Rosalee’s prize

He was her alligator, fair and square. She’d won him at the county fair some ten years back. It was just a little thing then, of course, but it was the only prize she’d ever won, so she kept him. Most of the kids at that ball toss game on the midway simply took their prize (if that’s what you could call it) to the lake which ran beside the fairgrounds and let it go free. Most had been talked into this by their mothers who quickly saw the impracticality of such a pet. The barkers took advantage of this and simply re-captured the little terrors at a bend further down the lake so as not to be noticed by the punters. This is why this particular game wasn’t rigged like the rest of the tests of skill on the midway. Nearly everybody won at this stall. It didn’t cost them anything in prizes and they made plenty in tokens to play.

But Rosalee didn’t know anything about this. All she knew was that she’d won something for the first time in her life and it felt good. She didn’t care that it was an alligator. All she cared about was that her luck had finally turned and she was going to ride that train for as long as possible. She made a little wood and wire cage for her alligator so she could take him with her wherever she went. Her second grade teacher was amused that first day and decided to incorporate it into the science module of the day. The whole class learned the difference between alligators and crocodiles, learned what kind of food they preferred, learned how to take care of them. The second day her teacher wasn’t as amused. By the end of the week she politely asked Rosalee to leave him at home from now on, the lesson was over and the joke had worn thin. But Rosalee wasn’t budging. He was her good luck charm and she had no intention of ever being more than a few feet away from him. They reached a compromise and put her in a desk next to the window. Her father was somehow roped into cobbling together a pen for the ever-growing beast that was situated just outside. They could both see each other, and she could even reach out her hand and stroke its rough scales.

Rosalee was the only person who could pet the alligator. Everybody else he snapped at – especially the vet. She took him to her family vet for the first check up and all the cats and dogs in the waiting room huddled under their owner’s chairs while Rosalee was filling out the forms. When she got to the part on the form for the “name” for the alligator, she stopped. She didn’t know his name. He’d never told her, but then again she’d not thought to ask. She didn’t think now was a good time, a name being such a private thing and this being such a public place, so she wrote “None Yet.”

20 minutes later the nurse called out “Nunyette”. Rosalee looked around, noticed nobody else got up, looked at the nurse holding her clipboard, noticed her hand waiving her into the hallway where the exam rooms were. The nurse was all smiles until she noticed it was an alligator in tow. He was on a leash, as per office policy, but she was still apprehensive.

The alligator was well behaved up until the vet tried to take his temperature. They never went back. It was either that or be sued. 

It turned out the alligator was a better prize than Rosalee could’ve ever expected. He was a good protector, didn’t need any entertaining, and caught all his own food. She didn’t think of him as a pet, but she sure didn’t think of him as her “baby” like some did about their animal companions. Ten years later she took him to the town‘s grand coming-out fête as her date. She knew it would mean she’d never get an invitation to join the Junior League, but she was OK with that.

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A is for Astronaut

She’d always wanted to be an astronaut, ever since she discovered that plastic helmet in her grandparent’s attic. It had a green visor that turned the world a magical, alien color when she put it on her head. It was so much more than wearing tinted sunglasses. Everywhere she looked was altered. There was no “normal” sneaking in her peripheral vision. That was covered with the helmet. Sounds were different too – more muffled, more distant. It made her feel safer, more peaceful, more powerful to wear it.

She was born in a time before there were words for what she was. “Gifted” they knew for sure, but there was more. She was sensitive, perhaps overly so. Now she would say it was a gift to feel in an unfeeling world, but then she thought it a challenge, if not a curse. It was hard to keep friends. She made them like anyone else. It was easy in the jumble that was public school. People became friends easily, often for no other reason than survival. They joined up out of some instinct that said it was dangerous to go alone into that minefield of strange rules and stranger adults. Best to connect with others who are equally lost or oppressed. This is why cliques formed after all. Once the obvious groups were created by hobby or skill, what was often left were the oddballs, the misfits, the loners. They connected as a way of self-protection, an unspoken union with no dues or representatives

She’d fit in these groups for about a month or so, just long enough for her or them to quietly decide that there wasn’t a fit after all and one side or the other would quit spending time with each other. Thankfully this was before the era of social media, or as she thought of it now, anti-social media.

She was 50 now – far past the age of recruits to astronaut school. She was in good shape and probably could have endured the training, but it wasn’t even an option. Or so she thought. She looked it up. There were no age restrictions. The oldest so far was 46. She’d been telling herself “no” without even asking the question. She just assumed it wasn’t possible, so for her, it wasn’t. Maybe deep down her former friends knew this about her – knew her lonely fear of failure, her feckless worry. Perhaps they were afraid of catching her secret disease of failing before she even began.

But she was a different person now. There had been growth on her part. It was a blend of self-help books and counseling that finally pushed her over the edge of her fear. It was like she’d been forever standing at the cliffside, afraid of falling to her death – all the while not realizing she had wings.

How could birds know they were birds after all? Their wings were behind them. Their mothers appeared as if by magic. How could they know they too had that same magic, waiting to be revealed?

Perhaps her fair-weather friends had done her a favor after all, without even realizing it. By quietly abandoning her, she’d learned to value her own company. She’d learned how to be her own friend and how to take care of things herself. These turned out to be valuable traits in an astronaut.

Because now that is exactly what she was determined to become. She applied to the program, confident and beaming. She saved up her money and quit her job so she could commit all her energy to this. There was no backing out. There was no Plan B. It was A for Astronaut all the way. The moon (at least) or bust. No glass ceiling for her – she was going to smash through it with her rocketship.

The program had changed a lot since she had first looked into it. Every few years she’d read about astronauts or space and think of it as a loss love, or perhaps a lost dream. Now it was far less physically demanding and far more mental and emotional – and perhaps even spiritual. Now they didn’t have to endure many G-Forces, being spun about in centrifuges to ensure they could survive the ordeal of acceleration and reentry. No, being an astronaut was a lot easier since the invention of the Hop. Just strap the Hop onto your wrist, set the dials, and away you went. Within a matter of the blink of an eye you were there instead of here. Scientist’s weren’t sure how it worked, but they’d said the same about prescription drugs for years and that never stopped them. All they knew was that they got the results they were looking for.

All she was looking for was a chance, so they gave it to her. Training now was about how to interact with aliens on other planets. Of course, they weren’t “aliens” while on their home planet. She was. She was the odd one out, the anomaly when she was there. She was the one who had to adapt well enough to observe them and be able to return home in one piece. You never knew what might happen. Just judging how earth people treated their alien visitors, she knew anything was possible, so it was important to be as nonthreatening as possible.

It wasn’t possible to assume that the environment would be hospitable. She’d have to wear a spacesuit to protect against air that wasn’t of the right balance of gases for human, or ultraviolet rays that were too harsh, or gravity that was too high or too low. The spaceship had to become the spacesuit – able to provide a protective shell around the person to make it possible to explore in safety.

The government had long ago given up the idea of a space program, so it was handled by other private investors. They were generally in the tourist trade or in real estate, looking for a place for humans to go when they got bored.

So now she was testing out the suit in New York City. It wasn’t New New York – that was in Proxima Centauri 4, of course. But she had to practice somewhere, and you couldn’t get more alien than a big city that was populated with all sorts of people. So she’d Hop to New York or Nashville, or Mumbai or Mongolia, walking around and trying to interact with people. Part of it was getting used to being stared at and not reacting.

The suits had built-in translators, thankfully, but that only went so far. She had to understand the meaning beneath the words – the true message that was being conveyed. That would prove to be the most useful trait of any astronaut, and that was the one skill that couldn’t be taught. But it was hard to test for too. You couldn’t just ask someone if they could get along with anyone. Of course they’d say yes. It had to be proven, time and again, through various experiments, like what she was doing now.

Long ago, the space program gave precedence to ex-military for their astronauts. These days, they discovered that ex-retail was the best way to go. Those people had to know how to be diplomatic at all times, and how to keep the peace without a weapon. Not true with military folk, who were used to solving problems with their weapons instead of their words. Peaceful coexistence was the goal – not colonizing. They learned long ago that it was best to work and live together with a variety of beings. Too much homogeneity led to stagnation, an endless loop that would spiral back in on itself eventually, strangling ideas.

Healthy list

We had a “Commit to Fit” challenge at work recently. Here is the list of all the different activities. We were to do one a day. All of these are good options for getting and staying healthy.

Eat 5 servings of fruit/vegetables

Try a new healthy recipe.

Meatless Monday

Schedule an annual exam.

Write a gratitude list

Try an alternate form of transportation.

Dance Party to your favorite song.

Take a 20 minute walk.

Sleep 7-8 hours

Try a new exercise.

Screen Free after 8 pm.

Take your blood pressure.

20 minutes of reading.

Drink 64 ounces of water.

Floss.

Break from Social Media.

20 minutes of silence or meditation.

“Invisible house series” book list

Beecroft, Julian  Lost Cities: Beauty in Desolation

Bonnett, Alastair  Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

cummings, e e    The poem titled [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]      I especially like this poem as sung by Michael Hedges on his album “Taproot”

Goldsworthy, Andy   Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature   Anything by Andy Goldsworthy speaks to the nature of impermanence. This Scottish artist creates his work with whatever he finds on his walks in nature. He photographs them, and then they return to their natural state.

Harmon, Katharine You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination

Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment

Hughes, T. John Apparitions: Architecture That Has Disappeared From Our Cities This book overlaps “then” with “now”, showing ghost outlines of buildings that were demolished to make way for new ones.

Jones, Diana Wynne   Howl’s Moving Castle   This is part of a trilogy. This has also been made into a movie by the famous Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. It features a house that walks around.

Miéville, China   The City & the City  An intriguing speculative fiction story of two cities that exist in the same physical space but have entirely different cultures, languages, and habits.

Rives, T.M.         Secret New York – An Unusual Guide. Local Guides by Local People This has some nice examples of pocket parks and other overlooked negative spaces.

An open letter to the Church

I want a church that gets upset and riled up about homelessness instead of homosexuality. I want a church that makes sure people have a place to sleep, instead of caring who they sleep with.

Homosexuality isn’t the church’s concern.  Helping people is. 

So many churches don’t want to include gay people, for fear of losing their members.  They don’t want to upset them. Have you ever wondered why?

I like that Jesus was totally fine with upsetting the status quo. He pointed out people’s hypocrisy all the time. He was fine with having just a few people who “got” him. Part of that is because he wasn’t interested in money at all.

So many churches would fold if they started telling the truth and insisting their members not be bigots. So they say the “nice” thing instead of the right thing, out of fear. But perfect love casts out fear – as long as it is love of God and not of money.

“Thoughts and prayers” have never been enough. Jesus acted. He was hands-on when it came time to help people. The church is called to do much more than “love Jesus” – we are called to take his place in healing and reconciling.

I wonder how much of the decision of the United Methodist Church to not allow gay people to be ordained was influenced by what happened when the Episcopal Church installed an openly gay bishop. That divided the church and lots of people left.

I like to ask people to quote from anything Jesus said about homosexuality – – – and they can’t answer, because he didn’t say anything about it. He said a lot about loving and serving people, and a lot about not judging, and nothing about homosexuality. That indicates what our focus should and shouldn’t be on.

How about when everybody is housed, and nobody is hungry or addicted or imprisoned – then we can discuss who has sex with who. (Translation, we will never have that discussion, because the poor will always be with us). Our job is to show love, period.

We are Daughters and Sons of God.

We are all created by God – but more importantly, we are God’s daughters and sons if we do God’s will. This is not to be taken lightly.  Do you think of yourself as God’s child – really?

Any person who chooses to serve God – and does it, is a “Chosen” person. It isn’t a birthright, but something that is available to people of all nationalities.

Exodus 19:3-6

Moses went up the mountain to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain: “This is what you must say to the house of Jacob, and explain to the Israelites: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

Note the conditional “if”.  If you listen to the Lord and follow the covenant, then you will be unique among all people of the Earth. The corollary to that is that if you don’t follow the Lord’s commandments, then you will not be special. Your commitment to doing what the Lord commands is what distinguishes you.

John 1:11-13

11 He came to His own,
and His own peopledid not receive Him.
12 But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to bechildren of God,
to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born,
not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man,
but of God.

Note that we can become children of God, namely daughters and sons of God.

Notice the Lord’s Prayer, to be found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. This is the Condensed Gospel rendition, which blends them together –

Jesus was praying, and when he was through, one of his disciples said to him “Lord, teach us how to pray, just like John taught his disciples.”

He said “You should pray like this:

Heavenly Father, we give honor to your holy name.

May your kingdom come soon.

May your will be done here on earth just like it is done in heaven.

Give us our bread for tomorrow,
and forgive our faults in the same way that we forgive the faults of others.

Do not cause us to be tempted, but instead rescue us from evil.

The kingdom and power and glory are all yours eternally. Amen.”

It starts with us saying that God is our Father. This is a bold statement. God is directly approachable by us. If God is our Father, we are daughters and sons of God.

Matthew 12:46-50

46 He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly His mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to Him. 47 Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” 48 But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

If you do God’s will, you are the brother or sister to Jesus.  If you are his brother or sister – you are a son or daughter of God.

Hebrews 2:11-12

11 For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying:

I will proclaim Your name to My brothers;
I will sing hymns to You in the congregation.

Jesus says he is directly related to his followers. 

See Psalm 51:16-17, 1 Samuel 15:22-23, Hebrews 13:16, Micah 6:6-8, Isaiah 58:3-11 for examples of what God wants. 

God isn’t interested in sacrifices.  All the detailed rules in Leviticus are about what kinds of offerings were appropriate in the time of the Temple.  But what God really wants is for us to take care of people. Who cares if you keep kosher or you cover your head if you ignore the needs of your neighbor who is hungry or homeless?

I’ve read before that atheists serve God better than many religious people.  They don’t think there is a divine being who will take care of people, so they know it is up to them. Actions speak louder than words.