Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Love among the ruins

I spent some time in Rehoboth Beach proper today. I had heard the damage was "minimal" but I had to check out the Boardwalk and the beach for myself.

It's no where near as bad as the Jersey Shore or Hoboken or New York City, but Hurricane Sandy did not leave our beautiful beach unscathed.

As I walked along the north end of the Boardwalk - near the Henlopen Hotel - there was evidence of clean up and recovery efforts.

Most of the sand that was on the Boardwalk has been shoveled up and moved back to the beach.

The sidewalks, however, are still pretty sandy.

Most of the beach fences are down. Ruined. Many of them bundled up in pathetic rolls and pushed off to the side, out of harm's way.

There are a few brave souls out on the beach.  Some of them are on the beach and some of them are actually in the water.

Yes, that's right. There are surfers in the water.

They are in their wet suits and on their surf boards.

Yes, the water is cold.

You don't have to be crazy to live here. You just have to have a crazy-love for the ocean.

It's the only thing that makes sense in the aftermath of this devastation. 

Then, there are those who have such crazy love for the ocean and the beach that they take out their beach chair, bundle up in a warm blanket, open a book, and read.

On the last day of October.

The day after Hurricane Sandy.

In the midst of all the broken fences and sand in places where God never intended it to be.

I did notice a couple of kids Trick-or-Treating on the Boardwalk, and many of the stores that had reopened were ready for them with lots of treats.

Life goes on. Although, I understand that Governor Christie - by executive order - has postponed Trick-or-Treating until Monday evening in New Jersey. My grandchildren are not pleased. I have a feeling my grandchildren are the least of Governor Christie's problems.

Back at home, I've been tending to the little things around here that got blown around the house. I found a garden hose container in my side yard. It may belong to one of my neighbors. It may have been washed up from someone's home across the bay. I'll put it out in my front yard and see if anyone comes by to claim it.

The water in front of the house has had some interesting things floating by. I saw a plastic cooler go by. And, a few planks of wood - none of which look like the one plank at the bottom of the stairs to the deck that was apparently blown off sometime during the storm.

What made me laugh out loud was when I looked down and there, just under the surface of the water, was a sign that had been up near one of the houses which said,
"No wake".
For those of you who don't understand why that's so funny, you need to know that "No wake" doesn't have anything to do mourning and grieving and weeping in a funeral home.

"No wake" is a message to boaters to slow down so they don't create a "wake" -  the track left by a moving body (as a ship) in a fluid (as water); broadly : a track or path left.  

Well, we know what Hurricane Sandy thought of that message, don't we?  "S/he" created quite a wake all on his/her own. 

We'll clean up. We'll go on. By the start of the Summer Season, 2013, you'd never know anything happened here, much less a major hurricane.

It's not easy to live on the water. It just looks that way.

This is love among the ruins. To my way of thinking, it's the truest kind of love there is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Whispers (and Shouts) after Sandy

Rehoboth Beach, DE as Hurricane Sandy crashes
Hurricane Sandy's roar and bluster and howl have left and the full assessment of the damage is still being made, but people are talking - some in whispers - about the awesome power of this force of nature.

There's lots of flooding everywhere. We are still not in our home because the road leading to our street is flooded and impassable. We're hoping that, perhaps later today or first thing tomorrow morning, we'll be back in our own home, even though we are deeply grateful for the generous hospitality of our dear friend who has taken us in since Saturday night.

Folks here tend to be the rugged individual, pull yourself up by the bootstrap type. Lots of Republicans. We're the red part of the state. It gets decidedly blue north of the canal.

Even so, the buzz is all about Romney's comment about getting rid of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Not only did he think it should be eliminated and given to the states to manage, but he went a bit further:
“Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.
What's "immoral", it seems to me, is setting up private agencies that make a profit on the disasters of others. You know. The way the prison industrial complex has been privatized. And "caring" for immigration detainees has also been privatized. Both make huge profits for the company and provide a tax revenue stream for the government.

Makes perfect sense. If you have ice in your veins and your heart is two sizes too small.

Even one of our neighbors - with a Romeny/Ryan sticker on his car - shook his head and said, "No, now that just ain't right." Indeed.

The one mercy of the storm has been that, for three blessed days, there has not been one single political campaign ad on television. It's been All-Hurricane-Sandy-All-The-Time.

I think the Hurricane also helped people get their priorities in order.  We're a nation of people who help other people in times of crisis.

So much of what we'll get from our diocesan news sources will be about damage done to church buildings. Prayers will be said in thanksgiving for our places of worship having been out of harm's way.  Thanks be to God, it will be said, as if God were some great Master Puppeteer in total control.

The real stories of real ministries will go untold.

Stories of neighbors taking in neighbors or friends providing hospitality for friends who were evacuated. Stories of people leaving the warmth and shelter of their homes to volunteer in shelters set up for people who were evacuated who don't have friends or relatives on high ground.

There are amazing stories that can't be told - because of HIPAA privacy regulations - about people who are confined to their beds with round the clock care who were evacuated to hospitals or extended care facilities. I can tell you, from listening to conversations on the other end of the cell phone, of the extensive efforts to coordinate transportation and health care.

There are countless numbers of social workers, nurses, nursing attendants, ambulance drivers, police and fire men/women who left the safety of their homes to be with frightened patients and family members until they were settled in their safe, new locations.

These are the real "unsung heroes" whose efforts put a human face on altruistic words like "compassion" and "courage", "kindness" and "going the extra mile".

These are the faces of Jesus - those in need of help and those who came to help. This is the Gospel, alive and living in the midst of the storm.

The roar and howls of Hurricane Sandy have left us with whispers of stories near-misses and escapes and everyday acts of the Incarnation and Resurrection.

After Sandy - 2:35 PM - October 30, 2012
We've just been told - just this red hot second -  that we can return to our home. The initial pictures reveal only minor damage. A few missing picket fences but our plants look okay.

We have electricity. We have heat. We even have cable TV, Wifi and phone service.

We're going home.

We'll be home before nightfall.

I can't adequately express my gratitude for the hospitality of our friend who took us in, gave us shelter, and has been more than generous and kind.

Jesus is, no doubt, very pleased with this servant. 

But, we're going home. Our wee cottage on the Quiet Marsh on the Big Water on Rehoboth Bay is safe and sound and so are we.

I'm not whispering that news. I'm shouting it from the rooftops.

Can you hear me?

We're going home!!!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

We're ready

We were evacuated from our home at 8 PM last night. No if's, and's or but's about it.

Knock, knock. Hello. Out. Now. Sorry. Thank you. Did I mention, 'Now'? Okay, okay, okay.

I thought it was a bit....preemptive. I mean, I understand. High tide was due at 11 PM. And, there is only one road out to the highways that head inland. The sooner people move, the less chance there is of a big rush out as the water rises.  I get it.

Ms. Conroy, ever the obedient Roman Catholic girl, was packed and ready and sitting by the door at five of eight. Not me. Of course. I had to THINK about packing before actually packing.  I mean, what if I forgot something Really Important and had to do without it for a few days? Horrors!

And, of course, everything in the house had to be checked at least three times: Heat? Off. Main water faucet? Off. Refrigerator and freezer? Well, it needed to be emptied but there was no time for that. Bathtub filled with water? Check. Doors and windows locked? Check. Etc., etc., etc.

We were out the door by 8:20 pm. Record time for me, I thought. Ms. Conroy was frowning.

We got to our dear friend's house and she immediately made us feel at home - not an easy task in the midst of four adults, five dogs, and three parrots. I slept as well as one does the first night in a strange bed - and weighed with concern about the impending storm.

I did get to 10 AM mass this morning in Rehoboth Beach. Every stained glass window was boarded up. The church looked a bit like a haunted house. There were about 90 people in church - 40 at the 8 AM, I'm told - and everyone was in good spirits.

We had a special coffee hour celebration for a member who had just turned 94. She was there. In her wheelchair. All dressed up and looking fine. God bless her!

For a little over an hour and a half, I completely forgot about the storm. Couldn't see the rain. Couldn't hear the wind. And then, back outside to get into the car, it seemed much worse than an hour and a half earlier.

I drove down the block to see the ocean. It was WILD. Huge waves crashing. Lots of yellow sea foam all over the beach, as if some rabid dog had just been through the area, menacing the surf. I wanted to take a picture, but the wind was so strong and the rain was blowing sideways and stinging that I just got back into the car and drove home.

On the way home, I decided to check the house - maybe get in and get my recipe book and some rice, get the milk and eggs out of the fridge and bring it back to my friend's house and make some rice pudding.

I got to my street and had to stop a little sess than half-way down.

The street is completely flooded with about - oh, I'd say - eight inches of water.

Mind you, it was low tide. High tide is scheduled for eight pm tonight.

I can't even begin to imagine what my street will look like at that time.

Oh, and Hurricane Sandy hasn't even landed yet. That's going to happen tomorrow afternoon.

Needless to say, I didn't try to get into the house for the rice and milk and eggs, much less get my recipe books. We went out later to do a bit of marketing. The markets are closing at 3 PM. They were tying down the grocery carts and putting boards up on the windows as we left. 

I've been thinking about this morning's lessons from scripture.  The Gospel was from Mark (10:46-52) - the story of Blind Bartimaeus. Jesus says to him, "What do you want me to do for you?"

If Jesus came to "Ground Zero" at Rehoboth Beach today, I think I probably wouldn't ask for him to calm the storm or make it go away, lovely as that would be. I might respond in the same way Bartimaeus did. "My teacher, let me see again."

Storms and hurricanes and floods and earthquakes and tornadoes have always been with us. The climate has always been changing, causing chaos and wreaking havoc with people's lives.

Anxiety and fear always blind us from seeing the possibility for good and the opportunities to help others all around us. These very normal human emotions also steal our vision of hope and possiblity.

So yes, we'll weather the storm. Yes, we'll help our neighbors. And yes, we'll continue to pray to Jesus that our vision of hope and possibility will be restored.

At the very least, we certainly have enough water to drink.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dear Hurricane Sandy

I know you're not a real person, but if Mitt Romney thinks that corporations are people, and a whole bunch of admittedly wackadoodle people think a bunch of cells constitutes a person, then I suppose I can be forgiven for addressing you directly.

First of all, looking at your "path" on the weather map, you do look like a pretty scary Halloween ghost. "Frankenstorm" some are calling you.  Looked at another way, you could be an elongated uterus. I shudder to think what you might give birth to.

You've caused quite a stir here. All of the deck furniture was lashed down yesterday afternoon by some friends who came to help us get ready. Our neighborhood looks like everyone has done the same thing.

Very unsightly, I might add. We're beginning to look a bit like Dresden, preparing for war.

Yesterday and today, there's been a parade of boats in front of my house. The roadways are also filled with boats on trailers being hauled away to safe, higher ground. All except a boat directly across the canal from my house, which is swaying in the winds that have picked up steadily all day.  I sure hope its owner comes here soon from his home in PA and takes it out of the water.

The water is the highest I've seen it. And, there's a full moon rising.

I got an email this morning that coffee hour at church tomorrow has already been cancelled.

The Governor of DE has announced that he will order an evacuation of the Delmarva Peninsula. It's not a matter of "if" but "when". 

I'm told that NBC's exasperatingly cheery and irrepressibly peripatetic meteorologist Al Roker was broadcasting from Rehoboth Beach this morning, describing it as "Ground Zero" for your landing pad when you come in from the ocean.

That's when I started to get nervous. I mean, if you can't trust Al Roker, who can you trust? Well, okay, Janice Huff, but you get my point.

Someone suggested that I top off my car's tank with gasoline because, if we lose power, the gas pumps won't work. I did just that. Apparently, the word has gotten out because I had a 15 minute wait in line before I could get gas for my car. Someone in line told me that several gas stations in Seaford - which, despite the name is inland - are already out of gasoline.

I was relieved to see a generator hooked up to the back of the gasoline station. If we lose power, the pumps will still work. If there's still gasoline.

I also went out to the market and, along with water and toilet paper and tissues and batteries, bought some staples: Peanut Butter, a bag of peanuts, a large jar of cashews and, as a treat, some pistachios. Protein.  Okay, and some fat. Also got some apples and oranges and veggies that should last a few days. Thought some protein bars might be a good idea so I picked up some of them.

Oh, and, chocolate. Three bags of M&Ms: Plain, Peanut and Almond. On sale. Three for $5. Medicinal purposes only. I find chocolate better than any anti-anxiety med on the market.

How high's the water, Mama? 3 ft. high and risin'.
I think I probably should have gotten a few more bags to spread around to my neighbors.

I was talking with the office assistant at the doctor's office where I got my allergy shot this morning. I was telling her about this article entitled, "Hurricane Sandy: Divine Wind for Obama".

I "got" this part: "Obama needs a serious boost following his lackluster performance during the first presidential debate. Sandy may very well be his “divine wind,” or Kamikaze, the typhoons that saved Japan from two Mongol fleets under the command of Kublai Khan."

Actually, that same thought blew into my head at one point when I was bracing myself against the winds that are coming up over the water. I quickly dismissed it as wishful thinking.

At least the weather forecasts have knocked off some of the incessant political campaign ads that have been on TV and radio. That is an unexpected mercy.

Here's the thing in the article that got me, though,
"Sandy’s timing has many people speculating that the storm’s path is an engineered event. On Thursday, HaarpStatus.com reported elevated levels of HAARP frequency in the ionosphere above the East Coast of the United States. HaarpStatus describes itself as “a real-time sensor network from over 28 sensors placed in rural areas across the United States.”

“From a 9.1 this morning to a 9.5 tonight, this area is in grave danger and this has been building for a week now,” the site reported yesterday. “Hurricane Sandy is coming as a result of a week of high impacted readings in the ionosphere.” ...........

......... If the research conducted by HaarpStatus.com is correct, the government (or factions within) are manipulating the ionosphere and driving Sandy into the East Coast to create chaos and Katrina-like post storm conditions that will have significant political ramifications during the November 6th election.

According to some observers, bad weather on election day will work in Obama’s favor. “Obama has been effective at getting voters to vote early, so anything affecting turnout on Election Day is likely to be bad news for Romney,” John Hudak, a governance studies fellow at Brookings, told U.S. News & World Report. “It would certainly set up a benefit to the president if a natural disaster did interrupt voting.”

It is not clear why the ruling elite want to make Obama look presidential at Romney’s expense, however. Both candidates are preened race horses for the ruling global elite and with a few notable exceptions their agendas are almost identical."
I am NOT making this stuff up.

So, I mentioned it - laughingly - to the office assistant at the doctor's office. Her face suddenly got a look of horror and she said (Hand to Jesus, this is true), ""Oh, I believe it. If you don't believe it then there's something wrong with you." 

I mentioned this conversation - with my jaw on my chest - to the PA who was going to give me my shot. She said, "Pity her. She only listens to Fox." 

Honest to Pete! How can you 'pity' someone when their ignorance boarders on the delirious? Besides which, it's flat-out dangerous.

Next thing you know, people will believe that hurricanes come into existence because of LGBT people and uppity women who demand reproductive justice and equal pay for equal work. Wait a minute, some of them already do. It's "divine retribution" for disturbing the "natural order of things".

Mitt Romney - that radical! - has already broken ranks from the Tea Party that pays him and said that he believes in "Climate Change" (used to be "Global Warming" but some people couldn't make the translation when it caused snow storms in October), but he isn't sure he believes the "scientific reasons" for it - which, of course, has been placed squarely at the feet of human beings polluting the environment. 

Well, I'm betting he suddenly believes in the "scientific evidence" presented by  HaarpStatus.com
Turns out, "the government" is to blame - which, of course, is not "people". Only corporations are people. And, bunches of cells that gather in a woman's uterus even after rape because it's "God's will". But "people" are certainly not women and children  - or the poor or disabled.  They are just "victims" who want to remain dependent upon the government and corporations and cut into their profit margin.

Sigh! Okay, so enough of this foolishness. Jesus didn't say this but I know that "the wackadoodles will always be with us" - especially as long as Glen and Rush and Ann and Sean continue to feed their ignorance and fire their anxieties with weird conspiracy theories.

You, Ms. Thing, are causing real problems.

Like the 90+ Hospice patients Ms. Conroy is responsible for, some of whom need to be re-located from their homes to IPUs (Inpatient Units) upstate. 

Some of them are paralyzed. Some of them - ALS patients, mostly - are not only paralyzed but they are respiratory dependent on machines in order to breathe. 

Others just live too near the water and will have to be evacuated, anyway, when - not IF - the Governor gives his order.

She's spent most of her day on the phone, coordinating care, and trying to calm anxious families and instruct caregivers and nurses in emergency preparedness and techniques. It's been a real nightmare.

And, that's just the caseload of Hospice patients in one home health care agency here. There are lots and lots and lots of people to be concerned with.

So, not to worry about us. We'll be fine. We are in good health. We've taken precautions. We are prepared. We have good friends on higher ground who will take us in - and our three pups - when the evacuation order is given.

You are really wreaking havoc with lots of people's lives, Ms. Thing.  So, if you could, why not consider staying out in the ocean? I mean, you could whirl and twirl to your heart's content and not do any real damage to real property and real people.

If there is any intelligent life in you, I beg you to reconsider your path. If there isn't - which I suspect is the case - well, I'll just send this out to the cosmos as a prayer.

Can't hurt. Might help.

Never mind. Suddenly, the only reasonable thing to do seems to be to reach for that bag of peanut chocolate M&M's.

Medicinal purposes only, of course.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apocalyptic Flibbertigibbets

There's a category 2 hurricane named Sandy coming up the coast from the south which has already done great damage in Jamaica.  Sandy is expected to hit the Atlantic Seaboard - Ocean City, MD, to be exact - sometime on Sunday evening or Monday morning - just about the time a cold front will barrel down from Canada, bringing cold weather and, in some places, snow.

There's also a full moon and high tides.

It's what folks call a 'perfect storm'.

Translation: Head to the store to buy "the whites" - bread, milk and toilet paper.

I'm not really worried about being without electricity. We'll probably be evacuated, anyway. We have a Red Cross gadget that runs on batteries - or, you can wind it up and it will recharge itself. You can get AM and FM radio stations, but it also has its own Weather Station with a continuous loop of information about tides, winds, waves, temperatures, etc.

It also has a flashlight, a flash signal, and a siren as well as a place to plug in your cell phone to recharge it.

If the Rapture comes, we should know about it and let Jesus know where we are so we won't miss being swooped up to heaven.

We also have some wonderful friends who live inland who have graciously invited us - and our three pups - to seek shelter with them if - when, actually - we are evacuated.

The locals here pretty much shrug off the whole evacuation thing. "Weather people - they call them meteorologists, they call them these days -  act like silly flibbertigibbets," said one of my neighbors.

I had to look up the word as I had never heard it. Well, I thought I remembered it in the song from Sound of Music.

"How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you find a word that means Maria? A flibbertigibbet. A will-o'-the-wisp. A clown." 
But, I never really knew the word they were singing - so I sort of smooshed over the word as I sang it - until I looked up the lyrics.

It's Middle English in origin, for a meaningless representation of chattering, but it has gained the meaning of an impish child.  Usually a young woman. Or, a gossip.

You knew it had to be a negative about a woman.

I suppose 'perfect storms' can turn even the most mature, stable person into a flibbertigibbet. Two of our friends came over this afternoon, at the behest of Ms. Conroy, to secure the deck furniture, lashing it to the railing. I had done this last year, when we had a storm. All by myself. I posted pictures on FaceBook and someone made fun of my knot tying.

Okay, so I wasn't a Girl Scout. My family didn't have money for that sort of thing. But, you know, I did alright. Nothing flew off the deck. No one got hurt.

What concerns me more is that there are still two boats in the water near our house. I'm sure they will be removed tomorrow.  There's been a veritable parade of boats pass the house today. Everyone bringing them down to the landing to haul them out of the water.

Looks like the Annual Thanksgiving Parade of Boats will be pretty thin this year.

And, I suspect we'll just leave the deck furniture out there, lashed to the deck, for the rest of the winter. Which means, of course, that if we are of a mind, and the weather cooperates, to have Thanksgiving dessert on the deck, we'll have to drag the chairs from the house out onto the deck.

It will be fine.  I'll be grateful for the good weather.

What concerns me most is the two new purple Crepe Myrtles and the Boxwood Roses we just planted a few months ago. I will be very sad if they are damaged by the flooding.

So, all the talk is about the weather - what we'll do, what to pack for the evacuation, what foods will hold up well without electricity, how to cook over an open flame, what books to bring, making sure the iPad, iPod and cell phones are all well charged.

Blah, blah, blah.

You might think it was the coming of the End of the World.

We've become Apocalyptic Flibbertigibbets.

I think perfect storms deserve fancy sounding terms. I mean, otherwise, they wouldn't be so 'perfect' would they? They'd just be ordinary, every day, common storms.

We simply can't have that, now can we?

Me? I went and had my hairs cut this afternoon. When Hurricane Sandy makes her appearance, I want to be presentable. 

If you turn on your television set to the local news station around here, you'll see lots of Apocalyptic Flibbertigibbets. They call them 'newscasters'.  Some of them are called 'meteorologists'.  All of them 'round here are male. Which makes me giggle.

Politics and the weather.  Weather and politics.

A more perfect storm you'd be hard pressed to find.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Meditation on Psalm 139

Note: I am in D.C. for a meeting of the national board of RCRC - the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice. I was asked to lead our board in prayer. This is the prayer I wrote.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Meditation on Psalm 139

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
October 23-25, 2012 Board Meeting
(the Rev'd Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

 We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Holy, gracious and loving God
You are wise beyond our knowing
You have gifted us with
intelligence, memory, reason, and skill.
You fill our lives with
experiences in which we
may freely use these gifts.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Before we were born, you knew us.
You know our deepest thoughts,
our fiercest passions,
our desperate longings,
our ancient hurts,
our wildest dreams and
our strongest fears.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

When we were being shaped and formed
in the secrets of our mothers' womb
You also knit together in us strong threads of
liberation and justice,
will and grace,
and set us free to live our lives
as human beings fully alive.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

We are complex beings,
living complicated lives.
Give us the courage to
discern what is right
and what is good,
knowing that the two
may not always be the same.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Help us - and help us help others -
to respect all of life
especially the lives of women
who have been denied justice
their intelligence questioned
their choices limited
their freedom denied.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Inspire our minds
fire our spirits, and
strengthen our wills
that justice and compassion
may always be our
companions on this journey
and we may know your peace.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It ain't over yet, kids!



Last night's debate is best summed up in a tweet from comedian Bill Maher:
"Mitt's entire debate strategy: What he just said, but from a white guy." 
I must say that both men seemed weary of debating. And, who could blame them? 

Romney has done little else for the past eight years than run for President - well, when he wasn't hiding his money in offshore accounts and hiding his taxes.

Obama, on the other hand, has been President of the United States of America. Unlike Romney, he goes to work every day. He has taken this country from the brink of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression and, in a little over three years, has put us on the road to recovery. 

Mind you, he has done all the things he's done with one hand tied behind his back. How else to describe a House Majority of the party of "Just say no"?

There were a few humorous moments. I did love it when the President amply illustrated just how out of touch Romney is when he responded to the claim that we have fewer battleships than in 1916. Right said the POTUS. And we also have fewer bayonets and horses. 

Perfect!

I found it interesting to listen to BBC World News Report this morning. They did a good job of reporting fairly but I couldn't help but notice that they seemed to focus on Obama's remark that Romney's foreign policies were "reckless". I think they may still be stung by Romney's comments about the Olympics when he was in London during his Great European Adventure. 

Yes, Obama won handily but that's mainly because Romney did whatever he needed to do and said whatever he needed to say by not engaging the President. Essentially, he said, Right, and I'll do that,too. Clearly, Romney was appealing to the undecideds who would rather vote for a White man.

Interestingly enough, in a CBS Flash Poll, 56% thought the debate was won by Obama. 

By my count, Obama won two of the three debates - which does not a victorious election make. The BBC also reported on the concerns voiced by many people at the local level who feared Republican shenanigans at the polling places and ballot boxes.

As one reporter observed, this is something we expect to hear in some so-called third world country. Not the United States of America - the home of the free and the land of the brave.

I grow more and more concerned about this election. Its going to be close. Very. Close. The only way the Republicans can win it is to do what they did to secure Dubya a second term. 

There are 12 days left to the election. The debates are over. We'll have an employment report just before the election. After that, I think the deciding factor will be prayer.

Pray, sisters and brothers. Pray that justice is done.

Because, after all is said and done, that's really what this election is all about.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sideways into heaven

St. Mark's in the Bowery, NYC
I've been away.

You may have noticed.

Turns out, the Spirit has a wonderful habit of planning unique ways for me to celebrate the anniversary of my ordination.

This year, I was privileged to attend two Celebrations of New Ministry. The first was at St. Luke and St. Matthew's Church in Brooklyn for the institution of the Rev'd Michael T. Sniffen as rector. The Rev'd Dr. Gary Simpson, Assistant Professor of Preaching at The Theological School at Drew University and Senior Pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn was the preacher and he blew the roof off the church.

The second was the historic institution of the Rev'd Winnie Varghese as the first woman to be rector of St. Mark's in the Bowery, NYC. The Rt. Rev'd Barbara Clementine Harris preached about Mary Magdalene and the leadership of women and she blew us all away.

the Rev'd Michal Sniffen's Institution
The music in both services was simply amazing - albeit very, very different.

Brooklyn provided classic Anglican anthems like Parry's "I Was Glad" (which is traditionally used at the coronation of British Monarchs), and - just in case you didn't get the point of the importance of the event (at least in the eyes of the organist/choir director) - the offertory anthem was Handel's "Zadok The Priest" (Just so you understand, you can check out the lyrics here).

It was simply marvelous.

On Saturday, way down in the Bowery, it was a very different story. We processed into a hymn "The Canticle of the Turning", I had not heard before, but just so's you know how that congregation felt about the importance of the event, let me share with you the first verse:
My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great.
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.

You fixed your sight on your servant's plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn.
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

(Refrain): My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn!
You can hear the tune and read all the lyrics by clicking here. It's pretty wonderful.

And, just in case you didn't get it, there was a spirited anthem after the sermon entitled, "Ain't Got Time To Die."
video

Yes, yes, children. It was all that!

These two young clergy - these two new rectors - couldn't be more different in liturgical style but their theology of liberation and justice couldn't be closer together. They are both young giants of justice, climbing up Jacob's Ladder and deeply committed to bringing the vision of God's Realm they see to the people they are called to love and serve. 

I have lots and lots of stories - of course! - but the one I want to share with you has to do with the van ride home on Thursday night in Brooklyn, and a little Meditation Chapel at St. Mark's I saw on Saturday that Winnie and some members of her congregation set up in what was most probably once the choir loft.

The Ascension of Oscar Romero
It's a small space with a small altar and a single row of chairs on either side. On the left hung a mural that depicted Oscar Romero ascending with all the souls of the martyred.

On the right hung a mural depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr, also ascending into heaven with other souls of the martyred.

One of the little kids who happened to be wandering around came over to see what I was looking at. He looked at the murals, scratched his head, and asked, "Where are they going?"

"I think they are going up to heaven to be with Jesus," I answered.

"Oh," he said, as he nodded his head, because, of course, that made perfect sense.

There was an amazingly heavy silence between us as we stood there, this five or six year old and me, considering the artwork. Suddenly, his little voice broke the silence as he observed, "They sure are going straight up - STRAIGHT UP - to heaven."

"Yes," I said, confirming that we both had a firm grasp on the obvious.

"I think, when I go to heaven to be with Jesus," he said, "I want to fly up sideways. Maybe make a few loops and turns.....you know.....like a super hero guy. Or, maybe climb up the clouds like Spiderman". The very thought made his whole body giggle with delight.

"Hmmm.....," said I. "Well, that would be different. But, why would you want to do that?"

"Why?" he asked, like why did he even have to ask.

"Yeah, why?" I asked, because I really wanted to hear his answer.

The Ascension of MLK, Jr.
"Because," said he, obviously having thought this through very carefully whilst we were considering the picture in silence, "it would be way more fun."

I had to agree, although I added, "You know, I think it's going to be so much fun flying up to be with Jesus that it won't make much difference if we're flying straight or sideways."

He carefully considered my theory and agreed that it was sound, although he had to add, "Actually, I think the most fun is to fly when you can while you're here on earth."

With that, he put his arms out and his hands together in prayer, and pretended to fly away, zig-zagging along the choir loft.

I stayed behind in the chapel, considering our conversation and the pictures and remembering the words of one of the women with whom I rode in the Access-A-Ride in Brooklyn on Thursday night.

Long story short: My traveling companion uses Access-A-Ride services in NY for people with disabilities. It costs the same as a subway or bus ride but it is a car or a van for people with disabilities who can't easily negotiate their way through the crowds or the turnstiles or the stairs of the subways and/or buses.

We took a van from her apartment in Harlem to Brooklyn - another long story with that service, but I'll spare you the details, only to let you know that there is a Clinton Avenue and a Clinton Street in Brooklyn and they are nowhere near each other - and had arranged to have the van pick us up at 9:30 pm, after the service and reception festivities.

The van arrived at 10:15 pm. Not bad for this service, I'm told. We were a motley crew - three disabled, fragile elderly patrons, my friend, myself, and, of course, the van driver. We were in the van about 15 minutes when we saw a flashing light and got pulled over.

We soon discovered that it was not the NYPD but the TLC - Taxi and Limousine Commission.  Apparently, our driver had registered her van two weeks ago but it wasn't yet in the TLC data bank. Takes 30 days, we were told.

So, even though the van WAS registered, it wasn't....because....well, it wasn't in the TLC data bank. Besides, this is NYC. You know, the "City-That-Never-Sleeps". Which explains why so many people act as if they are sleep-deprived. Because, of course, they are.

That had to be what explained the utter foolishness of the TLC officers insisting that we all get out in the cold night air to wait for the Access-A-Ride people (whose dispatchers are in Texas, so they don't really know jackcrap about the streets of Brooklyn - except what they know from Google maps - which explains why they sent our first driver to Clinton Street instead of Clinton Avenue, but that's another story) to get us another van.

Which could take up to an hour, we were told.

Which I refused to let the goon squad from TLC do. I mean, seriously? It was okay for my friend and I but there was no way was I going to allow three disabled, fragile elderly folk stand on the sidewalk in Brooklyn, waiting for another van. We were going to wait in this van, thank you very much, where we were mostly safe and somewhat warm.

To my surprise, the TLC Goon Squad backed down.

Ah, the power of the little plastic white collar.

While we were waiting in the car, I was amazed by the resignation of the elderly to their plight. I mean, they were grateful for my intervention on their behalf and for my friend's righteous, fiery indignation (The song 'Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around' was written with her in mind), but they would have done what they were told to do.

One of the passengers was a woman named 'Flora'. Originally from Cuba, she had lived in Miami for many years and then moved to the South Bronx 25 years ago when her husband lost his job and then they moved when he found work in New York.

She sighed as she said that she wasn't planning on getting home much before 1 AM. I said that that was outrageous and the TLC Goon Squad ought to be ashamed of themselves.

She sighed and said, "Bell, jew know, we all gonna get to heaben someday, honey. Annn, dey gonna see me der and I gonna see dem der and dey gonna be ashamed and, even dough dey be in heaben, it gonna be a little bit of hell for dem, right der."

the Rev' d Winnie Varghese's Institution
I laughed as she said, "Jes, Jes. Is true! Is true! See, we all gonna get to heaben. It's juss dat some of us, we gonna fly up der sideways."

It's a wonderful image, don't you think?

I think my friend Flora is right: We're all going to fly up to heaven. Some of us will ascend directly and some of us will fly up sideways.

Either way, it will be great fun.

I think my little six year old friend at St. Mark's in the Bowery is also right: I think the most fun is to fly while you can while you're here on earth.

The Episcopal Church has instituted two new rectors, both of whom 'fly' very differently from the other, but both have their eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. Both are working hard to help usher in more and more of the justice of the Realm of God here on earth.

If you felt a slight movement in the cosmos this weekend, perhaps now you'll understand.

Sideways or straight up, the world is about to turn.

Because, you know, we - in The Episcopal Church, anyway - ain't got time to die.

Glory to God!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Another Anniversary

Twenty-six years ago, on the Feast of St. Luke, I was ordained to the priesthood at The Episcopal Church of St. Ann in Lowell, MA.

Today, I'm in New York City - way up in Harlem, actually - presently awaiting this evening's festivities at the Celebration of New Ministry at The Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn, NY with the Rev'd Michael Sniffen as their new rector.

Michael is one of the seven seminarians I've been privileged to mentor over the last 10 years. I'm as proud as every single one of them as I am of my own kids. They are brilliant, creative, innovative, compassionate priests and absolutely on fire with love of the Gospel.

If you had told me, twenty-eight years ago, that I would have had the privilege of mentoring so many wonderful new clergy, I'd have said you were crazy. I was on fire, myself, and couldn't really see the gospel forest for the ministry trees.

This time last year I was also in NYC. I celebrated the 25th Anniversary of my priestly ordination hanging out with the wonderful riffraff at Zuccotti Park and the newly formed Occupy Wall Street movement. It was pretty amazing.

This is holy time for me, and I am so pleased that I have yet another opportunity - though a very, very different way - to remember and celebrate the enormous privilege of being ordained as a priest in God's one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

I thank God for the opportunities I've had to serve and look forward to many, many more years of work in the vineyards of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Solid as Barack

Barack is back!

After ....whatever that was....during the last Presidential debate, Barack clearly got his mojo back and was at the top of his form last night.

"If you were scoring {the debate} on points, Obama wins on points," arch-conservative Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News. Laura Ingraham and Joe Scarborough took to Twitter to ratify Krauthammer's view.

Romney was over-the-top alpha male dog - complete with his "Binders of Women" - but Obama stood his ground - calmly but passionately and convincingly. God knows, Obama has something to stand on. All Romney has is a sales pitch which is, basically this: 'I can be a better President than Obama'. No real plan. No real product - except the recycled politics that got us into this mess in the first place.

As I watched Obama and Romney, the difference between the two men became crystal clear to me.

It's the difference between being a Boss and a Leader.

Romney knows how to be a Boss. He knows what he wants and he'll do whatever he needs to do to get what he wants. He doesn't pay attention to details - those are for "the staff".  His is the top salary. The salaries of his staff must never interfere with his bottom line - his profit margin.

Obama is a leader.  He has vision. He knows that a true leader serves the people. He understands that "a leader without a following is just a person out for a walk." He engages people and energizes them.

What I saw last night in Obama is the man who fought hard and smart and got The Affordable Care Act pass a deeply divided Congress. This is the man who got the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to pass an equally divided Congress. He also ended the war in Iraq and has a time certain to leave Afghanistan. He bailed out the Automotive Industry and brought us back from the brink of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He is slowly turning around the economy and adding more jobs as the unemployment rate slowly drops and the housing market begins to improve.

Barack is "Solid as a Rock".

Romney is blind ambition in an empty suit.

Earlier this morning, I posted something on FaceBook that I read in The Writer's Almanac. Today happens to be the birthday of playwright, Arthur Miller (born NYC, 1915). This quote from 'Death of A Salesman' reminded me of Romney: 
The final scene of the play takes place at Willy Loman's funeral, and one of the characters says, "For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that's an earthquake. ... A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory."
The smiles on the faces of many Republicans are pretty thin-lipped and narrow. Last night, we saw the first tremors of the earthquake that is about to come - and an end to a pipe dream.

I'm pretty realistic. I'm quite sure that, if Obama wins the popular vote, it will be by a whisper thin margin. I take some solace in the fact that Kennedy won by less than 0.2%. I'm pretty confident, however, that Obama will win the electoral college vote.

My math predictions are that the number will be around 300 - thirty more than he needs.  Kennedy's electoral college count was 303 to Nixon's 219, the closest since 1916. This one may set a new record.

Huffington Post this morning has their predictions with Obama at 277 and Romney at 206

No, that's not a mandate, but I think the country is so divided it's the best we can hope for at this point. I don't think a second term of the Obama administration will do much to heal that particular divide. In fact, it may become worse. That's not Obama's fault. Rather, it's evidence that racism in this country is still not only alive but thriving at toxic levels.

Racism is rampant in this country, as well as its attendant repugnant ideologies that promote legislation to subjugate women, LGBT people and other minorities that are part and parcel of the Tea Party agenda which has so thoroughly infiltrated the Republican Party.

I do not believe that the American people will elect Mitt Romney - not just for these reasons but because I believe the American people can tell the difference between a Boss and a Leader. 

I believe the American people know a leader when they see one.

I believe Barack Obama is that leader.

One more debate on Monday, one more unemployment rate at the end of the month, and then comes the election on November 6th.

Just 68% of voting age Americans are registered to vote and in 2008, only 57% of voting age Americans actually voted. The percentages are even lower for Americans ages 18–29: in 2008, only about half of them actually cast a vote—and that was  the second-highest turnout on record for this age group.

I urge you to vote.  If you haven't yet registered, click here to find out the deadline to register in your state. (That link also provides a link allowing you to register online.) Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to vote, too.

Listen to the debates. Learn the platforms and the candidates, from school board and state level candidates up to the national offices. Discuss the issues with your family and friends.  Encourage your college age friends and children to vote.

This year, people will be voting on amendments affecting marriage equality in 4 states and reproductive justice issues in at least 3 states.

Every vote counts.

This country needs to be as "solid as Barack".

Your vote can help us return this country to solid ground and lift it from regressive ideologies that help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Vote like your life depends on it.

Because, it does.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Papa Guédé

Today, for faithful Roman Catholics everywhere, is the Feast Day of St. Gerard of Majella.

It's also the Feast Day of  Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, two Anglican saints who were burned at the stake by Queen "Bloody" Mary. As the flames quickly rose, Latimer encouraged Ridley, "Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out."

Ah, the English. You can always trust them to know the right thing to say in difficult circumstances. 

I'm so sad to have missed the big Feast of St. Gerard in Newark, NJ this past weekend.  You may not have known this, but there is a National Shrine to St. Gerard - by Papal Decree and everything - at St. Lucy's Roman Catholic Church on 17th Street in Newark.

St. Gerard in Procession at St. Lucy's
Every year, they have a huge celebration in his honor.  I mean, HUGE. It began on Friday night with a Vigil mass in his honor and ends today, his feast day.

He will be covered in traditional "money blankets", painstakingly made by various women's guilds who save up their dollar bills and sew them together. As the statue of St. Gerard is processed by, women and men will throw these money blankets on the statue, yelling, "St. Gerard! St. Gerard!"

It's all very emotional - very Italian - because St. Gerard, you see, is the patron saint of pregnant women. Indeed, he is credited with interceding in the prayers of women who struggle with infertility.

Pray to Jesus through St. Gerard and you will not only be guaranteed to get pregnant but wear his medal during your pregnancy and you'll also be guaranteed to have a safe delivery and healthy baby.

Never mind that the patron saint of pregnant women and infertility is a man and a virgin - the 18th Century Italian St. Gerard Majella - much less praying directly to anyone but one of the members of the Trinity.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York tried shedding light on it in a Sept. 10 tweet, writing, "When folks ask me about intercession of the saints, I like saying this: In prayer, we always go to Jesus. Sometimes we bring friends with us."

HaHaHa. The jovial, corpulent Irish prelate made a wee joke. Some people, however, are as serious as a heart-attack about this.

A woman named Josephine Spano from Yonkers, N.Y. - the mother of sixteen (16!!) children - created a website dedicated to him, SaintGerard.com, where she writes dramatically: "Mothers by the hundreds, the thousands, seek and win his intercession at that crucial hour when they must go down to the grim gate of death to open for a little one the frail door of life."

Which brings me to the thing I love the most about the Feast of St. Gerard at St. Lucy's, Newark.

Papa Guédé
There's a large Haitian community in Newark. They live amidst the various, amazing diversity of The Brick City, which includes Italians, Portuguese, Irish, Greek, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Pacific Islanders and African Americans. 

I've heard it said that about 80% of Haitians are Roman Catholic and about 95% of them find an easy and comfortable synthesis between the 'lwa' (sometimes called 'orijas' - or, spirits - of their traditions in Haitian Vodou and the large panoply of RC Saints.

The Haitian lwa known as Papa Guédé (pronounced "gay-day") is supposed to be the corpse of the first man who ever died. He is recognized as a short, dark man with a high hat on his head, a cigar in his mouth, and an apple in his left hand (an illusion to Adam, no doubt).

Papa Guédé is a psychopomp who waits at the crossroads to take souls into the afterlife. If a child is dying, Papa Ghede is prayed to. It is believed that he will not take a life before its time, and that he will protect the little ones. Papa Guédé has a very crass sense of humor, a divine ability to read others' minds, and the ability to know everything that happens in the worlds of the living and the dead.

St. Gerard
So, for the Haitians who attend the Feast of St. Gerard in Newark, it's easy to see that Papa Guédé has manifested himself in the form of St. Gerard, who answers the prayers of infertile women by ushering in the souls that have died and gone into the afterlife into the bodies of women for a resurrected new life.

I mean, even the picture of St. Gerard is holding a cross and has a skull on his prayer desk, with the lilies of resurrection nearby.

Get it? I mean, even Josephine Spano - the one in Yonkers, NY with the 16 kids - gets it (Read her again quote above).

While everyone else is yelling, "St. Gerard! St. Gerard!", the Haitians are yelling, "Papa Guédé! Papa Guédé!"

Everyone thinks, "Oh, see! They are calling for St. Gerard in their own language!"

Ummmm.....not so much. They are actually calling for Papa Guédé who they see disguised - That old trickster spirit! - as St. Gerard.

If "Father" knows what's going on, he ain't sayin'. And, why would he? I'm told that there are literally thousands of money blankets that are thrown on the statue of St. Gerard as he passes in procession. Each blanket has one hundred one dollar bills sewn together. One estimate I've been told is that St. Lucy's Church makes anywhere between $30-50,000 alone in money blankets. 

Besides, there will be lots of distractions: Faithful women will be in the shrine in round the clock prayer vigils, pleading for pregnancies or giving thanksgiving in tearful testimonies for their pregnancies or children.  There will be carnival rides and games for children of all ages. Tons of street vendors will be selling Italian sausage and hot pepper sandwiches and cups of gelato and fried dough (Zeppoli) covered with powdered sugar or served with plastic cups of gooey honey. Beer and wine will flow freely. By this morning, the neighborhood will smell like a subway stop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Oh, and of course, there will be the obligatory sermons about the evils of abortion and the peripatetic and obsequious demonstrators with signs that decry abortion, replete with gruesome pictures of aborted fetuses. You know. Just to keep the faithful.....faithful.

No counter-demonstrations from Reproductive Justice Organizations will show up. Not at St. Lucy's. I mean, why bother when you know Papa Guédé is in the house? 

It's all great fun. I'm sorry to have missed it this year.

If you're of a mind, you may want to pray this prayer for a special blessing from St. Gerard today. I found it on the back of a prayer card I picked up years ago at a Feast of St. Gerard.
Dear Saint Gerard: We rejoice in thy happiness and glory; we bless the Lord Who endowed thee with the choicest gifts of His Grace; we congratulate thee for corresponding so faithfully with them. Obtain for us, we pray thee, some part of thy angelic purity, thy burning love for Jesus in the Tabernacle, thy tender devotion to Mary Immaculate. In thy brotherly love which made thee the support of the poor, the comforter of the afflicted and the apostle of the most forsaken souls, grant me the favors for which I now pray. (Here mention them privately)
O most Powerful Patron, who hast always helped those who prayed to thee intercede for me before the Throne of God. O Good Saint, to thee I confide my fervent prayers; graciously accept them and, before the end of these days of prayer, let me experience in some way the effects of thy powerful intercession. Amen.
Totally Catholic
It's okay to pray this prayer. I mean, even Cardinal Dolan says that we always pray to Jesus, but sometimes, it helps to take along a few friends.

Why not St. Gerard?

As for praying to Papa Guédé, well, there aren't so many prayers as there are dances and songs and chants. 

Apparently, he likes money and cigars and rum, so if you're not of a mind to dance and sing, you might leave out a bowl of shiny coins a cigar and a jigger of rum on your mantle or prayer desk, or wherever it is you light your vigil candle or mark as a prayerful space.

I can't make any guarantees, much less promises about the outcome - for prayers to either St. Gerard or  Papa Guédé, much less Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley - but, if you follow Cardinal Dolan's jovial advice, maybe it helps to take a diversity of friends along with you when you pray to Jesus.

Happy Feast of St. Gerard to all my RC Friends!

Happy Feast of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley to all of my Episcopal / Anglican friends - well, as happy as you can be about two men burning at the stake for their faith!

And, Happy Feast of Papa Guédé to all my Haitian friends!

May we always find opportunities to pray and praise God, each in our own way. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

White trash eatin'

Spaghetti-O Jello-O Mold (with Wiener garnish)



Sometimes, when I'm of a mood, I stand in front of my shelf of cookbooks (pared down a great deal since we moved here), close my eyes, reach for a book, and let inspiration take over.

Mind you, I've got books from Hawai'i, China, Thailand, and, I think, every church that ever produced a cookbook as a fundraiser - including my absolute favorite "Two and Company" produced years ago by St. Thomas' Church, Garrison Forest, MD.

This morning, my hands fell on a cookbook I had forgotten I owned. It's one of my favorites, although I don't cook from it often. If I did, I'd probably be dead right now of coronary artery disease. It's 'White Trash Cooking' by Ernest Matthew Mickler, a collection of some of the most amazing recipes you're likely to set your eyes on.

What I love most about it is that Mickler has carefully copied down the recipes as told to him by the people who actually make the stuff.

There are people with names like Mrs. Ruby Henley of Social Circle, Georgia who comments on her Russian Communist Tea Cookies, "If you make a mistake and use one cup of flour instead of 2 1/2, they'll come out like thin wafers. They'll be just as delicious but won't make enough for Christmas."

Or, Miz Ina, who says of her recipe for Mock Cooter Soup, "To make a real one, just add cooter (turtle) meat instead of ground meet. That's the way we do it in Sandfly, Georgia."

Or, Miz Edna Rae's, of Starke, Florida, who comments on her recipe Butt's 'Gator Tail, "If you haven't eaten 'gator tail before, you're in for a surprise. It's gonna taste a little bit like chicken, a little bit like pork, and a little bit like fish. It's so good, you'll wanna lay down and scream."

Hamburg, Hot Dog, Bacon Turtles
Or, Netty Irene's Macaroni and Cheese who said, "This recipe is from Miss Myrtle Talmade's Home-Ec class and I made it for the Senior Prom Dinner. It was so good, I been makin' it ever since."

Recipe after recipe is a witness to the fact that being poor requires creativity and imagination. It's a real triumph of the spirit to make something out of what little you have that will feed and nourish and satisfy your family when you live life hovering over - or under - the poverty line and still maintain your sense of dignity.

To wit - just check out a few of these recipes:
Hoppin' John

Cook enough black-eyed peas with hog jowls until they are tender. Cook a cup of rice for every 2 or 3 hungry people. Stir the rice and peas together and serve. Some folks put in tomatoes and some put in okra but no matter what you put, anything with peas and rice is gonna be called its old White trash name of Hoppin' John. Always eaten on New Year's Day, and the more you eat the more good luck you are going to have. "That's common knowledge," says Kaye Kay. She also said, "You can make it out of crowder, field or cow peas."

Matty Meade's Corn and Tomatoes

1 part whole canned tomatoes    
1 part whole canned kernel corn
1/2 small onion chopped fine
bacon crumbs

Thump together. Simmer until onion is done. Put in a bowl and serve. "If you don't like canned vegetables but it's all you got, put a spoon of vinegar in them while they're cookin. Add salt and pepper and a spoon of bacon grease. It'll make 'em almost good as home-canned." Mrs. Lulamae Bennett, Starke, Florida.

Mammy's Colored Mashed Potatoes

Boil 1/2 pound of carrots (3 or 4) and 1/2 pound of potatoes. Mash potatoes and carrots together till there are no more lumps. Add a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of cream (canned or other). They look so pretty and bright the children will love them and grown-ups too. There are many potato mashers on the market, but according to Mammy, the best one there is is a quart fruit jar. "The bottom's not too large and not too small. Mashes 'em up real good."
Thing of it is, most people equate "Poor White Trash" with the South and, indeed, these recipes come from behind "The Cotton Curtain", but my Portuguese grandmother made dishes very similar to these. She never went south of Rhode Island but many of these recipes are ones she used - and she used a quart fruit jar to mash potatoes, too.

She and my mother also made "Hot Dog Stew". This made regular appearances on our table in the winter. Potatoes, tomatoes, canned string beans, canned corn (or, a large can of mixed vegetables) all cooked together with sliced hot dogs and served with hot, crusty bread and a big glass of milk.

When you're poor, you use what you got and make the best of what you got.

My grandmother and mother were absolutely convinced that, if you were disappointed by a friend or hadn't done as well as you thought you should have on the softball field or on a test in school, an egg could cure whatever ailed a heavy heart.

My mother was famous for her "Creamed Egg on Toast" - something she learned in Home-Ec class and taught me to make. It's real comfort food. I still make it, on occasion. There's something wonderfully satisfying in putting the hard boiled yoke through a sieve and sprinkling it on top of the creamed sauce with the chopped hard boiled egg white that you've plopped on heavily buttered toast.

My grandmother was much more straight forward. She made something like "A Martha's Egg".
Mrs. Arnold's Daughter Martha's Egg: Or, "A Martha Egg"

Beat an egg with 1/4 cup of milk, a pinch of salt and pepper. Fry in butter at a low heat. Serve with a sweet smile and a kind word. If serving to a kid, pat it on the head. This egg is pure love and heals all wounds.  
Some people look for the 'Deviled Eggs' at a church supper or at a funeral repast. My grandmother and aunts always made something like this:
Peggy's Pig Eggs

6 hard-boiled eggs (peeled)
2 eggs, beaten
1 lb. of loose sausage meat
1 cup of breadcrumbs or cornmeal

Mix 1/2 of the beaten eggs with sausage meat. Pat the meat around the outside of the boiled eggs until it's even all the way round, then smear the rest of the beaten eggs on the meat-covered eggs and roll them in the breadcrumbs. Now you should have something that looks like 6 large goose eggs. Fry these in a heavy iron skillet with 1/2 inch of oil in the bottom until golden brown. Make sure you roll them round while they're frying so as to brown them evenly. Drain on a brown paper bag to get ride of the extra grease, and then chill them overnight before using. "Your company won't believe their eyes when they cut them open," says Peggy Lou Dawson of Pee Dee, North Carolina.
Now, tell me one of Peggy's Pig Eggs wouldn't cure whatever it was that was ailin' ya. Just don't eat one if your cholesterol level is high. You'll have to find another remedy for your blues.

When you're poor, the real test of creativity is dessert. My mother used to make "Ice Box Pudding Cookies".

Except, they weren't really cookies.

It was chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch pudding, layered with graham crackers, slathered on top with Redi-Whip ("A little miracle in a box," my mother used to say) and sprinkled with colored "Jimmies". In other parts of the country, they're called "Sprinkles" but we always called them "Jimmies".  I have no idea why.

She used 'boxed' pudding and lots of milk and always felt that she was "getting milk into the finicky eaters" like my brother and younger sisters.  They weren't really finicky. They were just spoiled brats.  Which worked out okay for the rest of us because we got the benefit of this special dessert. She would cut the pudding into squares and we would eat them like ravenous wolverines.

When she got really fancy, she would make "Ice Cream Pie", which wasn't a pie, just as the Ice Box Pudding Cookies weren't cookies. In fact, they looked just like the pudding cookies except the layers were ice cream and and great slabs of chocolate sheet cake.

No, we didn't have an Ice Box. We had a proper refrigerator, which my parents always called the Ice Box. It wasn't until we were in High School that they started calling it "The Fridge".

Okay. One more. Just one more. I've actually made the following recipe. It's easy to make, and I love the presentation.
Water Lily Pie

3 eggs separated
1 cup sugar
1/4 pound of butter
1/2 tsp each of almond and vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat yolks of three eggs until light, adding, gradually, 1/2 cup sugar. Cream butter, almond and vanilla extract. Stir this into egg mixture. Beat egg whites very stiff. Add slowly 1/2 cup sugar and cream of tartar. Spread whites over buttered-and-floured shallow pie plate. Push toward edge, making a depression in center. Pour filling into middle, very carefully. Bake in a slow oven nearly an hour.  "It should look just like a water lily - if it don't, you did something wrong," remarks Grace Agnes Booker of Chattahoochee, Florida.
When you make something that looks and tastes like this, you don't feel poor.

That's the point, you see. I know I didn't realize we were poor until I started getting invited to stay over for supper at some of my friend's homes and noticed that they didn't eat the way we ate - I mean, apart from the obvious Portuguese stuff.

For a long time, I was embarrassed and ashamed about that.  It didn't help that I often felt like a visitor from an impoverished, foreign country when my friend's mothers would say stuff like, "Oh, poor dear. You probably don't get to eat a whole hamburger all for yourself without having to have it spread up mixed into a casserole or stew."

I think it took me until my 40s to reclaim my Portuguese roots and understand that, we may have not had a lot of money, but, my goodness, we ate well. And, we laughed and talked and told stories around the dining room table. A lot.

Oh, not everything was wonderful. There are a lot of hard memories in there, too.  Really. Hard.

It amazes me how many of them are diminished by the memory of all that wonderful food.

That's a lot of power, right there. Enough power to not make you feel poor at the time, and enough power to ease the pain of the realization that you once were.

Author Mickler writes,
"And what really makes us different from others is that we are 'in love' with our bad times and our weakest characters, we laugh at our worst tragedies, and with a gourmet's delight enjoy our simplest meals. We might tell stories that others think are vulgar or sad, but we make them tales to entertain ourselves and anyone else who will listen. And we always cook enough food for unexpected company. Cooking food, laughing and story-telling - that's what we're made of and that's what we enjoy the most."
You know, it's true: Some people are so poor, all they have is money.

I think people who eat well and have fond memories know real wealth.

By that standard, I'm one of the richest women in the world.