Margaret Lia and Freda Gardner

Normandy invasion

Margaret LiaThe mom of my childhood friend Ray, Margaret Lia died recently at the age of 95. She was the Den Mother of our short-lived Cub Scout troop. I was terrible at the craft-driven things I was supposed to do, but she was very patient with me.

I always liked her light British accent. When Ray got married in October 1976 to Pam, I got to escort Mrs. Lia to her seat, and I was quite pleased by that.

I didn’t know this romantic story until I read it in the obituary: “Margaret worked as a stenographer when her company was moved from London to the countryside for the duration of World War II. It was there that she met and fell in love with Albert Lia, a US Army serviceman, whose troops were preparing for the Invasion of Normandy. During Albert’s time in Europe, they corresponded by mail and after the war, he proposed in a letter. Soon she was emigrating to America to become his war bride and their loving marriage lasted 60 years.”

Like most funerals in this period, “a memorial mass will be celebrated at SS Cyril and Methodius Church at a later date.” St. Cyril’s on Clinton Street in Binghamton was very close to my now-razed school, Daniel Dickinson.

“Please consider a donation to the American Civic Association, 131 Front Street, Binghamton, NY, 13905.” The ACA is “an organization committed to helping immigrants and refugees start a new life in our community while preserving their ethnic and cultural diversity.”

My late father, Les Green, was involved with the place. He, sister Leslie and I performed there at least once as the Green Family Singers. In March of 1969, I had my 16th birthday party there. And unfortunately, it was one of those mass shooting sites back in 2009.

A pioneer

Freda Gardner Freda Gardner was a member of my church. We served on a couple of committees together, including Education. We were part of the group working with Pastor Glenn Leupold when he was getting his doctorate c 2012-2015. She was wise, intelligent, compassionate, and always an advocate for equality and justice.

A fellow church member took her to a local presbytery meeting a few years back. He introduced her, at which point everyone laughed. “Oh, WE know Freda!”

Until relatively recently, neither he nor I knew she had been elected Moderator of the 211th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1999 and was the first female full-time faculty member at Princeton Theological Seminary. She was a force in the PCUSA, but never boasted about it.

As Pastor Glenn noted, “Freda was a life-long learner, possessing a masterful use of language. She could explain just about any theological concept with clarity and precision, enabling many to understand.” She was 91. As is often the case recently, “A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, at a date to be determined.”

Our Economic Impact Payment Card?

Very stimulating

StimulusWhen I received an envelope from the Money Network Cardholder Services of Omaha, NE, I figured that it was a credit card from some bank that consolidated. Nope. It was the Economic Impact Payment Card. It’s money we’re “receiving as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).”

In other words, our stimulus check was not a check at all but a debit card. It is a sign of the times that when I typed in eipcard com, Google auto-filled to add the word scam. But it is NOT a scam, as this brief, mechanical video notes.

The Treasury is Delivering Millions of Economic Impact Payments by Prepaid Debit Card, according to this May 18 post. “This week, Treasury and the IRS are starting to send nearly 4 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) by prepaid debit card, instead of by paper check. EIP Card recipients can make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs, and transfer funds to their personal bank account without incurring any fees.

“They can also check their card balance online, by mobile app, or by phone without incurring fees. The EIP Card can be used online, at ATMs, or at any retail location where Visa is accepted. This free, prepaid card also provides consumer protections available to traditional bank account owners, including protections against fraud, loss, and other errors.”

Your basic caveats

Well…, check out this Forbes article, “5 Things To Know About Stimulus Debit Cards.”

Not everyone is getting them. “The Treasury Department says EIP cards will be sent to people who don’t have bank account information on file with the IRS from the 2018 or 2019 tax years and have had their tax returns processed by the Andover, Massachusetts or Austin, Texas IRS Service Center. Those two service centers process tax returns from [10 states], foreign countries, U.S. territories, and military addresses.” And other places, such as upstate New York.

You May Be Charged Fees. For instance, for “Out-of-network ATM withdrawals.” And I can’t find an in-network ATM that’s closer than 30 miles from my house: Walmarts in Bennington, VT and Pittsfield and North Adams, MA.

ATM balance inquiries. “Most ATMs will ask you if you want to check your card balance before making a withdrawal. However, each time you check your account balance on your EIP card via ATM, you will be charged 25 cents (on both in-network and out-of-network ATMs). You can avoid this charge by checking your account balance online, through the mobile app or by calling the customer service number.” Tricky stuff, this.

Bank/teller over-the-counter withdrawals. “If you withdraw cash directly from a bank teller, your first withdrawal will be free—but additional transactions will cost $5 each.” Ouch!

Register Online for Easy Account Access. I’ve tried, thrice so far. I get to what appears to be the last page, and I came up with an address error, somehow. So I CAN use the card, but I can’t yet check the balance unless I call 1.800.240.8100.

Lydster: balancing act- what to share

more photos!

The primary balancing act in this here blog involves my daughter. When she was really young, I would put photos of her. Eventually, though, that seemed to be potentially unwise because people are strange.

Even early on, it was also true in the written content. I wasn’t about to write something that would potentially embarrass her years later. Of course, it’s always tricky to ascertain what will mortify a teenager.

I have several photo albums of my life prior to getting married in 1999. But I have none of the pictures from this century in books. However, I do have the pictures. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands.

My daughter was allegedly helping me to clean the office when she got distracted by the photo books. My, she could be brutal about a pose I made, or a look I had back in the day. It was humbling, to say the least.

But she can be rather unforgiving of the way she looked when she was younger. I think she’s very cute. So does her mother. But she seems to think otherwise. Who’s right here, her or her totally unbiased parents?

Clean up time

In the months before I left work, I found a treasure trove of emailed photos there. I sent them to my personal account. Now, in the midst of purging said emails – from 10,7000 down to 4,000 so far – I’ve decided to use some of those pictures here, each month because I can. They’ll be in no particular order.

The photo below is from July of 2007. We were visiting a married couple in the Binghamton, NY area. She was in our wedding in 1999. We were in their wedding in 2002. That’s our kids playing in the sprinkler, my daughter to the left.

I think the picture above was in Oneonta later that summer. Perhaps at Brooks BBQ? Maybe somewhere else? It doesn’t much matter. The kid’s cute, though, right?

A global ceasefire: a way to remember

blind, deluded militarism

global ceasefireSeveral years ago, I came across a list of American Military Deaths in the Iraq war since May 1st, 2003. Though the list hasn’t been updated since early 2012, and the count since mid-2016, it’s still meaningful. This guy from North Carolina was killed by an improvised explosive device. That guy from Texas died from “wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire.”

There is something very powerful about seeing the specifics. These people who died aren’t just numbers. They are spouses, siblings, sons, and daughters. My opposition to that war, from before the beginning is well-documented in this blog.

What happens next?

Will the current regime participate in a global ceasefire or more lost wars? As the subtitle of the article reads: “Like his predecessors from Truman to Obama, Trump has been caught in the trap of America’s blind, deluded militarism.”

“Undercover of highly publicized redeployments of small numbers of troops from a few isolated bases in Syria and Iraq, Trump has actually expanded U.S. bases and deployed at least 14,000 more U.S. troops to the greater Middle East, even after the U.S. bombing and artillery campaigns that destroyed Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria ended in 2017. Under the U.S. agreement with the Taliban, Trump has finally agreed to withdraw 4,400 troops from Afghanistan by July, still leaving at least 8,600 behind to conduct airstrikes, ‘kill or capture’ raids and an even more isolated and beleaguered military occupation.

“Now a compelling call by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic has given Trump a chance to gracefully deescalate his unwinnable wars – if indeed he really wants to.” I assume it’s harder to fight a war when your hands are slippery from hand soap.

There was a recent 60 Minutes report about the military during the pandemic. Exercises were canceled. Extra precautions were taken not to infect servicepeople. Fighting an “unseen enemy” has put the brakes on many activities. Perhaps it is a sign of what we should do going forward.

Or not.

Open up houses of worship?

some church music

open the church doorsCatbird asked me a question:

I just saw da prez say he’d overrule governors if they didn’t open up houses of worship this weekend. A legal analyst in the same BBC broadcast said he had no constitutional or legal authority to do this.

I suppose said houses of worship will decide for themselves.

I know you’re actively involved in your church, so I’m interested in your opinion on whether God cares WHERE people pray.

My understanding is that even in the strictest of interpretations it doesn’t matter more THAT one prays than where one does it.

What do you think?

My first response, I’m afraid, was lacking in Christian charity.

I will say that whoever has been advising “da prez” on these things has picked the confluence of several religious traditions. Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost in the Jewish tradition, is May 28-30. The Christian iteration of Pentecost is May 31. Ramadan ended the evening of May 23 for Muslims. And of course, Memorial Day begins the secular religion of the barbecue.

But, of course, it is false piety on his part. He can’t mandate it, but that’s not the point. He’s stirred up the base. “These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. “The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque,” he said.

Sure you can theoretically bring churches/synagogues/mosques back, with 10 people, socially distant, masks. Maybe more people in cathedrals and larger structures. No way you safely have a traditional choir. At my church, online services even offer the opportunity for communion.

Connecting remotely

I found this posted by a choir director of mine from a quarter-century ago. He quoted Tom Trenney, Minister of Music at First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, NE. “Our church is open. Open to patience and wisdom. Open to science and common sense. Open to discovering new ways to connect when it is unsafe to ‘do it the way we’ve always done it.’

“Open to saving lives by giving up some of the traditions and sacraments we hold dear. Open to wearing masks to show we love our neighbor. Open to keeping the sanctuary closed so more of us can come back together safely when it is time. Our church is open to following Jesus who, himself, spent time in the wilderness. We will remain open, and someday, by the grace of God, we will be able to worship together again.”

Or, as someone else noted recently, “If the only place you can worship your god is in a building specially built for it, you have a very small god.”

Obviously, we need some church music:

Date to Church – the Replacements
I Met Her In Church – the Box Tops
Church – Lyle Lovett

And some more religion tunes:

Have a Talk with God – Stevie Wonder
Down to the River to Pray – Alison Krauss
Wayfaring Stranger – Rhiannon Giddens
Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode
(What If God Was) One of Us? – Joan Osborne

Maybe a service:
Zoom Church – Saturday Night Live