Dixie Darr

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

Say Goodbye

In Church, spirituality on June 26, 2017 at 7:17 am

Although it had only been two weeks, it seemed like a long time since everyone had been together. Last week, we deployed all over the city with messages of love and pride. That was important work. Still, I was happy to see everybody back in our sanctuary yesterday.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to two gentle souls. Jeff and Nhi, quiet, powerful presences who have been a beloved part of our church family, have to leave us.

Nhi is a tiny little person who tears it up on the piano. She could have been the inspiration for Shakespeare when he said, “though she be but little, she is fierce.” She showed us that all music is sacred by often playing secular music instead of hymns. Her choices ranged from George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue) to Franz Liszt (Grandes etudes de Paganini, S. 141). On Christmas Day she gave us a mad jazz rendition of Go Tell it On the Mountain (my personal favorite). Fierce. She’s moving to New York to pursue doctoral studies.

Reverend Jeff told us that he was discouraged many years ago from seeking ordination after divinity school because he wanted to work in the community instead of in a church. When he found our church, he found encouragement from our previous pastor and the congregation, and he decided to pursue ordination as a deacon, which he completed two years ago. In the United Methodist Church, a deacon is an ordained clergyperson called to serve people in ministries of compassion, justice, and service in the world. Perfect.

Earlier this year he took over as CEO of the Boulder Community Foundation where his leadership will shine. Boulder’s gain is our loss, however, as the position requires that he move to Boulder County.
We also bid farewell to Pride month. We wish it could go on because we still have so much work to do, and we like wearing rainbows.
Now we need to turn to the future. Pastor Brad told us what’s coming up in the next few months, including our always anticipated movie sermon series in August, our tent service (potluck, yes, hellfire and brimstone, no) in September, and the 125th anniversary of our church in October.
Still I feel some reluctance to move on. You know when you read a book you love so much you don’t want it to end, even when you know you have to turn the page? Like that.

Not Always Pretty

In creativity, writing on June 23, 2017 at 6:58 am

Something remarkable happened this morning. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I could say that. It didn’t last. The next time I glanced up, that person was gone. Mostly, I don’t know the woman in the mirror, and I don’t recognize myself in photographs, except old ones from a time when I did regularly look in the mirror.

I don’t give much thought to what I look like anymore, which should be obvious to anyone looking at me. (Stop that!) I haven’t worn makeup for twenty years. I forget to check and make sure that my hair isn’t sticking out at odd angles. When that inevitably happens, I hope you’ll think I’m being deliberately edgy and not just negligent.

Many years ago a colleague asked me what I thought was my best feature. I guess he wanted me to say something like my eyes or my smile because he seemed annoyed when I answered, “My mind.”

I was actually rephrasing an old song from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention that hardly anybody would remember called What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body – “I think it’s your mind.”

People tell me I think too much, and I definitely live inside my head. It’s different in here and kind of a mess. I don’t always know what I think about things until I work it out here on the page.

Think of these daily posts as a peek inside my mind, unquestionably my best feature.

It isn’t always pretty and it doesn’t show up in mirrors, but it did let me use that silly picture to give you a giggle on Friday morning.

Meet Market

In solitude on June 22, 2017 at 7:29 am

I am not a people person, as I’ve said before, although I probably like you quite a bit. It’s those masses of strangers, especially in big crowds, that make me want to run home and hide, locking the door behind me. My nieces used to call me Auntie Social.

I spend about 94% of my time alone (I did the math), yet I almost never feel lonely. Time spent with friends at church or the gym or occasional meals and meetings are times I look forward to, but I also look forward to going home to my sanctuary, my solitude.

I know most people don’t feel the same. Some people can’t stand being alone. Worse, just the thought of going to a restaurant or a movie or a concert alone scares the bejeebers out of them. I don’t know why. Maybe they don’t read.

I always have a book with me – actually 600+ books on my Kindle – and with a book, I always have companionship.

Rebecca Solnit, author of The Lonely City, describes loneliness as feeling “unhappy as a result of being without the companionship of others.” And Paul Tillich said, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” I’ll take the glory, please.

I’ve been thinking about this since Amazon announced its plan to deliver groceries. I belong to Amazon Prime, but the grocery store is one of the few places I still go. With few exceptions, I do almost all my shopping online. I even conduct my library business online, only going to the library to pick up and return books.

Isaac Asimov wrote a novel, The Naked Sun, part of his robot series, about people who never came into contact with other people physically because they were too afraid of germs. I don’t want to live in that world, if only because I would have to give up hugs.

I understand that grocery delivery offers a welcome convenience to some people and some circumstances. For me, though, I’ll continue to mingle in real life at King Soopers and Sprouts and choose my own provisions.

I can’t spend ALL my time alone.

Stop Wasting Time

In Learning on June 21, 2017 at 6:47 am

That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back. At my age that means something.
It was the mansplainer (I have a few other names for him, too) in the audience who pissed me off. A woman asked a question, and before the speaker could respond, this middle-aged white guy said, “Before you answer that—-blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” He went on for 3-4 minutes yammering about several different topics and never did ask a question.
When he finally (!) took a breath, I spoke up and told the speaker, “I’d like to hear you answer her question first.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I went to the viewing of a film about the crisis in Syria to educate myself because like most Americans I am woefully ignorant about the Middle East. The film was okay, focusing mostly on the desperate lack of medical care for refugees.

The speaker, who chairs the local chapter of a Syrian American organization was knowledgeable, passionate and completely disorganized. His rambling, stream of consciousness style of speaking lost me about a minute in—and he went on for well over an hour. He described feeling overwhelmed by the “fire hose” of information coming from his parents’ native country and then proceeded to turn the fire hose on us.

To be fair, I did learn something about Syria, so mission accomplished, I guess. When you have that much thrown at you, something’s bound to stick.

The one question I wanted answered, which the woman in the audience asked and I suspect we all wanted to know, was “What can we do to help?”

He had a hard time answering that. First, he said the US military had to get involved and then rambled on for 10-15 minutes veering off into several tangents. Another audience member tried again to focus the speaker on what the 15 or so of us there last night could do, and he finally, FINALLY answered the question. We can educate ourselves (the Syrian American Council is a good resource) and post about it on Facebook. He pointed out that among us we had thousands of Facebook friends, so our little group had more reach and influence than we probably realized.

So there you have it. My first effort to help is simply to implore the speaker to learn how to focus his message into a coherent presentation. People are not as “heartless” as he seems to believe, but he has to do his part, too.

Church is a Verb

In Church on June 20, 2017 at 9:54 am

Photo by Mollie Pfeiffer

When I left church on Sunday, I went to Carl’s, a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant that’s been a North Denver institution for more than 60 years. I have lunch there after church most weeks. I go alone to eat my sausage sandwich, read, write, and think.

I was wearing my Pride tee shirt, which mirrors the small banners on our church tower, “We are PROUD that God loves all people.” My favorite waitress said she had seen the banners on our church and “they give me chills because I know you’re representing God.” That caught me by surprise.

As the inimitable Laverne Cox said, “When you put love out in the world it travels, and it can touch people and reach people in ways that we never even expected.” Clearly, Ms. Cox knows whereof she speaks.

We’ve all seen in the last six months how much havoc one man can wreak on our country and our world, and we know it will take droves of good people years to heal that damage. Yet we can’t let the immensity of the harm done paralyze us. We have to find ways to bring more goodness into the world. That’s why my church:

–installed a bicycle repair station for the neighborhood

–distributed free vegetable seeds at the street fair and asked people to return part of their harvest to feed the homeless

–houses a homeless family while they wait for permanent housing

–provides low-cost office and studio space for local nonprofit organizations

–raises money and assembles relief kits for victims of disaster
It’s why our little kids collect our spare change every month to fight HIV/AIDS or malaria or to help the homeless.

While none of these things will make a dent in solving the major problems of our time, we have “to do what (we) can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place,” according to Richard Bolles, the late author of What Color is Your Parachute? That’s our mission on earth.

Slowly, I’m learning that church isn’t merely a place we go on Sunday morning; it’s something we do.

Amateur Hour

In spirituality on June 19, 2017 at 6:17 am

My church was stretched a little thin yesterday morning as we tried to cover activities on three fronts. We have a growing congregation with only one minister.

Pastor Brad is young, gifted, and energetic, but even he can’t be in three places at once.

He went to the church’s annual conference not only because his attendance is required, but also to see a close friend be ordained.

At the Pride parade, we had a large contingent, including our music director and children’s director. We always want to support our beloved LGBTQ members, and this year, we also needed to show the world how much we adore our Bishop Karen Oliveto, whose election caused much hand-wringing in conservative United Methodist churches.

That left a group of amateurs, including me, in charge of our worship service. We had some glitches.

Nobody knew how to turn on the lights in the vestibule.

One altar candle wouldn’t light, probably because nobody knew to check that it had oil.

One mic didn’t work, then it did work.

Carolyn, who led children’s time, didn’t know if we were having Sunday school.

Nobody was assigned to count the offering after the service.

We all pulled together and figured things out. We always do.

I used a prayer by Rev. Jude Geiger that contained these words “In this month, where our nation celebrates the lives and the struggles of Transgender, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people, help us to find a path forward, where each of us may live our lives, honest to who we are, with grace and empathy for one another.” Yes.

We had some good, old-fashioned music. Linda, accompanied by Nhi on piano, sang “Whispering Hope.” During our hymn sing, William led us through “I’ll Fly Away” (my favorite), “Amazing Grace,” and “Morning has Broken,” among others.

Afterward, William and I high-fived because we made it through and had some fun.

The word amateur typically means inept, and we were probably not as ept (it’s a word!) as we would have liked. But it comes from the Latin “to love” and also means a person who does something purely for love.

That fits, too.

For Father’s Day/The Carpenter’s Tale

In Learning on June 16, 2017 at 7:00 am

My father was a casual racist, using the n-word almost gleefully, because he knew he shouldn’t, until the end of his days. I never understood his attitude. I let him know my displeasure and tried to reason with him long after I realized he would never change if only because he was a stubborn, stubborn man. Still, people are never one dimensional and he had other frequently contradictory qualities that I loved.

Among his not-so-lovable qualities was that he believed girls didn’t need college and refused to help me pursue a degree. Thirty years later he still maintained that my going to college was ridiculous and unnecessary even though by then it was clear I wouldn’t be getting married and having babies, which was my proper role in life.

We were never a hugging family, and I don’t remember either of my parents ever saying, “I love you,”but he found other ways to show me he loved me. Before I started high school he told me I could always call him to come pick me up after games or other nighttime activities, and he never complained when I also expected him to give my friends a ride home.

He taught me how to change a flat tire and change my oil, although his efforts to teach me to drive ended with my signing up for driver’s ed in summer school.

A talented carpenter and woodworker, he made several pieces I treasure today, including my work table, Grandma Darr’s sewing desk, a spice rack, a pine suitcase/tool chest, a mirrored vanity, a dry sink cupboard, and a step stool and applauded when I took an adult education woodworking class because my school wouldn’t allow girls to take shop. True to his Depression-era roots, he tried to use up every scrap piece of wood in his garage shop. He loved to give me tools as birthday and Christmas gifts.

More than anything, he taught me self-reliance, how to figure things out and use what you have.

My favorite dad-ism was his response whenever I said I didn’t know how to do something. “You can’t learn any younger.” This became my lifelong motto.

He read both the Rocky Mountain News (which shut down a year after his death) and the Denver Post every day of his life and for years subscribed to Popular Mechanics magazine. I never saw him read a book, so I have no idea where my love of books, a passion I share with my brother, came from.

My biggest sorrow is that, after my mom died, his hurt feelings caused him to reject my brother and both his granddaughters, and he never met his great-grandson.

I am proudest that he never lost his sense of humor, joking with his caregivers to the very end.

I can only hope I do the same.

Yesterday was Not a Good Example

In spirituality on June 15, 2017 at 7:33 am

I spent most of my life in a bad mood. Getting older and menopause have helped to alleviate this and let me see more than a faint glow of hope around the edges of despair.

Our current political situation threatens to extinguish that light. Yesterday’s dual mass shootings moved us a little closer to darkness. Suddenly republicans were blaming “the left” for inciting violence by criticizing their repressive and regressive regime.

As if the man in the White House hadn’t spent the past year practically begging his followers to beat, kill, or maim anyone who opposed him. As if republicans haven’t taken every opportunity to keep guns—all guns and as many as possible—available even to people who clearly shouldn’t have them.

They really piss me off.

NOW they’re concerned because a gun was turned on some of their own. I’ll bet they’re not concerned enough to vote against the NRA, the biggest terrorist organization in the world.

Some days the only light I see is the resistance movement, the mobilization of progressives against republicans and the man in the White House, the hope that his/their flagrant corruption and disregard of what’s best for the country will end.

Author L.R. Knost says “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

On good days, I take refuge in messages like these. On bad days, I remind myself that the fact that someone said it and believes it doesn’t make it so.

So I pray, “Make it so.”

What does LGBTQIA spell?

In Learning, spirituality, writing on June 14, 2017 at 6:12 am






Sunday, June 26, 1988, I was in San Francisco on business with the woman who owned the small consulting company I worked for. We went sightseeing with me driving the rental convertible. As we drove down Castro street, I focused on navigating through the unfamiliar city, and she suddenly started yelling obscene things at people on the sidewalk.
“What are you doing?” I asked, shocked and horrified, as I made our turn.
She told me, still laughing and shouting, that men in costumes wearing state banners as if from a beauty contest were walking down the street.
I hadn’t seen a thing. In my defense, I’m not a people watcher, and I was driving. I found out later that we had happened upon the Lesbian and Gay Pride parade, but at that moment on Castro Street, I learned that I worked for a bigot.
That was 29 years ago, 19 years after the Stonewall Rebellion that sparked the gay rights movement, almost ten years after the assassination of Harvey Milk, and at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I guess you could say we’ve come a long way, Baby, but we still have plenty of work to do. I’ve met more than my share of bigots in the past 30 years, and I bet you have, too.
As with many marginalized groups, the preferred term keeps changing. Someone once told me she’d grown up Mexican, become Chicana, then Hispanic, and was now Latina.
I’d just gotten used to LGBT (or GLBT) when someone added a Q. For the record, I’ve also seen it with up to three Ts (transsexual, transgender, and two-spirit), two Qs (questioning and queer), and two As (asexual and ally).
A friend heard that it’s now LGBTQIA and asked in exasperation what the IA stood for.
“The rest of us,” she was told.
I think maybe that’s the point.
“We all have a gender identity and a sexual orientation and these things all fall along a vast and complicated continuum,” according to progressive minister and blogger John Pavlovitz. (http://johnpavlovitz.com/) That works for me. We all fit somewhere along that continuum although probably not in the neat little boxes we recognize.
I detest that LGBTQ people continue to face derision and danger. It makes me want to weep and scream and throw things. Instead, I write, and I yearn for a time when that no longer happens.
Then we can label the continuum A-Z, and once we have the whole alphabet accounted for, we’ll discover that it spells unity, equality, and love.
It spells one.

Sometimes My Inner Child

In Denver on June 13, 2017 at 5:58 am

Sometimes my inner child wants to

Clamp on roller skates and sail down the wide, smooth promenade outside my building, which is perfect for skating, but nobody ever does.

Lie in the grass and watch the clouds.

Spend the afternoon watching old Charlie Chan movies on TV.

Hunker down in the back corner of my closet.

Take off my shirt and play in the sun like my brother.

Roll down the backyard hill at our house on Beekman Place.

Dress like Annie Oakley (the one on TV).

Read again The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.

Scream at the top of my lungs.

Search through the treasures in my little red suitcase.

Dance and dance and dance.

Play jacks on the porch with my best friend.

Pretend to be asleep so my dad will carry me in from the car.

Sing “How Much is that Doggie in the Window.”

Sometimes my inner adult wants to take care of my inner child. It should be the other way around.