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October 21, 2014

Living Alone

I would say that throughout my marriage, I did lots of wifely things! Just like my mom, I cooked and sewed and cleaned the house. But, because Don worked practically around the clock, I also did things that my dad would have done. I mowed the lawn and painted the house. I also did the finances because I didn't like the way Don did them. It wasn't until I began working full time after the children were mostly grown that I hired someone to help clean for me. I'm not saying this to pat myself on the back -- but merely to state that what needed to get done around the house mostly was done by me with a little help from Don when he was available. And, during vacations when he was away from work, we chose to take our children and run away to Yosemite and places where we could both just relax and rejuvenate ourselves.

All of this said, one of the things I simply cannot do is to fix anything. So, those things were left for my husband when he had a moment here or there. Whether it be computer problems or plumbing, things that broke or things to be constructed for birthday or Christmas presents, he needed to be on hand for the project. I can't tell you how many times we put toys together at 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve after the midnight service at church -- or the number of times I read instructions while his head was under the sink fixing a leak.

Perhaps that is why I loved remodeling my house and having all those handymen around for so long. My wonderful contractor still drops by now and then to see how everything is working. When something breaks I begin feeling a bit panicky because I keep thinking I ought to be able to fix simple things without always paying someone to come to my rescue.

All this is preamble to the fact that I have been exceedingly proud of myself for the past few weeks. A light fixture broke in the basement bathroom and I didn't know what to do. But, Charles suggested that I get the part that broke from Hardware Sales. I then examined the twin fixture and figured out what to do with the part. After trying a variety of ways to extract it from the fixture when I installed it incorrectly, I finally figured it out. Remember, these things are not intuitive for me. Then, two lights blew out of my living room lamp, and I had to take it apart to extract the bulbs and, after another trip to my favorite hardware store, I finally got the bulbs in correctly and it actually worked! I have also fixed my kitchen faucet and I've just finished scraping lots of paint off of my dining room ceiling. Oh yes, I also figured out what was wrong with my VCR player. It has been a very productive week.

Now, these things I've done are really, really simple for many people. My daughter, Jeni, could do all of them in 10 minutes with her eyes closed. She took a broken burner on our stove apart when she was a young teen, fixed the problem, and put all the many parts back together without even a schematic to figure out where they went. I was aghast! When James was around four or five, I got a three-dimension puzzle for us to do. While I was trying to figure out the instructions, I looked up and he had already put it together. Nico builds Lego projects designed for much older children. I am simply not mechanical, nor do I see relationships between objects. It is my saving grace that I 'm attuned to relationships between humans.

I guess we all have our talents. But, I also have a great deal of extra pride this week for tackling some projects that would normally be beyond my ability. I guess you are never to old to learn new tricks.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2014

The Amazing Youth

I have been so heartened by observing the special youth in the news this week. This morning I listened to the Nobel Acceptance Speech by Mahala Yousafzai, the seventeen year old Pakastani who has been speaking out about the rights of women to be educated in her country and around the world. I saw her first on the John Stewart show and was very impressed. What an amazing journey for one so young -- and what intelligence and bravery in the face of those who are threatened by her message and tried to assassinate her making it impossible for her family to return to their homeland.

I also listened this past week to Emma Watson, the beautiful young woman who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, as she appeared before the United Nations as the Women's Goodwill Ambassador. Her speech on gender equality was moving and smart -- not surprising since she is a recent graduate from Brown University. It is impressive that she continued her education while she was growing up in the wake of such fortune and is now using her fame for some larger world cause. It certainly speaks well of her.

On Sunday I watched Bellingham High School student, Lucy Evans, speak to a group about her decision last spring to organize a march of BHS youth stand up against gun violence. She led over 100 students through the town and spoke to the mayor and politicians about the absurdity of the lack of appropriate gun laws and the right of youth to go to school without fearing that they may be shot by some person who should never have been able to buy guns in the first place. She reminded the American politicians that it is their job to protect their citizens. She was eloquent and very impressive.

Last night I was at the Pickford Theater for a special showing of "The Skeleton Twins" written and produced by Craig Johnson who grew up and was nurtured in our church and in our town. It is a sensitive and bittersweet film about a brother and sister who had a difficult youth and were struggling with their lives separate from each other until they meet once again and poignantly remember what family is all about. The showing was a benefit for Children's Literacy and Craig happily answered questions about the making of this, his second film. Craig has been all over the world talking about his film, but this particular audience was filled with friends and family who watched him grow up and pursue his dream which began in our church as part of the Joy Jesters mime group, in elementary school when he played a 6th grade MacBeth, in high school with Terry Grimes (an amazing drama teacher), in the Bellingham Theater Guild, in the University of Washington and Seattle theater, and finally to NY where he received a Masters' Degree in film. Most of the people in the audience have watched his journey with love and can only be impressed to see such success.

As a senior citizen, I am heartened by these young people who are speaking up for the less fortunate and spreading the good news whether it be the need for our citizens to insist on equal rights for others or reminding us all that relationships matter. At church lately, I witnessed Sarah, an impressive young woman, lead our very diverse search committee to the wonderful conclusion to call a new pastor (another impressive young woman) to our church. And, I shed tears while another spoke from the pulpit during a stewardship talk and bravely admit she found our church family when she was very depressed, and it was a lifeline for her. She was inviting others to share in the good news by giving our resources to an amazing community.

I think I can honestly say, with people of this caliber taking their turn to lead our town, our state, our country, and our world, we have nothing to worry about.

Posted by Marilyn at 8:29 AM | Comments (0)

October 1, 2014

Back to My Faith Journey - The College Years #3

If you read this blog, you may remember that some time ago I began writing about my journey of faith. The first two installments included my time spent as a child in the Episcopal Church and some musings about attending the Mormon Church with my neighbors and friends. This installment focuses on the journey into the wider world of college.

Occidental College

I have always loved school, but college was the best of all once I found my stride. Two important events happened during my two years at Pasadena City College. The first was rediscovering my love of choral music and the second was finding a class that prodded my intellectual growth. I loved choir in Jr. High, and I played the piano in high school in a group called the "Live Five" with four friends including my best pal, vocalist Darla Daret, who sang on television with Bob Mills and Cliffie Stone. At PCC, a friend dragged me to the choir that changed my life. The teacher, Dave Thorsen, was a phenomenal director and mentor, and the reason I subsequently went to Occidental College to study with the famous conductor, Howard Swan.

It was an Intro to Philosophy class where, on day one, we examined the nature of existence. How did we know that the chair we were sitting on was actually real? How did we know for sure that we even existed? That got my attention! This abstract thinking was completely new to my brain and absolutely fascinating. No wonder I felt like a pest in Mormon Sunday School when there were bigger questions to conquer.

When I got to Oxy, I enrolled in the church history class that my Presbyterian boss, the secretary of the music department, thought was the devil incarnate because students came out of it questioning their faith. I absolutely ate up the class. I knew from the moment I went to that little Episcopal Church when I was little that I had a deep affinity for religion, but I knew little about theology or the beginnings of Christianity. This is probably a good place to interject that singing beautiful sacred music in two stellar college choirs was one of the best introductions to Biblical texts that I could ever have.

It was illuminating to find that the books of the Bible were written at different times, that events don't have to be factual to be true, that the Bible was filled with stories, metaphors, poetry, literature all gathered together from people who lived and believed in their own ways. Instead of ruining my simple faith, it deepened it, because I could finally put my heart and my head in the same place and not ignore one at the expense of the other. What an illumination that church history class was to me, and what power it had in my life. How fascinating that even in the holiest of books for the Christian Church, people had a variety of experiences and different points of view.

Theodore Gill, the president of San Anselmo Theological Seminary spoke eloquently at my college graduation. He remarked that although we were celebrating the completion of our college years, we were just beginning our learning process. College taught us how to learn and should have instilled the hunger and quest for further knowledge. As we continued to expose ourselves to different ideas, different points of view, and different worlds we would gain real wisdom.

These formative intellectual experiences were the foundation upon which I built all my later systems of religious belief. I'd like to say here that in learning to sift through what was important to me, how various theological ideas fit my experience and my temperament, in no way diminished my respect for those who believed differently. One thing college taught me is that people form their belief systems out of a multitude of experience. I personally have difficulty believing in absolutes. The more I expose myself to new ideas, the more I change my original premises.

I find it difficult to believe that all the truth in the world might reside in one particular basket. What connects me to my Mormon friends, or my Presbyterian boss, or my Buddhist neighbors, or atheists, or physicists, or philosophers or whomever is that we're all curious for a deeper understanding of who we are and why we exist. I can understand when some believe so firmly in their own answers that they want others to embrace them too. But, as you can see, that point of view only makes me more resistant.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)