Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blood in the aisles - the NRA's shame

 Don't talk to me about guns - I grew up around guns.

My father had a gun shop in our basement where he rebuilt rifles and carved gun stocks.

I shot my first antelope in Wyoming when I was only sixteen-years-old.  Mallards, pheasants - my brothers, my dad and I hunted them all.

My dad belonged to three "gun clubs" in the Twin Cities.  He taught my brother and me skeet and clay shooting.

So, yes.  I know about guns.

And I know the truth about multiple assault weapons.

Assault weapons have one purpose - and one purpose only.

Assault weapons are designed for combat - for killing human beings.

Assault weapons do not belong in our American cities.
They are weapons of war - pure and simple.

Not that long ago, they were illegal. 

A brief history of the assault weapons ban

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) (or Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act) was a subtitle of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a federal law in the United States that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, so called "assault weapons". The 10-year ban was passed by Congress on September 13, 1994, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton the same day. 

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired on September 13, 2004, as part of the law's sunset provision. There have been multiple attempts to renew the ban, but no bill has reached the floor for a vote.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) seeks ban of assault weapons

After the insane slaughter of innocent Colorado movie goers last summer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urged the reinstatement of the ban. 

"Weapons of war don't belong on the streets," Feinstein said on Fox News. "This is a powerful weapon, it had a 100-round drum; this is a man who planned, who went in, and his purpose was to kill as many people as he could in a sold-out theater. We've got to really sit down and come to grips with what is sold to the average citizen in America.

“I have no problem with people being licensed to buy a firearm, but these are weapons that are only going to be used to kill a lot of people in close combat," she said.

Until they're illegal - my father is rolling in his grave. 

My father taught me to manage firearms.
 Time now - right now - to reinstate the ban against assault weapons in this country.

 The abuse of firearms and the irrational "cowboy" perspective of the National Riflemen Association (NRA)  is a national embarrassment.

My dad, my brothers and sisters were life-long members.

At the close of his life - my father shifted his alliance to Ducks Unlimited.  

When I asked him why, his answer was simple.

"I'm not going to support an organization too stupid to exist," he said. 

Smart man.

Until they stop defending this distribution of this single-purpose firearm, the NRA has blood on its hands.

Friday, July 20, 2012

It never occurred to me. . .

It never occurred to me - never for a moment - that I would be a sixty-three-year-old single woman.

But - here I am - I'm still adorable - still charming. And alone.

Recently I realized I have been single as long as I was married.

I remember when I thought I'd remarry in a hurry. It never occurred to me that I would sleep alone, eat dinner alone, go to the movies alone - for the rest of my life.

No.  Not me.  I was not supposed to fade away - I was born to live smack-dab in the middle of everything -  a deep, strong, important life - with a wonderful man who loves me.

And so it never occurred to me - not for single moment - that I wouldn't marry again.
The realization came slowly.
I dated for five years.  I wrote a book about it -  "AFTER HIS HEART: The Foolish Women's Guide  to Dating After Fifty."

My new play SWEET TRUTH is based on my brief soiree into the wild world of mid-life dating.

And I discovered something along the way.  Men age differently than women.  That should not have been a surprise - but it was.

I was looking for simple things from a man; love, affection, passion and adventure.  Every man I dated wanted only one of the above.  Yup.  You guessed it.
A way out of the confusion
One of the most helpful things anyone said to me, back in the dating days, was said by my old friend Bobby Olson.  Bobby and I met at a Halloween party in 1962.  We were thirteen.  I was dressed as Wee Willie Winkie.  He was in drag.

Every woman needs a gay friend.  Bobby is mine.

And so when  the dating devolved into a series of horror stories - Bobby asked me a question.

"Why you doing this?" he said.

I reminded him I was alone.  I reminded him he has a thirty-year relationship and cannot possibly know what it feels like to face the future - single.  I reminded him I was all by myself - that I needed someone.

"What am I? " he asked.  "Chopped liver?"

For a long time, I considered that to me the title of my play - "CHOPPED LIVER."
Chopped liver ain't all that bad. 
Bobby's question brought me home.  In dating, hunting, chasing, yearning - I had forgotten an important lesson. 

People are precious.  My friendships are irreplaceable.  My ex-husband is irreplaceable too

Will I ever marry again?  Will I ever fall in love?  Heck - will I ever go on another date??

I don't know.  Maybe.  Someday. 

Until that time, I'm fine on my own. Until that time, I'll keep doing what I'm doing.  I'll live deep, strong, and important - right here.

All alone.  All by myself.

Smack-dab in the middle of everything.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

No such thing as "bored"

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as "bored."

"Get out from underfoot" 

When I was a kid "bored" was a four letter word.

In my house, if I used the "b" word, I had to clean the bathrooms for the entire summer.

Nope.  Summertime at the Holmgren house had one rule only.  If you were a kid - you better damn well keep yourself occupied.

That's why, every summer I can remember, I  organized a Summer Day School for the neighborhood kids.  We conducted classes on my mom's front porch.

Art lessons, a little music, a whole bunch of paper crafts - and before the close of each day - we always played their favorite game.

We called it - "Pied Piper."

Every school kid was issues a tonette in 3rd Grade.
And I, of course, was always, always the "piper."

A little bit of terror never hurt anybody.

Tooting "The Star Spangled Banner" on my tonette - the instrument every St. Paul school kid was issued in third grade - I marched my young playmates around our block, pausing in front of random houses where I spun tales of murder, witchcraft, disappearing children and intrigue.

"All the paper boy wanted was to be paid," I said, standing before the elegant, Goodrich Avenue tutor, innocuous and well maintained. "He knocked at the door  -  and was never seen again."

My little charges would shiver in the ninety-degree summer heat - holding tight to the hand I assigned them to grasp.

The buddy system was important to the Pied Piper march.

"We have to watch out for each other," I reminded them in ominous tones.  "This neighborhood isn't what it appears."

Of course - it was all a lie.

The neighborhood was exactly as it appeared.  The houses were populated with respected, delightful, welcoming and loving mommies and daddies.

"This rock," I said, "appeared overnight."
But that, my dears, was simply - boring.

Making the ordinary tolerable.

"This rock," I said as the little children shivered around me, "appeared overnight.  No one knows where it came from or how it arrived.  Try and lift it."

The silly boys would bend, push, strain to move the impossible boulder.

"Imagine the strength, the muscle, the power of the creature who put this rock in this place.  Image what such a creature could do to the human body."

Sometimes, when I went too far, little Mary Foley would start to cry.

The front porch of the cozy cottage
On days like that, the Piper suspended all tales - and led her little charges back to my mom's front porch for home made ice cream and a few rounds of Old Maid, played in the shade - sometimes, with pink lemonade.   I swear this is true.


Scratch a writer and you'll find an overactive, sometimes pathological imagination.

Today - my tonette is retired.  Instead of piping the children around the neighborhood, I attract them to the front porch of my cozy cottage in St. Paul's Como Park.

Popsicles in the summer.
The treats are the same.  Popsicles in the summer - apple pie in the fall.  I throw a mean Halloween party every year.

And of course -  the stories.

Theses days, I'm a good listener.  The kids in my neighborhood have big, big imaginations.

There's no such thing as "bored."


Friday, July 13, 2012

A bigger look at sex

American Protestantism is strangled by its own limits - gagging on its own prejudices and asphyxiated by its own toxic air.

The Reverend Dr. Peggy Way said it best when she said, "Human sexuality has become the defining experience for American Protestants."

Protestants no longer care if believers think Jesus is the son of god.

The virginity of Mary, the resurrection of the body, the life after death promise - these former conundrums are no longer pertinent.


Today, the only thing, the only thing that can divide a congregation is discussion about sex.   We'll kill each other over the decision to ordain or not ordain women and gays.  We'll divide and destroy a church with debates over the rights of all people to marry - to adopt babies.  The only time we fall apart is when someone drags us, kicking and screaming into the clear and straight forward, discussion of women, men, sexual intercourse and homosexuality.
For the life of me, I don't know why.

For the life of me, I don't know why anyone wants to talk about any of those things in polite company. 

The things that make us squirm
According to Dr. Way, three theological concepts which once were defined in broad, generous ways are now confined to a limited (Protestant-based), ignorant discussion of human sexuality.

The first - Identity.
The second - Authority.
The third - Community.

Who am I?  I am a human being - a person.  I am a child of the universe - no less than the trees and the stars - I have a right to be here.

I am a child of god - the daughter my mother yearned for, the adored youngest in my family.  I am a mother, a friend, a neighbor and a certain elderly dog's lifeline.

If, however, I only define myself through my "sexuality," I am woman.  Period. 
Who tells me who I am?  To whom do I go to learn more about my affect on my world?  Who holds me as an example?  Who seeks my council, asks for my opinion?  Who loves me and who do I love?

My family validates me.  My children affirm my authority in my family - my extended family seek me out and honor me.

My friends call upon me to stand with them in difficult times, and remind me of my worth.  In my lifetime, communities of faith have reached out to me, called me to serve them, and confirmed my value as a pastor.

If, however, I only define myself through my "sexuality," the only people who value me are those I sleep with.  I am a sexual partner, a potential sexual partner, a former sexual partner or a woma who has chosen to not have a sexual partner.  Period. 

I know who validates me. 

Now that I know who I am, now that I know who validates me - how do I live this out with others?

I join a faith community, become involved with like-minded people.  I volunteer to work with organizations that share my values.  I help my neighbors when they are in need - practice becoming a better friend to those I love.

I let my family know how dear they are to me, and make certain my intentions are clear, my good wishes understood.

And I try to not criticize, harm, hurt or disrespect anyone I misunderstand.

If, however, I only define my community through my "sexuality,"  I line-up with those who are as promiscuous or up-tight as I; defend or attack those who define themselves differently than do I; only see value in the sexual practices of my community, and then only when those practices make sense to me, under my conditions, definitions and terms. 

No wonder the church struggles.
 No wonder the church struggles.
Denominational Protestantism reaches beyond the sexual - and defines individuals, communities and their causes in terms suffocated by the contemporary frame.

My little church in Hager City, Wisconsin (bless their hearts!) was a community of faith.  The folks of my congregation defined themselves first as children of god, second as keepers of a sacred trust  in regard to the well-being of the children and the elderly of the community, and finally - as individuals in need of personal salvation.
Growth when you least expect it
Their miraculous priorities grew our congregation from twelve people who worshiped in the basement (we couldn't afford to heat the sanctuary) to a vibrant, active, eager and exciting church with a membership of 340.

None of us - not one - defined ourselves first and foremost - as male.  Or female.  Gay, straight.  We were all together - we were people - we didn't give a rat's butt to know who slept with whom.

This is gospel.

As my colleagues wrap up their 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Thursday, July 5, 2012, in Pittsburgh, I venture the saints of Hager City care less about their opinions on gay marriage.

Their congregations are dying.  Their gospel is suffocating.

And I wonder what ever happened to The Reverend Dr. Peggy Way? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Broken hearts break my heart

We all go there.  Eventually.

No one escapes a broken heart.

The older I get, the harder it is for me to understand how careless and willy nilly we are about the feelings of others.

Oh, sure - I've probably done my own share of damage in my lifetime.  I'm certain there are old men out there, scarred by some callous, indifferent rejection I tossed when I was in my dirty-thirties.

Now - in my early dotage, I see how sad and silly it is to throw away love; how cold and cruel it is to say "no" when "yes" hurts no one - risks nothing.

When I was a younger woman hanging out with young men, we trusted the common ground upon which we built our assumptions.

I remember when my husband and I went to the theatre to see the film, "Easy Rider."  When Peter Fonda is shot, killed at the end, we were struck dumb; shocked.  In tears, we left the theatre convicted that we would never surrender our common values - our belief in each other, in the good we knew to be true, in the importance of freedom.

Young couples today care about the same things  - but not enough.

Not enough to make it through the hard, difficult times that always rise up between men and women.

The longer spins this blue planet in space, the further apart we grow. 

Men and women.  Different in the foods we love to eat.  Different in the way we sleep, think speak.  Different from each other in the way our mothers held us, taught us.  Different in the expectations the world has of each of us. 

How them, can we expect to live together?  To make all this work?

One way only.  Love.  And what is love?  We sense it when we meet it.  We know it when we find it.  We treasure it as it washes over us.

And we close our eyes - hold our noses - and jump into the fire.

It's the only way.

If we are too cautious - if we seek too much - if we expect understanding, good will, constant care, sacrifice - we lose everything.  Love vanishes under scrutiny.

Love thrives when expectations are low and respect is high.

I remember when I was in love.  I loved watching my guy enjoy his life, because of what I added to it.  I loved the life we built together - the warmth of our home, the peaceful, contentedness of partnership.

Those times did not come easily to us.  They are not easy for anyone.

When a woman and man love each other, they have to overlook all those things that are divisive, and reach for the common ground between them.

I wish young people knew how difficult that is - - how difficult it truly is.

Perhaps then, they would be kinder to each other.

Perhaps they would hold each other closer, treasure the miracle of connection.  Perhaps they would not be quick to break a loving heart.