Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quilting for Comfort

I'm so excited. I have another commitment for a listening group for the Parliament of World Religions. This one will be in Coker Creek, a hotbed of conservative Christians. The thing is that many of the participants are transplants from other areas of the country. They are a community of quilters who belong to different (or no) churches; their focus is offering children in crisis comfort through handmade quilts. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say about ways they see of healing our mother earth.

I've often wondered how much therapy is actually accomplished through groups of women with needles. I know that some of these women have survived some really tough times through the sharing of their lives with other ladies. I wish that they could quilt their ways to world peace. Maybe comforting with quilts is a way to start.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crowds, Corporations, and Conscience

Neither crowds nor corporations have a collective conscience; conscience is something that only imbues individuals. And happiness is always fleeting, as it presupposes the attainment of a specific point of pleasure. Human beings experience contentment when they are serving their greater values. This presupposes a mission in life in which one is following one's individual conscience. This pursuit is always a journey, never a contest for a finish line.

Democracy can only be better than other forms of government when we engage our individual consciences toward a greater good, both now and in future generations. Justice will only prevail when we stop believing that Christianity is a contest for who has the place closest to God in heaven. It seems to be each of our individual imperatives in a just world that we use the burning embers of our own individual consciences to help ignite the faltering flames of those around us. Already burning bonfires will continue to burn on their own, finding their own fuel.

The mission fields that we are all called to serve are outside of the doors of our churches, in every interaction we have with every point and person in creation. The energy we impart will continue in all of creation that we touch. We must each ask ourselves, "Am I a catalyst for justice or simply a part of a crowd?"

Monday, October 29, 2012

Faith, Fretting, and Family

Another Sacred Sunday, when we cooked together for family,
Something we both enjoy doing, my marvelous man and me.
Took food down to the bayou country to my uncle and aunt;
Cousins came by to share laughter and our own old folk rants.

Soon they, too, will be retired with grandchildren to chase
May we all learn to handle life's reins with their mom's grace.
She scolded, but has never been one to punish or reject us;
She and her husband were always available to guide and protect us.

They have overcome obstacles that would have brought us to our knees.
Eventually we will, without them, face the big responsibilities.
They have certainly not been perfect, but they have been steadfast,
Proof that communities of strong shared faith can make a family last.

They had many dedicated family and church members around them;
Their children had many fathers, mothers, and trusted friends.
There was order, protection and guidelines shared by all,
Many to share the burdens if one in-charge adult should fall.

When we were there, we were cherished as their own,
Not by all in their community, but in my aunt and uncle's home.
When we will have to take the reigns hasn't been decided.
I wonder if they still see us as the children that they guided.

Will we know when it is time for us to stop looking to them?
Do they listen to our concerns now, as if we're simply equal friends?
We are so frustrated that to save our world, we weren't able,
We broke my aunt's policy that only good is talked about at table.

She allowed the concerned conversations to flow; was she relieved
That we're willing to continue to fight for the values in which they believe?
Will they leave this world with confidence that it is in capable hands,
That we'll carry on for future children the as responsible adults they planned?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What America Is Able to Sustain

What seems to work best in the United States of America is our tax payer dollars (sometimes referred to as "the government") acting as catalysts for changes that a majority of citizens support. What seems to kill our efforts at change are the career opportunists, otherwise known as politicians and corporate titans. Was this system what our founders envisioned. If so, we need to start over.

Many new ideas need a bit of help to get off the ground; it is then incumbent upon the inventors of the systems and those who work with them to prove their efficacy. Anything that changes too quickly for the natural environment to acclimate is doomed to kill its host or be plucked out and destroyed or transplanted to a more accepting environment. Where did we lose this pattern of responsible, compassionate growth?

In my many years of working with non-profit corporations, we were bound by our investors (funders) to prove that their investments were bearing the fruit we promised. Borrowing big bucks against a promise of a better tomorrow if we simply combined several failing ideas wasn't even considered an option. Why is it that capitalism isn't held accountable for the failure of the same "too big to fail" concept?

I have often been asked by my nieces and nephews if my husband and I are "rich." While he and/or I was dependent on working everyday for our survival, I explained to them that only those who can live off the work of others are "rich." Now that my husband has been retired for over a decade, I guess we can consider ourselves "rich."

Let me explain. First, he put off any romantic liaisons until I came along when he was forty-six years old. He studied, worked, and saved his financial resources until then. He knew his own strengths. The one request he gave me upon our entering into a betrothal was that I not become a profligate spender, as many of the wives of his peers seemed to be. He handed over the financial reigns to me upon our betrothal. Was this to prove my worthiness? I'll never know.

In Louisiana, marriages are governed by the concept of community property. This ensures that each partner in marriage is entitled to one half of the marital assets in the eventuality of a divorce. Not all states have this law. For many years, either he or I earned the living as the other partner kept up with the business of the finances, home, social, and societal lifestyle that we agreed was valuable. This is the system that we employ until today.

Because my husband had worked so hard for the many years that I had been rearing my children and reaping the rewards of my many relationship mistakes, I insisted on our having a prenuptial agreement to protect him. We are still happily married after over twenty years of being together. I like to believe that it is because we had an equal and mutual investment in the success of the societies in which we each operated.

We are now living off of, not only what we worked for all those years and invested, but the promise of Medicare and Social Security into which we invested. He has already lived so much longer than the originators envisioned that my children's and his niece's taxes are paying for these benefits. The bulk of our income still comes from investments that he made before my entry into his life. We both continue to do our parts in investment in community volunteer efforts to pay our ways, even though we know it can never be enough. We are fortunate that we were not victims of the corporate greed that wiped out so many pension funds.

Corporations and their titans make their money on the backs of others. Politicians barter for the same portfolio protections that they give their corporate cronies. The only investments that are not bubbles waiting to burst or the ones that invest in new ideas and growth of people's abilities to produce and protect their communities. Manipulation of financial markets has destroyed our incentives to invest in invention and hard work. Employee-owned businesses can build communities; corporations are created to protect the greedy from consequences of their irresponsible and reprehensible actions.

A catalyst is not the same as a crutch. If we have no core strength, whether as an appendage, an organ, a person, a plan, or a community, we will not succeed. Without stress and disciple nothing grows or succeeds.  Bad seeds beget bad stock. Corporations continue to produce and plant the bad seeds of unfettered greed.

When will we begin to learn that all of creation works by the same principles, and that it is not wrong to inhibit the procreation or permanently transplant invasive species to a less destructive environment? When will we learn the there is a time for growth and a time to turn our energies back to allowing new life to prosper? Corporations are killing the American spirit. We must wake up to the value of honest work, and give up on all the "get-rich-quick" schemes that corporations and politicians promise us, but keep for only themselves.

Every person and society is governed by the values in which we were reared. What are the current values of our country, other that those promoted by Ayn Rand in her anti-compassionate (anti-Christian) "Virtue of Selfishness" philosophy expounded upon in "Atlas Shrugged"? Thomas Jefferson, by-the-way, died deeply in debt, leaving it to his heirs to pay. He ran his vast estate on the backs of others and still couldn't sustain a manageable budget. This seems to be the true model of big business since America began.

Only a just society is sustainable. Our government should govern the greedy and promote dedicated use of all Divinely ordained gifts to humanity. Kill the corporations! Only this way can we save our great country from hypocrisy and greed!

Friday, October 26, 2012

"R" Ratings and Respect

I went yesterday to my high school alma mater to volunteer as an alumnus hostess at St. Mary's Dominican open house event. I was reminded of recent conversations I had with my daughter. I told her that I was thrilled to be invited to watch my granddaughter's perform, but I had no desire to watch her chaperon the children of other people. I wondered about how hypocritical it may seem to her that here I stood for over four hours observing anonymous parents adore their precious progeny.

I shouldn't admit this, but I'm actually a bit weary of my children's roles as parents. I more inclined to "R" rated stories than to the "G" rated version of life, unless the stories are nuanced on many layers, like those of Disney. As soon as the children are able to get all layers of the "hidden" messages, things can get quite tense about what is appropriate. At this point, my children are really not nearly as much fun when they're "in charge."

For many years, I was in as close a place as I could get to heaven whenever I was in the presence of my children parenting their progeny. It was pure pleasure knowing that my children were in charge, and that I had no responsibility for the outcomes of their decisions and directives. My children were both very protective of their rights to be the only voices of authority for their respective children. As the Bible says about God, they were "jealous" of their rights over their children.

Even before the children were left in my care at their own homes, I would have their parents reinforce to the children that Granny was "in charge" and that I was representing the parents in their absence. I was the "supervisor" not the "business owner." When the children were at our home, my husband and I were the big bosses, and the children and parents had to accommodate to this. We continued to step back on the usual minutia of rules, but there was a layer of what we expected in our home that was non-negotiable.

While in our children's homes, we have valiantly attempted to honor the same pattern of, "In your home, we honor your rules." This has caused much friction as the grandchildren have entered their teen years. My children have become super sensitive to my every action around their children and spouses. My daughter, at one time, told me that an old lady's job was to simply sit around and say whatever I want about her life. This simply does not work.

My children's families have all been around me enough to know what's on my mind without my saying a word. The twinkle in my eyes or the wrinkle of my nose can set off a storm. God forbid that I should open my mouth about anything, including the color of the couch.

Don't get me wrong; I do honor my children's positions as parents, but somehow I sense that my presence makes them feel weaker than they want to feel. I am thrilled that both of my children seem to be compassionate leaders bringing up more like themselves, but their power struggles can be hard to take sitting down. There's an old-fashioned authority figure in my that constantly wants to whack one, or all, of them.

Perhaps my friend Martha was right when she said that we should marry our children off when they're thirteen. The tensions in the wolves' den when there are all these people preparing for or protecting their alpha positions is simply too much drama for an overly opinionated old lady to accommodate.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Society and the Soul

A conversation that we must have in gender equality is why men continue to be reared as predators rather than as the fully functioning humans with the same abilities to control their animal instincts as women were raised with for many millenia. Why do women continue labeling themselves as victims when they, by their  acts of irresponsible sex, make themselves and their progeny a drain on responsible society. It seems that in our liberated society we came to a point where we decided that if we couldn't beat the men we would join them. we must go forward to a new honesty and acceptance.

As a woman coming to adulthood in the sixties, I was blindsided by the freedoms I felt to rear both my children as compassionate members of the fully human race and by the resistance of our society to embrace these changes. As I encouraged my children, a first-born daughter and a son, to empathize with the vulnerable members of our society, our society pushed back by defining my son as a sissy, my daughter as bossy, and much worse. This was a society that defined itself as "Christian."

When will "Christians" finally understand that people "on the pole" and  in pornographic movies are someone's children? Is our society really so callous, in an effort to fit in with anachronistic, animalistic ancestors, that we don't see sons', dads', husbands', mothers', wive's or daughter's faces on these "actors"?

I want to know whether these "performers" are old enough and financially skilled enough to take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions (including financial consequences for unplanned pregnancies and venereal disease treatments) before our society accepts their actions as acts between "consenting adults." I want to know who will take the fall-out (emotional and financial) for all the disease treatments, broken homes, and children created by these "open" marriages and fantasy relationships.

Soulless sex is not sacred, even if it is fun. Are the products of these unions born with souls? Look into the eyes of a new born infant. They have no connection to a soul until they connect with the eyes of others. Doesn't every child conceived deserve a chance to have that connection be a look of unconditional love and acceptance, a look that says, "I am eternally connected and committed to your Spirit."?

Unwanted children have no voice and cannot consent to be born. Why do we continue to force these children on soul-less mothers as a "punishment" for the irresponsible or forced sexual actions of their parents? Are we really able to retroactively implant functioning souls into the bodies of the children of soul-less others?  

How can we sell human sperm and ova to strangers? What are we thinking when we applaud conception in test tubes when there are so many desperate babies who need loving homes? If life begins at conception, how can we store so many "lives" in the limbo of a freezer for unlimited periods of time? With all our talk of The Spirit we seem to be moving our society further and further away from nurturing humanity's sparks of Divinity.

We are told that this was the feeling of the Jewish girl Mary, mother of Jesus, when she found out she was pregnant with her first child:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and Holy is His Name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him.

Doesn't every child deserve to be welcomed into the mother's womb with such a sense of celebration?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fallacies of Our Fathers' Faiths

I never wanted to be a fabulous female. What was I thinking?
The fabulous women seemed to appeal to men excessively drinking.
I wanted a relationship that was comfortable for me and my man;
Running away from other men was not part of my family plan.

I worked hard to be a best friend rather than a concubine sort;
I didn't know that competition and conquest was a marriage sport.
I groomed myself to be attractive enough to shy men,
Steering carefully away from those with over-confident grins.

It never occurred to me until I'd failed at marriage twice
That there were men out there who only wanted a trophy wife.
Once a trophy is won, it's time to pursue a higher honor degree;
It was never enough for these men that I continued to be simply me.

Where had I gotten the idea that an alpha man wanted an equal companion?
Did I think that walking on two legs made an animal more human?
I was even careful to vet the men for a upbringing that was Christian,
Having been assured that freedom of choice was part of the Christian plan.

I was completely blind to the belief that one could confess to another,
And be exempted from seeking reconciliation with sister or brother.
Much less would a man whose rib had produced his life's mate
Be required to, in other than procreation, with his wife to cooperate.

After all, men who had created a god in their own image and likeness
Weren't likely, to their own weaknesses, wrongs, and needs confess.
Humanity had set up oldest sons as the god-designated progenitors,
Making this male's bothers and sisters into servants, soldiers, and whores.

How great is our American melting pot of those who escaped tradition,
Who have become the progenitors of what many still call sedition.
We are not held to the fears and fallacies of our fathers' faiths;
We have re-defined the rules of justice for the global human race.

I will not go back to the years where we were part of a colony;
Nor will I support the notion of our country's absolute superiority.
Every person, every culture, every one of our global nations
Has something valuable to add to our human survival conversation.

We need those with institutional memories, as well as innovators.
We need the plodders and care givers as well as the creators.
We need those who simply know how to provide comic relief,
And those who can bolster us when we have the need to weep.

There will come a time when we can't count on new generations
To provide everything we need to continue our current creations.
We must stop fighting for the authority of tradition to impose
The way of life on which subsequent generations should repose.

I am willing to give up all my right for my generation to have a voices
If the subsequent generations take full responsibility for their choices.
It seems to me that we need, more than in ancient societies,
Fully cooperative, compassionate, multi-generational communities.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Perception of Pain

What a disservice we do to ourselves when we deny our abilities to change. So many of my loved ones have said "This is simply the way I am." Doesn't that negate the purpose of continued life on earth?  When any organism stops changing, it begins to die. Doesn't denying the human ability to continually evolve deny us our choice to leave more positive energy on earth when we do physically die?

Growth is stressful for all organisms. New life is never created without a struggle that we may experience as "pain." Maybe we need to change our ways of looking at stress. Maybe we need to stop seeing all "pain" as punishment, but as opportunities for discovering new things about ourselves and those around us.

All change is stressful, not only to the individual growing or decaying organism, but to the whole system surrounding it. Notice how the seed splits as the seedling emerges, and how the earth heaves as the seeding breaks the surface.

If we want to see the soul-deadening results of holding fast to our old selves, we need to look no farther that our sports stars and other entertainers. We pay them great sums of money to continue to inhabit empty shells of pasted on personae, so that we can live our old selves over and over through them. Meanwhile, they become caricatures of who we want to see.

Some of my favorite portraits have always been those of very old people. I attempt to to read their life stories in the lines of their faces and knots in their gnarled hands. This scares many as evidence of the decaying process; I see it as the turning of their energies into new life energy for the universe. Some of the most delightful stories I've heard have been long-past memories of Alzheimer's patients, whose minds have gone back to play with their childhood families and friends.

It seems to me that the problem facing our society is that we don't properly prepare ourselves for our own evolution and that of those people and systems around us. Too much growth, too soon can cause a weakened person, plant, and system of support. In today's seemingly chaotic times of super-charged evolution, our choices seem to be global synthesis and synergy of all, or annihilation of the earth.

Will only the earth's raw (God force?) energy remain? Will all go back to the parts of The Divine Spirit that was before the Big Bang. Will those who produced no positive energy in their lifetimes simply become as the black holes in the universe?

I don't know the answers, but I hope to die continuing to grow and bond with others in positive power.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Incremental Improvement

Many years ago, I read that businesses don't succeed by inventing something new; they succeed by improving something already in existence by ten percent. I also learned from the Girl Scouts that we should leave everywhere a bit better than we found it. I decided to combine these two teachings for success at parenting and being fully human. Because both my faith background and my country's constitution advocate freedom of choice and rebirth, I have been able to start over several times, striving to better my existing world by ten percent.

I do believe that the generation that I came from improved our country by at least ten percent. Before the sixties, we in America believed that fear-based religion, maleness, whiteness, and war were superior to all the alternatives. We believed that it was right to persecute and prosecute any that disagreed with our views. We came, in my generation, to look for alternatives to war and accept differences of opinion, skin tones, gender boundaries, and paths to eternal peace.

We now seem to be facing the alternative of going backward to our fantasy of our country's former reality or forward to a further enlightened set of values. I will probably not live to see the realization of world peace. I only pray that each succeeding generation of my America will move at least ten percent closer to the peace that comes from a respectful Spirit.

My first husband was the father of my children, who adored his mother to the point of being her "little man." I had no shot at being strong enough for his undying trust and affections as a partner. This failing on my part was only exacerbated by his mother's death after our first year of marriage.

Her impending death came with the accompanying injunction that her oldest son should take over her protective role for her children, his siblings, even though their father was still alive. My parents also looked to us to parent their children. Our young marriage was crushed under the burdens.

My second "husband" had none of the attributes that would make him a parenting partner, but at least he offered some stability without threatening my children. He was, however, intensely jealous of my affection for them. He chose to go rather than grow.

My third husband helped heal my mothering self. This man knew what he expected of a marriage partner, and was able to eloquently articulate his values. It was only through his respect for the right role of a wife and mother that I became able to face myself.  He also honored the place my mothering played in his life, having developed extreme self-control, which served him well in allowing me to mother so many in need.

Many years ago, marriageable men had to prove that they had the resources to protect their women. In my opinion, the greatest among men is the man who will husband the resources to protect his woman from those who want to overpower her and leave defenseless children and suffering women in their wakes. No matter what we may now think, we are all made vulnerable by our motherhood.

Perhaps it is time for women to honor our men for their valiant efforts at partnering and parenting, at their own great emotional and physical expense. Women typically outlive their men, which gives women many years of following late-in-life missions. Is it too much to ask that women offer our men our gratitude for protecting us while we mother? Mutual respect and gratitude would likely improve our families by ten percent.

I know that my children are at least ten percent better at being parents than I was. I am so grateful for this. Will this count as my ten percent contribution to a better world? I will probably never know for sure, but I hope so.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Live, Love, Laugh

My daughter has the slogan, "Live, Love, Laugh" prominently displayed in several places in her home. I love light-hearted laughter, but am not comfortable with much of the "snark" that passes for funny. So much of who we like to be with seems to be based on what we find fun and funny. Shared humor certainly makes my marriage much more rewarding.

Although the thing that first attracted me to Richard was the twinkle in his eyes when he gazed at my infant godson, there have been many points of his humor that didn't amuse me one bit. Richard was brought up in an age when ridicule was seen as a way to change the behaviors of others. We had to negotiate this tendency out of our relationships to the children in our care.

There are things that I find amusing that don't make him laugh. Humor about my failing female body parts simply embarrasses him. I know some women who only laugh with their fellow female friends, and men who do the same. I am so grateful for the friends that I find funny who also love to laugh with me.

When we finally trust our relationships enough to find each others' and our own foibles funny, we can get through almost anything life throws at us. It took many years of our own healing for us to get to that point of trust. I am eternally grateful that now my best and funniest friend is my husband.

Giggles are the purest form of laughter, as they come from our child-like innocence way down deep in our souls. A good guffaw, not at another's expense, can really clean out our emotional cobwebs. Maybe marriage preparation should include a giggle and guffaw gauge. If you can't find any mutually funny moments, you marriage will probably be one long, hard road.

Isn't it amazing that even a laugh can be healing or hurtful? I'm not sure we can ever achieve "faith like a child" until we reclaim our ability to giggle and guffaw as we did when we were still innocent.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Giving In to Growth

In honor of a verse from Corinthians: When my children and grandchildren were young, I embraced their youth, what they thought, what they said, that which they read, that which with they played and those with whom they were friends. Now that they are grown or almost adults, I look forward to encountering what they have become. I only hope that we can relate as respectful adults.

Today, as I cleaned our condo in which only one grandchild has slept in our two years here, I realized that it may be time to put away the books I read to them as infants. What a sad time this was for me in realizing that I will never again be surrounded by their innocent awe in all around them. This comes with gratitude that I spent so much time surrounded by my children and their children in the glow of family protection for so many years.

How humbling it is to know that they will now make their own life choices; that they may take our teachings backward or forward a generation or two.  Unless we sequester ourselves and our progeny, there is no way that we can predict what they will be. All of us, and our subsequent generations, are products of so many influences that their futures are impossible to predict.

My faith is in our ability as humans to choose to be reborn and to come to a point where we embrace our own support groups for growth. No more is our ancestral history our destiny. The greatest gifts I've been given are encompassed in my coming of age during the counter-cultural revolutions.

Gone are the artificial boundaries of religion, race, gender, class, and political bias, at least in theory. Women and other vulnerable, minority, and formerly disenfranchised populations are now considered as fully functional and honored members of our voting American populace. My focus, now that my primary motherhood mission is accomplished, is to do whatever I am able to assist in securing the realities of our nation's truly "Democratic society" promises.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Breath after Death

There is a saying, "That which doesn't kill you, makes you strong." Gayle wrote in her blog today of "a change of vision and a new relationship with the Spirit of God, a "new breath" that brings life to our souls after an experience of death."  

In the past four years, I have felt myself dying a thousand times as I lost relationships with many through illnesses, deaths, moves and finally becoming aware of my past as part of my present. It has always been important to me to revisit the points of my pain's origins in order to begin again with a new "skin." 

I have been rejected by many who are angry with me for not being "there" for them, and I am blessed by many  more who have been here to help me heal. Connecting with the energy of these people is the purpose of my pilgrimages to places and people from which I was formed.

My daughter reminded a recent faith focus group that even Jesus needed to take time off to refresh his spirit because so many, as the woman who touched the hem of his robe, drained energy from him. We are told that Jesus felt great grief in facing his own physical death, and that he went to hell before he was reborn in his strictly spiritual self. Is this the path that we must all follow to become truly born again as people of the Holy Spirit?

All creation is suffused with Divine energy that we can either accept or reject. I believe that the only permanent death is the rejection of the positive power of Divine energy. Whatever we touch on earth, positively or negatively, becomes our legacy in the rest of life. Perhaps if we are willing to face dying a bit to ourselves, we can leave more positive power of The Spirit for future generations.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Companionship and Creativity

We finally gave ourselves permission to do what we do best while in Coker Creek. We worked and relaxed with friends instead of staying so much to ourselves. Mary and Don have taken over the management of our property, so we walked into a welcoming ambiance instead of facing the first few days of our stay cleaning cobwebs and mice droppings. Thanks to them, we felt like guests in our own home.

Richard was willing to take time to "go visiting" several of our friends. We actually took rides simply for the sake of enjoying the scenery, while even Richard found occasion to wax ecstatic about the glory of the beauty surrounding us. Nancy and Jim brought along Mary when we met at Tellicafe. We enjoyed all of their company along with a marvelous meal. Being into seafood and local cuisines, I had a great mountain trout stuffed with a shrimp dressing. Is it still sea food when it comes from a mountain stream?

Deborah and David showed us around their antique shop and treated us to the best sweet potato fries on earth at Cotton Pickin'. Richard had good Pasta Alfredo and I had the Eggplant Parmesan. David is quite a character who seems to be giving Deborah a new lease on life. There were no dull moments at that supper.

Several days before that, Richard and I ate at the new Mexican restaurant in Tellico Plains. Who would have predicted that we'd ever see ethnic food added to the country cooking in the Bible belt town of Tellico Plains?

Our final weekend held a great finale with the Coker Creek Autumn Gold Festival.  Richard manned his usual post, collecting money for the Ruritan food concessions while I floated around spending and grinning. Wanda talked me into helping to judge the festival queen contest and I assisted at the Quilts for Kids booth, which is always a joy.

Donna and her co-chairs lead a powerhouse of women creating crafts which they sell to fund quilts that they make and donate to children in medical and other life crises. Their blessings become love on the laps of all these children to whom they offer their compassionate gifts. I guess Donna and her co-chair Delight were meant to meet. Donna's last name is Powers and Delight's is House. Hence: PowerHouse. 

I had a blast meeting so many talented crafters and catching up with so many who stopped by the booth to chat. I met two authors whose autographed books I bought, one at the festival and one at the new Coker Creek Gallery. We also came home with great gifts for friends in Louisiana and some for ourselves to extend our mountain memories until we come back to Coker Creek.

Our next trip won't be very far in the future, as the trip across the street led us to our next commitment. Stephanie, the owner of the gallery, wants assistance in setting up a weaving room. I asked Ralph, whose mother brought weaving to the area, if he'd be willing to help. He has recruited Richard to help him help Stephanie upon our return. I love being a catalyst for creativity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eating in Appalachia

Feeding people with love is one of the most important features of faith. So many in our society have lost the sacred in their meals. Manna fell from heaven for the Jews to share in the desert, and Jesus exhorted Peter to feed his lambs. Our fast food culture has taken the meaning out of our meals. In Coker Creek, people still care about the simple pleasures of life and love.

We were privileged to be fed by many friends on our visit to the mountains, beginning with a perfect pot roast, salad, cornbread, and pound cake at Mountain Mama's table on the night we arrived. She's ninety-two years old and still growing and preparing gifts of sustenance for family and friends. Upon our arrival, she and a  fellow ninety-two year old former post mistress shared their evening meal and many memories with us.

The next day, I enjoyed a visit with Millard and MaryJane where I received an education on wine making, as well as gifts made from their efforts at growing and gathering foods. Millard's apricot/peach wine seemed more like a good brandy, and the blueberry wine was smooth and not too sweet. I was sorry that Richard couldn't join me in this enjoyment, but we were both able to partake of the habanero jelly made by MaryJane with peppers grown by Millard.

Seeing as we had moved all our spices to Louisiana, I announced to Mamie that we didn't intend to cook while we were at Our Tennessee Mountain Home. She has become quite fond of our cooking, so she didn't miss a beat in inviting us to cook in her kitchen with her spices.

Upon peeking in our outside freezer, I discovered a treasure trove of lovingly pre-prepared vegetables which had been grown by us, Jack, and Mountain Mama. So much for my determination not to cook. Most of the vegetables went into my huge pressure cooker: okra, tomatoes, yellow squash, cow peas, red banana peppers, green beans. Now I needed a ham bone and some seasoning. Back to Mountain Mama I went, but she had no ham bone, although she did supply some seasoning.

With a quick trip downtown, we were all set to stuff jack's yellow and red peppers with a chili cheese stuffing and finish our vat of soup. Time to invite the neighborhood, but where could we provide seating for all those folks? The Ruritan clubhouse saved the day. So many functions are made possible by the generosity of the Coker Creek Ruritan Club in allowing community members free access to their fully furnished kitchen and clubhouse.

We started the menu with our soup and bread from Tellico Grains bakery, stuffed peppers, MaryJane and Millard's pepper jelly with cream cheese and crackers, and peanut butter cookies. In came a parade of people with cakes, pies, casseroles, and various other offerings. How grateful we all were for each others efforts. We did take time to offer verbal appreciation to each other for the sharing of our blessings, and Pastor Linda offered a formal prayer. There were also hugs enough for everyone.

Josie and Adam missed our Souper Saturday Supper but made up for it with inviting us to their home for a private meal and art show. Josie excels at everything she does, and her home is a showplace of her many art projects. The beef stew she served was superb; as Adam said, it was A-plus. Richard made one of his incredible salads and brought bread from our favorite bakery. We finished with another Josie creation, elderberry sauce over vanilla ice cream. Adam made coffee, regaled us with stories of people and places he loves, and cleaned the kitchen. Camaraderie doesn't get any better than this.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Most Marvelous Mountain Trip

We just returned from  an autumn wonderland and Our Tennessee Mountain Home. It was the most marvelous trip to the mountains in our experience.

We connected as a couple to others to whom we'd never connected before, making us both hunger for a return to our second home. We've never before, as a couple, prioritized the people of Coker Creek; Richard always requiring a purpose outside of emotional need. It was indeed the request for his assistance that brought us to the mountains, but it was his commitment to my need for community that made our trip such a success.

This time, Richard hired those who could do our odd jobs, leaving his energy for creating connections with those that I most admire. He was still able to serve the community in his two-day assignment in serving the Ruritans in their annual fundraising event.

We began with a lovely weekend in Atlanta, spending social time with our brother-of-choice, conducting a spiritual focus group and relaxing with daughter and family. The last of Richard's Atlanta was spent with a chef and mutual foodie friend.

I was back and forth from the mountains to the "mainland" while Richard continued managing and doing projects at our mountain home. My granddaughter was performing in a marching band exhibition, bringing back fond memories of her mother's similar experience. I was so blessed to be able to enjoy this event with my daughter, her mom.

Coker Creek is a hotbed of "traditional" values, where families help families and neighbors never do without the necessities. There are rules to relationships, which here are held sacred; everyone is expected to pull their own weight. To be able to contribute is a blessing; to depend on charity is a disgrace. It was so lovely to reconnect with so many that we have missed, from my "Mountain Mama" to the wonderful women and men of the Coker Creek Ruritan club.

We live with one foot in uncertainty and celebration and one foot in slow security. This mirrors the two worlds from which my parents came, and probably the only way my gypsy soul can ever be at peace.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Re-Awakening and Resurrection

What a wonderful weekend it was, the last weekend of September, which so happened to contain the date of my deceased father's birthday. My father had called me "Y" for much of my life because of my propensity for wanting the reason for everything. He then took to calling me a "mighty powerful woman."

For the last four years, since my daughter (my oldest child) was diagnosed with cancer, I have felt anything but powerful. Without her incredible woman energy I felt that I had died. I began wishing that my fantasy was true. I wanted no connection to anyone who may miss me if I was gone because I didn't want to inflict the pain that I was feeling on anyone else.

The problem came in with those who refused to let me go; they seemed to give me the choice of coming back to life or dragging them into my abyss. This weekend I began to start over, at my daughter's request (or I should say, insistence).

So many joined me in the beginning of my new mission, the pursuit of answers to what The Spirit is doing in various communities to work toward global compassion. A dear spirit brother organized an urban group from various faith and value systems to begin my first focus group session of the global listening campaign leading to the next Parliament of the World's Religions.

Men and women shared their souls in this group. My daughter, who knew several of these folks since her childhood, took the time to join us. What a wonderful group it was, ranging in age from early forties to late sixties, with at least five religious traditions represented.

I look forward to hearing from others pursuing paths to peace who may be interested in sharing what they and their communities of conviction, religious or otherwise, are doing to affect these efforts.