"Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell." Frederick Buechner
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
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The Lord's Creed
I say it in the morning when I do Morning Prayer. If I see five or six Hospice patients during the day, I usually end our prayer time by saying it with them. I say it at night again when I say Compline.
I confess that I am not always fully present to the prayer when I say it. Many times I say it by rote, repeating the words the way I sometimes say the Pledge of Allegiance at a large gathering. Or, the Confession of Sin in community during Mass.
Or, the Nicene Creed. Except, I change so many of the words in that Statement of Faith ("God" for "He"; "She" for the Holy Spirit) that I'm sometimes certain I just might be brought up on charges of heresy if someone siting next to me might tape record me while I'm saying it.
I like the New Zealand Prayer Book form of The Lord's Prayer. I think it expands on the ideas and teachings of Jesus in a deeply meaningful way. Problem is, it doesn't trip off the tongue very easily and you can't really say it privately with too many people because it's not as well known.
As much as I like that version, I confess that I have not committed to memory. Which, I think, says something important.
I've said The Lord's Prayer holding the ancient hand of a person who, just minutes before, couldn't put six words together to make a coherent thought and yet, there s/he is, reciting every word. Eyes closed. Head bowed reverently. Really. Praying.
I've said The Lord's Prayer at the bedside of a dying person, surrounded by family and friends who gulp out the words between sobs and dabs of tears.
I've said The Lord's Prayer with people who have told me that have no faith, or have lost their faith, or confess that they haven't been to church in years and don't know what they believe anymore.
I realized, just the other day, that even more than any of the Creeds, The Lord's Prayer has become a Creed. Interestingly enough, unlike the Nicene Creed, I don't change any of the word. Well, not when I'm praying with a Hospice patient or family. When I say it to myself, I find that I say, "Our Father and Mother, who art in heaven......"
Yes, I use the "traditional" vs. the "contemporary" version of The Lord's Prayer. I don't know why, really, except that while it may be true that familiarity breeds contempt, it also breeds comfort. Solace. A sense of connection with a great cloud of witnesses that have come before and gone on to be in 'heaven' - that eternal dwelling place of God and all of God's creatures.
I have some Jewish friends who tell me that The Lord's Prayer is all the evidence they need to know that Jesus was a good Rabbi. It's a solid Jewish prayer, they tell me, reflecting all of the values that Jews cherish.
Hallowing the name of the one G_d.
Praying for the realm and the will of G_d to come on earth as we imagine it is in heaven, where we will be restored to the perfection intended by God in creation.
Asking only for that which we need to sustain life - daily bread - and to be forgiven the trespasses we commit as well as forgiveness for those who have trespassed against us.
Praying that we may not be tempted to fall short and miss the mark set for us by the One who perfectly created us and even more perfectly redeemed us. And, to be delivered from the evil we know exists in the world because the spark of the potential to do good and evil resides in us all.
Because G_d's realm and power and glory are more important and eternal than our own.
I don't have to cross my fingers behind my back when saying this prayer.
I believe what I pray. Unequivocally.
I don't know that my prayer - this prayer - is always answered. I only know that the answer to the problem of poverty and hunger and injustice and forgiveness come in being cognizant of the existence of these wages of sin by being mindful enough of them to pray about them. And, in trying to live out the words of this prayer.
Jesus Seminar version of The Lord's Prayer, with the words that Jesus almost certainly said or did highlighted in red; and in pink, words that he "probably" said.
The words in red were: "Our Father......"
That may well be true. It doesn't really matter to me the way it once did, for a few fleeting months whilst in seminary. Then again, the job of a seminarian is to question and challenge and deconstruct everything before putting it back together again for yourself so your theology has integrity.
Been there, done that. Got the T-shirt to cover all the scars.
The Lord's Prayer is what I believe about God and Jesus, the good Rabbi.
This is my Creed. I don't really need the others. I pray it in the power of the Spirit, which I believe is the first gift of the Resurrection.
This is the belief and the faith I am unashamed to express to people who are staring into The Abyss, getting ready to meet the One who created them and is now calling them back "home".
The Virgin Birth? The Crucifixion? The Atonement? The Trinity? The Church?
They're all fine. They're just details.
Which may or may not be important to one's personal salvation. That's not for me to determine. Especially as the time of death grows nearer and nearer.
What is essential, as the fox once said to The Little Prince, is invisible to the eye.
All I can do is hold someone's hand and give them the reassurance of our ancient faith in God and Jesus and forgiveness and reconciliation and justice and peace.
Indeed, I think the prayer Jesus reportedly asked us to pray may not have been so much our prayer to Him, but His prayer for us.
It's The Lord's Creed.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Our beloved Havanese, Ms. CoCo Chanel, the Harbor Master of Mariner's Cove, died last night.
She had been diagnosed with a frontal lobe tumor about two years ago, after a major seizure left her back legs weakened for a few hours and her behavior changed.
Ms. Conroy immediately left work and took her to the Vet where she underwent a complete blood panel to check the functioning of her heart, lungs, pancreas, liver, metabolism and other functions. Everything came back perfectly fine.
The Vet said that he was quite certain she had a brain tumor. He said this is growing more and more common in little dogs who have been over bred in puppy mills. (She was a rescue pup).
He guessed the tumor was in the frontal lobe because her eyesight and hearing were fine, as was her balance, but she seemed to be even less tolerant of human behavior which did not meet her Upper East Side sensibilities. And, she had very high standards.
At the time, the Vest said that he could take an MRI and confirm the diagnosis, but, with no health insurance for pets, the fees would run into the thousands of dollars. Surgery, he said, would be very difficult and no real promise of success. And, very costly.
"Take her home and love her and enjoy her," he said. "You can give her some Pet Tylenol if she seems uncomfortable and some Phenobarbital if she has more seizures."
I think she had a very good past two years.
There were occasional episodes of very mild seizure activity which only once required Phenobarbital. Sometimes, she rubbed her ears and seemed uncomfortable. When we could convince her to take a Pet Tylenol, it seemed to work well.
Mostly, though, she was one tough little cookie and worked it out on her own. We tried putting her medicine in Peanut Butter, Cheese, even Ice Cream. No way. She figured it out immediately. She would put up her nose and walk away. It almost seemed that she was disappointed in us - that we couldn't have been more clever or creative.
In the past year, she developed "Sundowners Syndrome". Somewhere between 5-6:30 PM, she'd get confused and that made her upset and anxious and angry. At any sound or sudden movement, she'd fly off the couch and bark furiously and continually. Nothing seemed to console her. She just had to work it out until she calmed herself down and then she'd curl up in a ball and go back to sleep.
Her favorite spot was on the cushion behind Ms. Conroy. Every now and again, Ms. Conroy would lean back and softly say to Ms. CoCo, "Can I have some kisses?"
She'd ask once. No response.
Twice. No response.
Third time. The response would come in a low, soft, annoyed, "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr."
Ms. Conroy would say, "Not today? Maybe tomorrow?"
Ms. CoCo would huff and curl herself more tightly into a ball on the pillow.
Last night, as Ms. CoCo had her last, major seizure - which was so difficult to watch - we sat on either side of her, stroking her body and saying soft, loving things to her.
Our two other pups, Lenny and Theo, sat outside the bedroom door, clearly aware that something was going on but not wanting to come in. Suddenly, Theo let out a yelp - just a short, quick yelp, like someone stepped on his toe. We looked over at Theo and, when we looked back at CoCo, it was clear she had stopped breathing.
"She's gone," said Ms. Conroy.
And, it was so.
We both sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.
Ms. Conroy took a snip of her hair and put it in a tissue to save. We took off all her tags and wrapped her carefully in her favorite green shirt.
We will bury her in the front yard, where she can be near the boats and ducks and geese that go by, which earned her the name "Harbor Master of Mariner's Cove" from our neighbors.
As we tucked her into her little coffin, Ms. Conroy wept and bent over to give her a kiss. She gulped and said through her tears, "Maybe tomorrow?"
Maybe. Maybe not. I expect, when we see her again in heaven, she'll do what she always did: Run to us, dancing her little dance on her back paws, her front paws pumping up and down.
The house is very quiet without her. We're all pretty numb from the loss. Theo and Lenny are sticking pretty close to either one of us.
Our hearts are broken.
Oh, we'll heal. We'll move on. Ms. CoCo wouldn't have it any other way.
It's just not that way today.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Capezzoli de Venere
You might have first heard of them when watching that great film Amadeus. If you've seen it you may remember the scene. It's the treat offered to Constanze Mozart - Wolfgang's wife - by his nemesis, Antonio Salieri, when she brings him some of her husband's original compositions.
I immediately searched for the recipe, but that was long before Google made it so easy. I was finally blessed with this recipe by a friend who had it among his Italian great grandmother's recipes, but you can find other variations all over the Internet. I understand that the brown versions are more commonly made - probably because it's easier.
If you enjoy cooking and baking and like to make candies, this is not a difficult recipe. Okay, so it's not as easy as picking up a box of chocolates, and its definitely more complicated than hand-dipping your own chocolate covered strawberries, but trust me, it is well worth the time and effort.
You can even get away with just grilling up some steak or fish, steaming some veggies and baking a potato or boiling some rice. Candlelight. Some flowers. A glass of red wine. And, a plate of Capezzoli de Venere and your St. Valentine's Day will be one to remember.
I confess, I didn't make them this year. I simply ran out of time for time in the kitchen - and it's probably too late for you to make them for this Valentine's Day for your sweetie, but do think about saving this recipe for next year. You will get "Oooh's" and "Aaah's" left and right.
You may even get lucky.
Happy Valentine's Day!
This recipe makes about 60 truffles
12 ounces high quality dark chocolate, chopped
16 ounces canned whole chestnuts, drained
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract12 ounces high quality white chocolate, chopped, divided
1 dash powdered red food coloring
- Place the dark chocolate into the top part of a double boiler over simmering water, and let the chocolate melt. Turn off the heat and let the chocolate cool.
- Place the chestnuts into the work bowl of a food processor, and process until the chestnuts are smoothly pureed, about 1 minute.
- Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chestnuts, brandy, and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chocolate, and pinch off about 1 tablespoon of filling per truffle. Roll the mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter. If the mixture is too soft to hold its shape, chill for several minutes in refrigerator.
- Reserve about 1 ounce of white chocolate for tempering, and about 1 ounce for coloring. Melt the remaining 10 ounces of white chocolate over simmering water in a double boiler until the chocolate is melted and warm but not hot (about 105 degrees F (40 degrees C)). Remove the pan containing the melted chocolate from the double boiler, and add about 1 ounce of chopped, unmelted white chocolate. Stir the chocolate until the unmelted pieces of chocolate melt, and the temperature drops to 80 to 82 degrees F (27 to 28 degrees C)).
- Carefully dip each center in the melted white chocolate, and gently place the truffle onto a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper to cool and harden, about 15 minutes.
- Melt the remaining 1 ounce of chopped white chocolate over simmering water in a double boiler until the chocolate is melted and warm but not hot. Stir in a very small amount of powdered red food coloring until you get a desired shade of pink. Dip a little colored chocolate out with a spoon, dot each truffle with a pink dot, and allow the pink chocolate dots to set, about 15 minutes.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I had just passed over the sign-in sheet to my colleague at a Hospice Team Meeting and realized that she did not have a writing implement. So, I also offered her my pencil.
She looked at my pencil and then at me and, with a mixture of surprise and mild annoyance said, "You ALWAYS use a pencil. Every time I sit next to you, or watch you take notes, you either use your computer, iPad or a pencil and paper. Never a pen. Why is that?"
I hadn't noticed, really. Never gave it a thought.
And then, I did.
I began to take inventory of my desk at work and the one at home. I have lots of pens. I rarely use them. When I do write - I've even started to journal on my computer - it's usually a grocery list (because the container with pens and the pad of paper are in the kitchen). I also use a pen to write out a personal note - thank you, condolence, birthday - to friends. That's if I haven't sent them an e-card.
I didn't always, but I've noticed that, more and more, I'm using a pencil for everything else. Appointments in my calendar. My 'to do' lists. My Hospice visit schedule. These days, I even doodle my primitive art with a pencil.
The nifty thing about a pencil is that it comes with an eraser.
Nothing is permanent. Not anything or anywhere in life. With a pencil, you can change things easily enough with a few vigorous swipes of the little piece of rubber at the end of it. And, if things change and you're a bit upset about it, the erasure rids you of the annoyance or memory of it.
I suspect that working as a Hospice Chaplain has something to do with this new behavior.
On Ash Wednesday, I will be visiting people in their homes and in Skilled Nursing Facilities and imposing ashes on the foreheads of those who know their time on this earth is very limited.
"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," I'll say, as I smudge ashes in the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
As if they weren't already acutely aware of that fact.
It's always a bit unsettling to me, when the recipient of the ashes looks up at me and says, "Thank you." I mean, I've essentially said, "You're going to die, you know." And, they say, "Thank you."
I'm never sure if they're being polite or thanking me for the reminder.
I stopped in to see one of my patients who is in a Skilled Nursing Facility - a devout Roman Catholic - and asked if she needed me to bring her ashes. "Nah," she said, "the deacon from the church in town will bring me some."
She thought for a moment and then said, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Isn't that what you say?"
"Actually," I said, "I will say, 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'"
She smiled and said, "And, ain't that just the truth?"
She thought for awhile and then said, "It won't be too much longer for me. Before long, I'll be sitting in a jar on my kids' mantle, right next to my husband, until this summer when they take our ashes out to the ocean and scatter them both and we sail away together. "
I stopped for a moment, thinking about the current fad of 'Ashes to Go', and silently giggled a wicked giggle about her and her husbands 'ashes to go' together in the ocean. Bad joke, I know. Hospice can do that to you. Bad jokes are a survival mechanism.
I wondered what she thought about the call of Joel and Jesus to repentance - not death - which is at the heart of the observance of Ash Wednesday, and the basis of my distress over "Ashes to Go".
Yes, the ashes are a sign of our mortality - the finiteness of human existence - which is the reason to repent. But, the compelling prophetic call from Joel and Jesus is to repentance.
What does repentance mean to someone who is watching the face of death move closer and closer to their own face?
My thoughts were broken by the voice of my patient. "I always brush off the ashes from my forehead, anyway," she said.
"Really?" I asked, "Why is that?"
"Well," she said, "I've always thought of the ashes as the church's need to remind us of our mortality - how really short our little lives really are - as well as our sins. Yeah, we're here one day and gone the next and tomorrow isn't promised to anyone - blah, blah, blah...But, the thing of it is that, if you confess your sins, God wipes it off the books. As if it never happened. We are forgiven. Forever."
"You know, the way a pencil leaves a mark on a paper, and then the eraser wipes it all away."
Ah, there it is, I thought. In Matthew's Gospel for Ash Wednesday, we hear Jesus say,
"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. . . . .Suddenly, I began to understand my change in behavior and preference for pencils. In a way, it's my own subconscious statement of faith.
. . . . .Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Life is short. Yes, we sin and fall short of the mark. We repent. And, God wipes away our sins.
The mark of ashes on our forehead is no where near as important as the message of repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation with God and ourselves and each other.
So, get out your #2 pencils and make sure they've got an eraser on the top.
It's Ash Wednesday. The beginning of forty days and forty nights of Lent.
Know that your life is but a pencil mark on the page of life.
Repent. And, know that God will wipe away any sin that has been authentically confessed.
We may hold the pencil, but God holds the eraser.
Monday, February 11, 2013
No dumb dogs!
If you travel in circles Episcopalian and say the letters G.O.E. (for General Ordination Exam) you will get some very interesting, usually very strong reactions.
Some will say, "they are a waste of time, energy and money." Others will describe them as a throw-back from the "Old Boys Network" and describe them as "rite of passage" or a form of "hazing". Still others will point out that the GOEs came into being in 1972 - some say, in anticipation of the advent of the Ordination of Women (in 1974).
According to the General Board of Examining Chaplain's web site:
People are ordained in their particular dioceses, but they are ordained on behalf of, and for service throughout, the whole church. Before 1972, each diocese had its own process of examination, and testing varied widely from place to place. The exams' contents depended upon the interests and concerns of individual dioceses and people within them. Some Candidates had lenient examiners and easy questions while others suffered with quirky examiners and inappropriate exams. The GOE is the same for all Candidates no matter where they come from. Evaluators do not know Candidates' identities and have no connection with their Commissions on Ministry, their seminaries or their bishops. The GBEC executive director/GOE administrator and his staff, Readers, the Board, and Editors, as well as diocesan officials, carefully review evaluations, so Candidates have the benefit of a series of independent evaluations.
Sound reasonable? I think it does. Then again, I took the GOEs in 1986 and, for the last two years, I have had the privilege of being a Reader for GOEs.
Did I like the GOEs when I took them? Absolutely not. Who would? Back in those days - you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth - they were held over five days, with Sunday off. There were "closed book" questions which we took in our study carrel and "open book" questions, which we took either in our carrel or at home.
We were handed the "open book" questions at 9 AM and expected to return them at 9 AM the next morning, only to be handed the next question, which was to be returned at 9 AM the next morning....and so on for five days, with a day off in between. That would have been Sunday. When we were expected to return to and be fully present at our Field Ed Sites (Churches).
Some of us finished our questions at a reasonable hour and slept soundly through the night.
Others of us well, didn't.
Back in the day...... few of us had computers but most of us had typewriters and hired typists who acted as our editors. They made certain our sentence structure was correct and there were no typo's. Nowadays, there's "spell check" and "grammar check". Back then, we paid someone to do it.
It was difficult, but then, as a former nurse, I was used to having to take an exam in order to be licensed to function in that capacity. Let me rush to add that GOEs are no a licensing exam, but a standardized test that helps Bishops and Standing Committees make decisions about a candidate's proficiency for ordination.
And, that's the thing that makes GOEs different from other qualifying, licensing exams for nurses or doctors or lawyers. GOEs are not a licensing exam. They are a diagnostic tool to help those who have had a minimum of a 3-5 year relationship with the candidate determine if the person - who, after all, has canonical status as a candidate - is academically 'proficient' for ordination.
That group includes the members and Vestry of the candidate's sponsoring congregation, the Commission on Ministry, the Dean and faculty of the seminary (if the candidate has been to seminary - not a canonical requirement), the C.P.E. (Clinical Pastoral Education) Supervisor's report (also not a canonical requirement but more and more dioceses require it), and a statement from the Field Education Supervisor.
All of these things, together with the GOEs, provide different aspects of the candidate's readiness and proficiency for ordination. It is the bishop who has the authority to ordain - well, with the concurrence of the Standing Committee.
On the whole, the majority of the responses to the exam questions I read demonstrated proficiency. My reading partner and I read seven sets of seven questions. That's 49 essays of approximately 1,500 words each. We read them - each one - at least five times. Each. One.
Of the 49 essays we read, we found several that were not proficient. There were at least a few more that were boarder line but we tried to err on the side of generosity.
For the most part, what each question looked for was three things: knowledge, analysis, and application. The question looked to see what the candidate knows, how the candidate is able to analyze and integrate the information into a personal theology and demonstrate that the candidate can apply the knowledge to circumstances every day life.
That's what a priest does. Every day. Six times before breakfast. More on Sunday.
You can read the questions to this year's exam here. When the question was not proficient, the biggest problem, more often than not, was that the candidate didn't answer the question. Or, didn't answer it fully. If the question asked for the "theological, historical and practical aspects" of an area, then, that's what should have been answered. Not just one or two areas. All three.
Please do remember that the exams are completely anonymous. All the readers have is a number. We don't know the candidates name, diocese, bishop, seminary or COM members. Which is a good thing. I might have been tempted to search for that candidate just to smack some sense into him/her.
There was one question that caused a buzz throughout the tables where the readers gathered for their meals.
For three years you have been the clergy person in charge at St. Christopher’s Church, a congregation in a populous community. You receive a phone call from a chaplain working with one of the local hospice programs. She shares with you that a 12-year-old girl has been admitted into the hospice facility with a terminal disease. She is being kept as comfortable as possible but is approximately a week from death and is unresponsive.
The family has indicated to the chaplain that they are members of St. Christopher’s. They say they have been inactive at St. Christopher’s for at least five years and do not know the clergy person there, though they still consider it their spiritual home. You do not recall ever meeting the family. The chaplain tells you that she would be willing to continue to minister to the family but also feels it important to at least let you know of the situation.
In an essay of approximately 1,500 words, clearly identify and explain the theological, pastoral and practical issues that inform what you choose to do or choose not to do. Include in the essay any other people or resources you might consult to help you reach your decisions.
I thought this was a great question. I thought this would be a place where a spiritual leader could shine, demonstrating knowledge, analysis and application in a not-uncommon pastoral situation.
No, clergy do not get calls every day - or week or month - concerning a 12 year old child who is dying. But, pieces of this story form pieces of the stuff of parochial ministry. This is stuff that ought to have been covered in field education, pastoral ministry courses and/or a CPE experience.
The question about the Trinity was very tricky - preaching on the Trinity at least once a year is always a chore, often assigned to unsuspecting seminarians - but the answers, for the most part, took seriously the "unity of Being" of the three natures of the Trinity,
If there was ever a case to be made for the importance of GOEs as a diagnostic tool, these question surfaced it and made it abundantly clear.
For each "not-proficient" score, the readers had to write a 400-600 word response, detailing why the essay was determined to be non-proficient.
In most cases, it was easy to make the case for "non proficiency", simply by quoting from the essay itself. Oh, and by the way, you should know that every essay determined by the reader teams to be either proficient or not proficient had to be read and approved by a Supervising Chaplain, a member of the board.
If any essay was deemed "not proficient", the essay itself and the response from the readers had to be read by a team of three bishops before the 'not proficient' decision held.
I didn't hear of one reversal of a 'not proficient' determination.
Let me hasten to add that there were many, many more responses that were more than adequate. Some were brilliant, actually. And, they clearly "made the heart glad" and gave great hope for the state of the church.
Can the GOEs be a better, more effective diagnostic tool of proficiency for ordination? No doubt. Indeed, the board of the GBEC works hard, every year to make them better. This year was no exception. And, the board is already hard at work on next year's exams.
I know I haven't persuaded those who have had bad experiences with GOEs in the past that they are necessary and important to a process of the formation of spiritual leaders in The Episcopal Church.
That really wasn't what I was trying to do. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I simply wanted to share my experience this year and have you judge for yourself.
Martin Luther, one of the shining lights of The Reformation, was a huge proponent of educated clergy. He was reportedly horrified by the fact that so many priests could not even find the Lord's Prayer in scripture.
"No dumb dogs" he said.
Known for his harsh insults, I don't think the GOEs need to be - or are - that harsh. I think there's always room for improvement and I think the GBEC works to make them more professional and more proficient as a diagnostic tool. Indeed, I think the readers worked very hard to be compassionate and kind and instructive to the candidate as well as those who have canonical authority and responsibility of that candidate's future.
I don't know how you discern if someone has a pastoral heart, I only know that you can tell if they don't have one beating somewhere, pumping the Love of God through veins and arteries to feed the mind the body and the soul.
No dumb dogs, these, but the present and future of our church.
Lord, have mercy on us, one and all.
Saturday, February 02, 2013
You go, girl!
So would you, had you traveled to a record-breaking 112 countries in the past four years, spent 401 days on overseas travel and almost three months in the air.
No wonder she's earned the undisputed title of the hardest-working Secretary of State - evah!
She's also suffered from a nasty stomach virus while returning from a week-long trip to Europe, exhaustion, severe dehydration, a faint, a fall and a concussion that led to a brief hospitalization when doctors discovered a blood clot near her brain.
It was a rare sign of vulnerability from an otherwise seemingly invincible 65 year old woman.
She roared back from that bit of a sideline, just as she had after a searing defeat for the 2008 election against Barack Obama, as well as the embarrassment of her husband's notorious infidelity with a young White House Intern, Monica "I Hate Linda Trip" Lewinsky," in 1998.
Bolton seemed to be echoing columnist William Safire who famously labeled her "a congenital liar." Congenital. As in, she's a woman - a "daughter of Eve". We know what happened to "poor Adam" - and the whole world has been suffering for Eve's "deception" ever since.
Le sigh! Can anyone say, "sexism"? Again!
Diplomatic illness, my left foot! I know it's hard to believe that Hillary was actually sidelined, but then again, John Bolton - or too many men - have never worked as hard - or as effectively - as Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On January 23rd, she endured not one but two Congressional Committee Hearings on the same day about her knowledge of the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi.
I think that's probably a violation of the Geneva Convention, but Hillary was at the top of her form.
I loved the quizzical look and the tone of incredulity when she responded to Republican Rand Paul's question: "Is the U.S. involved in shipping weapons out of Libya to Turkey."
Clinton's response: "To Turkey?" She seems stunned by the question - for a second, I wasn't sure if she was referring to the country or the Senator - but then simply, quietly and calmly responded that she'd never heard that.
And, then, of course, Rand Paul said, "People who make judgement errors should be fired and replaced. ... Had I been president ... I would have relieved you from your post."
Hillary just looked at him with the best poker face I've ever seen but you could tell she was thinking exactly what many of us were screaming at the television set, "You? President? Of The United States? And, Hillary? Working for YOU? Don't make me laugh."
In her last one-on-one interview as secretary of state, she seemed to underscore that point: "There are some people in politics and in the press who can’t be confused by the facts. They just will not live in an evidence-based world. And that’s regrettable. It’s regrettable for our political system and for the people who serve our government in very dangerous, difficult circumstances."
Whatever the merits of the arguments, Clinton’s responses confirmed she had lost none of the vigor that had taken her from defeated Democratic Party presidential candidate to one of the world’s most popular and recognizable women.
Indeed, her popularity rating stands at 67%, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC survey, indicating that the polarization that marked her years in the White House, seen again in the 2008 campaign, has been overcome.
Indeed, no Democrat is better placed right now to unify the party. With instant national appeal and the highest approval ratings of her political career, she would also presumably have a head start on any Republican candidate in a general election. And at age 69, she’d hardly be too old to lead. She’d be five years younger than Vice President Joe Biden, a possible party rival.
She has a little over a year to rest up and make a decision about whether or not she'll run for POTUS. I imagine she and Joe Biden will need to have a serious sit-down-come-to-Jesus talk about this. I'm thinking she has 18 months - tops - to think this through and make a decision.
She'll have to determine if it's worth the time coupled with the enormous expense and effort. That having been said, she'll also have the benefit of the backing of the Obama Election Team.
I'm hoping that the thought of become the first woman POTUS - never mind being the First Lady to become the POTUS will prove irresistible for her. I know it will be irresistible for many voters - not just for the novelty, but because she is better qualified than anyone on either side to be Leader of the Free World - bar none.
The possibilities are enormously exciting, even though they are four years away, and we're just beginning to see President Obama coming into his own. He's roaring through immigration, women on the battle lines, the debt ceiling, and a host of other social issues - like reversing DOMA - which he had put on the back shelf to the Affordable Health Care Act and the economy.
I keep thinking about that first debate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Marco Rubio, which - if her performance at not one but two Congressional Hearings are any indication - she will no doubt win with one hand tied behind her back.
"I am making no decisions, but I would never give that advice to someone that I wouldn’t take myself, she said. "If you believe you can make a difference, not just in politics, in public service, in advocacy around all these important issues, then you have to be prepared to accept that you are not going to get 100 percent approval."
Well, I'm only one person, but you've got my 99.9% approval. There are millions more of us, just waiting for you to make your decision to run for the White House.
But, no pressure.
So, rest up, Hillary. Take the time you need to do the things you want to do. Update your 2003 memoir, "Living History" - although I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment. Travel to the places around the world you'd like to visit as a private citizen.
You deserve the time off.
Just come back to us with your 'traveling pants' on and your running shoes laced up.
You go, girl!
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