Feel Good Grab Bag

Ok, I’ve been getting a little serious lately.  I need to get in touch with my not-so-serious side.  So here’s a grab bag post of less serious stuff.

The Christmas Cantata

chriatmas-choir-slide5It’s that time of year where church choir directors start looking at new Christmas music.  Every year, my choir presents a Christmas Cantata

cantata – a medium-length narrative piece of music for voices with instrumental accompaniment, typically with solos, chorus, and orchestra.

Ours usually last around 30 minutes.  They tell a story with narration and songs with a particular Christmasy focus.  I’ve selected one in record time!  For the last 3 (4?) years we’ve been doing cantatas buy Pepper Choplin.  His music is outstanding, and we’ve hit a home run every time.  But it is time for a change.  I picked something entirely different and I’ve hired 5 or so musicians to join us and that’s all I’ll say.  I predict that it might be the most uplifting cantata we have ever offered, and most importantly, it will be a wonderful moment of worship.  We start work on it at the end of August.  Yes!  It really takes that long for us to prepare it for December!

The Elder Wand

20160622_153659Many of you know that I returned from Harry Potter World in Orlando with a souvenir wand.  It’s modeled after a wand in the Harry Potter movies.  I won’t say who’s wand because that is a spoiler, but most of you already know.  It’s not a toy, but it’s not not a toy.  It’s on display at my desk and when I need to think or relax for awhile, I fiddle with it. There’s something about it that I really like.  I use it to point at my screen and imagine that I can do things on my computer with it (not successful so far).  I also imagine that I can extract thoughts to a pensieve (dish where you can put your thoughts like in Harry Potter) when I’m working through an issue.

I know that this is silly.  Perhaps if someone caught me with it, they might think that I am immature in some way.  And maybe I am!  But it somehow makes my day a little better.  And I think I know why.  This wand represents one of the greatest vacations that I’ve ever taken my family on, and that makes me feel good.

Cheap Date

pnos4aqlixw63hhzu5keThe Evan’s Theatre in Norman is helping my love life!  Jenn and I can now afford to go on a date every week if we like.  It costs $6 or so to get in and $13 or so to get drinks and snacks.  You really can’t beat a $20 date.  I keep an entertainment budget and it comes straight out of that, so it’s built right in.  We just need to make it happen.  Friday nights seem to work.

Last week we caught The Jungle Book.  I don’t think it was Jenn’s first choice, but she knew how much I wanted to see it.  I got a super duper deluxe Freetos chili pie.  So good.  And she got the loaded nachos.  The movie was very good.  It was visually stunning, and there were elements of the animated version woven in, such as a few songs.  With actors like Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson,  Ben Kingsley, and Christopher Walken, it’s hard to go wrong!  Funny, thrilling, and moving.

The place is special to me.  In the 80s I played arcade games while I waited with my friends, went with my youth group from church to see stuff, and took Jennifer on dates there in high school.  It is full of good feelings for me.

OKC Gay Pride Parade

13522072_10154340499195152_4521492722648175116_nI know I’ve already written a whole post on this, but I just gotta say that I feel very nurtured by that event.  Those few hours represent to me the best of what humanity is.  Other animals have their way of showing some sort of affection and devotion, but human love may go beyond that.  Yes, it’s made complicated but our intellects, traditions, and faiths, but at this event, I felt that it was very pure.  I thought it would be very political, but there was a striking absence of politics.

And it’s something you can feel.  In the presence of pure love and acceptance, it is hard not to feel it.  It triggers something in our limbic systems and then we feel it.  And when we feel it, we spread it.  And when there are 30,000 people exploding with it, it is overwhelming in the best possible way.  I feel very blessed by it even as I’m writing this.

Something to Sink My Teeth Into

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I’ve been mildly unhappy at work for quite awhile because I have so little to do, and none of it has been challenging, but this week I was given a tasty morsel.  I get to rewrite the interface between  one of our systems and the new requisition system.  I do not know how complicated it will be or how much work it will be, but it’s something to do!  Bring it on!

A Tasty Independence Day Treat

FRSTIC-WDB-015-1Most years, my family attends a cookout and pool party at friends of my parents from my old church whom I’ve known for 30 years.  It’s nice to catch up with folks and eat some yummy burgers and dogs.  When it’s time, we carpool out to the Lloyd Noble arena and park our cars on the hot cement.  We set up chairs and prepare for the fireworks show.  And though I love the fireworks, my favorite part is the treat.  Every year, the couple who hosts the party make scratch lemon ice cream.  When I say lemon ice cream, I don’t mean sherbet or sorbet.  I’m talking ice cream with lemons and lemon juice in it.  The lemon slices freeze and soak up the sugar.  It’s uncommonly delicious!  You may say, well then why don’t you learn how to make it?  To which I say, then it wouldn’t be so special!

I’m sure I’ll find something serious to write about soon enough, but it’s good to mix it up!  Have a happy day!

 

 

 

 

OKC Gay Pride Parade: A Celebration of Authenticity

oklahoma-city-prideFor fifteen years I was a member of a very progressive United Methodist Church.  It’s what is known as a Reconciling Church which means they reject the rules set by the national conference that gay folks are living in sin, cannot get married, and cannot serve as a pastor; rather, this church has decided to be inclusive and accepting.  They fight against the rules as much as they can without getting their pastor fired.

Every year, a contingent from the church marches in the OKC Gay Pride Parade representing the notion that Christian love has a place in the LGBT community.  I saw three UMC churches and two United Church of Christ churches.  Even though I am no longer a member of this church, my family is, and in light of the Orlando shooting and the heightened hostility toward the LGBT community, I felt that it was important that I march.

As we waited in front of the church to carpool, I admired some of the colorful costumes of the folks who I would be marching with.  I was wearing a Batman shirt and a safari hat.  I expressed a desire to have some rainbow on me and a young lady in bright rainbow suspenders offered to give me a rainbow lei from her car.

Before I put it on, another guy, who was wearing an identical lei, complained of “sensory issues” with it.  I wasn’t sure what he meant.  I wondered if he meant the colors, but when I put it on I understood.  It was very scratchy, and I was very hot.  Scratchy and hot is enough to cause anyone to have sensory issues, but I decided that gay pride was a good enough cause to endure it.  I developed a theory that my uncomfortable nerves would eventual stop sending uncomfortable messages to my brain and I would stop noticing it.  I was right.

I do not know the full number of our group, but 9 of us rode in the church van.  As we were climbing in, the pastor, who was also the driver, warned us that the air conditioner needed freon and would not be working well.  I felt there was a sense of small sacrifice for this cause and nobody complained despite the heat.

I rode in the front seat with the pastor, whom I did not know very well.  She explained to the passengers that she had once totaled a van such as this when a car in front of her spun out of control on the Turner Turnpike.  It didn’t bother me because I knew it wasn’t her fault and I suspected she intended it as levity.  I might have said the same thing under the circumstances.

At some point, on the van or with my wife and son driving to the church, my she explained that there would be a lot of extra security.  It wasn’t until then that I realized there was the slight possibility for violence.  After all, a gunman had killed 49 folks in a gay club in Orlando just a few weeks before.  I knew I had a choice, duck out for safety’s sake or take a stand.  I said a quick pray and turned my life over to the care of God, resolving that I was prepared to die in the remote chance that there was a gunman.  I refused to live in fear.   What an odd thing to have to do on a Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t a long trip, 25-30 minutes, and when we arrived, the pastor counted as we passed  the parade groups to pull into our #18 slot amongst a few other uncommonly accepting churches.  We had arrived 2 hours early, but there were many celebratory people walking the sidewalk or gathering around their parade vehicles.  I saw many wondrous people in costumes and clothes intended to celebrate the LGBT community.  That means trans women and drag queens in glorious dress and makeup.  Men in little pink Speedo bathing suits.  Hairy biker dudes in black leather.  Men in leather kilts.  Pink ballet tutus.  Fairy wings.  And all manner of bright rainbow color and funkiness.  It was a truly awesome and beautiful sight.

13522072_10154340499195152_4521492722648175116_nWe stood or sat under a shady tree and chatted.  We took pictures with the other churches and of each other.  We passed out bags of lolly pops, Safety Pops to be exact.  We assembled pinwheels to pass out along with the candy.  A man in our group explained that we could not throw candy, but we must hand it directly to a person.  I asked if it would be considered an assault if we threw one, half in jest, and he agreed that it could be, but I don’t think he really cared to entertain my idea.

My son and I volunteered to carry large rainbow flags, and we practiced letting the wind stretch them out above us.  It was very hot, but a drastic weather change occurred with cool, damp air and strong breezes.  The moment it happened, a girl stretched out her arms and praised the sky for the relief.  There cheer among many of our group.

And then it was time.  Our banner carriers and van driver got into place, and our group step in behind the banner.  The group in the two slots in front of us played disco music with a lot of bass.  We lifted our flags and marched to the music.  The further we walked, the more the cheering.  There were people of all walks and ages, from little babies to octogenarians.

We knew that the Westboro Baptist Church would be protesting, and I was a little anxious about it, but I knew they would not violent.  When we reached the corner where they were holding signs and shouting “Shame!” on a megaphone, the crowd was cheering so loud, that we were sheltered from the doomsday warnings.

When we passed them, things picked up.  The mood began to shift to a high energy party feeling.  There were tens of thousand lining up to cheer us and give us cold water.  People thanked us, a church, for standing up for the gay community in a time when churches were condemning LGBT folks.  I began to feel more and more exuberant to the point where I was waving my flag and hooting and yelling and throwing peace signs to encourage the crowd to cheer even more.  What I was experiencing was beyond parties, it was a celebration unlike anything I’d experienced.  As we approached the grand stand, I became deeply moved by the overwhelming sense of love.

Along the way we encountered friends and gave hugs and took pictures.  I never caught what the MC said about us, but our smiles said said enough about us.  As we climbed into the van to leave, the rain began to poor.  We shared our thoughts on the good timing.  In a progressive church, some people struggle with the notion of God blessing through timing like this, because what about all the other groups getting soaked?  But my response to small graces is gratitude.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter if it was a “God Thing”, it doesn’t hurt to express gratitude. And there was so much to be grateful for.  I enjoyed catching up with some of the folks in the back of the van.

13507078_10154305595813799_849221779056893742_nI had known in theory what the parade meant, but experiencing it was enlightening.  This parade is the one day of the year when the LGBT community of Oklahoma is joined by thousands of (attendance was 30,000) people who fully love and accept and celebrate them amidst a year and state which tears them down and seeks to deny them rights.

My daughter, passionate about social justice, said, “Now the straight people are going to start complaining that they need a straight pride parade.”  And I do understand that logical, albeit obtuse, sentiment.  The logic being, why should gay folks get to celebrate they’re identity and straight folks cannot?  That seems unfair!  To which my daughter said,  “Every day is straight pride day.”

I put a picture of myself at the parade up on Facebook before I went to bed, and my wife tagged me in one as well.  My church is not open about LGBT issues.  There are accepting people who would like to be open with their views, but there are folks who would not welcome it, and so I was a little anxious about putting it up.  I don’t want me views of the world to interfere with my ministry, but some things are too important.  It’s not just a cause, it’s my friends.  It’s people who I love who need my support.

There was very little politics other than a few Hillary and Bernie buttons.  Although sexuality and gender identity issues have been greatly politicized, it is not about politics.  It is about people trying to live out their lives in as authentic a way as possible.  And isn’t that what we should all be striving to do?

 

Did You Just Do Something?

2260152fe706a2d2eedd8940e47fe54fSometime in the 90s, possibly first on the Martin show, the phrase “Oh no you didn’t!” was popularized in black culture along with “Talk to the the hand” and other sassy phrases.  Because early adopters were primarily black, the phrase became a “black thing”;  off limits for white folks.

Like all cool things that were originated by black folks, white folks can’t wait to use them and make them uncool; or worse, cross an invisible line into mild racism or cultural appropriation.  It’s like when a new drug comes on the market and you have to wait ten years for the patent to run out so you can start buying the generic.  Such is the case with cool things black people say.

Enter uncool white guy, David Wilson-Burns.  In the early 2000s, when we were on the cusp of white people being able to use the phrase, “Oh no you didn’t! (di-int)” but not quite (except for maybe Betty White, she can get away with anything), I was in a meeting to plan a Christmas musical program for my division of the FAA.  Just think about that for a moment.  We planned to sing Christmas carols and a couple of emotional songs about Jesus in a federal agency, on federal property, during Christmas,  on federal time.  I don’t know how long this had been going on, but I don’t miss an opportunity to sing in public, so I overlooked my concerns about separation of church and state.  I don’t think they do it anymore, and I don’t think it’s because of religion.

At the meeting were a short white gal with intense control issues, a tone-deaf white gal who consistently sang in the wrong key to karaoke tracks and who insisted on singing the hardest songs and as many songs as possible in the program and who eventually caused the tradition to implode, me a classical singer trying to learn how to sing pop music, and a black guy with an amazing tenor voice who could sing anything.  I’d sung with him before and we were on very friendly terms.  He loved my voice, and I loved his voice;  a mutual respect.

I had been assigned the secret role on the committee to make sure the tone-deaf woman was following the “one solo/one ensemble” rule and that she was singing songs that were easier to sing in tune and to coach her when necessary because people were getting up and leaving when she sang because of how painful it was. I felt a little bad about it, but I knew the show would be problematic if I didn’t set these kinds of parameters.   It was actually a nice voice, but even a nice voice sounds terrible 3 or 4 steps off.  There’s the person who can’t sing well who knows it, but just wants to give it a go, and then there’s the person who can’t sing well, blindly insists that she’s the next Mariah Carey, and wants to dominate any program she’s in.  I can tolerate the former.  I don’t believe you have to be a great singer to sing in programs and churches.  I like everyone to have a chance to share their music.  But this gal was the latter.  Where is Simon Cowell when you need him?

At some point in the meeting, someone talked about someone else doing or saying something that offended the sensibilities of one of the white girls at the table.  I do not remember who or what, but it was the perfect time to say “Oh know she di-in’t” and in the absence of a sassy black woman and before I took time to consider what I was doing, I said it.  I may have even nailed it.  The white ladies laughed, but the black guy didn’t.  Instead, he raised his eyebrows at me across the conference room table and said, “Did you just do something?”

I knew I had just done something, but I played innocent.  I shook my head and said, “Nnnnnope.”

To which he replied, nodding slightly and speaking with calm finality, “You just did something.”

And I knew the time had not yet come for me to use that phrase, even though I had watched the same Martin episode years before.  But that’s just the way it is.  I don’t know exactly why it has to be that way, but I suspect it’s because in the history of America, white folks have taken all of the good stuff, including credit for stuff that black folks came up with first.  Elvis is a prime example.  He did not invent Rock and Roll, and yet he gets so much credit for it. He was just a white early adopter with a mediocre voice, awesome hair, and a few weird dance moves that made 14-year-old girls weep hysterically.

I tell my “Oh no she didn’t” story once and awhile. It gets a laugh.  It was a lesson learned, and it was funny.  The guy was likely not offended by my gaffe. He never said another word about it and we remained friends.  He just wanted to hold my feet over the coals a little bit.  His prerogative, I suppose.

At this point in my life, I don’t pretend to be cool, or appropriate coolness from anybody.  I am who I am, and in some ways that’s kind of funny.  I’m the kind of guy who could easily be a a super white neighbor character in an episode of Martin who says “Youuuu betcha.”

Wally World or Bust: An All-American Family Road Trip Travel Log

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This is the log of the greatest Wilson-Burns vacation that has ever been or may ever be.  It chronicles 3000 miles of road travel and a week at Disney and Universal parks written by a dad who like, Clark W. Griswold, just wants to create the best good-old fashioned, all-American, family road trip for his family.

Wally World or Bust:  An All-American Family Road Trip Travel Log

On Harry Potter, Acne, and Being Right

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When I’m right, I’m right.  When I’m not sure, I say so.  When I’m wrong, I admit it.

This is what I yelled at my daughter the other day.  We’ve had a couple of spats recently on the subject of me correcting her or anybody when I believe they are wrong.  The accusation is that I don’t trust people’s claims to facts, etc.  It’s a fair accusation.  I am a skeptic.  I am an investigator.

But this is not how I see it.  It’s not about me being right.  It’s about doing someone the courtesy of preventing someone from propagating false information and possibly being embarrassed on down the line.  Nobody likes to be corrected, but nobody likes to sound foolish, either. It’s like if you walking out to the lady’s room with your skirt tucked up in your panties.  It’s embarrassing when I tell you so, but you’re grateful that I did. Many of us fact check and correct on a daily basis on Facebook, no matter the motives.  It is true that some people do it because they get off on being right.  That is not my M.O.  But, as you would expect, there is more to the story.

Case in point! A few days ago, my daughter and I took a trip to Barnes & Noble to browse books and sip espresso.  When she found a book, we stepped up to the counter for her to buy it.  The young woman behind the counter was wearing a Harry Potter and the Cursed Child dongle around her neck.

I asked, “So when is the new Harry Potter book coming out?”  She gave me a date and then I added, “So, I’m confused, did J.K. Rowling write this?”

Now at this point I was 99% sure I knew the answer, so asking this is kind of a  (pardon the vulgarity) dick move.  But what I knew was that the story was written by Rowling and then turned into a play which was turned into a book.  The playwright is Jack Thorne.  I didn’t want to sound like an insufferable know-it-all (see Severus Snape about Hermione Granger), so I tried to strike up a casual conversation which would end up with me correcting any falsehood.

She looked at me as if I was so sadly ignorant.  Of course J.K. Rowling wrote the book, it’s Harry Potter after all.  I left her with “Actually, I heard that someone else wrote it, but regardless, I’ll be here to buy my copy!”  It is was a big step forward in maturity for me to walk away, although I very nearly drove back to the store to set her straight after I confirmed my facts.

In the car, my daughter gave me what for for contradicting the woman.  She claimed that I don’t give anyone an credit, and that I always say that I’m right and that no one else is ever right.  Of course, that is hyperbole.  But even still, that is not true.  When I’m 100% certain, I usually confront someone on their bad information very politely.  When I’m not sure, I say “Hey, I’m no 100% sure about this but I seem to recall…you might want to check your facts…(or I just look it up myself).  Or if I’m not sure at all, I say that I don’t know or I don’t say anything at all.  I feel ok about this.  After all my, thing is not being right, it is helping people to not be wrong.  There is a difference.  Isn’t there?  But she is very perceptive;  there was more to the story.  I had a motive for the whole conversation.

The first headline for this “book” was that J.K. Rowling finally wrote another Harry Potter novel, but as I dug a little deeper I was disappointed to find that it wasn’t true.  Since then I’ve been spreading the truth about the “book” here and there because I don’t want others to be let down or misled when the book comes out.  It’s a play, first off, it’s not a novel. I’ve read plays…Shakespeare, for example.  They are not as satisfying as reading a novel, and nothing like reading a Harry Potter book.  Second off, Rowling did not write it, so either Jack Thorne tried to mimic Rowling’s writing or it’s not going to sound like Rowling at all.  It’s really just one degree away from being fan fiction.

And so, when I found out that this girl, who’s job it is to know about the books in B&N, thought wrongly about this monumentally important book, my motive was more than just stopping bad info, it was out of concern for the people who will likely be disappointed when they see Thorne credited as the writer and when they open the “book” to read “Act I, Scene I.  A man with unkempt black hair and a lightning bolt scar on his forehead sits by the fire…”

Even as I write this post, I’m slipping in facts about this silly book, and the book isn’t the point at all!

This example is a special circumstance.  There are other motives for correcting people.  For example, I really hate when someone puts out bogus information which disparages someone else or their beliefs.  In this case, I am coming to the defense.  I could think of other just reasons for correcting someone, but I’ll tell a story which demonstrates how far I’ve come with it.

In college, I dated a girl who believed an old wives’ tail that chocolate causes acne.  I knew her parents, and I knew her decrepit dermatologist and did not consider them valid sources.  There is only a tiny correlation between chocolate and acne and that is that sugary/fatty food can cause an inflammation that might lead to acne.  There was no Google then, so I had asked my doctor, he confirmed that it was a myth.  Then one night, I set out to prove her wrong.  She could not be moved no matter how much data I threw at her.  The end of the story is her parents hiding in a back room, her crying, and me in the front lawn raving and pounding my fists on the lawn over acne and chocolate.  I don’t think it was too long after that that she dumped me.

Compare that with me at the book store.  You’re welcome, America, for me not rolling around on the floor of a Barnes & Noble over who wrote a damn book.