Yesterday, a “friend” posted a picture on Facebook of our American flag in all its glory.  Superimposed over it were the words, “Liberals Say Muslims are Offended by the American Flag. Post if You Don’t Give a Damn.”  Scrolling through the numerous posts, it showed showed up on my feed and I became angry.

Why?

  • It was a lie and I don’t like lies. Neither Muslims nor Liberals say what the post declared, at least not the majority.
  • Falsehoods are exhausting and draining.
  • It was a generalization rooted in ignorance and Islamophobia.
  • It was purposefully designed to incite hatred and division.
  • It was posted by a Christian who claims to love Jesus, who reads the Bible, and who attends church a few times a week, the same church I used to attend.

If this person hadn’t claimed to be a Christian and love Jesus, I maybe would have granted her some latitude, chocked it up to political enmity, and scrolled past irritated by the ignorance but realizing it wasn’t worth the effort it required to subdue the hostility it provoked. I would have felt that way, but for the fact she is a Christian and there’s a standard us Christians need to hold dear and maintain its sanctity. That standard is Jesus Christ.

I love Jesus. I don’t know how to say this more clearly other than by trying to follow his example. Do I fail? Yes, many times miserably.  Although I love Jesus, I can’t tolerate what has become of the fundamentalist church any longer. I’m embarrassed by their lack of desire for the real truth and their complacency regarding the overabundance of lies delivered daily by the president, lies that can be easily investigated and confirmed with a only a minimal amount of work. No one is asking them to write a novel, just fact check. They’ve become so blindly partisan that they’ve lost the real Jesus and created something in the image of their own party, a Jesus who conforms to party lines instead of the Word of God, a sick bastardization of something beautiful.

And I’m tired of letting them get away with it.

For instance, take the above-mentioned meme. When I confronted her about it, she stated she didn’t mean all Muslims are like that and attempted to clarify it by saying “just like pit bulls” (@!#$%^&*(!!) there are “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims”.  Still she lied. The post didn’t bear witness to Truth. And in the name of reverence and respect for the Truth, she could have deleted the post. But she didn’t.

She doesn’t even know a single Muslim.

I have three Muslim friends who legally immigrated to this country because they love what America’s ideals were. They’re educated, they work hard, they pay taxes and they don’t try to shove Allah down anyone’s throats. They are not here to collect welfare, shoot up classrooms, or sell drugs. They are not here because of some diabolical plan to overthrow the government and institute Sharia Law. They love America and adore our flag and what it represents. Still, they have been continually harassed when I can assure you that they bleed like us and they cry like us. And yes, they are kinder in practice than many Christians I know and more forgiving.

What does the Word of God say? It says, “For God so loved the WORLD…” God doesn’t just love America, like some apparently think. Muslims are our brothers too and unless we see that and honor the blessed fact that Jesus died for them as well, we’ll remain ignorant and in darkness and suffer the consequences of that ignorance. We’re beginning to witness this now. How can we lead people to salvation at the same time we’re condemning and whole group because of the violence of a few? It just doesn’t work. What leads us to repentance and salvation? God’s KINDNESS (Romans 2:4).

Where is the forgiveness?

Where is God’s love?

So, my Muslim friends, Jesus loves you. And we’re sorry we don’t show it.

Please, forgive us.

 


My sister has it now, erasing her mind like the sea’s winds gradually eroding the dunes on Cape Cod where we played as kids. It still feels recent and raw, as if it were just last week that our father succumbed to Alzheimer’s, but not before it left his towering 6’4” frame unable to carry itself around or recognize itself in a mirror. That was twenty-fours years ago.

Now, it revisits, fully adorned in heartache and grief, this time holding my sister hostage to things she can’t remember and places she’ll never go. It’s his legacy to her, and it’s probably been lurking there since birth, coiled within her DNA like a viper ready to strike. Biding its malevolent time. Waiting.

3,000 miles separated my sister and me, and about 20 years. We bridged the gap in ages and miles with telephone calls and visits underwritten with charge cards. We shared a love of music, art, and family. Most importantly, we shared the same sense of humor that inevitably yielded to spasms of non-stop-belly-hurting laughter. But this Alzheimer’s thing doesn’t tickle any funny bones. There is no uproarious laughter echoing down the hallway, anymore.

A few months ago, I flew into Austin to visit her. The sight of my rental car prompted her to ask, “How was the ride from Massachusetts?” Explaining the car was a rental, that I didn’t drive there but flew, she remained in her thoughts for a time and appeared somewhat disturbed.

Then where’s your plane, she didn’t ask, although I still heard it.

Ten minutes later the same question emerged. This time, in the hope of easing her struggles to recall, I met her mind on its own terms and replied, “It was a lovely two-day drive”. She became animated, excited I drove such a distance just to visit.

Our week together was a continuation of such things and it was my job and my pleasure to answer in ways that roused happiness within her, even if it wasn’t true.  Her children say some days are worse than others. She cooks breakfast. She visits them. They visit her and take her to doctor’s appointments. She goes to church. She still remembers Jesus.

But for how long?

There is some progress in halting this disease in its miserable tracks. Researchers are experimenting with mice by creating colonies of amyloid plaques in their little brains. Then gradually depleting an enzyme called BACE1[1], their plaques disintegrate like cotton candy on your tongue in August. I like mice. But since animal studies can be poor predictors of success in humans, and it takes years for drugs to be developed then approved for human use, it’s not going to help my sister remember her granddaughter’s birthday next week or that granddaughter’s name.

How long will it take to get from mice to men?

Then there’s coffee. Yes, coffee. One study says you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by a whopping 65% and delay its onset if you drink 3-5 cups of coffee each day[2]. My father was a big coffee drinker. His days began and ended with coffee. Straight up black coffee. He was not concerned if it had been sitting in the pot for hours and had the viscosity of motor oil before he reheated it and put it to his mouth, relishing every sip. But it didn’t help him. The Alzheimer’s prevailed.

There’s “The Mind Diet”[3] touted by the Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation[4] as capable of reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s by half.  It encourages feasting on 10 brain-healthy foods in varying amounts each day, beginning with leafy greens. So, maybe it’s possible we’ll soon be able to eat our way out of Alzheimer’s, like a mouse devouring cheese in a trap before the spring mechanism triggers the metal bar to drop upon its neck.

Still, there aren’t enough leafy greens or mice in the world to save my sister’s mind from its inevitable descent into oblivion. Not today. I’ve watched this denouement of self before. I had a front row seat with our father and it’s a performance I’m not looking forward to attending a second time. The long, measured, daily goodbye to who they thought they were and all I love within them, is brutal.

Yet, amidst the discoveries and the promises of more, never is it made more clear that we are our memories. There is not a single human interaction or relationship that is not initiated and sustained without a memory. Not one.

We are each sunrise we recollect and each dream we recall and evoke. We are a lifetime of remembered ordinary things like daily showers, dirty laundry, grocery store meanderings, and to-do lists, merging in time.

And we are the love we remember to give.

 

References

Xiangyou Hu, Brati Das, Hailong Hou, Wanxia He, Riqiang Yan. BACE1 deletion in the adult mouse reverses preformed amyloid deposition and improves cognitive functionsThe Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2018; jem.20171831 DOI: 1084/jem.20171831

[2]Eskelinen MH, Kivipelto M. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S167-74. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-1404.

[3] Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Sep;11(9):1007-14. Link

[4] The Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation: https://ad.foundation/the-mind-diet/


Today, I woke up from a nap with a specific sentence of dialogue on my mind.  Eyelids half-operational, I grabbed my Jack-Pack from my purse and wrote the words down. (For those of you who do not know what a Jack-Pack is, I will explain: a Jack-Pack is a little note book given to me by a dear friend, whose late husband was also a writer and therefore, like most serious writers, kept a notebook with him wherever he went to record snippets of conversations and ideas. His name was Jack. I will forever call my little notebook a Jack-Pack in memory of him.) I wasn’t writing at the time these words emerged from my unconscious, compelling me to wake. I was asleep. But I was still practicing my craft. I was still writing, however unaware of the process.

Yesterday, I spent three hours of my ‘writing’ investigating the labyrinth of writing markets online, taking notes on them and organizing those notes. To an outsider, I may have looked as if I was unproductively surfing the net, killing time. I wasn’t. I downloaded and copied submission guidelines and filed them as I made notes. This led to a few more hours of editing some finished pieces to suit specific markets, then a few hours more hours of submitting those pieces with even more time spent on recording those submissions.  I exhausted almost a whole day not actually writing even one new word. But I was still ‘writing’. For me, writing without submitting at some point, is like cooking a meal with no one to consume it.

And then there’s reading which is ‘writing’; reading anything I can get my hands on, reading books I don’t like so I know why I don’t like them and do not repeat the same errors, reading books I do enjoy that give me pleasure, reading books that inspire me out of my literary comfort zone. I read as a reader and then read as a writer evaluating the craft and style another writer. It is all an essential part of ‘writing’ although pen may never meet paper or fingers touch a computer key.

There are times when I stare into space, simply thinking, until I get a word just right or an idea is clarified into coherence. I may look catatonic, but I’m not. I am still ‘writing’.

Posting Hiatus

May 3, 2012


I am currently taking a hiatus from writing for my blog while I complete a novel that has tugging at my soul for ages. I have found the pressure to post largely distracting during this time and therefore wanted to drop a note to define my absence. Will post some poetry and quotes as the spirit moves. Love to all……

God’s Pew

March 10, 2012


I’m not sure in which pew God sits in church, but I’ve experienced the sovereignty of His presence while sitting under a tree, cloistered within the woods. I’ve heard his rapturous voice within a piece of music and seen his written word upon the page. He is in the face of a stranger, a child, or the hug of a friend just as much as he is the artist’s palette and hands.

Church or fellowship has its place as well, at least for me. Sometimes when the world gets to me, when I can feel the internal tentacles of resentment or anger begin to intrude upon and poison my sense of peace, that one-hour of music and praise within those four walls called ‘church’, becomes a mighty antidote. That being said, I was in church a few months back, dealing with myself there in the pew: sitting, listening, wondering, praying, digging at my darkness; hoping to loosen the topsoil so the seeds of gratitude could more easily take root. I was having little success.

A bit of winter lingered in the air and so most of the people seated there still had their coats on.  I looked about the room as the music played and saw a young man seated in the back, wearing only a heavy sweater. He was new to the church and the tattoos that encircled his neck like murals were clearly visible from where I sat.  More tattoos were emblazoned upon the backs of his hands and a small ring punctured his left nostril. He looked like ‘trouble’. This is where I say I had an immediate attraction to him, not for this reason, but because he was an anomaly here. And I am attracted to anomalies, the fringe dwellers, the thoughtlessly marginalized.

I don’t remember what the sermon was. I was too involved with my own internal processes to give note, now. I do remember scribbling some scriptures upon the program to research later. Then it was time for the inevitable offering; for the missionaries, for the pastor’s salaries, for the heat that was keeping us all semi-warmed. I opened my wallet, took out the bills and curled them within my hand as we prayed that the money would be put to good use and multiplied. I wished I had more to give. I always wish this, not as much for myself but to have more in order to give more here and everywhere. I want to be able to bestow. It’s a dream of mine.

Now, we don’t pass the collection plate up and down each aisle as most churches do; instead, everyone walks up to the front of the church and places whatever they have into the baskets. Then we hug and chat and say things to each other like “Good to see you!” as we meander back to our seats. Just as I sat down, my tattooed anomaly of a man arose from his seat and approached the front of the church.  Standing with his back to the congregation, he began to pull his sweater up and over his head, the T-shirt underneath also rising with his sweater and revealing bare skin. The room went silent. I thought, ‘Oh No! He’s stripping naked right in front of everyone!” Then I thought, “Oh no, he has a gun buried under his sweater and now that he is in the front of the room, he is going to turn around and shoot us all, just like at Columbine!” Then I thought I should leave my seat and try to get away as soon as possible. Then I thought, maybe I should stay right where I was and hide under the pews while I called the police, my voiced hushed and trembling. Maybe I should call my children to say my last goodbye’s. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

The room was uncomfortably silent; watching, waiting. After he removed his sweater, he pulled his T-shirt back down over his exposed skin and then placed his sweater in the offering basket. There were gasps in the congregation, gasps of surprise and astonished reverence. He had no money to give, only this. And so this is what he gave. Then he walked back to his seat amid the humbled silences. Awed by his act and just as relieved, I stood up and clapped for him. Shortly, the others joined in with me.

He left before the service was over, before I could thank him for this lesson in humility. Just when you don’t think you have enough to give, someone else literally gives the shirt off their back. He was a living demonstration of this overly used cliche.

And now, because of him,  I think I know the pew where God sits. And those seeds of gratitude began to grow and peek their heads through the darkened soil.

Infiltrating the Casino

February 22, 2012


Some take trips to Aruba, dye their hair, find other employment or try a new diet in order to integrate some change into their lives and deviate even in some small way from the mundane grooves they carve into their existence.  I don’t mind change in the least but four simple truths regarding it, persist in my life: Aruba is expensive, I like my job, my hair is staying its three shades of mousy brown mixed with gray, and diets stench of self-sacrifice and deprivation. There was only one thing left to provide the change for which my soul was lamenting: take the bus to Foxwoods Casino for $27.00. The bus leaves at 7:15 a.m. to begin the two and a half hour journey to its destination. And I would be on it. Change, here I come!

Smiling, I handed the bus driver two twenty-dollar bills to insure my seat. It was then that she impatiently enlightened me with a, “Correct change only…” I needed a ten-dollar bill, one five-dollar bill and two one-dollar bills or Foxwoods would seem as far away to me as Aruba.  I’ve pulled some fairly large rabbits out of some pretty small hats in my life, but this one had me stumped. None of this was mentioned in the advertisement. Maintaining my composure, I said nothing about their error of omission. Then, just as I was about to lose my composure by wrapping my disenchanted, trembling hands around her pretty-little-bus-driver-neck; she took my forty dollars, wrote down my name on a piece of paper she pulled from her shirt pocket and promised to get me my thirteen dollars change before we disembarked. This was good news. I breathed a sigh of relief, then sat down in the empty front seat to avoid that intimidating voyage down the aisle. This was my second mistake.  A handful of voices shrieked in unison, “You can’t sit there! That’s a handicapped seat! That’s why no one is sitting there!” There was no sign that said ‘Handicapped’, no symbol, no piece of paper plopped into the seat reserving it for anyone other than able-bodied me. I contritely mumbled my sorrys and headed toward the back of the bus where no one could find me, where I was close to the toilet, where the chances of me causing more trouble were greatly diminished. In my mind, I had planned a happy little bus trip, a soirée of sorts on wheels. Instead, I buried myself within a book and held it up to my face like a shield to deflect further msunderstandings. It occurred to me that I could have stayed home and dyed my hair green. And blue. And purple…

Once you arrive at the casino, this twenty-seven dollar bus ticket also buys you a ten-dollar all-you can-eat buffet and fifteen dollars worth of free slot play; in other words, the bus ride itself only cost two-dollars. What right did I have to complain, even in the face of such obvious rejection? A two-dollar bus ride is a two-dollar bus ride.  By now, I felt as if I was infiltrating a secret society where I didn’t know the rules. This is where Franco rescues me, begins to reveal the rules and even shows me where to go to turn my bus ticket into a buffet pass and free slot play. Unfortunately, this required a 30-minute wait in line talking to Franco who either didn’t know much English or who may have had a minor stroke that distorted his speech. I couldn’t tell which and was too embarrassed for him to ask.  I simply kept nodding my head and smiled as if I understood every muddled word that issued from his lips.  What I did understand was that he was a very nice man, whether I could decipher his speech or not. Things were looking up. I got my Wampum Card (yes, I said ‘wampum’) and amid stories of how much money was won by whom and when, Franco and I parted ways; me to the cashier and he to the slots. His parting garbled words to me were, “Be back bus by 4:4…”. I missed the last digit.

I headed to the Cashier window where I would get my pin number to activate my Wampum Card to get my free slot plays.  The lines were less long there but only one of the two cashiers appeared to be moving the line along. The other cashier was counting pennies…singularly…by hand. Two women were standing outside the cashier’s cage, holding two more large shopping bags full of pennies still waiting to be counted. At that rate, it would be hours before they were out on the floor, losing every penny counted to the slick ca-ching of the slot machines. The way I perceived it was the longer they stood in line, the less money they were losing. Good for them!

Foxwoods Casino and most of the casinos on the East Coast are owned by Indian Tribes. An Indian may have sold Manhattan for only $25.00. And us white folk may have done that race some dirty deeds in the past, but from the sounds of the slot machines and the number of people there releasing money from their wallets like confetti into the air, they are quickly redeeming themselves and even surpassing us, chip by chip. Good for them, too! I am happy to say that I, along with all the others on the bus, contributed to the tribal trust. I lost what little money I brought. There goes my new bathroom curtain.

One woman on the bus did win $600. She glowed telling her story, her face lit like a newly birthed universe. Maybe it’s hope that keeps them putting money in while fervently pushing buttons; hope for something more. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush that turbo charges that hope. Maybe it’s a little of both. While sitting on the bus ride home, this Emily Dickinson poem perched itself in my mind and wouldn’t be released:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me

Hope may not ask a crumb of us Ms. Dickinson, but it may, at times, require us to infiltrate a casino.

Proust and Sushi

February 2, 2012


I’ve been reading a book titled, Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence by George Michelson Foy. The title appealed to the esoteric in me, so I bought it. In the book, Mr. Foy travels the world measuring the decibels of various environments with his Kawa meter; from his kitchen at midnight to an anechoic chamber that the Guinness Book of World Records dubbed the ‘quietest place on Earth’. It is as much a spiritual investigation into the nature and effects of sound and silence, as a scientific one.  It’s also a thought provoking read and a commendable piece of journalism.

One of the places he ‘measured’ for decibels was Marcel Proust’s bedroom at Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. Apparently Proust didn’t like noise any more than I do, and so he lined his bedroom, where he wrote propped up upon pillows in his bed, with corkboard to insulate himself from the clamor of the busy Paris streets below.  This is where Mr. Foy stole my heart. He actually disclosed, in copyrighted words, for all to see, the fact that he never had the patience to finish a Proust novel.  I breathed a sigh of relief because neither have I, although I’ve tried numerous times. Foy’s reasons for his impatience with Proust were because of the, “pages and pages of details about who was wearing what as she met so-and-so who thought himself superior to the next person with such and such a title.” I couldn’t have said it better myself other than to maybe add that reading Proust feels like listening to that woman down the street that you avoid engaging in conversation because once she starts talking, she never shuts up. I have to pick through Proust to find his little literary gems, then I’m done. And like that lady down the street, I want to create an excuse about my cat dying, so I can go home. Foy’s admission took as much courage to confess, as did his mile-long underground descent into a Canadian nickel mine to measure decibels. After all, we are talking about the Marcel Proust here. In literary circles, admitting such things is like a Japanese chef declaring that he doesn’t eat Sushi.  I’ve kept it concealed for years like…um…closet drinking or foot fetishes. I’ve almost been ashamed that I do not appreciate Proust, as if I should enjoy reading him simply because he is the Marcel Proust and therefore, above some yet-to-be scribed literary law.

Oh well, my secret is out. I can now breathe easier. Thank you, Mr. Foy.

And by the way, I don’t like sushi either.

%d bloggers like this: