Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's good to hear your voice, you know it's been so long

There’s this music venue a couple of towns north of us smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It’s open in the summer only and it’s literally a tent, albeit a highly specialized kind of tent. The stage rotates. There is a sister venue of similar type about 40 miles from here.

Over the 20 years or so that I’ve lived in New England, I’ve been amused at the kinds of acts that play there. It always seemed to be “old people” music. I know that comment is full of ageism, but we’re talking crooners like my dad used to enjoy back in the day. “The day” being the 40s and 50s. So, you know, old people’s music. It was a running joke between my husband and myself. An act that would, sooner or later, play at the venue, was one to look down upon.

Over the last few years, the acts coming to the venue have been more and more interesting and/or amusing. There are still the crooner types, and now there are several tribute bands on the schedule, and some other “interesting” revues (Bowzer’s Original Doo-Wop Party). There are some kids programs, some comedians (we saw Lewis Black there, and some artists that you would be surprised to learn are still touring (Kenny Rogers). But there also are, occasionally, some decent acts. We saw Bruce Hornsby there a few years ago. The small setting made it a lot of fun. In terms of it being an “old person” place, it seems I am being put in my place. Or getting old. Or both.

Anyway, there are sill some acts that you just do not expect to see on the schedule, and we went to see one of those acts last Saturday night. We saw Blondie.

Yes, Blondie. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein and Clem Burke, and some new support musicians. No Jimmy Destri, no Gary Valentine. It’s been 30 years since Parallel Lines was released, and this was an anniversary tour.

(I never saw Blondie in their heyday. My hometown was not exactly a hot stop of cutting edge music, thought I did see everything I could that did come through. I found my old pile of concert tickets recently. I’ll have to write about them sometime.)

When I told our sitter where we were going, she was a little incredulous, both at the fact that they were still performing in one way or another, and where they were playing. We joked about how she also laughed at acts scheduled at this venue. Thing is, she’s young. She can still laugh.

When we drove up and parked, we were a little amused at the demographic. No, a lot amused. There were couples milling about that you would otherwise imagine by their appearances as garden club member, golf playing, grandparent retirees. Which they also may be. You never – never! – would have imagined some of these people to be punk aficionados back in the day. The earrings that matched the shirt in an easy care fabric would have been laughed down the street had they shown up at CBGBs! There were, of course, younger fans, and older fans that looked a little more hip. We were on the younger side of the crowd.

As we sat on the a bench outside the tent, having a glass of wine, we cracked many jokes. For example, how this crowd might be a good test market for cocktails made with nutritional beverages. Tequila shots with an Ensure chaser, or a “Booster” or “Resource Breezer” blender drinks with umbrellas. We joked about how, thirty years ago, we’re sure Debbie Harry never envisioned that people attending her concerts would look into their Talbots and Ann Taylor-filled closets for something to wear, much less intentionally shop there in anticipation (Guilty! I bought a blouse on sale there on Thursday evening with the concert in mind.)

Once inside the tent, we dutifully listened to the opening act (not bad), though again speculated on how they landed the gig. Was a member of the opening band an offspring of the main act (that’s happening a fair bit these days)? Were these musicians even born when Blondie first played? We later learned the answers were no (Clem Burke, however, had helped produce a recording of theirs) and yes (but not all, and not by much).

When it was time for the main event, it was lots of fun. The crowd, though not a sell-out, was really into it, even the garden-club grandparent retirees. Ms. Matching Earrings was rocking out.

Debbie Harry has still got it. At 63, that is no small feat. Yes, Debbie Harry is 63. She may look like a slightly lumpy older woman walking down the ramp to the stage, but she’s clearly a real woman and strong as ever. She still has stage presence. Her voice is just as strong and she can deliver a lyric (others around her age are losing their voices, even though they still record – think Carly Simon, who is only six days older than Debbie Harry). I could do worse than look like Debbie Harry when I’m 63, really. She looked like she was having a lot of fun.

Chris Stein was his usual quiet self, same look on his face, concentrating, doing his thing. Clem Burke has the arena-rock drummer moves, which is amusing in a band with Blondie’s edge. Spinning his drum sticks up in the air in the relatively small tent doesn’t have quite the same impact as in the larger venues.

We had a lot of fun. I’m glad we went. I was surprised how many lyrics I could remember.

Oh, and another benefit to the older crowd? Less rowdy behavior in the parking lot after the show, and a relatively orderly and quick departure from the parking lot. Back in the day, Blondie never would have imagined that, either.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Everyone is a Critic

C has been a real crab lately - angry and nasty and just really unpleasant. It's been stressful and hurtful and exhausting. I don't quite know what to do, but I'm doing my best to feel my way through it. It's hard.

My nephew has informed me that I'm much too hard on him, hold the kids to much too high a standard in general, am too strict, and my kids are going to hate me, and so on.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Just Wait a Minute

Walking outside right now, you would never imagine that a week ago we were in the midst of a heat wave. There is at least a 35 degree difference.

A week ago, I had all the fans going in the house. Last night I almost dug out the down comforter. Even Saturday was quite warm. I spent a couple hours in the garden weeding and manged to burn my shoulders. Not so thorough with the sunscreen as I thought.

That old joke is so true: If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute. It will change.

Time for some (hot) tea.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Church Stuff, Revisited

Early last week, I was compelled to write a letter to the vestry of the church stating my concerns. I was careful not to be confrontational, though I did clearly state what I think has been missing in the church directly corresponds to the arrival of new leadership. I wrote about the sense of love and acceptance and finding our way in a wider world missing now.

I had a some email responses from vestry members. A couple thanked me for voicing what they had been feeling for a long time, while others called it “vague.” I guess I can see both sides.

That afternoon, the junior warden called me. I spoke with him for a bit, again while trying not to be confrontational or pointing fingers. He kept reiterating that he thought this was about “style” differences. I insisted it was more than that. I told him – and it’s very true – I would NOT go to the rector if I was having a problem. My gut is telling me the whole situation is not right.

I learned to listen to my gut feelings when C was getting sick. Although C had already been to the doctor and was on antibiotics and I had been told it would be a couple days until he felt better, had I not listened to my gut instinct and taken him in that Tuesday morning in 2003, he probably would not be here today. There’s a reason it’s called instinct.

Anyway, the next day, R, the rector called, as I expected. He asked to meet with me. I figured since I had written the letter, I needed to be available and open to meeting him. We agreed to 11:30AM this past Wednesday, ample time after his 10:00AM service and after my usual Wednesday morning errands. I chose a public, neutral place – the bakery near the harbor.

It’s interesting that after suppressing feelings about the situation at the church for so many months, when I finally opened the door just a crack to admit some of it, more came rushing out. I could not close that door again. Among other things, I realized I do not feel physically comfortable around the guy. I didn’t realized it, but even my husband noticed that I would physically avoid the guy at church. I would go around him when he was at the back of the church greeting those arriving or departing, and I would move when he came near at coffee hour. Since my husband has been to church four times in the last year, that he noted this in those brief observations is interesting.

In the days that followed setting up that meeting, I felt extremely anxious and even nauseous when I thought about it. After speaking with one of the vestry members (E) at baseball on Friday evening, I decided I needed someone else with me.

I emailed another woman I know, H, who is on the vestry and asked her if she could be there. Not for any conversational input, but just to physically be there and hear what happens. She agreed. I emailed R and said I wanted H to be there for my physical comfort and would that be okay with him. I wanted to be upfront and fair about this; I did not want to blindside him.

Then I emailed the rector of a church a few towns north whom I know from years past (he led our premarriage counseling in another state in the early 90s) and asked for advice. He was helpful in suggestions for considering what I want to happen and approaches.

In the meantime, I saw people around town. People who have drifted away, or plain left. The sentiment is the same - things aren't right, the love is gone, we need help. We need a change. I encouraged each of them to write letters to the vestry. I told them I had. We'll see if that happens.

As the meeting approached, I felt more nervous. H and I agreed to meet at 11:00 to settle for a bit before R arrived.

On Wednesday, I walked up to the bakery at 10:55AM. R was already there, waiting for me. I was surprised and I stammered as I said I just needed to get a coffee. He didn’t even acknowledge S. H, unfortunately, was late. I tried to take my time in the bakery, getting a treat for S and a coffee for me, gathering my thoughts. He came in, and hovered while I did this, kept asking where we should sit, and I kept saying please give me a few minutes. I felt totally ambushed.

We sat down, and I was still discombobulated. A few minutes later H walked up, and, bless her, forcefully said, “What happened to 11:30?” R hesitated and replied, “I put it down as 11:00.” Now he may or may not have – but the spidey sense tingled again. The 10:00AM Wednesday service usually lasts about 50 minutes, so the 11:30 time was designed by me to give ample time to clean up and wind down from that. Of course, there may have been no one there for the 10:00 service.

The conversation began, and it went all over the place. It's still gelling. Among other things....I laid into him on that awful sermon. He said, "I'm sorry it didn't work for you," emphasizing the "for you" part (I confirmed with H that she heard that, too). He thinks the people who are unhappy right now are just a few, a handful - that the variations in numbers and money is "normal" (We’ve gone from a surplus a year ago to almost 100K deficit). I reiterated that it is not - I've watched normal and this is not normal.

I said that although he has the authority to make any change he wants, making changes in a vacuum is going to alienate people. I told him he needed to back off all changes, call and get to know everyone in the congregation, starting with the people who have drifted away (which I will admit will be hard since he has no idea who they are), ask himself for every change he wants to make whether it is something that will enhance what we have or fix something that is not broken.

I also asked him if he thought he had made any mistakes in the last year. He seemed rather surprised by the question, and didn't answer. I don't think he's ever considered that.

I said I thought he had bishop aspirations, but that we deserved to be more than a stepping stone to that goal. He claimed he does not, that he loves parish work but he spends enough time at the diocesan level that I wonder. He's clearly very good at "managing up."

There's other stuff, but it's still swirling. Oh, ZERO interaction with S. Not even a smile. And lots of openings to ask questions to get to know me, and none were taken. After that, I was even more sure that he is not in the right place. He doesn't get it.

There were points I wanted to make that I didn't get a chance to - like this is OUR church not his church or my church or H's church and he needs to make decisions based on what is good for the church, not what is good for him.

After he left, H and I sat for a while. She told me that after I emailed both of them about her being there R called her and asked her why I wanted her there. She said, no, he should ask me. R then says he's going to reply to me that it's fine, blind copying H - even though H was already on the emails, etc. Weird.

H told me about a few other things. A, the office administrator, was fired this week. She's been in and out on medical leave for about a month - the stress of working with him has been manifesting itself physically with her. After S, the Christian Ed director leaves on Sunday, R will be the ONLY person in the office. And also R’s wife and son are very unhappy here. I’m sorry for that, but I think it’s symptomatic of these bigger problems. No one is happy, really.

M, the rector who retired three years ago, has been asked to perform services. He still does supply work. Very few want R to perform the transitional rites. It puts M is a tough spot. He doesn’t want to interfere, but it must be horrible to watch what he built over 18 years fall apart. He’s being judicious in accepting what rites to perform and where.

I told H that if a change was made, I would recommit fully to the rebuilding process (which, at this point could take years), but otherwise I really didn't think I could teach Sunday School in the fall. I don't know what to do about pledges. I may specify a fund (buildings and grounds) instead of just sending it in generally.

Then S drove by, saw us and stopped. Apparently the diocese is coming for a walk-through today. C, the sexton, let it drop that it's to evaluate R’s claimed need for additional clergy and/or a seminarian to support the parish. We’re so in the red we can't afford anyone! We can't pay our diocesan assessment this year! There was an "all-parish" meeting on Tuesday about the direction of Christian Ed – seven (7!) people showed up (our official census is over 1000, 700 active a year ago). R apparently started talking about how far to extend the search for a Christian Ed person (and he's pushing for an ordained person). We suspect he has a specific person in mind. In Seattle.

S told us about several others who have come to her. She’s encouraged them all to write to the vestry and diocese. The dissatisfaction is multi-generational.

Then I left, and called J, the woman whose departure pushed me to act. She and a couple others have called and emailed the bishop in the last 24 hours - they want to make sure the bishop is aware of the issues. We also keep hearing about more people who are planning to write letters. Just hope they follow through.

I ended up emailing the bishop myself, but it wasn’t to detail anything, just to say please hear what has already been said, and please investigate what is happening here. Neither he nor his staff has responded.

Anyway, I don't think R is a bad person. I just don't think this is a fit! We've spent a year supporting him, giving him space in the transition, but the transition should be winding down and everyone should be settled by now. My mission in all this is not to bring him down, it's to bring our church back. There was a parish picnic on Sunday to say goodbye to S (we were at our walk), and it was well-attended - but he doesn't understand that people came for S. This coming Sunday is likely to be sparse. I don’t know a single person who intends to go to church this summer. We’re all “taking a break,” even vestry members like H and E.

I'm fairly surprised about how compelled I feel to act in this way. I don't have any regrets so far, and I am glad I have spoken up. Something may happen sooner, or it may happen later. I don't know. It's emotionally exhausting, but I feel like I am speaking up for many people. Our church was not perfect, but it was good. And I want to get back to that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Classifieds

My new company has this habit of providing just a little too much personal information about new hires. Today an email like this one went out:

From: Manager
To: Company
Sent: Thu Jun 12 18:34:25 2008
Subject: Please welcome Elmer Smith to Company Family

Please join me in welcoming Elmer Smith to the team. As of last week he is officially part of the Support team as an Associate.
Elmer graduated this May 2008 from University with a undergraduate degree in Business with a concentration in Marketing. He is a die hard University Football Fan.
When asked where he is from he replies "all over the place"..but he has some roots here in (lived here for 4 yrs in high school and his sibling lives here now).
Elmer loves football and baseball (played in high school). Enjoys spending time with family and friends. He visits Miami where he has family and also enjoys the sun. He likes Greek mythology - they learned about it in 8th grade and ever since has been interested.
Please stop by and say hello or send an email introducing yourself if you are not located in the main office. He is eager to learn about what we do so please keep him in mind as you set up meetings, presentations, etc... and let him know if he can attend to learn.
Welcome Elmer! We're excited to have you join us.

A few minutes later, the following went out to the company in reply:

From: Manager
To: Manager, Company
Sent: Thu Jun 12 18:39:38 2008
Subject: Re: Please welcome Elmer Smith to Company Family

Elmer also enjoys walking in the park, horseback riding and sunsets at the beach.

I came so close to responding with the following:

From: Me
To: Manager, Company
Sent: Thu Jun 12 18:39:38 2008
Subject: Re: Please welcome Elmer Smith to Company Family

In addition, Elmer likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

Thing is, most of the company is so young, I wonder if they would have gotten the joke.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stop the Rollercoaster!

I want to get off.


Monday, June 09, 2008


My husband is an expert nicknamer. Seriously. He gives great nicknames - probably because he had a great one himself, given by his mother (but that is a story for another day).

Anyway, Laka already has an appropriate nickname courtesy of my husband:


The kittens are heartbreakingly adorable. We are slowly acclimating them. Percy purrs up a storm (perhaps he should be "Purrcy"? Stop groaning. OK, no, we won't do that). Laka is the more skittish of the two.

They are already doing an excellent job of distracting me from other stresses.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Okay, Remy just said that with the way the lineup is being juggled tonight, one of these two relievers is currently listed as the DH. Wha'?

Of course there was the time in early 2006, I think, that weird wind-up guy (former teammate, playing for the Reds, and whom I really liked) had more homers than S's hero. You never can tell.

I just checked the calendar to be sure it really was June, not April (1st).


I called it, I did. Early in the game on Tuesday I said to a coworker, "Punches will be thrown this series." Of course, then I had explain what I meant by "series." And tell him a little about the long-standing history of altercations between the two teams.

So, tonight. There was the brawl. Then my beloved rolled his wrist on an amazing diving catch. I still can't watch the replay. Then Youk and S's hero have words in the dugout, almost starting another brawl. And Papi already is in a cast. The 103.1 million dollar man is on the DL, as is M's favorite.

But, hey, that rookie just brought up is having a nice night. Two runs in so far and his first major league hit.

Given the inside pitch on this guy just now (who just struck out), I would not be surprised if there are more punches thrown this game. At the very least, when these teams meet again, watch out.

For now, I want to say to the boys on both sides, let's just get through this game. Then everyone go have a few beers and CHILL OUT!

That's an order.

(But, um, boys? Kick their asses next time for me, 'k? The DEVIL! Rays at the top of - or even near the top of - the AL East is WRONG!)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How Not to Watch Baseball

Last night I took M to the game. It was a work event. The company acquired 40 tickets. Only 31 signed up, so names for an extra ticket were drawn out of a hat, and we got lucky.

C was quite jealous, but he got to go the the playoff game last October, so it was only fair that M go.

While it was a good game, it was hard to watch. My work colleagues were far more interested in socializing (and drinking company purchased beer) than watching the game, so they were up and down and all around and most of the time the view was blocked. Very disappointing for an 8 year old. Plus, I had to explain baseball to a couple of people. Although no one asked me the question a nephew asked last summer when we saw a game out west ("When's halftime?" Seriously.), one guy thought the main area of play was in front of the bullpen and was quite surprised when action started happening elsewhere.

I was glad to be there, and glad to have a night out with M, but we both would have enjoyed really being able to pay attention to the game more. Oh well. M insisted he wanted to stay until the very end, and we did. Then we got him a shirt of his favorite player. He fell asleep in the car on the way home, and was extra tired this morning, but he gave me lots of hugs during the game last night, and I'll hold on to those.

PM, nice homer by your boyfriend in the 2nd.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Tally

This would be amusing if it weren't so sad. It is just amazing to watch how people can read the same words and come away with such different opinions of what is being said.

After emailing my letter to the vestry early this morning (12 persons), I have received four emails back.

Number of those emails thanking me for writing? 3

Number of those emails thanking someone else for responding to me? 1

Number of those emails expressing support for the letter and declaring it succinct and clear? 2

Number of emails suggesting I'm being vague? 2

This is going to be very interesting.


The OctoDog.

I wonder if it works as well on Tofupups.

I Did It

I wrote a letter to the vestry of the church. There is a meeting tonight. I have no idea if any of it will be heard, but I feel comfortable with the content of it. I slept on it to be sure.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Not Good

Yesterday morning, in a half-full church service, I noticed that one of the parish stalwarts was not there. Then I realized I hadn't seen her in almost a month. She's not a big vacation taker, so I wondered if she was ill and I just hadn't heard. So I asked someone after church.

Me: "Is J okay? I haven't seen her in a good long while."

Other: "She's fine. She left."

Me: "Left? Left what?"

Other: "She left the church."

This is enormous.

J grew up in the church. Her great-grandmother helped found the church. She was baptized there, was married there, had her children baptized there. She's been a faithful attendee and financial supporter for decades. She's been on every committee and in every vestry role. And she did it all with a level of innate warmth and love that I can only aspire to. For her to leave? Well, there are two words cycling and recycling through my brain: holy shit.

I spoke with J this morning. She's sad but believes she made the right decision based on many factors. She did not go into details. She hopes one day to return. She was her ever-loving, hopeful self. She talked and I listened, then I talked and she listened. She did not trash anyone, but explained rationally her thought process. For now, she feels a bit of burden has been lifted from her.

I've written about this issue recently here and here. While it's reassuring to know I'm not the only one struggling, I'm also finding it very sad and I don't know how to start forward-moving dialogue or with whom to address any of it. Would it make any difference?

What to do, what to do....