Why I Don’t Pray

As soon as John and Jacob saw me, they knew something was up. Something weird. Because I hadn’t looked nearly so cheerful the last time they’d seen me.

I had to admit, they were right.

Even though on that particular day, I had planned to be thoughtful. Sad. Mournful. I planned to wallow just a tad. It was, after all, the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I was a long way away from my heartbroken Dad; I wouldn’t be able to call and let him know that I was thinking of her. I felt, well, I felt I deserved it, because sometimes, no matter where you were, you just have to give into the loss.

That had been my plan, anyway. That’s not exactly what happened.

Did you see the movie The Monuments Men? It was pretty much panned by the critics, but I really liked it. It was about a group of academics who went to war to save great art from Hitler. It had compelling action, great works of art, and the struggle against good and evil. Equally important, it had no robots in it. Or baseball.

Naturally, since that trailer rudely left out the most important part of the movie – the one that I was involved in, I’m going to actually have to write this story up.

Anyway, the movie stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Matt Damon and the Earl of Grantham and an alcoholic has-been looking for redemption.

Oh, and Lord Grantham is also looking for the particular sculpture commemorated in this post. That’s actually where my story comes in.  Well sort of.

Anyway, John, Jacob and I were In Bruges (another really great movie, actually). Bruges is a lovely old city, that seems like it is stopped in time, which is kind of because it WAS actually stopped in time.

A busy, beautiful port city that, according to Wikipedia, was:

At one time, it was considered the “chief commercial city” of the world.[6] “Rise, fall and resurrection make up the life story of Bruges, a city that glittered in Northern Europe with as much panache as Venice did in the Mediterranean World.”[7]

Only the harbor silted up, and its use as a port was history. Today?  Today, it’s a damn pretty place.

We’d been traveling for a few days, had had our own Waterloo; we’d been to Amsterdam, where we visited Ann Frank’s attic, where Jacob drove a boat filled with tourists through crowded canals, and where John and I accidentally introduced our 8 year old to the Red Light District. So we were ready to just relax and wander when we got to Bruges.

The centerpiece of the town is the Church of Our Lady, Bruges, a beautiful cathedral built between the 13th and 15th Century. It is found in the heart of the town square.

Wikipedia Image (you thought I was gonna say

Wikipedia Image (you thought I was gonna say “Google,” admit it.)

It’s a lovely church, but its altarpiece alone makes it worth the trip.  It is world famous, a luminous, transcendent sculpture that one feels as well as sees.  It has an illustrious history of its own, Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. The sculpture was the only one of his sculptures to leave Italy during the artist’s lifetime.  More currently, and relevant to the movie theme in this post, it was one of the pieces of art most sought after by the Third Reich. The Monument Men were tasked with preventing the Nazis from getting it (or destroying it) as they retreated at the end of the war.

Wikipedia Image, again.

Wikipedia Image, again.

I’m not going to tell you what happens, but I will say, that the Monument Men didn’t have an easy job of it.  Of course, I could have told them that they were wasting their effort. Because as I found out, Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child was well guarded. Even when nobody was really after it.

Are you still with me?  OK, let’s get back to me.

Well, I started the visit to the Church with John and Jacob, where we taught our young son the history of the church, looked and discussed the art work throughout the church. We went to the gift shop, where I bought a flier about the Cathedral for my Dad, and a remembrance for Jacob. We’re good parents.  We knew the routine. After a while, John and Jacob left to climb the tower overlooking the other side of the square. They left me to meditate, to think about my mother, to grieve. It was very considerate of them. Sadly, my reflection was short-lived.

The Church was nearly empty, and the late morning light shone through the stained glass, coloring the floor in front of the Madonna. I could hear the breathing of the few people looking at the paintings, there was an elderly couple doing the Stations of the Cross. But mostly I was alone with my Mom. And with another mother and baby, right there on the altar in front of me.

There are some pieces of art that reach out and touch you. That fill your heart. That start your healing as you gaze. Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child is one of those.

In the back of the church, coming from near the gift shop, I heard an announcement, softly broadcast over the intercom system. A few minutes later, I heard it again. It was in Dutch. Or Flemmish. Or Bruge-ian. I didn’t understand it. Ok, so I ignored it. What could be so important?

I continued my contemplation. I began to think of my Mom, to weep quietly, tastefully. Hardly at all noticeably, when somebody roughly grabbed my arm and shook it.

“#*&%+##@@*!” said a very tall, very grave Nun. I was pretty sure she had a ruler in her pocket. All the stories my siblings had told me about the nuns they had known – all of whom believed firmly in beating children, flooded into my mind.

“Excusez-moi, Madam?” I stammered.

“#*&%+##@@*!  #*&%+##@@*!” she repeated, which she should have known wouldn’t help, since I didn’t have a clue the first time around.

“Excuse me, M’am. I don’t understand you,” I said to her in English.

“EEENglesh!” she said, as if that explained everything. “YOU MUST LEAF.  NOW!!!

“LEAF?” I responded, confused. Why did I have to LEAF? I was in a church. In mourning. I WAS PRAYING FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! “I am here for my mother, she died,” I said, and I started to cry.

“OUT!” she shouted, pulling me.

Google this time.  You got me.

Google this time. You got me.

This was NOT Sister Bertrille.

She grabbed me by my sleeve, pulled me from the pew, walked me to the door, and firmly shoved me outside.

Now, I have been caught doing many untoward things.  But this time?  This time I was thrown out of a church. WHILE I WAS PRAYING.  Isn’t there some eclesiastical law against that?  Call the Pope.

*     *     *

So, when I saw The Monuments Men, well, I wish I’d been around during that day. They didn’t have to work so very hard, give up so much to protect Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. All they needed was one nun in need of a sandwich.

*     *     *

This post was brought to you courtesy of Frank at AFrankAngle.  He suggested I write it up the story of how I was thrown out of a church, so I did.  Note to self:  Remember to thank folks who inspire and who also actually read your blog.

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Filed under All The News You Need, Anniversary, Awards, Bruges, Church, Dad, Europe, Missing Folks, Mom, Nuns, praying, TAGS THAT DON'T Work, Thrown out of Church, Travel Stories

Restoring Faith

You know, I’m getting pretty cynical.  Folks all across the world are going all Ayn Rand, feeling like folks shouldn’t work together to solve problems.  That every body should fend for themselves.  Or, as my Dad used to say when folks just didn’t give a damn about each other (or didn’t save him the last cookie):  “I’ve got mine, how are you?”

And really, I’m getting kind of discouraged.  Civilization was built because humans figured out that working together gets more done than working individually.  And of course, the “cradle of Civilization” is Greece.

I am not an economist.  I am not a European.  Hell, I don’t really know what’s going on over there, what led to the economic collapse that Greece is experiencing.  I don’t know why the Germans and the French are standing idly by watching it happen with their hands on their hips.  But even I’m smart enough to know that the impact of a collapse of Greece, in both actual and symbolic terms, is not a good idea.

But I just read the coolest article.  Thom Feeney, 29, of London, is a shoe salesman.  And he has set up a GoFundMe site to collect donations to enable Greece to pay its loans.  He said:

All this dithering over Greece is getting boring.  European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not. Why don’t we the people just sort it instead?”

He has raised more than €500,000 in two days.  The Greeks need €1.6 billion.

(I believe this photo is from Al Jazeera, which reported this story)

It’s amazing what one person can do sometimes. (I believe this photo is from Al Jazeera, which reported this story)

 

Crowdfunding is not the solution to Greece’s problems.  In fact, I don’t think that crowdfunding is the solution to big country-wide or international problems.

But even I, with my belief in strong government, think this is pretty damn cool.

And maybe, just maybe, it is what we need to do more often.

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Filed under Adult Traumas, All The News You Need, All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance, Cancer on Society, Friends, Good Deed Doers, Peace, Politics, Taking Care of Each Other

My Candidate for President — 2016

I have a pretty good track record in choosing Presidents.  Sometimes, I’m way ahead of the game.  I decided in 2004 that I wanted Obama for President.

Obama at the 2004 Democratic Convention

Obama at the 2004 Democratic Convention (Google Image)

Sadly, I didn’t notice him on the ballot for a while.

This time around, I haven’t been able to decide. Hillary?  Bernie?  There are things to recommend each of them.  So what is a good citizen to do?

Well, today I have my answer.  I know who I’m going to vote for. I know who I will work for.  I know who will solve one of the major problems the world faces today.

Please join me in supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump:

Google Image

Google Image

Because Donald Trump stated the following:

Donald Trump says if he gets elected president, he would have to change his hair style because he wouldn’t have time to maintain it, as he would be working his butt off in the White House.…[Emphasis added]

The world will be a far, far better place.

*     *     *

I found this, along with a zillion other brilliant pictures at The Last of the Millenniums.  He’s got a gift for finding the really fun stuff.

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Another D Day — Duncan Day!

One year ago today, my little family expanded.  Duncan — an Australian Shepherd/English Springer Spaniel (and we think Flat-coated Retriever — had arrived.  And life hasn’t been quite the same.

After an initial health scare that sent him to the doggy ER (and nearly to doggy heaven) he’s grown up to be a great guy.  I just thought I’d give you all an update on the beast.

Da Da Duncan — Through the year:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Duncs isn’t the most photogenic of dogs.  And he’s camera shy.  But I do try …

*     *     *

Duncan’s 1st year with us is just the latest thing that I’m celebrating this week.  Somehow in the past week we’ve seen Obamacare saved, Marriage of people to whom they love permitted nationwide, and the overdue retirement of the Stars and Bars.  While I don’t pretend that all of the opponents of any of these measures are going to take defeat gracefully, well, they were defeated.  And that is damn good news all around!

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Not Our Heritage

Like many of us, I’ve been wondering what I should say since I woke up Thursday morning to the news of the latest gun massacre, this time, in Charleston, South Carolina.

I often feel like I’m beating a dead horse here at FiftyFourAndAHalf.  Do you really need me to go off on another rant about sensible gun laws?  I didn’t think so.

Still.

There is plenty of outrage on so many levels  with this latest shooter.  The deed itself.  The fact that he sat in church with his victims for an hour and then killed them.  The after-the-fact suspicions of his friends that he had been planning this for a while and nobody spoke up.

There is plenty of outrage with the idiotic reactions on the part of just about every member of the GOP, particularly their presidential candidates. They stammer.  They point the blame on other things — Rick Santorum says it’s a “War on Christians” (huh?); Rick Perry says it was the fault of Big Pharma (huh?).  Jeb! says he just doesn’t know if racism played a part — in spite of the words of the shooter that he wanted to start a race war.

But I save my greatest outrage for Senator Lindsay Graham.  He hemmed and hawed at first.  And then he said it.

“The Confederate Flag,” Senator Graham said,  “is who we are.”

And you know what?  Lindsay Graham is nothing if not consistent.  Worse, he speaks for a whole swath of folks who still believe in the principles of the Confederacy.  Who believe in the symbol of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars.  The symbol of slavery, of racism, of bigotry.  The symbol of resistance to integration.  The symbol of hate.

Senator Graham speaks for folks who didn’t get the news:

Google Image

Google Image

These folks have clung to their racist beliefs.  Their strong belief held fast in the 150 years since the Confederacy lost, in the mistaken idea that African-Americans, blacks, Negros, colored folks (depending on the era we’re talking about) weren’t “created equal.”

With all I’ve read in the last two days, one article, The Confederacy is Not Our Heritage, really struck home with me.

First, Mr. Sumner put to rest the lie that the states seceded over “States’ Rights”:

The Confederacy was launched not on a platform of slavery, but on a foundation of racism. That it maintained slavery as an institution was a feature. That it upheld racism was the design. Read the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, speaking at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia:

The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. … Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong.  They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races.  This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.

. . . look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgement of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws.

So much for States’ Rights.  That, like the Glory of the South (and proclamation that “The South Shall Rise Again!”) is a myth, belied by these words.

The author grew up in Kentucky surrounded by the vestiges of the Civil War.  Here in my adopted state of Virginia, they surround me as well.  But they are not the vestiges of a defeat and the lessons that should have been learned from it.  No, they proclaim the heroism of the Generals, the glory of the battles, the fierceness of the Rebel yell.  Here in Virginia, there is a state holiday in January — Lee-Jackson Day.  A couple hours south of here is the Stonewall Jackson Shrine.  All proclaim the glory of the Civil War, as if it, and the reasons behind it, were — and still are — worth fighting for.

If you don’t know the history of who won and who lost, well, you’re not going to find it in the South.

As Mr. Sumner says:

The Confederacy is not my heritage. It’s not anyone’s heritage. The Confederacy is our shame.

[…]

Is it part of our history? Yes, it is, to our everlasting shame. It’s a part of our history the same way that the apartheid state is a part of South African history. It’s a part of our history the same way that the Nazi Reich is a part of German history. It’s a part of our history that should embarrass us.

It’s the part of our history in which traitors who not only didn’t believe in the American union, but also didn’t believe in the basic ideals of America, formed a state whose core was nothing less than pure racism.

It should be no more acceptable to wave a Confederate flag in the United States than it is to fly a swastika. No more acceptable to proclaim yourself sympathetic to the Confederate cause than to proclaim yourself a supporter of ISIS. There is no moral difference. None. These are the banners of the enemies of our nation and of our ideals—enemies whose existence is based on inequality and subjugation.

President Obama is right.  It’s time to put the Stars and Bars in a museum.  It’s time to end the hate.

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WTF DO They Want?

It should say

It should say “Full-Bodied WHINE,” actually.
New Yorker Cartoon

Multi-tasking, as usual, I nearly choked this morning as I placed my breakfast on a small plate.   You see, the plate had the New Yorker Cartoon shown above; I had one eye on my breakfast and one eye on the news on my iPad. [For the record, reading the news while eating will get more and more dangerous as November 2016 approaches.]

What did I see that caused me to choke without taking a bite?  This headline:

Marco Rubio And Five Members Of Congress Voted For Florida’s ‘Scarlet Letter’ Adoption Bill

Huh?

Apparently, 2016 GOP hopeful for the “big tamale” Senator Marco Rubio voted in favor of a bill that was designed just for women!  Things got even better for women when then-Governor (and 2016 GOP hopeful for his turn in the family mansion) Jeb Bush signed that special bill into law.  You know, to keep things nice for nice women.  To treat special women, well, differently. Or to make certain women feel special.  Or at least to get them noticed.

It was a bill that required unwed pregnant women wishing to put their babies up for adoption to post their recent sexual histories in the newspaper before they could place their baby for adoption.  The ostensible reason is to find the fathers and make sure their rights are secured.  There was no exception to this law for rape or incest.

Think about that for a moment.  With the GOP, it’s “Damned if you do, Damned if you Don’t,”  ain’t it.  At least when it comes to sex, anyway.  I mean for women.

For men? Have at ’em, boys.

These folks, these MEN are opposed to virtually everything that has to do with sex, sexuality and the possible outcomes of that instinct in all of us to procreate.  They oppose

Birth Control

Abortion

Planned Parenthood

Preventive Care for Pregnant Mothers

FEEDING CHILDREN

Pre-School Education

Day Care

In fact, I’m pretty sure that unless it involve GOP control of an embryo, it’s verboten.

But this one took me by surprise.  Because now they oppose Adoption as a solution to unwanted pregnancy too? What the hell is left besides infanticide?  Do they promote infanticide?

They believe that regulation is bad, evil. Unless, of course, it involves a woman’s vagina and/or uterus.

What is wrong with these men?  Maybe they just have don’t know how to act towards women.  Because, you know, they’re rather old fashioned. Their fashions, in fact, go all the way back to the Dark Ages.

This is what you get for burnin' them bras in the '60s.  (Google image)

This is what you get for burnin’ them bras in the ’60s. (Google image)

And it’s such good news for the GOP that Rubio voted for this bill.  Because the article notes that Rubio’s support for the bill will give Jeb Bush “cover” for having signed it into law.  It’s all hunky dory!  I guess all the guys were doing it, so it’s OK. Just the way all the frat boys do it. Ammirite?

Can you say “mysogynist” ten times fast?

mi·sog·y·nist
məˈsäjənəst/
noun
noun: misogynist; plural noun: misogynists
1. a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.
woman-hater; More
Synonyms:  antifeminist, (Male) chauvinist, sexist, hater;
informal: male chauvinist pig
“he apparently deserved his reputation as a misogynist.”
adjective: misogynist
1. relating to or characteristic of a misogynist
     “a misogynist attitude”
It would be nice if this sort of thing were ancient history.  But it’s not.  While Jebby stated in his 1995 book, Profiles in Character (Subtitle,no doubt is “Don’t Make Me Barf,”) he restated it again more recently.  Yup. Jeb Bush said that he believes that unwed mothers should be publicly shamed, and doing so would lower the number of unwanted (e.g. unmarried) pregnancies!  What a hoot!  Imagine the fun.  Yup, let’s bring the stocks back out into the public square.
Google Image

Google Image

Now you know, I think Jeb is on to something.  Maybe he’s in the right church, wrong pew.  Maybe public shaming IS necessary.
Let’s be sure, though, that we shame the proper people.  Let’s start with Jeb.  And his big bro.  Then we can warm up to the other folks that either lied us into war or damaged our economy, perhaps irreparably.  Let’s shame them publicly, for their lies.  For their acrimony.  For their partisanship.  For their totally misplaced moral outrage.
And let the first stone be thrown by the first woman who had to publish her sexual history in the Florida newspapers because of two men Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.  Two men who, with any luck at all, will never be president.
***
The law was repealed after about two years following a lawsuit.  Poor Jeb had to repeal the law. Obviously, he acted against his convictions.  Which of course makes him two-faced in addition to being misogynistic.  What a guy.  I’d love to have him for my leader.
<*Swoons*>

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Eating Bull On Kindle Scout

Elyse:

She is not The Gipper (thankfully), but go over and vote for our bloggin’ buddy, Carrie. I read the book — it is all the good things we expect from Carrie!

Originally posted on The Write Transition:

Many of you have asked what’s going on with my second novel, so here’s a quick note to tell you it was just approved for a campaign on Kindle Scout, an Amazon publishing program that uses reader interest to help decide whether to publish a book.

Next week, I’ll talk about why I chose this route. But for now, my campaign and excerpt are here. If Eating Bull seems like something you’d like to read, you can click the ‘nominate me’ tab. If a book you nominate is selected for publication, Amazon sends you a free, early e-book copy of it.

Click to see campaign page.

While you’re there, take a look around. You might see other books that catch your eye!

As always, I thank you so much for your support. Your interaction means the world to me, and this road would be long and lonely without you.

Even for an introvert.

I apologize for closing out comments…

View original 108 more words

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