Spring Break in Vegas!

March 21, 2011

We’re in Vegas! I have finally used the trip I won last year from my wonderful church’s fundraiser and Chris and I are in Vegas! About 5 hours into the drive we were questioning the validity of our decision, we drove why??? Instead of flying why??? I just couldn’t find a decent rate; flights were outrageous. So we took to the road not anticipating the 9 hour drive that followed. I had always driven from Southern CA when I visited Vegas so this was a new adventure. And we had some mighty nice surprises along the way. We crossed the Tehachapi Pass viewing snow covered mountains that positively glittered with new fallen snow. With the crisp air cleaned by the rain, everything sparkled! It was absolutely breathtaking to view this scene as I had never crossed that particular pass, and to see it like this! We stopped for lunch and ate the chicken salad sandwiches Chris made with garlic and bacon on sourdough, what yum, layered with fresh spinach, and had sustenance for the remainder of the journey. Ah, how a gay man can cook! We had the best conversations; I discovered that Chris is an astrological savant. For some reason he can remember the astrological sign of famous people. Angelina Jolie? Gemini. Brad Pitt? Sagittarius. Jennifer Anniston? Aquarius. So then I tried older folks. Spencer Tracy? Libra. Katherine Hepburn? Taurus. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? Taurus and Cancer respectively. I couldn’t stump him. There’s got to be a way he can use this skill… tee hee… He can’t remember the stars’ names, but he remembers their signs. What part of the brain uses that??? We then started Counting RV’s (instead of Blue Cars) and got to 18 before we got bored. There really weren’t many on the road which is not surprising with gas over 3.89 and on the road over 4.11 a gallon. Road trips bring out the strangest conversations in passengers. Chris began a diatribe of drunk drivers and people on cell phones and wondered if they did both at the same time, would they cancel each other out and actually drive normally? Then I chimed in, would you call that drunk dialing while driving? I know, huh!! 8 hours 45 minutes is a long time to drive!! We experienced all kinds of weather: it rained on us of course, saw the snow going over the mountains, nearly turned the A/C on when it got hot with the sun bearing down on us, and experienced gail force winds – at least it felt like it. We only missed out on sleet and hail (not that we wanted to) We drove through the pass where it looked like lower Switzerland (and winter), the end of the pass where it looked like Ireland – green hills with craggy rocks protruding (summer) and when we left Sacramento, all the trees were blooming (spring) We only missed out on the look of Autumn, (which in a stretch we could say were the browns of the desert tee hee.. really a stretch!) We knew we should have left sooner when we were approaching 6 pm and still had 48 miles to go to hit the 146, check into our hotel and get to the Mirage to see the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil at 7 pm! Needless to say we were a few minutes late, but saw the rest of the show and we were completely mesmerized by the immensity of imagination in this show! Hats made of horns, telephone booths and trampolines! Little faceless children dressed in suits marching, I’ve never seen such fantasy! It was Dr. Suess married to the psychedelic 60’s meets a combination of the New York City Ballet and the circus in a theater of the round. Wrap your minds around THAT image! I want to go again! The audience was wrapped in parachute silk, gazed on 20 foot high images of John and Paul and Ringo and George that brought waves of nostalgia enveloping me more than the silk covering. The costumes were from Fantasia and magic smoke curled over the stage and never once crossed the line into the audience. HOW did they do that? I’m in love with LOVE ! Cirque du Soleil outdid themselves, which says a lot, as there are 7 different shows currently running in 7 separate casinos. They’ve landed on a goldmine and aren’t about to stop. It’s absolutely fabulous!

I did start to contract a sore throat on the drive up though and after the show decided some preventive medicine was in order. We stopped at a CVS on the strip and when I reached the register I discovered that the prices weren’t marked where the products were placed. Twenty dollars for Oscillococcinum was just a bit too outrageous and there was no Buy One Get One Free on the Vitamin C. So I decided to nix that and Chris remembered there was a CVS on the way back to the hotel. The cashier must have been a local and said she didn’t blame me one bit and voided out my sale. Ah, the joys of having a car in Vegas. So get this, the second CVS had Oscillococcinum for 12.99 AND Buy One Get One Free Vitamin C for 8.99!! Score! The poor tourists stuck on the Strip apparently have to pay those exorbitant prices, but thank goodness we had wheels. So far so good, I don’t have a fever or aches or chills, just a sore throat and a froggy voice. Maybe I can stave this off! More later!!

Definitely not from my little piece of Mayberry,
Jo

To Be A Minister

March 5th

I’ve been very irritable this week. Things people have said have rubbed me the wrong way, I’ve been impatient for the smallest of things, and sometimes I just wanted to partake in Primal Scream Therapy. I’ve been nice to folks anyway, it’s not their issue, it’s mine, why take it out on them, but I’m not sure why I’ve been irritable. Lack of sleep probably contributed, stress at work, as I’ve been really busy, writing 1 – 2 papers per week and reading a book a week for my classes hasn’t helped. I couldn’t put my finger on it though.

Then I had this thought – when I become a minister, I will have to be nice to people the rest of my life. WHAT a tall order! When people irritate me, or say stupid things, or are rude, or nasty, I’ll still have to be nice to them because I’m a minister and that’s what ministers do. That was initially a depressing thought. I won’t be able to be myself…. Translation – I won’t be able to show my anger, or my sarcasm or my judgmentalism or my holier than thou attitude… WAIT! Aren’t ministers holier than thou? Isn’t that the whole point to being a minister? We get to be holier than thou right?

Wrong. No one gets to be holier than thou. No matter how much I’d like to use my station as a minister, I’m not going to get to do that. No special tables at dinner, no waiving of parking tickets. Tee hee. Like I’d get to do that anyway, I’m not Charlie Sheen you know. I don’t even live in LA anymore. But it does raise some important points. Can I truly be myself, be human, and still serve people and not become outwardly angry?

That’s what Gandhi did. I’ve been reading a lot about Gandhi in a class I have and yes, he was human, but he did a lot of amazing things. And the one precept I gleaned from his writings was that he was one human being and if he could do it, anyone could. He had his faults, and still he did the best he could. I was actually surprised to discover that there were citizens in India who did not think highly of him. To me he approached sainthood, but to others, not so much. So I think to myself when anger arises, what would Gandhi do? He truly was the epitome of non-violence. In all the writings, in all the accounts of his life I’ve read or watched, he never raised his voice in anger. He never degraded another human being with words or actions no matter what the cause. I aspire to that. My first instinct when some ridiculous fool says something completely unfounded or literally stupid on TV or in the media, is to strike back by yelling. I was raised in a household of yelling. So even my general manner of speaking seems louder than others. I’ve actually worked on that, believe it or not, and I’m not as loud as I used to be. But I am sure I’m the person on the other end of the phone many times, where the listener is holding the phone away from their ear and can still clearly hear me…. 🙂 Please know that it’s not intentional, but it is a learned behavior that is quite ingrained. So my first order of business is to learn to be a quieter human being. Not so quiet as to not be heard, but quiet enough to have my point heard.

The second order of business is to never become impatient. Never say never I know, but I can have that as my goal. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and never gave up on his cause to end apartheid. 27 years seems like forever to me, so one day at a time I will work to be patient. I hear some of the rantings of Lindbaugh or Beck and my patience wears thin. So hence I begin to exercise my patience muscles.

I’m sure there will be trying times in the future as a minister where I will be tested. I will be tempted to strike back with a caustic remark, or attempt to put someone in their place. I will remember I am a minister; that’s not what I’m here to do.

Tuesday Chapel Service

Peace in the midst of chaos

This is the homily I presented at one of our weekly Chapel services on campus on February 22nd. I decided to post it, just because…..

I have a cat that I adore. He’s orange and white and a Maine Coon Cat. One day I arrived home, after a wonderful day where I made 250.00 extra and was reveling in my new found wealth, to find that this adorable cat had knocked over a vase of flowers in water onto my 32” TV that was a birthday gift from my brother. It was toast. I then went to work the next day to discover that someone had stolen my license plates off my car, the screw came out of the hook on my favorite purse and it broke, and my answering machine stopped working. That same week a leak sprung up in the condo I own in Southern CA which I’m trying to keep as my pension retirement if I ever get it paid off, and my tenant called in a panic as water was leaking from the upstairs bathroom to the kitchen below. He even took a video with his phone that he sent me showing the dripping water falling from the ceiling. This was the relaxing week right before the spring semester began.

I had looked forward to my break. I had thought I would have a nice relaxing month in between semesters. This was my triumphant return to school after 28 years, my newfound career, my calling. I left Los Angeles to embark on this new adventure, leaving half my possessions behind and entering a brand new arena, with a bit of savings and some hope. It was an 11th hour miracle to be admitted to Starr King and actually become a seminarian. I was laid off 3 days before major surgery last April and during recovery I thought, I was going to take an online class, why don’t I just enroll? So I called admissions, discovered it was the last day of application, frantically began the next few days gathering materials, letters of recommendation, writing my history and mailing or emailing everything and lo and behold I made the extended deadline, was admitted and became a seminarian. It was obviously all meant to be. Even though in the midst of that chaos, I wasn’t sure it would happen. The day before all materials were due, I realized that I had not requested my transcripts. I awoke in a panic and went online to discover that they did not take requests for transcripts online. So I called the Midwest, reached admissions and the woman there said, we don’t really fax transcripts, but let me send you to the transcripts department. I gave the transcripts woman my social, she ran it and said, I know you, hi it’s Ellen. Now I hadn’t been on campus in 25 years, and I didn’t have the foggiest idea who Ellen was. I replied, you do? She said, yes, You’re Cindy Kaman’s friend! Cindy had been my best friend in college. Oh yes, she said, here they are, you know what, we don’t really fax transcripts because they’re so difficult to read, but let me go ahead and fax these for you – they’ll at least be able to see you attended here and get in by the deadline. They’ll get the hard copy next week. Miracles out of chaos. What are the odds of me running into a person I haven’t seen for almost 30 years who is the exact person I needed at that moment to help me. That one kind gesture completely changed my chaos.

Now, I know intellectually, that my own thought patterns are my responsibility and that I control my thoughts, so that theoretically I can change my own chaos. That doesn’t always happen. When someone does a kind deed for me or shows gentle compassion, it does for me what I can’t momentarily do for myself. So I thought, why not do a kind deed for myself or show myself gentle compassion. The day I discovered my license plates missing, I was going into the hardware store to find a new screw for my purse that was broken. If I hadn’t gone to the store that night after work, I may not have seen the missing license plates on the back of my car. I hadn’t seen it when I left work, so maybe that needed to happen to discover the plates.

We don’t know why things happen as they do. And I’m the first one to chastise myself when something doesn’t go as planned. I’m not one that believes in fate, but I do believe in synchronicity. The handyman that came to fix my bike shed took away the toasted TV without charge, I’ve got insurance, this is America you know, so they are in the process still of fixing the leak and repairing the kitchen ceiling, so that is getting fixed. I put one foot in front of the other with gentle compassion and things seem to right themselves. I didn’t do this alone. I had help from repairmen, friends, my advisor and the spirit I believe in that I call God. That’s how I get peace in the midst of chaos.

As I write this, my BFF in Sacramento has called to take an unscheduled visit to see me so I can help him buy a new computer. I haven’t cleaned the bathroom, taken out the kitty litter or even finished a paper that is also due on Tuesday. Chaos is never ending. It’s our approach that determines the peace in our lives.