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Grocery Shopping in the Time of COVID-19

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Who would ever have imagined that grocery shopping could be such a stressful experience? Or that there would be a dozen articles published with conflicting advice about how to do it?

Go now, quick, before there are more cases!

Wait as long as you possibly can.

Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask.

Run in, grab a few things, make a dash for the exit. Stock up with enough to last you for an age.

Disinfect your groceries, don’t disinfect your groceries.

Just making my list this morning was harrowing. Putting it all in order so that I can make a direct run down every aisle, not retracing my steps, not pondering brands or quantity, avoiding other humans at all costs. How fast can I select a mango? Will there even be mangos? If there aren’t mangos, should I go for pineapple or oranges? Will there even be pineapples or oranges?

And marshmallows. Where do they keep the marshmallows? I never buy marshmallows. Do I really need them? My neighbor and I had a fire pit the other night, and we roasted the rock-hard ones she found in the back of her pantry. Actually, we had two separate fire pits, eight feet apart so neither one of us would be the cause of the other’s death.

Strange Times, Indeed

The last time I went grocery shopping, I stood in front of the honey jars and cried. I couldn’t decide which kind to buy, and I was scared. I was taking too long. Every other shopper looked like a landmine. A safe and familiar place had become a dangerous battleground.

Today I’m especially nervous because I hadn’t planned to go, so I’m not mentally prepared. Though some of my neighbors are shopping every few days, it’s been two-plus weeks for me, and I could easily make it another week. But my prescription has run out, so I’ve got to enter the combat zone anyway. May as well suck it up and do this thing.

I’m going to wear a mask, even though it’ll make me feel silly. Plus they seem to have become controversial, as has everything since the ascension of the Divider in Chief. I don’t want to get into the politics of masks here, I’ll just note that it’s criminally obscene that our government cannot equip our hospitals — at least not if a particular governor isn’t bowing down to the man who fancies himself King of America.

Right now, I cannot even think about that man’s incompetence and purposeful viciousness. I need all my energy to confront the produce aisle.

Can Democrats Agree to Disagree? Apparently Not.

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My incredibly adorable two-year-old neighbor just stopped by with her mom and presented me with a baggie of walnut mini-muffins. Her mother eyed me warily, knowing of my obsession with politics (like anyone who has known me for five minutes), and said, “How are you feeling today, happy or sad?”

I was stumped, surprised to realize that I did not know! I am certainly feeling a lot of feelings, but I’m not sure I can label them. Could be lack of sleep, sitting in bed with my laptop and watching Super Tuesday returns till the wee hours.

“Mixed,” I finally said. “Mostly sad, I guess, because I don’t think we can beat trump without unity, and I don’t see how either of these candidates in this climate can get us there.”

“Enjoy your day,” piped the incredibly adorable two year old.

In Search of Unity

I was told this morning when I posted an article on Facebook about the need for Democratic unity and the importance of reaching out and building coalitions that I was spreading “Republican talking points.” OK, then. I myself haven’t heard anyone in the GOP talking about the need for Democrats to unite and broaden their coalition, but whatever.

I fear that Democrats just aren’t in the mood to unify. We’ve all caught the trump disease: it seems that respect for others is a thing of the past.

Bernie & Biden: Never the Twain Shall Meet

I don’t see Bernie bringing the left-of-center and center together because many of his zealous supporters can’t help insulting and sometimes vilifying baby-boomers, moderates, people desperately seeking post-trump stability, and basically anyone who does not agree with them. Bernie comes across as a divisive person, he just does. He has to stop wagging his finger.

Here’s what one Facebook friend says: “Watching CSPAN over the years, both Sanders and Warren ‘show up’ as confrontational, acerbic, and aggressive. They both remind me often in their finger -pointing techniques of my overly pious Catholic school teachers. I honestly cannot stand that type of public oratory, self-righteous to say the least.” 

Meanwhile, many of Biden’s supporters aren’t excited about him, they just think he has the best chance of beating trump and that he promises a quiet place where we can heal for a few years. He talks about unity and normalcy and decency. That’s awfully appealing to a lot of people right now, but it doesn’t necessarily get anyone out knocking on doors and trying to persuade their neighbors to vote. And the word “normalcy” is a bad word to some, meaning corporate domination, racism, sexism, etc. 

Biden clearly represents the past, and many of us are done with the past. Still, to many voters, Obama/Biden days seem a hell of a lot better than the present situation, and a good starting point to move to the future. You may call this fear or you may call it pragmatism, but please don’t call it evil. 

Everybody Get Together

The argument that young people and other disaffected Bernie voters wouldn’t ever vote for Biden may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the echo chambers of social media. So far, younger voters aren’t turning out in the primary the way we had hoped, but they are surely needed in the general!

And now, their anger and frustration at the way the primary process works — carefully timed endorsements from influential people, coupled with second-tier candidates dropping out and coalescing around a popular candidate who most closely reflects their views — leads to cries of #RiggedElection!, which will further suppress the Democratic vote in November. That’s why trump is bloviating about the process being “rigged against Bernie,” and it’s why Russian bots try to undermine faith in our electoral process. 

Our process is most definitely flawed. It’s hard to deny that voter suppression efforts are aimed at people of color and lower income neighborhoods. And money runs our politics, plain and simple (though three cheers for Billionaire Bloomberg being unable to outright buy the nomination).

Both of our top candidates are definitely flawed, as well. And am I mad as a hornet that our choice is between two very old white guys? You bet I am. But friends, neither Bernie nor Biden comes close to being as flawed as the atrocity that sits in the Oval today. Let’s get it together, folks, literally.

Enjoy your day.

Two very old white guys

“Come on people now, smile on your brother

Everybody get together, try to love one another

Right now.”

The Youngbloods, 1967

*** Disclaimer: all opinions my own. No Republican talking points included ***

Questioning Christianity

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I continually struggle with the term “Christian,” as I know many of us do these days. For a religion that has framed itself as having all the answers, it surely has some questions to answer.

 

These days, of course, the main question I hear from Christians and non-Christians alike is how on God’s green earth could millions of Christians *still* be supporting trump? Heck of a good question, one that this particular Christ-follower struggles with and prays about daily.

A closely related but more important question for me is this: how, how, HOW did a religion that began with (and is ostensibly still aligned with) a leader who preached love, compassion, and radical inclusion end up preaching wrath, judgment, and exclusion?

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

How did fear of a place called “hell” become the driving force in the effort to recruit followers to a religion whose God is Love, according to their holy book? Here’s a news flash: To most humans, a wrathful God who will banish you to a fiery place of eternal conscious torment if you dare question “Him” doesn’t sound like good news. At all.

Will the “Christian Church” as a body ever grow out of their fear-fueled need for answers, certainty, & control, and open their collective minds and hearts to the deepest truths in their sacred book? Can they overcome their fear of not having all the answers and instead allow God’s mysterious love and endless grace to have the last word?

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty.” — Anne Lamott

New Year’s Reflections of an Extremely Eclectic Blogger

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Happy new year, friends! I especially want to greet all you readers who’ve just recently wandered into my little patch of the virtual world, which I call Writing With Spirit. My guess is that you newbies followed WWS because of my travel/photo entries from New Zealand, my weight loss posts, or my musings in the Twitter #WritingCommunity.

I’d love to give you an introduction or overview of some sort, but like any semi-spiritual endeavor, Writing With Spirit is not linear and it’s not easy to characterize. Let’s just call it eclectic.

Psychology, Politics, and the Planet

It won’t take you long to discern that focus is not my forte. I originally intended to write about the spiritual & psychological aspects of de-cluttering, but since I’ve done very little decluttering in the eight years since I started blogging, that kind of fell by the wayside. Plus, it was an election year, and I quickly fell into politics, which I’m addicted to, for better or worse. Mostly worse, since the traumatic events of November 2016.

Those traumatic events also transformed my peaceful poems about mother nature into rants about environmental policy and the evils of greed and corporate power. OK, I probably ranted about those before trump, but now it’s, it’s . . . I mean, what can I say? Everything I worked for in my thirty years as a Sierra Club lobbyist in D.C. is being decimated. Who knew how fast all that progress could be reversed? Oh, and incidentally, the survival of humankind and countless other species is now under serious question.

This is what climate change looks like; Australia 2020

Addiction, Grief, and Pretty Pictures

But let’s talk about something more pleasant, like addiction and mental health. My Dad was an alcoholic, and some of my friends struggle as well. I used to have quite a taste for cocaine, myself. I spent eight years in therapy, and even more in twelve-step groups for people who love people with addictions. So sometimes I write about addiction or recovery or mental and emotional health.

Then there’s death. I lost my Mom, my brother, and several good friends in recent years, so there’s a lot of grief processing in this blog (though praise God, less than there used to be). As far as edification and practicality go, I think those blog posts are some of my best. You might want to use the search function to explore my musings on grief if you are in a dark place.

On a lighter note, I’m a writer and I love words, so sometimes I’ll do an entire post about one word that captures my attention. I’m currently wrestling with my memoir, so I write about writing (or not writing). I also lost forty pounds in 2019 by using the Noom weight-loss plan, and I’ve started to share about that experience. I love traveling and taking pictures, so my followers journey along with me. Last year we went to Seattle, British Columbia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and New Zealand.

Shell Shadow on Himatangi Beach, New Zealand

 

Tree Art near Seattle, Washington

 

Rose, Hamilton Gardens New Zealand

 

Cat Greets the Dawn in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Let Us Not Talk Falsely Now

At my core, I’m a God-seeker and a Jesus follower, hence the name Writing With Spirit. That is my center, because like the French philoshper-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, I believe “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

I suppose you would call me a progressive Christian, though I don’t care for the tag Christian, since it’s generally come to mean judgmental, mean-spirited, exclusionary, and not particularly thoughtful. My faith moves me to care deeply about social justice and the poor and especially dismantling racism. So I write about that stuff, too.

Because all that I hold dear is under attack, I often take jabs at the current president. I can’t help it. I try to be nice, but let’s be real.

“Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”

–Bob Dylan

So there you have it. An introduction and overview. Sort of. It’s not what I meant to write when I sat down. That was just supposed to be the first sentence or two. Anyway, various posts may or may not appeal to you, but I hope you’ll stick with me on this journey. And if you have any friends who might want to accompany us, please invite them. Cause check it out! I’m only two followers away from 5,000, and even though it’s only a number, and recognition and affirmation and all that rot isn’t important (and we’ve seen what happens when it reaches pathological levels), still — it’s kinda cool.

Thanks for your support for my ramblings in 2019!

Oh, have I mentioned I have Attention Deficit Disorder? Do I need to at this point? Sometimes I write about that, too.

Happy 2020!!

Going Around the World to Escape America

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At long last, I have found a reason to thank Donald Trump. I’m not certain, but there’s a good chance that without his spectacular take-down of my country, I would not be here in Auckland, New Zealand at the start of a Grand Adventure. (I also want to thank the Accidental president for dictating that random capitalization is a Big and perfect Win.)

Pondering the Grand Adventure

I hadn’t realized that America’s Great Embarrassment had anything to do with my impulsive exit from the U.S. of A., but this morning as I pondered my maps, I realized for the first time that I have journeyed to the far side of the earth from my home near Washington, D.C.

As far away as I can get.

Note: In actuality, the antipodes of D.C. is a 15,912-foot-deep trench in the Indian Ocean called the Diamantina Fracture. These waters are known as some of the stormiest and loneliest in the world — could it be that the vicious D.C. vortex penetrates the earth’s core, ruptures rock, churns magma, and agitates the depths of the Indian Ocean on the other side of the planet? I’d believe it. At any rate, New Zealand is one of the nearest land masses to the trench, and this is where I have landed after seven hours of hanging about in three airports, eighteen hours of flying through the air, and the total loss of November 5th, 2019, which was left hanging somewhere over an ocean.

Blessed Space

I’ve written a bit about my motivations for coming here, but thus far they’ve been in the “life is short and I’m not getting any younger and you only live once” category. I feel I’m in a dynamic transition after long years of grieving family losses, leaving my pastoral role last year, and shedding thirty-plus pounds this year. Exploring the wilds of New Zealand in a camper van seems as good a way as any of spending a month while I try to open my spirit to sense what God has next for me.

I had not identified the need for escape as part of my motivation. Yet last night over spinach cannelloni and salad, as my Kiwi cousin implored me to explain what in bloody hell is going on in America and who ARE these trump voters anyway, and I struggled to articulate what I have spent three years trying in vain to grasp, I felt a familiar sense of heaviness descend, a physical sensation of added weight, as if I were carrying not just those lost thirty pounds, but another hundred as well.

In America, I walk around with this heaviness all the time, sometimes in the form of dread, sometimes despair, sometimes grief, sometimes horror, sometimes numbness. And it never entirely goes away because there is a Malignant Narcissist in the White House who is trying to destroy my beloved homeland. Here in New Zealand, the heaviness seems to be lifting. This morning when I saw on the news that there is a big rally in D.C. tomorrow calling for the impeachment of our Great Embarrassment, I thought, “Excellent, I hope a million people turn out.“ And then I thought, “I wonder what I’ll have for breakfast.”

I finally have some blessed distance from America’s crisis: 8,774 miles, to be exact. Or 12,742 miles if you go straight through the center of the earth. I have space to breathe. This morning I lounged in bed with my tea and gazed out the window, where I swear a bird was singing something very like, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I scrolled past atrocity after atrocity on my newsfeed, but instead chose to read Mike Tidwell’s fun example of travel writing about his 1998 expedition to a place I will not be visiting: a big rock that juts out of the lower Indian Ocean and is the actual antipode of Washington, D.C. 

Morning view over the rooftops of Botany Downs, Auckland to the volcanic mountains beyond

What September 11th Means To This American

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September 11th: we call it the “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” Honestly, I’d rather not remember that soul-shattering day in 2001, except for the surreal sense of oneness and belonging — the connection, concern for others, grief for the state of the world — dare I say universal love? I do want to remember that. There were beautiful tributes at American embassies worldwide, thousands of flowers and flags and candles and cards. And of course we remember those first responders, many of whom are still paying the cost of their sacrifice. No wonder this date is dedicated to unity and charitable service.

The world loved America that day, warts and all. Even this old hippie drove around with an American flag tied to her car antennae for months afterward. Remembering the unity and big-hearted patriotism that surrounded us in the weeks after 9/11 makes me feel homesick, wondering how we could have fallen so far so fast. The seeds of division and nationalism that plague us today were already planted and well-rooted in 2001, but they were easy to ignore if you were a privileged white person such as myself. I was busy.

Now, though, there’s no denying it.

America is desperately ill, and the seeds of evil have grown into gnarled trees of corruption and greed and white nationalism. Our president and his cronies are intentionally feeding and watering those trees. Evil is flourishing right out in the open: we have a mentally unbalanced, strongman authoritarian seeking dictatorial power with the complete compliance of the once “Grand Old Party.” There may be violence if he loses, he warns, as he stokes the fires of anger and fear at his hate-fueled rallies.

I barely recognize America anymore. She never really was “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” but at least we all wanted her to be. Now the strongman tells elected officials of color to “go back where you came from.”

But here’s the thing: I still love America, even more than I did when I tied that flag to my antennae on September 12, 2001. Her founding ideals may have become a mockery, corporate money may have damaged democracy beyond repair, and greed-driven climate denial may spell the beginning of the end for our species. But that “liberty and justice for all” thing? That’s still worth pursuing and defending with all we’ve got. Good-hearted women and men have fought for those ideals for hundreds of years, some in uniform, some in courtrooms, some protesting in the streets, some being martyred. Their spirits live on.

So on this “Day of Remembrance and Service,” let’s remember what this country stands for. Let’s commit to speaking up when we see racism and injustice in our daily lives. Let’s commit to educating ourselves fully, to admitting and learning from our mistakes, to voting, and to teaching our children to vote. Let’s march in the streets to protect one another, and let’s get involved in the upcoming election.

“Don’t mourn, organize!”

Joe Hill, songwriter and union organizer executed by the state of Utah in 1815.

In Remembrance

 

 

I Don’t Want to Dwell on the Sharpie Thing, But . . .

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Of all the bizarre, twisted, scary, unfathomable actions and statements from the man we all wish we could ignore, this latest “Sharpie-gate” thing has thrown me into the deep end. I can’t reach reality with my feet or find a safe flotation device to cling to. It’s as if one tiny scrawl on a map means more than the entire Mueller report. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have a hunch I’m not the only one who feels this way. My mind is on strike and refuses to process any more of this.

I can’t even . . .

The person sitting in the Oval Office has the emotional maturity of a nine or ten-year-old, so his lying to cover a mistake isn’t a surprise, even a mistake that could have been deadly: Thank God that the man-child’s magical forecast did not accidentally omit a state targeted by the hurricane, rather than add one. He undoubtedly would have spent the week insisting there was no danger in South Carolina, no flooding or destruction happening; he would denied federal aid and raged at fake media outlets for showing victims on TV.

But there’s no need for speculative craziness, what we have is more than enough. The president if undeniably unwell and unfit.

What I can’t fathom is the White House staff and agency personnel who coddle and enable him. Do they all have Stockholm syndrome – has every one of them completely lost all sense of shame, responsibility, decency, duty, reality? The latest reports are that the man-child himself literally took his Sharpie in hand and altered an official weather map (a crime punishable by fine and/or imprisonment, but criminal activity doesn’t seem to hinder this White House). He faked the map to continue his fantasy falsehood that Alabama was in deep doo-doo due to Dorian.

He did this in front of staff – lots of them. During an official briefing leading up to a press conference, he decided at the last minute to change the map being presented. How on earth could not one person in the room say no? “You can’t do that, Mr. President, that’s our official map and lives depend on its accuracy.” Sure, he/she would have been fired, but how, how, how could they not speak up? There is some deep psychological distortion emanating from this president, and it seems to engulf everyone around him. Smart people. Experts. Public servants.

Most of all, why has the Vice President not invoked the 25th Amendment? And is it possible that Mitch McConnell is every bit as sick as the president? If Sharpie-gate isn’t enough to see what a clear and present danger trump presents to all humanity and what a completely broken psyche he has, what is?

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” Psalm 82:2

 

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