Monday, September 5, 2016

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Near my house, train tracks which have lain dormant for decades have been rehabilitated, and the Marin Sonoma SMART train is gearing up to begin service later this year. I live on a rehabilitated Air Force base called Hamilton Field, and I walk, nearly every day, in between blight of abandoned military buildings, million-or-two dollar homes, affordable apartments (in Marin County, this means a family living on 60-70 thousand a year)  and everything in between. Cutting through the base, and hoping to become a servicable form of public transportation, runs the SMART train. In the middle of my walk, I find a picture of democracy:

A simple pedestrian crossing of the SMART train track. That's it, democracy in plain view.

This small feature has become a minor flashpoint in my neighborhood. The train needs to honk its horn before it approaches any crossing. So the train honks when it comes past this little crossing. Some people don't like the honking. Some people do. Some people want it to be softer. Some people want to take the crossing out all together and put up a fence. All sorts of opinions. There are city planning meetings, neighborhood groups, surely more community polls. This all takes time, money and investment of all kinds by well-meaning people. This is the cost - and a good use of our money - of democracy.

Jesus would have us ask another question. Where do the least of these fit in to this crossing?  None of us who own homes really fit into the category of "the least of these." The least of these are the people without voices. In my neighborhood, I am thinking of residents of the Homeward Bound Shelter who walk everywhere. I am thinking of the Seniors who will move into the affordable senior housing complex to be built across the street from my house. I am thinking of the workers at the local shopping center who walk, bike, take the bus, and will presumably ride the SMART train to work from places outside Marin County. These are the people we need to take into account as we make these decisions. Instead of "my preference", Jesus would ask us to consider the common good. Revolutionary, I know.

I am also thinking about the original goal of the base redevelopment...a new town for everyone in Marin. If we want to walk everywhere, bike everywhere, live together, then let's build more crossings and fewer fences.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Lesson from the Three Seat.

In rowing, every seat in the eight-oared shell is known for particular "temperament" or skill needed by the occupant. Many articles have been written about this and most of them poke fun at absolutely everyone. There are seats I have never occupied (stroke seat, because I have no rhythm on my own!) and seats I should not occupy (coxswain...because while I do have a loud voice, we need the lightest person in the boat there!) and (bow seat, for the same reasons given for the coxswain seat!).

I am out of the boat for the moment, looking for the desire to get back to the sport and the people who have literally saved my life for more than twenty-five years. I think I will get there, and I want to get there, but not until I lose weight and get my shoulder back to where it needs to be. It really is a spiritual thing.  Long term rehab is one of the hardest challenges I have ever faced, and it gives me compassion for our elders who are active and whose bodies begin to experience the signs of aging. It is not for the faint of heart.

But back to three seat. I have come to realize over these last months that respect (yep, think of the song!) is my core value in life. This value is being sorely tested as I watch the debates unfold on both sides of the aisle. It seems that disrespecting the other is, in the end, the only strategy which political advisers deem effective.  I feel sure that we as a country can do better, but apparently not right now.

As a friend reminded me the other day, we have eight more months of this to endure. So to the extent that I need to practice (and I do!) living into my core value, I apparently have much material to work with, God being my helper (puhleeeeeeze!!!)

So the three seat is going to become my go-to image. The three seat is the humble seat in the boat. Not the lightest, not the quickest, not the strongest, not the best technique, not the leader at the stern end, but a leader from the middle back (all seats, I maintain, must lead AND follow!).  Three seat does not have the role of being critical, rather, three seat acts like glue to help bow pair and engine room and stern pair do their very best, being guided by the coxswain (because, as every rower knows, when people in the boat do not work together, the boat does not move well, period.)

So in this time when I desperately want to shout out from the rooftops about the lack of civility and the lack of respect I see all around me, I will try and remember my new touchstone, Three Seat. And if things really get bad, I will go down to the boathouse and volunteer to cox...poor rowers!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sudden hearing loss - on hearing aids

It takes some doing to admit that you need a hearing aid.  I first wrote about my own hearing loss here. Like needing glasses when one's arm becomes too short, needing a hearing aid is an admission of some kind...we must admit that our bodies need help in order to function at optimum level. And at the same time, hearing aids carry a stigma, just like glasses can. Have you ever heard yourself shouting at a person and thinking "this person simply cannot comprehend what I am saying?" This is the stigma we all need to keep in check; it is most often directed at our elders.

I suspect many people do what I have done...try and deny the severity of the sensory loss as long as possible. It took a spiritual teacher to tell me  "well, if you choose not to wear one, you are essentially telling the world that you don't want to hear."  Um, well, ok, I took myself off to the audiologist the next week. Nothing like a good spiritual truth to see (hear?) the light!

My audiologist could be my daughter, she is so young and enthusiastic. I asked "how did you come to this vocation" and she proudly said "my mother is an audiologist." So I love that. I asked her if the Baby Boomers like me mostly want the invisible, completely-in-the-ear-so-as-not to-be-visible models, and she said yes, but they do not work as well and have major drawbacks, like you cannot take it out and put it in yourself. So I  opted for the next best kind, the kind that fits discretely behind your ear.

These small things are exceedingly expensive. Thousands of dollars. Medicare does not contribute towards their cost. Not one penny. This is why our wise elders often have old devices. Who can afford these on a fixed income?  My last parish and my bishop graciously pitched in the last time I needed to buy one.

I chose platinum grey to match my hair (!) but also ordered a red and orange "Ear Gear" protector for when I am out on the water. The Ear Gear is made out of Lycra and prevents the inevitable shorting-out when the device gets wet.  Coach said the other day "it looks like a shrimp!"...and I have to agree. I left it in the locker room one day and people were trying to guess what it was...a fishing lure? A strange piece of jewelry?  I have decided that it is my responsibility to speak openly about this little device which helps me hear SO much. It is basically an amplifer and microphones (tiny holes in the grey housing) connected to a speaker in your ear via a wire. Mine speaks to me, saying things like "battery low" and "right ready" to tell me it is working.  There is a little plastic doo-dad that helps it stay securely on your ear. Mine has a fancy function called "reverse focus", which means I can turn off all the microphones other than the rear one...handy when I want to hear what the rower behind me is saying!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Coaaach!!! Reeeeeev!!!!!!!!! and why honorifics are important.

I've recently moved to the B team at rowing because I need once and for all to rehab my shoulder and wrist properly, lose some weight, adjust my attitude, and get back to the high level of athleticism that I ask of myself and that my team asks of me. I am grateful for their invitation.  My new coach Marc is known around the boathouse to be quite the philosopher and he did it again Wednesday, talking to us about chess and rowing and climbing and how a high bar of expectation demands that we endeavor not to make preventable blunders while at the same time forgiving ourselves (and forgiving others) when these blunders happen. No one WANTS to blunder, but as they say, Stuff Happens!

I am also putting myself under the care of Coach, who has helped me rehab before and will help me again. And this is where the honorific comes in. As human beings are want to do, I love to ponder the connections I find in various parts of my life....and especially in my rowing life and in my spiritual life. So as I was riding the stationary bike at O'Dark Hundred this morning, I thought about why I call him Coach on a regular basis.  And why do I sometimes call my coaches Coach and other times by their first names? I pedaled and pondered and prayed and it came to me...because there is something I want to deeply honor in myself and in that other person outside of myself, Coach. I want to show respect, honor, and obedience. Yep, obedience. Obedience as a spiritual discipline and as a hallmark of monastic life is a very important spiritual understanding. I cherish it deeply. It means that I am dependent on others, not alone in the universe.

I am also so fortunate to be the interim Rector at a great Episcopal Church in Danville, which is variously known as St. Timothy's, St. Tim's (my favorite) and Timmy's.  As I am arriving at St. Tim's, the question comes up, as always, "how would you like to be addressed?"  Suffice it to say that I say, as I always have, that I prefer Stacey, will answer to Mother or Sister or Rev Stacey or Reverend or Pastor, and will not answer to Father or Father Stacey. And yes, people call me all of those things (and more, of course! ;)  Come to think of it, the checker at Safeway even calls me Bishop, which of course I LOVE!!!!!

In my entire ordained ministry, only two people have ever clearly expressed why they want or need to use an honorific with me. I am so grateful to these two faithful women for helping me to understand.  And so at Morning Prayer this morning at O Dark Hundred on the bike at the boathouse, an epiphany!!  Parishioners might want to use an honorific with me for the same reason that I want to call Coach Coach. Respect for themselves and respect for the role I play in their lives. Ding ding ding, I finally get it!!!  Prayer, it works!!

(Coach, if you are reading this ....I did sweat the the bike...really I did...even though I appeared to be gabbing to a teammate...oh never mind. Coach doesn't like excuses. Which is another topic for another O Dark Hundred prayer session!)

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Friday Five

As I get my blog up to speed again, I introduce the best place of support for RevGals and their Pals on the internet. See the button on the side of the blog to see more!
Here are Friday's questions and here are my ponderings ... I am doing the "five minute speed answer" since this Sabbath day's time is short and very precious (ugh...need to work on slowing week!)
  1. Tell us about a place (retreat center or other getaway spot) that offers especially good hospitality. What makes it so for you?
Santa Sabina Center on the campus of Dominican University in San Rafael, Marin County, California. It is progressive spirituality and Christianity at its best: and incredible hosts, soft spaces, retreats for appealing to the feminine divine. Great bookstore, They have a haybale hermitage you can retreat's a picture I took the last time I was there...

Is there a ritual of renewal that you seek, or that you find especially helpful, while on retreat? (naps, reading, knitting, staring out toward a different landscape…)
Lots of time in silent prayer with others. I know that may sound like an anomaly but this extrovert craves silent prayer in community.  This is a picture taken some years ago at my beloved Mount Calvary Monastery; this particular chapel (as well as the whole monastery) burned down in the Santa Barbara Tea fire some years ago, but this image of the Blessed Virgin was one of the only things the monks were able to save. Holy Virgin of Guadaloupe, pray for us.   

Retreats/getaways often have a way of washing over us with its own gifts, no matter what we may seek from it. Tell us about a time that such a gift made a lasting impression.
The time I sat at the breakfast table with Brother William Brown - we were in silence so no talking, just eating. I sat and sobbed and Brother Will sat with me, in silence. For a long long time. It was balm for my wounded soul. I remember it clearly and always will. 

Imagine that a gift bag was waiting for you on your bed when you checked in for your time of sabbath. What would you like to find in it?
Harney's Paris tea (loose leaf) and some milk, a card saying that a fantastic bodyworker was waiting to give me a massage, and a note from my congregation saying "have the greatest Sabbath rest ever." Oh, and a fully charged camera battery!

Besides a dessert buffet featuring chocolate, what is something you would love to see a retreat/getaway offer that is typically not part of such an experience?
Tea waiting outside my door when I wake up.

Bonus: You’ve been granted a weekend off, and the means of getting away is provided. Where would you like to go?
To Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery outside of Grahamstown, South Africa. I would pray with the brothers, visit the childen and the Isibindi locations, and go practice some photography. Heaven!

Monday, July 20, 2015

I'm baaaaackkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! (almost!)

I love blogs because they just sit waiting patiently for their authors to return. After a one year and seven day hiatus, and I am busily ruminating on my come-back blog post. In the meantime, I offer a small image from my time at the hospital where I worked from September to June. We worked during the days, but also spent time overnight at the hospital on-call in the "sleep room". I often spent my on-calls wandering the grounds looking for hope through my camera lense. I found this sunset one evening, and offer it in thanksgiving. More soon!