OO-BLA-DI, OO-BLA-DA

No news is not good news. It’s just no news.

We are in a slow news period. It’s not as if nothing is going on. It’s just that nothing is going on in which anyone is especially interested.

2014’s elections were the usual vicious, contentious, nasty business. We used to get outraged, upset, furious about elections. Now, they come. They go. Everything changes, but nothing is different. This time, when the elections ended, it got quiet in a hurry. Bring on Christmas.

72-birds in the bush_029

The holidays came and went. All through February, the weather (pardon the pun) has been the hot topic. And who Prince Harry is (or isn’t) dating. “Deflategate” is being beaten to death on the sports networks, but is anyone listening? Do we care? As memories of the Super Bowl fade, spring training begins. Can the Sox pull themselves out of the tank? Is there hope for 2015? That’s the most interesting question on the news horizon.

We’ve had a lot of snow.

snow window poster february 2015

I’m sure a national calamity was predicted for this year, but I forget what it was. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, the sky isn’t falling, unless that’s really what all that white stuff is … the sky falling, I mean.

72-Dirty-Snow_09

So there are no fresh disasters. Whichever huge controversies were with us last year and the year before are still lurking, along with a few tired, sleazy scandals. It’s the same old, same old. Back to the everyday struggles of a tired population hoping things will get better and suspecting they won’t. A new year is rolling along. Oo-bla-di, oo-bla-da.

CHAOS IS KING AND MAGIC IS LOOSE IN THE WORLD

Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world. 

That was the conclusion Robert A. Heinlein drew at the end of  his two novellas, “Waldo” and “Magic, Incorporated.” And the conclusion I drew at the end of the day. Yesterday.

It was just one of those days. Not catastrophic, but not good. I had a doctor appointment. The back doctor. They guy who gives pain-killer needles and we were on the road. I was a bit nervous. More than a bit. They were going to take an x-ray of my back. Inevitably, when someone looks at my spine, they get all weird.

My current home.

I tell people it’s bad but I suspect no one believes it could be that bad. Everyone thinks whatever is wrong with their back is the worst. But you see, mine really is the worst. It’s the kind of bad that makes experienced spine doctors’ jaws drop. There are so many things wrong with it, it inspires the comment “I’m amazed you can still walk.” This from people who should know better. But they look at the pictures and just can’t help themselves. It pops out of their mouths.

I was afraid the doctor would look at the x-ray and refuse to do anything. Because it’s such a godawful mess. I suppose that’s better than going ahead and doing further damage, though it’s difficult to see how much worse it could be. Forget I said that. It can always be worse.

We were on time. We’d arisen before dawn. Had coffee, did our e-mail. Just like the old days, except instead of coffee and a newspaper, we had coffee and a pair of laptops.

Garry went out, gassed up the car. We were on our way. A few miles down the road, the car began to chug and balk. An unfamiliar idiot light went on and it starting dinging. It wasn’t any of the familiar idiot lights. This one is orange and looks like a battery or an engine schematic. Not the “Check Engine” light. I know that one. The car had been running fine. For seven years, it ran fine. We gave it regular maintenance. It started, drove, stopped. Until yesterday.

We pulled over and did a couple of 360s. Looking for something hanging, like the exhaust? A flat tire? Despite no visual evidence, there was something seriously amiss. We turned around and went home, grateful the breakdown was on Route 146 and not the Mass Pike. It took a while to get home. Amazing how long it takes at 30 mph when you are used to driving more than twice that speed.

After we landed, Garry grabbed the shopping list and hopped into the other car — the 2002 Sunfire. We don’t drive it much anymore. Almost never in the winter because it doesn’t have snow tires. And it has been making a funny noise we can’t pin down. He took it to the grocery story, came back appropriately loaded down, and told me the inspection sticker expired in December. The holidays. The Sunfire’s inspection had slipped past unnoticed.

When Owen got home, I explained the Cruiser was sick … and the inspection on the Sunfire expired. Garry asked if driving without a current inspection sticker was okay and Owen said, “No, not really,” so Garry asked if the yellow car would pass inspection. Owen replied “No, the driver’s side windshield wiper isn’t working and it won’t pass until it gets fixed.”

The yellow 2002 Sunfire is everyone’s backup car. When Owen’s car won’t run, he drives the Sunfire. When Sandy’s car is in the shop, she drives the Sunfire. Ditto Kaity. But if something goes wrong with it, it is our problem. At the risk of sounding whiny, whatever goes wrong — house or car — it is always our problem.

I pointed out to Owen we were without transportation in a town which has no public transportation, not even a taxi service. Leaving us stuck with no way to get anywhere was unacceptable.

So … as the sun set in the west, the Sunfire was street legal, though the Cruiser — the car with the new snow tires — is not going anywhere. It appears (according to Owen), to be a computer problem. Probably the bastard child of the random electrical glitch we’ve had for years, the electrical ghost that makes windows lock open or shut and doors refuse to lock — or worse, unlock. The ghost in our machine.

And so the day ended, none too early for my taste. Today has not brought new revelations. The Cruiser remains broken. The Sunfire is running, but it’s old. Chaos is definitely king. Right now, we could use some of that loose magic.

THE BIG TEN

So there we were in the car driving home on a lovely almost-spring day also known as Easter. I was mentally shuffling through the heap of junk I call my brain, trying to remember all ten of the commandments.

spring on the blackstone

 

I found myself stopped at around seven or eight, depending on how I divided the “How to behave to God” section. I turned to Garry, my good Lutheran husband and asked him if he knows all ten commandments and he replied, with some irritation, he had to pay attention to traffic. There wasn’t any traffic, except for one very slow driver in front of us. I suppose Garry was trying hard to avoid ramming him.

Finally, he admitted he didn’t know all of them either.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” I pointed out, “When two such educated souls as us cannot list all ten commandments.”

“Well there’s a lot of stuff about not making idols and coveting and all.”

“Yeah, and taking a day off once a week.”

So when I got home, I looked them up.

It turns out there really are a bunch of “how to behave to God” commandments and not all religions divide them up the same way. You can come up with as many as 15 (à la Mel Brooks “History of the World.”) or as few as 8. It depends on how you look at them and where you punctuate the sentences.

Following are the Big Ten according to most Protestant sects and a second list which are my streamlined easier-to-remember set.

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)

  1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

I thought I’d make them easier to remember, so here’s my take on them. Remember, mine are not etched in stone. For that matter, except for the ones Moses got on Sinai, none of them are.

The Serendipity Top Ten

  1. I’m God. The One and Only. Don’t forget it, not for a moment.
  2. Idols are O-U-T.
  3. No using God’s name to swear. Or maybe no swearing. I’m not sure. Maybe both.
  4. Take a break on the seventh day of your week. Really it doesn’t matter what day you choose because when I started making the world, there were no calendars. So take your pick, then stick to it. Everyone gets the same day off, including your family, guests, slaves, servants and animals. No work. Got that?
  5. Take care of your parents.
  6. Don’t murder anyone.
  7. Don’t cheat on your spouse. YOU know what I mean.
  8. Don’t steal stuff.
  9. Don’t lie.
  10. Don’t envy other people’s stuff. You’ve got your own.

Is that better? I’m just here to help.

 

 

THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE – A REVIEW I DIDN’T WRITE MYSELF

Obviously I didn’t write this.I would be embarrassed to say this much nice stuff about me, but I have to admit I’m kind of delighted. In the midst of the craziness of my life, all of a sudden I’m getting wonderful reviews of the book I’d pretty much given up on. It never went anywhere. I’m not even sure I know how to find my publication website … or have any idea what my password is. Or anything.

If nothing else, it’s humbling that there can be such a huge disparity between my perception of the book I wrote and other people’s view of it. That I might not be the best judge of my work goes without saying … but to be 180 degrees out of alignment forces me to wonder what else I’m completely wrong about.

teepee book shelf

In any case, I have taken the liberty of copying and pasting the review here because I have no idea how one reblogs a review that isn’t on a blog. And this is on the Canadian Amazon site, making it even more inaccessible. The title of the book is also a live link to the source, so please visit that site too. The author deserves your support.

I’m beyond grateful for this review. I’m touched and encouraged. This is a difficult time for me, for obvious reasons. Having something so nice happen right now makes me feel (sorry about the pun) heartened.

THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE

5.0 out of 5 stars

The fascinating construction of a life Jan. 30 2014

By Jiibo Dyallo

Format: Kindle Edition | Amazon Verified Purchase

Marilyn Armstrong is a widely read blogger on WordPress, and that’s how I became aware of her. I thought, ‘anyone who writes this well must have written at least one book.’ The 12-foot Teepee, in fact, is the name of the book and the basis of the blog’s URL, teepee12 dot com.

Tempus fugit, especially for daily bloggers. Marilyn tells me, in correspondence, that she’s no longer quite the same person as the one who wrote the book. As a former resident of Jerusalem, though, she says she once lived near a place where archaeologists found “a Canaanite temple, on top of which (pillar on pillar) stood a Greek temple. On top of which (pillar on pillar) was a Roman temple. On top of which was – you guessed it, pillar on pillar – a synagogue.” No doubt today’s Marilyn stands pillar on pillar on the one who wrote this book, and I think that that keeps the book current. A life contains its own archaeology, and what is an autobiography (as I assume this is, in essence) if not a tell?

Protagonist ‘Maggie,’ as a child, was sexually abused by her father. That revelation is how the book begins. I worked for an LGBT newspaper in the 1980s and kept current on feminist and lesbian literature during the period when the magnitude of familial incest was first being disclosed to the world. I’ve read many dozens of accounts – brief, elongated, literary, plain, agonized, detached – by people who endured this experience. Also, I’ve read numerous complex bestsellers embedding the theme, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and Anne-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees. I noticed right away that Marilyn was somehow overcoming the saturation factor and writing highly readable text. Perhaps it was her style of writing – plainspoken enough to be nodded at by Hemingway, yet subtly full of craft. Her approach was fresh, and witty at appropriate moments. Perhaps there was some engaging mystery, too, in the enigma of her father as an inconspicuously, but almost incomprehensibly, evil man. I’m not sure if I would even have credited Marilyn with restraining herself from exaggeration if I hadn’t read M. Scott Peck’s monograph on such folk, People of the Lie. I knew that such individuals really do exist. In any case, Marilyn’s way of telling the tale with judicious truth but without a show of anguish, and without the jargon that is now often used in such accounts, made the difficult events completely readable.

The book then progressed through subtly interwoven anecdotes to the unveiling of related tales: the construction of a knock-off Sioux-style teepee as a project for self-healing and for spending quality time with a lively granddaughter; the concurrent battle with spinal problems and surgeons of greater and lesser competence; and the challenges of new-found poverty for Massachusetts people caught up in the tech bust of the 1990s. This all sounds daunting, not to mention rather random and terribly personal, but Marilyn makes it as vivid and coherent a piece of writing as you will find anywhere. She wins your heart. The feeling that you want things to go well for her (I don’t know her personally at all apart from a couple of emails back and forth among fellow bloggers) turns out to be a waterslide of suspense that runs you right through the book from beginning to end. She also integrates a spiritual journey from secular Judaism into Christianity that is neither dwelt upon nor glossed over – it has its time and place in the story – and it also arouses interest – regardless, I should think, of the personal persuasion of the reader. The bottom line, though, is that Marilyn is a writer who can captivate you with a tale of how her son pieced together PVC pipe sections to make wobbly teepee poles. I can’t imagine what topic she couldn’t make interesting.

I think that this book deserves more attention than it’s had. Marilyn is not sure that it does – she says in her email that she has, to some extent, returned to religious skepticism in recent years. Life has gone on. The tell has mounded up further. Where a church once stood in her psyche, a big community teepee for comparative religion and degrees of religious belief now stands, pole on pillar. Its architecture is newer than the book.

If you have a sense of discovery, though, you still need to know how it got there, and this book is the only dig that’s been done.

HURRAH FOR NUMBER 26!

Daily Prompt: Your Days Are Numbered

What can I say about the 26th?

It’s a day that will live long in memory for no reason. It is not a birthday nor the date of a famous battle. It is a non-event day, perhaps unique entirely for its utter lack of importance.

26-1

Let us celebrate on behalf of the little people, the non-critical events of our lives. The small disasters, the minor irritations, the routine purchases. Yes, let us sing praises, hosannas, to that last and least of days — the 26th of whatever!

Other Trifles:

THE MOST IMPORTANT STORY

By Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A few thoughts on YOUR story

For the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to post a few small works of fiction.  They were just little stories that I hoped would make a point.  While they are no one’s story in particular, they all contain elements that are familiar to me.  I filled in the details with characters and descriptions that would make a story.  That was the fun part of telling a tale that in some ways I know well.  If you read any of them these on past Sundays, I hope you found some enjoyment.  I would like to recommend to you now a more important story.  It is one that only you can fill in the details and it is imperative that you do it soon, before the chance slips away.  That story is your story.

1930s Country-Road

How often have you wondered about the details of your ancestry?  How often did you wish to know more about your parents’ lives or your grandparents’ lives?  Where did they come from? How did they meet?  How did they fall in love?  What did they do before you were around?  Perhaps you have parents who were around at pivotal points in history.  What do they recall?  Did you wait until it was too late to ask these questions or is there still time?

It is not that my brother and I did not think to ask our parents about their earlier lives, we just did not get good answers.  Of course, we did not press them on anything, especially when we were young.  My mother lived through the Great Depression and the family was so poor that a wealthy relative offered to raise my mother since my grandmother had so many kids she could not properly feed.  Apparently my grandfather was not a good provider.  Details of his bad habits are sketchy.  My mother was not given away as they struggled through the thirties.  As for the war years, I have no idea.

My father was born into rural American farm life.  He joined the war effort as soon as he was old enough.  Like many of our “greatest generation” he said little about it.  “What did you do in the war, dad?” we might ask.  “I learned to peel potatoes”, he would usually respond.  Even if that were true, it does not tell the story.  My father was a member of the army air corp. 509 Composite.  That is the group that was on Tinian Island.  There the secret mission was to assemble the team and enough support personnel to drop the atom bomb on Japan.  Did my father know any of that?  Probably not as records indicate he was trained in first aid and medical support.  Some of what is left is a matter of contradictions.  Some of the record may have been untrue to cover what was the actual story.  It is hard to imagine he left the war in Europe or Africa where he had medals, for “agricultural training” here.  He was raised on a farm.  More likely, he trained as support staff before going to a small island in the South Pacific.

Late in dad’s life it was futile to recover any details.  My brother tried to get some information and did a lot of research that allowed us to only confirm a few things.  We have medals, his discharge paper and the 509 Composite book with some pictures as the only definite facts.  The rest of the story was my father’s joke or dismissive answers.  Of course, we have heard that many who came back from the war, did not want to talk about it.  In my father’s later life we did attend some family reunions and travelled to the rural community where he was born.  My grandparents are buried there.  We learned some of his past, nothing about the war.

Ellis-Island-passengers-on-ship

I tell you all this to remind you that you may want to learn as much of your ancestry as you can.  It is part of your story.  You may have heard of ancestry.com or the PBS television series that traces the ancestry of famous people.  These have become popular because of our desires to know who we are and where we came from.  If your parents and grandparents are alive, ask them your questions now, before it is too late.

When my grandmother was still alive and in her 90’s, there was a picture take with her holding her great-great grand-daughter with her daughter, grand-daughter and great grand-daughter behind her.  I wonder if there is a copy of that photo for the infant in the picture.  More importantly, can anyone recount the stories of those in the picture?  Save your priceless photos too.  There may be no telling how valuable these pictures will be to future generations.

What about the most important story of all?  That would be your story, of course.  You may not think it now, but your story may be important to the future.  Consider what your friends and offspring may wish to know.  Tell the stories as honestly as you can.  That does not mean you have to tell everything.  Some things are best if they are not passed along.  Tell the things the next generations will want to know about you and who and what came before you as far as you know.  You will be honoring the future generations in this way.  What you wanted to know about your past may be what your offspring will want to know about you.  Toss the dirt out the window and save the good stuff for future generations to know.

National Public Radio has featured stories from Story Corps.  Over 90,000 people have recorded their stories there, some more than once, years apart.  Some are absolutely moving accounts of where some people have been in their lives.  I heard one on the radio of an elderly couple who told their story on-line and then updated 10 years later before the husband’s death.  Then he recounted how he wrote love letters to his wife every day for over 40 years and their love had never died.  Did following generations know this?  They know it now.  Do not leave your story untold and unwritten.  It is your legacy.  It is the most important story you know.