Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dear Betsy DeVos, I Can Get You a Great Price on an Ark in Kentucky, to build your...ahem, "God's Kingdom"

Enough with the rain already.  And when I say enough, I mean we haven't seen the sun since God did the math and realized the days until inauguration were quickly approaching and he began crying. It has been cloudy and/or raining for so many days straight in Kentucky, I have run out of fingers and toes to count them.  On my drive to check on a real estate listing in an adjoining county yesterday, I noticed we have had so much rain, newly created ponds now exist in the middle of horse farm fields.  This is Kentucky, horse farms are what we do here and rain is evidently what God does here.


I have a district level PTA meeting this morning. It is 7:05am and I just put my kids on their school bus.  I love their bus driver & bus monitor; these kind folks are the district's first ambassadors to my kids, and I am thankful for them and the bus service they provide. They greet my kids and me with smiles and waves every day.  

Attending PTA meetings and putting my kids on the bus is nothing new for us, but it is important.  We are folks who show up; it's what my people do. We show up to serve and to learn; these are two actions that define me as a person and I hope to instill and distill in these small humans. We show up and we learn...always...and forever, for the rest of our days. 

I serve as my public school district's PTA By-Laws Chairwoman, serving local units by advising them on by-laws questions and helping to form the governing by-laws document for new local units as we open more public schools in this county. This district serves over 40,000 very deserving kids, who will win your heart in not a New York minute, but a Kentucky second.  The least I can do is help their parents (not enough, but we will take as many soldiers in this fight for public education we can get) govern their parent and teacher associations, whose main purpose is to advocate for the public school children in their buildings.

So back to the rain.  But fear not my fair weather friends (see what I did there?), if this rain continues for 40 days and 40 nights, there is an Ark in Kentucky! And when I say Ark, I don't mean a painting of an Ark on a church nursery wall, although we have lots of those here too (more than I can count on my fingers and toes, in fact). Yes that's correct, we have a to scale, life size Ark.  

Fortunately for Kentucky....ahem, this is the "Year of the Bible" (as declared by our Tea Party Governor Matt Bevin...but then again he declared 2016 the year of the bible too).  As such, apparently our Governor's mansion has a high speed internet connection to God (shhhhh, don't tell Pope Francis) and Noah's blueprints were provided to the developers on a thumb drive. Meanwhile in Moscow, those same blueprints were hacked, were then given to President Elect Donald Trump, and a nice stipend was paid to Moscow by the Koch Brothers.  While watching the Ark rise like Phoenix in Kentucky, these brothers also realized that there was a great opportunity to use the Kentucky Tea Party Governor to unseat the Board of Trustees at the University of Louisville, putting the state University's accreditation at risk. Licking their wounds, after their failed attempts at controlling hiring at the University of Kentucky's John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise in the Gatton College of Business and Economics, the Koch brothers then decide to turn their attention to destroying the Affordable Care Act, in their master plan to make America sick again.

Okay, I am kidding (sort of) about all of that, but it wouldn't surprise me that any of them would claim that they had a dream (clearly nothing like the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr.!), Noah came to them in this dream and told them to build the Ark, unseat the UofL Board of Trustees and declare it the Year of the Bible in 2016 & 2017, because at this point God, so disappointed in their behavior, refuses to speak to them.

Anywho...back to the Kentucky Ark. I am a Real Estate professional, so I like to talk in terms of square feet.  At 51 feet high, 85 feet wide, and 510 feet long, with 3 decks, it is over 120,000 square feet (just take my word for it, but please don't ask me to measure it as with all those curves, you would need my real estate appraiser husband's expert skills to meet the ANSI measurement standard). An Ark, just like Noah's. Let that sink in.  

Perhaps some of my gentle readers may have forgotten the details of the biblical story of Noah's Ark or they may not share my liberal, progressive Christian beliefs (I am a real inconvenient truth to my conservative, regressive Christian brothers and sisters) so here is Lucy's abridged Version:
  1. God created men & women...and a whole lot of animals.
  2. Creation was going along swimmingly until it wasn't.
  3. God got mad at his people who were acting like fools (like nominating Betsy DeVos as US Education Secretary )
  4. God looked around for anyone who seemed to be behaving.
  5. Noah was pretty good at getting his kids on the school bus everyday, so God chose him. 
  6. He told Noah to build an Ark large enough to hold a male and female of every animal on earth, his wife, his three sons, their wives, and a Tesla.  
  7. Noah is skeptical but obedient and figures he has no other choice as he is not a member of the Carpenter's Union. 
  8. It took Noah a few years, like 120, to build the Ark.
  9. Noah turns 600 years old (this part is true), begins drawing Medicare (most likely not true) and corrals all those animals, not to mention his wife who was probably thinking..."I should have married that other guy from my high school Algebra Class" onto the Ark.
  10. God makes it rain 40 days and 40 nights and floods the entire Earth, killing all living things, except Noah, his wife, his sons Eric & Don Jr. & Barron (who was cranky about leaving his Xbox One in Mid-town Manhattan) and those animals who I am sure at that point were logically eating each other.  God realizes that this plan is brilliant, achieving post-Creation Take 1 natural selection goals and avoiding the US Fish & Wildlife Animal Extinction protocols that had become a bit cumbersome before he wiped the planet.
  11. The rain stops, the land dries, the Ark "lands" in Grant County, Kentucky, costing Kentucky tax payers $18.25 Million in tax rebates, but creating 350 of a promised 20,000 jobs. (Okay, the last part didn't really happen, unbelievably the Ark Encounter in Kentucky was built in 4 years and opened in 2016. Opened in 2016...let that sink in. The tax rebates and relatively small number of jobs is just one example of the Tourism "Vaporware" coming to a theater near you.)
  12. God had great hope for the offspring of Eric, Don Jr. & Barron.  
  13. Noah joins the Carpenter's union, lives out his days on Medicare, and a defined benefit pension set up for Noah by God, thankfully not relying on the unbelievably underfunded Kentucky Public Pension system.
  14. God comes to earth in the form of man and his name is Jesus.
  15. Jesus is a really good dude. He heals people, demanding no co-pays. Leprosy is not a pre-existing condition to Jesus.  He clothes and feeds the poor. He becomes friends with prostitutes. He loves the little children, even the Muslims and Jews.  In the form of Jesus, God tries to show his people what to do and has bracelets made with WWJD on them so when they begin to act foolish it will remind them "What Would Jesus Do?"
  16. God's most "devout" people, sitting in their Penthouse towers and sprawling mansions think they know better what God's Kingdom really looks like, chronically reducing funding to public schools & social support programs, thereby harming "the least of these", gilding everything in Gold and hoarding the rest in hedge funds, instead of giving it to the poor. Clearly, this is not what Jesus would do.
  17. God watches the 2016 United States (& Kentucky) Election Results in horror, he cannot imagine how his words and teachings have become so misconstrued.
  18. President Elect Trump nominates Betsy DeVos, (a billionaire heiress who has never attended a public school, nor put a child of hers on a school bus) for US Education Secretary. DeVos declares that in her role as US Secretary of Education, as she irrevocably destroys public education, she will use it to advance God's Kingdom. 
  19. God begins crying in Kentucky, conveniently close to the Ark (coincidence...I think not!)
So Betsy DeVos, as God continues crying, my training in Economics and my professional experience as a Real Estate professional, tell me that the price on that Ark is going to rise dramatically. So we have to get on this Ark now!

I have some serious doubts that you will be considered the best behaved as it seems as though What Jesus Would (Actually) Do is pretty irrelevant to you.  So go ahead and list that $10 Million dollar House that Amway built of yours in Michigan. Then, just drop a dime and give me a ring on the phone, text if you prefer, and I can set up a showing of the Ark.  But I suspect before long, we will be in a multiple offer situation with your own President Elect and the Koch Brothers.  After all, they already know their way around Kentucky.

When we win the multiple offer situation (my multiple offer winning track record is HUGE!), if you are feeling frisky, you could even use your billions to move it here to Lexington and we will see if we can get your grand kids on a school bus route with my fabulous school bus driver and bus monitor. Wait, never mind. 

If it is God's Kingdom you seek to build, do us all a favor, start with your own billion (with a B), and not that of the struggling working poor & middle class United States tax payer.

It is now time for me to grab my umbrella and head to my PTA meeting.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.
  — Proverbs 13:22

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Justice Scalia...If You're Gonna "Play" in Texas, Please Pack Your Glass Slippers, 'Cause Cinderela is on Speed Dial

In an unbelievable stroke of something, Justice Antonin Scalia, died in his sleep a week ago.  Was it divine intervention, with some fortuitous timing thrown in?  Was it his heart? Did he choke on the mint left on his pillow by his Billionaire homies at a luxurious ranch? Was the unbelievable stroke of something literally a stroke?  

Just like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop, the world will never know his cause of death because another type of Justice, of the peace, chose to not have an autopsy.  No autopsy done on the body of a Supreme Court Justice that dies unexpectedly. Seems kind of nuts, right?  Well apparently Scalia enjoyed his cigarettes and suffered from many chronic health concerns, so logically it was assumed he died of nature causes.  So I get it, but still, this is a big deal that went down in Texas while he was being hosted at a luxurious ranch, owned by a Billionaire, whose case was conveniently denied a hearing by the Supreme Court.  You are thinking, surely this case was from years ago. Nope, this case was denied a hearing in 2015!  As they say, the devil is in the details but damn don't you think those details tell us something!

So back to the scene of the lack of the crime (okay, not the crime you are thinking of anyway) in Texas....

If you pay any attention to the ridiculous shenanigans that go on in most state legislatures, you know that in Texas they have some pretty crazy laws and "goings on" in their legislative chambers.  (Don't get me started on the concealed tampon restrictions of 2013...truth is stranger than fiction!  Did you miss this? Click -----> Texas Tampongate)  

One of those crazy Texas laws allows for a Justice of the Peace, to declare someone dead, over the phone, without actually laying eyes on the body.  In this case our Justice of the Peace lead roll is played by Judge Cinderela Guavera (truth is stranger than fiction...AGAIN!  And as if having a name like Cinderela isn't strange enough, apparently her parents made up a new spelling of the name Cinderella!) Maybe I am an old fashion kind of girl, but actually checking for a pulse seems like a logical requirement to declare someone dead.  Okay, so obviously Texas has some challenges related to geography, and on an average day this law probably makes sense, but seriously?!  A Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States passes away unexpectedly and no one (including and especially Cinderela) thinks, hmmmm....these circumstances are a little extraordinary, so perhaps A. Burning some gas, seeing the body in person, & checking for a pulse, and B. ordering an autopsy is in order here?  This kind of lack of judgement is not one you want to come back and bite you in the ass, you know like something that could get you denied a promotion to the Court of Appeals or something.

Not surprisingly, two other Justices of the Peace were called before the local authorities "dropped a dime" to Judge Cinderela.  Conveniently, those other two justices of the peace were "out of town" and unavailable to declare the death.  Well, as we all now know from the paragraph above, whether you are out of town in Texas, does not diminish your ability to declare a death. In fact, a Justice of the Peace in Texas could be scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef with their IPhone secured in a waterproof case and declare somebody dead from a diving boat on the other side of the world. 

I think, which is merely speculation on my part, finding a Justice of the Peace to declare Justice Scalia dead last Saturday, went something more like this....

BFE Texas dispatcher (For my readers who are unfamiliar with internet slang translations, here is a tip: BFE is "Bum F#$% Egypt" meaning in the middle of nowhere): "Hey Justice of the Peace Judge Walker Texas Ranger, this is Billy Joe Jim Bob at Presidio County 911 Dispatch.  You are never gonna believe this but... I just heard from Jack from EMT rig #666 that we got a very cold Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, out at Poindexter's ranch out there on Highway Contract Route 67.  Yeah, you know the place...where all those rich, famous, & politically connected people who could easily afford to pay for their own stay, are hosted for free in exchange for political favors.  Anywho... could you head on out there, or better yet, just save yourself a trip, and give 'em a ring-a-ding-ding, and declare Scalia dead?  If you could, I would really owe you one 'cause the first Justice of the Peace I called just came down with a spontaneous case of laryngitis and I'm in a pickle here."

Justice of the Peace Judge Walker Texas Ranger: (throat clearing heard over the headset) "Sorry Billy Joe Jim Bob, you know I am normally up for declaring people dead over the phone, like we do here in Texas, but unfortunately, I am out of town."

BFE Texas dispatcher: "Well I hear ya Judge, but seeing as how you can declare him dead over the phone, couldn't ya..."

Justice of the Peace Judge Walker Texas Ranger: (vocally fabricated static sounds heard through the dispatcher's head set) "Can you hear me now, Billy Joe Jim Bob?! I think I'm losing my cell signal (more vocally fabricated static sounds that gradually fade heard through the dispatcher's headset)....." Click.

BFE Texas dispatcher thinking to himself: Hmmm, well that was my second unsuccessful attempt to get somebody, guess I better call Justice of the Peace, Judge Cinderela.  But for the life of me I can't figure out why her parents didn't use the typical Disney princess spelling of her name....

If you haven't been following the news is the spoiler.  Judge Cinderela declares him dead over the phone, does not order an autopsy and goes on about her weekend with her Prince Charming (I would suggest a Princess Charming, but ya know this is rural Texas, Scalia's version of "God's Country" we are talking about, so statistically unlikely).  The rest, as they say, is now history.

Speaking of history, Antonin Scalia was the only child of an Italian Catholic immigrant father and 1st generation American Italian mother who was a school teacher. He was a product of the New York public school #13 through 8th grade and obtained a scholarship to attend a Jesuit military high school.  Given his father's immigrant status and his attendance to New York public schools in Queens, NY in the 40s, it is hard for me to understand what I perceive to be a 30 year track record of a lack of empathy for Americans that do not share his race, ethnicity, gender, religion & political ideology. Did he never leave his block in Queens?!  Come on now, he grew up in a burough of the immigration melting pot of America for our God's sake! Well, in fact he did leave his block in Queens, and he never looked back. 

From what has been written about him, he was an extremely intelligent, charismatic, and gregarious guy.  In my mind, those are God given attributes and how you put those talents to work for those who you took an oath to serve, is where the devil is in the details.  The oath he took was this: 
"I, Antonin Scalia, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Supreme Court Justice, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the constitution and laws of the United States.  So help me God."

He will need the help of his God, my God, and everyone else's at this point, but speaking of the devil....

In 2013, Jennifer Senior with New York Magazine interviewed Justice Scalia.  The transcript of this interview is very enlightening indeed.  You can read the entire interview here: In Conversation: Antonin Scalia

There were two telling exchanges that I find pretty staggering in terms of his impact of administering justice on the Supreme Court and the repercussions for all of God's Children, believers and non-believers.  One is his unapologetic refusal to consider the fact that hundreds of millions of Americans that look different, worship Gods of different faiths or perhaps none at all, loving whomever their heart desires, and living relatively peaceably in one country, might actually be what the Founding Fathers intended all along. That is my brand of "Originalism". Instead of hiding behind a veil that our government of 50 United, yet politically divided State, has a perfect system of passing Constitutional amendments, why don't we try and see legislation for how it was intended and then do no harm.  Many of those founding fathers were Presbyterian and they fled the same religious persecution that Justice Scalia felt compelled to uphold, through his own religious beliefs, dissents from the majority, and his opposition to civil rights.  

But back to the devil.....

Justice Scalia: I even believe in the Devil. 
 Jennifer Senior: You do? 
Justice Scalia: Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that. 
Jennifer Senior: Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there…
Justice Scalia: If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Jennifer Senior: Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
Justice Scalia: You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

Jennifer Senior: Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil? 
Justice Scalia: You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil. 
Oh, and on how he will be perceived by history.....

Jennifer Senior: "Fifty years from now, which decisions in your tenure do you think will be heroic?"  
Justice Scalia: "Heroic?" 
Jennifer Senior: "Heroic." 
Justice Scalia: "Oh, my goodness. I have no idea. You know, for all I know, 50 years from now I may be the Justice Sutherland of the late-twentieth and early-21st century, who’s regarded as: “He was on the losing side of everything, an old fogey, the old view.” And I don’t care."
Speaking of the Gospels.....
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Justice Scalia, the gospels do speak of the devil but they also speak of how we are to live our lives as Christians and how we are to treat all of God's children. When you read this gospel in the book of Mark, were you confused that The King it was referring to was Elvis? Nope, The King is Jesus, The Prince of Peace.  But that's how our King works, pushing us to try and understand each imperfect human as such, meet each and every one where they are, and love them anyway.  

 They say the road to hell is paved with "good intentions", but I think that road is paved with old views that become judicial and legislative platforms when used to withhold action, or when put into action, harm "the least of these" in our society.  What "good intentions" would those be...Well you know like some historic "originalist" old views would protect things like slavery ownership, overt or covert discrimination, population segregation, and disenfranchisement of minorities through the lack of suffrage, just to name a few. 

Justice Sutherland that he refers to in the interview is another Justice that is viewed on the "losing side of everything", including Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. Sutherland holds the record of having the most decisions overturned of any Justice in the history of the United States. Let's hope we can break that record overturning Justice Scalia's decisions.  Change is painful but nothing truly trans-formative happens without pain.

Make no mistake, The Affordable Care Act is not exactly the New Deal but it is Scalia's equivalent of such.  And repealing it, as Scalia would have done, would have caused considerable pain, especially for the "least of these".  Ironically, as our society continues to evolve into a world were the acceptance of diversity and doing for the "least of these" is legislatively mandated, the old view looks a lot like the devil's work, and not What Jesus Would do at all, or I guess that's just how I see it.  

But again, there is that Presbyterian USA coming out in me again; truth be told, unlike Scalia, I don't really believe in the devil or hell, per se.  I believe that humans are imperfect children of God that are tempted by our weaknesses and faults. How we respond to those temptations, like I don't know... consuming free vacations at ranches with billionaires who conveniently avoided an appeal against them before the Supreme Court, defines our moral character.  

How we treat "the least of these", those who can never repay us, but from which we never expect anything other than paying it forward, is my benchmark.  But perhaps when you spend the vast majority of your life among the most of these, you fail to recognize the least of these, and the necessity of protecting those who cannot protect themselves as they are too busy trying to feed their kids and keep their lights on.  

Justice Scalia, it seems this luxury resort trip, which if you hadn't died we would know nothing about, will be the cherry on top of your legacy. A legacy of failing to recuse yourself when a conflict of interest arose, or accepting gifts, hunting trips and benefits from people who would come before your court, when your impartiality might be in question. Fortunately for you, as you have said, you don't care.  But there are many of us in this life, including the leader of your own church, Pope Francis who care immensely about our legacy in this life. 

Speaking of Pope Francis.... now he is a guy I can get behind!  Kudos to the Cardinals for picking this Pope; he is such a phenomenal living example of exactly what Jesus would do!  

Regardless of the fact that our politics and interpretation of the teachings of Christ could not be more diametrically opposed to each other, I believe that he is in a better place.  And I believe he is there not because he was a Supreme Court Justice, not because he was a protector of, what he perceived to be, Christian (Catholic) values, and I am sure he felt like his old views made him a good Catholic. (Justice Scalia, I hate to break it to ya, but when Pope Francis stops washing poor people's feet long enough, he may have an issue with your definition of a good Catholic, but you will have a long wait as this Pope just keeps washing feet & making Christ's love known in this broken world). No, I believe he is there simply because he is a child of God, nothing more, nothing less. 

I don't believe in a faith that preaches that one "earns" their way into heaven or conversely to hell.  I pray to a God that hates the sin but loves the sinner, rewards love not vitriol, and motivates me by faith instead of paralyzing me by fear. It isn't his God that he should be concerned about judging him, but the lens of history and the respect of his grandchildren. 

My fellow Americans, I hope that when he metaphorically "turned into a pumpkin" last Saturday, after Cinderela herself declared him dead via her mobile phone, that the "glass slipper" he left behind was shattered into a million pieces so no one can fill his shoes.

And for the record Justice Scalia, as I am sure you recognize by now, the Prince of Peace looks nothing like Cinderella's Price Charming but a whole lot like a Middle Eastern Jew. So, help you God.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Amy Louise Parrish Jett: My Grandmother, the Change Agent, and My Constant

She died in the same way she lived, with a lot of grace and on her terms, in her time, and in her space.  She died at home, 90 seconds after we stopped singing to her in 3 part harmony, and 98.666667 (decimals, then rounding.....really, who besides me calculates that but you know, when I am approaching 99, I want the credit for every day I could get for hanging around this planet for so long!) years after being born at home. Of the myriad of lessons her life taught me, this lesson has become part of the fabric of my being; the lesson that birth and death, can and when medically possible, should happen at home, making sacred space even more sacred.

There is so much I could write about my amazing Grandmother.  It is odd to me now that I think about it, that the eulogy that I wrote for her is her first substantial "appearance" in my blog.  But that is the way it always is, right?  We never truly honor other individuals of such substance during their lifetimes as we should. So it is after their death, when they ostensibly can't hear us, that we speak of them the most. 

Although I have to say...I was constantly mindful of the time falling through the hour glass as she advanced in years, so I chose to be in her physical presence as much as possible, knowing how intensely I would miss her when she was gone.  There are really no words to describe how it feels, now that the sand has run out. But that is a blog post for another time.

We had her Celebration of Life ceremony on November 15th. Although she died on October 27th in Richmond, Kentucky, she donated her body to medical research at the University of Kentucky,in Lexington, Kentucky, so we weren't pressed for time.  She lived in Richmond her entire life & I have lived in Lexington for over 20 years now, making it feel more like home to me than my own hometown.  Honestly, it is strangely comforting to have her in Lexington with me. I never said I was normal. 

Interestingly, although she has 3 living children, & 7 living grandchildren, of which I am the youngest at 40, I wrote and delivered her eulogy. I was given 5 minutes.  Her service resembled more of a music concert, than a funeral.  It was 65 minutes of music and 10 minutes of homily and eulogy. I was given 5 minutes because we are not Catholic, nor Episcopal, we are Presbyterians. Presbyterians get a bit antsy when we breach the 60 minute mark for any service. Always mindful that we are charged to be the hands and feet of Christ, that there is pain and suffering to be tended to, and good works to be done outside of that building, long after the last notes of the music have faded. But we just couldn't get it all in under an hour.  

At the end a friend of mine overheard a comment from another congregant saying, "You would have to pay $1000 to hear this music performed in New York City!" Only the musical repertoire of Amy Jett would include handbells,  2 choir anthems with a flute accompaniment, 3 hymns beautifully sung in 4 part harmony, Amazing Grace sung a capella by a close friend, a spiritual, Precious Lord, Take My Hand,  Faure's In Paradisium, Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze, and conclude with Widor's Toccata from the Fifth Organ Symphony in F, Op 42 #1

It was only fitting that we requested that everyone remain seated to experience the Toccata. If you have never experienced it, do yourself a favor and click on this link and watch and listen as it is played in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. : Widor's Toccata.  It is over 6 minutes long, so pull up a chair, get your ear buds, pour a cup of coffee, & commit to the Toccata. It is life changing. My kids made it through the entire service, including sitting quietly and contentedly through the Toccata, so you can too.  But, if you must fast forward, go to the 3:30 minute mark and listen to the end.  (And if you must fast forward...perhaps slow down a bit, the truest beauty of this life is happening around you, become a part of it. If you have the time to watch the SNL Thanksgiving skit rendition of Adele's Hello, you have time for the Toccata.  Speaking of Adele's Hello, if I were Lionel Ritchie, I would be saying the same thing...Hello?!

Everyone said it was perfect. It didn't feel like it.  I paused to find my voice time and again, as it cracked under emotion and I struggled to finish.  They said it didn't seem like that, but public speaking is a bit surreal by nature and when you are speaking about a recently deceased loved one, it is a surreal factor of 10.  Once I was seated again, after singing in the second choir anthem, Abide with Me, I found my zen place. But when the Tocatta filled the acoustics of her church (and mine) I lost it, sobbing into my hands, as the reality hit me that her favorite instrument was so masterfully played in her honor.   Does is surprise you that it was played by her favorite organist who gladly traveled 100 miles to be there and play in her honor?

It was the most fitting tribute to her that was imaginable.  She lived and left this life as masterfully as the Tocatta was played on "her" organ that day. The symbolism quite honesty, broke me.  It is now 11 days after I delivered this eulogy and while I am no longer broken, I am honestly not fixed either.  But that is how it is with grief, you are never really fixed, just eternally different.

So here it eulogy to Amy Louise Parrish Jett.

Welcome to Amy Jett's Sacred Place.  She would be so pleased to share this amazing instrument behind me, that will be expertly played by a good friend.  There was no greater protector of this Tracker Organ, than she. She would tell you that it is one of the finest pipe organs of it's size east of the Mississippi River.

A little over a month after Amy Louise Parrish was born on a day so snowy that the doctor was required to ride on horseback to deliver her, the Unites States sent combat troops into France and declared war on Germany during World War I.  This was the first of 2 world wars that would take place during her lifetime. 

War was not the only source of death and casualties that year as a flu pandemic also struck in 1917, claiming the lives of 500,000 Americans, including the life of my husband's great grandfather only 100 miles north of Richmond, Kentucky. How frightening it must have been for my great grandmother Lucy, whom I am named for, to realize that a flu pandemic was yet one more medical threat to the life of her newborn born on Mule Shed Lane in Madison County, Kentucky.

She was 3 when women were given the right to vote 55 years prior to the day of my own birthday, August 18, 1920. The first motion picture with sound was released, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was created, the first transatlantic flight took place, and the Stock Market crashed which instigated the Great Depression....all before she turned 12.

She would tell me stories of her childhood, growing up on the farm in Kirksville, Kentucky, when an orange would be her only Christmas gift, and for that one orange, she was abundantly thankful.  I am sure that this attitude of abundance served her well as she faced the rations that all Americans endured during the 
second World War of her lifetime.

She was the greatest of the Greatest Generation and came of age in the era of the New Deal. Franklin D. Roosevelt would serve an unprecedented 4 terms of office, being inaugurated when she was 15 and serving until she was 28. And it was during this time that she started her family, giving birth to her own version of the Silent Generation.  If you know my father and his sisters, you will recognize the irony, as these three are rarely silent about anything.  They learned from their mother that using your voice, whether for advocacy or for soul soothing activities such as a vocal performance, is important.

Her mother & father realized that she had a brilliant mind, that never stopped, and made the monetary and considerable logistical sacrifice to make sure their daughter received an education.  She graduated from high school at the age of 16 and proceeded to fall in love with a man many years her senior.  Paul Jett also recognized her intellectual ability and always encouraged her to be herself, allowing her to live her passions for music, gardening, Cecilian Club, National Federation of Music Clubs, church, Project Read, the list goes on and on, but most importantly her family, during almost 6 decades of marriage.

When my Grandfather was no longer able to do so, she went to work at Jett & Hall (what my family refers to as "the stores") assisting my mother and father in continuing the Jett & Hall legacy.  She stayed mostly in the clothing store, with my Dad, making custom alterations to suits, pants and sport coats.  What she didn't finish while in the store, she would often carry home to finish after dinner and bring back the next day. If asked, she could have quoted the measurements of many in this room today as she performed your alterations over the years.  I have fond memories of spending Saturdays with her in the stores as she taught me how to match a men's tie to a latent thread color in a suit, how to rectify my cash drawer, build displays of accessories, credit and debit charge account statements, make night drops, and wrap gift boxes.  

She taught me how to interact with customers and close a sale because that was ultimately put food on our table, but she also taught me compassion and kindness for the "characters" who sometimes wandered in off Main Street. 

Included in the inventions that revolutionized the world during her later years, were the personal computer, satellite television, e-mail, and the internet.  She embraced all of them.  In her 80s, she bought a new computer & paid a tutor to teach her how to use the computer. She was over 90 when she began using facebook, years before some of her own grandchildren did, and she used e-mail to communicate with her network of friends and family that stretched throughout the country and other countries.

And in all of this change that occurred during her lifetime, in my lifetime, she was simply my constant.  After the deaths of my mother and brother, she was my constant source of strength.  She was my constant and incessant cheerleader.  During my teenage years, many of which were spent living with her and my grandfather, she was my constant source of guidance and governance.

One salient memory I have is the loving care she provided when I came down with mononucleosis.  As part of my treatment, I had to have round the clock oral antibiotics. In the weeks of my treatment, she would set an alarm in the middle of the night, and bring me my medicine, along with something to eat as this medicine could not be taken on an empty stomach. To give you some perspective, she was 72 years old at this time, raising a 4th teenager. 

She was my sage, in the 40 years I was blessed to have her, she was a constant mentor to me drawing on her experience as a talented musician, master gardener, skilled cook, concerned citizen, caring mother, loving grandmother, & compassionate friend.

Based on the outpouring of condolences that I have received since her passing, it is obvious how many lives she touched and the difference that she made in the lives of so many.  The overwhelming message from all of them was that their lives were made better, just by knowing her.  

But her greatest gift to me was teaching me to live an authentic life. She taught me to never take a day for granted and live each one like it might be my last. She taught me to use my voice, both musically and intellectually, but she also taught me to say what I mean and to mean what I say. She taught me to live fully, love deeply, care passionately and trust my instincts.  She taught me that you are never to old to learn and you are never too old to change.

Thank you, Amy Louise Parrish Jett, for being a change agent 
for so many but for being my constant.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Memo to our next FCPS Superintendent....It's about a lot of things, but it's not the kids

Source: Fayette County Public Schools

Legal Disclaimer:
This is not an official FCPS memo, this is my personal blog.
This is not letterhead, you are reading a computer screen.
If you are confused by this, you are not the intended user.

Stop reading now.


Date: Saturday, June 27th, 2015

To: Our Next Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent
From: Lucy Jett Waterbury, Member, Parent Interview Panel

Let me start by thanking you for spending 45 minutes with me and the panel of 37 incredibly passionate, intelligent, well spoken and diverse parents. We were chosen to represent an exceptionally diverse population of kids, with needs that vary dramatically. The parent selection part of this process was done brilliantly, as this group of parents was phenomenal! But I would like to state that I, and most of the parents serving on our panel, found the interviewing process protocol to be unbelievably maddening.   If you think that Lexington is full of passive parents that gladly sit there silently, and not engage with you in follow up discussion, this is an incorrect picture that was painted before you.  But alas, we didn't get to make the rules, we just had to "tow the line" or resign from the panel.  Getting to hear your responses to the "cleansed & newly improved" questions was worth it to us, so we stayed. 

The 11 questions you were asked, of the 65 questions that were submitted, were not ours.  Okay, well they started out as ours but then they were run through a sterilization system of hiring consultants, human resource professionals, legal counsel & district staff before they were spit out on the other end, barely recognizable.  They needlessly made sausage out of our filet mignon questions, to use an analogy. I considered "going rogue" and actually asking you my question, as it was written, but figured that I might get removed by security. (After this blog, they may not even let me back in the FCPS headquarters!) If you want to know how my original question you go:

 "Given a lack of Federal funding and minimal state funding of Gifted & Talented programs, as a transformational educator/leader of a district with higher than national average percentages of gifted & talented students, how would you meet the unique needs of all gifted and talented students, in every school, remedy the inequities that currently exist regarding the under served, yet identified gifted/talented students, generally, and more specifically in high poverty, under identified and lower achieving G/T student populations and schools?"  (Shout out to my education guru, first grade teacher, 6th grade English teacher, assistant principal @ Model Lab & Sunday School teacher, and grandparent of FCPS kids and stakeholder Jackie Vance for helping me formulate this question!)
So you say you don't recognize my question, that was supposedly chosen as one of the 11 that were actually asked, from the one above? Yep, I don't recognize it either.

While we wanted to be able to engage in a dialogue with you, you know, like a real interview, we were told that all we could do was listen, take notes, and then when you left the room, talk amongst ourselves.

Regardless of which candidate actually receives this memo, there were elements of the parent interview process that I believe put each of you at a disadvantage, and for that let me apologize on their behalf.  That sucked and hopefully we have learned something this time around.  We were told that the board didn't have to let us interview you at all, as this is their decision, not ours, which is true, so we should just be happy. I don't sound happy, do I?  I will work on that. But once you read the rest of this memo, you will begin to understand.

A bit about me....

For better or worse, and richer or poorer (just ask my husband!), I am a change agent. Call it a disease, call it a form of madness, call it what you will, but it is not a quality that I have chosen, it is just in the fabric of my being. Fundamentally, I just can't keep my mouth shut when my voice is needed. (You could blame my mom for this, but she is no longer of this planet, but watching from heaven and laughing her ass off)

I believe in public schools.  Let me continue by saying I am not the product of the Fayette County public school system (or any public school, I attended Model Laboratory School in Richmond, KY, which explains a lot), but my 2 children will be.  

You only know me as the head nodding blonde sitting in the second seat down on your right side, but I am not a kick 'em while they are down kind of gal, preferring to see the best intentions in people and I try to be part of the solution, not a thorn in their side, but if taken that way, so be it.  

After having had a child in the Fayette County School system for the last 3 years, I have received my own public school education in what it seems to be about in this district,and at the district level, it's not about kids. 

I would like to share just a few of my observations from being a parent in the system, a PTA member, a newly elected PTA board member, a newly elected Site Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) member, a school board meeting survivor (watch for the alliances to be able to Outwit, Outplay and Outlast these folks!), & finally a member of the 2015 superintendent screening parent interview panel.  Here are my observations:

  • It's about keeping up appearances, not keeping up best practices
  • It's about investing in buildings, not in brains
  • It's about covering collective asses, not covering the bases
  • It's about the dog and pony show, not the talent show
  • It's about the bond rating, not the school rating
  • It's about cleansing the message, not sending the right one
  • It's about hiring the familiar, not the fantastic
  • It's about who is in charge, not who are the leaders
  • It's about resting on laurels, not fighting for Laurels
  • It's about budget gaps, not achievement gaps
  • It's about saving gas, not saving lives
  • It's about passing the buck, not multiplying the dollar
  • It's about speaking in hushed tones, not speaking up
  • It's about saving money, not saving children
  • It's about making excuses, not making gains
  • It's about regressing to the mean, not reaching for the stars

    Here's the thing, in the Fayette County Public School system, we do well in spite of ourselves.  As your research would indicate, we have some of the highest achieving schools in the state but we also have some of the worst.  Lexington, KY is a community full of highly dedicated, educated, and passionate people, who care deeply about kids, many of whom they don't even know. In case you missed it in your research, if you would like an example, you can read about yours truly in last Saturday's Lexington Herald-Leader article:Parents Raise Concerns about Fayette County Schools' Handling of Gifted and Talented Students

    Here is what I know after hearing your responses to our diluted questions, in a bastardized process. Both of you care deeply about kids.  Both of you are qualified to lead this district.  Both of you are capable of being change agents.

    I wish you the best of luck in your Skype interview this morning.  You have to be thinking WTH?!, why are they doing this interview via Skype when I was just in town!  It's like they didn't know you were coming or something! Don't ask me how a school board fails to call a school board meeting to interview you in person.  While you were being received with light refreshments, paraded around town, being "interviewed" in a sterile environment for hours by students, staff and parents, somebody let the dog and pony show get in the way.  (From what I am hearing it had something to do with an unread e-mail sitting in a staff inbox.  People make mistakes, I get it, but we have emergency board meeting protocols for a reason but I digress...) Instead of admitting the mistake, and calling the emergency meeting to remedy the oversight, they decided eh, let's just Skype 'em and make it look like it was supposed to happen like this all along.  It's like Keystone Cops around here but perhaps the bullets above are helping distill in your mind why we need you so badly.

    Should you and my best friends on the board (ha!) decide that Lexington, KY is your next home (speaking of homes, I know a great Realtor, as I don't get paid for this change agent gig!), don't say I didn't warn ya. 

    You heard it here first.  Don't let the logo fool ya.  

      Saturday, April 4, 2015

      Begging for Polio in a Modern World

      I don't remember a time when I didn't know brain cancer.  In the same way that most people cannot remember a time when they didn't know there ABC's or when they couldn't read, I cannot remember a world that didn't include glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain cancer.  

      My mother, Genie, was diagnosed at 38 in 1981, when I was 6 years old. She had two brain surgery resections, she endured enough radiation and chemo to take down two elephants and she fought valiantly for 3 years, when the average life expectancy remains stuck at 18 months, even 30 years later.  She fought because a. she was a fighter by nature (guess you are seeing now that this apple didn't fall far from that tree) b. she had three children that she simply couldn't bear to leave behind in this world. But she was forced to leave us behind three days after Christmas in 1984.

      My brother, Stephen, was also diagnosed with the "beast" in February of 2009 at 38, when I was 33 years old.  He did not have any children but he did have one amazing, life sustaining, wife Carin.  While Stephen endured two complete surgical resections, radiation, chemo, and a new drug called Avastin, he unfortunately left this world in August of 2011, 8 days before I turned 36. If the brain cancer world has gained anything between 1981 and 2009, it is that for many, the treatments are not as horrifically difficult to endure.  Stephen led, as reasonably as one can with a terminal cancer diagnosis, a relatively "normal" life until the last few months of his battle.  I like to believe that it was through my mother's generosity of donating her body to the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center for research, that her youngest son was given the gift of a high quality of life, that she did not enjoy during her own battle.

      So while the medical community attempted to tell my family that we were simply struck by lightening twice, I called shenanigans on that preposterous notion.  Some crazy shit has gone down in my family, make no mistake, but two brain cancer diagnoses in the same immediate family, at the same age, is not a lightening strike, it is called a familial glioma. Good Lord, do I wish I was blissfully unaware of this reality, but I digress.

      To make a long story short, my family has been participating in the International Gliogene Study out of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas since Stephen's first tumor was diagnosed.  Were we notified about the study by his team of doctors in Louisville? Nope. Stephen's little sister, yours truly, that can't turn her brain off, decided that someone must be studying this type of thing. In the billions of people in this world, my family couldn't possibly be the only one facing this nightmare in the modern medical era.  

      And his little sister was right.  Turns out that there were over 14 study sites throughout the world, studying these "lightening strikes" for families just like ours. So my poor brother endured extra blood draws and my mother's medical records were resurrected from a limestone cave in Central Kentucky (I am not kidding folks!  Baptist Health, aka Central Baptist Hospital, was able to find my mother's hospital records from the 1980s to send to Texas!).  My Dad, my older brother Neal, and I all had our blood drawn and sent to MD Anderson to see if we could be part of the solution.  And I have to say that I believe that we were as they are getting very close to mapping the familial glioma gene, in the same way that other cancer genes have been mapped for years (think Breast Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, etc.)  

      (This whole being part of the solution thing is Genie's legacy in me.  I swear it is like it's own disease, a good one I suppose, that I keep trying to pass on to my kids.)

      They are most likely years away from providing definitive testing for folks to tell them if they have the gene and would you really want to know?!  Speaking from experience, I wouldn't. Until brain cancer is no longer a death sentence, knowing just makes you a ticking time bomb.  

      I have well meaning, caring, folks ask me all the time if I have routine MRIs to see if I have a brain tumor like Mom and Stephen.  I try to be gracious and explain that even if I had an MRI this morning, showing no tumor, a tumor of the worst cancer known to mankind, could begin growing tonight  (after my University of Kentucky Wildcats take the Wisconsin Badgers out of this March Madness which is really April Madness, as an astute friend of mine pointed out to me this week).  And I could be dead in 6 months, before the next "preventative" MRI even happened.  And just think, in August I will turn 40 so I made it past 38, so that's something (or so I tell myself).

      For the record, if I have brain tumor right now, I don't want to know.  It will rear its ugly head very quickly, as the size of the "beast" doubles every 2 weeks, so I will take 2-6 weeks of being blissfully unaware as I promise that small amount of time of not knowing I had cancer will be the best gift I could have been given as when you know, it changes EVERYTHING yet ironically, nothing changes at all. 

      And check it out, even if I knew I had the familial glioma gene, it's not like I could pull an Angelina Jolie, and have my brain removed (obviously a brain transplant might have remedied stupid mistakes for her like Billy Bob Thorton, but apparently the brain started working when Brad Pitt came calling!) And do not think I am making light of what Jolie has done in mitigating the risk in losing her own life and educating others about familial breast and ovarian cancer genes.  

      If I had her genes, you better believe I would have my breasts and ovaries removed, like yesterday.  I don't care what the doctors or research says, breasts and ovaries may be required to bring life and sustain the life of a new human, but to the current owner, they are let's say, inconvenient on their best day. If having them is risking my long term survival, and I had her money to buy me a new fabulous pair of breasts, where do I sign?! Until you have walked a mile in these "cancer pervades my immediate family" shoes, don't even talk to me.  You don't get it...and this "it", you don't want.

      And you are thinking, Lucy, what in the world does any of this have to do with polio?!

      Well, glad you asked.  As you see, just last Sunday, the TV news program "60 Minutes" aired a segment regarding an experimental treatment study for glioblastoma multiforme that is being conducted at Duke University, the nation's leading research center in brain cancer.  Apparently the researchers at Duke are injecting brain tumors with, you guessed it...the polio virus.  Okay, it is a form of the virus that has been rendered harmless to the rest of the body but apparently eviscerates brain tumors when injected straight into the brain.  Craziness, right?!  

      (If you would like to watch the 60 Minutes segment you may watch it here: 60 Minutes: Killing Cancer Part 2)

      Does the premise of this treatment completely blow your mind?! The hypothesis here is astounding and unbelievable.  But for me, the mere timing of it had me in tears and very conflicted.  Stephen died in 2011 and this study began in 2012 and as those tears were brimming in my eyes as I processed what this trial could have meant for our family, I remembered a cruel reality of this life.  Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Close doesn't deliver my brilliant, witty, kind, caring, and loving brother, one of the only human beings on this planet that shared my history, back to me.

      Does it tell you how determined some folks are to stick around this planet that they willingly sign up to have their brain injected with Polio? And would it blow your mind to know that while there are two long term "survivors", at 3-4 years post treatment, and that half the participants died anyway.  So these people are leaving their homes, risking what little time they have left, driving and flying from all over the country, heading to Duke, and having their brain injected with polio when there is a 50% chance they will die anyway.  But, 50% beats the 100% chance of death that comes with a "beast", so who could blame them?  

      So while this die hard University of Kentucky Wildcats fan will adamantly cheer against the Duke Blue Devils tonight in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  And will do the same, if given the chance, on Monday in the National Championship, I am a huge fan of one Duke team.  The team that is saving lives with a virus that for decades, we tried to eradicate, and has ironically plagued the lives of so many others with immense pain and suffering.  If the definition of desperation is begging for polio to be injected into your brain then using the polio virus to eradicate brain cancer is the definition of making lemonade when life hands you lemons.

      This life is so strange. We are guaranteed no tomorrows.  Embrace the fact that today you are not begging for one horrific virus to be injected into your brain, to save your life.  

      And then do what Genie would do, go be part of the solution.

      (If you missed my blog post remembering my mom, just click here-------> Remembering Genie Jett)

      Sunday, February 15, 2015

      Love is....

      Yesterday was Valentine's Day.  It is a day that is intended to recognize expressions of love between people, but like most "holidays" has turned into another commercialized, Hallmark-laden, economic engine.  Just like has happened with Christmas, the expectations, guilt, and stress that are associated with perfect gift giving, have replaced the true meaning of the day, which is love.  But if your expressions of love are defined only as chocolate, jewelry, flowers (only on a holiday, not an average day), expensive dinners out, or the like, you are missing it.

      I spent my Valentine's Day cleaning up vomit and cleaning my house, for the 15th time this week. Of course having two children hit by a stomach virus in one week will incentive a parent to deploy all disinfecting means to make this shit go away, literally, without claiming the large humans.  Because as any parent knows, the only thing worse than taking care of a sick child is doing it while you yourself are sick.  

      I also had the privilege of spending my Valentine's Day assisting a wonderful couple in finding their new dream home on a day whose weather quickly dissolved into hazardous road conditions.  

      But to me, that is what love is.  It is cleaning up vomit and scheduling tours of homes to make sure everyone is home before the dangerous weather your clients weren't even aware of...hits.  It is making a relatively healthy dinner for your kids when feeding them a bag of Oreos would be so much easier and make everyone happier, but not healthier.  

      So my dear readers, I will take a stab at how I define love and I invite you to return this kind of love to those who need it so desperately in this life, whether they are those closest to you or those who currently are the most foreign. And let's not wait for Valentine's Day to show others that we love them as we all need it, year round.  

      Love is....
      • installing a whole house humidifier on a 10 year old furnace, after years of filling a portable one from the tub faucet
      • changing and laundering vomit covered sheets at 2:30, 3:45, & 5:07am
      • caging tomato plants to protect tomatoes you will never eat
      • wiping noses, tears, bottoms, etc.
      • holding vigil at a hospital bed for hours and days at a time
      • changing diapers, infant and adult
      • brushing the teeth of tantruming children
      • spending your own money on needed classroom supplies
      • donating organs
      • finding a new pair of my favorite 5 year old Levi jeans on ebay
      • stopping to help change a stranger's flat tire
      • helping a laboring mother breathe through natural childbirth, giving her the time and terms she needs
      • baking decorated cakes for needy kids whose parents are unable to afford them
      • donating a warm winter coat 
      • serving in a soup kitchen & serving the homeless wherever they are
      • reading that last bedtime story when you desperately want your own bed 
      • shopping for tylenol, humidifiers, cough syrup, milk, bananas, or goldfish at 3am
      • playing one more game of Uno
      • saying "yes", when everything in you is saying "no"
      • saying "no", when it would be so easy to say "yes"
      • building the 8th sandcastle
      • applying the sunscreen for the 5th time
      • holding the hand/leg/arm of a child for a vaccine while staring in their eyes that show disbelief & betrayal
      • running behind the bike without training wheels with your hand on the seat
      • keeping the epi-pen at the ready, always
      • sharing the organic green beans that you raised from seed & canned yourself
      • using your powerful voice, when it needs to be heard, when there is nothing in it for you, and you would rather stay silent
      • starting and scraping your spouse's car on a cold & snowy winter morning
      • programming the coffee pot the night before
      • buying my organic half & half because you notice I'm running low
      • plugging my phone into the charger when you notice it needs it
      • unclogging a slow drain 
      • cleaning the cat litter, for the 20th time in a row, when it's everybody's cat
      • insisting on the extra layer of clothing when the complaining ensues
      • providing complimentary child care to weary and worn out parents
      • making and taking homemade chicken noodle soup to a sick friend
      • replacing the burned out bulb in the left turn signal
      • shoveling your neighbor's walk
      • serving on the school accreditation committee
      • being a shoulder to cry on
      • going back for "blankie" when you are already running late
      • handing down your children's clothes to little ones not far behind
      • putting yourself "out there" when the risk is real and palatable
      • ignoring your own discomfort to lessen the discomfort of another
      If you find yourself living a life without love expressed in ways similar to the above, but instead only filled with boxes of chocolate and with Kisses that only "begin with Kay", life is going on around you and you should become a part of it.  

      In my mind Valentine's Day should be renamed, Sacrificial Love Day, but then that wouldn't sell much stuff would it?  But then again, as they say, the best things in life are free.