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Leaving Home and Legacy

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I’ve been thinking a lot about dying lately. Maybe not so much dying as just not being here anymore.

This week I will be signing the papers that will detach me from the house I grew up in, the homey, red brick colonial that my family has owned since 1958. It is more than the end of an era; it is the end of *all* my eras so far. Although I’ve lived in my current home for twenty-seven years — way longer than I lived in my family home — somehow that house has always been “home.” Where’s home now?

Home

Home

At the same time, I am preparing to turn sixty years old in a few short weeks. This preparation mostly entails drinking more than is good for me more often than is good for me (perhaps trying to feel like I’m in my twenties again?) and frequently shaking my head and saying “I can’t believe this,” or “How did this happen?”

I’m crying a lot, missing my brother and my mom and even my father, who died forty years ago this May. It’s letting go of the house that’s stirring up the memories.

At any rate, these happenstances have brought to my attention the likelihood that I will die at some point. I knew this, of course, I think I just know it more now. What will be left when I am no more?

What Lasts?

A few weeks ago, we had a Lenten Quiet Day at my church where we spent time in prayer and reflection and meditation. One of the Hebrew scriptures that we used for meditation was Psalm 139, which reads in part, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I got to thinking about that word “everlasting.” What is everlasting? For someone like me with no kids, no DNA spread about, what of me is everlasting?

I used to think that my legacy was wrapped up in the National Parks and forests and rivers that I helped protect for posterity when I was Public Lands Director at Sierra Club. But those aren’t everlasting. Even if they survive America’s insatiable need to drill, mine, and chop down every last cotton-pickin’ acre of wildlands, they will still be dust eventually.

So no everlasting legacy there. Nope.

I also used to see a trace of legacy in my role as chair of the pastor search process that released my friend Brian McLaren from pastoring the church he founded, so that he could be a full-time author and international speaker spreading a gospel of love and justice — at least a small flickering candle against the darkness of the judgmental, hate-preaching juggernaut that many people think of as “Christianity” and from which they understandably flee.

But Jesus didn’t come to establish a “religion,” and he doesn’t need Brian McLaren to save him, and Brian didn’t need me to save him either. Ten years has put this in perspective. I’m glad to have helped Brian and our church out, but God is God, and is likely by turns divinely amused and annoyed by the way humans represent Her/Him/Is/I AM.

True Home

So what truly is everlasting? Only love. Only the Spirit of Love that passes from one to another to another for all time and into eternity. And I believe what Jesus’s friend John wrote two thousand years ago: God is love. That’s where “home” is, always was, and always will be.

So let me not waste time, God. Let me not waste time clinging to brick and mortar or searching for meaning or significance in things that don’t last. Let me dwell only on the love in my past, and let me love well in the time I have left. 

Related post: https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/hope-or-hostility-in-a-multi-faith-world/

Peppermint Stick, Please

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I had peppermint stick ice cream on Sunday, two scoops with warm fudge sauce. You have to grab it when you can get it, because only a select few establishments serve peppermint stick. Not peppermint, peppermint stick, with little pieces of pink and green candy in it.

I was with some friends at Seibel’s restaurant, an old family-run business in Spencerville, Maryland. They serve meatloaf and mashed potatoes and open-faced turkey sandwiches and creamed spinach with bacon. The vegetarian options are limited (no veggie burgers or California wraps here), but believe it or not, the potato and sauerkraut croquettes with sweet and sour sauce were quite tasty, and I was completely sated. 

But Seibel’s makes their own ice cream and they only occasionally offer peppermint stick, so there was no question of passing it up.

I’m not an ice cream fan in general, only peppermint stick. I’m also not generally a WordPress Daily Prompt fan because I’m not focused enough to finish a blog post in one day, and I’m usually not passionate about the prompt ideas. But when today’s prompt asked “Vanilla, Chocolate, or something else entirely?” my passion was aroused (in an ice cream kind of way).

The ice cream I had on Sunday was good, not great. There weren’t nearly enough candy chips in it. You need to be able to tuck all the candy bits into the inside of your cheek so that at the end you have a big sticky ball of candy to suck on.

Worse yet, Seibel’s has no marshmallow topping. And it goes without saying that marshmallow topping is de rigueur for peppermint stick ice cream.

Marshmallows in all forms, including the swarm of Easter Peeps that has descended upon our grocery stores, is the one chink in my holier-than-thou vegetarian armor. I just can’t resist the horse hooves that make up the gelatin that makes up that fluffy white stuff.

And a digression — did you know that the original marshmallows were made from the tuber root of the marshmallow plant? That’s where they got their name. I learned that in my college Marsh and Dune Vegetation class, which if you said it real fast sounded like Martian Dune Vegetation and always made us laugh, especially when we had been inhaling a certain type of burning vegetation. Hey, it was college.  (OK, that was multiple digressions, but they were short.)

The very best peppermint ice cream I know of is served at The Piazza in Keene, New Hampshire. It’s best eaten when surrounded by four excited grand nieces and nephews. I get a large cup of it, smothered in extra marshmallow sauce. To. Die. For. (Do people still say that?)

Coincidentally, the place I discovered this pink bliss at the age of ten was also in Keene, New Hampshire at a now defunct ice cream parlor called Mackenzie’s where my family used to go when we visited my grandmother, Beedie.

Beedie loved Mackenzie’s and always suggested we go there “for the children.” It was one of the few places I saw her really relaxed, surrounded by her grandchildren and daintily picking at the whipped cream on her sundae. Beedie was not relaxed by nature. In the first place, she was British. She also saw “some things” growing up in South Africa — her little cousin was murdered by Zulus and she was never allowed outside alone again — and she lost her first child in its infancy and her husband in an awful ship fire at sea and her family money to her late husband’s brother’s schemes.

Beedie was a stiff upper lipped, soldiering on type of woman, except when she was at Mackenzie’s. There she became her child-self again. I don’t remember if her favorite was peppermint stick, but I like to think it was, and I like to think of her slipping peppermint chips into her cheek and sucking on her wad of candy — surreptitiously, of course, because a proper British lady would never do such a thing.

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From a long line of ice cream lovers: my nephew Jeff and his son Josh

Waiting For The Muse

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I was talking to a fellow blogger at a party the other night.

“I just don’t want to be one of those people who blogs about how they have nothing to blog about,” she said. We sipped our Merlot, then caught each other’s guilty glances over our wine glasses and dissolved into laughter because we had both recently done exactly that.

I blame winter. It was long and it was dreadful and it was cold and it was dark. How can one be expected to write under those circumstances? My creativity has been buried under two feet of snow, and the pipes to my well of inspiration froze solid months ago.

Sometimes when I feel at a loss, I pull out excerpts from my journal and — for reasons not clear to me — my readers seem to enjoy that. I may have to resort to journal snippets later this week, although my journal entries have mostly been complaints about the weather.

I’ve had a little fun with stream-of-consciousness word games, just rambling blogs about fun words like ignominious and ratiocination. I thought about doing one on the word perfidiousness, but decided that perfidiousness was too unpleasant to write about, and besides, someone could sue me for defamation of character if I got too specific about their “deceit, deliberate faithlessness, and treachery.”

The days are getting longer, and the robins are singing their spring songs. It was in the sixties yesterday. And — I know you’ve been waiting for an update  — I finally took down my Christmas tree last week. For Lent. So things are looking up, I think. I may actually produce something worth reading sometime soon. For now, I just wanted to say, “Hi, I’m still here; I still think about you guys.”

Welcome to my newest followers, and I’m sorry if this is the first post you’re receiving. I’m not usually like this. Usually.

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Last week

 

 

 

This week!

This week!

 

 

 

 

What’s the Deadline for Finding Peace and Happiness?

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I’m struggling under too many deadlines lately, which I know won’t illicit sympathy from those of you in the work-a-day world. But as an accidental early retiree, I’m not used to deadlines anymore so they are even more stressful and intrusive than when they were organizationally imposed.

That penultimate, omnipotent organizational deadline imposer, the Internal Revenue Service, dictated a February 28th deadline for me this year, under the threat of losing my beloved, best-thing-in-the-world, don’t-mess-with-it-Supreme-Court Obamacare subsidy. I impressed myself by meeting that deadline, but as executor of two estates, there are plenty more IRS forms in my near future.

Health care ensured for the year, I’ve moved on to the next impending deadline and am ostensibly working on a sermon to be delivered next week. The topic I’ve been assigned boils down to “how to be happy and at peace.” Cinch, right? Being new to sermon preparation, I find it tortuous, and now even more so because I was recently commissioned to our church’s Pastoral Team and feel as if I’m suddenly supposed to know how to preach.

Preaching guidance did not come in my how-to-be-a-pastor packet. What came instead was about a bijillion email documents covering ten years of strategic planning, which I’m supposed to read and digest in three days.

I’m also up against a March 9th deadline to apply for a summer writing workshop. Last night I spent hours mucking around with the simple question, “Tell us something about yourself.” This does not bode well for the associated 1,000-word essay.

Last night I got a pleading call from the people who are buying my family house — the one I grew up in and where my brother fell into mental illness and died (no emotional complications there). The couple’s house has rented early and they have no place to go; can we possibly move up the settlement date by a week?

Sigh.

I now have just a few weeks to haul piles of boxes and bunches of furniture out of the house and find someplace to put it all, hire someone to clean the house, transplant Mom’s roses and azaleas, and sell a dead car for which I have no title. 

For now, I have to get back to this sermon. Hmmm – how to find peace.

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