HOPE IN AN ARABESQUE

I live in the South, in a medium-size city in the central part of North Carolina. We’re 2-3 hours from the Appalachian Mountains and 3 1/2 hours from the beach. We have long, hot, humid summers and mild winters.

I grew up in the Midwest and we moved to North Carolina in 1968, when I was a sophomore in high school. I missed the worst of blatant segregation. The “Colored” and “White” signs were gone from water fountains and bathrooms. But the first time we drove east from Raleigh to go to the beach we drove past a billboard in the county next to ours that said “Welcome to Klan Kountry.”

50 years (!!) later, things are different. My city has been a haven for immigrants for years and we often hear other languages at the grocery store. We have a gay woman on the City Council and a Newcomers School for the kids of recent immigrants. At street festivals and concerts in the park we all come together peacefully–whites, African Americans, Asians and others from all over the world.

The other day, I went to our nationally known Aquatic Center for water exercise. While I bobbed and marched and skipped back and forth in a lane, I watched several instructors giving swim lessons to little kids. The kids’ parents and siblings sat together on some bleachers. Some were African American, some were white, some looked to be Indian or Pakistani and some were Asian. The instructors were white and African American, male and female.

One pairing especially caught my eye. The instructor for this one-on-one lesson was a massive African American man who looked like he had been a lineman on a college football team. The student was a little bitty white girl in a bright pink suit with a bright pink swim cap and bright pink goggles.  She reminded me of my granddaughter. She was reluctant to go in the water so he coaxed her down the long ramp for wheelchairs. She took a few steps into 6 inches of water and went into an arabesque ballet pose.

So did he.

They took a few more steps. Now the water was about a foot deep. She held the bar beside her and arabesqued again.

So did he.

After one more arabesque, they made it down the ramp and the lesson began. Today, two days later, I saw them again. They entered the water down the ramp the same ballet-ic way as before. When they got all the way into the pool, she was put her face in, kicked, and moved her arms to do freestyle and then tried backstroke. She trusted him to hold her up as she floated on her back. I think they were both having fun She hugged him when the lesson was over.

After she left, I had a chance to tell him how much I enjoyed watching them. He told me she was 3 years old and adamantly refused the first 2 days to get near the water. The day of the poses was her third day. I told him they were the best thing I’d seen all week.

Don’t give up, my friends.

We are making progress. It just doesn’t make the news.

Advertisements
Published in: on August 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

I Love Being Amma

I last posted original writing on this blog a year and a half ago. In that year and a half I had one medical issue after another–surgeries, infection, medication side effects, changes in my arthritis treatment, depression, and midway through all of it we downsized from our big house to a 3 bedroom apartment. Now I have days with little pain, no stairs and plenty of energy.

I am grateful.

And ready to focus on the world around me, not on myself.

My grandchildren, Adaline, Maggie, and Atticus have kept me going through all this time. They are 8, 6, and 6 (cousins, not twins). They’re all in public school  and thriving.

Let me tell you a story that shows why they could make me laugh (SUCH good medicine) when nothing much could.

One day last year, they were all here at our place with Adaline and Atticus’s mom. Atticus was in the living room playing with these discs you build stuff with (Brain Flakes) and the girls asked if they could go back in the guest room and play on the computer. The retired man I live with got them going and we adults were able to sit and converse for a while.

The girls were giggling–how nice they were having fun together! They called Atticus back to see something. Even nicer, right? They were all laughing in a way that caught my daughter’s and my attention. “Maybe we should check on them, she said.” She went back and called to us.

We all 6 huddled around the computer. I started giggling along with the kids. Adaline and Atticus’s mom tried not to. Grandpa Mike was kind of horrified but laughing at the same time.

Adaline, who was 7 and in 1st grade was learning to spell phonetically. So she googled “poop,” a favorite topic of conversation for all 3 kids. They found “The Poopy Song” on You Tube. (click The Poopy Song.)

I guess I have a very immature sense of humor. I thought it was hilarious. My daughter tried to get them to stop it. I wanted to hear the whole thing. 2 more of their parents came in shortly after. Maggie’s dad is much more proper than the rest rest of us. We all took them back to see it.

Now 8 of us huddled around the computer and watched it. Maggie’s mom didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, I think, and kept checking for Maggie’s dad’s reaction. I’m not sure he could breathe. He really was appalled, but realized he was outnumbered and left the room.

I LOVE being a grandparent.

(Update 7-27-2018: At our house today they found another giggle-inducing song about farting. Let One Go, based on the Frozen song “Let It Go.” They could be finding worse.)

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 27, 2018 at 9:50 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Today Is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of HIV/AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local HIV/AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization (see below).  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.

Still.

Originally published December 1, 2010

Link to donate to Triad Health Project:  https://triadhealthproject.salsalabs.org/donate/index.html

Serenity is…

A way of life absorbed slowly and practiced one day at a time.

Perspective.

Becoming aware of and accepting my many characteristics and not judging what’s “bad” or “good” but what’s useful to keep and what to release.

A spiritual journey without a destination.

Letting go.

Honoring my feelings without aiming them at someone else or letting them run my life.

Accepting what is.

A gift I choose to give myself.

Knowing that what works for someone else may not work for me.

Understanding I may be powerless but I’m not helpless.

Realizing my Higher Power does for me what I cannot do for myself.

Minding my own business.

Balance.

Relief from black and white thinking.

Understanding that reacting to life and responding to life are not the same thing.

Feeling at peace with my past.

Having my body and mind in one place at the same time.

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Finding Me In the Snow

The night before last we got 10 inches of snow. That much snow in a NC town means no one goes much of anywhere for a few days. To be fair, you should know (according to weather.com) our average snowfall is 3″. And we don’t always get that each year. So major investment in snowplows doesn’t make much fiscal sense. We have enough for the main roads to be at least partially cleared in the first 24 hours, but residential streets take days. Not to mention, most people don’t have real snow shovels or snow blowers. Can leaf blowers do double duty? See, I don’t even know!

My daughter went to the grocery store on Friday morning (snow was predicted for Friday night). She called me on the way home. “Mom!” she said in this tone of voice that always foreshadows something big is coming. “I just went to the grocery store and THEY WERE OUT OF MILK!” She’s 36, married 11 years, has 2 kids, 4 and almost 7. My response: “Well, honey, did you think they made up that story every year?” It’s a news story with pictures of empty shelves even when they only predict a couple of inches. I guess she never had to go to the grocery store on the day of a snow prediction.

I wrote before about being a 9 on the Enneagram and being a turtle and an introvert.(See here: I’m a 9 and a turtle)

Here are some tidbits:

Nines want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict.

Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil.

Introverts enjoy and sometimes require time to themselves. An introvert’s best and most creative thinking occurs when he/she is alone.

I didn’t like snow days when my daughters lived with us. I would forget every time that it has to be COLD to make snow. Proper gloves. hats, and boots were rarely required in our lives and, thus, hard to find or non-existent when needed. Yes, my kids sometimes had plastic bags over their shoes. And socks for gloves. You do what you have to do. Also, they never had snow pants. We did have warm coats.

Snow is wet, especially in the south where it’s not usually much below freezing when it’s cold enough to snow. So, kids without proper gear + the novelty of snow here  + a dad who grew up near Pittsburgh and loved all the excitement and wanted to teach his kids how to play in the snow + not much practice with being cold and wet = a LOT of in and out and the dryer running constantly.

Remember those personality types that describe me? Yeah, I’m not at my best in chaos and loud excitement and major disruption of the routine. I tried to be fun. It got harder after I stopped drinking in 1987. (Notice sometime–stores never run out of beer and wine. Those shelves are stocked.) Cookies and Doritos could only do so much for my mood. Plus, I either had to hide in the bathroom or share them. I swear they could smell Doritos when the bag opened.

Teenagers were no better. I had mine in the days of no personal electronics and no Netflix or You Tube. So they either slept (fine with me), were bored and bickering, or begging to watch something I considered inappropriate on cable tv.

I made hot chocolate and probably, at least once in a while, baked cookies. I’m not sure. We did make snow cream. I am sure we didn’t have much sugary-type treats because I was convinced sugar made my kids crazy. They still call me the Sugar Nazi. Though I’m much more lenient with my grandchildren.  Surprises them and, I think, annoys them a little, every time.

I don’t have small children  or teenagers anymore. They have their own little ones to deal with. They do better than I did. I hope so. They sure have more resources for entertainment.

Snow days now mean I’m home with the retired man I live with. He’s fine alone. We are still in our big house so we have room to separate and do our own things. We are on our 2nd day of snowed-in and still doing ok.

Usually, I like this kind of quiet time.  This time, though, it’s giving me a lot more time than I want to think about and plan for a situation that is just plain uncomfortable.

Remember these?

Nines want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict.

Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil.

Soon, I need to step forward, speak forcefully, ask hard questions, and lead some people to an end to a challenging situation. It would be so much easier to sit here in my warm house, next to my gas log fireplace, read a book and drink a cup of tea.

I keep forgetting to pray for strength and guidance. I don’t doubt that I can do what needs to be done. But inside me, there’s a 2-year-old screaming “NO! Don’t want to!”

Please pray that I will be led to the next right thing to do.

Thank you.

 

Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Today Is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of HIV/AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local HIV/AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization (see below).  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.

Still.

Originally published December 1, 2010

Link to donate to Triad Health Project:  https://triadhealthproject.salsalabs.org/donate/index.html

Tags: , , , , , , , humility, , , , ,

 

 

Published in: on December 1, 2016 at 9:21 am  Comments (3)  

The Day Before the Election

Monday, November, 7, 2016

This evening, I’ll be in the Sternberger Elementary School cafeteria helping to set up for the election. While I am there,  members of my church will gather for a prayer service:

Breathe, Pray, Love

A time of quiet, music and prayers for peace and healing

I doubt we are the only church or the only people praying the day before this election.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll turn off my alarm clock at 4:30am. It is DARK at that hour. I’ll shower and dress and gather my supplies (green tea, Diet Coke, change of shoes) to spend the day as an assistant poll worker. Yes, I’m one of those nice, grey-haired ladies who checks you in, gives you an “I voted” sticker, and leads you over to the voting machine.

In NC, voting sites are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. Anyone in line at 7:30 pm gets to vote, no matter how long it takes. It’s a long, long day. And we can’t leave, other than to go down the hall to the bathroom.

All the poll workers bring food. The chief judge makes crockpot soup that is available whenever we get a chance to eat. I made banana muffins. One (male) voter ususally brings us freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I hope he didn’t vote early. There will likely be plenty of food.

Our precinct is majority white Republican and upper middle class so I don’t expect conflict or commotion. And I hope there’s no conflict or commotion at any polling place anywhere. I’m not confident that will be the case. I’ve never worried about that before.

I’ve been a politics geek most of my life. My Gramma Bryant taught my mother how to be a Democrat and Mom and Dad taught us. We always watched the news growing up and discussed current events at the dinner table. The retired man I live with and I did that with our children and I see it continuing with theirs.

My older daughter took her 4-year-old daughter, who said she wanted “the girl” to win, to vote early. She sent me a picture of Maggie with an “I voted” sticker. I posted it on Facebook with the caption “Voted for the 1st woman president.”

And my younger daughter will take her kids to vote on Election Day. I hope she lets 6 1/2-year-old Adaline push the button for Hillary so she, too, can say she voted for the first woman president.

If you haven’t voted yet, I hope you do. You have no right to complain, ever, if you don’t! Thank you to all the North Carolina voters who voted early–you’ve made Election Day much easier!

Remember to breathe as you wait for this long, difficult campaign to end. And please do pray for peace and healing. We all have to live together after tomorrow, whatever the result.

Published in: on November 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,

Been a While

My blog website tells me it has been a loooong time since I’ve written anything. Over the last few years, I’ve read a number of books by writers about how they write–rituals, practices, habits, etc. Each one starts or ends with “Put your behind in the chair and start writing.”

Simple, yes. Also challenging.

I could give you excuses like being busier than usual or some extra doctor appointments. But I still don’t have a paying job. And I don’t live with small children. Just that retired man, who doesn’t require much attention. I wish I could say I’d been going through closets and drawers and bookshelves purging my belongings so we can downsize. I’d be lying.

I did start jotting down random thoughts and ideas this week. Here’s what I’ve got.

1.I read an essay recently written by a dad whose daughter wanted to buy a “distressed” pair of jeans, the kind that come already ripped and faded. Like all of us who once thought we were rebels, he was appalled at the cost of the jeans and also shocked by how repelled he was by the raggediness.

The article made me remember when my older daughter bought a townhouse in Charlotte. She got to choose flooring and paint. She chose “distressed” dark wood flooring. (like this picture) Not what I would have picked, but she liked it. It was actually an upgrade from the basic flooring.

We walk around our house these days, the retired man I live with and I, and discuss what we need to do to get it ready to sell. I refuse to put thousands of dollars into the house and then leave. We do both agree that the upstairs hardwood floors need to be refinished. They looked “distressed” after 25 years of wear and tear.

Huh?

2.I drove 3 1/2 hours to the NC mountains a few months ago to visit my college roommate. She lives in a  “tiny house”  on the side of a mountain with a gigantic Newfoundland dog and 2 small dogs. Kitty and I talked–a lot–and we ate and we went on a skinny, scary mountain road with no guardrail and a very long way down on my side to see wild moose (we saw the fleeing backside of one) and then we watched Hillary Clinton in her white pantsuit accept the nomination to be the 1st woman president. It was great.

I stayed at a close-by hotel. (We are way past sharing space like a dorm room!) The morning I left, I used Yelp to find a locally owned diner for breakfast. When I got ready to leave, I asked the waitress for my check and she told me someone had already paid for me! I asked if she’d tell me who it was and she said she couldn’t. It felt weird to walk out without paying. But if the person was still there, he/she saw me smile like I hadn’t smiled in a good while. I smiled all the way downhill to home. Now I need to pay it forward.

3.I had my annual physical this week. I told my doctor that even with all my various medical challenges and surgeries and daily medications, I consider myself reasonably healthy for my age. On a 1-10 scale of healthiness, I’d say I’m 7-8. He just smiled.

The glass is half full.

It’s all about attitude.

4.I started thinking the other day about which of my daughters would have a harder time when I die. I have no idea what triggered that train of thought.  They will both suffer, I think, each in her own unique way. I pray they will be able to help each other.

I didn’t linger long in that place.

I did start thinking about my relationship with my mother and how I grieved when she died. For the first time I was grateful we hadn’t been real close. The loss and hurt were maybe less intense.

Another place I didn’t want to linger.

5.You know those recipe videos that pop up on Facebook with 2 hands dumping and mixing ingredients? I re-post the ones that look good to me (sorry, friends). That way they are on my timeline so I can find them later. I have NEVER gone to my timeline and printed out one of the recipes. I don’t know why not. They’re usually easy and often crockpot recipes. I have more energy early in the day so crockpot recipes work well for me.

I think I’ll search out and print some after I finish writing.

6.I used to pride myself on always being on time. When my girls were little, I had a friend who had a daughter about the same age who was equally prompt. Gail and I would often pull up at some event like a birthday party at the same time. We would laugh in a “aren’t we just the best” way.

I lost my ability to always be on time. I’m convinced I developed late-onset ADD with menopause that will never leave me.

Yesterday, I managed to get ready to go somewhere on time. My hair was all the way dry, my outfit worked, I wasn’t rushed. I felt good. The retired man I live with pulled into the garage after his Men’s Breakfast just as I went out to my car. He came around and gave me a hug.

“Robin,” he said softly and sweetly, “you shirt is inside out.”

I looked down the front. No tag. “No, it’s not,” I said, like he’d said it was backwards.

“Take it off, ” he said. (Our garage faces the backyard.)

He was right. So much for having my act together

And that, my friends, is humility.

I need help.

From God.

From the retired man I live with.

And from my friends.

(I was still on time!)

 

 

Published in: on October 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’m a 9. And a Turtle.

I’m a 9 on the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a model of human personality using nine interconnected personality types. (See more here: The Enneagram Institute.)

Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. (from the Enneagram Institute)

Years ago, in a day-long workshop led by my friends, Kim and Donna, I visualized my Totem Animal during a guided meditation. I’ve lived with rheumatoid arthritis in my body for almost 30 years so I hoped for something graceful and fast like a gazelle or a cheetah. I got Turtle.  (Here’s a blog post about this: Turtle or Gazelle.)

Turtle lives a slow and steady life of non-doing, one day at a time – not reacting, simply accepting and moving on in its natural rhythm. Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil. It does not need to learn the importance of this focusing inward, it naturally knows. (from whats-your-sign.com/animal-symbolism)

I had outpatient hernia surgery the end of August. Not such a big deal compared to some of my surgeries, but it still involved general anesthesia and an incision. I stopped taking the immune suppressant drug that keeps my arthritis under control because it makes me a very slow healer.

I was supposed to rest, right? I am really good at resting.

Inertia (Enneagram 9) +

Withdrawing into my shell when vulnerable (Turtle) +

Introvert +

Life-long Reader =

a rather happy camper, once the pain eased up.

The problem came when I got the okay to start my medicine again and resume normal activities.  Remember inertia from science class? It’s the resistance of any physical object to changes to its speed, direction or state of rest. In other words a body at rest tends to stay at rest. This body does. I enjoy doing nothing but reading and sipping on a cup of tea.

The retired man I live with and at least one of my daughters don’t have that gene. They got the one his mother passed on–always needing to be doing something.  Thank God.

Surely there are people who live somewhere in the middle of that continuum. Not in my house. The retired man I live with has 2 speeds–doing or dozing. I have one speed–slow, with rest stops.

I’m workin’ on it. (See this blog post: I’m Workin’ On It.)

I’ve made lunch dates with friends, enough that my checking account looks like I eat out all the time. I’ve gone back to water exercise. I’m writing this blog post.

I start in a 4-week small group at church tonight about white privilege. I’m president-elect of the Board of Directors for a local non-profit and I spent a long time on the phone this morning with our new Executive Director.

I live a quiet life, by choice. It works for me. I’ve learned the difference between isolation and solitude. Like most of us, I strive for balance. I want to choose to resist living inside my shell. Some days that’s easier than others.

Want to meet for coffee or lunch?

 

 

 

 

Published in: on October 6, 2016 at 6:09 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Poof! Gone.

I’ve never written about the day my sister died. Not in a journal, not in a workshop, not for this blog.

She jumped out of a small plane on June 10, 1972. Her parachute didn’t open. Neither did the reserve. She was almost 19. I was 20.

Her death played out in my mind over and over last week. I don’t know what triggered it. The retired man I live with said I moaned in my sleep a couple of nights. It was time to write and let go of something. What?

I decided to write it as the 1st chapter of a memoir. I opened a new blank Word document and started typing.

I never really learned to type and now my hands are damaged by my arthritis so I am a two-index-finger writer. The other fingers just sort of hang there. It works for me. Usually.

I typed 4 1/2 pages. I came back from going to the bathroom, sat down at the computer and looked at a blank page.

All my writing was gone. I felt sick, but didn’t panic. I figured one of my wandering fingers had hit something. Surely I could recapture it.

And I could have, had I saved any of it.

I DIDN’T SAVE. Any of it.

I write this blog on the WordPress website and it automatically saves every so often. I don’t have to remember to save. So I never thought to save while I dug deep into the narrative of my sister’s death.

I called my daughter who knows more computer than I do. I’d already done the things she suggested. I tried everything I could find in the Word Help menu.

It was gone. Poof. Out into the universe.

I sat and stared at the blank document.

And I laughed.

Last Saturday at my women’s AA meeting we discussed acceptance. AA’s Big Book includes this paragraph:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

What if writing the story of when my sister died was enough?

What if the process mattered more than the product?

What if letting go and acceptance mattered the most?

 

 

Published in: on August 23, 2016 at 10:28 am  Comments (13)  
Tags: , , , , , ,