Variations on my America (Excuse the Stereotypes, Please)


My partner Sara and I visited Southern Georgia last week—a town called Americus–a place that’s stereotypically small town America–America  in miniature–a place that, for me, is about  friendship, service, and fabulous feasting!

For many years Sara’s belonged to a group of female friends who call themselves the Breakfast Club—an assortment of bright and talented women who at one time or another worked in the world of international NGOs but originally met for breakfast on Saturday mornings at a place in Americus, Georgia called Kings Restaurant.

When Sara and I got together 5 years ago, I was inducted into this group of omeletpancakebacon-eating women, whether I wanted to be or not.  And, I must admit, I’ve never laughed harder or louder than I have with these funny and fun-loving female friends.

Though I’d gathered with members of the Breakfast Club in a number semi-exotic locations, before last week I’d never visited Americus, the group’s original home—something Sara and I refused to tolerate any longer.

But Americus, Georgia’s bigger claim to fame is Habitat for Humanity—an international NGO founded 35  years ago by Millard Fuller, an organization that builds decent, affordable homes in close to 100 countries around the world—an organization I’ve worked with closely: having my university students help build houses locally in Lexington; volunteering personally with the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in the Mekong; taking another group of writers to the slums of New Delhi where we worked with Habitat for Humanity India.

Habitat is an organization I’ve worked with around the globe, but one whose US home I’d also never seen—until last week.

(But I don’t want you to miss Americus either.)

So, today I offer a pictorial tour of Americus as I experienced it—a sleepy, Southern town of 17,000 near Plains, Georgia, still the home of former US president Jimmy Carter— in many ways a tour of stereotypical America in miniature.

First, the charming Victorian hotel, the 53 room Windsor, where we stayed, an image of Main Street, USA:

The Breakfast Club’s Saturday morning meal is now eaten at Granny’s Kitchen:

There a group of strong American women gather around one big table:

Later that evening we had dinner at Donna’s, a small ranch home common in American suburbs–something my non-American readers may never have visited.  Notice the mailbox:

We had a ball:

I also got to hug the famous peanut in Plains.  Remember, Jimmy Carter, who still lives there came from a family of peanut famers:

I discovered that one of the many buildings in Americus that houses Habitat for Humanity, the Rylander, used to be a car dealership.  Is there anything more stereotypically American than baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet?

I also learned that Habitat for Humanity industriously and ecomically prints all of its own publications—a massive work ethic in operation at the Sheffield Center:

We extended out stay in Southern Georgia by visiting Savannah and the seashore on Tybee Island:

But the best part of visiting Georgia remains returning to Kentucky.

So–as Sara’s sabbatical at home will soon be ending and we will soon be moving on to another (yet unknown) international location, I’m reminded that the best part about being away always involves returning home.

Though I know my America is not the America of many, for me, home remains American— as narrow as that America may be.

So, please excuse the stereotypes; I’m just enjoying home.

Saint Sara’s Celery and a Broth Debacle Averted


As Sara, the dogs and I struggle  to “suitcase”  a year’s worth of Haiti into a less-than-large shipping container (all in an effort to return to the US next week), please notice how our dog Lucy “assists” with the effort.  She has her paw in the sorting and boxing, packing and wrapping:

Lucy "helps" with the packing!

Lucy’s romp through our packing not withstanding, today, in the spirit of looking back and celebrating some of our biggest adventures  in Haiti, I bring you Part 2 of my Thanksgiving post.  (To read part 1 click here.)  Enjoy!

Yesterday, promising a series of posts this week about the difficulties Sara and I face trying to celebrate Thanksgiving from Port-au-Prince, I outlined what I called the “oven-related challenges” that could jeopardize our thankful feasting this Thursday.

Today, however, shopping-related issues take center stage—the consumer-driven hazards that could take down even the most well-intended and tradition-centered of holiday celebrations.  In fact, it may be that the more one tries to model any Thanksgiving feast in Haiti on the one Grandma would have catered, the larger the obstacles threatening it loom.

So, buyer beware.

Wisely, Sara and I anticipated some of these issues and brought back from the US several Thanksgiving menu items we thought might be needed—imagined we wouldn’t find here, even in the expat-oriented grocery stores in Petion-ville. 

But as you might expect (those of you who know my pathetic track record when it comes to poor packing), I anticipated incorrectly—finding here in Haiti what I did bring back but not bringing what I didn’t find.  Just my bad Thanksgiving luck!

Except for canned pumpkin—that is. 

Here I hit the pie-filling nail on its not-so-proverbial-pie-filling head.  I swear there’s not an ounce of Libby’s to be had on the whole of this damn island—cherry pie filling, yes—canned yams, yes—canned pumpkin in time for Thanksgiving pie-baking—no sir—none of it—anywhere.  And believe me, I have looked. 

But we need not worry.   I may not have a thermostatically controllable oven to bake the pie in, but I have a full 29 ounce can of “America’s Favorite Pumpkin” to put in it.

Now about the celery—

Here I should mention having a bit of scare yesterday morning trying to find this vegetable, almost as essential to stuffing as sage itself.  Standing in Giant Market (right here in Petion-ville), I came so close to a celery-induced heart attack, I was imagining, “What would Jesus do?”  What would the son of God himself (assuming he were a turkey-stuffing kind of carpenter) use in his stuffing were the stalks of stringy stuff not available?  If he turned water into wine, could he turn carrots into celery?

But, again, you need not fear, as Saint Sara herself performed the miracle, finally finding what she called a “not very robust” celery (but a celery-looking substance nonetheless) in the grocery store near her office. 

Catastrophe averted.  We are that much closer to a celery-ed stuffing inside our bird that’s to be roasted at a temperature the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will themselves determine.

Then there’s the chicken broth—

Yesterday Sara sent me to the super market for some cans of it, among other things.   Actually, Giant carried the item in both the Swanson and Campbell’s variety—the Swanson, carton-ed with no added MSG and the Campbell’s, canned with all the blood-pressure-raising MSG one would ever want.  And being a health-conscious, not-wanting-to-consume-excessive-amounts-of-salt American, I selected the broth without MSG.  In fact, I tried to check out with three cartons of the stuff, since Thanksgiving dinner calls for broth in both the gravy and as a moistening agent in any well-celery-ed stuffing.

Here’s the hitch.  Though the store stocked the Swanson’s (over-stocked it, in fact)—they wouldn’t sell it to me.  And, if sheer quantity were any indication, wouldn’t sell to anybody, for that matter.  They couldn’ t figure out the price.  So, when, after thirty minutes of trying to determine one, no member of the sales or management staff could still settle on the number of Gourde to make me pay, I suggested they charge me anything. 

“Over-charge me,” I even offered—a concept they seemed not to grasp—though they seem to get it well enough when selling products on the street and doubling the price when any non-Haitian tries to buy.

But undeterred and unwilling to waste any more of my time-is-money American minutes, I gave up, bought the cans of Campbell’s, and headed home, risking ill-health all the way.

So the bottom line is this— the shopping obstacles, though they were multiple and at times bizarre, did not obstruct in any hugely significant way.  These were more imagined obstacles than obstacles of real substance—

So Saint Sara, the wise and proper packer, was (as she is in all things) probably right about this, as well–

—Since the anticipated shopping obstacle was, like the celery itself . . .

. . . “not a very robust” obstacle after all.

Have you had any strange, even borderline bizarre, shopping experiences?

She Sheltered Me (In the Shelter of One Another, Part 2)


 

Today I’d like to welcome my friend and fellow writer Mindy Shannon Phelps to “Reinventing the Event Horizon.”  Mindy’s  guest post is also about “sheltering,” a topic explored in yesterday’s poem and one inherent to the recovery effort here in Haiti.  Mindy’s narrative negotiation of this issue–an event horizon of its own–is stunningly poised and powerfully moving.  (Mindy’s bio is below and her post “She Sheltered Me” just below that.  Mindy will personally respond to comments, so feel free to ask questions.) 

A journalist by training, Mindy Shannon Phelps is a project management and communications specialist.

Over the past 17 years, her clients have ranged from Habitat for Humanity 
International and the US Department of Justice to the FEI World Equestrian Games and the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship, which she launched in 2007.  As a consultant, she focuses primarily on not-for-profit organizations.

As a wife and mother, she says she is humbled by the grace and love of her two daughters and husband, who encourage her to “write it down.” She does write – prose and poetry – and she is an editor, as well.

Her maxim: “Woman hath no greater satisfaction than editing someone else’s copy.”

________________________________________________________________

She Sheltered Me

It was the spring of 2004 in one of the worst years – work wise – of my life. I had been hired to transform a well-known non-profit organization from an affiliate of the national group to a state-only organization.  The group’s mission was completely embraceable – justice and fairness for all – but the group was hamstrung by about 60 long-time stakeholders – board members and advisors and founders – who each decided to be my boss. I also had an entrenched staff that I simply could not manage.  My associate director made Machiavelli seem like a decent person.

I could not win for losing. 

One morning, on the drive to work, I stopped at Starbucks and stood in line behind a very odd person.  She was very colorful.  A black lady whom you could immediately recognize as being from Africa or the Caribbean.  Not used to the chill March weather.  Bright knit cap and scarf. Bangles and rings and clothing that seemed to surround, rather than actually fit, her body. Sneakers and thick socks. Carrying a knapsack and a small pair of bongo drums, she was about to beg the barista for coffee for one dollar. Before she got to the counter, she turned around to me and told me I was a “rainbow child” and that I blessed her with my smile. 

She turned to the counter and the barista refused her request.

She hurried out the door. I was troubled that I did not quickly step in and get her some coffee. But I could see that she frightened the clerk and the customers. And she, herself, was frightened.  So I got my own coffee and went on my little way.

She walked across the street and I overheard her asking for directions to Main Street. I really wanted to pick her up and debated with myself through a light change, then crossed lanes and stopped and offered a ride. 

We sat for a minute and chatted and she explained how she had traveled from Jamaica to live with her sister – had sold $2000 worth of jewelry that she makes – and her sister had taken her money. My passenger was headed to the Hyatt Regency downtown to stay the night.  Her sister had a reservation. 

You know, I like to think I at least try to take people at face value. But I’m just as shallow as they come, really.  I wasn’t sure I believed this woman’s story. Making it even more difficult were comments that interspersed her narration, such as, “but, you know, I am not worried because God takes care of me.  We are all His children and He loves us.  I used to be a rainbow but now I am here.” I was with her on God’s love but the rainbow metaphor was beyond my ken.

Then she told me something I had always believed. 

“We need to continually stay in prayer.” With that, she began reciting the Lord’s Prayer and I headed the car down the road.

When I got to Main Street, I pulled into a parking lot next to a bakery. I don’t know why I didn’t just take her all the way down to the Hyatt. It was as if I was dreaming and did not have control of the car. This is what she told me in that lot.

“God bless you.  Be on your guard. Satan has demons driving on the streets today.  You are under attack and you don’t know it.  You need to call on Michael. Do you know Michael, the archangel? He’s my angel and he will be your angel, too.  You are God’s child and He loves you. You and I will see each other soon in paradise. We’ll be so happy then!”

All of this, she repeats, several times.

I began to weep because she touched something I didn’t know needed comforting. My heart.

The lady from Jamaica had blessed me and she was of God; that I knew. And I think God was there in the car with us and so was Michael, the archangel.

Before she got out of the car, I fished into my wallet and gave her a fifty-dollar bill. It was my two-week “allowance.” I felt as if I were giving it to God.  

She cried when I handed it to her.

I never saw her again.

Top 10 Ways to be a Not-So-Normal American Couple


My partner Sara and I are beginning to lose touch—

Lose touch with what it means to be an even remotely “normal” American couple.  Some might say that’s not such a bad thing, but I promise you, we have gotten so far from the center of the bell curve, we can’t find the bell any more.  We can’t even hear it ringing in the distance.

So–in light of this loss, today, I bring you the top 10 ways you too can be the most un-American of American couples:

#10.  Station armed guards outside your house. 

This is sure to eliminate any and all illusions of privacy. 

(If you are new to the blog, my partner Sara and I live in Haiti where threats to security are common.  Click here to read a post about this.)

 

#9.  Argue frequently about how you will generate electricity. 

Sara and I have been known to have some of our hottest arguments around just how long we can safely run our generator, especially on days when we have no or very little electricity from the city. I don’t like to be hot.  Heat makes me irritable, bitchy, and stressed.  So during the hottest nights here in Haiti, I’ve wanted to keep the air conditioning on, or at the very least, a fan running—neither of which are possible without electricity or our generator running.

(To read an entire post dedicated to Haiti’s infrastructure issues click here.)

 

#8.  Do without television.  

Instead watch DVDs of “30-Something” for evening entertainment. I knew things were getting bad when over the weekend Sara and I watched back to back episodes of the show’s first season and felt like we were enjoying a special treat, hovering around Sara’s laptop like kids in front of Saturday morning cartoons.

“Oh, boy!” we exclaimed elbowing one another.  “Isn’t this great!”  We would have broken out the popcorn, if we had a microwave to pop it in.

 

#7.  Go to bed before dinner.

Not out of passion, but because you’ve become dreadfully boring and tire easily.

 

#6.  Have no hot water in your kitchen sink.

Not to mention no dish-washer.

 

#5. Develop an active fear of kidnapping.

On average—there’s a kidnapping a day in Port-au-Prince—usually of foreigners, often of ex-pats working for NGOs on earthquake reconstruction.  And in fact, a number of these kidnappings actually happen in Petion-ville, where we live, since most NGOs have set up their operations from this location.

Many ex-pats are kidnapped from their cars.  To alleviate that risk we drive with seatbelts on, windows up, doors locked.  It’s harder to be pulled from a vehicle that way.

 

#4.  Stage incidents of international canine trafficking.

I know most folks don’t traipse the planet, canine companions in tow, but Sara and I, for whatever reason, see fit to move our mutts to whichever corner of the globe is hosting the latest in earth-shaking disasters. 

For example, it was challenging to take a 40 pound, blonde terrier to Vietnam, where the meat of medium sized, light skinned canines is still considered a delicacy.  And though it ended well, concluded with Ralph arriving uneaten in Hanoi, it proved so crazy-making along the way, we “sanely” decided to bring him here to Haiti this past summer. 

However, that trip proved less eventful—except for his traveling companions on the flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince—the 10,000 chicks he still hasn’t stopped chirping about.

(For an entire post on pet-transport mishaps click here.)

 

#3.  Appreciate the difference between “trash” and “stash.”

Sara has “placement issues”—a problem she blames on her training as an architect and which she insists I knew about prior to our partnering and simply can not change.  Bottom line—Sara likes to arrange things: drawers, cupboards, closets, the contents of the refrigerator, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup arranged in tidy rows—like items lined up together—like soldiers—an army of condiments ready for edible action.  If an object doesn’t fall neatly into rank, the solution for Sara is simple—throw it in the trash.

I, on the other hand, tend to collect things—and not the kinds of things most would consider collectables, but which I gather in the name of “potential art”—items I prefer to call “collagables”—buttons, beads, ribbons, rocks, shells, business cards, bottle caps, maps, matchboxes, newspaper clippings, play bills, and, among other things, sales receipts—in my mind the most under-rated and readily available of all the collagables—a free gift with each purchase, so to speak.

Sara insists my stash is trash!

 

#2.  Agree on only one thing. 

That there are too many white people in America. 

On one of our recent trips back to the US what stood out to both of us most, even though our home is in an ethically-mixed neighborhood, was the overwhelming huge number of Caucasian in the city where we live.  At one point Sara turned to me in the grocery store produce isle and asked:  “What do you notice about being home?”  My response was immediate, “There are so many white people in America!  I had forgotten.”  It surprised us how quickly we both had become conditioned to what seems an appropriate ethnic mix.  We had made a shift that we noticed only when coming “home.”  If this can happen for us, it can happen for others.  Come join us.  Make the switch.

 

#1.  Be denied the right to marry.

This one I think speaks for itself, but if not please watch this video:

 

Sara reminds me, that though we don’t have the right to marry in Kentucky, we at least now have an openly gay mayor in Lexington, so that’s a step in the right direction.  (To  read about Jim Gray click here.) 

However, Sara also insists that, by far, the weirdest thing about us as couple is that I asked her to brainstorm with me about “what makes us weird as a couple.”  I’m not exactly sure what’s so weird about that, but Sara says my not recognizing the strangeness of that request makes it even weirder.  I don’t know.  You be the judge.

At any rate, remember that “normal” is a difficult to define category.  I appreciate that.  But if you recall the 1960s television sitcom, “The Odd Couple,” you’ll see that I’m not talking so much about individual issues that separate us from the crowd.  I’m looking at the entire constellation of individual quirks that combine to make a couple what most others would consider strange.  I’m looking at the “Odd Couple” factor, if you will.

Felix Unger and Oscar Madison epitomized for a generation of Americans just what it meant to be uniquely coupled in the 1960s.

But If Felix and Oscar were the not-so-average pair of heterosexual bachelors in the 60s, I would argue that Sara and I are the same for this decade’s no-where-near-single lesbian couple—a uniqueness not related in the least to the reality of sexual preference.

In fact, Sara and I give whole new meaning to the notion of “odd couple”—sexual orientation not withstanding.

We may be weird–

But we do want to wed!

What sets you and your partner apart from the crowd?  What makes a couple “weird” in the country  you call home?  Do gay and lesbian couple have the right to wed where you live?

Verizon Wireless is the Devil


(And I’m not even exaggerating.) 

This story is about the heartless and dishonest action taken by a company that claims to not only be “America’s largest and most reliable wireless network,” but also the one “more people trust.”

Clearly, America’s trust is ill-founded.  And I am about to show you why.

My partner Sara and I live in Haiti, where Sara directs the recovery operation for one of the world’s largest and most well-known international aid organizations.  I live in Port-au-Prince with her and blog about Haiti’s need for more relief, more aid, more care, more prayer.  Sara does the work.  I spread the word.

On the weekend of February 4th, Sara and I were in Miami for a long weekend away from the stress and strife, the grit and grime that is Port-au-Prince.  But before hitting the beach and soaking up the sun, we wanted to upgrade our phones and renew our Verizon Wireless contract.

Up until that Friday I had an unlimited international data plan for my mobile phone—something that was essential to my functioning in Haiti, where access to both electricity and wireless is limited.  I needed to upgrade my phone because I blog and the WordPress software I need was not available on the model of Blackberry I owned.  Sara also needed an equipment upgrade, since her BlackBerry had stopped working several months before.

Frustrated that our access to electricity in Haiti had not improved even a year after the earthquake, we stopped at a North Miami Verizon Wireless store on our way in from the airport.  We were eager; we were enthusiastic as we burst through the door and were greeted by a Verizon employee with, “Would you like to buy a Droid today?”

“No,” I sighed.  “Really, I’d prefer another Blackberry, perhaps the Storm.”

The Verizon representative was willing to show me the Blackberry but eager to point out how difficult it was to type from the touch screen.  He suggested I try. I did.  Indeed, it was difficult.

“Really,” he offered.  “The Droid 2 keyboard is more user-friendly and easier to operate.”

To make a long story short—

I tried the Droid.   I love the Droid.  Sara tried it.  She loved it.  We were sold.

We were in the store for close to two hours.  We explained our circumstances to our now friend from Jamaica, who understood our frustration, as he too had grown up on a Caribbean island.  We discussed my need to blog from my phone.  He even loaded the WordPress software for me and moved the icon to my home page for easy access.

He empathized.  He insisted the Droid was truly the answer to our data needs in Haiti.  He referred to the unlimited access to email and internet we would enjoy.  Things would be better.

Two hours later we left the North Miami Verizon Wireless store 2 Droids richer and $600 poorer—

Since, when we got back to Haiti the following Monday evening, we discovered we had no unlimited international data package. The phones were useless to us.  We spent $600 and, in doing so, lost the very feature that made the phones useful to us, in fact, essential to us.

We had been duped.

So the first thing Tuesday morning, I called Verizon to have the problem resolved.  I spoke with a “customer service” representative.  I spoke with 2 managers.

Finally, manager Lenora empathized with our situation and agreed to submit a claim to the “Inactive Pricing Committee. “

Now, 7 expensive phone calls to US “Customer Service” later (Verizon refuses to remove the roaming charges associated with those calls), I learned this morning that Verizon has denied our claim, because we bought Droids and the unlimited data package had only been available on Blackberries.

If only we would return our phones to the nearest Verizon store and trade them for Blackberries then the committee MIGHT be able to reconsider our claim.

Maybe the “customer service” representative offered we could mail our phones back to the US.

Yeah, right—mail 2 VERY expensive phones from a country that doesn’t have a national mail service.

Yeah, right—mail them safely from a country where we can’t even trust our own gardener not to steal our tools—not because he’s a dishonest thief, but because he is that desperate to feed his family and might be able to trade the hammer on the street for a handful of rice, a cup of beans.

We won’t be using these phones for economic gain.  Really, I‘d be a lot more comfortable blogging from the US, and Sara would be more relaxed if she weren’t trying to house the 1.3 million homeless Haitians living in Port-au-Prince.

We don’t make nearly enough money to pay the $70 per month for the 7 GB of data per phone that won’t come close to meeting our needs.

International aid work doesn’t pay well.  Blogging about Haiti pays nothing.

Bottom line—

Verizon refuses to restore the unlimited international data plan we had until February 4th, when a Verizon representative dishonestly persuaded us to buy Droids rather than the Blackberries our unlimited access to data depended on.

Verizon has essentially crippled us in our ability to function in Haiti.

Verizon may be the wireless company most Americans trust, but God forbid, the Haitian people place a similar trust in corporate America’s willingness to meet their needs.

Verizon insists there’s really nothing more they can do.

Verizon Wireless is the devil! 

(If you are willing, please pass along this story of corporate greed at the expense of the planet’s poor.  Please help me hold Verizon accountable.)

Not-so-instant replay


I’m preparing a post for next week about why Sara and I are weird as a couple.  (And the fact of the matter is, we are way, way weird.)  However, that new piece won’t mean as much if you haven’t read the one I’m re-posting below. 

I wrote what appears here only a few days into the life of this blog, so few of you will likely have seen it in its original incarnation.  It was called “Top 10 Reasons I’m Pretty Much a Freak.”  Hope it entertains you over the weekend.

Let’s face it.  I’m not normal.  My partner Sara has always said I was weird—actually her word was “eccentric”—but you get the picture.

At any rate, amid all the seriousness I face living in Haiti, I’ve decided to lighten things up here today by offering you the top ten reasons Sara still insists I’m what you could call—well—“quirky:”

#10.  Left to my own devices, I eat mostly from what my friend Milana and I call the “white food group.”  Edible items in this category include: baguettes, bagels, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, lots and lots of sugar—sugar cookies, cakes, unimaginable amounts of pie crust—and if I were a drinker, which I am not—wine!

#9.  I’m a double fisted drinker.  Not with wine, of course, but with hot and cold beverages, mostly hot tea, Lipton (though since we’ve come to Haiti, coffee has become an option), and Pepsi Max, when I can find it—(Coke Zero, otherwise).  Now, for me, this only works in one direction.  Namely, if I drink something hot, I have to have the cold cola to accompany it.  However, chilled drinks can stand alone—not always needing the hot accompaniment.

 #8.  I tend to collect things—and not the kinds of things most would consider collectables, but which I gather in the name of “potential art”—items I prefer to call “collagables”—buttons, beads, ribbons, rocks, shells, business cards, bottle caps, maps, matchboxes, newspaper clippings, play bills, and, among other things, sales receipts—in my mind the most under-rated and readily available of all the collagables—a free gift with each purchase, so to speak.

#7.  I have a lot of bags.  For a fairly inclusive cataloging, I refer you to a post from 13 July 2009  “Not dog on grass—Not bag on floor—Not bike on . . . .”

#6.  I never use a top sheet.  Don’t believe in them.  Never have.

#5.  I pretty much live with a saint— We’ll call her Saint Sara the Orderly.   (And I have saintly siblings, but I’ll leave that for a later post.)  Sara has “placement issues”—a problem she blames on her training as an architect and which she insists I knew about prior to our partnering and simply can not change, as they are, in fact, evidence of her Saintly origins—rituals of the Order, so to speak.  Bottom line—Sara likes to arrange things: drawers, cupboards, closets, the contents of the refrigerator, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup arranged in tidy rows—like items lined up together—like soldiers—an army of condiments ready for edible action.  Need I say more.

#4.  My partner does disaster response.  She’s a disaster response expert.  Now there aren’t a lot of these people on the planet (though there are quite a few of them in Haiti these days).  I believe (and you are free to disagree), that’s it’s the relative scarcity of this species that makes disasters so, well, “disastrous.”  In all seriousness, I’m grateful that Sara does this kind of work.  It helps make meaning in our lives.   And though that “meaning” often means traveling a lot, we’re not exactly heading to what most would call “vacation destinations.”

#3.  My mother wears clothes pins as fashion accessories.  Actually, at age 72 she uses them as a mnemonic device, so let’s not get all uptight about this one.  However, for further discussion of this semi-strange sartorial habit, I refer you to a post from several days ago called, “Airing Family Secrets Via Haute Couture.”

#2.  I taught at Oral Roberts University.  This may speak for itself—except that I might mention having arrived on campus in 1986, just after Oral sequestered himself in the Prayer Tower for a number of weeks, claiming God was going to “bring him home” if believers didn’t donate 6 million dollars.   I know some of you may be too young to remember this, but it’s true.  He did it.  I was there.  And the play the drama department performed that semester just happened to be—“Death of a Salesman”—I kid you not!

#1.  My father was in the mafia–pretty much, that’s what it boils down to—Enough said.

Now, none of these items in and of themselves makes one weird—not even two or three.  It’s the global picture I’m getting at.

And I haven’t even included here the biggest reason I’m a weirdo.  But, let’s face it folks, we don’t know one another well enough yet for me to share all my secrets.  It seems though the picture’s becoming clearer—

Bottom line–I’m pretty much a freak. 

How about you?