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.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Words of Wisdom, Confusion, and Doubt...and TRUTH



Sometimes I go about pitying myself
And all the while I am being carried across
      the sky
By beautiful clouds.   -OJIBWAY SAYING


confusion...
Life makes no sense, has no logic...
God is confusing, mysterious,
     totally beyond understanding...
Yet here I am, in the midst of it all,
Caught up in, shaped by, the
     paradoxical nature of existence,
     of being human,
                  spinning dizzily with
                  the very cosmos
                  and loving every moment
                  of the wild ride!

The foolish seek happiness in the distance;
the wise grow it under their feet.  -JAMES OPPENHEIM

It could be argued that Christianity is one tremendous koan that
makes the mind boggle and gasp in astonishment; and faith is the
breakthrough into that deep realm of the soul which accepts
paradox...with humility. -WILLIAM JOHNSTON in Christian Zen

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art
of leaving things undone. The Wisdom of life consists in the elimination
of nonessentials. -LIN YUTANG 
              

Monday, November 4, 2013

Numinous November...

a new month
A new month, the calendar says.
And I leave behind the turbulent
memories & emotions of October,
step carefully into November,
pausing at the brink to scan
the road ahead for potholes
and pitfalls, realizing all the while
that I cannot know what lies in wait
around that distant turn, hoping
only that the roads I have taken
thus far have prepared me well.
And perhaps what lurks ahead,
beyond the hills and valleys
I can see is joyful surprise-
the gift and grace of laughter,
the wonder of delight.
A new month-
welcome November.

I wrote this poem five years ago, a year when October had
been especially difficult for me, as I recalled the death of my
first husband, my bout with breast cancer, and the birthday
of my dad who had died years earlier but whom I still dearly
missed. As a child, I had loved autumn, but for many of my
adult years, autumn had become a season which, though I
continued to revel in nature's colors and the feel of the air,
swishing through falling leaves and breathing the smell of
wood smoke, brought a unique kind of sadness which served
to dull the joy and wonder of the season. It was truly a heavy
time...a time when I felt especially weighted by the burden of
sadness and loss.

However, over time this heaviness has eased, and autumn
has once again become my favorite season, due in part, I
think, to my being firmly in the waning autumn of my life's
years...lovely, filled with color and delight, but tempered with
the realistic awareness that the gorgeous leaves will one day
fall from the outstretched arms of the trees to the ground,
where only resurrection will restore their former beauty.

This autumn has been especially beautiful, with the joy-
filled task of re-doing my upstairs- painting, reordering,
making of the two bedrooms and bath a lovely, art-filled
nest for myself and whomever may be my guest. And I
had the special gift of a week-long visit from my dear and
precious friend, Mae...a week of going and doing and sitting
and talking and sharing...a week which sped by but which was
filled with so many wonderful moments I can turn over in my
memory for months to come.

Then there was the fun of seeing our friend, Innocent, a
young artist from Rwanda who had come to North Carolina
for a special artists' colony experience, bringing with him
one of his paintings which I had purchased and which is now
being re-stretched for hanging in my living room. Add to
this, time with all three of my children in October, and my
cup truly runneth over.

But if you want to see why I find autumn in Carolina so
visually delightful, take a look at the photos I have taken
in the past several days, just in my own neighborhood.






 
The path to my house is filled with leaves, just for the swishing, and
inside my cottage of a house a welcoming fire and hot cup of tea
awaits, Welcome, friends...welcome, November...welcome life.`