The Power of Facebook

March 31st

I know it’s not perfect.  I know there’s a lot being said about the hazards of social networking and how distant it is making all of us in human terms.  But something happened these last couple of weeks that could not have occurred without it.

When I posted on my friend’s page a couple of weeks ago to wish her a happy birthday, I didn’t know then that she was dead.  For all intents and purposes we still had tentative plans to celebrate her birthday.  When I did post my good wishes, it wasn’t she who answered me, but a woman I’d never met.  A sister of a friend of my friend Linda who died, was posting to let Linda know that the memorial of her sister was approaching and she saw my birthday wishes on Linda’s page and messaged me to tell me of the sad news of Linda’s passing.  A woman was posting from a page of her sister who died, to a friend – me – on a page of another dead woman.  And in this bizarre string of events two bodiless beings connected two living beings together in a moment of sadness.  As I reflected on this strange circuitous course of events, I couldn’t help but wonder at this.  Where else could this happen?  In a small town grocery store maybe, in years past, a customer could hear another customer talking about the demise of a friend and learn of a death that way.  But that would entail human connection.  This woman’s name, I will say was Barbara, and she was living her own grief in the death of her sister and here she was comforting me on the shock of learning of the death of my friend.  All through an electronic medium that most use to post political cartoons or angry diatribes or pictures of cute baby animals.  This was something real.

This showed the power of what Facebook can be.  It was a small innocuous stab at reaching out from one human to another to assuage some grief.  She doesn’t know, I don’t think, what an amazing gesture this was for me.  But it gave me information I had not had and may never have discovered.

So I used the power of Facebook to post my yearning to have someone accompany me to give some closure to my grief of my friend of ten years.  And my wish was answered.  I had three friends offer to take me to the site where she died and after coordinating schedules one went with me.

So yesterday my friend Pat drove me down to Fremont to lay flowers on the edge of a freeway where my friend died.   I discovered all the information I needed from the two newspaper articles the woman Barbara had linked to my messages.  I believe she jumped off the overpass onto the freeway and that was her demise.  Speculation had been maybe she walked onto the freeway in the path of an oncoming car, but we just couldn’t see how she got through the fencing and surmised she must have jumped.  It caused my heart to jump to see the spot where she last lived.  We brought flowers with us and a chalice that seemed unable to keep a flame from the winds caused by passing traffic, but the spirit of the flame was there.  And lo and behold, there was a sign on the side of the road.  Maybe her brother left it there or another friend, but I know it was meant for Linda.  At this exact overpass on this freeway shoulder, there could not have been another death at that time.  On a heavy board with a wooden frame was written, “Ciao Bella” and it’s weight kept it from blowing away as I believe it was designed to do.  We tucked our parcels of flowers underneath one edge with the good bye card I wrote to her, I said my heartfelt words of farewell and we climbed back into the car and drove home.  It felt right.  It felt holy.  I indeed received the closure I had expected.  And I remembered some words that were given to me, remember Linda’s spirit as a blessing, remember to keep calmness in my heart, remember to breathe.

And my goodbye was said and completed through the power of Facebook.

The Day She Died

March 18th

Today would have been her birthday if she would have made it this long.  She tried.  I spoke with her 10 days ago and offered to take her to dinner to celebrate.  She was upset that she was turning 60 and her life had nothing to show for it.  Or so she thought.  I assured her it did.  I guess I didn’t assure her enough.  Or so I thought.

When someone takes their life, the people left behind are the ones that feel the pain.  I am grateful she is out of pain.  I am grateful she is with her mother’s spirit now that she was missing so deeply.  And I am so very, very sad that she felt this was her only path in life.  A path leading to death.

I am feeling so powerless, so inadequate.  I think back to what I said and how I could have done more.  Was I there for her really?  Did I get caught up in my life and missed what was going on in hers?  Did I miss the sign where I could have been a lifeline?  Was I just too busy or too impatient or too ….., what? To notice that I could have been a lifeline.

In my head I know I did not have the power to change the outcome.  In my heart I feel as if I could.  In my soul I am experiencing the loss of a life.  What does that do to one’s soul?  I will be forever marked by the loss of her spirit, this sometimes misguided, effervescent light of a soul.  Did she take her meds, would that have made a difference?  Too many questions go through my brain, questions without answers.   There can be no answers.

She was my friend.  She took care of my cats and stayed at my home when I went out of town.  She gave the doctor my name to call when she was admitted and he asked me what to do when she was found wandering on the street in her bedclothes.  There was a bond that was invisible and silent between us that I didn’t know how strong until the very end when she seemed to cry out in silence and I did not hear.

Is this how it is when one takes a life?

I wrote those words a week ago.  I didn’t finish my post, I’m not sure why, but I still have the urgency to post in honor of her.  She was Linda; she was a person.  And in a silent way, if I don’t acknowledge the personhood subconsciously do I feel I too won’t be acknowledged when I die?  That’s a question.

I have many these days.  In church service the other day, it was Palm Sunday and our minister talked about impending death.  We listened to the theories that explained Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  The reasons why people were in the streets, people were cheering him, discussed the fact that it even happened.  But one fact remains each day we live and that is that we all will one day die.

I shouldn’t be too shocked about my friend.  She lived a precarious life, wrought with drama, pain and dysfunction that stood side by side with imagination, brilliance and artistic ability.  Questions remain in my mind of how I could have made a difference.  She attempted suicide before.  Countless friends have told me nothing I could have done or would have done would have made a difference.  Intellectually I know this.  Emotionally I don’t.  Those times I became exasperated with her and left her voice lingering on voicemail, could that have changed something?  Those times I could have reached out and called, could that have changed something?  Probably not others claim.  Yet the gnawing doubt sticks in my memory that if my impatience had not gotten the best of me then maybe there would be a different outcome.  The idea of guilt does not seem to fit.  I don’t’ feel guilt.  It’s more a life lesson that I can take away.  I know that I am only human, but as a human I want to be here for other humans.  And especially as a minister human, I need to keep this in mind.   This must mean that even on the days I feel lazy, or impatient or annoyed, there is still a human in the mix, and I need to take that into account.  There is a life lesson to be learned here and the act of awareness feels the most paramount.  I want to commit to being more aware, more gentle, more compassionate for those in pain.  I won’t ignore my own self care, that’s not the issue.  I’ve grown to know that I need that part of me and I’ll take care of that.  There still remains a part that can be there for others even when I don’t want to be.   That’s what I think we need more humans to do for one another.

I tried to visit the spot where she died today, but I found I couldn’t go alone.  So I did a brave thing and I reached out to those I know to see if someone could come with me.  I have a friend who will.  We just have to figure out the details and coordinate our schedules.  But I’ll be able to leave flowers, a card, some kind of marker, to show there once was a life that was there.  And her name was Linda.

First Day of Chaplaincy

 June 4th

Chaplaincy has begun, on day one, and it’s already intense.  I am going to love chaplaincy and I’m going to be very afraid of it.  The responsibility looms – how do I minister to people in grief, in pain, in suffering, and not add to that grief or pain or suffering, inadvertently?  That is my biggest fear.  I’ve heard horror stories of chaplains saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, not noticing that they increased the pain instead of helping.  As we found out today, we are here to learn.  It was amazing to see the 4 others in my group, all of us of different faiths, one Catholic, one Lutheran, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, and me the all encompassing Unitarian Universalist.  I will definitely learn from all of them. 

We began the morning, after a wonderful breakfast of bagels, fruit, doughnuts ( I skipped those) and coffee with a spiritual practice to begin our time together.  How wonderful ritual is!  I am appreciating more and more the sacredness of ritual.   We blessed each other on our new journey and appreciated all the special gifts we each contribute.  Oh if only the rest of the world could be this kind to each other.  To appreciate and acknowledge that everyone has special talents and weaknesses, that will enrich the world with our unique combination of life experiences.  If only we could see each other in this way on a daily basis.  I hope I thrive here.  I hope I gain insight and love.

We toured one of the hospitals, we’re going to be picking our choice of units later this week, and we are eventually touring all of them.  I learned terms I hadn’t heard before.  Fetal demise.  We may be encountering fetal demise.  This campus deals with many births on a daily basis and some of them – even though it’s a small amount – will not end in joy.  And yet we are told, we will know what to say, the Divine will guide us.  I hope so.  I sincerely hope so.  We were shown the viewing room of the morgue, where the possibility exists that I will have to accompany a family to see a family member for the last time.  Hospitals seem to hold more grief than joy. 

And yet, there are staff members there who devote their entire lives to serving the sick and the grief-stricken.  We are there for them too.  I never took advantage of these services when my parents died, when my aunt died, when I saw friends in the hospital before they passed away.  I’m not sure if I just never knew  or – back in the day – I didn’t feel very spiritual.  There are chapels in hospitals and I think in the back of my mind I knew this, but I never visited there when I was in my own grief.

We are here to learn about ourselves, to gain insight into what our past experiences will contribute to assisting those in need, whether it is negatively or positively, I will learn about me.  I heed the warnings of issues that may come up for me regarding patients or colleagues and how I will deal with these emotions.  Quoting Bette Davis, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

But I’m up for it. May it be so.

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

Preaching and My Cat

From April 12th

I haven’t written in a very long time, but I thought I would now.  I had an assignment in my preaching class this semester that I’ve decided to share.  It’s a small homage to Callie, my kitty who recently died.  I had to ask myself the other day, how do I talk about something that’s funny when I feel so sad?  I know that there will be days when I will not feel like being funny in a sermon, yet know that that is exactly what the congregation will need.  There will be days where I don’t want to even write a sermon.  Maybe I can come up with something that the congregation can do and then I won’t have to do it.  Hey that’s an idea!  Will there be days where I don’t want to be a preacher?  Will there be days where ministering will be the farthest thing from my mind?  I’m sure there will be and then maybe I can pull a Ferris Buehler day off.

 But for those days when I can’t, what is my solution? 

I went to visit Southern Ca last June to see my cousin’s son graduate from UC Irvine.  Firstly that made me feel …..really old.  They live in Texas and I had not seen him for years before he began attending the University and he towered a foot above my head.  We had a wonderful time, 5 cousins out of 30 actually gathered and it felt like a mini-reunion.  After a few days at this rented condo in Newport that we occupied visiting with each other, (my cousin really knows how to party), I made the trek up to LA to visit friends before returning home.  When I was there – in the company of one of my old congregational members where I had stayed before moving up to Berkeley, I received the news that my 14 year old orange Maine Coon cat had died.  I had thought he would have made it till my return but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.   It was ironic that I was in the place that we all last stayed before the great move.  And he died on what used to be my mom’s birthday.  I saw it as a sign, as his way of saying goodbye.

So life goes on.  I then made a trek back to Los Angeles during Fall break week, purely for recreational reasons this time.  Upon my return I discovered that my dear neighbor Anita, who had allowed me to bury little Sequel in her backyard, where he loved to jump and play, had passed away on Halloween.  She had so warmly welcomed me to the neighborhood when I first moved up here and had been so kind to me.  My immediate reaction and those of my friends in the area was,…….

I can’t seem to go to LA without someone close to me dying.  I thought to myself, I can’t go down there again,

who knows who’s next? 

The coincidence was rather unnerving.  Yet I knew in my rational brain that it had to be coincidence right? 

My last visit to LA was in February to take care of finalizing the eviction of the tenant who stopped paying rent and took my tuition money for next year in the process.  I came back and….

Nobody had died. 

No one was sick, no one was in the hospital, no one had had an accident.  Everyone was safe. 

That’s when I discovered through my High School Facebook page that my very first serious boyfriend in High School had passed away.  Now he lived in Missouri, and as I did more research and google work, I discovered he passed away 8 years ago. 

But I had never known that.

Oh my God I thought, now my radius is growing. 

I’m not just killing off people and pets in the Bay area, I’ve extended my reach to the Midwest.  It began to look grim for ever having a visit to LA again.  I’d have to just phone people or email them,  just to keep them safe. 

So that brings us up to the present day.  My 4th death of someone close to me has just occurred.  My dearly loved kitty of 16 years had to be put to sleep on Tuesday.  I didn’t want to write, I didn’t want to read, I didn’t want to study.  I just wanted to cry. 

I thought, but I didn’t go down to LA!  I didn’t even consider visiting! 

How could this happen?  She was 16 years old, and from talking to other folks I discovered that’s actually pretty old for a cat.  I had thought she’d live to 18, don’t ask me why, I guess I just decided that, as my brother had a cat live to 18 and I thought she was just as good as he was. 

I just never thought she would die. 

She had always been there.  I got her from the Burbank shelter when my beloved Willie disappeared and I waited a year for his return, checking the surrounding shelters, knowing he was still alive somewhere out there and he’d just lost his way or been kidnapped.  She was there to console me when the realization set in.  She was there to companion Sequel, the second orange cat I got. (What other name would I choose in Hollywood?) 

She was there when Sequel died last June and she was the rock, the constant, the taken for granted kitty that would never leave.  She was there. 

She was always there.

I learned a great lesson from her.  How to be present. 

Constantly. 

How to just be THERE.   She didn’t ask for much.  She wasn’t a snuggly animal, she rarely sat on my lap, would much rather actually sit on the other side of the room and watch me.  But she never knocked over vases of flowers and broke them like Sequel did.  She didn’t want to go outside and constantly make a break for it like Sequel did. 

She was content to be.  She ate

and she slept

and she played

and she was. 

Where do you look to learn lessons?  What little tiny things that happen day to day can teach you so much?  It doesn’t have to be a dire situation to learn a great truth from it.  Look around.  Open your eyes.  Help those you may not have seen before.  Watch and see and BE. 

I didn’t want to be funny today.  I didn’t want to have any sense of humor.  But what I’ve discovered is that there is a certain transcendence in humor.  There is a release, a gratification, a rising up of my spirit, when I can find the humor in the situations of my life.  What do you do to find the humor in the situations of your life? 

What do you do? 

There may be times when the only way to approach a dire situation will be through humor.  After some distance and after some reflection I now know I’ll know those times.  I look around my home and I think I see her.  I know her spirit is still there and I am content to feel that spirit.  She would not want me to spend weeks grieving.  I think she liked it when I was happy.  I think most people like it when I’m happy.  Now I can also know how ………..to just be. 

May it be so.

 

Rest in Peace Randy

February 23rd

So Facebook is a good thing I guess.  It’s brought people from my past into my life and that’s been a nice thing.  And lately I’ve gotten a lot of contact with past schoolmates since it’s another reunion year – I can’t tell you which one – it’s too scary.  Suffice it to say, it’s been awhile.

So when I was perusing a website a former classmate compiled on all the bands in our hometown, I decided to look up my old boyfriend’s band.  That’s when the sadness came.  There was a “Rest in Peace” in front of his name.  Now we haven’t kept in touch; in fact I think it’s been 20 years since we saw each other and spoke, but we had fun at dinner that night catching up and we parted ways in meaningful friendship.  I just thought he would always be there, you know?  I just thought all my high school classmates would be there.  Even though I’ve moved half a country away and I haven’t really stayed in touch, it just felt like a given that they were a part of my life.  It was High School.  And now my very first serious boyfriend was not here any longer.  And the shock that deepened was when I did a bit of research to find he died 8 years ago.  There wasn’t an obituary, not much information.  I hope someone shed tears at his passing and he was missed those 8 years ago.

I never got to say good bye.  I feel neglectful, those old phrases running through my head, I should have stayed in touch, why didn’t I?  Could I have been kinder or more insightful?  What did he die of and why?  I’m a seminarian studying to assist congregants going through what I’m going through.  Ironically this semester I have a Pastoral Care class where compassion and guidance are being taught to aid in all phases of grief and despair and life-changing events.  At the moment though I’m not feeling kind to myself.  I’m feeling sad and wishing I could have done something, although I don’t know what I expect that something to be.  We went on with our lives, we went down our own separate paths, I’m not sure what I’m expecting of myself.  So instead, I feel sad.   And I find myself wondering about the hereafter – what it’s like, is there one?  Just because I’m becoming a minister doesn’t mean I know about the hereafter.  I have as many questions as everyone else.  I have never felt a connection with anyone that has passed on, yet I feel as if there really is someplace out there that our spirit travels to on another plane.   But I’ve never seen a ghost or a spirit and I’d love one of them to tell me what it’s like.   

I hope you’re happy there Randy.  I hope it’s filled with guitars and Chihuahuas.  I hope you are experiencing the peace that everyone dreams is there. 

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

The Spiritual Practice of Waiting

January 30, 2012

I have been diligently going through my email lately and came across one I hadn’t read from November.  And in it,it included the phrase the spiritual practice of waiting.   And I thought to myself, indeed, waiting IS a spiritual practice that I don’t practice very well.  One of my tasks over break was to get my email down to under 50 emails.  Since I began at around 300 I’m not sure that will happen, but I am under 200 now so that’s progress.  And I find it interesting that I read this particular phrase today.

I’ve been tense.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve been anxious and impatient and life hasn’t been as much fun because of it.  So the idea of waiting as a spiritual practice lifted my heart.  I want to try that.  I want to see how it will calm my soul.

I haven’t been writing much at all these last couple of months as my laptop died and I haven’t been able to buy another one.  I don’t seem to be on the computer that much anymore except for school and that’s been done since before Christmas.  So my blogging skills have been lagging.  My waiting skills have also declined.  In 8 days I will appear in court to try and get my money from the tenant who took it.  And it’s been a long waiting period.  I began this process in July and it will be February this week.  When I look back on the last few months I can see how much calmer it would have been if I had used waiting as a spiritual practice.  The same goes with my car.  I still haven’t sold that and it’s been 4 months.  Go figure on that one.  I’ve stopped trying to guess.  Ebay is the last resort I haven’t tried.  So I will.  But the waiting… the waiting has been grueling and this realization that I’ve made it more so gives me hope that I can change that. 

I adored my classes last semester so this grueling waiting game didn’t impact that.  I had a lovely holiday and took two Intersession classes that fulfilled me.  Yet now I can see how spiritually I could have used this waiting period.  And there’s not a better time to start but the present.  I’ve started a few other blogs that I never finished and may finish and post those anyway, even though they’re after the fact.  After all it’s my blog so I can do it however I want, right?  🙂

I intend to see waiting as a gift.  I intend to see waiting much like meditation or prayer.  For so long waiting has been the bane of my existence.  I carry a book to read while waiting in line, while on BART, while waiting in doctors’ offices.  What would happen to me if I didn’t?   What could I replace it with that will give me this feeling of serenity?  That’s a wonderful new concept I intend to explore. 

What do you do while waiting?  I’d love to hear.

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

2011

January 2, 2012

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.  It was neither.  Barring what difficulties I experienced, it was still a wonderful year.  I was doing my life’s work, I had a roof over my head, food to eat, kitties to love, amazing courses to take, friends who stood by me,  and I didn’t lose weight, but I didn’t gain any either.  I experienced deaths and I experienced life. 

I’ve got a new calendar hanging on my wall and its clean empty boxes are calling out to me.  I want to fill them up at the same time I want to keep them clean.  To have an uncomplicated life seems so enticing and that seems to only be to leave empty spaces in my days….. something  I can’t quite conceive of.  There wasn’t much empty space in 2011.  So much studying, so much reading, so much writing of papers, so much ministry to learn.  I left out writing for fun and my blog suffered.  When it came to posting a blog or journaling, I fell into neglect, as that didn’t have a deadline, didn’t need a grade, seemed to fall to the bottom of my list day after day after day.  I would love to say that will change in 2012, but I’m not much of a resolution maker.  I never have been.  I tend to make my resolutions throughout the year, not on January 1st at all.  Maybe there’s more luck for me that way, or should I say more resolution.  It was April when I decided to go back to school and I did that.  It was August when I decided to sell my car and I’ve tried that.  It was June when I began walking and sometimes running for exercise and I did that.  January doesn’t hold the pull for me that it seems to for others. 

There is however a brand new year, a year filled with possibility of what can be, what may come, what I might do with what does come.  That is the fresh clean look my calendar brings to mind.  The possibility that my unwanted habits will fall away and new wanted ones will replace them.  It’s exciting.  That’s the part of January 1st that is thrilling for me, that feeling of anticipation that so much good will come.  A year can be like a life.  We begin it anew, filled with the energy and excitement of youth, feeling anything is possible and we progress through the year, as through life, resisting it, feeling the disappointment, suffering, grieving, recovering, delighting, enthralling, celebrating and at the end, rejoicing, appreciating, experiencing unending gratefulness. 

A new year is upon us.  So much possibility to be had.  May you have it.  May you revel in it. 

May you have a magnificent, remarkable new year.

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

Goodbye Sally Mustang

November 5th

It’s been nearly 5 weeks since I took my Vista Blue Mustang convertible to the Buggy Bank. I really love this car, but the time has come to say goodbye. It was a choice I made, carefully, and considering all my options, it feels like the right thing to do. It’s only a 2007 and looks fairly new so hopefully it will sell soon. I haven’t been without a car since I was 18 years old. How interesting this will be. What an adventure this will be!

However if there’s anywhere I can go car-free it’s in the Bay Area! The mass transit here is phenomenal! BART has become my favorite mode of transportation. It is always on time (which can be a problem when I run late) and school is only 2 BART stops away. I’ve gone a month now taking it and the bus a couple of times and actually am beginning to like it. I don’t have to drive around searching for a parking space; I don’t have to PAY for parking; I don’t have to pay for car insurance once I sell it, which I’m REALLY looking forward to not paying! There is a sense of serenity I’ve acquired in being car-free. When I first considered selling it, I kept calling myself car-less. I heard someone on campus say they were car-free and I thought, Eureka! What an abundant way to think of this latest adventure! I am free of the automobile, I can walk where I want to go. When I depart BART I can walk directly to a store or restaurant or campus and don’t have to fight for parking spaces. The worry of being in a car accident is gone. The pedestrian is royalty here in Berkeley! Cars STOP for you! It’s amazing. They really stop. I’ll just enter a crossing zone and the cars slow down – it’s almost like magic. I imagined before I made this decision that it would be so difficult to be car-free and it’s proving me so wrong. I have over 30 minutes a day to walk – time to reflect, time to be silent, time to huff and puff up the 500 foot incline that is the last 2 blocks up the hill to school…. THAT part . . . not so much fun. BUT sooo much healthier! I’ve acquired my own private Stairmaster and with a 15 pound backpack on my back, Bob Harper would be proud! I feel completely self-sufficient.

I know I will miss my Mustang Sally. It was my dream car and I loved having the top down driving down Ventura Boulevard. However Northern California is not Southern California. The temperature range 10 months of the year is between 50 – 60 and not really convertible weather. I know I couldn’t do this in LA. There just isn’t the mass transit options like up here and the mind set is completely different. In Los Angeles you are your car. It is your worth. I’m thoroughly enjoying not basing my self-worth on a mass of steel and rubber. I will be walking my environmental talk also, which is amazing. My carbon footprint will be reduced considerably. And isn’t that the meaning of integrity? To walk your talk. I feel good about helping the planet. Everywhere I go now, I’m travel-pooling, whether it’s by train, plane or friend’s automobiles when they offer rides, I never travel alone. I even have 2 feet, so I can walk on the carpool side of the sidewalk… tee hee.

It’s a very freeing feeling. My parking angel that was a gift last year is now sitting on my home altar. She was wonderful while she lasted, tucked in the corner of my dashboard, working her parking magic. (I actually think it really did work as there were times I got some really awesome parking spaces….. 🙂 ). I really would like to actually sell my car however, and experience the joy of having the money to pay my tuition. So spread the word out there. Mustang Sally is for sale in Berkeley.

From my little piece of Mayberry,
Jo

9/11

September 11, 2011

I wanted to write about this day and yet I didn’t want to write about it. I told a friend I felt if I did, I’d probably be arrested. I have become a citizen afraid of my government, afraid that if I do use my constitutional right to free speech that I will be punished for it.

This is a sad day for me in more than one way. I am grieving for the type of people I thought Americans used to be. That’s what I feel like we’ve lost since this attack 10 years ago, we’ve lost ourselves. We gave ourselves up willingly. We allowed our government to take away our civil rights, to torture and kill, to do all those things we consistently say America does not do. I am saddened for all the citizens who died that day. I am saddened for the families and friends who grieve for them. I am also angry that we had an opportunity to show the world what America really stood for and instead, we have gone and killed a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan and no one blinks an eye. I cry for what we’ve become as a nation. I hear so many people say that that day changed them forever. What it changed in me was my faith in my government to be humane and decent and keep its integrity in the face of unspeakable pain.

For this I’m afraid to voice my opinion. For I don’t believe in war and see that we’ve missed an incredible opportunity to show that the United States is a decent and peaceful and great nation. Instead we bombed and waterboarded and killed children. How many times do we tell our children that if someone strikes you, you don’t hit them back. You tell an adult or you talk it out, or you somehow resolve the situation with peaceful means. Yet we won’t do that as adults and this hurts my heart.

I couldn’t watch the news this week. I felt as if they were only capitalizing on this great tragedy, working to sensationalize and glorify victims and increase the nationalism that fuels our capitalism. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see street vendors selling t-shirts or trinkets to commemorate this day. For I believe we have become a crass society intent on only acquiring more toys and trinkets and making a buck where we can. I don’t believe this is what America stands for, and yet every day it seems, it only shows me that we are.

Instead I attended a peace ceremony today, The Axis of Friendship, where others like me, prayed and spoke and set our intention for peace in this world. That gave me hope for our country. That gave me a faith that if this one spark can spread, maybe it will overcome the contagion for war and hatred that has spread across our land. I can only work towards that and hope that one day, we will get back to being the people I thought we once were. As a minister, I hope to spread peace.

May it be so.

From my little piece of Mayberry,
Jo

Summertime

August 15th

Summertime is supposed to be a happy time; a time where you lay under trees and feel the air on your skin. Where napping happens and a lot of exercise outside is enjoyed. I’ve had summers like that. It’s been a while, but I remember them. This summer hasn’t been that. It’s had its moments, and there were fun moments, but there were some not so fun moments too.

Today is actually an anniversary of some sort for me. 12 years ago today, I stopped using credit cards and haven’t since. I went cold turkey. It was really rough sometimes, I had moments where it was so tempting, but I stuck to my guns and all of a sudden it’s 12 years. I must say, I feel wonderful not having any unsecured debt and there is not the burden I felt when I did.

However, and this brings me back to my not-so-relaxing summer, I’ve experienced some momentary stress surrounding money. My not-so-magical tenant has not paid his oh-so-important rent in over 4 months. He’s actually never been on time, but up until April he managed to catch up before the next month was due. In July I began eviction proceedings when he reached the 3-month delinquent mark and now August is yet another month, where he is still living in my condo and still not paying rent. I’ve used up quite a bit of savings and unfortunately had to cancel my summer classes I intended to take, and so far I have kept up with all my payments of rent, mortgage, homeowners and insurance. This is where I’ve begun to creep into fear however. I don’t like living there and I’ve used every support system available to me to keep myself out of it. I am so grateful for my support systems. My magical friend Michele (I’ve decided to nickname her Bulldog) has been relentless in filing my papers and basically living in the City Clerk’s office (and thank you M’s daughter Elizabeth, for she’s had to sit there with her…. I think I owe the whole family at least a dinner out!) I’ve learned a lot about Landlord/Tenant law and sooo wish I knew this last year. It feels uncomfortable to think these 2 people are living in my former home and not paying for it. A friend of mine called it stealing, and it is, which I’d never thought about before. And I pray they are at least taking good care of it and not destroying it in this process. Being an absentee landlord is difficult and I need to find a manager for me down in LA, but my first step is vacating my condo and it’s proving much harder than anticipated. I now have become the “evil landlord”, even though I really don’t think I’m evil, and one of my friends pointed out that I’ve been way too nice. That’s how he seemed to take advantage of me in the first place. I was too nice. This is a business, I’ve been told, even though it’s my former home. I haven’t thought of it as a business per se, I’ve thought of it as my home, and I feel a bit violated at the moment. I have talked to an attorney however and that may be my only recourse. But I still haven’t debted and am so grateful for that. I will get through this. I believe that God and the good karma I have collected will see me through.

So there goes my summer. School is just around the corner and a whole new semester looms. I know I will love it just as much as last year. It’s cold again, the foggy winds blowing in from the Bay, and now that I’m a knowledgeable resident, I know that September and October will be warm and sunny once again. I haven’t felt the magic lately, but I still hold out hope that it’s coming back. There’s a lesson here for me and I feel I have learned a lot this summer. Knowledge isn’t always gained in schoolbooks. I’m sure there’s a sermon in here somewhere…….

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo