trump…and the pope

What do these men have in common? Not much it would seem.

Trump is about Trump. Pope Francis is about others.

Trump lives like a king, isolated in his own tower. Pope Francis lives in apartment #201 at the Vatican Hotel…so he can be closer to the people.

Trump seeks the presidency so he can, as he tells it…single-handedly return America to its glory days. Pope Francis agreed to forgo retirement so that he could shepherd world citizens to do what we can for the less fortunate among us.

Perhaps the Pope’s message of inclusion will resonate with those seeking the presidency. We can only pray that those who call themselves Christians, are, in fact, Christ-like.

The Pope’s words spoken during the homily at the Mass canonizing Junipero Sera to sainthood…

Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice! These are striking words, words which impact our lives. Paul tells us to rejoice; he practically orders us to rejoice. This command resonates with the desire we all have for a fulfilling life, a meaningful life, a joyful life. It is as if Paul could hear what each one of us is thinking in his or her heart and to voice what we are feeling, what we are experiencing. Something deep within us invites us to rejoice and tells us not to settle for placebos which simply keep us comfortable.

At the same time, though, we all know the struggles of everyday life. So much seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice. Our daily routine can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb.

We don’t want apathy to guide our lives… or do we? We don’t want the force of habit to rule our life… or do we? So we ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb, becoming anesthetized? How do we make the joy of the Gospel increase and take deeper root in our lives?

Jesus gives the answer. He said to his disciples then and he says it to us now: Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.

The spirit of the world tells us to be like everyone else, to settle for what comes easy. Faced with this human way of thinking, “we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world” (Laudato Si’, 229). It is the responsibility to proclaim the message of Jesus. For the source of our joy is “an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24). Go out to all, proclaim by anointing and anoint by proclaiming. This is what the Lord tells us today. He tells us:

A Christian experiences joy in following a command: Go forth and proclaim the good news! A Christian finds ever new joy in answering a call: Go forth and anoint!

Jesus sends his disciples out to all nations. To every people. We too were part of all those people of two thousand years ago. Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message, his presence. Instead, he always embraced life as he saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity. Far from expecting a pretty life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, he embraced life as he found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the folly of a loving Father who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person’s life. Go out with the ointment which soothes wounds and heals hearts.

Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.

The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24).

The reason we are here today is that many other people wanted to respond to that call. They believed that “life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort” (Aparecida Document, 360). We are heirs to the bold missionary spirit of so many men and women who preferred not to be “shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security… within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both “good” and “news”.

Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Father Junípero Serra. He was the embodiment of “a Church which goes forth”, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.

Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!

…words inspiring us to act with mercy and compassion.

………hugmamma.

a man…a saint

As I drifted off to sleep last night, I prayed for Pope Francis. Image result for pope francis gallery

Not someone I normally think of when I pray.

I had real concerns for the Pope’s safety…still do…as he rides amidst thousands gathered to see him. There’s no way of knowing whether or not there’s a gunman among them. 

Even the Pope needs our prayers. Like us, he’s made of flesh and blood. At 78, Pope Francis has limited stamina and energy. His crusade to alter the plight of the world’s poor is a task not even Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can fully accomplish with all their billions. And yet the Holy Father is like the fountain of youth, offering life to all in need…physically and spiritually.

I can’t recall another world leader, past or present, so aligned with the downtrodden. A humble man where his needs are concerned, Pope Francis is nonetheless outspoken when promoting the causes of the less fortunate. Using his powerful platform as the head of the Catholic church, the pontiff runs the risk of incurring the wrath of those who disagree with his beliefs. It matters not to him. He is about God’s work.

Just as Jesus Christ was about His Father’s work…for which the Son was crucified…and subsequently rose again in glory, to sit beside His Father.

I believe one day, Pope Francis will be canonized a saint. Yet I’m sure many agree that he walks among us today…

…already a saint.

………hugmamma

Image result for pope francis gallery

celebrate life…every day

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic C...

Image by sarowen via Flickr

It’s kind of a running joke in the Catholic Church, actually it’s probably true of all religious denominations, that there’s an explosion of attendance on two annual occasions, Christmas and Easter. Regular churchgoers have to literally suck in their breaths to make room for the masses of people who join in celebrating the birth of Jesus, and then His resurrection from death. But all are welcome, regardless if they only come once or twice a year.

I acted as a meet and greet person for 8 a.m. Mass this morning. Seems to be a volunteer job I’m becoming more and more adept at doing. No cowboys here though, like there was at my previous gig. Just regular folk in their Sunday best. My husband helped usher people. We arrived about 15-20 minutes before the start of services, so there weren’t a ton of empty spaces left in the pews. I had a hunch we’d be one of the many standing the entire time, which we did.

After fulfilling our tasks, I remained in the vestibule where I’d been welcoming fellow worshippers with “Good morning. Happy Easter.” Meanwhile, hubby stood directly opposite me at the other end of the church. We could’ve waved “hello” but we didn’t. We were respectful, and minded our “P’s and Q’s,” or at least I did. He’s always reverential. Did I tell you he was a seminarian studying for the priesthood when he was in high school? God decided he had a more difficult job to undertake…keeping me on the straight and narrow, which he’s done, at times with difficulty. I’m not the kind of sheep who’s easily led. I like to ask “but..why?”

Because I was standing where families gather, outside the glass doors that separate them from the other parishioners, I couldn’t follow the priest’s words very well. With babies and toddlers cooing and talking, or parading up and down the aisle, or running in some cases, I quickly decided that God was also present among them and all of us standing on the periphery, not just within the main body of the church where the altar was. So I watched, and enjoyed, the children and their parents interact. Jesus, Mary and Joseph must’ve carried on like any one of these normal families.

La vierge aux raisins

Image via Wikipedia

A young couple whom I had brought over to an empty chair in front of me, were wonderful to watch. The husband encouraged his wife to sit with their baby in her lap. Taking off his jacket, and draping it over the back of the chair, he gently stroked his wife’s back as she tended to the little one’s needs. At times, he would lift the girl up into his arms to give the mother a little respite. Once he left, taking his daughter with him. They were gone a little while so I wondered if he’d taken her somewhere to change a diaper or use the restroom. Of course I didn’t know for sure, but he seemed the considerate type who wouldn’t flinch at the task. At the kiss of peace,” I wished them a “Happy Easter,” and told them how much I enjoyed their wonderful family.

It’s always rewarding to notice God’s handiwork in the smallest moments of daily living. Happiness, I think, is an accumulation of all such worthwhile minutiae. Approaching life this way has meant that I’m able to sustain ongoing joy. I’m better able to keep the “valleys” in perspective, not letting them drain me of my positive resolve. It’s an ongoing struggle, for sure, but one which I’m determined never to lose.

My favorite author, Leo Buscaglia, makes the best case for celebrating every day as though it were Easter, or Christmas, or any other sacred occasion.

A Rose to Brighten Your Day

Image by TT IN THE DESERT via Flickr

Life is meant to be a celebration! It shouldn’t be necessary to set aside special times to remind us of this fact. Wise is the person who finds a reason to make every day a special one.

hugs for every day of your life being special…hugmamma.

   

“balancing action and inaction,” life

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Palm Sunday, signifying Christ‘s triumphal arrival into Jerusalem. A week from now we will be celebrating His resurrection from death. That is the pivotal point for all Catholics, when we are saved from eternal damnation. And so today begins the holiest week in the Catholic Church, and the busiest. Each day provides us an opportunity to participate in the ritual leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

During Jesus life on earth this next week, Holy Week, unfolded as his own personal hell. He went from riding on a donkey, his followers waving palm branches as they honored Him, to being scourged and made to carry a wooden cross, upon which he would then be nailed, a sign over his head mocking Him as king of the Jews.

The Passion of the Christ

Image via Wikipedia

Actor/Director Mel Gibson‘s movie shown several years ago, was the most horrific representation of Christ’s suffering from the moment He was struck repeatedly with leather straps whose tips bore lead beads, to the crown of thorns shoved mercilessly into his scalp, to the huge nails that were hammered into his hands and feet. I was unable to watch most of the film, and I tried to muffle the sounds by shoving my fingers into my ears. I hadn’t imagined how overwhelmingly gruesome the depiction would be. That is one movie I will never be able to watch again. Never.

I find it difficult to fathom the suffering human beings can endure. After today’s lengthy reading of the scriptures, Father Brian launched into his homily. The contrast was jarring. Somber words one minute, near-shouting the next. A mimimum of movement one minute, bold, sweeping ones the next. He spoke of a friend with whom he visited in Bellingham, a town bordering British Columbia. It was almost as though Father was speaking of Job, the man who couldn’t get a break from the bad stuff life was throwing his way.

Andy, Father Brian’s friend, was married, with a baby on the way. At about the time he and his wife learned of her pregnancy, he was stricken with cancer throughout his abdomen. He was going through chemotherapy treatment, which left him depleted. Advice from friends and loved ones runs the gamut from fighting the disease with all of his might, to letting go and allowing God‘s will be done. Needless to say the ordeal has Andy wafting in and out of depression. Somewhere along the line, the doctors discovered that the cancer has spread throughout his spinal column.

Jesus calls Lazarus to Life

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Wouldn’t it be nice if Father Brian had the ability to relieve Andy of the cancer, by performing a miracle? That’s what the non-believers taunted as Christ hung on the cross. If He was truly the Son of God, then why didn’t His Father rescue Him? That, as we know, was not God’s will.

While Andy’s situation exemplifies human suffering at its worst, Father Brian drew a parallel between his life, Christ’s life, and our lives. Though our challenges may not be as great as theirs, like them we vacillate between agressively promoting that about which we are passionate, to passively accepting our fate and putting our lives into God’s hands. We are constantly seeking the right balance. In doing so Father concluded that we should not only pray for guidance, but that we should also find someone with whom we can openly share our sorrows.  Both will enable us to shoulder whatever burdens we will bear throughout our lives.

a fine balance…this gift of life…hugmamma.   

 

an energetic organizer, and true christian

Haven’t posted about our pastor, Father Bryan Dolejsi, in some time. But today’s Mass reminded me of the gifts with which he has been blest, and which he uses with enormous energy, and generosity. I’m sure there are many others like him, in positions of leadership, within the religious world, as well as within the secular. I, for one, have rarely seen someone possessing all that it takes to be a force for good, in a world that has gone so bad. I say we clone the man, and distribute him to the furthest corners of the universe. Yes, even the aliens could use Fr. Bryan.

Why do I go on singing his praises? Have you ever heard of a pastor, one in his late 30s, instigating neighborhood gatherings? After Mass, the parishioners were invited to sign up for community dinners according to our zip codes. If no one steps forward from among those listed, Father hosts the dinners at his own home. I’m certain it’s a pot-luck meal, but still. In my 61 years, I’ve never eaten a meal at the home of a priest. I’ve had them to our home, but never been reciprocated, and never expected to be.

Obviously Father Bryan’s purpose is to bring his congregation together, to know one another, beginning with small groups, and eventually growing so that there is camaraderie among all in the parish. Sensitive to the isolation of individuals, Father attempts to gather all unto himself, infusing us with his love and energy to go forth and spread God‘s word of charity and compassion towards others.

Breaking of the bread.

Image via Wikipedia

After Communion, Father Bryan asked that parishioners of less than a year gather before him to receive his blessing, and ours. Then he asked that they turn toward the congregation and receive our applause, welcoming them into the fold. He then asked that we speak to our new members, say “hello” or offer assistance if needed.

Now what mom wouldn’t be proud of a son like Father Byian? Not having met the woman, I’m positive his mom couldn’t be prouder of the man she raised from birth. 

for a leader who shows by example…and for the mom who set the example…huge hugs…hugmamma.

catholic education, a good thing

Father Brian was not on hand today. He and the pastor of Mary Queen of Peace, in Sammamish, switched parishes today so that our pastor could promote St. Joseph’s School and Catholic education, as an alternative to public schools. A charismatic public speaker, I’ve no doubt Father Brian got his point across, and some.

Of course my antennae were on full alert, ascertaining that Father’s “star” is indeed, “on the rise.” As a result of his impending 3-year review, I’m almost certain he will be moving onward and upward to a larger parish. He is such an asset to the Church’s growth with his youth, energy, intelligence, leadership, people skills, and passion for his calling. He deserves advancement where he can realize the utilization of all he has to offer. I will miss him, as will his entire congregation. But there is need for men like Father Brian in transforming the Catholic Church into a religious institution for today. It has long outgrown its facade of centuries past. We are overdue for another ecumenical movement.

Then again, I may be “barking up the wrong tree.” My husband will definitely be smirking if I’m wrong, and Father stays put. It won’t be the first time. Once I almost convinced my daughter a woman dressed like a beautiful gypsy, sashaying in front of a cathedral in Florence, Italy, was a “lady-of-the-night.” I think I said “p——–e”, but this is a religious post after all. I say almost, because a little later my daughter pointed out that the woman was carrying a flag, leading a group of tourists. That was my daughter’s “aha” moment, meaning mom doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about. From then on my grown daughter  has questioned my word as being the gospel truth. In fact, I think she starts out thinking I’m guilty until proven otherwise. I jest of course,… at least I think.

As part of today’s homily, a homemade video was shown depicting a day in the life of the students at St. Joseph’s. It was charming, reminding me of my days as a Catholic school student in Maui. Attending St. Anthony Girl’s School from first grade through my senior year in high school, gave me the foundation I needed to overcome barriers that were part of my reality as a person born into poverty. The Maryknoll nuns not only taught us academic skills with which to earn our living as adults, but they imbued us with lifelong values. We graduated as well-rounded young women, prepared to take our places as citizens of the larger community. In today’s world, that kind of education would be a priceless commodity.

I left Mass today, committed to making a donation to both Catholic schools, St. Anthony’s and St. Joseph’s. Just as children need to practice their 3 Rs–aRithmetic, wRiting, and Reading–everyday, so too they need to practice their values.

treating others as we would have them treat us…should be a lifelong lesson…hugmamma.  

  

beware of “mama grizzlies”

Regular visitors to my blog are well aware of my fear of bears, especially the ones roaming around my community looking for food. Fortunately these are black bears foraging for berries and garbage scraps, not people. I’m told, thankfully, that grizzlies don’t inhabit our area. I hope this behavior is not altered by future environmental changes, or I might have to move back to Hawaii, where bears are behind bars, in zoos. So why on earth would I be drawn to a “mama grizzly,” unless I was a baby grizzly hungry to be fed? 

Where I might have found Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell “curiosities,” now my gut instinct is to slowly back away from them, eyes lowered so as not to encourage their wrath. According to Lisa Miller in her recent Newsweek article “Hear Them Growl,” “A mama grizzly is a conservative woman with ‘common sense,’ as Sarah Palin puts it, someone who ‘rises up’ to protect her children when she sees them endangered by bad policies in Washington. She is fearless, and that, in combination with her femaleness, makes her scary–a new kind of political predator. She will take on any foe and, the implication is, rip him or her to shreds.” On her Facebook page, Palin asserts ‘Mama bears not only (forage) for themselves to prepare for winter, they (work) twice as hard to slay salmon for their cubs, too.’

There’s a pervading sense of “me-ism” in grass-roots politics, Palin’s brand of governing, best expressed by Nevada’s Senate candidate, Sharron Angle in June’s National Review, ‘ Don’t get between me and my cubs, or you’ve got trouble.’ On its face, the sentiment is commendable, but it seems to reflect a deeper philosophy that there is nothing Angle won’t do to preserve her family unit. The implication is that all American mothers should feel likewise. My concern is for those mothers who are “broken” financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, like my mom was. Who helps these mothers? Who helps them help their families?

It would be nice if every community had an orphanage run by Maryknoll nuns, making donations of used clothing and a surplus of powdered eggs and milk, to single mothers raising their families. My impoverished mom was fortunate to have these “angels” hovering around, helping her care for her 9 children. But these days the Catholic Church has its hands full, defending itself against allegations of pedophilia among its rank and file. And for the most part, nuns are now figments of our imagination, ghosts from a bygone era. Charitable organizations, as a whole, are finding it difficult to remain afloat during the currently depressed economy. So where do those existing on the fringes of society go to survive? 

With few exceptions, the grizzlies have been disinterested in the issues and policies that their political opponents say are good for children–despite new numbers from the census showing that rising numbers of America’s children are poor. Most of these candidates have vowed to fight to repeal President Obama’s health-care plan, for instance, and Bachmann (Minnesota’s congressional incumbent) and Haley (South Carolina’s gubernatorial candidate) have taken  special aim at CHIP, a federal program aimed at helping low-income kids get health insurance. In 2001, as a member of Nevada’s state Assembly, Angle voted no on a domestic-violence bill that would recognize restraining orders issued in other states. In 2007 Haley, a state representative, voted against a measure that would have created a kindergarten program for at-risk kids. As governor of Alaska in 2008, Palin slashed funding for Covenant House that included resources for teenage mothers. In 2009 Bachmann voted no on a bill that would give federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave.

Palin, Haley, Bachmann, Angle, and O’Donnell all declined to comment for this story. (Most grizzly candidates regard the mainstream press as the enemy.)

I agree with Angle’s friend and head of the Washoe County, Nevada GOP, Heidi Smith in that ” ‘When people don’t have jobs, they don’t have food, …There’s a loss of self-respect if you can’t provide for your family … ‘ But I’m not as comfortable with her statement that ‘The less amount of government interfering with family life, the more families can prosper,’…” Nor do I agree with Haley’s friend and president of the South Carolina Policy Council, Ashley Landess, who concurs with Smith and adds ” ‘Children are the most stable and most protected when their parents are able to provide for them,’ …” What happens to those of us, born and bred in this country, who don’t have parents to provide for us? Or whose parents can’t provide for us? Are we exported to some third world country to blend in with “our own kind,” vanishing from the collective American psyche forever?

If the grizzlies are united by an anti-establishment fury rooted in maternal concern, then it’s fair to ask what their records show they’ve done for kids. Not just their own kids–but for America’s kids, and their families as well. Even some Republicans wonder whether all the fearsome roars are merely election-year antics with little substance. ‘ ‘Mama grizzlies’ has a  catch to it, and you save your cubs–but what they’re lacking is solutions,’ says former Republican congresswoman Connie Morella. ‘They want to take their country back. Back to where?’

As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.” I used to say mothers should rule the world. I guess I was looking in the mirror at the time, imagining women who share my perceptions of life and humanitarian attitude. But even more, I assumed they’d “bring more to the table,” like broader life experiences, higher education or greater aptitude for knowledge, more management skills, greater business acumen. Perhaps I was envisioning someone like Michelle Obama.

Gut instinct and common sense resolutions work in managing my household. But there are so many more layers to governing masses of people. So I’m not in alignment with whom Palin “…was soon anointing mama grizzlies… When she endorsed Arkansas congressional candidate Cecile Bledsoe on Facebook, Palin explicitly referred to her as part of a growing list of “commonsense conservative ‘mama grizzlies.’ ” I’m for environmental responsibility, but I have no clue how to proceed, no matter how much gut instinct and common sense I might muster up. So if experts advocate conserving energy, I will do my best to follow their advice. In some corner of my brain, I understand the need for “living within one’s means.” But in our household my husband balances the checkbook and pays the bills. I’ve learned that I have a low threshold for anxiety, and have difficulty wrapping my brain around mathematical calculations. Why then would I want to relinquish the government purse strings to women who are unable to manage their own home finances?

Haley, who has two children…is just the sort of pro-business, low-tax, limited-government conservative Palin loves. Her platform is focused mostly on economic issues: creating jobs and unleashing entrepreneurial energy by slashing taxes. She holds herself out as a paragon of fiscal responsibility (never mind that she and her husband have failed to pay their taxes on time in each of the past five years).

O’Donnell, too, preaches fiscal responsibility on behalf of children, but hers is a tougher case to make. According to the Wilmington, Dela., News Journal, O’Donnell defaulted on her student loans, as well as on her mortgage. Aside from running quixotic campaigns for the U.S. Senate, O’Donnell hasn’t had a real job since 2004. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. attorney and the Federal Election Commission, alleging that O’Donnell embezzled $20,000 in campaign funds ‘to cover her personal expenses’ and committed tax evasion by not claiming those funds as income. ‘If what you’re doing is sending someone to Washington to cut the deficit, why on earth send someone who can’t manage her own finances?’ says the former Republican governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman. ‘How does that give the voters a level of confidence?

O’Donnell’s response ‘I think the fact that I have struggled financially is what makes me so sympathetic.’ reminds me of Depression-Era’s John Dillinger.

John Dillinger has gone down in history as a pseudo ‘Robin Hood’ character, a gangster with charm and style who was more idolised by the public than reviled. His life has been recounted in many movies, particularly the film-noir gangster films of the 40’s. In a case of life imitating art-imitating life, Dillinger, who is said to have modeled himself on Hollywood stars like Errol Flynn – for instance leaping over counters- was himself a character whose eventful life influenced the pictures, especially as the archetypal good-guy hood.

But the truth about Dillinger is more prosaic; that he was simply criminally intent on making as much money illegally rather than having been pre-occupied with Joe Public during the Depression years. Gunned down by the FBI while leaving a Biograph cinema, even his death has helped fuel a mythology about this good-looking, charismatic crook, who is as famous for his love life as he is for the banks he fleeced.

 I have difficulty acquiescing with other stances taken by these “mama grizzlies.” With regards to abortion, “Angle’s views are harsh: when asked by a radio interviewer in June what she’d tell a young girl who’d been raped by her father, Angle responded, ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right,’ and that the girl should turn ‘a lemon situation into lemonade.’ ” Sounds like some nonsense a Stepford Wife would utter in her fairy tale world. Tom Pritchard, president of the Minnesota Family Council has said of Bachmann, ” ‘Michele’s view is that parents are the ultimate educators and should call the shots,’ …” Meanwhile she “has voted against funding early childhood education, student-retention measures, and school modernization.” And as a state legislator, Angle “fought the conventional wisdom that kids have different learning styles. She introduced two bills that mandated the teaching of phonics, saying, ‘We need to return to the basics of education.’ According to fellow legislators, Angle refused to meet with the teachers’ union or lobbyists while she pushed the bills.” In 2005 O’Donnell complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and sued her employer, a conservative think tank, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for $7 million alleging gender discrimination. “Yet in 1998 she appeared on cable television defending the Southern Baptist Convention’s new language commanding that wives ‘graciously submit’ to their husbands, and she has been an outspoken opponent of women in the military. Her erratic stances and statements have caused even party stalwart Karl Rove to call her ‘nutty.’

Themselves mothers, it’s understandable that these “mama grizzlies” would support positions beneficial to their households. “Angle pushed a Nevada judge to expand definitions of homeschooling to accommodate other moms like her, who sent their children to small, family run religious schools.” And Palin “a mom who sent (or sends) four kids to public schools…refused to advocate for school vouchers in Alaska and supports infusions of public money into the education system.”

‘Our schools have to be really ramped up in terms of the funding they are deserving,’ she said during the 2008 vice presidential debate. ‘Teachers need to be paid more…We have got to increase standards.’ While governor, Palin repeatedly increased education spending, and shortly before leaving office last year proposed a plan to ‘forward-fund all our school districts with more than a billion dollars.’ The only place where Palin veered to the right was in the teaching of creationism. ‘I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class,’ she said in 2008.

But while I don’t fault them for following their maternal instincts, I’d rather not sublimate mine so that theirs might become the “law of the land.” I’m not certain they’d be impartial arbitrators in determining whose maternal instincts would be most advantageous for all, under their governance. Newsweek’s writer says it best

Fundamentally, the mama-grizzly phenomenon is not really a movement or even a political term that represents a fully coherent set of ideas. It’s mostly a marketing tool, meant to draw attention to Americans’ broad dissatisfaction with the way things are. Fair enough. Many people are dissatisfied, and they want to vent and they want to change Washington. But in the wild, real mama grizzlies are known to be aggressive, irrational, and mean. The issues facing the country are complex, and bears are not.

walk backwards and avoid eye contact.. . hugmamma.

 

 

 

putting a “face” on the “unknown”

Glad I stepped away from the keyboard to visit with dear friends last night. Because of them I overcame my reluctance to get gussied up for a fundraising event in the city. My husband knew nothing about the organization sponsoring the dinner; he didn’t know what the letters “HRC” represented. The hours slipped by quickly, as we listened and learned about the “Human Rights Campaign.” 

We’ve attended other fundraisers over the years, ballet balls, zoo events, symphony dinners, among others. At the ballet ball, I remember ending the night rocking to the deejay’s music on the dance floor. At zoo events, I thought it was cool to visit the butterfly house, and witness the jaguar feeding, afterhours. And at a symphony fundraising dinner, my husband bought me my favorite watch, which I wear every day. Unlike these, last night’s event had no gimmicks, unless one considers the guest speakers as the “drawing card.” If so then, in my estimation, they were the most relevant “gimmicks” I’ve ever entailed.

Washington’s U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke of her genuine efforts on behalf of her constituents. She focused on 2 in particular, who wrote letters asking for  her help. One was sent by a young girl whose dream it is to proudly serve her country in the military, but isn’t allowed to do so while proudly “owning” who she is, because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The other letter was written by a dedicated teacher of 30 years, who tried to help a young student suffering the harassment of peers after she “came out.” Failing to garner official support for the youngster’s plight, the teacher informed the girl. Three days later, she committed suicide.

In his turn at the podium Joe Solmonese, HRC President for 5 years, brought me “up to speed” on the organization’s efforts to achieve total equality for a segment of the population that has been disenfranchised for too long. I was especially impressed when he emphasized that they are NOT victims, that they will not be deterred in their efforts, no matter what obstacles they encounter as they campaign for their freedom and rights. In the evening’s program, Mr. Solmonese wrote, in part, “Our community’s voice has never been more influential and never have we had a more friendly audience in our lawmakers. With your support, HRC can make our community’s voice heard loud and clear.”

A Child Protection Social Worker, Janice Langbehn, related a moving story of “man’s inhumanity to man,” to coin a phrase from a long ago episode of “All in the Family,” where Gloria attempted to explain a simple truth to her family. While she elicited chuckles from the viewing audience, including me, Ms. Langbehn’s words resonated with both my husband and I. With her legal partner, Lisa, and 3 of their 4 adopted children, they celebrated their 15th anniversary in February 2007, by boarding a ship in Miami to cruise to the Bahamas. While waiting to sail, Lisa oversaw a basketball game the kids were playing. Within 20 minutes they ran to their stateroom to get Janice, telling her that Lisa was sick. Janice and the children made their way to “Jackson Memorial Ryder Trauma Center, where Lisa had been taken. When her family, Janice and the youngsters, arrived they were told by a trauma social worker that Miami and Florida were “an anti-gay city and state” and were not allowed to visit Lisa or receive any news of her condition. Despite securing the couples Medical POA required by the Center, Lisa’s family continued to meet with resistance, until Janice accompanied a priest who gave her partner the Last Rites. The children were also finally allowed a few minutes with their mom. But in the end, Lisa died alone on February 19, 2007. Since then Janice has publicly spoken on behalf of change to homophobic policies like those of Jackson Memorial. In April of this year, President Obama phoned Janice apologizing for “the treatment her family received and described the Presidential Memorandum he sent to HHS to direct Federal Regulations to allow same-sex couples the same hospital visitation rights as other families.”

What makes Langbehn’s story even more compelling is the dedication with which she and her partner committed their lives to helping children. “Their love and life together was defined by their care and passion for aiding special needs children. In 1992 they were the first openly gay foster parents in their county, fostering 25 children, 4 of which they adopted, and all with special needs due to drug and HIV exposure. Janice’s long history of social work and care for children began while employed with DSHS and the State of Washington as a Sex Offender treatment provider in a juvenile prison. She saw a need to intervene earlier in a child’s life and so became a Child Protection Social Worker. Janice completed her first Master’s in Public Administration in 1995 and in 1997 was accepted to the University of Washington Master in Social Work Program. In April of 1999, Janice was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. From 1996 until Lisa’s untimely death in 2007, the two were intimately involved in their children’s lives. They managed HIV appointments, taught first communion classes, volunteered in the children’s school and began a successful Girl Scout troop.” Janice continues to speak out as part of “the educational process that comes with the fight for equality.” To a standing ovation and thunderous applause, she was honored with the HRC Equality Award.

Introducing the final speaker of the evening, was a dentist who shared a childhood secret with us. He had always dreamed of becoming a figure skater. But he put aside his dreams, and fulfilled his mother’s dream instead. Forty years later, thanks to Johnny Weir, the dentist is taking ice skating lessons. Bravo!

The name meant nothing to me, until a video clip showed Johnny Weir in the spotlight, representing the U.S. at the last winter Olympics. He is a flamboyant figure skater, in his style, dress and makeup. He was not my favorite, so I wasn’t as impressed with his performance as I was with some of his competitors. But after hearing his story, I have more admiration for him, as a person. Starting late, he taught himself to ice skate at age 12 on the frozen ponds in back of the cornfields at his home in Amish country, Pennsylvania. With the love and support of amazing parents and younger brother, Weir “hopped, skipped, and jumped” his way into figure skating history, capturing the hearts of millions around the world (he is knowns as the “people’s skater”), and U.S. Figure Skating’s 2010 Reader’s Choice Award for Skater of the Year (Michelle Kwan Trophy). 

Weir makes no excuses for being gay, embracing his “fabulosity.” Having concluded that he wasn’t representative of the image of the U.S. Olympic figure skater, and would therefore not medal, he decided to do his best, for himself. So he brought to his dynamic performance 13 years of hard work, sacrifice and passion for his craft. When he finished skating, and stood up from a back bend, his eyes were met with an arena of waving flags from around the world. I understood his joy, for as a ballerina, my daughter strives to connect with an audience appreciative of her talent, sacrifice, hard work, and passion for her art.

I think in our own personal struggles to come to terms with life, we don’t see that others are also struggling. I’m guilty of such tunnel vision. It’s human nature to think there’s not enough time or energy to be stretched so thin. Some of us are more capable than others, depending upon our own circumstances of health, finances, and commitments. We needn’t all react exactly alike; we can’t, by virtue of our individual DNA. Perhaps what we all CAN and SHOULD DO, is “put a face on the unknown.”    

Senator Patty Murray, HRC President Joe Solmonese, Johnny Weir, the dentist, and most prominently, Janice Langbehn and her children, are the “faces” of the Human Rights Campaign. America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are no longer the “unknown.” I now know who they are. Each is someone’s child living on the periphery of society, “assigned” rights which are already theirs by virtue of their citizenship in the human race, and their birthright as U.S. citizens. I don’t feel their rights are mine to give or withhold. I believe they’re inalienable, as written in our Constitution. I am a spiritual person, a member of the Catholic church. I think religion offers us sound principles with which to live our lives, but I think we’ve succumbed to using religion as a weapon to pass judgment upon, and excommunicate, those who are non-compliant. I’m not God, and I don’t want to be God. As with Oprah, the job has serious responsibilities which I’m not equipped to handle. Better I leave it to the experts, God in his domain, and Oprah in hers.

I’ve been fortunate to know the men behind the “faces,” good friends we’ve known since moving to the Pacific Northwest. Leon and Ken made me feel comfortable and welcome, when I met them at the first gathering my husband and I attended at his boss’s home, 13 years ago. Before their arrival, I felt self-conscious and awkward, being a stay-at-home mom trying to mingle with career people. The 2 men were interested in knowing more about me, and soon we were joking and laughing like old friends. Through the years, our friendship has remained steadfast, and I’m able to relax in their company as soon as I see them. They’ve never had an “agenda,” other than to know that I’m fine. I always welcome that concern in friends, straight, or gay.

My friendship with Brent and Rick is more recent, although my husband’s known them for several years, because he and Rick are employed by the same company. Although I was acquainted with both men, I got to know Brent better when we accompanied our significant others on a business trip to Victoria, BC. As with Leon and Ken, I felt comfortable in Brent’s company because he made me feel my contribution to the conversation was valuable. Although he’s taking college courses toward becoming a social worker, I never felt like my 60’s college experience was arcane. In fact, Brent complimented my common sense approach to life. That’s music to the ears of a senior citizen! A smart man 20 years my junior is inspired by what I might have to say. Kind of novel in this day and age. Needless to say, I’m very happy to be in the company of Brent and Rick, 2 men with discerning tastes for quality of life for all, including the elderly.

Personally I know that I’m unlikely to be swayed in my opinions unless I can put a “face” on the “unknown,” whatever that might be. Rather than having someone force me to think differently, I’m inclined to change because of personal motivation. I don’t think any of us like being browbeaten into a decision. My husband and I made a contribution to the HRC, because last night we were educated about their worthwhile efforts, and because Leon, Ken, Brent and Rick are real “faces” for the cause of human rights.

Another real “face” is a nephew of mine who “came out” to his parents decades ago. He was a wonderful, young man when I knew him. He played the piano beautifully; he seemed a sensitive soul. Having lost touch, I learned years later that he’d contracted a near fatal disease. His partner at the time helped nurse my nephew back to complete health. He has shared his life with another partner for many years, adopting 2 girls who had been students in my nephew’s middle school class, several years ago. Before they became a family, the youngsters were in and out of foster homes.

Children are my concern, because of my childhood experiences, and because I wish all children would know the unconditional love and support to be who they are, and not what others want them to be. Our gay peers are intelligent, resourceful and hard-working. They will evince long-term change through their commitment not to return to the “dark ages” of society’s earlier days. We can either embrace the inevitable and co-exist, all striving to live our best lives, or we can maintain our isolation from certain segments of society, holding onto historical prejudices. It’s our choice; it’s our freedom. I choose, that others might enjoy the same freedom. I may have an island mentality about driving on freeways, and fear of black bears, but not in matters that are substantive. In these cases, I prefer to draw from the “aloha spirit” inherent in my native fibre, and welcome all as “ohana” (family).

hugs for conquering our fear of the “unknown”, by putting a “face” to it…hugmamma.