Sunday, November 30, 2008


Shortly before Thanksgiving, I was called about a pending execution. This did not make me happy, and I realize that such events are becoming more frequent due to hard economic times.

The call was from an area animal shelter about a Yorkshire Terrier estimated to be about three years old who ended up as an unwanted pet, or perhaps just another mouth to feed in an already strained budget someone had.

After a ninety minute journey to the shelter, I was introduced to "Johnny"--the name given to him by shelter employees. Someone had obviously loved Johnny because he is so friendly, but no one came to claim him or called out of concern. After attempting to reunite him with his "family," the clock was ticking. "Johnny" was going to the gas chamber in twenty-four hours.

Admittedly, I'm a sucker for some hard-luck stories, especially when it comes to animals. So the animal control people (some knew me from a prior adoption there) knew who would be interested. I would.

As I drove home with "Johnny", I couldn't help but think of all those animals who won't be so lucky. Having worked in animal rescue efforts in the past, I also know how emotionally draining it can be. My worst experience was taking part in a puppymill "clearance" due to orders from the local law enforcement agency near the puppymill. Trust me, if you've ever seen a puppymill situation, you've had a glimpse of Hell.

For my own well-being, I had to get out of animal rescue work, and I've admired those who could hang in there (and not all of them are like the case you heard about involving Ellen DeGeneres.) I know some of you are reading this and thinking "it's only an animal." But there are just as many who think differently.

Like most who have worked in animal rescue organization efforts, I can tell you what to do. With Christmas rapidly approaching, some are looking to get a puppy or kitten for a Christmas gift. Think long and hard about this idea. Make sure your adopted pet didn't come from a puppymill (or the equivalent for kittens.) Spay or neuter your animal unless you plan to breed them...and keep the breeding to a minimum. If you see dollar signs related to "future income" when you look at a cat or dog after you've purchased it, remember that not everyone can afford to pay $100+ for a pet these days, not to mention what comes with taking care of it.

I can also tell you from personal experience that for every purebred animal, there are several mixed breed dogs or cats who need love, too, and can be found at your local animal shelter (purebred animals can be found at shelters, too, if rescue groups have not intervened.) But their time is limited.

"Johnny" got his reprieve just in time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Reading: Rice and "gravy"

I've tried many times to read several of the works produced by Anne Rice, a former--and famous--resident of New Orleans, but haven't ever succeeded to the end. Though I know several people who have talked positively about her vampire chronicles and her newest spiritual fiction related to Jesus. I am, however, currently reading her autobiography Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. From advance word about the book, Rice's spiritual journey has been reflected in both her vampire fiction as well as her other fictional work. I have always been interested in spiritual journey/conversion stories (not just limited to Christian matters,) and thought that Rice's autobiography might give me some insight into her spiritual journey as well as her creative process and subject focus.

The "gravy" in this entry's title is related to a book by Isabel Anders, Awaiting the Child: An Advent Journal. Anders, whom I met about a month ago has published several works, mostly related to spiritual or theological themes. Awaiting the Child is not only related to the season of Advent, it is a journal she kept during her first pregnancy, giving the title a dual meaning.

P.S. Rice (the food) and gravy has been one of my favorite "comfort foods" since early childhood. Reading has always been the "comfort food" for my mind and soul.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Trees in November?

I know it is a sign of consumerism more than getting into the Christmas season when living Christmas trees (OK, they're actually dead for the most part) are being purchased this far in advance of Christmas Day. It's annoying enough with radio stations dedicating their twenty-four hour format to Christmas music, or seeing Christmas decorations put up in the city before Thanksgiving.

In my childhood household, it was pretty much a "no-no" to put up a Christmas tree before Christmas Eve, due to this religious season called "Advent." My parents believed the old adage "Keep Christ in Christmas and Christmas out of Advent." I'm sure R. Catholics have heard of Advent, and I know it isn't a religious season observed by every Christian denomination. But whatever one's religious affiliation (I've some Jewish friends who refer to it as a "Chanukah bush" when buying a small Christmas tree.) The Christmas tree, after all, has its roots (I know there's a pun) in pagan observances co-opted by early Christians. Buying a severed tree to me this early just means a lot of dead needles and a fire hazard before Christmas Day. But that's just my opinion, humbly expressed.

Of course, anyone who has waited like my family did to purchase a non-artificial tree on Christmas Eve often was confronted with the little spindly leftovers like the little tree made famous in the animated holiday program A Charlie Brown Christmas. But as Charlie Brown's friend Linus noted, spindly little trees need love too. It wasn't always the case that the trees of my youth purchased on Christmas Eve were that sad-looking.

I also remember the year my mother introduced a "new" family custom when I was a teenager which she had learned as a child and young adult growing up through the Great Depression of the 1930s. It's taking a branch, spray painting (though I don't know if spray paint was available then for household use.) the branch a shade of white or whatever festive color related to Christmas you liked, and then sticking gumdrops (or spice drops) on the the tips of the branch. I thought that was kind of interesting, and I've noticed you can now buy a special silver plated tree to stick the gum drops on, but that doesn't sound as interesting or creative. Though the gumdrops may be safer to eat (if you like to eat gumdrops, which I don't since childhood.) With current economic hard times, I thought I'd just share this with those who don't know about it as an option.

I still wait until Christmas Eve to put up my tree, and some years, it's been a live tree that can be planted, which shares space sometimes with a menorah related to Chanukah. (That's Hanukkah to others) because the seasons sometimes overlap. Chanukah is often thought of as the "Jewish Christmas" but it isn't. It's a very minor but important event in Judaism. Remember, without Judaism, there would be no Christmas. And if you are wondering, I am not a member of the Messianic Jewish group, just one who has studied and participated in several different religions both major and minor. If you haven't heard of Messianic Jews, here's a link:

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving not always a time of thanks: personal perspective

While visions of food and families gathered together are the traditional view of Thanksgiving, it will never be the same for me again. Seven years ago today, my mother died from post-surgical complications. Complications, including death, always are a possiblity of many types of surgery,but even though it was written in a consent form my mother signed prior to surgery, I was not prepared for the outcome. The only "thankful" part of her death was it ended a coma she had been in within 24 hours of the surgery which had lasted a week. Initially, I blamed the physician, as did my sibling, but we never took the matter to court, reasoning that our mother wouldn't want that, and no physician is perfect. I suppose I can be thankful that she had lived for nearly eighty years, but it wasn't a consolation then, nor is it now, seven years later though the grief has subsided a bit. Mind you, my mother and I were never close after I reached adolescence, and often got "on each other's nerves" as the expression goes, but I still miss her. Even though Thanksgiving's date changes, I will always remember the season as a time of sorrow in my life. This year it's even harder as I watch a co-worker in emotional pain because like my mother, her own mother has lapsed into a coma from which it is doubtful she will recover due to brain injury. I can only offer prayers and my support should my co-worker need it. It's tough to be thankful at such a time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Craig....Daniel Craig. With the recent release of the film Quantum of Solace, things have changed for James Bond. Gone are some of the things associated with the classic Bond ("Bond....James Bond") and his penchant for martinis which were "shaken, not stirred." A recent Newsweek magazine article (see the link here: discloses a lot of information about the evolution of the fictional secret agent 007. I was in elementary school when my parents took my sibling and me along to watch a double feature of Dr. No and Thunderball, forever getting me confused at that age about which film came first (it was Dr. No.)

While I didn't understand why the first version of the film Casino Royale was such an odd film (with a good musical soundrack, and several well-known actors of that time, however) I learned it was remade because the original was done the way it was because of property rights.

While there were several good James Bond "opening songs," I'd have to agree with some who have written about such things (including Newsweek's recent articles) that the honor of best opening theme belongs to Live and Let Die, written by Paul and Linda McCartney (that's SIR Paul McCartney to most of us, and a former Beatle as well.) McCartney still performs the song brilliantly years later.

Like many females of my age who saw the first James Bond as Sean Connery, it's pretty darn hard to accept any other, but having seen the remade Casino Royale with Daniel Craig, I can say that Craig is probably number two on the list of best Bonds. I know there are some who will disagree with me. Some of the females who first became aware of James Bond during Roger Moore's take on that role, insist that Moore is the quintessential Bond. Admittedly, I haven't surveyed that many people, and it's been mostly females, but I've wondered about who guys think is the real Bond.

James Bond was in the first film I saw on my own as a teenager (You Only Live Twice) when films were not so strictly rated as they are now, so it is part of my on personal history of adolescent transition. But by that time, I had already "Bonded" with Sean Connery. I would look back and think "This is the same guy who was in the film Darby O'Gill and the Little People?" which I saw with my mother as a child of five (and didn't remember much of Connery's performance.)

Before conclusions are drawn that it was my mother who wanted to see Sean Connery as Bond, all I can say is that she was fonder of Roger Moore as an actor as I remember (she liked his television series, The Saint.)

I did not see Daniel Craig's turn as 007 in Casino Royale until it was on pay-per-view (I rarely go out to movies any more.) I saw few of the Bond movies during the years following Connery's portrayal of the man in Her Majesty's secret service. But Craig seems like a good fit for the role which is has been around for quite some time, starting off in the mind of writer Ian Fleming and growing to a cultural icon over the years, especially in the 1960s.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Political Doom and Gloom

I'm still amazed at the "Chicken Little" climate that seems pervasive around me following the election of Barack Obama. Someone in another blog has sarcastically referred to those who support his election as seeing the "Messiah" arrive. Sheesh. While it seems a century ago (and it was, technically, because it happened in the twentieth century) I recall how people were excited about the election of William Jefferson Clinton, elevating it to a "bridge to the future" (OK, even Clinton himself promoted that view.) While I could not vote in the election of 1960 since I was a child, I was vaguely aware that a "new era" (later dubbed many things as well as "New Frontier") I admit that this election does have significance historically, but I won't forget that President-elect Obama is a human being, prone to having failures just like any other person.

In the South, the backlash against the president-elect has been particularly vicious, which is shameful. But it's also not just limited to the South. There are racists in other parts of this nation as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

From a blogger's site

I took the cartoon below from another blogger's website. Here's hoping that the U.S. Constitution CAN be put back together again. (Credit Mike Lukovich, artist, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The blogger's site remains anonymous.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Crystal Blue Persuasion

Look over yonder what do you see?
The sun is a-risin' most definitely
A new day is comin' people are changin'...
(Crystal Blue Persuasion--Tommy James and the Shondells, composed by Eddie Gray, Tommy James and Mike Vale)

When I heard this song as a teenager, I was an idealist caught up in the promise offered by my young dreams and the atmosphere that was going on around me in the world, some bad, but a lot of idealism. While other songs of idealism from that era resonate with me, perhaps this one came to mind because of the "blue" associated with the Democratic candidate.

Last night, as I watched the nation elect Barack Obama as the 44th president, I was happy to see the joy shared by so many people, especially in Grant Park, Chicago, the scene of a very ugly confrontation I also remember the Democratic National Convention rallies held in that very park. Maybe there IS hope for this nation, and maybe we can dare to dream of a better future with this historical event.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Freda Payne and Onward Christian Soldiers

This morning my husband and I were sitting in the local Starbucks having our usual Sunday morning outing (he drinks coffee, I drink tea and we each find pastries to our liking) and we were listening to the various songs playing in the store. One caught our attention, titled "Bring the Boys Home" and Husband wondered out loud "Who's singing that?" "Freda Payne" I replied, remembering her songs (like "Band of Gold") being banned on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War (ok, it was technically a "Conflict," but still, too many people died.)

I found it a bit eerie that last night I had been thinking of how much I had sung the song "Onward Christian Soldiers" as a child, because it was one of the first songs I learned as a child (besides "Jesus Loves Me" and excluding Christmas carols.) While I have nothing against the Salvation Army in terms of their humanitarian efforts, I remember that "Onward Christian Soldiers" became one of their anthems, if not their main anthem. (which I suppose befits a group calling itself an "Army.") I shudder at the lyrics of "Onward Christian Soldiers" now. So militant, so intolerant, so...."Un-Christ-like" in its sentiment. Sort of like the Crusades in the past and some of the current "Crusades" happening now.

As for Payne's song, yes, it's a sentiment I share now. I'm still amazed that it seems we as a nation learned nothing from the experiences in Vietnam. The only thing that should change in the lyrics is that now it is not just "boys" serving on the front lines in combat situations, it's "girls" as well. Which is another factor overlooked in the past. While certainly more men died in combat situations in Vietnam, there were female casualties on both sides, too. That is the face of war.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Jesus Year

Currently reading My Jesus Year: A Rabbbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen.

I tend to read a lot of spiritually-related books, but my reading habits are eclectic and vast. This particular book caught my interest as it was in a blurb by the writer A.J. Jacobs, the author of two very good books, The Know It All and The Year of Living Biblically. In the first book, Jacobs sets a goal of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year's time. No easy task. In his second book, Jacobs takes on the tenets of his Jewish faith placing them in the context of the Torah and the Bible and living "by the rules" set out in both.

Because I liked Jacobs' books, I decided to read Cohen's book. Because I have lived in the Bible Belt, I was intrigued how he would carry out his journey. One of the interesting things is that Cohen is an Orthodox Jew who married the daughter of a Methodist clergyman. Since she was no longer interested in the faith of her birth, she converted to Judaism. Orthodox Judaism. Like many converts, she tends to be a little more adherent to her "new" faith than her author-husband.

As I write this, Cohen has just attended his first "Megachurch" service in Georgia. The journey of the year has just begun, and I'm along for the ride.