Monday, December 30, 2013

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

"On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..."
Don't recall what the gift was in the traditional song, but for me
today, the gift was silence...a blessed, blissful silence. You see,
after two days of continuous people, I am relishing the peace
and quiet and alone-ness.

Now, don't get me wrong, or think I am totally Grinchy. I adore
having the family all together...eating together...talking and
playing board games and arguing (friendly, to be sure) and just
being family together. And I wouldn't have the holiday any other
way. But I live alone...have a one-person household. And, for
those of you familiar with Myers-Briggs testing, I am an INFP...
which means that, though I like people, they innervate me, sap
me of strength, use up every ounce of my energy. And this morning,
when the last of my family departed at 9a.m., I was in the throes
of a splitting headache. So, it was back to bed in a darkened
room, sleeping until 2:30p.m. when I awoke, feeling mostly better,
and headed for the shower.

I wanted to include some of the photos I took over the weekend
of my beautiful family...but my little camera has mysteriously
disappeared. I just texted everyone, asking if anyone saw it or
moved it or put it somewhere for safe-keeping. And I figure it
must be somewhere...and will turn up at a future time when I
least expect it. In the meantime, I can turn the images over
again and again in the pages of my memory album, seeing the
smiles, hearing the laughter, cherishing the hugs, reveling in
the beautiful people who make up this family of mine. I can
close my eyes and see the faces of each and all of the grands...
each so wonderfully unique and precious. Come to think of it,
even if the camera never turns up (though I would hate to lose
it), the photos taken just aren't necessary for me to recall each
moment of the weekend past.

But just for today, I am delighted to be alone...far from lonely,
as I catch up with on-line correspondence, write a few notes
in response to Christmas cards, enjoy the flickering flames
in the fireplace, and enumerate the various ornaments on the
tree, recalling their provenance and cherishing the very special
memories they engender. Just for today, I am contented to be
by myself...to BE myself...the introvert who longs for, who needs
the peace and quiet to re-energize...to re-fill my tank with the
ability to be with as well as to simply BE...

So, to my wonderful family- thank you for those two marvelous
days...for your presence and participation...for being who you
are, each and every one of you. Thank you for holding this
family time as important, as essential in your life, as it surely
is in mine. Thank you for putting up with my idiosyncracies and
just plain nuttiness. Thank you for gifting me annually with the
traditional celebration of this holiday which has long meant so
much to our extended family. Thank you for your love and
compassion and acceptance. I love you...even as I enjoy and
appreciate this "recovery time" alone. My life would be incomplete
without you.

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's the Third Day of Christmas...Isn't It?




The third day of Christmas...my tree graces the living room window
and my collection of Santas stand sentinel on the mantle piece.
From the CD player come the strains of my favorite Christmas
music and in the dining room, the table wears its Christmas finery.
In my house on my street, it is indeed the season of Christmas-
and will be for the full twelve days, until the Feast of the Epiphany
on January 6th.

But all around me in this hustle-bustle world of ours, with its
"let's move on to the next thing" mentality, the Christmas music
has ceased its playing...once-lovely evergreen trees are already
at the curb waiting for pick-up...and stores are clearing their
shelves in anticipation of filling them with the trappings of
Valentines Day.

Makes me more than a little sad, all of this rush to have things
over and done. The build-up begins earlier and earlier each year,
it seems, with Christmas decorations in the stores by Halloween,
with Christmas carols playing before Thanksgiving. Perhaps this
over-saturation is why people seem so ready for it all to be OVER.

But the out-of-step Church...at least the Church that adheres to
the liturgical calendar...has only been in the Christmas season
since Christmas Eve. There are nine more days to go...two more
Sundays of Christmas, when we'll be singing carols and hearing
scripture readings about the holy event, celebrating the miracle
and mystery of the Incarnation, affirming God's presence firmly
amidst and within us all...which is really what Christmas is all
about anyway, isn't it? Forget Santa and decorations and all
the presents. The whole reason for the season- as the saying
goes- is that it is the commemoration of, the celebration of, the
reminder of God's loving presence being IN this old world.

Of course, this truth isn't limited to one season of the year- or
it shouldn't be. Every day, our awakening is a reminder of the
reality of that holy loving Presence here and now...a clarion
call that we are to LIVE that love...to reach out to one another,
embodying the loving Presence of the Divine One which dwells
within each one of us...a God not far off somewhere but here...
now...within...without...around...or in the familiar language of
the liturgy, in, with, and under.

Now, I confess that I love the external trappings of this lovely
season...love the decorations and the tree...love the music
and the special foods...love the greetings from friends and
the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. I love the fact that it is
a time of gathering the family to spend precious time together.
And I will be very sad to put it all away, carefully wrapped in
tissue paper, to be brought out next year. But I hope and pray
that what remains will be that sharing of love...the unexplainable
mystery of the Divine incarnated in you and in me...the many
daily opportunities to BE that love...to reach out and affirm our
oneness...to work together for justice and peace so that all
people- ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE- may live fully and hopefully.
That is my Christmas prayer on this third day of Christmas...
and for all of the days to come...that I may hold the wondrous,
miraculous truth in my heart and live it in my life- that God
is LOVE and God is HERE...at this moment...and for all time to
come.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

All Through the House...

Here it is, the night after Christmas, and all through the house
not a creature is stirring...except me, sitting here in front of the
fireplace, enjoying the lighted Christmas tree and the flickering
gas flames, and relishing the silence. All of the shopping for
food is completed...the house is clean from attic to basement...
everything in readiness for the influx of family which will begin
early Saturday afternoon and continue through the weekend.

I am looking forward to the hubbub which will surely ensue...
the cacophony which is sure to result from the mix of eight
children of varied ages, four young people, and eight grown-
ups (more or less, grown up, I mean). Our family- at least
portions of it- love playing games like Outburst and Attack Uno
when we get together, so Saturday evening is sure to be alive
with the shouts, the "ohs" and "ahs" and "oh, noes" which
invariably accompany this enjoyable annual activity. And with
the arrival of the Charlotte contingent on Sunday, the house will
resonate with the voices of the 8 young ones, ranging in age
from 5 to 17, along with my son and daughter-in-law. Gifts and
dinner...coffee and cookies...and, of course, the raiding of the
candy jar, filled always with Hershey's kisses which the grands
like to think they are sneaking (but which are always amply
provided by the grandmother of the house). It will be, I'm sure,
a wonderful family holiday celebration, alive with voices and
noise and lots of laughter.

But for right now, for this very minute, I am relishing the
peace and quiet...the "not a creature is stirring" silence of
my comfortable house. I'm considering making some hot
chocolate, though perhaps I will just head on up to bed, read
a bit, and then go to sleep early. And as I lay me down to
sleep, I'll be offering a prayer of thanksgiving for this family
of mine who are the center of my life...who bring so much love
and joy and meaning to my existence...and whom I cherish
beyond measure. My prayer is that you may also have someone/s
in your life who bring that kind of joy...the very best Christmas
gift of all.
Sister Kathy, brother-in-law Larry

Nephew Wren & girlfriend, Carolyn

Youngest son, Paul

The Charlotte grands

Son, Mark & daughter-in-law, Meredith

Eldest granddaughter, Lindsay

Daughter, Hope

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O Night Divine...?


Thirty-five years ago tonight, my youngest sister, Rennie, was
killed in an automobile accident as she was on her way to our
family's Christmas Eve gathering at the home of our parents.
It was years before I could get through the singing of "Silent
Night" at the Christmas Eve candlelight service without tears...
without the sense of the shattering of the holy silence of that
night of nights. And though the passing of the years has truly
brought healing, on this particular Christmas Eve, I am filled
with a sense of loss and longing ...a sense of the shattering
of peace...a sense of broken hearts and broken dreams. Yes,
all these years later, I miss her still...and I know my other two
sisters do, too. Rennie, we love you.

silent night?
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright...
except when it isn't...
when the silence is broken by the
dreadful sound of crumpling, smashing steel...
when the calm is broken by the
ominous sound of the telephone...
     "So sorry, there has been an accident..."
All is calm, all is bright...
except when it isn't...
when the calm is shattered by the heartbroken
cry of "No, no, no!"
when the brightness is darkened by the loss,
the forever-after loss of one much beloved...
All is calm, all is bright...
except when it isn't...
when the calm of Christmas Eve becomes
the confusing pain of Christmas Day...
when the brightness of the holy day
becomes darkened with grief and mourning...
Sleep in heavenly peace...
will that ever happen again-
for any of us? And is she really sleeping
"in heavenly peace"? I can only pray it is so...
that we may all, once again,
sleep in heavenly peace.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Aroma of Baking...the Fragrance of Love

What a fragrance...the aroma of cookies baking. My house is redolent
with the scents of chocolate and lemon...Chocolate Layer Cookies
and Lemon Bars, with Cheesecake Dreams and Chocolate Walnut
Crumb Bars to come tomorrow.

I love baking. For me, it is totally an act of love...using longtime
family recipes, handed down from my mother and grandmother,
from my aunt's and long-ago neighbors...precious people who
populated my life through the years and whose presence I
feel each time I don my adoption and begin the prestidigitation,
the alchemy...which turns plain, ordinary ingredients into
melt-in-your-mouth treats, to be enjoyed by family and
friends throughout the holidays.

Several years ago, when I was putting family recipes into a book
for my eldest granddaughter, I came across a prayer, a blessing
for a cook/baker to say...to breathe...before beginning the work,
during the ritual of washing hands. It occupies page one of my
own cookbook and has helped the act of baking/cooking to become
a holy act. May it bless your kitchen and all you do there; may it
be a blessing to you as it has become for me.

Father-Mother God,  sanctify the holy work of my kitchen
as I prepare the life force for those I love. May your vibrant
love pass through my hands and into this food as I prepare
to share your bountiful gifts. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When Will We Ever Learn?

Oxymoronic...that's the only way I can describe the puzzling and
almost vitriolic reactions to President Obama shaking hands with
Cuba's president, Raul Castro. Will this pose problems for Obama,
one news service blares. Should Obama have done this, asks
another. Is there something more behind this, queries still another.
And I am left shaking my head, wondering yet again if our president
can do anything right in the eyes of some people.

Were you critics listening, I am wondering, to the eulogy President
Obama delivered today? Were you watching, as people from nations
all over the globe came together...yes, together, to honor a man who
taught the whole world about the meaning of forgiveness...of
reconciliation. So within this context, on this day of all days, why
wouldn't Barak Obama shake hands with Raul Castro? Why read
something more into it? Why not accept and honor this action as
the only appropriate thing a gracious man would do, under the
circumstances.

When will we ever learn? And will some of the people of this nation
never get past the fact...the indisputable FACT, that our president
is African-American...is, actually, a man of mixed heritage, with
numerous bloodlines running through him from both his American
mother and his Kenyan father. Are there still those of us who are
so threatened by the fact...the indisputable FACT, that those of
us who consider ourselves Caucasian will be in the minority in
this country within the next two decades and already are on Planet
Earth?

And for those who may find themselves offended by my words,
may I discombobulate you even further by reminding you that Jesus,
whose incarnation we are preparing to celebrate, was a Jew...not 
the blond, blue-eyed European seen in so much religious art? The
God of Creation has created a world which is a celebration of
diversity- in the world of nature, in the world of humanity...why not
be part of the joy and wonder and beauty and truth of that?


WE ARE ONE...Fast for Immigrant Families


Even as we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace,
including the buying and the wrapping and the sending- there are
countless people- sisters and brothers- whose very lives are being
held in limbo because of the failure of our Congress to take any
action on immigration reform.

When will we Americans- those of us who have the blessing of being
born here (which we usually take for granted)- when will we realize
that our lives, as we know them, with their comforts and affordable
food and clean homes depend upon the hard work of people who are
willing to do work which WE ARE NOT...willing to put forth their very
best effort in the hope that they will be able to make life better for
their families...yet are recipients always of abuse and prejudice from
the very people who need their services, their hard-working hands
and backs and lives.

On Tuesday, Dec. 17th, in Greensboro, NC, there will be an all-day,
water-only fast in behalf of these brothers and sisters,  these
immigrant families, with the participants meeting together and
peacefully demonstrating in front of the Elm St. offices of the local Congressman, Howard Coble. Even if you cannot be there in person
(as I cannot...I'll be on the road, traveling home from Pennsylvania),
you can fast in unity with all those who need our support...those
who need our compassion...those who need justice. Now is the time
to realize...acknowledge...celebrate, that WE ARE ONE.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Silence...and Reflections


A lovely, quiet Advent evening...the fire in the fireplace adding a
touch of warmth and comfort to my beautiful blue living room,
with its decorated tree in the front window and some of my
collection of Santas on the mantle. I have lived with this room for
nearly twelve years, yet I never tire of its sense of welcome, its
sense of being a nest, and its reflections of my life. On the walls,
there are pieces of art made for me by friends: a pen & ink drawing
made many years ago by my dear friend, Mae; a scherenschnitte,
an intricately cut paper design, created by my precious friend,
Bonnie; two drawings of African animals, made by Kenyan artists;
two word-paintings created by a woman in Greensboro; a lovely
photograph canvas of Beatrice and her grandson, Eugene, taken by
talented photographer, Ginny; and my newest piece, a colorful canvas
in acrylics by Rwandan artist and friend, Innocent.

As I sit here, enjoying the silence, cherishing the solitude, I am
filled with such gratitude and amazement for this life I am leading,
this life I have been privileged to lead. Oh, yes, it has certainly
had its share of difficulties; I would be lying to suggest otherwise.
And there have been times when the pain and sorrow seemed
almost more than I could bear. But I have been graced with the
blessing of dear family and wonderful friends who have been my
strength when I had none of my own; who have offered loving
care and acceptance when I needed them most; who have been
my greatest cheerleaders and encouragers; who have been
God-in-flesh again and again, revealing to me Divine Love in all
its glory and beauty and mystery and wonder.

Perhaps it is that we are nearing the end of the year; perhaps it
is simply the holiday season, which always makes me nostalgic,
missing specially those beloved ones who are no longer here but
who loved the Christmas season so much and filled it with so much
joy: my dad; my son, Carl Allen; my sister, Rennie; my uncle, John;
and valued friends, Hank, Mary, Jean, and Teresa, to name just a
few. Perhaps it is that as the year comes to a close and my birthday
looms large, I am increasingly aware that I have far more years
behind me than lie ahead...increasingly aware of the oh-so-rapid
passage of time...increasingly aware that this is not the time to
"put off until tomorrow" but rather to seize the day and do those
things which add meaning and flavor and spice and joy to life...
increasingly aware that taking risks is far more meaningful
than playing it safe.

But if I had to choose just one word to describe how I feel at
this moment in the eternal time of the universe, it would be
PEACEFUL...for this moment, this tiny sliver of eternal time,
I am totally and completely at peace- with myself, with the
world, with the Divine One who loves and accepts, with the
family of humankind of which I am a small but intricate part.
And I wish for you that same holy peace, my friend...the
peace that passes all understanding...the peace that breathes
a "thank you" and understands that life, just as it is, is
enough.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Just for You, Mom...



Today, I baked gingersnaps, in loving remembrance of my mom.
I hadn't made these delectable  cookies since baking them for her
at Christmas 2009, her last holiday with us. They were her
favorites- spicy and slightly crisp- and I baked them for her often,
keeping the cookie jar full so she could enjoy having two or three
each afternoon with her tea.

As I was rolling the dough into balls, rolling the balls in sugar,
and lining them up on the cookie sheets for baking, I was
thinking of her...recalling her pleasure at something so simple.
And Mom did find delight in simple things, never expecting or
demanding that life hand her "spectacular" or even "special".
She accepted what came, what life had to offer, and lived
with and through it all with both amazing grace and dignity.
She was a true "lady", in the old-fashioned sense of the word...
even in her old age, bearing the losses and indignities of
advancing years with patience and a sense of peace.

Because she asked so little, it was a great pleasure to give her
something she enjoyed- thus, the gingersnaps. And as I baked
today, I talked to Mom, telling her that these cookies are my
"gift" to her...and to the rest of the family...in remembrance
of the lovely lady who was Grandma Kay. I love you, Mom.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Watching and Waiting...

First Sunday in Advent...World A.I.D.S. Day...the first day of
December...a convergence of images and ideas and thoughts
as I sit here in the early-morning darkness, awaiting the rising
of the sun.

superstition...
The Ancients, in these ever-lengthening nights,
     lived in ever-deepening fear that
     the light would not return...
     the darkness which enshrouded them
     more and more would remain,
     the earth a cold, unfriendly place where
     neither humans nor beasts could
     long survive.
How welcome firelight and candlelight
     must have been...causing the fearsome
     darkness to retreat, holding the encroaching,
     threatening shadows at bay...granting the light
     of hope amidst cold and dark.
Darkness became the enemy...light the friend
     which promised life...and even in this modern
     age, when superstition has given way to
     explanation, even now, we light the corners
     of the night with perpetual, ever-shining light,
     convinced that somehow we can overcome
     fearsome darkness, holding as it does,
     so much that threatens us...
when all the while, the beauteous light of
     moon and stars is dimmed, and the
     velvet-gloved hand of night which beckons
     us to see the glories and gifts of a darkened
     world is seen only as a fore-shadowing
     of Death's own Spectre...
                  and, with the Ancients, we are afraid.




Mary's waiting...
A time of waiting...
Delighting in preparing for a birth...
Virginal Mary smilingly fecund...
Expectantly maternal, maternally expectant...
Not sure of what will be, only certain
That the child to come will bring her
        both joy and sorrow...in the way of
        all children, everywhere...
                         Welcome, Advent.

    

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Yesterday...and Today

 

Remembering...I have been remembering all day long...
recalling the people and happenings which have populated my
life over these many years. And, though recently my Muse of
Poetry has been tantalizing hiding, I pulled my book, Life Lines,
from the shelf to search for words written in 2007 all about
the reality of the past being always with us.

the past
The past swirls around me...
I walk through the mists
seeing only dimly...yet occasionally
there is a clearing
and I glimpse the view
with startling clarity-
just a brief moment-
before the fog again
enshrouds me and I
find myself wondering
if it were real or imagined.
 
Memory is like that-
an occasional lifting of
the mind's misty curtain...
a moment of revelation-
and then darkness. And yet,
this sustains me somehow...
encourages me...lets me
know that I am real and
my life has meaning.

While paging through this book of mine, I also encountered a
poem I wrote for Thanksgiving in 2007 and published in 2008-
and I share it with you today, since the words are as true now
for me as they were then. And though Thanksgiving has changed
so very much over the years of my life, the realization...the
awareness...the conviction that living in gratitude is the only
way I can live fully has not changed. Wishing you and yours
a wonderful Thanksgiving...with many good memories.


giving thanks
Today I offer
Heartfelt prayers of thanks
Aware of all the blessings in my life:
Nourishing & nurturing family
Kind & supportive friends
Shelter- for my body, heart & soul
Gifts which ease my daily load-
         washer, dryer, telephone,
         a car to drive,  computer
         linking me to the wide world
Intuition, feelings, thought, the
         ability to reason & decide-
         gifts of intellect I all too often
         take for granted
Vision, hearing, taste & touch-
         amazing senses making me firmly
         aware of the wonders of this life
Incarnation- the presence of God around
         and in and through me and all I meet
Nature & the glorious world of
         which I am a part
Ground of Being, Source of Life,
         in which I live & move &
         from which I draw my strength
   
    And so on this Thanksgiving Day,
    I offer thanks with my
    whole being...
            gratitude for all I have & am,
            today- and every day.
                         Amen

Thanks Be to God...


Yesterday was a delight...beautiful snow showers...a visit to an old
friend at Trinity Glen...coming home to a house decorated for the
holidays...hot chocolate in front of the fire. Lovely...

But this morning, tears came unbidden as I found myself longing
for Thanksgivings long past and the people no long present. I
felt suddenly bereft...of purpose, of hope, of joy. A shroud of
loneliness covered me, blotting out the already-brightly-shining
sun. I was alone...felt alone...and I found myself wondering just
what these nearly seventy-two years of my life have been all about.
 
The tears passed, as they are wont to do, and as I stood in the
blessedly hot shower, I began thinking about this day- meant to be
a day of giving thanks, though it has taken the meaning of a day
for family and feasting- not a bad thing, except for those who have
neither family nor food. And I have both- in abundance, if truth
be told. And friends...beautiful, wonderful, sharing, caring friends
in so many places, their faces so dear to me as I turn over the
pages of the memory album in my mind.
 
And so, grabbing a handy pen, I began to list those things for
which I am truly thankful on this Day of Thanksgiving 2013.

Today- this day of life.
Home- a safe & welcoming place for family & friends- and me.
Anyone who crosses my path, perhaps an angel in disguise.
Nourishment- from food, films,  theater, good books, stimulating
    conversation.
Kathy, my sister, still here with us and celebrating each day.
Susan, my other sister- though far away in Texas, she is always
    in my heart.
Grief- because it reminds me of the joyful price of loving.
Inema Arts Centre, which has given me the incredible gift of
    two young Rwandan friends.
Virtually every word written by Mary Oliver, May Sarton, Maya
    Angelou, and John O'Donohue.
Incarnated love in the people of Nazareth Lutheran Church.
New friends and old- filling my life with meaning and joy.
Grandchildren- all nine of them- and my five wonderful "children":
     Hope, Matty, Mark, Meredith, and Paul.

Tears long gone, I read the funny e-mail form my friend, Bob, and
laugh out loud. I take down the book of favorite family cookie
recipes and prepare to make a list for baking. I sit before the fire,
happily anticipating dinner with my youngest son at Cracker
Barrel. And as I offer a prayer of hope and blessing for those alone
and lonely and hungry and cold on this Thanksgiving Day, I realize
that there can be no room in my heart and life today for anything
but thanks.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Moving Movie...

How easy it is to forget in 2013 America what it was like for people
diagnosed HIV-positive in the 1980s, when the epidemic was seen
as a "gay" disease...when so littlewas known and understood that
other people would not even touch a person with AIDS...when the
diagnosis was a death sentence, at least in the eyes of the medical
community.

I spent two hours this afternoon at the Aperture Cinema in W-S,
absorbed in a film entitled "Dallas Buyer's Club" and was both
enthralled by the story and enraptured by the performances of
the two main actors: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. The
true story of Texan, Ron Woodroof, the official film website has
this synopsis of the movie's story:

A son of Texas, Ron Woodroof is an electrician and rodeo cowboy. In 1985,
he is well into an unexamined existence with a devil-may-care lifestyle
(And incredibly dangerous and self-destructive one, I might add.) Suddenly,
Ron is blindsided by being diagnosed as H.I.V.-positive and given 30 days
to live. Yet he will not, and does not, accept a death sentence.

His crash course of research reveals a lack of approved treatments and
medications in the U.S., so Ron crosses the border into Mexico. There,
he learns about alternative treatments and begins smuggling them into
the U.S., challenging the medical and scientific community including his
concerned physician, Dr. Eve Saks (Screen Actors Guild Award winner
Jennifer Garner).
 
An outsider to the gay community, Ron finds an unlikely ally in fellow AIDS
patient Rayon (Gotham Independent Film Award winner Jared Leto), a
transsexual who shares Ron’s lust for life. Rayon also shares Ron’s
entrepreneurial spirit: seeking to avoid government sanctions against
selling non-approved medicines and supplements, they establish a
“buyers club,” where H.I.V.-positive people pay monthly dues for access
to the newly acquired supplies. Deep in the heart of Texas, Ron’s
pioneering underground collective beats loud and strong. With a growing 
community of friends and clients, Ron fights for dignity, education, and 
acceptance. In the years following his diagnosis, the embattled Lone Star
loner lives life to the fullest like never before.
 
Let me assure you that this summary only begins to scratch the
surface of this honest film, the story and characterizations not
"prettied up" by Hollywood but presented in gritty reality. And
the role of Big Pharma and the FDA is shown with no punches
pulled.
 
I simply cannot say enough about the characterizations by
McConaughey and Leto, both of whom are very handsome men,
Hollywood "heartthrobs", to be sure, and both of whom- in
pursuit of reality and honesty in their roles- lost vast amounts
of weight, throwing themselves quite completely into being the
characters they portrayed.
 
Having played a small role in Triad Health Project, the AIDS
ministry in Guilford County, NC, from 1990-1995, I saw first-
hand the ways in which people with AIDS were treated, even
then. And I will never forget, during one healing service which
another area pastor and I conducted, the tears shed by one
tall, handsome young man when we laid our hands on his head
to bless and pray for him. He told me after the service that
this was the first time a minister had touched him since his
diagnosis. We lost this young man, as we did so many at that
time, but thankfully, so many more are living long years with
successful treatment, with AIDS now considered more of a
chronic disease here in the United States.
 
However, in so many of the emerging nations in Africa, India, 
southeast Asia, AIDS is still a disease of epidemic proportions,
with treatment available only to a low percentage of those
affected. And lack of education and understanding about the
means of transmission, as well as in-grained cultural norms
and mores and gender roles make life difficult for those suffering
from the disease. The work is not yet finished; there is still much
to be done.
 
I was reminded of this once again today as I sat in a darkened
theater in Winston-Salem, transfixed as only a well-written,
well-directed, well-acted film can do. I was reminded, too,
that the most unlikely persons can often accomplish the most
amazing things- and not always for altruistic reasons...was
reminded of the importance of withholding judgment of others,
instead celebrating the fact that WE ARE ALL ONE...
interconnected... interrelated...sisters and brothers in the
family of humanity...was reminded, too, of the POWER OF ONE,
when that "one" dares to be and do all that he or she can for the
benefit of others. A well-spent afternoon, indeed...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let Your Light Shine...

moonglow...
Have you seen the full moon?
The Beaver Moon, it's called...the Full Frosty Moon...
Its brilliance luminates my
upstairs hall, a trail of light
so bright it seems I might
travel it to the moon itself-
     and beyond...
A reminder on this chilly November morning
of the power...the wonder...the glory
of reflected light
For the moon has no light of its own,
is simply a piece of rock floating
in space, offering only a reflection
of the incredible candescence of
the shining, warming star
     we call Sun...
Yet the light I see in these
early-morning hours is no less lovely,
no less wondrous for being reflected...
     which gives me pause to wonder-
     can I- in all my human earthiness,
     with all my human faults and failings,
     offer a reflection of the greater
     Light of Lights,
     illuminating the way for others with
     that reflected love...letting it shine
     in, through, from me until
     it is clearly The Light
     they see?

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's Broken...so Let's Fix It!

Oh my! the furor around the Affordable Care Act is mounting...and I
am increasingly frustrated with the smoke screen being constructed
by the brouhaha over the inoperable web site, over the numbers of
people having their insurance program canceled, over the members
of Congress who continue to take a do-nothing stance regardless the
issue.

I say "smoke screen" because it seems that no one...NO ONE...is
addressing the real problem with our health care system. (NO, it is
emphatically not the finest in the world, in spite of what we have
been led to believe; hence, our position as 22nd in life expectancy
among the countries of the world. That's right- TWENTY-SECOND.)
And the real problem, as I see it, as I have long seen it, is the COST
of health care...which is far, far more than in most developed,
industrialized nations for the same procedures, for the same drugs.

Fellow Americans, this so-called "best" health care system, which
in reality is far over-priced and which doles out procedures and
medications with a far-too-liberal hand, is not as effective in
helping us to maintain our health and longevity as those in Japan,
Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, France, Iceland, Italy, Austria,
Spain, Norway, Luxembourg, Greece, New Zealand, Germany,
Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, the U.K.,
or Ireland. And when are we going to admit that and look to these
neighbors and allies of ours for some words and suggestions of
wisdom?

Now, I know that one of the earliest objections being voiced when
a health care insurance system was first being discussed was the
possible regulation of procedures...like organ transplants, cardiac
bypasses, joint replacements, etc. And the alarmists began crying,
"Death panels! Death panels!"...effectively rallying many ordinary
citizens to oppose any control of health care spending whatsoever.
But should we really be paying the hundreds of thousands of
dollars such procedures cost for the elderly? for those people for
whom the cost/benefit ratio would be incredibly small?

I am not an ageist. After all, I have long been a "senior citizen"
myself. But when did the notion of keeping people alive at all costs
and for as long as possible supercede giving loving, compassionate
elder care in life's waning years so that people can live with a
quality of life which has meaning rather than focusing on the
number of years one lives? When did the idea of the need to "do
everything" medically possible for one's parents or grandparents
or aunts or uncles take the place of the family supporting that loved
one with tender care without use of machines or tubes or on-going
medical "intervention"? Or is all of this insistence really yet another
smoke screen for the fact that we are so terribly afraid of death?

Now, I realize I'm stepping on toes here. Well, so be it. Someone
has to be bold enough to say that our health care system is
broken...and it is not just because of lack of insurance coverage.
Back in the "good old days" when I was in hospital nursing, there
were far fewer nosocomial infections (those which are contracted
from being in the hospital and not from the illness/condition which
brought one there.) There were far fewer medication errors and
far more interpersonal contact between doctors and nurses and
patients and families.

And in the ensuing years, as drug companies and insurance
companies have usurped more and more power...as popping a pill
has become seen as the solution to so many health problems...as
emphasis on good diet and exercise and stress reduction has
become big business but seemingly not the business of the
physician...our overall national health has deteriorated. And woe
to the one who dares to say that far too many of our health
problems are those we bring upon ourselves.

Actually, it is incorrect to call what we have a "health care system"
at all. It is an "unhealthy care system", since the promotion of good
health has fallen by the wayside in the wake of a plethora of drug
"solutions" to our illnesses. And the focus on the "numbers" with
regard to cholesterol and blood sugar has resulted in more and more
people being prescribed these medications which, all too often, have
proven- in the long run- to do more harm than good.

What we excel in here in the United States is emergency care, due
in great part to the skills and techniques learned from the battlefield
care given during the Korean War and the Vietnamese War. Those
surgeons and nurses on the front lines perfected life-saving
emergency techniques which are still being practiced in ERs all
over our country today. But most of our health problems are not
of the emergency type; they are chronic in nature and require a
very different approach.

Over the past twenty years or so, a lot of lip service has been given
to "Holistic Medicine" and there are a few hospitals who have gone
so far as developing multi-disciplinary departments to address the
whole patient...the entirety of whom is not just physical but also
mental, emotional, and spiritual. However, such departments are
few and far between and are thus available to only a very few.
Why doesn't each medical practice or clinic have on staff a
massage therapist, a nutritionist, a social worker, and a spiritual
director? Why don't our insurance programs cover complementary
therapies like acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and chiropractic
care? Why will my Medicare pay for a colonoscopy but not pay for
visits to an acupuncturist (which costs far less, I might add). And
why will it not pay for home health care and equipment so I could
be cared for at home during my declining years but will cover the
far greater cost of interring me in a nursing home?

So if you want to get angry about and complain about anything re:
health care in our country today, why not get serious about it and
look at the cost of care? Why not write your members of Congress
and let them know that simply covering everyone by means of
insurance of one type or another is not the answer? That the
system will only be fixed by a complete and total overhaul, which
will include wresting so much power from the hands of Big Pharma
and Big Insurance. Then take the further important- vitally
important- step of taking responsibility for your own health and
health care by ASKING QUESTIONS...BECOMING INFORMED...
LIVING WITH INTENTION. If we each and all did this, perhaps the
number of years we live would be far less important than the
quality of life in those years.
 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Feminist, Indeed...


I was involved in a conversation recently about domestic violence-
its prevalence and devastating effects- when I stated that I was
totally dismayed that the things for which so many of us had fought
for so hard back in the 1970s and 80s seemed to have regressed,
slipped away, been forgotten...that so many of today's young women
were once again so convinced that their lives were meaningless
and incomplete without a male presence that they were willing to
put up with abusive, disrespectful, unacceptable behaviors from
their boyfriends or spouses. How could this have happened, I
wondered aloud. "It's almost as if the Women's Liberation Movement
had never happened," I lamented.

"Gee, Linda, I didn't know you were such a feminist," one of the
other women responded.

"Absolutely," I affirmed. "Aren't you?"

"Well, I just don't think it's necessary any more. I've never felt any
discrimination because I'm a woman, have you?"

I thought carefully about my answer. "I've been pretty fortunate,
I think, to have had nothing bad happen...nothing really overt or
damaging. But it's not just about me- or you. It's about all of the
girls and women worldwide- our sisters- who have suffered and
continue to suffer from the repercussions of gender bias...from
abuse and mistreatment and discrimination simply because they are
female."

I don't know if my questioner "heard" me or not, but I am grateful
for her challenge because it has made me re-examine my reasons
for being so firmly feminist. And for those of you for whom the
whole feminist business is truly a mystery, for those of you who are
too young to remember the days of the Women's Movement and why
this was- and IS- such an important part of our history, I invite you
to read the following facts...realities...statistics...and then perhaps
you will understand that THIS is why I am a feminist, and will 
remain one until we are no longer necessary.

*Every 90 seconds a woman somewhere in this world dies during pregnancy
or childbirth.
*Women make up 80% of all refugees and displaced persons.
*Sexual violence and rape are increasingly being used against women and
girls as weapons of war.
*Women account for 70% of the population living in absolute poverty (less
than $1 per day). 2 out of 3 poor adults are women.
*Women own only 1% of the world's land.
*Women cultivate, plow, and harvest more than half of all the food in
the world.
*Women make only 77.5 cents for every dollar men earn.
*Due to sex selection in favor of boys in many parts of South, East, and
Central Asia (a symptom of pervasive social, cultural, political, and
economic injustice against women) tens of millions of girls have been
aborted, are undernourished, or terribly neglected.
*2 million girls aged 5-15 are forced into the commercial sex market each
year.
*600 women were raped every day in 2006 (the most recent statistics
I could find) in the U.S.A.
*130 million women have undergone female genital mutilation.
*Gender-based violence kills 1 in 3 women worldwide.
*Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an
intimate partner or family member.
*One in three women and girls will be abused or sexually assaulted in
their lifetime. That's 1 BILLION worldwide.
*Discrimination on the basis of their gender leads to many health hazards
for women, including physical and sexual violence, sexually transmitted
infections, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
*COPD is far more prevalent among women in developing countries due
to cooking over open fires or on traditional stoves.
*Due to recent aggressive tobacco marketing campaigns aimed at women,
tobacco use among younger females in developing countries is rising
rapidly.
*Of all adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, 61% are women.*An estimated 100 million girls will marry before their 15th birthday
in the next decade. This is 1/3 of the adolescent girls in developing
countries.
*About 14 million adolescent girls become mothers every year worldwide,
with more than 90% living in developing countries. This means more
complications with deliveries, more low-birth-weight babies, and
increased infant mortality.
*Approximately 219 women die worldwide each day from an unsafe abortion.
*An estimated 150 million women worldwide do not have access to
birth control.
*66% of adult women worldwide are illiterate.
*100 million girls worldwide that begin primary school do not finish.
*Worldwide only 30% of all girls are enrolled in secondary school.
*Education drastically reduces child marriage.
*In sub-Saharan Africa, four out of five women do not receive any
education.
*The education of women helps lift families out of poverty, saves the
lives of young children, improves overall health of populations,
reduces unemployment, dramatically increases a country's agricultural
productivity and overall GDP, reduces the rate of female genital
mutilation, and contributes to an increase in the number of women
in parliamentary bodies.

*Healthy, educated, and empowered women have healthy, educated,
and confident daughters and sons.

(Statistics come from the World Health Organization, Amnesty International,
and the USA Embassy)

Yes, indeed, I AM A FEMINIST...and so I will be until the time when
gender equality  no longer an issue but a reality.