the adjective “nice” when it is applied to me, possibly because I know it is the result of a trait that isn’t helpful to me.

Enough of this.

Pax et bonum.

Ed

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jesus and the Torah Teach Us About Immigration


Jesus said, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For. . .  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in. . .”  (Matt 25/41 & 43)

The Torah says:  “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.  When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.”   (Deut 24/17–22)

People are debating about our immigration policy.  Many of the most vocal voices are those of U.S. Christians who believe that “illegal immigrants” should be rounded up and deported.  No human being is illegal to the God of Christianity.  More specifically, the stranger, the foreigner, is someone God, in both Covenants, commands us to treat with justice and generosity.  My prayer for the conversion of those Christians whose desired treatment of the foreigner, the stranger, is based on racial discrimination, fear, and ignorance:  Lord, replace their stony hearts with hearts of flesh. ”I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  (Ezek 36/26

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Saturday, 1-4-2014: Dogs

This is my Border Collie, Angus.  He was 2 years old on 12-17-2013 (he shares a birthday with Pope Francis!).  We call him Gus.


Gus & I, December, 2013
He is a smart dog. . .  one way to tell that he is smart is the look on his face in this photo.  He is not happy with the hat!  He's also beautiful.  Hardly a walk through town goes by when someone doesn't tell us how beautiful/handsome he is.  Most of all, he's a great friend and companion.  My favorite memory - so far - of Gus is a time a few weeks after my Mom died.  I was sitting outside on some steps.  I wasn't crying or making any noise, but I was grieving.  Gus came over, sat next to me as close as he could get, and stayed with me for about 30 minutes.  Just sitting there.  Just the two of us.  Friends.


We have another Border Collie, Lucky (pictured above with our daughter, Becky), who has been with us for 4 or 5 years.  Our daughter, Sarah, found Lucky wandering the streets here in town in the middle of a snow/sleet/freezing rain storm.  Sarah put Lucky in her car, brought he to her house, and tried to find the owner.  When no one claimed her, Lucky became Sarah's.  Lucky developed the habit of escaping from Sarah's yard and making her way to our house, about half a mile away.  After escaping like that for several months, Sarah and her husband decided that Lucky wanted to live with us, and she has ever since. She is smart and she is very affectionate.  She licks (something Gus never does) as a way of showing us how much she likes us.  When Beni was down with chemotherapy for her breast cancer, Lucky stayed with her in bed 24/7 throughout the four months the chemo lasted.  She didn't leave Beni until Beni was back to normal.
 
 
Our third pup is Baxter (the black lab/pointer mix in the photo above).  He really belongs to our daughter, Beni, but he's been here with us for about nine months.  Baxter is beautiful!  He's also one of the sweetest-natured animals I have ever known.  He was mistreated as a puppy and abandoned.  Our daughter found him fostered by a rescue group.  When he first came to stay with us, he wanted constant reassurance that we loved him.  He spent all his waking life pushing himself into our bodies.  He would cry a hard-rending cry whenever we left him in the house with only the other dogs..  Now he is much more secure and at peace, although he still will demand affection whenever he feels he needs it.


This little guy is Summer.  He is one of eight pups in a litter of Border Collies.  He's now four weeks old.  My daughter, Sarah, discovered this litter and asked me which one I liked best.  Sarah would love to have a third dog.  She has an older Australian Sheep Dog and a 2-year-old Border Collie.  She'd like another Border Collie.  We'll see. . .  If it were me, and I was looking for a Border Collie, this little guy would be mine!!!

We all love dogs here.  They enrich our lives and teach us how to be better humans.
 
Here is my video blog for the day.  It's about God, and it rambles, so watch it at your own risk.


Love,

Ed

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday, 1-3-2014: Being a Geezer By God


The second day of this daily blog.  Will I persevere?  Who knows?
 
It's cold today.  The photo above was taken this morning (not by me!) on the Appalachian Trail near here.  It's beautiful, but, with wind chill factored in, it was 5 degrees at 1:15 this afternoon.  Brrrr!
 
I have posted a video blog for today on YouTube:
 
 
 
If you watch it, you'll see that I ramble.  I talk about retirement, lack of stress, being old, and so on.  What is most important to me among all those words is the delight I feel as I approach my 67th birthday.  I like being a geezer!!!  I like the lack of expectation that I have for myself, and that others have for me.
 
Most of all, I am thankful to God that God has given me this much life.  I am thankful also that God has been my mainstay throughout my life, from the time I was 3 years old and begging my mother to take me to (High) Mass on Sunday.
 
I had a very difficult time with God during the past 20 or so years since I came out as a gay man.  Very, very difficult!  I was angry with God, angry with life. . .  angry.  In the past 2 years, that has changed.  My mother's death in August, 2012, and the three months before that when I took care of her, were major factors in my "forgiving" God.  Going through Mom's dying and death with her was a huge blessing.  She and I talked about death just about every day.  We also talked about life. . .  her life and mine.  All that talking, combined with the experience of her acceptance of her dying and death, changed me.  It gave me perspective and a knowledge that I am loved, by my family and by God.  My return to a vibrant, positive relationship with God is a gift from God given to me through my mother.  It has changed me to my core.  Just ask my wife or any of my kids.  I am not the same person I was even a year ago.  One daughter said to me at Christmas:  "You are so happy now!  What happened?"  I tried to explain, but I doubt that I succeeded.
 
If you are interested - and I cannot imagine for a second that anyone but I would be interested - in how much I have changed, look at some of the posts on this blog from years past.  It's impossible for me to write anything like that kind of stuff today.  I have changed.
 
It's good to be old.  It's good to let myself be open to change.  It's good. . .  period!
 
Love!
 
Ed

Thursday, January 2, 2014

First Daily Blog: Thursday, 1/2/2104


Peter Monn writes a blog to which I subscribe.  One of his New Year's resolutions is to post video and written blog entries every day in 2014.  He's invited (challenged???) his blog readers to do the same.  I accepted his invitation/challenge.  At least for now. . .

If you'd like to get to know Peter, his written blog for today is at http://peterisms.com/2014/01/02/blogging-and-video-diary-every-day-in-2014-join-me/#more-295.

I've put my brief YouTube entry for today above.

Today:

1.  It's snowing much more than the forecasters predicted.

2.  I'm out of cigarettes.

3.  In going to get cigarettes in Virginia (where they are much cheaper), I had a flat tire.

The New Year is off to a great start!

I saw American Hustler last night.  I didn't like it.  It was a movie with hyperactivity disorder.

Our next-door neighbors, whose sex life was on view through their uncurtained/unshaded windows, have finally come to their senses and put up things that cover the windows.  I'm not sure if I'm happy about this (the Victorian in me) or unhappy (the voyeur in me).  But, as my brother always says, it is what it is.  It was interesting, I'll say that much, when we could see inside.  It was the first time in my life I ever saw humans fucking in real life!

Until tomorrow, dear reader, love and happy 2014!