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The last leg of our vacation was a trip home to visit my mother.  I am writing this to process my frustration into gratitude.  Given the distance between us, her in Chicago and me in Minneapolis I only see her two times a year.  Our quality time always involves a project.  So this year my job was to put back all of the various pictures on her shelves in the corner where her bed is.  Now this does not sound like a huge job even if you factor in her smoking which means everything had to be wiped off.  What makes it a big job is the fact that my mother is almost blind because of macular degeneration and can barely walk because she never got her hips fixed.  Because she is almost blind she cannot really see the precious things and pictures I am putting on these shelves so it is important that I put them back close to the exact same position they were in when she could see them so that she can see them in her memory when she looks at them.  This requires that we talk about each and every picture and sentimental object.  Now if I was a different person this could be sped up.  Because what happens is that my mother will say things that open a window to her rather narcissistic  psyche.  In fairness to my mother she is the kind of narcissist who will acknowledge she thinks its all about her just before she says “look at me”.  Now if I could just ignore these things and let them go and not challenge her perspective this would be relatively painless.  But that is not who I am.  I have always been the one that says “what are you talking about ” or “look there is an elephant in the room”.  So we processed and we processed.  And I learned something.  I think the secret in aging well is to never forget that happiness comes from a life dedicated to giving and not receiving.  You cannot nor should you rely on relationships which are based solely on obligation or age.  You must always be part of the relationship in a mutual way.  To do this you have to at some point find your worth within.  Your worth comes from your contribution not the recognition of that contribution.   


The other day I stopped to give someone who was asking for money on the corner a buck.  He took it and then blessed my car with it with the sign of the cross.  He was obviously very drunk and fell down.  This only impressed me more that he was present enough to bless my car.


So I’m leaving a parking ramp by the courthouse in St. Paul today.  As I drive up I hand this large beautiful black women my credit card and ticket.  She says the credit card machine is broke.  And I say “well honey what are we going to do” in a very head waitress kind of tone.  She says, well since I don’t really care that much this is what I’m going to do, as she just lets me go without paying, all along repeating what I said in admiration, “well honey, what are we going to do.”  Bye Honey, she says. 

Felt like one of my angels dropped by to say hello.


For the family reunion up in Itasca a couple of weeks ago I brought about half of my beads so that my young nieces could make some jewelry.  They loved it.  When we go home I forgot to take them in the house and someone broke in the car and stole them.  I felt violated.  I posted it on Facebook.  As a result my friend Donna gave me almost her entire collection of beads.  She said they were a burden because she wasn’t using them.  I brought them home and for the last couple of weeks I have been sorting them in containers.  I am nearly finished.  It turns out that she has given me twice as much as I lost.  The quality is the same or better.  Semiprecious stones and glass.  The gratitude is impossible to escape.  I am overwhelmed.  I have always know that gratitude is a powerful force and a divine path but I have learned something more about it.  Its not just that Gratitude is the right thing to feel in a moral sense.  Its that when you are consumed with gratitude there is no room for other emotions that are harmful.  I think this is particularly true for arrogance.  Walking in gratitude demands humility. 


At Kris Blake’s memorial Paul was giving away Kris’ jewelry. I took the brass necklace that she always wore when she had a big meeting.  It was a brass chocker with brass spikes hanging front of it.  I always thought it looked pokey.  It gave her strength.  It has been sitting in my necklace bowl for a month.  Last week I was looking at another day of trial in front of a biased Judge and I thought “maybe if I wear Kris’ necklace.  Well I did.  I don’t know if it was Kris, my prayer or the necklace but I felt that I invoked something that came to my aid.  I was walking with Goddess.


This is basically what I said today at Kris Blake’s Memorial:

Kris told me this story about her Dad.  One day her dad was driving and he was behind a car merging onto another street and there was a yield sign.  The car was not moving so he yells “It says yield not surrender”.  Well that’s Kris.  Now in her glory days when she was kicking ass and taking names I don’t remember her yielding much less surrendering.  There were sometimes when I would give her that look “you have to stop that right now” but I think she would just hide it better and not really yield.

    Kris changed politics in this state.  Back in 1987 we had had significant progressive leaders like Hubert Humphrey but we didn’t have the grassroots movement we have today.  Kris always saw the potential in any situation and when she saw Jesse Jackson’s campaign for President she knew she could build a movement and she did.  She was the first one to say that Paul Wellstone could be a Senator.  She changed politics. 

And she created big magic wherever she went.  With Kris it was always everything you needed plus balloons.  She always knew what was needed to make the magic.  Back when the river flooded and all around this house was water knee deep Kris made sure there was a boat.  Now most people would have left the God damn boat in the river but not Kris.  She made sure the boat was by the house so she could give rides.  And we took a boat ride and watched carp jump out of the water where the street was.

Now we all know she had her demons.  And when she was driving that car fast those demons stayed in the back seat.  But at some point they crawled up into the front seat to stay.  Now that broke my heart.  And I was thinking this morning how I was going to talk about it and I thought…. How do you measure a life.  I think you measure it in volume.  How much magic, how much accomplished, how many lives changed.  And when I think about that I realized that I have to live many years to come close to what Kris accomplished and so do all of you.



Giver of Life and Redemption

We cling to your promise that light will always conquer the darkness

Sometime we cling so tight that we forget that it is our work for Justice and Truth

that fulfills the promise.

May we always remember that it is in the work that we find hope.



“It helps now and then, to step back and take a long view.  The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.”  Archbishop Oscar A. Romero

The Kingdom of God that Christ referenced was not a reference to the afterlife.  He was referring to the creation of community on Earth that mirrors God’s vision for us.   Although I agree with Archbishop Romero that the Kingdom is beyond our vision and take great comfort from his words, sometimes I can see the Kingdom.

Today was one of those days.  I accompanied Congressman Keith Ellison to Peace House. Peace House is a spiritual home for the homeless.  It was started by Sister Rose and other members of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  For 27 years it has been housed in a tiny building on Franklin Ave just East of 35W.  I have been trying to schedule a time for Keith to visit Peace House for the last couple of months.  We have had to reschedule a couple of times and ended up with today.  Today, which just happens to be Holy Thursday.  Holy Thursday is the day of the Last Supper the day Christ celebrated Passover.  It is often celebrated with the ritual of the washing of the feet. 

So here I am with Keith Ellison at Peace House.  The room is smaller than my living room probably 12 by 15.  There are 40 people there.  A mixture of volunteers and “clients”, many not obvious as to which group they belonged sat in a circle around a table that served as an altar.  The “program” included a reading from Rumi, a symbolic “washing of the feet”, passing of the bread and singing.  At one point someone stood and lit tea candles on the altar while people called out things or people they wanted everyone to pray for.  Everyone was equal in stature, intellect and contribution.  The mixture of race, class and gender was like a weave.  Like one of those my daughter brought back from Bolivia.

At this moment I wish I could write poetry.  I think that poetry is the only way to describe the divine.  But I can’t write poetry. So all I can say is that the moment when everyone there were asking for prayers the wonder of creation was present.  It was displayed in the differences and the similarities.  In the contrasts and likenesses. 

Then we sang “This Little Light of Mine”.  When we were asked if we were staying for dinner I didn’t give Keith time to be pulled by his schedule I just said yes.

He confessed after we left that his schedule had made him question coming and was so glad he was there. 

I have supported Peace House in small ways for years.  I have always dropped off my gifts for Christmas and left. I was afraid. I was probably afraid of this. Afterall confronting the Kingdom of God can sometime interfere with your schedule. I now know where I will be celebrating Holy Thursday next year. 

“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.  This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.  It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way and opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.” Archbishop Romero.



I am shy about even writing about this because of the left hand right hand thing, but I don’t want to forget.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I always give at the entrance to the freeway. Usually it’s a dollar. I try to tithe. So if I have a bunch of money in my wallet I give more. I am always reminded of Mathew 25 whenever I give. But sometimes more than others. Recently two things happened that made Mathew 25 truly real to me.

I was getting gas at the neighborhood gas station. A Native American man came walking over and asked the African American woman next to me. “Sister do you have a dollar so I can buy some rolling papers for my tobacco” She ignored him. He cautiously turned to me. I emptied my pockets and gave him about $2.50. He was shocked. He lifted up the money like a host and said “Jesus Christ”. He then thanked me and hugged me.

I was driving down Lake Street and there was a man with a sign asking for money. I rolled down my window. All I had was twenties and I had about 4. I gave him one. He took a double take and said.” I wasn’t expecting that and then said. “You know why God made women second… because any true artist does a practice piece before they make the masterpiece.”

Not everything in the Bible is divine truth but some is.



The other day I flew to Chicago, rented a car, drove to Chesterton Indiana all to attend the burial of my Aunt Nita. I have always been someone who does these things. The rule of Reverend Cox handed down through my mother – ” You don’t regret the things you do half as much as those you don’t” I always felt was divine truth. I have a long list of magic created because I bothered to show up. Like hearing Doris tell me the story of her Dad’s death and how she guided him to the light. A story I would not have heard if I hadn’t gotten up at 5 and drove through a snow storm 3 hours to Chisholm.

But I was still second guessing a little last Friday, we had plans for the weekend, I would need to leave super early Monday morning, I hadn’t seen some of these family members in over 30 years. The nagging “oh maybe it’s too much trouble”s were coming to visit. Then I looked on Facebook to read a story posted by a friend about the “Elephant Whisperer” who worked tirelessly to save Elephants in South Africa. Two days after his death 35 elephants showed up at his house. They stayed for two days and then left. I was reminded of the importance of showing up. The honoring the dead by your presence by your testament. There is something divine something life giving.

So I got up at 4:00 a.m. drove to the airport, to discover my flight was delayed two hours. I got to Chicago rented a car and drove out to Chesterton. I was a little early so I drove to the Lake.

That was enough for me.

At the grave site I greeted my cousins (a term used loosely in my family. They were second cousins once removed and my Aunt Nita was my father’s cousin in law). I stood waiting for the service. The funeral director was asking everyone if they had signed the book. The couple in front of me both asked the other “did you sign the book”. Did you sign the book? Isn’t that the big question in life? Did you sign the book? In other words… Did you show up?