Saturday, April 28, 2007

I've been tagged as a Thinking Blogger

I've been tagged as a Thinking Blogger by Cecelia at Closeted Pastor. For the origin of this award please go here

My requirement now is to tag five other blogs that make me think. MadPriest has already been tagged...and possibly others that I read regularly. My choices are in no particular order but are ones that make me think about our world, my life, God, nature, as well as ones that make me laugh, which helps bring order to the chaos of my thinking.

What's equally as interesting is to back track to see what other blogs have been nominated - is there a commonality?

Anyway, I name Saint Pat because she is a reporter - not just a journalist, not just a photographer, not just a questioner, but a person who goes out of her way to report on issues, incidents and scenes that the rest of us might miss. And, she does it well.

I name Grandmere Mimi because she keeps me grounded (along with Cecelia) in the spiritual aspects of daily living. Prayers, poems, reminders of Holy Days, reviews of good eating places, and memos to ourselves. Her reflections and her lively wit (as often exhibited at OCICBW) are wonders. Thanks Mimi.

Badtux, the Snarky Penguin
. Ah, Badtux. You make me laugh, you make me think, you lead me to blogs that I don't understand and you challenge me to keep exploring. And, you helped me find the delightful graphic of the Linux penguin drinking Coke.

Paula's House of Toast calls out the wonder in me with photography and commentary that pulls my soul and emotions into a place where they have never been.

I don't know how to limit this to just five. So, I'm going wildly astray with the last nominee. It's Knut's Blog. Unfortunately, it's in a foreign language; so I can't expect them to participate. Knut is a polar bear cub who has been nursed into life by a prominent zoo after being abandoned by his mother. This cub is beautiful and charming and is being raised just like all us humans would love to raise a pet bear. I have some concerns about his "taming", but I cannot contemplate killing the cub as one animal activist advocated. So I watch the clips and I think about how we get along as humans and how well this wonderful cub is adapting to interspecies companionship.

Let me add that I will be updating my blog list to reflect those that I read regularly; so if you're not named here, it's only because I chose randomly. Thanks to my blogsphere community.

The participation rules are simple:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

A success love story

A follow-up to Love and Perspective
When one couple of the Homeless but not Helpless group came to our church, some of the rest followed. Some of them claimed to practice Wiccan, one said she was a Satan worshipper, and they came to get help with food, since we were running a SHARE program then. But, they also came to services – not a requirement and not even on the same day as the food distribution, which I ran.

I came to know their names and their stories, and as Saint Pat has so eloquently said on her blog, the stories matter. These are people, many of whom were abused as children. Some of them grew up with wealthy parents; some grew up as outcasts; some were dirt poor.

Several family groups kept coming to church after the food distribution stopped. And, I fell in love with the children of one family. I became Grandma (I think my white hair prompted that name). They were baptized – the whole family – not all at the same time but as they came to realize that St. Anne’s was where they wanted to be and that the God they found at St. Anne’s was their God. Since they had worked with me in the food distribution, they asked that I be their sponsor for confirmation. So I became “godmother” to this family.

As I heard the story of Clarice being adopted by a dentist and his wife and growing up with all the privileges of middle class America, I wondered what went wrong. I still don’t know. This young woman was obese and living with a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and numerous other health problems. The daughters sat with me in church, and the youngest memorized some of the prayers and songs because she could not read. The son was a tremendously talented cartoonist, who lost or gave up his art ability when he reached puberty and developed schizophrenia. The physical, mental, emotional and social problems of this family were overwhelming.

But, they persevered. Other Homeless but not Helpless friends passed through their home, which they finally got with Section 8 housing assistance. Clarice learned which churches gave out food under what conditions. And, she used what amount of food budget she had to buy the perishables that churches can’t distribute easily. She fed anyone who was hungry. They began a garden and canned the produce of that garden.

Their home was often filthy. Housekeeping was not high on the priority list when you were interested in saving small animals from death, when you were interested in just staying alive with all the mental/emotional problems assailed you. We worked on kitchen cleanliness after a bout of digestive problems, and everyone cooperated. A compost bucket was kept, dishes were washed, food was put away.

They were frequent visitors to the various churches who gave monetary assistance with rent and utilities. They simply did not have enough income to cover the basic necessities. And, Clarice got to know the system well. Finally, someone who was helping people with social security and disability problems, got them qualified for a bit more money from various sources.

A budget was developed. An unexpected cold spell still brought requests for help with fuel oil. Clarice began taking her medicine since she could now get it through Medicaid. With a fine intelligence, she worked hard to quit using the financial resources of the community and make their budget work – except for food – and she still feeds everyone who comes by – and they come because there is food and acceptance.

Walking beside this family, wondering if I were going to get head lice from holding the daughters in my lap, thanking God that I have little sense of smell when I went into their home were not easy. Loving them was. How can you not love a little one who comes running to you with a bright face and arms outstretched for a hug? How can you not love when someone asks you to help them get on their feet? How can you not love when a schizophrenia young man stands outside your door talking with whomever he sees in the ether but returns to reality and gives you a big hug, carries heavy things for you, and becomes normal for the few minutes that you can connect? How can you not love when the couple gets married and calls you joyously after the service from the civil office? How can you not love when they join you at the communion rail with smiles and outstretched hands for the hope and love, courage and inclusion we all find there.

They are my family. I am godmother, Grandma. Now, I live several hours away from them. They call me to see how I am doing – thank God for cell phones. They call me to say that all the bills have been paid. The youngest calls and sings to me. But, they also call when that cold spell hits and the heating oil tank is dangerously low. I have a charge account now with their local fuel oil company. I get special requests at Christmas, but I don’t get frivolous requests, and I do get consulted about special purchases before they are made.

Drugs and alcohol have disappeared from their personal usage, but they don’t turn away those who are still addicted as long as they play by the rules of the house. Their pantry and freezer are stocked. Clothes come from the local thrift shops or the church clothing closets. They get therapy to help solve problems within the family. And, the oldest daughter is away for a few months in a home for disturbed teenagers. She’s learning anger management and how to handle her particular mental illness, but she’s determined to come home again. On a recent visit, she abided by all the rules and showed respect to her Mom.

I can’t do much now except the fuel oil, listening on the phone, loving them and praying for them. They are using, not abusing, the social services system to survive and be participating members of the community. They are a success story.

Joe’s son, Joey, is buried in the columbarium at St. Anne’s, and I figure it won’t be long before Joe joins him since Joe has emphysema and a bad heart that is slowly quitting. He doesn’t leave the house now; so the family no longer attends church; someone has to stay with him. I’ll be there to bury Joe just as I was there to bury Joey. They are my family. I will see them when I go back to visit. We give each other love and acceptance just where we are and as we are. Where love is, God is there.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Not very green

Your Life is 36% Green

You're on the right track to living a green life, and you're definitely doing your part to help out.
You care about the earth, and hopefully this quiz has given you some ideas on how you can do more!

Bleah. Of course, there is no public transportation and I have asthma so bikes are out. I do drive a hybrid car. But, obviously I could do better. Since I don't work, some of the questions did not apply. But, I'm like Mystical Midget, I buy books instead of using the library.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reality of a better life or Living by adages

“Holding on to your fear and the idea that you can control things.” I just heard my partner say that to someone on the phone, and I felt it all the way to the bottom of my gut. You’d think that after my acrobatic antics this morning I would have learned that I can not control things. “Trying to think your way into better living” – Ooooooh, she’s saying good things.

After the acrobatics, I don’t think I fear dying from this respiratory stuff anymore. I could easily have been killed or paralyzed this morning with my somersault. But, I wasn’t, and I don’t have any control over whether or not I die from a fall, from an auto accident, by a stroke or from a heart attack – or from this respiratory stuff. I may suffer for years; I may not.

My task for today is to keep doing the things that will make me healthier physically, and let the day flow forth. Make happy plans, call friends, pet the cats. And, laugh. Laughing is important – laughing with God at the silliness of our squabbles (I’m not talking about war and violence here, okay?), laughing at our own mistakes, laughing when we realize that we really can’t do something (then look for another way), laughing when we fail because we can try again, laughing at the ducks exploring the deck.

Add wonder to the mix. The ospreys’ nest is just across the way, and I marvel at their flight and their catching fish in our creek. My rose bushes came back after a very severe pruning this winter and are now in bloom with lots of bright red. The pinks and multi-colors come later. Waking up and seeing the iris blooming in the front yard. Feeling the drift of the current in the creek as I maneuver the jet ski.

I’m letting go of fear that doing something will make me feel worse. I’m taking it for granted that I will gradually get better. I’m letting go of the fear that I will lose the things that make me happy and realizing that the things that make me happiest, I cannot lose. Letting go of the fear that I will never fit into this new community because someday I will be well enough to make those extra friends that I need here.

I need to do more, think less – at least think less about me, think more about others, think more about flowers, think more about reading science stories and science fiction/fantasy stories.

On Nick Knisely’s blog, he talks about physics, about the fact that reality doesn’t exist – or something like that. And, he’s speaking in the most macro sense. Gravity still seems to work and we can use it in most ways, but reality and locality are physics that scientists are examining. On a macro level, the answer to the age-old question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make any sound.” The macro answer is no. But, if you’re not watching the electron, it doesn’t exist.

Now, I think about reality and its relationship to better living. If I’m not living better, then no amount of thinking will do any good. I have to actually do it for it to happen. I have to look better living in the face and call it my own before it will happen. I can’t just imagine better living and expect it to happen.

So, here’s my motto for today: Give up fear, live better, and quit trying to control everything. Maybe that’s a motto for life.

Gymnastics at age 61

I never once thought that in my older age I would become a gymnast, but I apparently am doing quite well at it. Unless you count the bruises and contusions. This morning I went for a wonderful jet ski ride, came back, tied up, and was standing on the lower platform of the dock. I decided to step up to the next level without using the stairs. Ha ha.

I’m a short thing and I weight a good bit more than I should and I’m 61 years old and have been ill for several months. (Obviously getting much better now except for the external bodily damage from my gymnastics.) I was so happy from my jet ski ride that I thought I could do anything.


I put one foot on the higher platform, thought again about what I was doing, but “I can do this – just focus my energy.” So I did focus, and I heaved. Well, I made it successfully to the upper platform (about 2 feet up from the lower). Unfortunately, I toppled sideways in what must have been a very difficult, and I hope graceful, somesault. My knees scraped the edge of the dock leaving no blood but scrapes and bruises. My shoulder and head hit the jet ski. I can’t repeat what I either thought or said. When my head hit, I was perplexed – this shouldn’t be happening.

However, I was only wet from the waist down – very shallow water and upper body held up by my head hanging on the jet ski edge. Thank God, the edge is rubber. So, I turned to the lower steps and sludged up them. Then I lay down on the lower level of the dock – slightly nauseated for about 10 seconds.

I pulled my aerosol air horn from my life jacket and set off a series of bursts that brought Lisa from the front yard to ensure that I reached the house safely. My skin is still oozing from some of the contusions, but I figure that will stop eventually. But, I’m clean again and will probably take another jet ski ride tomorrow.

However, as I told Lisa, I wish I hurt more. If I did, I might remember that I’m not as physically fit as I once was and that steps are a good thing. That’s why I had them built. Some part of me was aware of this, but the adrenaline from the jet ski ride clouded my vision of self. Now, I’m on my way to my regular therapy appointment, and I dread telling her that I lost sight of reality. More about reality in my next post, though.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ten Tangible Wants

Perhaps what I need instead of a gratitude list is a list of ten things I want. The list of intangibles that I want would be much too long for any blog – things like world peace, healing of our earth, better health, being useful instead of just being and so many more. So this list will be the tangibles that I hope someday to have, not in order of priority.

1.Clothes that fit – losing weight will help this
2.A red kitchen – Ikea has a lovely one
3.To see polar bears – preferably at the North Pole, but a zoo will do – Knut is cute
4.A bedspread that I really like – my bed is queen size but high off the floor, and I use king-size blankets and spreads, but I really have never seen nor can I conceptualize what I might want
5.Someone to really clean the house once a week and fold the sheets and such
6.A good landscaper to work on my yard
7.A church where I feel comfortable and the ability to get there – this involves better health as well as the size and character of the congregation.
8.Coca-Cola made with sugar not corn syrup
9.Having a dance party at my house
10.Traveling to see my many friends across the country

Anyone else want to play with this meme?

The New House Wants

This weekend we toured several of the homes on the Parade of Homes – a builders' array of new homes in various price ranges. The first house we saw was uninspiring – partly because the new owner requested that shoes be left at the door, and I'm not comfortable walking around without shoes; so I didn't see much of that house.

However, the second house we saw because it was “strange” looking – all square angles, and I wanted to see how the inside could possibly fit into those spaces. It sat on a hill overlooking a wide quick-flowing river. The minute I walked into the house, I was awestruck. Palatial was the only word I could use to describe this home. And, I felt so good in it. The shiny floors reached up and touched my kinesthetic being as I reached down to slide my hand along the beautiful hardwood and then the marble tiles. I sniffed the air (not that I can smell much anyway) and the air smelled fresh and the way a new car smells.

The walls were a continuous color throughout except the dining area, and the floor in the dining area had an octagonal inset of dark green stone. The kitchen was a marvel of brushed stainless appliances and conveniences that made me want to cook. Then I looked up to the windows – all 20 plus feet tall of them. And, I looked out to the river. And, my heart said, I want this.

I was so awestruck that I managed the stairs and saw the views from the bedrooms upstairs...and all the closet space. And, I saw the dock on the river. It was startlingly beautiful.

But, the fixtures were brown and tan, and the lavatories all had those decorative cabinets with bowls sitting on them. And, the lighting fixtures were baroque – as befitted the overall house. And, there was carpet all upstairs. Even though it also had a screened porch and a grill built into the patio, it was not my house. Never mind the cost.

When we had looked at other houses, we came home and talked about how we felt in that house. It was clean. The grout in the tile was not irreparably dirty. The baths were tile. The hardwood wasn't dented and scuffed. The baseboards were clean and didn't have dirt lurking where they joined the floor or the wall. The paint wasn't chipped. Everything worked like it was supposed to work. And, the tall ceilings were deliciously freeing.

We checked out the MLS listings for other houses on the water (can't live without the water now, I think), and we discovered that none of them fit our needs. So we began to think about tearing our house down and building a new one on our lot.

Somewhere along the way of talking about financing, we stopped and realized that we had been sucked in by “The Wants”, the desire for perfection, the sweet smell of newness. Our house isn't perfect; neither is our life. We couldn't make the changes to ourselves that would enable us to keep a new house in that kind of perfection, and seeing it get dirty or something break would be so depressing. We couldn't “live” in such a place.

I think both of us have made gratitude lists that include not only the intangibles of our lives like each other and friends, but also the blessings of this home for us and for our friends. We may redo the kitchen and living area; we may put down new flooring throughout the house. Both of these are needed. But I never see those lines of dirt along the baseboards when I am serving a meal to friends or walking out to my screened porch with its soothing fountain. I haven't messed up a meal because the kitchen didn't function right, and I haven't had to polish stainless steel appliances.

In this house, we can afford to travel a bit, give away some money, leave newspapers on the floor overnight, and enjoy boating of all kinds. We can also afford to have someone clean every other week so I don't have to do the heavy stuff of cleaning floors and doors and blinds. In that palatial home, we'd have to give up a lot of the things we enjoy. And, we'd have to change ourselves into the kind of people who can live in perfect houses. Not gonna happen.

Oh, is this true?

You are Agnostic

You're not sure if God exists, and you don't care.
For you, there's no true way to figure out the divine.
You rather focus on what you can control - your own life.
And you tend to resent when others "sell" religion to you.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Coke Drinking Penguin

Linux Penguin Drinking Coke - Although I don't use Linux, I do love this image of the penguin (cute thing) drinking my favorite drink.

Hat tip to BadTux, the Snarky Penguin
Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Saved from Execution for What?

What If Killer Can't Grasp Meaning of Execution?
by Patty Reinert and Mike Tolson
Houston Chronicle April 17, 2007

In the decade before he shot his in-laws dead in the Texas Hill Country, Scott Panetti was hospitalized 14 times for schizophrenia and psychotic delusions. He heard voices and fought with various personalities in his fractured mind. He once planted his furniture in the ground and watered it, believing it to be possessed.

Yet a Gillespie County jury deemed him fit to stand trial for capital murder in the 1992 slayings, and a judge allowed him to represent himself despite objections from even the prosecutor. Dressed in a purple cowboy outfit with a hat dangling from a string around his neck, Panetti flipped a coin to choose his jurors, ranted incomprehensibly and tried to subpoena everyone from President Kennedy to Jesus Christ.

The jury rejected his insanity defense and sentenced him to death.

Every mental health expert to evaluate Panetti agrees he is mentally ill. But on Wednesday, his lawyer, Keith Hampton of Austin, will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to answer a more difficult question: Is Panetti now so insane that he should be spared execution because he cannot grasp the fact that his punishment is the result of his crime?

(I couldn't get a link to this article, but this preview is from Pew Forum.)

Omigod! Why do we have the death penalty? To assuage our anger at violence, violence that we condone in children’s video games? To prevent future crimes? (Certainly wouldn’t work here) To punish the evil-doer? (He doesn’t connect punishment and deed.) What is going on in our world that we deliberately kill so many people? I’ve ranted about war, but this is corporate insanity.

Who could possibly say this man is not insane? But, the greater question is: If we say he is insane, what do we do with him? Mental hospitals and mental health care are little better than the mid twentieth century. Certainly, we have better counselors, but too few of them. Certainly we understand more about mental illness, but where do you go for care? Certainly we have more psychiatrists, but how do you get an appointment, and how do you pay for continuing care, much less the medication?

When you listen to the homeless, you may realize that mental illness keeps them homeless more than lack of housing resources (though affordable housing is a joke). When you listen to some drug addicts, you realize that the addiction followed the mental illness, not caused it. And, what of our veterans who have been brainwashed in the military to “kill, kill, kill” and now are confronted with a society where killing is wrong?

How do we protect those who have mental/emotional illnesses from themselves and how do we protect others from them? We are doing a miserable job of rehabilitation, therapy, medication management, training, supervision for those who need it. Are the techniques available to help keep us all safe – from ourselves and from one another?

All I have is questions, prayers and grief.

Will Middle Eastern War Ever End?

The War in Iraq claims more lives each day than those lost at Virginia Tech. Five hundred people in the US die in traffic accidents each day. I’m sure other statistics are equally as high. How many lives does cancer claim each day?

Yet, the violence of the attack at Virginia Tech and the violence of the war in Iraq disturb me terribly. I guess traffic accidents are no less violent for those involved, and someone once said to me, “A drunk driver is like a loaded gun pointed at your head.”

We call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, for turning the government over to the Iraqi people. Let them build their democracy or their government. Let’s look at what might happen if we pulled out over a period of several months and were out of Iraq by the end of the year. The government is now run by one of the Muslim sects that fights violently with another. The Kurdish section in Northern Iran seems to be the only stable place in the country. They have lights and water and food and cars and relative safety.

Would the world have genocide in Iraq as the two sects of Islam fight to eliminate each other from the earth? The country’s military would not be strong enough to carry any substantial fighting out of the country, but terrorists would continue in the world – fueled by the disillusion of the people of Iraq and the disappointment of the world in the USA. Unless the fundamentalists of each group killed one another completely, the fighting would continue on and on – each family taking blood revenge for those killed by killing others-as the Hebrew men killed others to protect Dinah's honor.

I don’t understand why one sect thinks the other has no right to exist. Why is it, “Our way or death”? Those converting to the other sect or to any other religion are persecuted, imprisoned, often tortured and sometimes killed. All because some people think God isn’t big enough to deal with these kinds of pluralities.

I don’t understand this kind of war or violence, and my prayers, like those of the ancient Israelites, are for an end to war and violence. May each of us work towards peace.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Love and perspective

The piece below was written in 1997, but in it I talk about how easy it is to love people who are different from you - and yet how hard. The epilogue to this story reads like a soap opera novel of people in poverty and in mental/emotional distress.

Today is Sunday. On Sundays I drive to the other side of town and pick up a family of four for church and Sunday School. They are young with a 12 year old daughter and a 20 month old son. They are disabled.
He is HIV positive and receives a disability check for being manic depressive. He also has a history of self mutilation. That’s how he became HIV positive. He injected a vial of blood from a friend who had AIDS because he was feeling bad about something he had done. She is manic depressive and has all the problems associated with obesity. The baby is wonderful - a charming, active child who adores me. He knows when the little white car pulls into the yard that he’s going for a ride, that the woman who gets out of it will come onto the porch with arms open wide to pick him up and twirl round and round with him until he laughs out loud. And, he meets me with outstretched arms. If I stop to get something out of the car, he bumps down the steps on his bottom and trots across to the edge of the yard where there’s a two foot drop to the driveway. If I’m not reaching for him by then, he calls to me - in non-understandable syllables so far - then sits down and prepares to ease himself over the wall to the driveway. He’s a determined young man. And his sister is all giggles and pouts. Large for her age, she is as tall as I am and wears a size 14 already. She is beautiful. Her dark hair falls in a glistening gush down to her shoulders. When she smiles, the world is blindingly bright.
I love this family. They call me Mom and Grandma even though I am not blood kin, even though I cannot be the Mom they yearn for nor the Grandma they need. I worry that I am not enough.
For some time I helped them financially, and still do occasionally. They always seemed to need just a bit more to meet their expenses - diapers, milk, medicine, bus passes. Their meager resources just weren’t enough. She tries to work at restaurant jobs. However, the family just doesn’t function without her at home, and only barely then. When the baby gets sick, she takes him to the emergency room, usually about 7 pm, and then stays home with him the next day. The husband cannot read well, cannot be awakened when he goes to sleep, and is often too tired to stay awake and care for his son. When the husband is sick, the wife must stay home and take care of him. And, sometimes, the wife just gets hurt herself. She stumbles and sprains an ankle. She picks something up and hurts her back. She has migraines from a plate in her head where a previous husband hit her. So her jobs last about two weeks. Then, she is fired because she doesn’t come to work or she quits. North Carolina’s Work First program says that she must find a job. So she stays off work for a week, looks for a job for a week or two, and then works for a couple more weeks. The state pays for day care for the son.
She has two other sons by the husband who damaged her head. I have never met them for they are in foster care. She voluntarily gave them up when she became homeless. The boys have been sexually abused by a man, possibly by their father, but the authorities are convinced they were abused by the current husband. No charges have been pressed because there is no evidence. Even so, she is not permitted to see them. She is almost a year behind in her child support payments and the courts are threatening to jail her if she does not pay the monthly $50 out of their meager government support checks.
Their situation becomes more convoluted each day. The 12 year old daughter was living with the wife’s father until this summer. Now the wife’s father has had a heart attack. Rumors are that the husband’s son by his first wife is in foster care in a neighboring county, and he wants to apply for custody. Their friends are people who bonded with them in a group called Homeless But Not Helpless - people with as many problems as they have. All people who continue to make poor decisions regarding their lives and their money.
We easily make the decision to buy food instead of toys when we are confronted with hard times. That decision is not so certain when you’ve been hungry off and on for a long time and toys produce a small amount of comfort that food does not. We pay the rent and electricity first. When rent and electricity take all the money that you have, you don’t necessarily spend everything you have on what seem to be intangibles. You spend some of your money on the cigarettes. You spend some on soft drinks. You spend some of school supplies. You spend some on nail polish and hair barrettes. And, when the rent is past due, you don’t remember that you had enough to pay it; you only know that you don’t have enough now.
So Sunday, I picked up the wife and son and a friend’s daughter who was visiting. We buckled in the car seat and a booster seat and drove the few miles to church. They rode home with friends. I came out to a closed car sitting in the sunshine. Car seat, booster seat, paper bag of clothes, diaper bag were gone. But the smell was overwhelming. Sharp, gagging ...urine, musty clothes, stale....stale...well, stale something. I was shocked. I had noticed the musty clothes smell before. They don’t have closets and their clothes are piled in stacks - clean ones here, dirty ones there. No chests of drawers. No shelves. Sure, they have a washer and dryer, and sometimes they have laundry detergent. But, you put clothes on the floor or against the plaster wall of an old house with no air conditioning, and you have damp, musty-smelling clothes. The car seats must have seen many accidents and were undoubtedly second hand when they began using them.
I rode with the windows down, and I wanted to never have them in my car again. I wanted to forget they exist. I wanted them not to be dependent on government and other handouts. I wanted them to always smell good. I wanted them to be well. I wanted to change them to be like me.
Then I realize that cannot change them, possibly not even change some of their behaviors. And, I also realize that I love them. They love me. We depend on one another. I give them rides and I listen. They give me love and perspective. Without them I forget that God loves all of us. Without them I become centered in having things, doing things, knowing important people, being important. Without them, I forget that all things come from God. Without them, I am lonely in a room of people just like me. They keep me grounded in the reality of being human. They remind me that I am blessed just as they are blessed with being uniquely ourselves. They remind me how a little love can go such a long way.

The mother and father divorced. The daughter lived at a group home for a while, was fostered, then thrown out, and was pregnant and unmarried when I last heard. The son developed severe behavioral problems and was removed from the home and was in a home for problem children. The mother married a young man who had been fostered in their home, and he is now in Iraq. The father married a young woman and they are addicted to crack. But, I see or hear from them occasionally; I pray for them daily; and they still call me Mom and Grandma. And, I still love them.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Six Things Weird (Meme)

Six Weird Things Meme - I've been tagged by St. Pat. So here goes:

According to the rules I must:
1. Reveal six weird things about yourself on your blog, and
2. Tag six people to do the same.

1. I used to be a long-haul truck driver with my first husband.
2. I once rode across Phoenix at rush hour on a small motor scooter in an orange see-through harem outfit. (closely followed by friends to protect me)
3. My roommate, who picked me up at work, drove the same kind of car that the killer of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was supposed to have driven. We were stopped seven times on the way home from downtown Memphis that day. We parked the car in the back yard.
4. I worked with Spanish-speaking people for 10 years and had/still have some sort of block against being able to learn Spanish. I can understand it fairly well, but my tongue gets tangled around the words. Fortunately, they loved me and laughed at me and taunted me with phrases that I’d have to go home and look up in a dictionary. I miss them.
5. I love catalogs – all kinds of catalogs about all kinds of products – clothing, tools, technology stuff, lawn and garden, silly t shirts, cruises, free trade items, jewelry, etc. When we go away, our cat sitter complains about how much mail we get.
6. I collect button pins and lapel pins. The ones that have stories with them are best – an old nursing school pin from a nurse who shopped at our thrift shop – my Daddy’s WW2 pins – places I’ve been – places I haven’t been – Pride marches - cursillo. I have long strips of them hanging around my computer.

And, I tag Pisco, Mad Hare, Juanuchi’s Way, Nina and Cecelia.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No more deviant genes

Today I saw a billboard that said, “What! Embryos are human, too.” “Hearts begins beating at 18 days.” But, a beating heart does not a human make. Hearts can beat long after all other functions are gone...and apparently before other functions begin. This blog is not about determining when an embryo becomes a human but about what would happen if all the embryos that would become mentally or physically disabled babies never came to term.

Medical tests can determine abnormalities in gene structure so early that no babies need be born with mental or physical problems.

Aside from the ethics of this – and I’m totally not prepared to debate that issue – what would our world be like if the people with Downs Syndrome or developmental disabilities simply did not exist.? What would happen to our ability to care for others?

This is a frightening thought to me. I’ve know a few people with disabilities, and I admit, I tend to shy away from them. My god-granddaughter is developmentally disabled. She called me the other day to tell me she would be going into the next grade – going into middle school. Though she cannot read more than a half dozen words and cannot count past ten, she will be promoted. But, the best part is that at the end of the message, she began to sing about how much she loved me and missed me and wished I would visit soon – in a voice so pure and holy.

Sissy is 12 now. She’s sat on my lap in church since she was tiny, and I have wonderful pictures of her Halloween costumes. She followed along with all the hymns as we sang, and I think she was learning the Lord’s Prayer before we moved. Now, her father (much older than her mother) has emphysema and heart problems which keep her at home, away from church. I grieve that loss. I wonder if she could read music; her voice is so wonderful.

And, another young man in our church has Down’s Syndrome, but he conducts the choir beautifully from his seat at the back of the church. And, he gets so excited when he receives communion. He gives great hugs and always remembers your face.

I’ve seen video clips of autistic geniuses. And, people with congenital disabilities that have done amazing things. And, I’ve heard the people who care for them speak – about how much strength and love is needed, but also about how much joy and pleasure their loved ones have brought into the world.

The world might be a much quieter place without people with such disabilities, but my life would be much poorer.

So it is with other marginalized people. The homeless who prefer to stay homeless, the GLBT community who bring so much color and liveliness into my life, the deaf whom most churches ignore,....ah, so many that are not mainstreamed. But, they have blessed my life with patience and love and warmth. Thank you, God.

Back 50 years ago this June

Preparing to travel back in time requires a lot of thought. We are going to Bermuda at the end of May. I lived in Bermuda in 1957-59 while my Dad was stationed there with the Navy. I had my first date there, my first real boyfriend, my first formal dance, my first crush on a Marine, and my first real joy and freedom. I also discovered that worship could be fun as opposed to the solemn Presbyterian Church that we once attended while living on the farm.

Now, fifty years later, I will visit the places where I grew up and found freedom and laughter. The bicycle path has been turned into a tramway, I’ve heard. I spent many wonderful hours there – alone riding along the roadway between the coral walls and the bay – safe. The island is 19 miles long, and I’ve ridden my bike from one end to the other – not in a race kind of way, but meandering and looking at the people and the houses and the flowers.

I recently found a stash of slides from that period, and I thought, “Oh, goody, I can get these made into prints and be able to compare what it was like then to what it is like now.” Wrong. My parents seemed to take pictures only of me; so all I get to compare is a 13 year old girl with long brown hair to a heavyset white-haired woman. Mom was never one to waste film; so every picture of me has some facet of the island – the Easter lilies, the Poinciana tree, the old mulberry tree for which our cottage was named, the pink walls of the telephone company across the street, Mr. and Mrs. Cook in their black car, Scaur Hill Fort with me climbing around on top of the walls. Not for nothing did my daddy call me “Monkey.” Bermuda shorts and knee socks, school uniforms, a teenager’s room with a stop sign in the background.

Of course, most of the slides were Ektachrome which fades to an ucky orange. But, I bought the most wonderful, and cheap, little Canon scanner that corrects the color - mostly anyway. In the picture above, the building in the background is the telephone company across the street, which is pink, not white. But, hey, at least I'm don't look jaundiced any longer! Yea! Technology.

But, I do have a few pictures of scenery – the dock where the fishing boats pulled in, the beach near our house, a few friends from the local school (and I even remember their names), a beach party. My heart knows what the pictures don’t show, how the roads wind, and how rough the coral walls are when you run into them. How the shutters keep the houses cool in spite of no cooling system, the wind that blows all the time, the quick rain showers, the Gombey dancers.

You can never go home again, right? But, maybe in my mind, I can take a step back in time for a few moments to remember what growing up was like there. Growing up in Mississippi was horrible, but Bermuda was wonderful...a blessed two years to learn that the rest of the world is not a drunken father, a codependent mother, and a dirt-poor farm in a beautiful but dying state.

So, I’m making a deal with God about getting me well and about not starting the hurricane season too early. Well, I’m asking; I don’t know what I’d use as my end of the bargain. I doubt there’ll be any smoking pots or split carcasses to assure our pact. But, the way they barbecue down here, one never knows.

Hope your hearts are sunshiny even if your weather is not.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A shock

A strange thing happened to me today. Stranger than usual. A note to a friend who is managing editor of a newspaper was published, with my permission, as a Letter to the Editor. I don’t think I’ve ever been published that way before. So, I went to the newspaper website to look at my masterpiece (LOL), and I decided while I was there that I would check out the various stories under the topics listed. I read about the library and the road crews and the usual local stories. I read other Letters to the Editor, and then I decided to check out the Obituaries just to see if I knew anyone who had died – this being a town where I lived off and on for many years.

As I scrolled down through the obits, I noticed names that sounded familiar. My Mom ran the office of the local TV Cable Company for many years, and I had worked there during vacations and such. Then I stopped, stunned.

My first husband had died six days ago. We’ve been divorced about 30 years, and it’s been 13 years since I even talked with him. But, I was shocked. He was three years younger than me. And, his hateful old mother was still alive. And, the wife listed was not the one he had then. How very strange. And, coincidental. I haven’t looked at that newspaper in many years, and I never read obituaries (does that mean I am getting old?).

So, I thought I’d give someone a call to express my sympathy. Easier said than done. No funeral home listed. The church phone did not answer. So I turned to the internet to look up other possibilities: the name of one pallbearer was listed but in a town 30 miles away. His mother was not listed in any neighboring town or in Mississippi at all. One daughter was married, and the obit gave her married name and town; so I “white paged” the last name and came up with a likely phone number.

Got her mother-in-law – been married only a few months to this woman’s son. Even though they live a stone’s throw apart, son and mother are not talking – supposedly because of my ex-husband’s daughter. Wow! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Turns out that this daughter and her sister were mostly raised by my ex’s harridan mother. No wonder the kid has problems. Even the harridan's pets ran away.

After listening to this mother-in-law of my ex’s daughter talk for 39 minutes long distance, I said I had to go. And, I surely am glad that I went away 30 years ago instead of hanging around for the bad movies.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping them all in my prayers, but I don’t think I’ll be making any more phone calls down that way. May God’s steadfast love and mercy be with my ex and his family.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Never too late

We are having an Easter Egg Hunt this Sunday – for adults only. Not that any of the goings on will be risqué, but we believe it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. So, we’ve invited five people to join us for the egg hunt and lunch. I’ll hide 120+ eggs around the living room, sunroom, hallways and such for these children to find.

And, it’s so much fun. In past years, I have made Easter baskets for everyone who is here, but I’m not able to do that this year although everyone will have a basket with a small stuffed animal in it. After all, they must have something in which to collect the eggs they find. Nor have I made any good shopping trips for fun stuff or useful stuff to put in the plastic eggs. So I’m collecting witty, wise, and inspirational sayings to put inside the eggs. A few will have candy, and some eggs will have tiny Easter ornaments to put on a white wire tree that I discovered last week at a yard sale. And, I might find some surprises for a few of the eggs.

We’ll laugh a lot, and we’ll share a meal preceded by a grace that reminds us of the significance (Christianwise) of this Easter Day.

I have the best part; I get to hide the eggs and laugh when they can’t see them and I can. Tee Hee.

We’ll go to Easter vigil on Saturday evening so that I’ll have time to hide the eggs. I won’t be doing much cooking – a simple meal.

Jesus wanted the children near him; so I figure if we can become as children for an hour or so, maybe we have a chance of being near Jesus on this special day.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My accomplishment of the day

The fountain of 2006 has been reborn in 2007 with added parts and old parts cleaned and seamlessly meshed

Who are you going be tomorrow?

One of my previous lives
Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Leaving Church has been praised by many people of all kinds and thrown across the room by many women pastors and others who consider it to be whiny and self-centered. It makes one remember to be careful what you pray for.

However, on page 221, she talks about Reynolds Price and quotes from an interview in the Oxford Review, “When you undergo huge traumas in middle life, everybody is in league with us to deny that the old life is ended. Everybody is trying to patch us up and get us back to who we were, when in fact what we need to be told is, You’re dead. Who are you going to be tomorrow?”

You’re dead. Who are you going to be tomorrow?

Often my partner will tell stories she has heard about things that I did in other lives. No, I’ve only been born once; my body has not ceased its living. But, I have been dead and had to decide who I was going to be tomorrow. So, I’ve had many lives because I’ve made such bad decisions that I have died time after time and had to recreate myself as a new being – using the old parts that were still working and finding new ways for them to be in the world. Gradually I’d develop some new parts to fit the new being, and then I’d make some dumb ass move and, bang, I’d be dead again. I’d need to move along, get out of Dodge, find a new job, invent a new career, and figure out who I was going to be tomorrow.

Some parts of the original me are still around – laughter in the face of disaster, tears of frustration, determination, the need to control, the belief that God is with me, the love of good food, the need for solitude, and the love of the edge. It’s that love of the edge that’s gotten me into trouble; my mother called it “Courting danger”. I love the thrills of doing the unexpected, the risky. I count as exhilarating the times when a bit of physical danger was attached to my actions.

Once as I led Sunday School, I called on a member of the group to share about the topic. He passed. After church, he invited me to an empty office and tore my abilities and devotion to shreds while I sat there with my mouth open. Then, he told me to never force him to share again. Sometime during the tirade, I began to get angry, and by the time he was finished, I felt the steam coming out my ears. I thanked him politely, went down the hall to the rector’s office, which I shared at the time, walked in and let out a stream of cussing that quickly cleared the room and got the door closed.

Fortunately, my ministry there did not end then, and the gentleman did share in Sunday School, but you’d better believe I never called on him again. Also fortunately, the people who were in the office teased me and laughed about my “colorful” language and my ability to express exactly what I was thinking at the time.

When I did leave the ministry in that church it was because someone else vented their anger in a room with a closed door where I felt captive. The sudden jump from coworker in God’s garden to a vituperative screaming man threw me back into the fears of listening to my drunken father as a child. And, I never recovered from what felt like abuse even though it was the same sort of screaming anger (in what he thought was a safe place) that I had expressed when I cleared the rector’s office several years before. I made a valid try at not dying. But, I was dead, and the question was, once again, “Who am I going to be tomorrow?”

I haven’t answered that question yet. My mother’s death, my own ill health, a move across the state – all small deaths that make good excuses for my not picking up the pieces and putting together the me of tomorrow. I’m not sure which pieces are salvageable. The only time I court danger now is when I do too much and have to rest a long time. I do know that God is with me, but for a long time I was not sure of that. Good food and a love of solitude are still functioning pieces of me. Although the love of good food is no longer a truly usable piece since I’m told my weight contributes to my ill health. I still laugh but more often I cry or rage. The lack of control really bothers me, and I find myself stuck against a wall that has no door or window – never mind what’s around me or behind me. I can’t seem to get the pieces to work together as they once did; I’m not sure how to make something different; and I can’t figure out where to get replacement parts. So I continue to the 70s thing – I’m searching for me. If you see any pieces of me floating around, please send them home.

Of course, I could be wrong...: MadPriest Thought For The Day

Of course, I could be wrong...: MadPriest Thought For The Day

Check out this reflection and the comments. Makes a good Holy Week meditation. I particularly liked the first part where MP says, "For a god to come back to life is no big deal. Any god can do that. For God to die - now, that is the real deal. Try killing yourself if you're immortal. Try feeling pain if you cannot be hurt." But, I totally disagree with MP on "But what is the achievement if our God is the God of love, or, put even more simply, if God is God?" Loving is often harder than dying.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Help Please!

This past week I read a wonderful entry about the death of a blogger's mother and taking the ashes to the crematory. I can't find it again. If anyone knows this blog, please let me know. Thanks.