Thursday, September 18, 2008

Surreal Transportation Experience

The circumstances of my life have been a bit complex lately since DH has gone back to grad school and has an unpredictable schedule at times. We learn to adapt and roll with the punches. This is all very fun for me to watch the transformation in myself from someone who had to control every detail of every situation to someone who can roll with the punches and doesn't have to be in control. My transportation in the past few days has been that way. I didn't make any reservations for my transportation in Atlanta and discovered that MARTA works and is economical. Gosh I love public transportation and really hate the fact that we don't have that in in Kansas City.

Well here's the story.

DH drove me to the airport for my flight on Monday. The PLAN was that he would pick me up when my flight got back in on Wednesday late afternoon, but I didn't plan well. DH's schedule did not allow for me to be picked up in a timely manner. Because the airport is nearly in southern Iowa (yes, I know that is a exaggeration and I live on the other side of the metro from the airport)it takes 45 minutes to an hour to get the airport from where DH was working and we live.

So from Atlanta, I was trying to arrange transport home so I wouldn't end up sitting in the airport at KC for 3 hours. The MCI website is laid out well, EXCEPT there is no options for PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, because public transportation in Kansas City doesn't really exist.

Well I calculated what a cab would cost from the airport to my house (nearly 50 miles one way trip). A shuttle (van) wasn't much cheaper, and I emailed from Atlanta a car/limo service and they were competitive with a shared shuttle van and the cab. So I contracted with a car service for a TOWN CAR to pick me up at the airport.

I was met at the gate by a well groomed and helpful driver who handled my bags. Now remember I'm pretty much a do it yourself gal. Independent and self sufficient.

What I got when I collected my bags was the surprise of my life. A stretch limo. Now I have always fantasied about riding in a stretch limo. Riding in a stretch limo is on my list of things to do in my life. So as we walked to the waiting limo, the driver put my bags in the trunk and I must have had this weird look on my face because he said "don't ask me, they just sent me up here in this."

So for 45 minutes I got to ride in the lap of luxury in the back of this limo. I had my camera with me and took pictures. This was just too surreal. Nothing I ever expected and something that will never happen again.

Now please don't get me wrong. I loved my limo ride. I'm so glad I had my digital camera to document the moment. I know I paid dearly for this experience but I wouldn't trade this 'be nice to me' experience for anything. And I realize that I was able to have this wonderful experience because of privilege and that this option of airport transport would not be accessible to those who did not have computer access to make arrangements, a phone to make the call, or $$$ to pay.

I've been thinking a lot about how Kansas City needs good public transportation for a number of reasons and that the powers that be in this city just don't get it. I was unable to access any usable information on public transportation to and from the airport. There was information on cabs $2.50 flat rate for the first mile and then $2.00 for each additional mile. Car services and van/shuttles are competitive with taxis. Parking at the airport is $18.00 a day in the garage (many women with early and late flights like the garage for safety reasons). The least expensive surface lot is $7.50 at the airport and I don't know what the off site surface lots run, but I do know they don't have shuttle from the lot at the ungodly hour I had to arrive for my flight.

On my next trip I will think through the parking/transport better. I usually can get a ride and pick up, but in this case I couldn't. I've driven myself and parked on past flights - which is also expensive. Driving myself and parking would have cost $54.00. About $30.00 less than a taxi. All of this is sure a lot more costly than the $1.75 I paid in Atlanta to get from the airport to Columbia Seminary.

No wonder Kansas City doesn't have business clamoring to move here. It costs too much to do business in this city because there is no PUBLIC Transportation and the PUBLIC Good is not considered.

Public Art

I love public art and when I get the opportunity to enjoy public art it always brings a smile to my face. In the Atlanta Hartsfelt-Jackson International Airport there is a wonderful permanent exhibit of stone sculptures done by several artists from Zimbabwe.

I really enjoyed this exhibit when I was in Atlanta on Monday.

When I left on Wednesday, I saw this hidden public art in the baggage claim area. The ants are just so fun and of course those folks who are too busy to take time to observe the details of their surroundings would probably miss these ants.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I love decent, affordable, public transportation

I'm attending a three day continuing education event at Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. Decatur is a north eastern suburb of Atlanta. So I left my house at the undgodly hour of 3:45 am to drive to the St. Joseph/Kansas City international airport, which is 45 minutes from my house (at that hour...not rush hour where it might take double that amount of time) to catch my 5:40 am flight. Kansas City does not believe in public transportation. I've lived in two other cities, one larger and one smaller, and I could go from where I lived to the airport with no difficulty, but NO in Kansas Ciy you have to drive everywhere. Now I like to drive, but not everyone can afford a car. A car in many cultures is a luxury.

Well I arrived in Altanta, was treated to a wonderful public art exihibt in the airport, picked up my bag, bought a BREEZE ticket for $1.75. Yes $1.75 and that little ticket got me from the airport to the front gate of the seminary in about an hour. I had a wonderful time watching scenery and there was even a bird that few into the underground and perched on a sign in the Five Points Station stop.

Gotta love a city with decent public transportation. Can I take MARTA home with me?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Tribute to my Mother

My mom’s been gone for nearly seven years. When she was alive we had an interesting relationship. We didn’t always get along, but toward the end of her life, we came to many understandings that allowed us to have what I consider a healthy relationship. We began to understand each other and each others quirks. September is always a sad month for me because in 2001 I spent most of the month in Minnesota. My sister and I had to deal with her hospitalization, moving her to a nursing home on 9/11 (yes THE 9/11) and her death on the 17th and Memorial Service on the 20th. Not a fun month.

When I was in High School I took a creative writing class as I thought I might want to be a writer, but was discouraged because the teacher, who shall remain un-named, didn’t like my writing style. Having muckraker or tendencies toward going after things I didn’t like, I wrote a tribute to my father that went after the tobacco and smoking that caused his cancer and ultimate death. So taking the advice of this ‘teacher’ I am writing a tribute to my mother and posting some pictures of her that show her in the best light.

My mother liked to garden. When I had outgrown my swing set, we tore it down and turned the space next to the garage into a garden plot. In the last five years of so of my mother’s life, she let the raspberry bushes take over the space and she grew the best raspberries. I looked forward to my summer treks north and the raspberries.

Mom loved her house and hated having her picture taken. So here is a picture of her on the front porch of the house where I grew up but she’s not happy because she is having her picture taken. That porch is important to me because it is where I spent my favorite time of day in the spring and the autumn. When I would come home from school, I’d go and sit on the porch and listen to music in the afternoon sun at 4:00 pm. 4:00 pm is still one of my favorite times of day. The house was important to my mother because it was a place where she felt safe and at home and could do her crafts, sew, and have friends in for coffee.

Here’s a picture of my mother as a 17 year old girl. She was beautiful – something I don’t think she ever ‘got.’ Since she had me when she was 46 (I was a late in life baby), I always remember her with a splotch of gray in the front and her dark brown/almost black hair. She was beautiful.

My mother had lots of friends. Here is a picture of her with two of her friends. Her friends and social activities kept her going. My mom was always busy doing something or going somewhere and I always remember the house being full of people who would stop by for coffee and a chat. Although she was 83 when she died, there was a huge turn-out for her funeral because she had so many friends. Being a friend is something I learned from my mom.

So today as I remember that difficult day of moving mom from the hospital to the nursing home, I also remember all that she was and all that she taught me and I celebrate her and her life.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

100 Facebook Friends

I opened a Facebook account in early July after returning from the General Assembly. I was inspired by our tech savy Moderator and how Facebook might be used in ministry. Today I hit 100 friends on Facebook. Not a big deal to most people, but for a middle-aged woman, who has been somewhat shy, it has been an interesting journey with Facebook. What is most interesting to me is who I have caught up with people from my past and the interesting things they are doing. I also don't just 'friend' everybody on FB. I know well over 90% of the people who are my friends on FB. Classmates from various points in my life, relatives (long lost cousins and those younger generation relatives - nephews and great nephew's and nieces). And for the argument "I'm too old to use the computer; Facebook; the internet = PHOOEY. I've bumped into one of the quilting ladies from the church I pastor and some retired pastor colleagues I knew back in the early days of ECUNET.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that folks I've friended on Facebook are people I know and people who I have had a sustained relationship at various times in my life. I'm kinda of amazed that I've hit 100 friends on Facebook and wanted to mark that milestone.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What is community organizing a Local KC Perspective

A Shout Out to Community Organizers

I really want to stay away from partisan politics in my blogging, but the GOP’s Vice Presidential nominee hit several of my hot buttons in her recent speech. Her speech was mean and she strikes me as a mean person and those who know me know I don’t like mean very much so I am struggling with ‘liking’ Ms. Palin. I guess there is enough of a pastor’s heart in me to also seek to love this person as a sister in Christ, since she claims to know the same Savior and Lord I do. I know I will be adding her to my prayer list.

The internal issue I am confronting, is my discomfort and feelings with the ‘dis’ I felt from Ms. Palin’s remarks. This for me is a perfect example of two people who claim the same faith not agreeing with each other. I also view one of the roles of a pastor as community organizer.

I took much umbrage wit Ms. Palin’s remarks about Community Organizers. There have been several really good rebuttals to her comments that Community Organizers don’t have any experience.

Having done community organizing, I know it is hard work. In reality community organizing is grass roots politics at its best. It is populist politics. It is getting people involved. Our local PICO group in Kansas City Communities Creating Opportunity is doing great stuff through the Churches, in much the same way the churches in south Chicago where Barack Obama worked did. The people of the community are becoming empowered to change their local communities.

What I find so interesting about this that there is a strong populist strain in Alaska politics and it seems that Ms. Palin’s remarks, upon further analysis, miss the role of community organizing in populist politics. Her remarks show that she really doesn’t know or understand the profession of community organizing or what a powerful tool it can be to bring about change. Ultimately this may come back to haunt her.

I would also like to remind all those out there that community organizing is not a partisan thing. Check out the boycotts that the American Family Association are launching via email against McDonalds for their support of what the AFA perceives to be corporate support of a ‘homosexual’ agenda. Also the Christian Coalition has effectively used community organizing techniques to mobilize the religious right. Obviously the speech writer for Ms. Palin didn’t do their homework on the history of a profession they were going discount. I need not say more, I will let my readers make their own conclusions.

Although historically associated with the ‘left’ community organizing has been effectively used by all parts of the political spectrum so I don’t want to hear garbage about it being a left wing or liberal thing. I just wanted to give a shout out to all the community organizers out there, your work is valuable and keep it up regardless of your political stripe. Community organizing is just good grass roots politics so bring it on.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's a MEAN world out there - Overcome it with Good

It doesn’t help that the sun has not shined for two day and the weather has turned autumn chilly over night. I came home from a day of working at the church on Tuesday to find the house at a humid 85 degrees and the windows open, DH was enjoying the last vestiges of our mild summer. That night it rained and it turned darn chilly. This turn in the weather, and I know that I should not let the weather affect my mood as much as it does, has affected my mood. I really do like sun shine.

The weather compounded with some various ‘stuff’ in my life internal and external is affecting my mood. I know it will pass. I know that whining about it isn’t going to change anything and only concrete action on my part will change things. I also know that I am in charge of my mood. I guess admitting I’m in a bad mood and only I can change it. I am admitting that I’m already tired of politics and want to take a nine week news diet. I’ve even thought about killing my television set and I’m not listening to my usual NPR as much when I drive…thank God for the Boulevard.

I think what has set me off is the mean spiritedness that I’ve personally experienced a little over a week ago when I left a meeting where my hard work on a project was tossed under the bus by a couple people I had viewed as friends and allies on some of the justice issues I often support. Mean spiritedness can come from all perspectives, even those with close viewpoints on some issues.
My own personal pain and working through being tossed under the bus has been compounded with the MEAN SPIRITED rhetoric of recent days in the political arena, which basically leads me to conclude that I REALLY HATE MEANNESS of any type and there is a LOT OF MEANNESS RUNNING RAMPANT THESE DAYS.

So as a person who seeks to follow Jesus Christ and a pastor I find myself realizing that I am not called to counteract the meanness of the day with more meanness, but to be faithful. Faithful to what I believe is true and right. Overcoming meanness with good is harder than it sounds. Trying to find a redeeming quality to lift up and praise in a mean person is difficult, being kind and generous in the face of meanness is nearly impossible sometimes, yet that is exactly what I think overcome evil with good is all about. SO if I seem kind of sullen and quiet these days, it’s because I am struggling with a GOOD to overcome the meanness I see around me. The last thing I want to do in my quest to be faithful to my faith and beliefs is contribute to the meanness around me.

We often wonder how we can impact the world as one person. I have come to realize that I can overcome evil with good with each and every choice and action in my own life with the people I meet each day. That’s my story for today and I’m sticking to it.