Time Out

Adaline is learning about Time Out.  She is 2 1/4 years old with a 6-week-old baby brother.  It took a few weeks for her to start acting out.  Normal temper tantrums now erupt and she throws stuff.  (Directed at her mom and dad, not Atticus, thankfully.)

They consulted Dr. Sears’s Discipline Book.  (Yes, that’s the guy in the Time magazine article.) In our family, we solve problems with information.  Knowledge=Control, you know.

Dr. Sears suggests one minute of Time Out per year of age.  At first, her parents felt so bad about punishing her that they hugged and babied her after the Time Out.  I gently suggested the Time Out might not work well that way, since in the end, Adaline got the attention she was looking for, sightly delayed.  It’s all going better now, I hear.

I’ve spent the last week recovering…slowly…from pneumonia.  Dr. Green told me to stay away from my grandchildren.

Dr. Green put me in Time Out.  Or maybe God did.

“You’d feel awful if you got one of them sick, you know,”  say my daughters and my friends.

I know they’re right, but I’m in withdrawal!

Dr Green told me today that people our age (what??) can take a month to get our energy back after pneumonia.  Great.

My daughters consulted and asked me to please slow down because they need me.  Odd to be on the other side of care-taking.

I feel mortal today.  Angry and disappointed with my body, once again.  My vulnerability shocks me.

It is clear to me that I must stop “doing”.  So I am taking these days of healing to assess how I balance my commitments and my energy.

I have a book called The Extreme Art of Self-CareIt is time to practice what I preach.

I want to my limited energy to matter.

Change is next on my agenda.  Damn it.

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Lemon Zest

For the longest time I didn’t know what lemon zest was or that lemon juice didn’t have to come from a bottle in the refrigerator.

I didn’t grow up in a lemon zest world.  (Click here for what lemon zest is.  No one will know.)

My midwestern-born Mom made meat/potato/vegetable meals.  Bottled salad dressing and canned French cut green beans made into a casserole with cream of mushroom soup were fancy stuff at our table.

I’d like to be a lemon zest type of cook.

I don’t buy bottled lemon juice anymore.  (My favorite is the bright yellow plastic one with a green top that looks like a lemon.)

I have a grater and I’ve watched TV chefs zest and juice.  I’ve cut out recipes that require lemon zest.

I read one time that a squirt of lemon juice will brighten the taste of anything. I don’t know what that means.  Maybe my food needs some brightening.

I forget to buy lemons.  How will I add zest to my life?

Lemons I do buy sit around for days.  I feel them wondering, as they begin to shrink, what I will create with them.  I usually end up slicing them for iced tea or diet Coke.  I don’t want to waste the lemons.

I have 2 lemons downstairs.  Any suggestions?

Can I squeeze lemon juice on a baked sweet potato?

Published in: on March 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm  Comments (10)  
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Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable,                                                                                                                                                 illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa
1910-1997

[Reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However,  an article in the New York Times has since reported (March 8, 2002) that the original version of this poem was written by Kent M. Keith.]

Published in: on March 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (10)  
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W W J D?

(What would Jesus do?)

“I can’t usher or help with the Lord’s Supper.  And I can’t mentor the Boy Scouts either.”

He has been an active and faithful church member for years.  He has worshiped and participated regularly and enthusiastically.  He turned to his pastor for support months ago when he was diagnosed HIV positive.  He trusted his pastor with the truth, to be held in confidence.

A member of the congregation complained to the pastor.

This pastor told my friend he could not participate in the activities and fellowship of the church.  He could worship if he sat in the back row.

My friend feels hurt and betrayed.  He still believes God loves him just as he is.  He also believes God loves his pastor.

I am humbled by my friend’s genuine desire to forgive.

I am awed by such faith.

Published in: on August 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm  Comments (10)  
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Changed for the Better

(My friend, Lisa, asked for guest posts on her Cheap Therapy blog.  The prompt was “My life was changed for the better by…”  This is my response.)

God changed my life for the better.

I first got to know him (her?) personally at 12 Step meetings.  He likes the energy in those rooms where people who know him teach me how to live honestly and bravely.

Our 1st next-door neighbors talked me into trying Congregational United Church of Christ.  One of the first sermons I heard (from a woman minister!) included quotes from Anne Lamott’s Traveling MerciesI bought it the next day.  I wanted to know more from Pastor Julie at the UCC church.

I left a job I loved at Hospice in September, 2000.  I joined a Servant Leadership covenant group committed to exploring “call” together for 20 weeks.   I floundered.  I listened.  I prayed.

I listed my strengths and gifts.  I am a good listener.  That’s like saying “Bless her heart, she has such a sweet personality.”   Counseling?  That requires graduate school and I really didn’t want to take that GRE test or even go back to school.  One of my kids asked if I wanted to sit in a little room and listen to unhappy, screwed-up people all day.

Julie listened patiently to my confusion and frustration while we ate lunch at the old Southern Lights.  “What about spiritual direction?” she asked.  “What is it?” I said.  I don’t remember her answer.  I do remember the hair on my arms stood up and tingled.  Really.

“Check out Shalem,” she said.  I found them on the internet (here’s the link) and applied for the Spiritual Guidance Program a couple of months later.

At the 1st 10-day residential session, I met Barb, another female UCC minister.  She was funny and irreverent (she even said bad words) and deeply spiritual.  I had a friend and a role model.  I’m pretty sure God spoke through her, too.

I believe we are surrounded and supported always by a loving Higher Power.  He (?) sounds a lot like Julie and Barb and Mark and Lisa and Susan and Mike and Audra and so many others.

I help people tell and interpret their sacred stories.  We each have one.

“And what do you do?” someone kindly asks.  I groan and then God and I laugh.

No, You Can’t!

Remember what 15 felt like?

Can I...?”  “No, you can’t.”

I want to…”  “No you can’t.”

May I please…?”  “No.”

“Why not??”

I feel like that.  It’s my body saying “No, you can’t.”  And inside I’m screaming “Why not??”.

My rheumatoid arthritis flared up all week.  It was mid-90’s hot.  And humid.  I wanted to drive 4 hours to a weekend retreat for people who are HIV-positive from all over the southeast.  Only the dining room is air-conditioned at the rustic retreat center and the paths between buildings are uneven and unpaved.

“I can’t,” I told the director of the day center where I volunteer.  “I can do hot or pain, but not both.”

I’ve read several books lately about our bodies and our spirituality.  I see layers of metaphors in my decision to take care of myself.

I allowed myself to be sad for a day or so.  Limitations frustrate me.  And I realize some of the changes in my body can’t be fixed or reversed.  My granddaughter, at 15 months, can almost outrun me.  More metaphors.

I’m not what I thought I’d be at this point in my life.  (Is anyone?)  So I pray for willingness and acceptance.  And the continuing ability to laugh!

Not My Table, Hon

 The most helpful thing I grasped while waitressing was that some tables were my responsibility and some were not.  A waitress gets overwhelmed if she has too many tables, and no one gets good service.

In my life, I have certain things to take care of: my children, my relationships, my work, one or two causes, and myself.

That’s it.  Other things are not my table.

I would go nuts if I tried to take care of everyone, if I tried to make everybody do the right thing.

If I went through my life without ever learning to say, “Sorry that’s not my table, Hon,” I would burn out and be no good to anybody.

I need to have a surly waitress inside myself that I can call on when it seems everybody in the world is waving an empty coffee cup in my direction.

My Inner Waitress looks over at them, keeping her six plates balanced and her feet moving, and says,

“Sorry, Hon, not my table.”

(That story is by Susan Shaw and quoted in a book I’m reading, The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey.)

My friends and I talk about the necessity of “letting go”.  I know about “detaching with love” and “you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself”.  I get all that.

But at some point I learned:

focusing on my needs is selfish,

if I could just make sure everyone else was okay, then I’d be okay,

and caretaking is noble.

I like having an Inner Waitress.  I am given a set number of tables to serve.  If they don’t fill up, I stop and rest.  If they’re full of messy teenagers, cranky babies, or slightly rude businessmen preoccupied with their phones, then I keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing.  Hopefully with some grace and a smile.

It’s simple.  God’s the boss.  I’m the server.

Now, which ones are my tables?

The Paper (or Cloth) Bag Story

Take your problems, all of them, from the tiniest annoyances to the most horrific, difficult challenges and put all those problems into a brown paper bag or a politically-correct cloth eco-bag.

Then imagine if everyone else took all of their problems, put them into their own bags and brought them to the center of town.

Think of how many bags there would be, all piled up in one big mountain of brown paper and brightly-colored cloth bags.

If you were told you could pick any bag of problems and take it home with you, do you think you’d want someone else’s problems?

(Story borrowed from The Faith Club, by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner)

“Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”  The Familiar can be quite comfortable.  It’s predictable, we think.  It’s known.  We’ve practiced dealing with it. We assume we know how things will turn out and we get ready.

My body and I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis for over 20 years.  Pain and discomfort vary.  My pain–physical, emotional, spiritual–is invisible if I choose to disguise it with humor or stoicism.  So is yours.

Remember PacMan?  That’s how I pictured my arthritis in the beginning.  The disease was an enemy force of scary little critters using my blood vessels as a superhighway to randomly chomp on my joints.  I hated them and the medications I was trying were losing a lot of battles against them.

Eventually, I gave up the anger and war images.  I had to make peace with those mean monsters inside me.  If I could be compassionate and forgiving, they might be gentler.  So I prayed for willingness.

Today we are next-door neighbors inside my body, the critters and my Spirit.  Sometimes they are noisy and intrusive, but I can shut my windows and ignore the doorbell.  They are familiar and they could be worse.  I accept them as they are and I deal with them one day at a time.

I know how to do “hard”.  I’ve had practice.  We all have.  I know I can probably handle most any problem that pops up next.

If I could pick one bag from the pile, would I pick my own again?  I’m not sure.

My Inner Two-Year-Old

Adaline is one now.  Her world is just fine unless she is hungry or tired.  Then someone takes care of her. No one expects her to be self-sufficient.  What does she have to be snotty about?  The one-year-old is usually quite content.

In a year, she will be 2.  Things will be different then, I think.

Disability came as a surprise for me after my knee replacement surgery a year ago.  I expected to hurt and hobble.  I didn’t know I would need help with everything, including going to the bathroom and bathing (which Mike insisted I do daily so my incision didn’t get infected).  I appreciate my husband’s patient and loving care through those weeks.

I wasn’t always gracious.  My inner two-year-old raged and cried and temper-tantrumed more than a few times.

I couldn’t put on a pair of pants by myself because my knee wouldn’t bend.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I had to use a walker to get to the bathroom and then I had trouble standing up.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I couldn’t stand up long enough to fix anything to eat.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I will be sympathetic when Adaline says “I do it“, even if she can’t.

My knee is functioning well.  I am grateful daily for what I am able to do on my own.

I can take my own showers and go to the bathroom alone and even put on my pants easily.  Maybe one day that won’t be the case.  I do wonder if I should have long-term-care insurance.

Today, just for today, I did what I wanted.  My inner two-year-old is very grateful.

Broken Body, Healing Spirit

Have you seen the commercial for a rheumatoid arthritis drug that talks about the life you have and the life you want to live?  It is shrewd marketing.  Inject this powerful drug and you can do anything.

The hidden cost of chronic illness, because pain and fatigue are invisible, is that I pretend to be living the life I want to live rather than being honest about the life I am living.  As Mary C. Earle writes in her book, Broken Body, Healing Spirit, there are sometimes two people living inside me and one is a liar.

What fear or perceived defect do you hide from the world?

Have you had the flu or bad allergies and gone to work anyway?  Do you have back pain?  Grief?  Migraines?  Fatigue?  Paralyzing anxiety?  Fear of what others will think?  Are you in recovery from addiction?  Or unsettled by the signs and symptoms of getting older?

Substitute your secret for “illness” as you read this quote from Broken Body, Healing Spirit (italics mine):

…a body that has been overwhelmed by illness is also a body where life dwells.  Disruptive, distressing, and acutely confusing, illness calls us to a deepening awareness of the wonder of the body, an awareness that we did not bring ourselves into being, and that it is through our embodied life that we encounter the presence of God…

Through illness, the embodied nature of our lives grabs our attention, and forces us to befriend the very flesh we thought betrayed us.  The body that we had taken for granted turns out to be a rich and varied text, full of layers of meaning and symbol.

Always, it comes back to powerlessness vs. control.  And I most want to control what I fear.  Until I have faith and trust, I will be afraid.  And I will miss a lot of fun stuff.

My husband has a big, yellow BMW motorcycle.  He rode it cross-country and back, alone.  He wants me to ride with him.  Once, I said yes; we rode around the neighborhood on quiet residential streets with no real traffic.   I trust my husband.  I know he would never deliberately hurt me.  All I could see from that rear perch was my body shattered into painful pieces.

New experiences are fun and invigorating for me–teaching a class, being in Paris alone for 5 days, going on a week-long silent retreat.  For Mike, riding the motorcycle is a form of meditation.  For me, it is like white-water rafting or parachuting.

I’ve lived with chronic illness for over 20 years.  Rarely have I said “I can’t”.  I can usually find adaptations and compromises that let me do most anything.  I want to be the free spirit that sees a lovely day and says “Let’s ride!”

I think it could be a prayer–“Your will, not mine be done.”