My hopes for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (c) John Winston Powell, M.A., February 9, 2021

I was passionately for Elizabeth Warren for president. To me, Warren exemplified the future of our progressive movement; I had supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 (and did for a brief time in 2020 after Warren dropped out) but felt that this was Warren’s time. Joe Biden was near the bottom for me in terms of the Democratic nominees. Although I appreciated his efforts in supporting President Obama when he was Vice President, I definitely thought his time was up. That first debate in the summer of 2019? I was feeling for the poor guy. He was so rusty at that debate. We need someone to present a vision of progressive policies for America–like Warren. Kamala Harris looked to be puncturing Biden’s long awaited goal of becoming president at the get-go in that debate.

But as many historians have said, the times will pick the person rather than the other way around. In the end, Joe Biden was the exact person we needed to beat President Trump because he had what America needs now: empathy and the will to heal a nation. This became clearer and clearer to me as the 2020 election season progressed. And I did truly believe that the former vice president was right; this was a battle for the soul of our nation. Biden is a person who understands suffering because he has been through it and has persevered. Our country has suffered through so much in the Trump era; the Covid-19 crisis bungling and the Capitol riot were the awful culmination of this administration. The election of Joe Biden and the first election of a woman of color as Vice President, Kamala Harris, is more about an exhale after a held breath of four years. In all of this tragedy, we haven’t even been able to adequately celebrate the way past due election of a woman to the second highest office in the land.

I don’t expect Joe Biden to be able to champion progressive legislation through a narrowly divided Congress. My expectations are rather low in terms of legislation; perhaps on Covid-19, immigration, and infrastructure. If we get some things accomplished legislatively, I’ll be happy. I believe the day for more progressive efforts will come, perhaps under the next president. My only belief is that Biden can help to normalize legitimate presidential leadership again. I believe he can help us to rejoin the community of nations to work for the common good at the international level. And I believe that he can heal people through the power of words—even if it’s only helping us to regain our nervous systems after four years of wondering what was going to happen through a tweet.

Finally, I’m proud and intrigued by all the ways that Joe Biden has been able to show the influence of his Catholicism. I believe his words from his life of rumination on what it means to be Catholic can give us a way to reflect on how we can all build a better nation. The quote from St. Augustine in his inauguration summed this up for me: “Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint in my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love, defined by the common objects of their love.” Now we will find out if America can define what we are—if in fact, we will love peace through justice or if we will continue to ignore and paper over the sins of racism, xenophobia, and lack of will to address the structural poverty within our country. I pray we will exercise the first option.

What I write does not mean I will agree with the Biden/Harris administration on everything; in fact, Catholic Social Teaching emphasizes that we advocate for justice when considering issues and the “signs of the times.” But I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want in their heart of hearts to simply help people believe that government can and will help end the Covid-19 crisis and reestablish a more normal republic after Donald Trump. If they can do that, it will be good while we continue to always work for more justice in this land.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
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How should we be more just in Ferguson, 2021? (c) John Winston Powell and The Ferguson Observer, January 16, 2021

This was originally published on The Ferguson Observer website on January 16, 2021.

Welcome to our new publication, The Ferguson Observer! My name is John Powell and periodically I will be contributing, along with others, to this column on social justice and our city.

I have lived in Ferguson since 2006. My wife Lisa and I were interested in living in a more diverse and affordable community. We wished to buy a house and saw a website promoting Old Ferguson West. After driving around, we noticed the work that was being done to revitalize the town and how friendly people were. We fell in love with our home during the last hour of an open house on a Sunday afternoon. Two months later, we moved in to what we would christen, “Bella Luna.”

One of the impetuses for doing a social justice column is that I have observed that The Ferguson Times, for all of its hometown charm and good information, seemed to ignore or give scant attention to some important issues in our city. This was part of a philosophy to highlight “good news” in our community.  In the last six years, I think many of us have realized that social injustice needs to be addressed systematically by our city’s social structures and by all of us individually.  The Ferguson Observer has decided to have a different journalistic stance. 

In terms of my own perspective or bias, I’ve been formed by my Catholic upbringing and teach social justice at a Catholic school. There are three concepts that order my thoughts on social justice: human dignity/human rights, solidarity, and the common good. Human dignity is something we all share: we are all individuals who are unique and enjoy a dignity that is inherent to our humanity. That dignity is the basis of rights that belong to all of us.  Solidarity is the act of standing with people who may be different from ourselves in terms of status, abilities, ethnicity, or sexual orientation for the upholding of their human rights. Finally, the common good is that set of conditions that allows people to be all they can be; individual rights are seen in the light of what is good for all of society’s members, not just those who are more powerful, wealthier, or privileged.

I realized in 2014 as an able bodied, white cis-gender Christian male that I had ignored or could ignore the injustices many people in our community were experiencing with our policing and municipal court structures. Changes started almost immediately in Ferguson on those fronts but more has to be done, both in terms of social structures and our citizens’ attitudes/actions. I’ve been on the side of protesters but I’ve also served the city on the Human Rights Commission. I believe in standing up for the side of justice; so often we see a false equivalency that devalues the real concerns of people in our community in terms of our social structures. Answers are not easy; we are now even more polarized than in 2014. At times, I don’t think it’s worth even trying to make this town better. Then I see the example of various citizens who have stood up for justice over the past six years and I’m reminded that good happens because of our efforts. Prime example for me has been Fran Griffin, who protested, organized, and ran a campaign to become one of our city council members. But there are so many people who have made a difference. I’m sure you know somebody you look up to in Ferguson.

We are committed to a diversity of opinions, so this column will be made up of a variety of voices that will share with you views of social justice or its opposite in terms of our town. We don’t see ourselves as paragons of virtue. We are simply giving our observations and trying to highlight efforts for justice. Professor Cornel West of Princeton University has said that “justice is what love looks like in public.” How can we love more in 2021? All of us need to think about this as we continue to struggle with the Covid 19 pandemic and its ramifications for justice as well as the continued implementation of the federal consent decree. Please contact us about possible story or column ideas. We have so many people who can help us to be better people and our social structures more equitable and responsive. Thank you for reading and please know that your input is appreciated at The Ferguson Observer. How have you loved people in Ferguson today?  

You can check out The Ferguson Observer website at

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December 9, 1980 (c) John Winston Powell, M.A., December 8, 2020

Raised on The Beatles by my sister, Jane, and my subsequent investigation into their music during the 1970s, I cannot overstate the importance of John, Paul, George, and Ringo to my life. They have colored my thinking, elevated my soul, fed my creativity, and inspired me to persevere.

I was living in Winter Haven, Florida, during my sophomore year in high school. On the night of December 8, 1980, our high school marching band was actually performing during the halftime show in Miami in a game between the Dolphins and the New England Patriots. I was a late bloomer in terms of band; my mother was always saying it was something I would enjoy, and my sister had been in marching band. But I had to take a year to actually learn the rudimentary basics of the alto saxophone before I could join marching band as a junior. So I tuned in that night to Monday Night Football on ABC to see if I might just catch a glimpse of the Blue Devil marching band at halftime (shoutout to Craig and David, who were there). Of course, many times you don’t see much of the marching bands during half time as the announcers are recapping the first half. Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford were talking, I didn’t see any of my classmates from afar on a field in Miami, so when halftime was over, I went to bed. With less than a minute left in the game, Cosell would make the announcement:

“Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City – John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City — the most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles — shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that newsflash, which, in duty bound, we have to take. Frank?” After a pause, Gifford: “Indeed, it is.”

Next day, I get on the bus for the 20 minute trek to Winter Haven High. I had a friend name Tracy who would always kid me about liking the The Beatles. You can imagine when people want to give you shit for liking a band that had broken up 10 years before, you just give shit back; I’m not sure who he liked. I can’t really remember why Tracy thought it was fun except that he knew how much I loved The Beatles and how I regularly brought them up on the bus.

“Powell, you hear that John Lennon got shot? He’s dead.” And I shot him a look like, not this morning, Tracy. “Yeah, right, whatever, Tracy.” “No, really, he’s dead.” And then I realized something weird entering my consciousness. Everyone, everyone on the bus was talking about John Lennon dying. You know when time slows down and reality is blurred? A hiccup in the universe? A flash of awareness? I was looking around at people and heard the buzz. And I realized that something had happened. Something terrible had happened.

I’m not sure how I got through that day at school. But when I got off the bus, I ran home from the bus stop to listen to the radio. The music went on and on and on, nonstop, for days. Double Fantasy, Plastic Ono Band, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the White Album, “#9 Dream,” every single song sticking its finger into my heart.  “There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him. Love, Yoko and Sean.”

All these years later, I wonder about the mystery of sin that took John from us. I think about the alternative realities where The Beatles unite for Live Aid or where they actually put out a new album in the 1990s; a reality where John, Paul, George, and Ringo get to continue to love each other and us. But that’s the thing; that reality did happen…through the music, through the other Beatles, their wives, and their children continuing on with their lives. The love could not be destroyed by a bullet; the love is and will always be there. John realized it even more completely in the last five years of his life as a househusband to Yoko and father to Sean. Love is all that matters. Paul wrote the line but John knew it was true, even in death: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Thank you, John Lennon, for your witness, your songs, your growth as person. Rest in power and peace. “Love is real. Real is Love.”

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Fall, 1979: My Rock Advent (c) John Winston Powell, M.A. December 16, 2019


In the fall of 1979, I had just moved to Winter Haven, Florida.  I was entering ninth grade (shocked that, no, you’re not going to high school as a freshman but going to junior high as a ninth grader, LOL), knowing nobody, on a new adventure that was initiated by my Dad’s dream of moving south and golfing several times a week in retirement. Up until the move, I had listened to Top 40 radio: the part of the day that our station in Olney, IL, WVLN/WSEI played music as well as the Top 40 stations in Evansville, IN. I loved The Beatles as given to me by my sister by way of her old singles (still the best band of all time); I had discovered The Police that spring when “Roxanne” made the top 40; I had grooved to some great disco stuff like “Boogie Oogie Oogie” (which I would abandon in my rock orthodoxy only to come back to it years later); and I had bought Kiss and Boston albums with hardly ever hearing their stuff on the radio.

However, the advent of my love of rock music was cemented in the fall of 1979 when I started to almost exclusively listen to AOR (Album Oriented Rock) stations. The rock music that many people had enjoyed all through the 70s exploded into my head through my ears that fall. The impact cannot be underestimated. And although commercial rock radio had already fallen in with the consultants that would ruin the format with limited playlists that were designed to appeal to the masses, for most of my high school years, I was just intent on getting my education of the basic rock canon. The teachers? 95 YNF in Tampa with 100.3 WDIZ and ZETA 7 in Orlando….and Southern rock students who, when I was clueless about Lynyrd Skynyrd and asked when their next album would be coming out, told me “They’re dead, man, they died in a plane crash!”

Do you remember hearing “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time? “Free Bird?” “Money?” “Iron Man?” “Eruption/You Really Got Me?” “Purple Haze?” “Don’t Fear the Reaper (cowbell and all)?” All of these songs and so many more I probably heard for the first time that fall. And it changed everything. That top 40 music I had listened to for most of the 70s didn’t cut it anymore. I want to rock!

My love became rock. My main hobby became rock. My inspiration for staying with playing the piano became rock. I started to read rock bios. I talked about music nonstop with my friends. I started to seek out Rolling Stone magazine. Along with books, LPs became the main product brought into a newly built ranch house on Stonebridge Drive. Posters of Wings and the Rolling Stones went on my bedroom wall. Go to the mall? Yeah, basically to go to the book store, the record store, the movie theater, and the video game arcade. The music fed into wanting to go to my first concert with my friend David, and finally with my parents relenting, I saw the Stones with opening act Van Halen in 1981 at the Tangerine Bowl; a day burned into my rock brain forever. I failed one audition with a band and formed my own garage band by the end of my high school years, although we only “played” one party and one talent show.  We were called Fallout. It was still during the Cold War, after all….

Over the next several years, I got tired of some of these songs. I mean, I heard some of them at least 5 to 7 times a week from 1979-1983 when I then left for the University of Florida. Unfortunately, the rock station on campus played the same formulated playlists! So I had to discover the new sounds of alternative music on my own and with my friends, e.g., when David brought over The Smiths’ first album and I was knocked out. It was a familiar feeling—the feeling I had in the fall of ’79 every time I discovered a “new” rock classic as well as the current rock songs by Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd that autumn.

I never totally got away from Top 40. My friend Craig Bowen would continue to talk about top 40 songs as he listened to the hits, and MTV in 1981 played stuff that didn’t end up on either Top 40 or commercial rock radio. The rock stations refused to play a lot of the New Wave, so my love for Duran Duran, the GoGo’s, and A Flock of Seagulls was nurtured at Craig’s house because he had cable. When David Schmid, Gary Perkins, and I started the “Rock Rap” column in our high school newspaper in ’82, I was defending “She Blinded Me with Science” while Gary wrote that the Thomas Dolby album, The Golden Age of Wireless, should be used as a manhole cover. Good-natured argument about music had entered my life. Except when I yelled at Craig in his car for playing “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics, which for some reason at the time it was out, I hated. By the fall of ’83, I was swooning to “Here Comes the Rain Again” so I’m not sure what my problem was…

40 years ago, my whole musical life opened up. Well, opened up to the basic rock playlist as built by commercial rock stations at the time. We take Zeppelin, Rush, and Neil Young for granted in our musical consciousness. But what if they had never existed? And how would I have filled the musical void?

Here’s what I was discovering in the Fall of 1979. Take a listen, as if for the first time!

Thanks to my friends and musical mentors: my sister, Jane, and the Winter Haven High School class of ’83 members David Wright, Craig Bowen, David Schmid, and Gary Perkins, and fellow Fallout member, Lance Tulacro…rock on. 



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Into the Mystic…In Memory of Lydia Byrne (c) John Winston Powell, M.A. August 12, 2019

“She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She can take the dark out of the nighttime
And paint the daytime blackYou will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your kneesShe never stumbles
She’s got no place to fall
She never stumbles
She’s got no place to fall
She’s nobody’s child
The Law can’t touch her at allShe wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks
She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks
She’s a hypnotist collector
You are a walking antique

Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
For Halloween give her a trumpet
And for Christmas, buy her a drum…”

                                                                   Bob Dylan
     One of my former students, Lydia Byrne, was recently tragically killed in an ATV accident. Lydia had graduated in 2018 and was a student at Saint Louis University. She had everything going for her in her life, especially as an artist.
     If you know the Dylan song, it’s entitled “She Belongs to Me.” The irony of course is that Dylan is describing someone who doesn’t belong to anyone but charts her own course. This was Lydia. She was someone who wanted to chart her own life, even from the crib in the words of her father. As with many rebels, she was consistently late. She was literally and figuratively an artist with her life and her actions.
     Lydia called herself an “atheist,” although many of her close friends said she actually saw herself as an agnostic but she got tired of explaining the difference to people.  As her theology teacher in Social Justice as well as Faith and Spirituality, this was not a problem for us as people can believe in acting for justice without a specific belief in God as well as be spiritual devotees. Lydia believed in justice and human rights and I recently ordered a print of her painting, Power is Not Given. It’s Taken. She also believed in silence and meditation as we related at a prayer service created by her Villa Duchesne friends three days after her death. Lydia believed in the power of art which can move people to action, inner peace, and joy in their lives. Power
     Lydia helped lead her senior Kairos retreat. Because the Sacred Heart charism recognizes that God’s Heart in the world is shown in a variety of ways, both religious and secular, it was wonderful to have Lydia’s words, presence, and music help her fellow students on the retreat. One of the highlights was for me was to receive her approbation after my Kairos talk. I appreciated her comments because I knew the paradoxical nature of her spirituality.
     In a “This I Believe” essay that she wrote for my class, she explained that the most important thing was identifying the goodness within one, and hanging onto it despite the changes that happen in life. And now a person who lived with abundance is gone from our sight and we are left with her memory and her art to help us create that goodness individually and socially.
     I feel like Lydia’s presence was so strong in her physical life, there is no way she will leave us alone permanently. The other day, I found an index card she had filled out for a “spirituality” playlist I was going to put together. Her suggested song was “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. When I found the index card, I had to smile. Lydia has gone into the mystic but I believe will continue to nudge us to ask hard questions and to appreciate beauty in our world. Godspeed and amen, Lydia.
“We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic
And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear itAnd I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And magnificently we will flow into the mysticWhen that fog horn blows you know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows I got to hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on girl…

Too late to stop now…”

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“70” (In honor of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) (c) John Winston Powell, M.A. 12/16/18

My positivity is sapped.
So many indignities suffered by so many
We honor the people who have suffered, fought, died, and advocated
For all people to enjoy the gifts of this world.
What have we learned during these last 70 years? In the negative, we have learned…
That people don’t get it.
That people want to ignore it.
That people nod their head yes and vote no.
Eleanor, be with us.
Eleanor, strengthen us for the fight to help people to see what you saw
And what we see. (Pause)
Eleanor, inspire us to be creative in the struggle, as you were.
And God forgive those who want to sacrifice the needs and rights of people
On the altars of their power.


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Heading Home: My Goodbye Playlist for Marty and Julie Rubio (c) John Winston Powell, M.A. July 31, 2018

Dear Marty and Julie,

A good friend deserves a good playlist sendoff. As I thought about you going back to your roots and how you are opening up a new road in your life, I thought I would create a soundscape. At first, a lot of the songs are just California/San Francisco/Los Angeles songs. But then I thought about your great love of 1970s AM pop, which I also have; then I thought of some theology songs for Julie; then I got input from your sons and Lisa. Then I thought of songs and albums and groups we had discussed over the past 18 years. I can sincerely say I love all these songs except two: the Childish Gambino “California” and the Vampire Weekend song, “California English.” I like the rest of the Gambino album (thank you for the lost bet between our Cubs and Dodgers, 2016). I could not ignore the Vampire Weekend since I know you went through a phase talking a lot about them at the V-dog.

Some of the songs are guesses that you would like, based on our conversations. Some are of newer groups that sound like something you have mentioned liking (the Whitney song is strategically put next to Fleetwood Mac). Some are spiritual in nature; after all, when your friend is a U2 fanatic, how else can it not be? I did not ignore the 80s, even though you are now somewhat dismissive of our coming of age decade beyond the aforementioned band. The Beatles, Paul McCartney, and Wilco are all represented to symbolize Lisa and me. “Theologians” is specifically for the wonderfully soft-spoken, large hearted Julie as well as some others such as “Heaven on a Sunday.” Some of the songs are about going home, a concept I love to think about: “What makes ‘HOME?'” I hope that you find a spiritual home in Berkeley. Some of the songs are about how great you two are as people, exemplifying the Sacred Heart charism.fileYou were the “talk of the town” for me and will be for others. Some of the songs simply express my depth of affection for you both while I included a couple of songs for the history/political science teacher (“Spanish Bombs” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”). A few of the songs speak of the resistance that we must now take in this era of Drumpf. A couple of them honor the greats we lost in our time together: Prince, Tom Petty, David Bowie. It includes many California groups, The Byrds being my personal favs. Included a Beck song–remember when several us geeked out on his album “Morning Phase?” Many of the songs have direct messages for both of you; some are just for you; and some are just melodies that I thought you would like. Don’t read TOO much into a particular lyric says the theology teacher!

A couple of deep cuts are definitely there: the Al Stewart cut is way before “Year of the Cat” but I wouldn’t have included it had I not loved it. The Go-Gos song is about Los Angeles, but I wouldn’t have known that unless it came up as a “suggestion” when I started doing the playlist! The list is definitely not very funky or hard rocking, but I have included a couple of things that might work in that vein here and there. One thing I have always loved is that you continue to listen to new music, courtesy of your musical sons. As with your teaching, you’re always up for something new. Rust never sleeps, and neither does your curiosity. Some of the songs are about the world, at least in a glancing way. My brother-in-law, Vern Carr, loved The The’s album Dusk (1986) and the included song makes me think of him, a principal and educator. The chorus lyric also reminds me of you. And I found what I hope is a deep cut version of “God Only Knows.” Is this really the best song ever? Discuss and debate.

There are a couple of overlapping songs from the Lisa and John wedding playlist which you were so complimentary about…so there you go. I can discuss each song in detail but then it would be overkill and you can always text me and say, “What the hell? Why that one?!?!” And I will respond. I hope you can enjoy this playlist three times over the long drive but don’t feel guilty if you need to listen to something else, LOL. I know Julie is into a lot of death metal. 🙂

Dear Marty and Julie, Enjoy your trip back to the West and to your future. May it be golden as your best days teaching, writing, parenting, and loving have been here in St. Louis and beyond. May your sons and your family be exceedingly blessed in this new era. 

Love in the Sacred Heart, Peace in the Sacred Heart and Resistance in the Sacred Heart, be yours…

John and Lisa 


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Poem Prayer for Human Rights Day, 2017 (c) John Winston Powell, M.A. 12/10/17

You are a human being.
You have rights.
But so many people don’t get those rights respected, even if they are supposedly protected by law.
And so we fight…
Fight for the person who is trying to stay in this country.
Fight for the person suffering sexual abuse.
Fight for the person who treated less because of who she loves.
Fight for the native person, forgotten by this nation.
Fight for the person of color killed by police person who believes all he has to say is that he was scared.
You are a human being.
You have rights.
And my rights are bound up in your rights.
God help me to stand up for your rights less I degrade my own
Human Rights.
You are a human Being.
You have rights.

HRC Ad for Human Rights Day

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Months later, what the Cubs’ World Series Championship means to me, Dad… (c) John Winston Powell, M.A. 9/13/17

1972368_10201782155716112_3555989945296321889_n1 Dear Dad,At Dad's Grave 2.jpg

I’m not sure why, but I have not been able to put into words what it meant for us to see the Chicago Cubs win a World Series after a 108 year drought. Now that the Cubs are struggling to win their division again, I’ve given up having some sort of  insight epiphany I could share with people and have decided to simply say that it was wonderful thing. A wonderful thing to behold, to be in awe of. A wonderful thing to inspire us to believe that things can turn out right when we doubt ourselves and our abilities, our fellow human beings, and the arc of the universe.

Perhaps the Cubs’ championship was needed in context as a week later we elected someone President who represents so much that is bad in the collective American psyche. I know you would have written in John Kasich, LOL. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the Cubs’ incredible season, and I guess that’s why I haven’t been able to write. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Donald Trump is President. You know I was happy when the Cubs were able to sneak in their White House celebration with President Obama during his last week in office.

I am posting this entry as we finally planted this World Series championship flag on your grave in Galesburg. Thank you for giving me our love of the Cubs. Thank you for all the laughter, frustration, hope, and despair that was/is part of our Cub experience. It is one of many things you and I bonded over, but to root for the Cubs together was a special intimacy that fathers/mothers/sons/daughters have enjoyed since baseball’s inception in this country. We have enjoyed it to the brink. Our cup finally did overflow last November.

When the Indians tied Game 7, the tears came rolling down my cheeks as I stood in that South City St. Louis bar watching it. I know you would have had red eyes at that point as well. And then when they won…you were in my soul in a special way as Lisa and I jumped around the room with a bunch of other Cub exiles (as I always knew it would be, regardless of whether you were embodying your soul at that point or not). We helped it happen. Through sending our love and mental energy over the years to the Cubs, we were constitutive of that wonderful moment.

People do this wonderful thing with their teams. I wish we could do this thing in all the other areas of our lives: politics, social justice issues, in our workplaces, in our families. To not give up. To always have hope despite our moments of despair. To continue to believe.  To follow a baseball team is a first world luxury for us; but still, it has helped us, helped our spirits, helped us to be better people.

Thanks, Dad, for introducing me to the love of the Cubs. I’m sorry this letter is so late but you know it’s been in my head and heart.  I will always think of you as I watch the Cubs. I will always love you for being the compassionate yet hopefulness challenged human soul that you were. And now your soul knows everything, so be with us as we try to spread love and good energy in other ways in our world.  #CubsDadsinHeaven #FlytheW #GoCubsGo



P.S. Jane, Lisa, and your White Sox loving yet Cubs supporting awesome nephew, Adam, send their love, too! Give a kiss to Mom for us.


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Mom’s Bridge (c) John Winston Powell, M.A. February 8, 2017

A Winter’s Day, 2017

Dear Mom,

This year I’m accompanying juniors from to one of their service learning sites, a retirement/assisted living/nursing home community.  It’s like the one you were in but MUCH nicer–I’ve seen the pool room with hot tub! While the students help out with various tasks, including the residents’ computer questions, I parked myself in the library with my laptop, saying hello to residents as they go by.  Some older ladies come to play bridge and we exchange pleasantries.  I tell them how much it reminds me of Dad and you, seeing them play this most challenging of card games, one that I never tried to play because it seemed like so much memory work. But hearing their talk during the game brings me back 40 years to your play in our living or dining rooms with your bridge buddies.

They are asking “what did she bid?” and I’m thinking of you.  It’s cute and reminds me of all those bridge games I overheard growing up.  “What’s trump, diamonds?”  They are helping each other through the game.  This probably would have driven you nuts. 🙂IMGP4144.JPGI miss you a lot.  As Jane said the other day, we’ve been thinking about Dad and you a lot lately. Oh, I think about you daily but  I guess it’s the Trump presidency (gulp) that has really brought you forward into my consciousness even more brightly. Saw you a dream the other morning.I know you probably would have liked what Drumpf has been doing but it’s so regressive and unjust to me, as you could have predicted. Or you know already, LOL.

“They are making her go to assisted living.  That’s communism.”  The other ladies laugh, even as the one who made the comment says “What? Isn’t that true?” But she has a smile on her face.

“What do we have on now? 1 Club?”      “I guess I’ll pass….”

“Maybe I’ll go to another bid then…”     “You’re doubling two spades, correct?”

I think this game mirrors the confusion I’m feeling about our country right now.  We’re all in different realities, seemingly feeling our way through.  There is truth, even if one doesn’t want to acknowledge it.  But as these ladies show, the truth could be based on hearing things incorrectly or not understanding what is actually happening.

“Keep me honest.”

“I have mixed emotions about that…”

The computer player piano in the other room is playing something I don’t recognize.  I often wonder when retirement homes will switch the music that they pipe through the place; I expect to at least hear rock’n’roll stuff from the 50s but it still seems to be the “music of your life” format that you would like. Remember when I worked in New Port Richey at WGUL, playing that music during the graveyard shift in the late 80s?

“Gift from God…”

I think Dad would be amused and shaking his head over Trump.  I don’t believe he would have voted for him–remember how he liked John Kasich so much? Maybe you would have voted for Kasich, if not Jeb Bush, in the primaries.  I wonder if Dad would have voted for President in November.  I feel 90 percent confident that you would have voted for Trump.  Maybe you can send me a sign that would assuage such thoughts…

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…”

“I’m hearing things….”

“We’re not anywhere where we should be…”

One of the women just took a call on her cell phone at the table during the game (!).  I can’t imagine you ever doing that.  I remember how you played cards with my college friend Clark and me when I was home from college. You good naturally kept trying to get him not to talk during the game. “C’mon Clark, it’s your turn! Keep the game moving!”

The others are waiting with their cards in their hands; ah, now one is going to the bathroom. The woman who took the call apologizes and explains that it’s about a friend she’s been worried about…

Why am I narrating this when I believe you can see all now?  Hilarious.

We have another group of women who has come in to play “Phase 10.” They tell me it’s like Yahtzee with cards.  One of the women has had her hair colored.  She asked if one of her partners had noticed.  The other woman says “No.”  We all laugh.

Back to overhearing the other group as the Phase 10 group is not all here yet….

“How does it feel to shuffle?”  One of the women is asking as the person who has just dealt has been dealing with arthritis. The cards. But I love thinking about this question in terms of other things as well.

“…and everything is connected to everything…”

“Heart.”          “Pass…”

“I have to get rid of this wild card.  It’s not doing me any good…”

“Ah, damn, I’m so sorry…”

“The weather is dreary.”      “I like dreary…”         I do, too, as you know, Mom; we called them “Olney days” in the winter.

“We have all day…and then we can just sleep.”

I so wish I could hear you and Dad play bridge today, Mom.  And realize that so much that would be said would sum up my feelings at this point in our history.

“Mercy, I can’t stay awake…”

But we have to #staywoke. I’ll explain that phrase to you sometime, Mom.  I bet you would get it now since you’re on the other side. No, I have to believe you already get it.

“What’s Trump?”




“In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls but to build bridges.” Pope Francis

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