Painful Hope

The masked 71-year-old checker at Walmart smiled. I could tell by her eyes, sparkling and attractive with years of happy lines. “Two hours to go!” she announced to me. I told her with a smile in-kind that I hoped it would go quickly. She chuckled and said, “Oh, no matter. I’m happy. I could stand here all day!” I gave her a look of awe and encouraged her to count her blessings. If I stand for more than 5 minutes my back hurts and my left leg and both feet go numb. “You’re too young for that!” she said with compassion. That’s how I found that she was more than a decade older than I.

Such is life with a chronic pain condition. It is genetic; my paternal grandmother’s hands rivaled the old witch handing Snow White the poison apple. Heberden nodes deform finger and toe joints in osteoarthritis. Grandma waddled and grunted when getting up from a chair, and I walk hunched over when it’s bad. Growing up as a pretty good athlete, hitting 500 in softball, taking on the toughest horses no one else wanted to ride, and running tough hills in races came easily for me. But now I’ve sold the horses, given up even the golf clubs and I’m relegated to feeling accomplished with a 0.5 to 1 mile walk in the mornings. Life throws some tough curve-balls.

People with chronic pain can relate. I write this not to whine or complain; rather, to offer support to those who suffer. There are many who have worse pain than I have. A few years ago I joined a Facebook group for people with arthritis. I was pretty blown away at the community and little sub-communities that existed for folk who typically become very isolated and who develop anxiety and other comorbidities (other concurrent medical problems). I saw a beautiful example of the good that can come from social media!

If you suffer from chronic pain or from any medical condition, do consider searching social media or your local community for support groups. When I worked on my master’s degree I researched chronic pain management centers. I found that studies showed decreased pain in those patients who felt connected to others. Some had good friends who maintained contact, some had a daily coffee at McDonalds, and some participated in book clubs, whether in person or online. I also learned that those who moved, even just a little each day, even just stretches in bed if bedridden, or the little walks I manage, reported decreases in pain, depression and anxiety. My octogenarian friend listens to her favorite music, meditates, or phones her friends when she needs distraction. She is still practicing as a therapist and continues to see clients. She advocates grief work with someone who understands pain.

There is hope. You are not alone, and I pray for you as I write this.

Everything’s Coming Up…

It was blazing hot a couple of days ago. I am fair and red-haired and I sometimes quip that my blood is “Nordic” to emphasize the degree to which I burn to a crisp in the sun.

My reaction when it goes over 75 degrees outside…

Genetically I have no choice, even with sunscreen. I do better in cold. I get a great dose of Vitamin D in one shimmering ray through a window, and have never been affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. My husband and children tan darkly, and they can tolerate the sun and heat well. They enjoy the beach while I sit covered by an umbrella, book in hand.

I love physical work and have always been happy doing farm chores, especially cleaning out and organizing barns. Without a barn now, and feeling the restlessness of being inside, I uncharacteristically braved the 90+ degree heat and dug a new flower bed. Not necessarily the wisest thing to do with a bad back, but I am stubborn at times. One of my teen sons did help when I asked.

The bed is to be home for the rose bushes I ordered online. I found Heirloom Roses when googling “Julia Child” after watching the movie Julie & Julia. Not expecting to see a rose in the images, I found a huge yellow bloom named after the iconic chef. So I ordered one Julia Child and one Queen Anisette. The latter is a beautiful cream and peach colored blossom. I held a bouquet of similar roses when I walked up the aisle to wed my late husband. They are my favorite. I also ordered a beautiful red rosebush called “Because She Served.” It will come with a memorial stake in the name of my friend Barb who served in the Army, and who passed away from cancer after an heroic battle. When I plant it, the red blooms will face the residence that she and her family once lived in. I will think of her often.

Because She Served

I turned the soil against the 1901-built house and unearthed a few antique bricks. I’ll use them to line the bed. The soil was soft and obviously augmented in the past with peat. It was easy to turn. After about 20 minutes the sun on my back was hot and I began to perspire. I started the job thinking I’d just mark the border, but then I dug out a corner, then another…then evened up the line–okay, one more spadeful, just to level it. My approach was similar to sneaking slices of cake as a child, firming up the line, then taking just another bit and evening it up again.

In less than one steamy hour, with water breaks, the garden was dug and I was looking forward to cooling off. I rounded the front of the house, however, and there was the first shipment roses sitting on the porch. What timing! They could not wait to be planted. In another hour they were in and watered. I skipped the “well-aged manure” step in the directions and felt the irony that up until that very morning I owned tons of the stuff. I could have driven to the farm to get some if it were yesterday. I drew the line at pulling up the lane to ask the new owner if I could please have some manure from behind the barn. So…

“Sorry Julia,…Sorry Your Majesty, I do hope you will nourish your roots amidst a century of brick shards and composted other plants.”

This bed was created on the day of the closing of our family farm. It was on the market for a very long time due to how uncommon a property; how many other 30 acre former Benedictine Monasteries are there in the states? We had hoped that it’s uniqueness would cause a faster sale, and in order to be prepared we moved when we listed, and enrolled the children in a fantastic school system. We understood the possibility that we would have to move back if it did not sell. Well, we do not have to move back, and we are happy in knowing that it will be cared for by whom it was intended all along. The sale of a home is high on the list of life-stressors. We can relax now, and like these beautiful new roses, put down our own roots.

If not everything at least some aspects of our lives, like this garden, will surely be coming up roses! Keep an eye out for your “roses,” and pause from the worry and the frenetic pace of life to breathe in their fragrance.

Grief Personified, Hope Enduring

The Abbey Farm, my earlier blog, was about the wonderful experience of living in a former Benedictine Monastery and raising our children. “Busy” was an understatement, and of course there were challenges, but it was a lived dream. Our sale closes today and we are excited that the new owners are yet another large family who will live out their dreams there. The wife and mother is a gracious and generous soul who intuitively asked if I was dealing well with the emotional aspect of selling. Yes, I am. What I have realized is that it is a process. For myself more than my husband, it involves grief.

I was the Mom who managed the place, paid the bills and raised the kids. I was home more of the time because he spent hours at work each day. He is more a renaissance man than any other I know and he gave more than his fair share. I’m just “feeling it” more, and try as he might to understand me, how could he if I have trouble understanding myself?

Looking back now, I see how friends have lived their lives expecting too much of their spouse or partner. In this age of equality we forget that there are not just differences in gender (we have biological differences unique to each of us), but differences in personality and ability. Perhaps some relationships can’t be 50-50 in certain areas. I was always told to strive for 100-100! Yet, think about it; one person’s 100% may not be enough to perform 50% of the work. In illness, they may offer far less. Those who have nursed a partner through cancer realize that their loved one can only lend a fraction of a percentage to the “50-50.” Life does not conform to neat equations.

My sister-in-law is one of the most self-actualized persons I know. When dealing with grief she learned a technique to anthropomorphize grief–to think of it as a person. First, identify the feeling that the grief evokes, and where it is felt in your body. Then imagine that you are the friend to that grief “person.” You do not need to reason away the feelings or say the right thing, as many well-meaning friends want to do, but just to “be” with them. I tried this and found myself able to separate from confused feelings and “be” with my grief. I saw more clearly that time would help this “friend.” I sat with “her” and when I needed to tend to a task in the house, instead of feeling overwhelmed, I let her know that I would be back. The day went on, life went on, and I was able to be productive. My mood lifted.

I realized that it was not so important to get my husband to understand exactly how I felt. In fact, it was better for me to do this work on my own. This morning I had an image of that work and it became a parable of sorts:

When we are young adults we may have less experience, but we usually have more strength and perhaps more raw material to work with. We lack wisdom and experience, but we construct a life quickly. With good intent, these are built swiftly to meet our immediate needs. I pictured this life as an abode. We are the builder-tenants. Winds blow, pieces fall off, and repairs must be made regularly. After a few years, what was once a simple, lithe dwelling becomes tacked-on, patched and perhaps less attractive. But it is home and it is livable. Over time, it reacts to elements like wind and water, to attacks both natural and man-made.

In moments of calm the builder-tenant has a choice to grow, and may say, “This is what I have, it’s the best I can do at this point.” Any faults are easily hidden with paint and flowers which look more attractive but inside, the walls and floors may be on the verge of collapse at life’s inevitable, next assault. Another choice which could be made during the calm is to perform the difficult maintenance and repair work.

Decades of life bring on a havoc of their own, the inexorable wear-and-tear, and forces not anticipated. A tornado, a flood, or a sinkhole may threaten even a well-built structure. Heavy, relentless, back-breaking, seemingly thankless and unrewarded labor may require digging down to expose the weak foundation and to repair sections–or to completely rebuild. Labor may result in no outward change, yet that which is essential to the core strength of the abode.

Friends and family will ideally come to aid. If the builder has a partner who soothes with physical love and distraction, it is restorative. There is rest, and rest is important. Still, over time, it is the tenant who must accomplish the structural work needed by the building. Exhausted as he is, he rolls up his sleeves, reads manuals, contemplates, plans and executes. Little-by-little, the intensely hard work of fortification is done. A replaced beam, a sistered joist, waterproofing, rewiring, tuck-pointing, task by task he keeps on. He falls into bed at night spent, and awakens early to continue the process. He does not need an elegant edifice, and realizes that it is the process which is more important than the end result.

The “parable” is reflective of the work necessary in our own lives. Wonderful as all the external support we may be blessed with, and as hard as we strive to portray the person whom we wish others to see, the hardest work we have in our lives is our own to accomplish. It requires regular maintenance as well as repair. You may think, well, of course! But there are many who lean heavily on others, or who expect too much of them. I learned this when my late husband passed suddenly. Without his support, I needed to roll up my sleeves and get to work learning the things that needed to be done both physically and mentally. Even now with my amazing husband, I realize that this grief-work is mine to perform. It doesn’t mean he can’t be supportive–it is just that the grief is unique to me, and I must learn how to work it out.

I am not implying that we go things alone–there are times we need to visit the doctor or establish a relationship with a therapist. Certainly if dealing with protracted depression, or trauma or addictions one needs that expert help and support. I was, long ago, a nurse on an addictions unit and saw the grueling work it took on the part my patients. This same fortitude I later saw in my hospice patients and families. This work is accomplished step by step, inch by inch, sometimes seemingly futile and without end. It is in reality the furthest thing from futile.

When dealing with grief, think “Everything is permeable”.  Grief is permeable.  Moments will come that shift you away from the pain and turmoil.  Look for these moments of relief and notice them, live into them.

Sylvia Boorstein

There will be gains made and relief in which to rest. More important than the destination is the journey. At the same time, we try to offer support to our loved ones, as they perform their unique life’s work.

Excellent guest that He is, the Spirit finds you empty and fills you; he finds you hungry and thirsty and satisfies you abundantly. God the Holy Spirit, Who comes from God, when He enters into people, draws them to the love of God and neighbor. Indeed, He is love itself.

Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 225, 4

Wisdom, work ethic, faith, hope, trust and love: these are the things that last, that go with us. They live on in the memories of those who remain after us. There is hope in the next phase of life. Strive to look back in gratitude, and forward in grace.

Entanglement

Moms know about knots. We are usually the go-to person to untangle shoelaces, necklaces, and little girls’ hair. Knots are worked out with patience and care.

Entanglement theories in Quantum Physics describe relationships between subatomic photons acting in concert with or reaction to each other, defying space and time. There are proposed entanglements between root systems of forests, a communication of sorts, possibly via a fungal network.

Is there entanglement within humanity? Are we somehow deeply, invisibly connected? Ira Progoff, a 20th Century social scientist described human connectedness like deep underground water. Invisible, a life force, a Living Water that grounds us as individuals, and in essence connects every person. It is ironic that in this modern world our electronic connectedness and multi-tasking create negative entanglements, and though these connections are instantaneous and exponential in number of contacts, we can still feel desperately alone.

A psychologist friend told me that the number of calls in regard to completed suicides have increased dramatically, family members and friends searching for help in order to cope. The political and social state of our country is fragile and fractious: Covid 19, brutal killings, fomenting anger. Crime and violence begin with a small ripple that gains momentum. If only we could remember the innocence with which we were born. If only we could remember that each of us holds a dignity in being human. If only it were as easy as Rapunzel singing “I’ve Got a Dream” in the Disney movie Tangled. The state of the world is arguably depressing–unless we remember that goodness also begins with one small act.

What is the human default-mode? Is it essentially bad or is it good? Recent scientific research on the brain suggests levels of complexity and adaption thought impossible in years past. Neuroscientists contend that unhealthy thoughts, fears and uncontrolled anger literally form toxic entanglements in our brains. As best as I can explain, thoughts are faster-than-lightning electrical impulses which form the building blocks of stored memory out of proteins. A part of the brain called the amygdala stores many of these memories. How we think about what we think (metacognition) determines our world view, which in turn lends interpretation to future thought.

We hear a lot about mindfulness these days. Whether Eastern Meditation in which one empties the mind of conscious thought, or Lectio Divino where one reads and then listens for what God says, or meditative prayer where one quietly listens for inspiration of the Holy Spirit, our blood pressure is reduced, anxiety calmed and thinking re-ordered. Rational thinking is less likely to result in what has been coined an “Amygdala Hijack,” an uncontrolled outburst usually followed with great regret. The fight or flight response of the adrenal glands readies us to protect ourselves, but it can be mistakenly triggered even when there is in reality no actual danger. A wrongly perceived threat (from an event interpreted with negative-bias) floods the body with hormones to ready one to fight or to flee. Triggered too often, this causes ill effects in the body and the mind.

Dr. Caroline Leaf, an audiologist and neuroscientist, discusses something called optimism bias, believing it to be the default human state. Focusing on gratitude for what is good in the world helps one to see more possibility, to feel more energy, and to succeed at higher levels. The opposite of love is not hate. It is fear. We can strive to replace fear with wisdom from meditation, and with love.

In the classic book, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch is a southern lawyer defending Tom Robinson, a grievously wronged man who is good and innocent. The accuser is an uneducated, prejudiced racist who spreads evil lies. It is clear that Atticus is right in his defense of Tom. Atticus faces the man who has done so much harm. That man is symbolic of Satan, “The Accuser.” He speaks vilely to Atticus and spits in his face. Many would have been tempted to strike out as John Wayne did in McClintock, yet chaos is more likely to erupt after any violence. Atticus coolly wipes his face, returns to his car and leaves. He knows that nothing he could say or do would change that man, and violence would solve nothing. His response was not to lower himself to that level, making things worse. Reasoning and wise action at times involve sacrifice. It could be said that Atticus’ peaceful response was weak. I believe it was sacrificial. It showed greater strength than any act of retribution or revenge.

Augustine of Hippo lived in the Fourth Century. In a commentary on Psalm 17 he wrote:

“Lord, You perfected my love, that I might surmount the troublesome entanglements of the world. Direct my desire toward the heavenly home so that I may be enriched with every good thing.”

A millennium and a half after Augustine, the children’s television host Fred Rogers said in an interview that his mother taught him he should not be afraid when the world was chaotic; rather, he should “always look for the helpers,” the ones who act for good. Their work holds greater effect because it is accomplished in spite of evil. These helpers prove that there is hope in the world.

We are connected, whether we see it or not. We are not alone. In difficult moments, pause. Meditate or pray whenever possible and if you can only breathe, then breathe in the spirit that gave you your first breath–consciously breathe in God who is Love. If you cannot call on God then start with love. The next moment holds possibility and hope. Stop. Breathe. Think. Pray for others. Like the molecules and energy of Quantum Entanglement, perhaps prayer moves quietly beyond time and space. United with the source of all love, prayer is powerful.

Fred Rogers’ Mom knew best. I’ll bet she untangled his shoestrings deftly, and peacefully tied them into neat bows when he was young. Look for good and you will find it.

There is always hope.

Better There

The loss of a loved one can really only be fully comprehended if you have gone through it. Even well-meaning folk do not know what to say. Those of us who have suffered tragic loss know that they don’t have to say anything–just be near, give a hug, or tell you that they are thinking of you, keeping in touch, available in case of any need.

I have known suffering souls who felt no other recourse in life but to end their lives prematurely. One friend tragically left her husband, two boys and all who loved her. A loving and decorated war hero left his children and his Mom and Dad shockingly bereft. Another kind soul, an Army Major succumbed, leaving his wife and children, family and friends. They were each people you would have loved to know. Fascinating, warm, inspiring, but their internal pain was agonizing, and too much to bear. But they underestimated the grief, despair and devastation that their final actions would wreak, and the life-changing, excruciating holes left behind in their loved ones’ lives.

I wrote this for my friends left behind.

Better There

I know,
Our eventuality, each soul,
But prematurely, by their own hand?
Too much to bear
And I wear it

Daily

Can you see? It is me
Walking Pain.
Behind the convincing smile that I am alright
Though in truth not fully,
Until I am with my loved one again


Few
None?
Can escape loss.
But prematurely, by their own hand?
Dimensions painful beyond imagination

One more step, one more step
One more smile, one more day
Traversing the dark tar pit of pain.
Full of questions and remorse
And memories.
Molten innocence turned torture

One more step, one more step
I go, Lord, I keep going
I must reach the other side
Must “be” for others, for You.
For now, however long, despite the burning
Despite the scars that form
In an effort to numb the next step
That will make it possible


It is for You, for others
That I push on
Bearing this pain
This must be enough for now

You will be my strength, give me grace
Until in Your time
I too will be
Better there

Connectors

There is enough negativity going on in the world. What are some positive aspects of humanity? Have you thought about your gifts to the world?

My husband has done an enormous amount of reading in his life. Though he may call our next-door-neighbor the wrong name, he remembers each book nearly verbatim–even those he read as a boy.

Only one of our many bookshelves…well, I guess two,
and a pile of books.

While I struggle to convey plot lines and names of characters right after viewing a movie, Bruce can retell it scene-by-scene over a period of 20-25 minutes, constructing quite a complete summary. He remembers facts and understands symbolism. I, on the other hand, empathize with the characters, get into their lives and struggles, and then relate to friends about how I “felt” about the movie as a whole.

Bruce is a problem-solver who sees solutions with impressive creativity. He really is the type of person who should be running for office. He is very, very fair and has no prejudice. He is brilliant and kind. Of the four communicator styles, he is the task-oriented “Doer” and the “Thinker.” Though not at all controlling, he can execute a plan well. Better still, he is the Thinker who sees a solution, makes a plan, and puts it into action. Both of us fall a bit into the “Influencer” category, but what I am the most is a “Connector.” The type who sees relationship and potential relationships, who intuits where connections need to be made for the mutual benefit of both parties. Ever a match-maker with friends and family, annoying as that may be (though I can claim a part in connecting some successful marriages!).

Ten-year-old not looking forward to my skills

I do not have the emotional fortitude or Spock-like even-keel to execute a huge plan. It is too emotionally up and down and exhausting on my psyche. For good or bad, I am an empathetic soul. Certainly not perfect. No monuments built by me. But I might find just the right carpenter or plumber or artist to help bring one to fruition.

What type of communicator are you? Have you ever thought about it? I see it as more like a facet of personality than a communication style.

Into the Unknown

Newton, Einstein, Eisenberg, Curie, Johnson, Leaky, Carter, St. Brendan, Columbus, Lewis, Armstrong; what have they in common? Whether inward, outward, down or up, from microscope to telescope, coracle to Apollo 11, something drove these history-makers, these explorers. Some might have said that their inspiration was pure curiosity and others would say that they felt an inspiration from God.

Captain Kirk, Jean Luc Picard, Moana, Elsa–television and movies are rife with inspiring characters compelled by passion or a force that could not be ignored, try as they might. I have written about the sequel Frozen 2 and one of the main characters, Anna. Now it is Elsa’s turn. Often a good person must struggle with wrong-doing or past mistakes. This struggle could become what defines them, or it could be the ashen rock-bottom from which a Phoenix rises.

In the original movie Elsa accidentally injures her little sister Anna by her powers to freeze things. During play she sends a freezing ray out to try to save Anna from falling but it hits Anna in her head instead, injuring her brain. She does not know how this power came to be, and since it potentially kills her sister her parents work with her to hide it for years. By the end of the movie she has accepted it and learned that love is the way to control her power; to overcome her fear and use it for good.

In the sequel, she and Anna are going to bed and remember their deceased parents who were lost in a shipwreck. They sing the lullaby their Mother sang to them as they were tucked into bed. Elsa awakens later that night to a beautiful voice singing to her. It pulls her to the window and to the sea like a siren song. Elsa sings “Into the Unknown,” its lyrics perhaps reminiscent to anyone who has been called to explore. Some may have resisted the call, like Elsa. Practicality, parents’ aspirations, responsibilities, lack of funds, complacency, procrastination, shame of selfishness, or fear naturally make us pause, putting the journey off for a time or entirely.

“I can hear you (but I won’t)
Some look for trouble while others don’t
There’s a thousand reasons I should go about my day
And ignore your whispers which I wish would go away, oh…

You’re not a voice, you’re just a ringing in my ear
And if I heard you (which I don’t) I’m spoken for I fear
Everyone I’ve ever loved is here within these walls
I’m sorry, secret siren, but I’m blocking out your calls

I’ve had my adventure, I don’t need something new
I’m afraid of what I’m risking if I follow you…

Into the unknown
Into the unknown, Into the unknown
(Oh) What do you want? ‘Cause you’ve been keeping me awake
Are you here to distract me so I make a big mistake?
Or are you someone out there who’s a little bit like me?
Who knows deep down I’m not where I’m meant to be?
Every day’s a little harder as I feel your power grow
Don’t you know there’s part of me that longs to go…

Into the unknown?
Into the unknown, Into the unknown
(Oh) Are you out there?
Do you know me?
Can you feel me?
Can you show me? Oh!”

Elsa has worked through the denial and acknowledges within herself that she wants to go. We each decide for ourselves, when faced with a call like this in our lives. Is this journey one I was meant to go on all along? Will it complete me? Will it help me to find others like me–or that others are like me? Is it just a desire or is it God?

“(Ah) Where are you going? Don’t leave me alone
How do I follow you”

Elsa goes–and she finds the answers to her questions. As a result, her sister Anna finds her own destiny, and humanity is saved because of it.

For interior quests and external, for researchers, archaeologists, theologians, parents, philanthropists, ordinary people…each of us has a unique call in this life. Elsa followed a spirit and found that she was part of that spirit, the force that animates the world. As much as it took a journey outward it completed the circle back, inwardly. Perhaps God uses ways which are individual to each of us to call us back to where we are meant to be–Immanuel. We realize that everything from that point on is different, changed for the good of ourselves and others.

“Into the unknown?”

The Next Right Thing

Disney’s Frozen 2 had some mixed reviews. One of my daughters who loved the original was unsure if she liked the the sequel as much as other children’s animated movie sequels. She thought it was heavier into magic than the original, but liked the music. She is a mother now herself, and will undoubtedly sing every Disney song to her babies. I loved hearing her and her three sisters as young adults, singing Disney songs while playing board games at the kitchen table.

I had a different reaction to Frozen 2 and felt that there was much allegory to a Christian life, whether it was intended or not. Analogies are not perfect, of course, but I saw aspects of virtue and the human experience in the characters. The lyrics to one of Anna’s songs in the movie, The Next Right Thing, were profound in light of then-to-be-future-events in the real world with the Covid-19 virus.

Anna believed her sister to be dead and she was now on a journey alone. She knew that she was in great danger.

I’ve seen dark before, but not like this
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out

Interesting that current events have been globally unprecedented, and have locked down millions of people around the world. Human lives have been detrimentally affected, and not by the virus itself.


Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb
I follow you around, I always have
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down

Many people have been frightened by Covid-19. Scientists and doctors have different opinions. Countries have vastly different approaches. The United States is polarized even more, politically, and social media is rife with anger and ugliness. Unemployment has skyrocketed and businesses have closed.

But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone

Fear is paralyzing. In the movie just prior to this song Elsa addresses that fear is what cannot be trusted, not people different than us. When all seems confused or lost, how do we react positively?


But you must go on
And do the next right thing


We must decide what that next right thing is, baby step, inconsequential as it may seem. It leads us on.

Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don’t know anymore what is true
I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone

So many people feel hopelessness. Suicide rates are higher. How do we know what is true when there are so many different opinions and even experts disagree?


The only star that guided me was you
How to rise from the floor?

Anna believed that Elsa was dead, and had relied on her for so much wisdom. Our trust has been placed on experts, on the belief in the best government which cares for citizens, on a tangible world where education and intelligence are the best hope, where good triumphs over evil. Anna must now decide for herself.


“But it’s not you I’m rising for
…”

Anna must go her journey alone, and feels a duty to save and take care of her people. In truth, we must each act based on our own choices insofar as we are able. We cannot always trust that good will happen, that leaders will do the right thing, that there will be a positive order in nature, on the earth–but we can choose to help another, we can choose to…


Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing

Those who are working, do your work as best you can. Mothers and fathers, love and care for your children. Those who are alone make the next healthy decision–even if it is a glass of water, a bite of food, a moment of rest, a medication to take, a bedroom to straighten. Take one day at a time, one hour, one minute.


I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again


Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing

…Over Fear

So much of social media is upsetting these days due to unprecedented events, diverse views and political divisiveness. Many decide to take breaks from it, or choose more private options with close friends and loved ones. For some, diverse views are intriguing; I fall into that category to a certain extent. When there is time, I will watch videos and read news articles with different views from mine.

An anthropology course in college led to a switch in majors to Nursing. My nursing theoretical framework or philosophy is one that is inclusive of cultural sensitivity. In order for best-care and outcomes, the patient must be the center of the health care team, their lives and desires informing the decision-making process and treatment. We need to know our patients as best we can, to know what their background is, what informs their worldview. Obviously, there is less time to do this in emergent and urgent care situations. Interest in the person as an individual, a family member, a member of the cultural or societal groups to which they belong, fuels my desire to understand and care.

Recently, a few friends sent me current event videos that were upsetting to them. I watched them. I could see how they could be unsettling and cross-researched them. One friend may have made inference to end-times narratives. A neighbor walking past the house yesterday, called out in a greeting to me that things will never be the same.

The world seems so fearful, yet has the world ever remained “the same?”

As a young person I read The Hiding Place, The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the story of Job in the Bible. I distinctly remember feeling so lucky that humanity was past all that, and certainly I would never suffer such events. Later I read Roots, ‘Tis, The Color of Water, and Left to Tell. As a military wife I met the foreign officers from other countries including Iraq in the early 2000s. People had stories so profound and current, how could they not shape one’s worldview, one’s opinion of humanity? The truth is that there have been tragedies, calamities, wars, and holocausts throughout history to the present. I was lucky to be shielded–for a time. I suppose some are for their entire lives but that is really not the norm.

Today we see and hear so much, so fast. Another post may be on the detrimental effects of social media toward our youth, but this will wrap up with words of hope.

Humanity has survived. For every Hitler there is a Mother Teresa. Humanity has goodness at its core. Though the human condition includes selfishness, fear, desperation, and the devastatingly evil acts that can come from them, most of us want what is healthy and good for ourselves and others.

Try to understand why someone has a different viewpoint from your own, or just be okay that they do. In disagreements disentangle the knots of difference to the place of agreement.

In regard to end times, I learned when my young husband who was in the middle of doing what was so very good for the world died suddenly, that each of us is in our own end time. None of us knows when this day will be our last. Do what is right today, even if it seems inconsequential.These things will look different for each of us. Not all are called to writing senators or participating in marches, but if that is your strength, then do it. For others, small acts like gently brushing your daughter’s hair, speaking kindly to a co-worker, smiling on the phone with an irritated customer can be just as world-changing.

George Elliott concluded her novel Middlemarch in regard to humble heroine Dorothea:

“Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Mother Teresa said it so well, to do “small things with great love.” Each of us has gifts that the world needs in tiny unseen ways as well as grand. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Strive to choose love and hope over fear.

George and Liz

Saint George is depicted as the dragon-slayer, plunging a long sword from the back of his white horse into the slithery head of an ugly beast, the devil. George was a soldier and may very well have ridden a white horse. Born of Christian parents at the time of Diocletian he was an exemplary soldier and rose to the level of Tribune. When Christians were being executed and tortured he gave it all up, openly rebuking his ruler and pleading for reason. For that he was tortured and beheaded. End of story? Far from it. There are paintings and statues and legends that are revered by Christian and other cultures. Sacrificial love. Courage? We would assume so, but I imagine that his strength came from God, and doing what was right despite the consequences.

Nineteen years ago on this day of remembrance of Saint George, my mother Liz gave up her armor and all worldly titles. Her life was evident of sacrificial love. She was a living saint, and is now a heavenly one. She loved Jesus, her faith, her traditions, her family, and humanity. She was a steadfast, loving and devoted wife and a warm, funny, supportive, completely loving mother. She was willing to mother anyone who needed her, or who simply crossed her path or doorway. She loved every person regardless of race, creed or lifestyle.

I’ll miss her every day. I take great comfort in knowing that she still loves and cares for us, united with Christ in a mystical body that “witnesses” and intercedes for us all. Life is short. We do not know what is around the corner. To live humbly like Liz, sacrificially, prayerfully doing what she could in this finite life has eternal effects.