Two of the places we visited on our recent road trip were the Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama. The institute is across the street from this historic church where four little girls were killed in a bomb blast during the struggle for civil rights during the 60s. Walking through these two buildings was emotionally draining. I felt much like I did after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Scene after scene depicted of the horrors people did to other people because of racism and fear. Bombings like the one that killed the four little girls were common. Lynchings happened far too frequently. Bigotry was considered a virtue for the genteel white South during these times. Brutal inequality was legally sanctioned. It took great courage by many people to change the laws. The blatant bigotry of those years is no longer legal. Attitudes have softened in many places. I am grateful for the progress that has been made in race relations. The sad thing I noticed is that these same attitudes are not very far from the surface in many places. While on our trip last month I heard folks complaining about blacks trying to come to white churches and how uncomfortable it was for the white worshipers. Since public schools can no longer be segregated, most white kids go to private schools so they can be protected from other races.
While great strides have been made in giving equal rights to all people there is still much to do. Racism and bigotry of all sorts still is common. The world is still too much divided into “us “ and “them.”
Have you ever experienced racism and bigotry? What did you do about it?
I finished the jigsaw puzzle that I started for entertainment during our first blizzard. I think that means our bad winter is coming to an end. The sun has been shining and my dragon's teeth icicles fell off the back of the house. The mountains of snow along the roads are starting to melt. I can almost hear spring coming.
I went to an Ash Wednesday service at church. I grew up in a non-liturgical religious tradition and the observation of Lent is a new thing in my life. It seems to me that many of the “sacrifices” people make during Lent have little to do with enriching their faith, but I do like the whole concept of spending a period of time giving extra thought to God and his amazing grace. I am praying my way through the Psalms as my Lenten discipline. Are you doing anything to observe Lent?
My newly retired husband has gone to NASA this morning to pick up his new badge. Is anybody surprised that he is now working part time for a contractor? He will be returning part time to his old desk doing the work he always enjoyed doing.
After missing rehearsal last week because of the snow it was good to return to practice with the senior chorale. Our spring concert this year will be a collection of songs from recent Broadway hits like Wicked, Rent and Les Miserables. It is going to be a fun concert. One of my favorite songs is “For Good,” from the musical Wicked. The lyrics say that people come into our lives for a reason. “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” Is there someone who passed through your life and changed you for good?
My younger son has had a serious weight problem for several years and seemed helpless to control his growing waist line. About six months ago he joined a new weight loss support group and found a diet that he has been able to stick with. Since beginning this new program he has lost 40 pounds and has shrunk his waist by ten inches. I am so proud of him. He is feeling much better and seems much happier with life because he has started to take off the pounds.
Life is just putzing along here. What's going on in your part of the world?
I am a liberal person. Being liberal seems to me to be right and good. I don't understand why anyone would call being liberal a bad thing. I looked up some synonyms for liberal. I like all of them. These words all describe the kind of person I want to be. Synonyms include words like tolerant, broad-minded, bountiful, giving, generous and big-hearted. Antonyms include words like narrow-minded and stingy. I have always been taught that as a Christian I should be generous in my giving and help those who are in need. Being liberal seems to me to be a virtue.
My politics reflects my understanding of what I think is right. Giving generously to those in need, helping the weak, and being open-minded about things about which there are many opinions are things that I think are important. I see and hear these ideals voiced and practiced in larger measure by the democratic party, so I am a democrat.
I am disappointed in the failure of politicians in both parties to move past their short term political gains, their quest for power and their greed. I was sad today when Senator Bayh said he would not seek re-election because congress is broken. He sees no way he can effectively serve the people of this county in our corrupt and ineffective congress. The corruption on both sides of the aisle make it impossible to do anything that would be good for the people of this nation. It just makes me want to cry.
I don't know any way to fix what ails our political system. It is a mess.
Fifty years ago this weekend I was in the mountains near Big Bear Lake in California. I was enjoying a snow party with a bunch of college kids. We played in the snow and I tried to learn to ski. I was never able to make it all the way up the rope tow on the kiddie hill without falling down. Going down the hill was even worse. Every time I started going I would get scared, panic and fall down. I had these long skis attached to my feet and they made getting up very difficult. It was not a pretty sight. At the end of the day I was cold, sore and tired. I decided then that skiing was not my sport. I like activities where I do not get cold and do not include falling down and embarrassing myself. I am totally impressed with the skill and grace of the Olympic skiers.
The part of the weekend that included sitting by the big fireplace with my friends was wonderful. I had been dating a young Cal-tech student for a few months. He gave me a valentine that weekend that he had carefully picked to say just what he wanted to say. It said, “Happy Valentine's Day to someone I like a lot.” He wasn't quite ready to say more than that. Three months later he asked me to marry him. The next year, and every year since, he has given me mushy valentines that declare his love. That first valentine was the most memorable.
Blizzard number two blew through here yesterday and broke all records. This winter we have had over eighty inches of snow. For an area that goes many winters with no snow that is a lot of snow. This part of the world has pretty much stopped.
The pictures of my firstborn and my young husband taken in 1965 show a more typical snow for Maryland.
Our twenty year old grandson left yesterday. His parents took him to the recruiters office and then to the military check-in at a hotel near the airport. He took his official oath at 5AM today and is now an official member of the US Air Force. He is on his way to San Antonio and basic training.
It snowed. It snowed a lot. The blizzard that blew through our part of the world left us over three feet of snow with drifts piling up deeper than that. The storm effectively brought our town to a close. Churches, schools, stores and even the federal government have ground to a halt. It is beautiful looking out. The plows have been working hard and it now possible to get out of the neighborhood, but it is a pretty rough ride. We are grateful to be home. Being snowbound at home is far better than being snowbound in a small motel in Tennessee. We are also very grateful for our family who came and dug us out yesterday. The sun is shining today, but another storm is predicted for tomorrow.
I loved my grandparents. Staying with them in their Texas home was one of the highlights of my childhood. My grandfather was a preacher of the gospel. He was not a very well educated man, but he did know his Bible. We made a game of reading a verse from anywhere in scripture and seeing if he could quote the verse following. He always won. The man had the entire book memorized. I thought he was one of the smartest men in the world. When he was a young preacher he traveled all over Texas holding revival meetings. Families would travel long distances by buggy to hear him preach. My grandmother adored him. She was the perfect preacher's wife. They were married in 1904 and raised five children. They had a long and happy marriage.
I was excited when my cousin gave me the photo album from their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Along with the old pictures the album contains many cards and letters from well wishers. They were all addressed to Brother Fowler and wife. (All grown-ups in the church of my childhood were referred to as Brother or Sister.) When I found the letter my grandfather wrote to my grandmother on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary I was eager to see what he had said. It seems like a strange and sad love letter to me. I have copied his handwritten letter. How do you feel about this love letter?
“To My Beloved and Faithful Wife 50 years ago today
At first that my seem a long time, but yet the years have passed so swiftly it seems but a little while. Many have been your trials and great have been the disappointments of your life. I wish it were otherwise, but I can not go back to the yesterdays of our life and correct them. The best I know that is left for for me to do is, “I pray that you may have the grace to forgive all the many mistakes I have made.”
The days of our life have been busy days, filled with toil and troubles, yet I am glad to have had you as my companion in it all. I know you have done your part well and faithfully.
The days of our “tomorrow,” at best, can not be many and they will soon be spent. Until the silver cord is broken (loosed) let us try to be cheerful and helpful to each other. May our last days be our best days together. We have climbed the hill of life to the point from which we are able to see far back over the valley of the past where lies the regrets of many things that tend to grieve us, but forgetting these things let us look ahead to the better things further up the way that leads to him who is our life and our our hope. We do not now see him in his fullness but soon he will appear and then we shall see him as he is and then our vile and wrinkled bodies shall be changed and we shall be made like unto the glorious Lord who all along life's way has been watching and waiting for our coming.
It is my hope that the sum of our lives together may be a heritage to our beloved children for whose lives we have a great responsibility.
May we be able to remember all the virtues in the lives of each other and forgive and forget all the vices of whatever nature they may have been.
I know not what you would appreciate most that I might give you on this memorial day, therefore accept this and with it get for yourself whatever will please you most.
I'm looking out the window at another school-closing snow. I'm very grateful to be looking at this snow from the windows of home. Maryland is better prepared to handle snow than Tennessee where it almost never snows. After two days the interstate and main roads there were cleared, but the side streets were never plowed. People in Tennessee don't own snow shovels and we never saw a cleared driveway. It seems they just wait for the snow to melt.
Our winter road trip through the deep south was a wonderful experience. Each day was different from the day before, full of different sights and emotions. It will take me a while to sort out the stories from this trip.
The best part of our journey was visiting friends and family that we seldom see. People are what make life's journey so interesting. After spending two night's snowbound in a lovely Hampton Inn we finally ventured out and made it to the home of our good friends, Guy and Joanne. We have been friends for forty-five years. When we saw one another the years fell away and we talked non-stop until sleep overtook us. It was so good to see them. We had to intended to see several other friends in Nashville, but the storm made that impossible. Maybe next time.
Our most unusual visit was with my first cousin, Dot. Last time I saw her she was an infant and I was a young teen. She grew up in Alabama. I grew up in California. We had very different childhoods and have led very different lives. Although she has memories of my mom, she has no memories of me. We had completely lost touch until last year when through the wonders of a facebook we found each other and began to get acquainted. We met at a restaurant in Birmingham where we talked until the place closed and they made us leave. It was so much to fun to learn family stories that I had never heard. She gave me a wonderful gift, a photo album from my grandparents golden anniversary party. It contains pictures of me, age sixteen, in charge of the guest book on that occasion. The cards and letters it contains are definitely from another time. I will have to share them in another post. The letter from my grandfather to my grandmother seemed sad and strange to me.
When was the last time you visited with old friends or long-lost relatives?