Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Fountain of Youth

Perhaps it's because I'm having to have a bunch of medical tests...or maybe because my mom had to be admitted to a nursing home...or even because I'm feeling age creeping up, but I took a notion to color my hair blue. Actually, it's supposed to be teal, but that didn't happen, did it?

Last week, sitting in my doc's office, I commented that getting older wasn't for sissies. The nurse said she wasn't going to--she planned to find the fountain of youth. And of course, that had me wondering. Wondering if your current age would remain the same, even if you DID find the fountain of youth. I mean, who wants to remain sixty-nine years old forever? Why do we assume we'll go back to being young? It's like in the vampire romances...whatever age you are when you're turned is your forever age. Have you ever noticed that vampires don't turn old people into vampires?

In every instance I've ever read about someone who was immortal, they always appear as youthful. So I suppose that's our ideal. It's okay to be old, but we don't want to look old. That's a flaw in our culture. We don't honor or value those who have lived a while. We ignore the possibilities they may hold wisdom and memories we need. Instead, we brush off their importance to society.

And so, I wonder. If only the elderly could find the fountain of youth, would we still be anxious to search for it?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fear and Dread

I believe the scariest sentence in the English language is..."We need to do some tests." Medical tests carry the implication of bad news. Some seem innocuous until you understand the real significance. Others? Well, they're more clear cut. For instance, a nuclear stress test to rule out heart issues is pretty plain in scope. On the other hand, a belly ultrasound doesn't sound all that scary--until the doc starts mentioning words like cancer and tumors.

Some folks run, refusing to face the possibilities. Me, well, I'm a born again coward, but life is full of risks so I'll go for the tests and figure any result short of death is a win.

But...that doesn't take away the fear and dread. And the longer you wait for answers, the greater the fear and dread. I also stress out more when I don't know what the process is. I really value technicians and medical personnel who explain every test in detail. I'm one of those people who like to maintain control, even if all that consists of is the illusion of knowing what to expect.

As you get older, you find your body fails in unexpected ways. Today I was supposed to give a urine sample at the lab. Except for whatever reason I couldn't pee! What the heck happened to the six glasses of water I drank prior to my appointment??? Fortunately, the technician handed me a plastic specimen cup with lid and suggested I take it home where I could work on my problem in private. I'm pleased to report I was peeing like a champ within an hour. Ah, life.

For all the folks out there like me who are facing the scary unknown, I offer hugs, understanding, and love. We'll make it through, one step at a time. No running needed.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Life Passages

My mother is 89--soon to be 90. She is mostly disabled due to back issues. This weekend, suffering unendurable pain, she asked Dad to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital, knowing when she did that she would never come back home. Together, they are working to place her in a nursing home because Mom is well aware Dad can no longer care for her.

They live in a tiny town in east Texas in the middle of nowhere with few resources. Last night I sat in my office talking to my Dad, hearing the terrible devastation and heartbreak in his voice when he said, "She's not here. And she's never coming back."

No, she's not dead. But it's impossible for her to go home. And the unpalatable truth is--that's a lesser form of death to the folks involved. She's there alone. He's at home alone. They are not together and will not be except for the hours he will spend driving back and forth to visit.

They have asked for a form of hospice as Mom simply wants to finish her life as pain free as possible. There really isn't anything they can do to help her. She and my dad have spent considerable time deciding what they want to do. And as much as I grieve for both of them, I support them in whatever they wish. They've certainly lived long enough to make their own decisions.

When you are young, you think your parents are indestructible. Nothing can hurt them. As you get older, you start to understand that isn't true. But when you start approaching your own senior years, you finally know real fear. With all the love and best will in the world, I cannot be there for them except at the other end of the telephone. I can barely navigate a grocery store or Walmart, let alone travel 1500 miles to be with them. And that is a devastating realization.

All over the country, this same scenario is playing out for innumerable families. So I'm asking for prayers and blessings for all of us. Heartbreak hurts.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Rituals and Prayers

Social media sites are awash with New Year greetings, assessments of the past year, hopes for the next year, and confessions of past failures. It seems we must all mark the new year's arrival and the old year's passage in some way.

In my youth, we had a Watch Night service at church. It was a small congregation of maybe...fifty members. We had a pot-luck dinner around seven PM down in the basement. Then there were board games and various contests and socializing. At 11:30, we went up to the church and had a quiet service. There were hymns, a short devotional, and then silent prayers for our country and our families and friends. At midnight, we sang one last song (usually Amazing Grace) and went home.

It has been many, many years since I have attended a Watch Night service. I'm not sure churches even have them anymore. But even all these years later, I remember the solemnity of the final evening service compare to the frantic, desperate frivolity of the Time Square celebrations. I can not imagine taking part in that insanity.

I don't judge those who do take part, but I wonder what the point is. The service I attended as a teen was centered around personal evaluation of past and future. It was one last chance to make private judgement about our life and what goals we might set for the next year. And then in the last final moments of that old year, as a group, we looked forward to the new year. We brought our hopes and prayers for all those around us in a prayer for the future.

I know a large number of folks no longer believe--in anything. Some say they are Christian or Jewish or Pagan or whatever. But those beliefs are...shallow, I think. They're lip-service instead of true service. Make no mistake. I don't believe going to church proves anything. I do believe that observance of ritual and prayer puts us in the frame of mind to worship, whoever and whatever, we serve. And it strikes me that the loss of ritual and prayers is something we can ill afford to let go.

Perhaps this evening we would be better served to gather our family in the dark shelter of our home, light a candle, voice our hopes for the future, and say a silent prayer for those in our circle.

Blessings for your New Year! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trick or Treat

She sat waiting on the wide wooden porch, a deep bowl of candies on her lap. Carved pumpkins, their eerie candles flickering in the light autumn breeze, provided the only light. Children and parents crept along the sidewalk bordering the dark yard. Though most hurried past, a few brave--or greedy--trick or treaters braved the scary trek up to the porch.

Those who found the courage to climb the worn steps were well rewarded. She smiled as she doled out the candies, speaking quietly to each child. Her soft white hair and bright blue eyes calmed their fears as she complimented them on their costumes and inquired if they'd collected many treats.

She noted the changes from other years, long past, when the majority of children dressed as pirates or clowns or cowboys or Indians or even a princess or two. Now, they all seemed to favor superheroes and Disney characters.

One little girl, dressed as Princess Fiona from Shrek stopped dead at the open gate and refused to go further though her mother urged her on. The woman's eyes met Fiona's for a sharp pregnant moment and then, Fiona was fleeing down the walk, her mother racing after her.

Well, now, the woman thought. There was more than met the eye there. Miss Fiona was a most perceptive princess. Her visitors usually saw what she wanted them to see. She smiled. They didn't know her at all. Or all the others like her who eagerly waited for this one day of the year. Some called it Halloween.

But others...called it the Night of the Hunt.

Friday, October 26, 2018

American Experience

Some folks believe the American Experience is the National Anthem. Other believe the essence of America is embodied in the pledge of allegiance. And still others think it's the fireworks of July 4th or the Veteran's Day parade. I believe the American Experience can be distilled down to the right to vote.

Yesterday the hunk and I went to vote, taking advantage of the early voting hours in Maryland. It was quite chilly as we stood in line outside, a longer line than I'd even hoped for on this, the first day of early voting. We arrived at 4:15 PM. It was 5:45 when we finished and walked back to our car. And all the time we waited and voted, I watched the folks around me, men and women, old and young, every skin color, and multiple languages as they patiently stood in line to vote. And it came to me that THIS was the American Experience.

Regardless of party affiliation or agenda, the true path to change is this simple act. We go to the polling place and exercise our right to vote. Yesterday, I stood with folks who showed up with their canes and walkers to vote. Young, old, wealthy, poor, they all came to join in solidarity for this most important responsibility of citizenship. They came to vote. One woman--possibly in her twenties--confessed it was her very first time to vote, and received a round of enthusiastic applause.

I have voted in every election since I was eligible to vote--fifty years now in several different states. When my children were old enough, we went together to vote, because the hunk and I believed citizenship is taught at home--not learned through school or television.

I hope there's a record turnout, because when it gets down to the most basic tenets of our society, the right to vote is there at the top. Vote. Take a friend. Go with your youngsters. Demonstrate good citizenship!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Where Were You?

A lot of words have been written, folks asking, "Where Were You?" I believe this is one of the best answers...

Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)

Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
That September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or workin' on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?
Did you weep for the children, they lost their dear loved ones
Pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white, and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love
Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
That September day?
Teachin' a class full of innocent children
Or drivin' down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor?
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset for the first time in ages
And speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Stand in line to give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love
And the greatest is love
And the greatest is love
Where were you when the world stopped turnin'
On that September day?
Songwriter: Alan Jackson

Monday, September 10, 2018

Common Sense

There are days when I wonder if the human race will survive the week. When did we choose to send our brains on sabbatical? When did we decide to let someone else do all our thinking?

I love this picture because it's a perfect demonstration of the current 'climate'. We've ceased using our brains. It's easier to let someone else tell us what to think, what to do, what to wear. A casual glance at the timeline on your facebook or twitter (or any other social media, I suspect) reveals just how far we've fallen.

A lot of folks have withdrawn from social media in self defense. They've chosen to go elsewhere, seeking out someone, anyone with a brain. Some stay and block or remove posts, valiantly fighting against racism, political idiocy, and general stupidity.

I generally end up ignoring the majority of posts. But occasionally, I put in my two cents worth...and then move on. Engaging in long-winded debates serves no purpose. My comments are only posted to let the individual know there IS a difference of opinion. I think it's important to show others don't believe the same things. And if I have researched the post and know it to be false, then I simply post the word 'FALSE' in the comments and move on. It's up to that poster to rectify the issue.

I would say 95% of political posts in particular are at least partially false. I always wonder why people post them. Does the post reflect their beliefs? Their hopes and dreams? What? Do they honestly think it will change someone else's viewpoint?

Wake up, people. I know it's hard to think when you stay up all night watching junk on television, then stumble out of bed, down your latte and sugar/fat fuel before heading off to work, but try. Make the time and effort to consider the long-range consequences of your actions. Look around you. Observe what is really happening in your family, your neighborhood, your town.

Figure out whether the stone is wet, swinging wildly to and fro, or gone.    

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Sock Thief

IF I had a cat, I would certainly believe this. However, since I don't have a cat, I'm stumped. In the last few weeks, I've worn short, cotton sports socks 24/7 because I had a prescription cream I had to apply to my feet twice a day. That's a lot of socks to wash. And every load I washed, one sock disappeared.

I've looked in all the usual places. Static cling to my nighties, underwear, t-shirts...no where. I looked inside the washer and inside the dryer. I checked down both sides of the washer closet. No socks.

I used to have a cat. Maybe she's trying to get my attention. In the meantime, I have six unmatched sports socks, waiting for the rest of them to reappear. I hope they're having wonderful adventures.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Free-range Contemplation

Folks don't take time anymore for contemplation. In our guilt-driven culture, you're not supposed to take time out to mull life. You know--where you're going? Where you've been. What you're goals in life are? No...mostly we do life on the fly, hoping we don't make too many mistakes.

That is why I knit. Knitting (painting, crocheting, carving, beading), really almost any handwork project allows for some free-range contemplation. Reading doesn't work because your mind is engaged with the story. For some folks--like me--music irritates and annoys. Electronic interfacing such as television, computer, gaming all take up too much of the mind for true contemplation.

Back in the day, I used to do a lot of contemplating while ironing. That was a perfect occupation for contemplation. You were 'chained' to the ironing board so you couldn't pursue too many distractions and let's face it--ironing is boring. Sooooo boring, your mind naturally wanders.

With the advent of new technologies, we have less of the mindless work we used to do. So, less gardening, less weeding, less ironing, less handwork and more time spent engaged with electronics. In the past, the telephone was a tool for communication, seldom used unless you had a job that required it. Otherwise, it sat on the desk or hung on the wall, silent for most of the time. Now, too many people, young and old, spend hours in fascinated interaction with their phones. I confess, I have no idea why. What is the attraction?

Perhaps, just perhaps, it's a way to escape contemplation. Who knows what thoughts might occur if we allowed them to form? Is that it? The ultimate escape from self-knowledge and awareness? What drives us to flee from peaceful contemplation? And what would change if we pursued it?

Maybe...we would embrace less rage, less judgment, less greed, and find more joy, more peace, more love.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Uncomfortable Truths

For more than forty years, I've researched my family history--and the hunk's. Back waaaay before the convenience of the Internet, we traveled miles away, making stops at state libraries, local libraries, local government offices and national archives. I must have made a zillion photocopies of census records, pension records, birth/death/marriage records, Bible records, and collected letters and wills from all over the southern U.S.

I have four--no, five file cabinets full of papers.

When you start out researching your family history, it's mostly just a fun attempt to find out cool things about your family. Where did they come from? How many kids did they have? Did they fight in any wars or do anything strange or awful or weird?

If you continue with your pursuits, that wears off when reality sets in. Then you start to find out stuff you never aimed to discover. You find out your ancestors were slave owners. You find out a family connection was a pedophile--and the entire family was aware, so children were not allowed to visit without adult supervision. You find out a particular ancestor was cruel and beat his wife and daughters. Or another was a womanizer to the point there were several children born to multiple women while he was married.

You see, family history isn't all romantic with pirates or horse thieves or bank robbers or all those other possibilities. Mostly, it's about real people, some flawed, some outright terrible, some survivors of terrible events.

I am the keeper of all the uncomfortable truths. The real stories as opposed to the airy-fairy stories passed down to cover those truths. I don't share the whole truth with just anyone. That's the reason I know those secret truths...because people trust me and talk to me. But if someone comes to me, asking specifically for a certain truth, I will tell them.

Mostly what I've discovered is this: People don't really want to know. They would rather cling to the romantic, rose-colored view of their ancestors. That's their prerogative. Of course, many, many, many of them share that view through various Internet sites and that's exactly why I don't rely on them. Such information is iffy, at best. Researchers aren't interested in sharing reality.

No one wants to hear the uncomfortable truths.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

From the Outside

A relative recently asked me for help with our mutual family history research. He's new to the game. I've been working on it since I was in high school. As I looked through notes and obscure entries in old records, I thought a lot about the family dynamics. Genealogy isn't just some dusty old list of family information with marriages and deaths and lists of children. For every family group, there were heartaches and joys and grief and laughter. Too often, from the outside, we forget they were people with triumphs and defeats, just like any others.

Every time I look through the files, I am reminded of my own failings as a parent and I wonder what those long gone mothers and fathers thought about their own children and grandchildren. Did they too wonder what difference they could have made it they'd chosen different actions?

Children grow up and move on and make their own choices. And parents watch from the outside, unable to intervene, unable to share the wisdom they've acquired unless it's sought out. No, they have little choice but to sit back and pray their children won't make the same mistakes they made themselves. Who knows? Perhaps they weren't mistakes, but the only viable choices at the time.

Over the years, I have acquired a reputation for trustworthiness regarding family secrets and therefore, many different folks have shared the 'real' story rather than the public version. Families traditionally keep secrets with the best. Each succeeding generation adds a new layer of secrets until the genealogist is confronted with a bewildering maze of truth and lies. Much of it is never committed to paper (or computer) so descendants go through life puzzling over their ancestors' choices and actions.

Is it better that way? I don't know. I believe how we view our forefathers is directly related to how much truth we know about them. Too often, because we're viewing them from the outside, we look at them through rose-colored glasses, assuming they had no faults, made no mistakes, and lived untroubled lives. When we take that view, we do ourselves a disservice, giving ourselves an impossible standard to live up to.