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Happy Birthday!

Pop! My dad had been called Reverend Hall, Dr. Hall, Father Hall, and occasionally “DAD!” but not Pop, until my Mom chose to go by Cookie. Pop goes with Cookie.

Want to know why my mom is called Cookie? I have a picture that I will eventually share of my dad, after my mom bought Rachel her first Mall Cookie Shop cookie. Rachel is sitting in Pop’s lap and looking really smug. Pop is also looking smug. They did it behind my back. My mom and my dad were right. Rachel deserved a huge cookie and icing sandwich thing, with no guilt. She deserved to be just smugly satisfied that they’d accomplished this without my knowing. That is what grandparents are supposed to do. So, Cookie became Cookie after that. Rachel knew who had just given her the best thing she’d ever had. Thank you, Pop and Cookie.

Here is what Pop knows about my younger daughter, Emily. Pop told me, when Em was about 3, that I needed to recognize she is truly an athlete. Em is smart. And she is brave. She is really, really, good at NOT running away from a soccer ball or volleyball coming full force at her head. (I have finally stopped wincing each time this happens while she is playing.) Emily is really, really good at not running away from a challenge. My dad, who is also an athlete, knew this. When Em was going through the very difficult toddler stage, Pop told me that I should make each hard thing a game she could win. He understood her. Thank you, Pop.

Pop also tried to understand me. I have told this story when teaching Christian Ethics 101. My dad told me, after having sat with me asking question after question for six months in his Confirmation Class, that if I did not understand everything, I should promise God that I would keep asking God good questions. Pop did not tell me that I would embarrass him if I did not conform in front of the congregation he was serving. He told me that I should see confirmation as a process. I think anyone teaching confirmation should take a hint from Pop.

Cookie and Pop taught me to understand Christians who do not always understand one another. My mother is so strong and smart she could have been the Governor of Texas. My father is so wise and kind he could have been a United Methodist Bishop.   I have just embarrassed them. But so be it. It is true. Neither one of them spent their time running for bishop or for governor. I am grateful. If they had been running for either, my girls and their cousins would not have seen them half as much. I am grateful Pop loved the people in his churches so much that he forgot to find time to run for bishop. He is the pastor I think of first when I tell my students that I want leaders whose gifts outstrip their ambition.

Pop hates to fly, but he is going to get on an airplane, again, to come see us this Thanksgiving. When I went off far away to college so long ago, I think we all knew it was going to be hard for me ever to move back to Texas. They have been patient with my wayward ways, and Pop evidently beams a little bit when he tells people back home I teach at Duke. He is a basketball fan. And he loves me.

Happy Birthday, our dear Pop, from all 3 of the Green Street Girls! We love you so much the 8 falls over! (That is our cute way of saying infinitely : )

A Memorial Day Post

CAM00150The young woman on the right is my Great Grandmother Elliston, Shirley Moore Elliston.

This poem is by Rev. Robert E. Hall, my father.  I asked if I could post it for Memorial Day.

Life can come at us, willy nilly,
wound and defeat us,
unless revised,

I remember….
Grandma E, widowed young by WW I.
She walked to Hilley’s Dress Shop
twelve blocks round trip
six days a week.
On her feet eight hours a day
selling and sewing.
On Sundays
she walked nine blocks to First Baptist Church to worship.
For their new sanctuary,
she did without hair appointments
to fulfill her pledge.
In WW 2, she rented out rooms to make ends meet.

It was not the life she had hoped for.
And yet she was…

Her life was God-led,
with detours.

May Day Mayday Mash-up . . .

I’m working on a little effort to encourage people in North Carolina to say the words “Labor Union” (without epithet) in a prayer, sermon, or song at a service of faith the weekend before Labor Day.  We are calling it “Labor Sabbath,” and we will have a nifty website up soon.  In correspondence with another activist about this, she asked if I meant May 1 or September 1.  I snorted my morning tea out my nose.  As IF!  It will be a long game to encourage conversations about Labor Unions on Labor Day Weekend.  May Day is a gift to many people, but not a gift I can take to congregations right now.  Working on labor justice in North Carolina requires patience and whimsy.  It also requires collaboration across meaningful divides on the left, because the anti-justice people collaborate quite well, thank you.  Inter-racial, pro-labor populism in North Carolina has been squished by the neo-liberal, pro-business dudes and the old, conservative dudes for too long.  (See here, especially “Two Men and a Bargain”: , here, and here.)  The good news is that inter-racial, worker populism must be pretty darned powerful, or else liberals and conservatives would not have been so willing to collaborate with one another to keep labor unions at bay.  So . . . with cheers for both May 1 and September 1, here is my own May Day Mayday Mash-up.  I will be dancing intermittently during the day, as I grade lots and lots of (mostly wonderful) student papers . . .  (Bonus quiz: Why is Twisted Sister more fun than The Who?  Answer: WHIMSY!  Plus, note that kiddies are reassured repeatedly that dad is ok, just stunned.) (Don’t Frack with us!  Love it!  And more here: and here

And, while we are in Wisconsin, LOVE the bagpipes!  love the kilts too ; )

This one doesn’t have a beat, but it has serious SOUL!

Ah beloveds, let’s get down to business!

And, yes, just because I need this periodically.  Love Belinda!  Jump Back!  (I ain’t apologizing for nothing.)


“Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”: A Thanksgiving Post

My parents look normal, but they were weird.  Here they are, looking a little weird:


My mom tells me I had just thrown a temper tantrum before this photo, because my great grandmother had walked past me to kiss my new baby brother.  (She always did prefer boys.)  My baby brother has kicked off his bootie, which is in my dad’s lap.  We all look worn out.  Family is exhausting.

Here is one way my mom was weird.  She hated Debby Boone.  My mom was a preacher’s wife in Texas, but she’d growl and turn the dial if “You Light Up My Life” came on the radio, which it did, often, for a decade.  When I was about 9 years old, I bought my first album, with Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” on it.  I still sing that song in the shower, and think of my mom.  My mom loved the Pointer Sisters too.  We’d sing “We are Family!” and dance a little.  But never Amy Grant.   My mom has no patience for sap.

Here is one way my dad was weird.  On our annual four hour drive to spend Thanksgiving with his family, we would listen to two cassette recordings.  One was “Alice’s Restaurant,” by Arlo Guthrie.  I think maybe the version we listened to is here, but I am not sure.  I think maybe this recording has been expurgated.  The other cassette recording was of Tom Lehrer songs.  The one I remember every Thanksgiving is “National Brotherhood Week.”  But there is also “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” and “The Vatican Rag.”  Preparing ourselves for extended time with one another, and lots of time with my dad’s extended family in Central Texas, required political satire, served slow as molasses (Guthrie), and piquant as olives (Lehrer).

One of my dad’s best friends is a retired Episcopal priest everyone calls “Father Bob.”  His son wrote a book called What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.  He also wrote and directed Pieces of April.  It remains one of my favorite holiday movies, ever.  Hedges also co-wrote the screenplay to About a Boy, which has a scene about love and vulnerability to rival the fox and boy scene in The Little Prince.   I think maybe Peter Hedges has a sweet/bitter relationship to the idea of family.

I am at heart an overly earnest person, more like Debby Boone or Amy Grant than I really want to admit.  The Peanuts trilogy used to tear me up every year.  But I haven’t come anywhere near Charlie Brown and Lucy for a while.  I’ve needed to calibrate my tears around the holidays, taking one step at a time, moderating grief with irony, political satire, and glimpses of joy during a season I both love and hate.  This is my third Thanksgiving since my marriage of 21 years ended.  I am able to think about watching Peanuts again, feeling safe in nostalgia.

The Babysitters’ Club: Bad to the Bone (?)

Tripp York: “Which pacifist would you rather have on your side in a bar fight: Steve Long, Michael Budde, or Amy Laura Hall?”

Tobias Winright: “Amy Laura Hall, who is a Texan like Stanley Hauerwas but also George W. Bush and Rick Perry, would, I think, verbally disarm the hostile crowd…I’m sure her words in such a scenario would appear in ALL CAPS if they were written down later. She would stop people in their tracks.”

Here’s the Babysitters’ (and Dogsitters’) Club, trying to live up to the image.





The Babysitters’ Club is: Sarah McGiverin, Meghan Florian, ALH, Kara Slade, and Kate Roberts (who also took the photos).



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