Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Losing My (Organized) Religion

Although my mom and step-dad did not themselves attend church on any sort of regular basis, they required it of my sister and me. For what reason, I’m not 100% sure, but, I am guessing it was to provide additional socialization outside of the traditional school environment; with children we did not normally see and adults other than teachers. Also, perhaps, to instill in us the beginnings of thought regarding religion, without being terribly influenced by what they personally believed.

The thing was; mom was brought up Methodist and dad a Quaker. Neither one of them necessarily felt we should subscribe to one of these religions or life-styles; otherwise, we would have all tromped off to Friends Meetings or sat as a family in the pew at the nearby Methodist Church every Sunday morning.

As it turned out, my sister and I DID go to the local Methodist Church, but I’m thinking that was due more to the convenience of proximity than anything else as it was close enough to our house for the two of us to walk to on our own.

So, throughout my very early days, my involvement with and exposure to organized religion was conducted through the pretty vanilla doctrines of the Methodist Church. Frankly, what I remember most about those few years wasn’t the sermons or sitting in Sunday school class but, rather, being an Acolyte (how the heck that happened I really don’t know) and singing in the choir. There were also annual church banquets, and, at one, I received a plastic flute as a gift from the choir master (another mystery…WHY a plastic flute?)

By the time I was in 3rd grade, my involvement with church had pretty much gone by the wayside. We’d moved away from the neighborhood with the convenient church to a new housing development where a church (as such) did not yet exist. Then, we moved to Kentucky for a year (did they even have churches there? Certainly it seemed like a God-forsaken place to me!) Then, it was back to the same previous churchless neighborhood in San Diego but, this time, it was no longer churchless! There was now a Catholic church, a Baptist church, and a Lutheran church. A lot happened in the year we were away.

The Lutheran church was a fledgling; it didn’t yet have its own building so services were held in the auditorium of one of the elementary schools. Slowly, over time, I began attending this church with one of my girlfriends and her family (usually if I’d spent the night at her house on a Saturday; part of the deal appeared to be I had to go to church with them on Sunday). After a few Sundays of this, I started to think that maybe it was ok. Well, in all honesty, what was REALLY ok was the fact that several cute boys went to the church/attended the church’s youth group. But, hey, whatever path gets you there, right?

When I was 16, I decided I wanted to be baptized into this church. I really wish I could remember why. I’m not trying to be flippant here; I seriously do not recall why I did this because, in my entire recollection of thoughts on the subject, I’ve never been particularly religious. I enjoyed the fellowship of the folks that attended this church, yes. I had fun in the youth group, most definitely. I liked listening to the Pastor because his sermons were not totally boring (he also led the youth group and, although a bit na├»ve, had a more than decent connection with teenagers). He had a strong, pleasant voice and he was kind-hearted. But, I wasn’t going because I felt a draw to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. I felt going somehow made me a better person and maybe it did. Of the many things Pastor talked about, I was most interested and engaged in the stories about people being kind, friendly and of service to others.

Probably because it seemed the next logical step in the process, after my baptism, I signed up for Confirmation classes. This was a year-long commitment whereby I (and maybe 10 others) attended classes, taught by Pastor, at least once a week, if not twice. In conjunction with the classes, at-home study, thought, prayer, small projects and various acts of community service were required. Each month focused on a different area and there was a corresponding colored paper workbook that went with each month. I still have every one of them in my hope chest; why, I can’t say; other than they obviously mean something to me; along with the countless greeting cards, letters, stuffed animals, old dollies, baby clothes, silver dollars from my grandfather, old costume jewelry, my cap from high school graduation, the front page from the LA Times 9.11.01, keepsakes from my now departed cats Nigel and Clyde, my 6th grade report on ducks, etc., etc. etc. that are also residing in the hope chest.

On a sunny Sunday morning In June of 1981, after successful completion of the classes, all of the project work, studying and two retreats and just a few short days prior to my high school graduation, I was confirmed.

And that was the last time I went to church.


I don’t know why.

This period of time in my life MUST have meant something to me, for, in addition to all of those colorful workbooks, I also have, locked in my file cabinet, both my baptismal and confirmation certificates. For what purpose? Certainly not to prove that I have the right to enter heaven (but I’m supposing that this is exactly why some people hold onto theirs).

In the ensuing years, distinct bents have formed in my mind regarding the subjects of religion, faith, belief, spirituality, church…fill in the blank.

I believe in hard work being its own reward, honesty, integrity, kindness, giving to those truly in need, and, having a good time as much as possible without upsetting or interfering with other people’s right to existence. I believe that, for the most part, things happen for a reason; reasons which we may or may not ever completely understand but, usually if we are paying attention, we’ll eventually “get it” (although it may be many, many, many years later before we can see how the twisted paths of fate play out). I do not subscribe to the concept of hell, but I do like to think that, when we die, we go somewhere that is our own individual idea of heaven. Mine might be different than yours, but, if we liked each other well enough in life, we might be making cameos in each other’s version.

I do NOT believe that there is one true religion or God. Further, I cannot fathom how anyone can; anyone who thinks logically, that is. For, how COULD this be true? Following this, I don’t subscribe that only those who believe in the (fill in the blank be all save all) religion will go to “heaven”; the rest, damned forever more. Again, this just doesn’t add up, given the MULTITUDES of beliefs out there. How can only one be the only one?

As it stands, I don’t have a problem with those who chose to believe this, as some might call it having faith. Fine, whatever; the faith in only one God or religion isn’t much different than mine in the “everything happens for a reason and one of these days, BTW, I’m gonna see everyone and everything I ever loved in the great wide wherever” concept.

My issue is with those folks who trumpet loudly about how right they and theirs are and how wrong everyone else is. And, I think, what it really comes down to is, they’ve just opened up their mouths and declared themselves ignorant and I don’t want anything to do with them. They probably don’t want anything to do with me, either.

I entitled this entry “Losing My (Organized) Religion” but, after working my way to the end, I’ve realized that old adage of not being able to lose something you never had in the first place is actually more accurate here. I’ve not lost it, I never had it. Yes, I was (somewhat) reared in and around it. I studied it. I pondered it, even admired it. But, it was never ever mine.

Mrs. B

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's a Mystery!

One thing (of many) about having a lot of pets; you just never know sort of weird things they might a) drag into the house b) play with c) throw up.

Weird might not actually be the best definition, though. Unusual? Creative? Gross? Ah, MYSTERIOUS; as in "what the heck is THAT?" but also, "where the heck did that COME from?" and "how in the heck did they get A HOLD of that?"

Since there are children living in the houses on other side of us AND in the house below us, play-related items routinely make their way into our backyard. Scratch that. LUCY's backyard. We'll frequently be sitting outside enjoying a cocktail and notice Lucy running around with some new object in her mouth. "What's that?" one of us will ask. "Oh, looks like a....(fill in the blank)". One of her favorites was a basketball. Of course, it now longer remotely resembles anything like a ball; more like a puddle of chewed up rubber. I hadn't seen it in sometime; I figured she must have buried it somewhere. The other day, I was upstairs brushing my teeth and looking out one of our bedroom windows and I saw this blob in the middle of the backyard. I thought it might be a dead animal. I finished up with the teeth brushing and went downstairs to ask Mr. B. "What's THAT?" I said, pointing at it. "Lucy's basketball". Oh.

Of course, it wasn't really Lucy's; it was the kid next door's, but, I'd bet he really wouldn't want it back now.

Despite the fact they make her sick, Lucy still hunts and eats the small frogs that jump around our backyard. Spring is prime frog hunting season, but, there still seem to be a few hopping around (maybe because it's been so warm, I really don't know). The late season frogs must not taste as good, however. Several times this summer, I've gone outside to find half-masticated frogs barfed up onto the patio. Nice.

For a while, Lily was bringing Lucy's toys upstairs. We'd wake up in the morning to find two or three of them near our bed. During the holiday season last year, she took to dragging this huge Christmas stocking that Mrs. Senior B made for Mr. B many years ago up the stairs. This stocking is about the size of a small throw rug and we kept it draped over the back of the leather club chair. Lily is also a fine one for stealing items left on bathroom counters or the top of dressers. She'll spot that you left something there, jump up, get it in her mouth, jump down, and run off with it. In this way, she's nabbed: nail files, barrettes, hair elastics, eye glasses, hair brushes and my tube of Rapid Lash (which does seem to work, BTW). We've had near misses with leaving wedding bands and diamond rings.

Pete has this one wand toy with a long, furry leopard printed "thing" (for lack of better word) dangling off of it. He LOVES it. He carries that around in his mouth, wailing and howling. He'll wail and/or howl, pick it up, and make an odd noise while it is still in his mouth. Then, he starts kneading the floor while it's in his mouth. After a bit of this, he'll move across the room with it and repeat the process. In this case, the item isn't a mystery so much as his behavior is! I've never seen a cat do this before, but, then again; what can you except from a cat who prefers to spend his days sleeping in the pantry? Pete is also the cat Most Likely to Barf; which, given the amount of fur he has, isn't really a surprise. BUT, let me tell you, BECAUSE of the amount of fur he has, he's sometimes brought up fur balls that resemble small rodents. I've seen one or two and taken a step back until I could ascertain that they were, in fact, merely huge fur balls.

The Little Kids subscribe, I suppose, to more normal cat behavior. They'll chase and eat bugs, play (and chew on, damn it to hell) electric cords and will, eventually, get out every single toy in their toy basket (no small number) and place them all around the house. One of them, however, has taken to chewing on the covers of our soft covered paperback books. If we happen to leave one out on the nightstand, you can bet that in the morning, we'll find a multitude of little puncture marks dotted here and there on the cover (which I dutifully cover up with scotch tape). I haven't caught the culprit, but, I'm putting my money on Athena. Bookmarks are also a huge favorite, as are newspapers and anything that makes a crinkle crackle noise. Ares and Athena have dutifully found every piece of tape (used to secure stereo/speaker wire) and chewed them to pieces. Athena, that dumb-dumb, will eat tape, too. I've found a good share of barfed up tape; this despite the Bitter Yuck I spray all over everything.

Apollo doesn't seem to do too much of this, although, he did seem to think the other night that my new cell phone was his personal property. Usually, though, Apollo is more likely to play with ice or beg for food.

Anyway, what prompted this topic this morning was I was sitting here checking email when I noticed Ares jumping all over the place with something in his mouth. Then, Athena came running at him, followed by Apollo and all three of them took off like three furious little bats out of hell. Scramble, scramble; up the stairs, down the stairs, jumping over the couch; all three of them in a row. Finally, Athena and Apollo got bored and went away. Ares was still jumping and climbing with this thing in his mouth. I went over to investigate; he dropped it and ran way.

This is what it was:

I have NO idea where this came from! How strange. It's a mystery. Then again, that's life around this household!

Mrs. B

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mrs. B's Brilliant Blog: My Moment Of Silence

I originally wrote this five years ago. My thoughts remain the same.

Mrs. B's Brilliant Blog: My Moment Of Silence: "I posted this entry on my old Blog two years ago today. I re-post it here now because it continues to represent how I feel about 9/11/2001 ..."

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 W Family Reunion Part One: Road Trip Up

It is hard to believe that it's already been two years since we hosted the first annual W family reunion here in Durham. THAT was a lot of work, let me tell you; so, frankly, it was quite nice to travel to Indiana this time where all we really had to do was get there!

We dropped the Goose off at Uncle Chuck's around 7:30 Thursday morning. We had a very uneventful drive north with the somewhat notable exception of our stop in Gallipolis, OH. We stopped at a Wendy's (not much else in Gallipolis, let me tell you; a VERY depressed, sad looking little town) for lunch. So, we're sitting there munching away, watching all the folks coming and going (the hot spot, apparently); including several Amish. There was a youngish Amish man with a non-Amish man waiting in line. Ahead of them was a much older man, who, apparently forgot what he came in for and became extremely agitated. Finally, he shrieked, "I want what's on the sign!" The dumbfounded cashier stared at him (BTW, she wasn't too quick on the uptake); the manager came over to help out. The old dude walked outside, looked at the sign, came back in, marched up to the counter and yelled "I WANT A FROSTY!"
So, he got a frosty, but, didn't have enough money. The manager, I think, just gave it to him to shut him up and get him out of there. For his part, I think the old dude was somewhat embarrassed as he elected to go out to his car to savor his frosty (this despite the fact it was in the 90s outside). He was still sitting out there when we pulled away. Before we left, an Amish couple came in with a small boy. The husband went to the counter while the wife took the boy back to the restrooms. He looked EXACTLY like that cute kid in the movie "Witness" (with Harrison Ford; great flick).
When we were in the car, I said to Mr. B, "Did you see that cute Amish boy?" He sorta looked at me strangely, which I didn't understand until later; turns out he didn't see the little boy, he thought I was referring to the young Amish MAN waiting in line behind Mr. Frosty. Ha ha! BTW, one good thing about stopping in Gallipolis (other than our lunchtime amusement) ; we now knew this was NOT the place we wanted to stop at for the night on our way back!

Not too long after that, we got a text message from my SIL (still back in Winston-Salem) informing us that they'd just been hit by a fly-away RV tire. We called and talked to my brother, who told us that they were all ok (THANK GOD) but, their car wasn't so they'd have to turn back and go home. This, of course, was disappointing news but it obviously could have been a lot worse; we were all just so happy they were unharmed (rattled, but unharmed).

We made it to Indianapolis by 6:00 or so, found a relatively cheap motel (La Quinta) near a few restaurants (the goal being not to have to drive around too much). Although Mr. B doesn't look old enough to use AARP, those discounts, meager as they may be, are helpful.

Nearby the La Quinta were a Cracker Barrel (uh, not for dinner), a Joe's Crab Shack (I wasn't up to eating my dinner while watching the wait staff dance around) and an Outback. So, Outback it was.

I cannot remember the last time I've been to an Outback; maybe ten years or so back in Colorado Springs. I don't have a problem with Outback, we just don't have one anywhere close to where we live. We decided to sit at the bar since we were not all that hungry right then. Hey, bonanza! All glasses of wine were $4! I had a few really nice wines (normally $9). Mr. B had his signature martini. After a bit, we developed sufficient hunger pangs to eat; he had ribs, I had a beef tenderloin salad with bleu cheese, red onions, walnuts, etc. Oh, we also won two free desserts (for next visit). I guess I'll have to figure out where there is a nearby Outback so we can go on a Thursday night for good wine (cheap) and get our free desserts.

Slept well enough in the motel (despite hearing a few "Oh baby!'s" from the room either next door or above us). The next morning, we picked brother Jon up at the airport (he was coming in from a business trip to Korea). Happy 40th b-day, brother Jon! We ate a b-day breakfast at Bob Evans. For the first time EVER, we were sorely disappointed in the experience. First, Jon's breakfast was stone cold. Second, our sausage gravy was absolutely HORRIBLE! Mr. B said it seemed to him they had added beef broth or something to it. YUCK. So much for Bob Evans.

Onwards to Potato Creek State Park near South Bend, Indiana, roughly 3 hours away up one very long boring state route (US 31).

Along the way, we went through the town of Kokomo, IN; which immediately had me singing, "Aruba, Jaimaca, ooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahama, c'mon pretty mama, Key Largo, Montego, baby why don't we go down to Kokomo!" although, of course, this Kokomo is not off the Florida keys!

There was, however, a landmark sign (and, apparently, famous given how easy it was for me to Google it!)
Next stop, Cousin Andy's!

Mrs. B

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blind Man

I'm always amazed at how people's paths in life cross; what brings them to the same juncture at the exact point in time. But for one different decision here or there (either yours, theirs, or even someone else's entirely), and, the meeting would never have occurred.

Mr. B, CPA, has (and has had) many clients. I've not met any of them, until last night. Oh, yes, I actually felt a bit like Samantha on "Bewitched" going out to dinner with her husband and his client :-) Not that I caused any shenanigans, of course.

Seriously, Mr. B's been telling me about Terry M. for some time, which, in and of itself is somewhat unusual 'cause he doesn't typically talk that much about his clients (other than the usual and general of who they are, what they do/their business is, where they're located etc.)

So, the path thing and how Terry came to be his client in the first place is that Mr. B began working for his current firm three years ago. In the same building is a financial management company called Stifel Nicholas, which, after a lot of thought, we decided to retain as our financial managers (this is not to insinuate that we have oodles of money to be managed, but, neither of us felt we were equipped to do justice to what it is we do have). Terry has an older, mentally ill sister for whom he is trustee of a SNT (special needs trust). Stifel (I believe) helps with this plus a bit more of his assets. Terry, originally from PA, has lived in North Carolina the majority of his life and currently lives way out in the sticks, not too far from Hurt, one of our FMs at SN.

Ok, Hurt, who is a great guy (former HR person, as an aside), is talking to Mr. B one day and mentions that he has a client who had a real shady CPA who got him into a ton of trouble with the IRS. He, Terry needed an excellent CPA to get him out of the mess, enter our Mr. B.

Those details aside (and I shouldn't really disclose much, anyway), Terry and Mr. B were introduced by Hurt. Terry engaged Mr. B (meaning, hired) and off they went.

So, over the course of the engagement, They've chatted frequently. Mr. B's told me that he probably spends too much (non-billable time) on the phone with Terry, but, it's apparent that Terry is quite lonely and doesn't have many people to talk to.

I guess, then, I wasn't overly surprised when Mr. B asked me a few weeks ago if I'd like to go with him to meet Terry for dinner; Terry had mentioned it several times to him and they figured they should do it. Why not?

Terry picked Carrabbas, which was fine by us. We decided up front that we would not let him pay for our dinner (to me, this would seem somehow inappropriate, anyway, from an ethics perspective). We arrived first but Terry had phoned earlier to ask the hostess to give us a large booth, which we went ahead and sat in and ordered a drink.

I wasn't sure what to expect and Mr. B didn't know who to look for having never met Terry face to face. The hostess brought him over; a tall, somewhat lanky man with grey-ish hair, a mustache, and big green eyes that, to my relief, did not wander all over the place (ok, I know I'm not the only one who would worry about where to look; silly, I know, considering he couldn't see where I was looking at all). He also bore a striking resemblance to a guy I used to work with way back in college named Findley.

Anyway, one thing I noticed right off the bat, he seemed to have some idea of motion/where we were. He shook Mr. B's hand without fumbling or searching and turned to me (I was sitting down in the booth) and reached down towards me to shake mine. As we were eating, his hands easily found whatever it was they needed; utensils, glass, plate, napkin and bread basket (I've never see someone eat so much bread in my entire life).

It was apparent to me that this dinner was something he'd looked forward to a great deal. Although perhaps a touch nervous at first, he nevertheless kept up a steady stream of chatter which encompassed a myriad of subjects ranging from the food he wanted to eat that night (in addition to the bread, we ordered appetizers, soups/salads, our entrees and he had two tequila sunrises), to where he was from, what his father and mother had done in their lives (both educators, now deceased), his sister, his A-Frame house and his methodical process for cleaning it (I have to admit I was REAL curious when he mentioned vacuuming; so, I asked him how he vacuumed when he couldn't see what he was doing, which he graciously explained to me in some detail). He has a female cat named Beta whom he feeds four cans of Fancy Feast a day and who, apparently, does "whatever she wants to do" and he listens to a lot of audio books. He told us that he can sometimes see movement if the light is right and the movement is close. So, if I were standing a block away waving at him, he'd not see me. However, if I were right up close waving my hand in his face, he'd see that. But, he couldn't see our faces.

I thought, "I know someone is there. I just don't know who it is".

After dinner, he got up to go outside to smoke a cigarette. By himself. He had told Mr. B that he is pretty good with spatial relations and once he's been in a place (he'd been to this restaurant one other time), he pretty much remembers where he is and where he's going. Impressive, and, oh by the way, I'd be in big doggie doo-doo with that whole "spatial relations" thing.

Someone had dropped him off earlier that night (obviously, he cannot drive) so Mr. B had offered that we'd take him home. Let me tell you, this man DOES live out in the sticks. WAY out there. Despite his very exacting directions, we drove right past the turn off to his road. He said, "It feels as though we've gone too far". We had.

Way at the end of the road, sitting on five or so acres, was his A-Frame house. And, sitting there waiting for him was his cat, Beta.

As he got out of the car, he enthused that he certainly hoped this wouldn't be the last time we'd have dinner together. He asked Mr. B to leave the headlights on him as he ambled towards the door, Beta running alongside next to him.

We backed out of the driveway and back down the very dark and deserted road. Mr. B said, "Could you imagine living way out here?" No, I couldn't. But, my guess is that it suits Terry just fine and I truly admire his independence.

So, I asked Mr. B, "What happened? He's not always been blind, that was apparent from several things he said".

"No, no. He hasn't been. He was out riding his motorcycle one day about sixteen years ago and was hit by a kid jacked up on drugs. He woke up in the hospital with many serious breaks and injuries. And blind".

I thought back to something Terry had said earlier that evening, about how he listened to over 1,300 audio books one year, during the "dark time", and tried to fathom what it would be like to loose so much in a literal blink of an eye.

And how there is no one, really, in his life and yet he's chugging along, Beta by his side, because as he said, "I wasn't about to give up".

And how just a very simple gesture of kindness; two people agreeing to have dinner with him one night, made his day. Heck, maybe even his week.

And I thought, too, about a lyric from an Aerosmith song:

"I met a blind man, who taught me how to see".

And I'm sorta hoping we'll be seeing more of Terry M.

Mrs. B