“Amma, Who Made God?”

We were all at the Mellow Mushroom, a local pizza place, to celebrate the birthday of the retired man I live with–his sister, our 2 daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren, 6,4,and 4 (cousins, not twins). They put us outside on the patio. Good move.

It was a beautiful spring evening–not hot, not cold, no clouds and a light breeze. The cousins danced in an open corner to the soft-rock music coming through speakers and the adults talked and laughed.

The kids came and sat with us when the pizza came. Atticus, 4, the only boy, sat next to me. We talked a bit about how good the pizza was. He’s an introvert, kind of quiet and an observer. He plays alone for long periods of time with his legos and he likes to line up his Hot Wheels just so. We think he might grow up to be an engineer.

After eating for a while, he looked up at me and asked,  “Amma, who made God?” I stared at him for a few seconds and then said, “Well, Atticus, I don’t really know.” He asked me again and I gave the same answer. By this time, his daddy across the table heard us and he said, “Atticus, God has always just been there and at some point he decided he needed plants and animals  and people so he made them.” Atticus thought for a minute and then said “Maybe Jesus made God.” I said, “Well, actually, God is Jesus’s Daddy.”  He ate the rest of his pizza and said no more.

Atticus went to a church-sponsored preschool the year was 3. He learned at preschool to fold his hands, bow his head and say a blessing before he eats. He usually insists we all participate. There’s not much cuter or more moving than chubby 3 or 4-year-old fingers folded in prayer. He’s been at home with his mom for the past school year. I don’t think they talk about God.

The sense of wonder that Atticus awoke in me with his question lingers. Where did that question come from? We sure weren’t talking about God on the Mellow Mushroom patio.

When my first grandchild, Adaline, was born, we all marveled at the obvious deep connection between her and her 86-year-old great-grandmother. My theory, and I’m not sure where this came from, was that babies at the beginning of life and the elderly, nearing the end of life, complete a circle when they are together. The baby remembers where she came from and the older person senses where she is going. It’s a spiritual connection that we marveled at.

I picked “Amma” as my grandmother name very carefully. Actually, I eliminated a lot of things I didn’t want to be called first. I wrote about that in one of my first blog posts (here). I called myself a spiritual elder when I explained it to my daughters. I believe God will show me how to spiritually accompany these children.

Every time I’m with my grandchildren, I feel close to God. I just figured it was because of the joy and awe I feel looking at them. Maybe, instead, it’s because they are closer to God.

When I told a friend of mine about my conversation with Atticus, she told me she had a picture in her mind of Atticus holding God’s hand and with his other, he’s holding my hand.

In that vision, I am Amma.

Some links to information I found online about research into children’s spirituality:

http://www.newsweek.com/what-do-children-understand-about-god-223404

http://www.vox.com/2014/7/30/5949421/are-kids-born-with-an-innate-belief-in-god

https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/2013/03/05/are-born-believing-god/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1211511/Why-born-believe-God-Its-wired-brain-says-psychologist.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/3512686/Children-are-born-believers-in-God-academic-claims.html

http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Child-Parenting-Lifelong-Thriving/dp/125003292X

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Except Pee Standing Up

I used to tell my little girls, “Girls can do anything boys can do except pee standing up.” (I’m sure they both tried to pee standing up.) My daughters were born in late 1977 and early 1980. I felt responsible for raising them to be fearless and strong.

I  was born in 1952. I was not raised to be fearless and strong.

Nancy Pelosi was born in 1940, 12 years before me. She graduated from Trinity College, a women’s college in DC. She became a member of Congress from San Francisco and the first female Speaker of the House. Who told her she could do all that?

Hillary Clinton graduated from Wellesley, a women’s college, went to Yale law school before I graduated from high school and then become a congressional legal council and a Senator from NY. She may be the next President of the United States. Who told her she could do all that?

Anna Quindlen, one of my favorite writers, graduated from high school the same year I did. She went to Barnard College, a women’s college affiliated with Columbia University. She became a reporter for the New York Times, then later a novelist and a columnist for Newsweek. Who told her she could do all that?

My younger daughter played more with stuffed animals than dolls. Before she went to kindergarten, she told us she’d work at the Natural Science Center in our town when she grew up. They had a small zoo then.

She started at a women’s college, transferred to Greensboro College and graduated with a minor in biology. While she was in college she worked part-time at the Natural Science Center and had a month-long summer internship  at one of the NC Aquariums at the coast.

She moved to full-time at the Natural Science Center after graduation. By  that time, the zoo had grown and become accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Now she takes her own children there to meet Ruby, the parrot she trained, and to see the Aquarium she helped design.

We (the retired man I live with and I) told her she could do all that.

My older daughter became interested in our political system early on. In high school she watched CNN and C-Span (really) and became involved with Young Democrats at the state level. She decided she needed to go to college in DC, investigated schools and learned about Trinity College, a small Catholic women’s college.

She pursued scholarship money that made her enrollment possible at Trinity, the same college Nancy Pelosi attended. She became active in College Democrats at the national level, completed a White House internship and another with the New Democrat Network. She has worked as a political fundraiser since her graduation. She was invited to Ms. Pelosi’s special Mass (worship service) at Trinity on the morning of her installation as Speaker of the House and has a picture of the two of them on that historic day. Now there’s a picture on her Facebook page of her daughter “working” at her campaign office.

We (the retired man I live with and I) told her she could do all that.

My daughters pursued their dreams and built interesting, exciting careers with confidence and competence. I didn’t know I could dream big, but I made sure they did. And now we can all send that message to their daughters, Adaline and Maggie. Except for the part about peeing standing up, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

Elf on Vacation

Maggie popped into the kitchen from the garage wearing her Frozen (a link) pajamas made like thermal long underwear and sleep-fuzzed hair. The picture of Elsa that covered her chest was faded and the elastic at her ankles was loose. Favorites do wear out.

Maggie brought her parents to go to church with us on Easter Sunday. Her mother took her to go to the bathroom and change clothes. She looked like an angel when she came back. She wore a long white dress made of soft cotton with pastel smocking around the neck and little puff sleeves. White tights, white patent leather mary janes with rhinestones on the strap and brushed hair with a big white bow completed the look.

I was stunned. I looked at her mother and asked, “Did she want to wear that?” Her mother gave me a look and said, “We had a long talk before we left.”

You see, even before Miss Maggie turned 4 in January, she had strong feelings about what she wanted to wear. (She goes to a Montessori preschool and they talk about “strong feelings”–what you and I might call pissed-off-ness or stubbornness.) Her school encourages parents to let kids pick their own clothes, which can result in some interesting combinations.

I’m looking at a printed picture of Maggie posing as “Elf on Vacation,” as one of her teachers labeled her look. Imagine this on a slender 3-year-old whose hair was slow to grow and looks like very blond mullet (a link): a pair of red tights with white horizontal stripes from the thigh to the ankle that end in a thicker green stripe edged with red-and-white-polka-dot ruffles. On top she wears a short sleeved t-shirt tie-died in bright primary colors. She hold an orange tote bag in one hand and added a pair of too-small pink sunglasses to complete the outfit. She posed with her left hand propped on a wall and her left foot nonchalantly crossed over in front of the right one. She looks COOL.

I love her spirit and how she knows what she wants. I tell her mother that her independence and spunk will be good things eventually. Right now their mornings can be a bit intense, with strong feelings on both sides. I admire her mother for letting her go to school as she wants, even if she is wearing a sleeveless dress and the temperature won’t be above 40. She adds a sweater to her school bag and off they go.

What would you wear if you knew no one would criticize or laugh at you?

Does your outside match your inside?

We play many roles and wear many masks. A friend gave me an excerpt titled “Please Hear What I’m Not Saying” from a book called Healing the Child Within by Charles Whitfield, PhD. ( a link) Here’s some of it:

Don’t be fooled by  me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear. For I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me. Pretending is an art that’s second nature to me, but don’t be fooled…

I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness is my game, that the water’s calm and I’m in command, and that I need no one. But don’t believe me…

Beneath my mask lie confusion and fear and aloneness…

I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear being exposed….

I’m afraid you’ll think less of me, that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me…

I don’t like to hide…I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me…

Each time you’re kind and gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings, very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings!

Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man you meet and I am every woman you meet.

I’m sad that no one encouraged me to be more like Maggie as Elf on Vacation. I don’t want to wear wear red tights with white horizontal stripes around my thighs (no!!), but I’d like to be more outrageous than a black t-shirt and jeans sometimes.

I take off my mask more willingly when I remember that I am a Child of God. That means I’m okay. I’m good enough. God loves us because of our quirks, not in spite of them. We are made in God’s image. What amazing quirks God must have!

Published in: on April 17, 2016 at 1:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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April 4, 1968 and Me

On March 5, 1968, my family moved from Centerville, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio (the North), to Raleigh, North Carolina (the South). I was not happy. I felt like I was moving to a foreign country. In 10 days, I’d be 16 and my main concerns were how was I going to get a NC drivers license and what should I wear to my first day of being a sophomore at Broughton High School.

15-year-old girls are ego-centric. It’s normal.

On April 4, 1968, at about 6:00 pm, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. When I talk about that day, I always say Raleigh went up in flames.

Today is the 48th anniversary of that shooting. I decided to do some research about what actually happened in Raleigh then. Using Google, I found a history of the Raleigh Fire Department decade by decade. Here’s some of what I learned:

Martin Luther King was shot about 6:00 pm on a Thursday. That night students from Shaw University, a black college, gathered downtown, joined by many others. They threw Molotov cocktails (the fire department called them fire bombs) and buildings burned. Somebody threw one through a window of the Playboy Club (Raleigh had a Playboy Club??) and someone inside threw it back out.

A curfew was declared for that Friday night from 1:00am-6:00am. That curfew continued for days. 500-700 National Guard troops were called in. By midday Monday, April 8, fire officials reported 40 fires had been set and responded to.

I’m sure I knew about all this turmoil and rage.  I did know it was a big deal that Dr. King had been shot. I was raised by two liberal parents who watched the news every night and encouraged us to join them. We talked about the civil rights movement and I saw the beatings and water hoses on Walter Cronkite’s newscasts. I was appropriately horrified.

Remember I said 15-year-old girls are ego-centric? I was focused on how to fit in in a new high school and a new culture where people thought I talked funny and French was taught with a southern accent that totally confused me. Prejudice and bigotry were miles away from the world I lived in then, literally and figuratively.

I just didn’t feel personally touched by any of it. I was a walking, talking, oblivious example of white privilege (defined and explained in this link). There were only a couple of black kids in my high school when I graduated and I didn’t know them.

I lived in an upper middle class neighborhood in north Raleigh, near North Hills Shopping Center and North Hills Swim and Tennis Club. Most families had at least one parent who had graduated from college. Our dads wore suits and ties to work. Many came to Raleigh to be part of the new Research Triangle Park, still one of the most prominent high-tech research and development centers in the US. My friends and I were white baby boomers benefiting from our parents’ post-war drive and ambition.

I read a book recently, suggested by my pastor, Julie Peeples, who is leading many in our community in an examination of white privilege and race issues. The book is called Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. The author, who is white, describes the book this way:

Waking Up White is the book I wish someone had handed me decades ago. My hope is that by sharing my sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, I offer a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As I unpack my own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, I reveal how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated my ill-conceived ideas about race. I also explain why and how I’ve changed the way I talk about racism, work in racially mixed groups, and understand the racial justice movement as a whole.

– See more at: http://debbyirving.com/the-book/#sthash.njgYIyS2.dpuf

Liberal parents or not, Caucasian or not, good intentions or not, I guarantee this book will open your eyes and jolt your thinking. You need to read it.

 

Published in: on April 4, 2016 at 1:32 pm  Comments (3)  
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Will You Still Love Me When I’m 64?

I had a birthday this week. I’m 64. Every time I say or think 64, that Beatles song cranks up in my head. I wonder if that’ll happen for the whole year.

When my dad was 64, he lived in a nursing home. He was an alcoholic and an insulin-dependent diabetic who fell, broke his hip and went through DT’s in the hospital which caused wildly unstable blood sugar. So instead of surgery, he spent 6 weeks in traction in the hospital. He had a stroke  while in traction and never went back home. He spent the next 7 years in a wheelchair in nursing homes, slowly deteriorating mentally until there were no shreds left of the dynamic salesman he had been. He was 69 when he died after another srroke.

When my mother was 64, she lived alone, visited my dad every day and barely ate. I think she was anorexic most of  my life. (Thank you, Jackie Kennedy.) She fell while having a stoke, broke a hip and ended up in the same nursing home as my father. She was there, using a wheelchair, for 3 years. He died first.  She eventually stopped eating completely and died a few months after dad at barely 70.

I had pneumonia a few weeks ago. I complained to one of my daughters that I had no appetite and no energy. She told me I had to eat so I didn’t end up a frail old lady like Grandma.

I want to make a sign to hang in my office–the word FRAIL in big black letters circled in red with a diagonal line through the word FRAIL.

I stopped drinking years ago because I didn’t want to turn into my dad. He was an unhappy man who emotionally abused my mother. I’m not like that.

Right before I got sick, I made an appointment with a trainer to begin to recapture some of the strength I’ve lost during the last 2 1/2 years of one surgery after another. I am embarrassed by my lack of fitness, no matter how many times I tell myself I’ve done the best I could.

I’ve read Brene Brown books about shame and resilience. I’m still ashamed. (If you haven’t read her, you might try one from the library. Or listen to her TED talk. You won’t be sorry.)

I hate the idea of being seen as weak or incompetent. I know I can be emotionally strong and resilient. I will try to tap into that strength to have the will to patiently and kindly build my physical strength. I wish I thought it would be fun. I do think it is necessary. I don’t want to be frail like my mom.

A friend shared this poem with me recently. It’s by Jan Richardson from a book called Circle of Grace.

Blessing of the Body

This blessing takes

one look at you

and all it can say is

holy.

Holy hands.

Holy face.

Holy feet.

Holy everything

in between

 

Holy even in pain.

Holy even when weary.

In brokenness, holy.

In shame, holy still.

Holy in delight.

Holy in distress.

Holy when being born.

Holy when we lay it down

at the hour of our death.

 

So, friend,

open your eyes

(holy eyes).

For one moment

see what this blessing sees,

this blessing that knows

how you have been formed

and knit together

in wonder and

in love.

 

Welcome this blessing

that folds its hands

in prayer

when it meets you;

receive this blessing

that wants to kneel

in reverence

before you—

you who are

temple,

sanctuary,

home for God

in this world.

Published in: on March 18, 2016 at 10:38 am  Comments (2)  
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An Attempt To Break Through Writer’s Block

1.Around the first of this year, I told a few people that I wanted to write a memoir. They were very encouraging. I bought a book about writing memoirs and read and studied and underlined carefully.

I haven’t written anything since.

Writer’s block is a real thing. I think mine is fueled by fear. Fear of messing up. Fear of not doing it right. Fear of the immensity of such a project. I still have another book to study.

I know the cure for writer’s block is to write. So I’m writing.

2. I took one of those quizzes that pop up on Facebook about whether my right brain or left brain was dominant. It said my left brain was, the side that’s orderly and logical. As I look around my office and consider my lack of discipline with exercise and writing, I feel more right-brain-ish. I’d LIKE to be orderly and organized. I used to be. I rarely am these days. I blame it on late-onset ADD.

3. Kids are like acorns. Little acorns grow into big trees. Little kids grown into big human beings. Both need water, dirt and sunshine.

4. From an article in the journal Emotion by researchers at UC Berkley:

AWE is a natural anti-inflammatory.Those who experienced more amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love and pride had the lowest levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, specifically levels of interleukin-6.

So, my rheumatoid arthritis, caused by inflammation, would be better if I spent more time beside the ocean or with my grandchildren. Okay!

5. I have a small stink bug issue. Here’s a link to a picture and some information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_marmorated_stink_bug.

It says in the article, someone had 26,000 in their house! (Who counted??) That’s why I said I have a small problem.

Stink bugs completely freak me out. I think they know that. I only see them once or twice a week, in my office and our bedroom, both upstairs. I’ll walk through a room and there one will be. I don’t see it come. It’s just there. The other morning, during my quiet time, one landed on the arm of my chair with a little buzz! I jumped and almost spilled my tea.

I generally am a kind and compassionate person to all living things. Not stink bugs. I flush them. The retired man I live with is appalled by that. He picks them up and opens a window and lets them out. So they can come back and find me again.

6. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good. I keep having to learn that.

7. Did you know you can use wadded-up balls of aluminum foil in your dryer to get rid of static electricity? I read that in a list of housekeeping hacks on Facebook. One piece of useful information in a 30-minute pilgrimage down a path of wasted time. Sigh.

8. I have an ottoman in my office with a removable top. I recently remembered that I threw a pile of papers in there to quickly tidy up when someone was coming over at least a year ago. I think I should just dump them in the recycling can without going through them. Obviously, I don’t need them. I haven’t done that yet. See #2 above.

9.During one of our snow/ice times, I saw this in the list of school closings:

Ed-Choo-Ka-Tion Station

Really.

10. I want a heated toilet seat. Our upstairs bathroom is cold in the middle of the night. I googled “heated toilet seats.” Prices ranged from $52.66 to $1,578.00. Wayfair has one that includes a nightlight in the rim and three temperature settings. It needs a standard electrical outlet, which in our older house is on the other side of the bathroom. Maybe there’s a battery-operated one. By the time I investigate all the brands and bells and whistles, it’ll be spring. I live in NC. We have short winters. I think this is a “want” not a “need.”

And Want vs. Need is a big topic for another day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 10:43 am  Comments (2)  
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What’s Inside My Hula Hoop?

I learned some things over Christmas this year. or I should probably say I re-learned some things.

  1. Be careful what you ask for. You might get it. My goal as a parent was to raise independent, self-sufficient women who could take care of themselves and also love well. I’ve succeeded.
  2. I control only what’s inside my hula hoop. (Think about the image…) I don’t like not being in control of stuff. I’m not proud of this–I’ve worked hard on this issue.
  3. I’m not needed like I used to be. I’m probably needed differently, but I haven’t figured that part out yet.
  4. Hurt lurks behind anger and manipulation.

Here’s the story.

Christmas vacation, for our family, for too many years, involved many hours on highways to get to my parents in Ohio and the mother of the retired man I live with (and his large extended family) in Pittsburgh. We’d be gone from whenever the kids finished school until the day before New Year’s Eve.

It was grueling, for different reasons at each place, and often involved driving in bad weather. We didn’t have Nabis or iPads or iPods or in-car DVD players. We played 20 questions, looked for license plates from different states and sang lots of Christmas carols. It got some easier when they became readers. (They didn’t get carsick reading in the backseat like I used to.)

We ended that craziness after my parents moved to NC and we drove over the WV mountains on ice coming home from Pittsburgh. We just flew his mom and sister to us after that. By then our girls were in high school and not so concerned about Santa finding us.

We were never at our own house during those traveling years for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. (Santa knew to come to our house early. He’s flexible like that.) So, at some point as marriage and grandchildren came into our kids’ lives, we (well, more that retired guy I live with than I) started suggesting the importance of Christmas morning in their own homes.

This year, sometime in December, our strong, independent daughters who have apparently learned to take care of themselves and their families told us they would be having Christmas Eve and morning in their own homes and then we would all gather for lunch and to give our gifts to the grandchildren at one of their homes.

I was the loving, supportive, mature, “good” mom I can sometimes be and said, “Well, okay, sure. That’s probably a good idea.”

I was not prepared.

I was alone.

On Christmas Eve.

The retired man I live with has a part-time retail job, so he worked until late-afternoon that day. We’d made no plans so we had a regular dinner, watched the news and some tv and then went to bed like any other evening. And had a quiet, boring Christmas morning. It all felt empty.

I woke up Christmas morning with a complete scheme to manipulate everyone next year back to the way I wanted things to be. It was a brilliant plan (I do have health issues, you know) and it would probably work. I shared it with that retired guy I live with. The shocked look on his face did make me a little self-conscious.

I still shared it over the next couple of days with a few friends who had the sense to listen, smile, and say nothing. Eventually I could hear the anger rumbling inside. I shared about it at a women’s AA meeting. I realized and admitted I was refusing to accept my powerlessness over other people. I was trying to fix things outside my hula hoop. And manipulation wouldn’t give me power. It made me wicked.

I’ve given up on my plan, even though I know it would work.

A new word came to me on Christmas Day. I have become “peripheral” (see below) to my children’s lives. I believe that is right and good and as it should be. It gives me hope that they will be okay when someday I’m not around.

I don’t have to like it.

I do have to accept it.

And now I will focus on my own life and what to do with this new year of 2016. I have more to do, within my hula hoop, I’m sure!

Maybe I’ll write a book.

(Scanners, printers, and speakers are peripheral devices for a computer because they aren’t central to the working of the computer itself.)

 

Published in: on January 4, 2016 at 4:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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Continual Partial Attention :)

I multi-tasked for the last few hours. And now I believe the research that says Continual Partial Attention is inefficient and makes tasks take longer to complete.

I have a bag full of Christmas CD’s that I decided this morning should be downloaded to my iTunes library. My Macbook Air laptop is thin and very light. We bought it because I dropped the heavier, older laptop I had before one too many times. This one’s sleekness requires a CD thing to be attached with a USB cord for playing or downloading a CD.

So first I had to find the CD thingy. It was in the basement with the laptop belonging to the retired man I live with (we don’t share well). I put a load of laundry in the washer while I was down there. Which I just realized I never put in the dryer. That’s how well I multi-task these days.

After downloading a couple of CD’s, it dawned on me I could do something else on the same computer at the same time.

Weeks ago, I told my 93-year-old aunt that I’d print some of my blog posts for her because a while back her computer died and she hasn’t replaced it. (Hint to my cousin, Mike–she’s hoping for some sort of tablet for Christmas from you all.) She says my blog is the only thing she’s missed. I love her!

I couldn’t remember when her computer died so I printed all the posts from this year. I read and relived all of them as I pulled them up, of course.

It’s been a challenging year, with bouts of depression followed by spells of slowly recovering and coming back out of the darkness. That’s obvious from my posts. And I remembered and relived all the ups and downs.

Then I’d realize a CD was done. I’d eject that one and put in another one and go back to the blog posts. After I made a cup of tea.

This quote taped to the turtle tea cup holder on my desk reminds me my life has purpose and meaning:

When our wounds cease to be a source of shame and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers…Our own experience with loneliness, depression, and fear can become a gift…Our own bandaged wounds will allow us to listen to others with our whole beings.

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Now, if I sync my computer iTunes and my iPhone iTunes, I can try out my Christmas music on the new Bluetooth speaker in the living room that the retired man I live with bought for himself the other day. Seems easier to just play the CD’s, doesn’t it?

And I still need to dry that load of clothes.

And find a big envelope and then figure out postage to mail the blog posts to my aunt. I  really don’t want to go to the post office in the middle of December. Maybe I can just send them from the UPS store.

And the tasks continue…

I’m ready for a nap.

 

Published in: on December 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm  Comments (4)  
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Today Is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

There is a giant red ribbon hanging on the front porch of the White House today.

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

 

 

Published in: on December 1, 2015 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’ll Be Okay

A month ago, I wrote about learning the difference between depression and grief in “Finding Hope Under the Blanket.”

My description of grieving the loss of my young, functional body left out an event that triggered anger and envy. I got an announcement that a woman I know at church, a long-time hospital chaplain, was to be ordained as a Minister of Spiritual Direction.

My immediate reaction was intense. I looked back over 28 years with rheumatoid arthritis and saw how it limited my choices and opportunities.

I cried. I rarely cry, so that alone got the attention of the retired man I live with.

And me.

My whole being, body and soul, was sad and angry.

I wrote in my journal. I carried those intense feelings around for a couple of weeks before I talked to a trusted friend and my spiritual director. All that helped and the intensity of my feelings lessened slowly.

Last Sunday, I sat in church lost in a spectacular piece of music performed by our choir and organist. Out of nowhere, the thought popped into my head–without the arthritis, would you have the faith that your spiritual journey has led you to? Would you ever have considered any form of ministry?

No.

I started in AA a few months before my arthritis was diagnosed. Both are chronic illnesses and they have intertwined in my faith journey for the last 28 years. The 12 steps (12 Steps), particularly 1-3, 10, and 11, were my introduction to a template for a personal relationship with a Higher Power.

I am grateful for the many gifts of my spiritual journey. Sometimes I tell God I think I’ve learned enough and he can ease up on my challenges now. Then I have a special moment like last Sunday and I know God still has much to teach me.

Would I prefer a less painful way to learn? Hell, yes. But I don’t think it works that way.

I learned over these years how to do hard stuff. And deep inside me, in my soul, I believe that whatever comes, I can be okay if I remember to ask God for help.

In “Finding Hope Under the Blanket,” I wrote

Without words, my spirit reached out to God and grace made the difference…

Many times lately, my prayer is simply, “Help me.” And that is enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on November 17, 2015 at 11:42 am  Comments (6)  
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