Thursday, November 24, 2011


"I used to complain because I had no shoes, then one day I met a man who had no feet."

I'm actually in the middle of a new post but had to stop for a moment to give thanks. Let us not forget in the frenzy of cooking and eating and then shopping and wrapping that this day is really to remind us to be grateful. I try to be thankful for everything even things which seem bad at the time but sometimes I forget. I'm thankful that our country sets aside this day to remind me.

Today the sun is shining, Thank you God.
I have family and some very good friends. Thank you God.
 I am currently about to start work. Thank you God.
I am eating and will be able to eat later when I am hungry. Thank you God.
I am relatively healthy and so are those closest to me. Thank you God.

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say "thank you?"  ~William A. Ward

For those 86,400 seconds. Thank you God.

If you have lived, take thankfully the past.  ~John Dryden

For all of the things in my past, good and bad, which have brought me to this moment.. Thank you God.

As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily.  The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.  ~Terri Guillemets

I could go on but you all get the picture. I hope that tomorrow, when the turkey and dressing is digested and the credit cards are maxed out, we don't forget to give thanks yet again and again the day after that.

This is me, with a grateful heart, signing off for now.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In Memoriam (For All the Saints)

I must apologize to readers for the long time between posts. Oct. 18 marked the 53rd anniversary of the day of my birth. It also marked the 12th anniversary of the day of my mother’s death. I don’t always handle that well. This began as one thing and morphed into something completely different.

A couple of weeks ago I saw that someone was publishing an in memoriam notice to mark the passing of a loved one. I tend to pay attention to those things around this time of year. The poem they included in the notice ended with the line "God broke our hearts to prove, he only takes the best." My immediate reaction was, whoa, wait a minute! Do you actually venerate a god who deliberately hurts you in order to prove himself to you? Think about that for a minute. If this was a relationship between human beings the kindest word we could use to describe that would be dysfunctional. Gotta say, I don’t know that god and don’t think I want to.

I started thinking about two particular bible verses which point me to a quite different God. They tell of a God who wants good things for us and is not in the business of hurting us so that we will see how "good" he is.  Listen to Jesus in Matthew 7:9-11 - "Which of you, if your child asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he or she asks for a fish, will give them a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask." or Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

When my mother died 12 years ago, it was from a broken heart. She had a heart attack. Her heart was literally, physically broken. Broken from a to short lifetime of less than healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices. Some times those behaviors and choices were dictated by circumstances and sometimes they were made through ignorance but the end result was a heart unable to continue working properly. She also in her 63 years had more than her share of metaphorical broken heartedness, some of which I know about and much more of which I can only guess.

Did God break her heart? Of course not. Life broke her heart. Other people broke her heart. Sometimes she broke her own heart. Was God there? Absolutely. The one constant when things were difficult or unsure. The one unassailable source of comfort and strength and even healing. Is my mother with God now? Yes, she is. I know. I have seen it. Did God need to "bring her home" in order to be near her. No, God was near her always anyway. Was my heart broken 12 years ago by that phone call? Yes it was. Did God break my heart in order to prove something? Of course not. Was God there? Absolutely. Just like for my mother, God was the one constant. The one unassailable source of comfort and strength. Was God near? Yes, God was and is near always, in ways for which I can only be profoundly thankful.

So God does not need to "prove" anything to me. God's greatness is proven to me everyday when I open my eyes on God's creation. [Yes, even when it's gloomy and raining :)]. God's compassion was proven to me when I saw my mother beaming with happiness because she had seen Jesus. That's the God I worship.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Believe in Love

I believe in love, it's all we got
Love has no boundaries, no borders to cross
Love is simple, hate breeds
Those who think difference is the child of disease

-Elton John/Bernie Taupin

I wrote this several months ago but feel like it’s still pertinent today. Maybe more than ever with the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 just passed.

On Sunday, April 24, 2011 those of us in the U.S. who are Christians celebrated, with joy, the promise of redemption and the victory of love over a violent bloody death. Exactly one week later many of us were celebrating again. Osama bin Ladin, the most wanted and hated man in America, was dead. I watched, along with millions around the world, as the news unfolded. I was proud of the military personnel, who did their job swiftly and expeditiously with minimal loss of life. I was proud of our president, Barack Obama, who knew what had to be done and ordered it done with no apologies. There is no doubt it was a night to feel good about being an American.

As I watched, people began to gather - at ground zero, at the White House, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania. They were jubilant, celebrating, chanting and joyous. What were they celebrating? They were celebrating the death of a man. My patriotic pride quickly began to give way to a sinking feeling - something was grossly wrong with that picture.

I remember what I was doing on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. I was at home contemplating how I was going to enjoy the unusually beautiful day. My sister called me and said turn on the TV a plane just crashed into one of the Twin Towers. As I watched, stunned, horror piled upon horror and the news got more grim and bleak by the minute.

I remember the fear when I realized the next day that one of the planes came perilously close to Cleveland. I remember the anger and the anguish. But I also remember watching video coverage of crowds of people in the Arab world celebrating. I remember thinking, how can they celebrate when hundreds of people are dead or missing? Do they not know the terrible cost of that momentary victory?

9 1/2 years later I found myself asking similar questions. How can we celebrate when a human being is dead?. How can we be celebrating a victory for death and revenge? Are there people in the Arab world resenting Americans for celebrating this man’s death? Do we not know the terrible cost of this momentary victory?

Yes, Osama bin Ladin did terrible things. Yes, no question that he deserved to be brought to justice. 91/2 years was a long time to wait for justice to be served, and as long as he was alive the threat of another disaster hung over our heads. (Or so we were told). But could we have captured him in all of those 91/2 years without killing him? Could we have done so without putting the lives of women and children with him at risk? Did we really try?

I also found myself thinking about the military personnel involved in the raid on that April day. Killing a person, up close and personal, is different than killing “targets” from a distance. How do you reconcile yourself to that?

So what's to be done? Pondering the terribly ironic bookends of that April week I realize that the only way to go forward is to keep going back. Back to Easter Sunday. Remembering that Love did, and still does, triumph over violence and death. Believing in Love and living it. Praying for and loving all of the victims and the perpetrators of death and hate. At the end of this September, 2011  I really have no choice but to say that, in spite of it all, I (still) believe in Love.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

There oughta be a law

There’s been talk lately about labor unions. In the last election cycle many of the newly elected were people who were and are solidly anti-union and who see it as their job to try to do away with collective bargaining, beginning at the state level. Ohio and our Governor Kasich not being an exception, we are now fighting a lovely little piece of legislation called SB 5.

Let me start by saying right up front, I used to be a labor organizer. I worked for a non union working women’s group and also for an actual labor union. My job was to try to shift the power balance between workers (especially women) and their employers. When I worked for the union I was also a member of a collective bargaining unit of employees of the union.

I am amazed by how many people naively think that there is somehow a vast umbrella of government protection for workers in this country. Sorry to tell you folks but it just ain't so. The fact of the matter is that in the U.S., there is very little in the way of legislation, regarding working conditions which can be imposed by an employer. There are some but not as many as most people think. Of course different jobs, industries and companies have different needs. What might work in the way of working conditions for teachers might not work for someone working in manufacturing or banking. On the other hand without some kind of intervening authority (a law or a labor union) there is really almost no limit to what an employer can do or not do. The few protections we do have – workplace safety, non discrimination, minimum wage - we only have because they were fought for by labor unions.

So, if you work in the state of Ohio, you can be hired and classified as a part time employee, in order for  your employer to save on benefits, but yet work 40 hours (or more) a week, every week. Part time employment is what your employer says it is. Of course you'll receive part time benefits and your hours can be cut with little or no warning. You can be let go with little or no notice for little or no reason. Paid holidays – there’s no law. Time and a half – only if you work more than 40 hours in a one week period. You do not have to be paid time and a half, double time, shift premiums etc. for working non traditional shifts or holidays. The only thing you have to be paid is minimum wage. Anything else is at your employers discretion. Regular pay increases – no law. Paid sick days – no law. Short term disability with pay – no law. Only four countries have no national law mandating paid time off for new parents: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States. (The law which applies in the U.S. – FMLA - guarantees your job for up to 12 weeks but not that you will be paid). Forced overtime – no law. You get a new job and give two weeks notice. You think you’re being professional and don’t want to leave your boss in the lurch. The next day they tell you you’re fired. Can they do that?! Yep – no law. (And guess what, they can put it on your record as you being fired rather than that you quit).

All of the above examples, and more, are things which have recently happened to me or to someone I know, and the usual response when someone hears about it is "isn't that against the law? or don't they have to do - whatever - ?" No it's not and no they don't. The only way you have any protection as a worker is if you belong to a collective bargaining unit. The purpose of a labor union is to give workers some say in their working conditions, pay and benefits. Without a union even if you work for a wonderful employer and have great pay and benefits things can change - overnight. Will you have any thing to say about it or any input in what changes may need to be made – probably not – no law.

Are there bad labor unions? Sure there are. Unions are just like any other institution involving people. They are as good or as bad as the people who belong to and participate in them. Quite frankly lazy union members sometimes make for bad unions. But here's the huge difference, if union members want, they have the ability to change their union, but without a union they don’t have any real ability to change their working conditions. I have worked with a union and without one and with is definitely better.

Yes there really should be more laws in our country, on the state and national level, protecting workers from unfair working conditions. Most of the industrialized nations in the world have legislation regarding pay, benefits and working conditions along with strong enforcement. Most of those countries also have strong labor unions. There really oughta be a law (or two or three), but until the U.S. catches up to the majority of the industrialized world, there oughta be a union.

Monday, September 12, 2011

hello, it's me

A few years ago, when I turned 50, I thought it might be  intriguing to commit some of my thoughts to paper (well actually the internet, this is after all the 21st century). Unfortunately, the "P" in my name stands not only for Ponzo but also for procrastination. So here it is one month shy of being  four years later. I promise to do better now that I've begun.

So what's it like for a black woman, born in the U.S. pre-P.C. (personal computer that is), to be a citizen of the world in the digital age? What's changed in the last half century for good or ill? What hasn't changed that should have? What (or who) moves me to anger or tears, sends me into gales of laughter or towering rages, or somewhere in between?

I've been told that I can string a sentence together pretty well. I'm counting on you thinking so too. (Lord, I hope those folks weren't just being kind!)  So get ready for rants, ruminations, reviews and more. If I can have an opinion I probably do. To paraphrase Bette Davis, fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride!