Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Indulgent Moments

Kids and Good Friends

Tina and her brothers, step, and half

And then there was nine

The Original Five
Tina, John, Dan, John Sr., Suzie
Back to school celebrations? Nah, not here. Only tearful goodbyes. Back in the day, I used to celebrate with champagne, streamers, fireworks, couldn't wait for those little buggers to go back to school. Oh it was a happy day. But the euphoria didn't last for long, only about 20 minutes.
Today I look at faded pictures that I took with them all neatly packed on bus 13 off to Holland Hill School and get a little melancholy until I remember the crabbing, the grunting, the general mayhem of early morning wakeups and getting dressed after a summer of sleeping in. I remember that Mr. Leadem, the principal had me on autodial and homework always intruded upon our "quality family time" in the evenings. Nine months of hell were about to begin!!! The champagne stopped flowing and the balloons sputtered around the room until they lie like dead soldiers on a battleground. I was in hysterics.
Seems like ages ago - thank God. I always knew that if I could only the get the kids from there in time to here in time, all would be OK. And, all is OK! Thank God! In fact it's better than OK. It's wonderful, fabulous, more than I ever dreamed. Dare I use that stupid word...bliss.
What a week it has been here. Two days after I arrived home from the Bahama's my son Dan and his girlfriend arrived from Alameda, CA for a week long visit. Incredible, healing, fun, all the above. Here are some photos of the fam, I beg your indulgence. Aren't we handsome?

We had a family dinner, John Sr. (former hubbie), our three kids John, Dan and Tina, his wife Sue, her two sons Billy and Pat and John and Sue's son Scott were all gathered. It had been five years since all of us could be together. Dan and Brandi were in from CA and everyone else was able to converge here in Fairfield.
It was a bittersweet moment however when Billy made an announcement at dinner that he was going to be deployed to Iraq on October 3. We cried, we laughed, we toasted, I hiccuped to his well being. It was a sobering moment in the evening but it made us realize our love we each possessed for one another. No one was afraid to express it either.
Bahama's, family reunions....OK now I really have to pack for Israel. Leaving September 30.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bahama Photos

The Bahama Blues
Just another day in paradise

Ho Hum

Conch Catch

Sunset at Dock

Another Sunset at Dock




Seagulls - too close
How do you rotate right?

Out Island Minnowstry

Life in the Bahamas, the laid back, time eternal, sunny and breezy Bahamas, takes on a whole new meaning of existence once you spend time there. Arrived on Saturday evening – still able to use sentences with nouns, verbs and oral punctuation. By Tuesday, the nouns went AWOL, and by the following Saturday grunts, groans, and audible ahhhhhs were all we needed to communicate with one another. Which, I realized was in all actuality a very good thing. Because when your mind calms down and those good and evil voices in your head finally shut up, you have a chance to focus on life outside of what’s going on in your little sphere. Why, there is a whole universe outside of you where living creatures of every kind are busily engaged in the moment.

There are so many good things about Man O War Cay. That is if you’re looking for a vacation to rest and relax. Not one restaurant except an ice cream shop! We took our own food and traded USDA beef with Walter at the Man O War Cay Hardware Store for fresh lobster that he had caught. There were two small grocery stores where each item was well over $3.00, a bag of potato chips fetched $4.99 and that was NOT the family sized bag. Main Street, the Queen’s Highway was only 10 feet wide, just wide enough for two golf carts to pass. Did I mention that there are no cars on the Cay? Uh, no stoplights or streetlights either but we did have electricity. So we listened to Radio Abaco. That was very entertaining. Worldly music of every kind but infused with a reggae beat. Classical, Pop, Rap, no matter, it all sounded island like. The weather report went something like this. In a part patois, part English/Scottish tongue…..Today, (pause) Wednesday. (long pause) Sunny. Maybe some breeze. I’d look outside and sure enough, he was always right. Sunny with some breeze.

Our days were a mix of scheduled lethargy. 8:15 or so awake. Sit, listen to radio, drink coffee. Float in the turquoise blue waters and decide what to eat at our next meal. Make and eat the meal. Sit, read, watercolor, needlepoint. Float in the turquoise blue waters and decide what to eat next. Nap. Go to the dockside, feed sea life and watch sunset, have cocktails. See moon and stars emerge go to house, make and eat dinner. Go to moon roof and watch for shooting stars. Fall into bed. Get up the next day at 8:15 or so.

Occasionally we would walk from one end of the cay to the other, walk on conch beach and hunt down conch with our spaghetti scoops. What a great catch we made the first day, seven conchs, two sand dollars, a sea urchin, two limpets and several other various shells. We visited the Man O War Cemetery where, oddly enough, all of the headstones had the same last name. So did every native islander for that matter. Hmm.

Really though my favorite part of each day was sunset. We would sit on our dock facing west, and watch the sun set over Abaco Sound. Ahh, the Bahamas! Chuck and Marcia fished and I began a new minnowstry.

The first evening the sea gulls where put out. Who was dock sitting in their space? I had bits of a hamburger bun and began to feed them. At first I threw the bits into the water and they would dive down to pick them up. Then I noticed that they sat on the post and inched their way closer to me, so I tested them and threw some bun closer. My finding: Sea gulls have personal space. Three feet and no less. Good thing too because MY personal gull space is three feet.

So began my minnowstry with minnows. They were dependable and came each evening to the dock to be fed. Fishes and Loaves, Fishes and Buns, Fishes and Croutons and Doritos, they didn’t care. I guess when you’re hungry what you eat really doesn’t quite matter so much. Here’s what I learned about minnows. (Chuck thinks I should apply for a research grant from Yale to do further work in the Bahama’s with minnows).

They are, of course, school fish. They swim in schools, you never see a singular minnow, they live in relationship to one another. When one turns they all seem to turn simultaneously. I never saw one fight with another. Some minnows were more aggressive but that was accepted.

I noted that there are four different schools of minnows grouped according to size. Pre School, Elementary School, Middle School, and High School. The little pre schoolers were probably about three-quarters of an inch long. Elementary schoolers I’d say about and inch and a half, middle school two inches and high schoolers three inches. They kept to their own schools, no cross overs, no getting ahead of the class.

The pre schoolers stayed very close to the bottom and hardly came out at night. The others came out for my offerings with the biggest at the top and the others layered underneath. When I would throw bits of food in all of the fish would swim in a frenzy to the bits and then quickly swim away from it, one or two had a nibble in its mouth but it was rare that one minnow hogged the entire bit. The food sank to all three levels and the frenzy went on at each level.

In the morning on the dock the little guys were there sunning themselves in the shallow water. I had some remnants of the prior nights feast which I threw out to them. I’m afraid that they didn’t swim to the food, but were scared out of their teeny tiny little fishwits. They shot away in every direction. I’m sure that if I were there longer I could have trained them to get the food. But all things come to an end and so did our stay at Man O War Cay.

Everyone needs a vacation with no agenda every once and a while. Nine days was my limit and I got antsy but it was essential to slow down my mind, my body. Oh and by the way, I got one heck of a tan. I couldn’t have begun an out island minnowstry without time. I wouldn't have been able to see the sun rise and set in all its daily glory. A space of time was created for me to begin the real process of release and to embrace the future. Ahhh, the Bahama's.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bahama Blog? Not in my future.

Well, I KNOW I should have my head examined. I can hear you now...why is she going to the Bahama's now only six weeks before she moves to Israel for a year. Ok, so I get side tracked easily. Life is too short not to take advantage of opportunities so long as all the planets are in alignment. The real fact is, I've had this trip planned for over a year with some great friends.

Where to? Man O War Cay in the Abaco Islands of the Bahama's. My friends have been there many times, always in August, the hottest month of the year in the Bahama's. It's a tiny little place but has a Marina which is known for boat building. Our house is a tiny cinder block, two bedroom with a front door that leads you right onto the beach. And since the Island is only 1/2 mile wide or so, I'm told you can look out of the back side of the house and see the other side of the Island.

Should be heavenly! Gotta get packing - books, watercolors, camera, sunscreen, flip flops and a couple of bathing suits. Food, we have to take our own food.

All this to say - no more blogs from me for a while! Happy August.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Peanuts, Popcorn, and Cracker Jack

It's true! Baseball is Biblical! I knew there was something sacred about this game. Ask any Card's fan worth their weight in bird poop. Baseball is heavenly.

For all you baseball fans out there, and you know who you are, don't despair. I will not be without a team to follow when I'm in Israel. It's true I don't sit glued to the television guzzling beers and yelling at the ump, or talking about the Card's ad nasuem, but I do like a good game of baseball when the St. Louis Cardinals are up at bat.

Oh heck, I follow them most of the time ever since the Old Pro took me to my first baseball game in 1964 (it was a very good year). No Yankees or Red Sox for this Midwesterner. You can take the girl out of St. Louis but you have a much harder time taking St. Louis out of the girl.

What is summertime in Connecticut without the four H's - heat, humidity, haze and hotdogs? What is summertime without a trip to the Bluefish? What is summer without a concert at the gazebo or the 8:15 service at the beach, or just a walk at Jennings Beach? I know I'll be missing a lot next year, but I'll still be able to see some live baseball. All is right in the world.

I want to introduce you to the newly formed Israel Baseball League.

Opening day was June 24, 2007 or the 8th of Tammuz 5767 and it looks like they are off to a great start. Six teams draw players from all over the world. Fairfield's own Nathan Mittag of Congregation Beth El has been drafted for the Ra'anana Express. Go Nathan. Go IBL. Can anybody say play ball in Hebrew?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Exotic Bellydance, Standup Comedy, or Clergy Self Care

Last Friday night was the summer performance of the Manipura Belly Dance Troupe under the direction of belly dance master Tava.

My daughter and I have been taking belly dance lessons and we have laughed and rolled our eyes each week for over a year now. We shimmy and roll. We ching our zills, we command our scarves with bellydancer attitude. We shake our sequined and coined hipscarved butts until the coins fly off in shear frenzy. We perform at Norwalk's finest, the Blue Sky Cafe, who just lost their liquor license. We wake up the next morning and wonder, why are we doing this? What have we done? I, in particular, wonder if I am a closeted stand up comedian and not a clergyperson. There are many good questions in life - what have I done is just one of them.

One movie that I have watched over and over again is Bronco Billy with Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke. Eastwood (Bronco Billy) forms a traveling Wild West show and performs for all the 'lil pawdners out there. By necessity, or abandonment, Sondra Locke (Miss Lily) joins the show. She hates it. Not her kind of people! She mocks them and puts them down until you want to slap her upside the face. You see she thinks that they are all just fake cowboys. She's an heiress and the rest are ex cons or alcoholics. Of course in the end she falls in love with Billy and begins to understand that they are not so different after all.

At one point in the film, Billy who is in love with Miss Lily but exasperated beyond H E double toothpick, tries to get her to understand that this gang of cowboys and cowhands are just livin' out their lives doin' what makes them happy. Spreadin' some joy out there to all the 'lil pawdners who need some fantasy and cheerin' up. They know they're not REAL cowboys, for cryin' out loud Billy is a shoe salesman who happened to murder his wife! But in the end they stick together.

So why do a pre-school teacher, a hairstylist and salon owner, an elementary school teacher, a PR rep, a Marketing rep, a massage therapist, an ESL teacher, a musician, a hotel manager, an insurance broker, and a clergywoman get out there and shake our booty? Because we love it. H E double toothpick, we're not REAL bellydancers but we're not fake ones either. We dance because it's a beautiful form of dance and Tava makes us feel good about ourselves. We look at Tava who is no bigger than a minute, try and mimic her and think we are dancing just as exotically as she is. We are fantasy seekers. We dance because it's fun, and we like to look pretty.

We continue to dance throughout the hot summer months because, beyond bellydancing, we have formed a friendship around a common theme. And hey, did I say we like sparkle, glitter, sequins and showing our navels. (some of them do - not me for heaven's sake, I do have boundaries for cryin' out LOUD - I may have to get another pulpit sometime).

Tava, my fellow bellydancers, I will miss you this next year while I'm in Israel. But, I won't fall behind thanks to Sagit, my surrogate belly dance teacher in Jerusalem. Yes, stay tuned, belly dancing in the Middle East I'm sure will be good for another couple of blogs.

Everybody should try a little belly dance in their lives. Exotic Bellydance, Standup Comedy, or Clergy Self Care? Yes.

Praise God with tambourines and dance; Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

When I am Cold you Should Wear a Coat

Sometimes what you say is NOT what you mean! Learning Hebrew is hard. Maybe not for you but for me, very difficult. If only I knew English grammar, perhaps that would help. If only I could remember verbs and pronouns, hey and how about that opatitive future tense? If only I could recall words, in the correct order, at a moment's notice, maybe then, when my teachers call on me I wouldn't look like a deer caught in headlights.

My teachers are patient, my fellow students are patient. They suffer through my present tense thoughts when they should be past tense. They do not laugh when my genders don't match. Really, who needs to pay attention to that stuff anyway? My friends are encouraging beyond any stroke of my imagination knowing that the entire State of Israel will laugh loudly at my Hebrew.

Today I thought I was really getting it, you know, making sense, actually speaking the language. And I was! Until, I made an error that cost me lots of ground. In Hebrew I was saying, "The men (masculine, plural), in the restaurant, wanted (masculine, plural, past tense) meat, vegetables, bread, soup, ice cream and cake." It was a perfect sentence - the King David's Hebrew.

A silence descended upon the class. I began to hear "lo" (no), "lo" (no). I was confused - in any tense. I tried to recount what I had said. The grammar was exemplary, for once, the words, right on target. The men weren't ordering dresses and sandals to eat in a restaurant. They were ordering food. What's wrong?

My fatal error? The men ordered meat and dairy together. It's not kosher. Of course, of course, what was I thinking? How tref of me. There is more to Hebrew than what the text can teach. You can't have meat and dairy together at the same meal. I have far to go, and a lot more than just the language to learn. Hebrew will come, perhaps not fluently but I know that I will not starve and can ask for directions. And hopefully, I will give Israeli's a good laugh with my efforts.

I am reminded of a story from the Book of Acts. The disciples were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost when all of a sudden a great wind blew into the room and at once each one of them could speak in intelligent languages, all different from the other. The Holy Spirit had gifted them with language so that they could communicate to all the people. I think that this will happen to me too. In time I'll be able to speak and make sense in Hebrew, understand it's nuances, and in this way be able to fully immerse myself into all that Israel has to offer.