Saturday, October 5, 2013

Protecting my Joy

It is just past dawn, the sleepy sun peeking over the lip of the horizon as it begins a slow, lazy climb to its position in the morning sky. The early mist burns off in whisps like lacy smoke, to reveal the brilliant glory of early autumn where I live. In the dead calm air, the mist erases itself to hint at the last days of Indian summer, the leaves ablaze with golden hues agaainst lipstick red and Halloween orange. The rising orb of shocking gold floats amidst big fluffy clouds stacked high and backlit in the new light of day. I can see a long distance as the dawn unfolds and dissolves into morning clear and bold and full of itself, like morning has accomplished a new miracle of light and shadow and color, with a "look at me" attitude. I am filled with the joy of being alive, surviving my ordeals, grateful that in the midst of government mess, really rotten economy and leaders unmasked as accomplished bullies. my joy's value is paramount. I watch really old men and women shut out of the memorial raised to their valor and, past the outrage, I weep for this kind of brutality. I see little children kept off swings, seesaws, green grass bullied in the same way. Am I the only one who sees such abuse of power visited upon the least of us as what it is? Is this a movie? A bad fairy tale of the wicked witch of the west? No. It is our reality, with our leaders unleaashed as the evil they reaally are. And the thinking steals my joy. My joy has been hard won. From beginnings in an orphanage to cancer so late in my life, I have fought with determination to keep and protect my joy. The morning sunrise, so enriching, so humbling, so miraculous, so nourishing, moves me to tears of gratitude that however bad the current world is, the sun still rises to grace my day. My job, my responsibility to myself, is to protect my joy. It is Saturday. Serenity is my goal, at least for today. Today I will take care of me. The world can go away. Far, far away. I'll drink a comforting cup of Constant Comment and eat a toasted bagel as big as my head. Do a load of laundry, go to the movies, paint a red lip on my face. All the things that trouble me are way out of their boundaaries. Today, I'm walking away, and back to my joy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Raining buckets

I sit here undere a tornado warning wwith tropical torrential rains, and I live well above the Mason Dixon line. I think on the troubles of the world and ruminate about things like how dry i am in these dangerous elements. How the storm howls. Beats heavily on the skylights and thrusts lightning like thunder bolts right at my glass doors.

The rain is heavy, pounding, like we need more rain, really? June gave us nine in ches of rain. It looks like Chiang Rai here today.

I'm listening to the talking suits tell me and the rest of the general public what constitues a "living wage". Are they kidding? They don't know from a living wage. The going rate for jobs out there, hello part time! eight dollars an hour and no bennies where i live. Young folks out there with fresh new diplomas have no work. Old retired guys can't pay their bills with their eroded retirement savings. There's work for them, but it's killing labor and they need to resurrect their backs. And the Washington suits talk like this should be easy.

Listen, men who made perfectly good salaries, saved their pennies and served their employers well. They are tapped out. There is no reserve. Guys forced to retirement at the age of 58 or so, have to stretch that mmoney another 8 or nine years against their savings. Add inflation. We're all down to minimum wage whether we're spending our reserves or working to make up our losses. Which doesn't happen at eight bucks an hour. Understand this: the average American, earning decent wages to carry their simple bills and mortgages are now asked to support that with half their normal income. Before taxes. Who are we kidding?

You can't run your household, your business or your nation on half a loaf. I know that D.C. is a boom town currently and I resent it because the rest of us are doing without for govmint propp-up. It's us. We're having to pay ths freight for true fat cats who begin with us behind the eight ball.

Pay more aattention to who you send to represent you. And start asking why anyone stays a dozen years. For the love of the job? Hey, work two days, take off three, twelve weeks vacay and a stuffed paycheck, I would too. But you best understand why: it's for the money and the power. Not for Mrs. Senior Citizen's welfare. Not for the workig poor. Not for widows and children. For themselves/ You know it. You do. Send those people for only a little while. Or even less. They are among the least productive group in the nation. And they are living large at your expense. If you've figured out a way to justify that, please share.

Blogspot is pathetic

The reason few people blog on this system is, of course, that it sucks. If I felt I had anything more to say, I'd choose another venue. It took me a full hour on jerking myself around to get the compose button to function. it took another full hour to be able to publish: three times a blank page. Why in the world do i bother? I spent real time composing a very thoughtful prayer time and prayer for a young child having a stem cell trnsplant tody only to find that the save button was no functional. So I transferred the work to a microosoft wordpage and then promptly made my own error and deleted the whole thing. Didn't really matter; i still couldn't post anything here.

Publish? Dream on. The publish button works only when it feels like it.

Monday, July 8, 2013


For the record, the setup for blogging here is the most irritating i have ever encountered. The tool bar is set up by an idiot.

The year was 1991. My friend called me long distance and said "Come"! I had not seen her in twenty years. I didn't miss a beat. I said yes.

So began one of the many adentures of my life. I have been countless wonderful places in the world since then but none of them....Russia, Hungary, Romania, England, Egypt, Israel, France, Mexico, the Ukraine, Jordan....touched the wonder of South Afrika.

From the beautiful presentation of a protea as a welcome to the beautiful mountainsides of planted tea, to the Indian Ocean's dolphins and whales,  the tall Zulu warriors and the thundering wildebeest, the enormous elephants, wild cats, ostriches and hipppos, to say nothing of rhinos, enormous herds of impala,, cape buffalao and other exotics, Afrika was mind boggling. The scenery, the size, the night sounds, the amazing roads, the babboons on the car hood, the monkies, the dolphins and whales, the emus, the bird life, the LIFE of the place was overwhelming.

I fell deeply in love.

In Durham I learned the true meaning of Indian food, indulged and cooled my mouth with coconut. I ate impala in so many casseroles I hoped i could find impala in the meat market at home. I learned emu on the grill takes like steak and that alligator is not so bad.

We parked along the side of a medium sized lake where a huge variety of game on the hoof came to drink. Up the side of a grade at the top of the hill lay a young lioness trying to hide behind a fallen tree. She was crazy visible, but as she couldn't see down the hill, she assumed she was hidden. I could see the game ringed lake in my rear view mirror slightly behind us. Suddenly, in a flash, the lioness raced down the hill, her powerful shoulders fueling her enormous paws as her nails dug the dirt. She powered forward, her tail high and waving like a flag announcing her coming. She was running straight at us. I quickly put the window up, like that would protect me!...and she quarter-horsed on a dime and cut to the left of us, charging across the road in front of ecstatice   National Geographic photographers and their huge telephoto lenses.

She raced around the water's edge and slammed into all that meat on the hoof, who were shocked and nervous but not running away. They seemed to know she was new at this, that this was practice time and that she wasn't even hungry. She stared up at them, then turned and trotted back across the road and up the incline to pretend-hide behind the fallen tree. My friend and I were franticaally shooting film the whole time, seeing this incredible sight through a lens.

The lioness made one more run before wandering off down the other side of the incline. This time we abandoned our cameras and just enjoyed her play, her well muscled body, her  beauty in motion as she made her moves that would later mean she'd feed well, mate and have cubs. My friend and I felt we'd been let in on some life mystery as we watched this dance imprint on all her firing neurons. The memory is as alive in my mind today as it was 23 years ago. Gosh, was it really that long?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Strawberry Festival at the Orphanage

Sweet red strawberries poured over melting Hershey's vanilla bean ice cream, scooped up with a big spoon and shoveled into one's mouth without restraint, is summer's rendition of heaven.

I'm four years old. The day is hot and muggy, the sun high in the summer afternoon. I have had a cooling bath and I know the tables have been set up and the festival has begun. As I hurry across the macadm playground I stumble and fall, scraping my knee badly, the wound filled with tiny bits of gravel. The palms of my hands are scuffed, too, and hurt enough to make me cry. I was all clean and now I'm dirty, which adds to the pain.

Someone behind me lifts me off the ground, takes me back into the main building and hands me over to Matron. She has most of my care in the orphanage and knows how to soothe me. She cleans my small wounds and paints them with mercurochrome....ouch! that stings!...wipes my tear stained face, pats my bottom and sends me back outside. I walk carefully toward the strawberries and ice cream.

"Barbarann, honey, would you like some ice cream and berries?"

"Yes, please!" I say, and she fills a bowl and hands me a spoon. I thank her and scoot under the cloth-covered lengths of table laden with huge bowls of strawberries and heavy cardboard containers of vanilla ice cream. It is shady and cooler under there and I sit on the warm black macadam, fold my legs and nestle the bowl in my lap.

The first spoonful of vanilla and berry fills my mouth with sweetness, the berries bursting against my tongue, bathed in melted ice cream. I close my eyes in pleasure, happy to be all alone with my treat. I am very careful not to spill on my pinafore, but don't want the ice cream to get all soupy in the summer heat. Still, I eat slowly,  making it last. The berries stain the ice cream and my lips as I spoon with a steady rhythym, until the treat is all gone.

I sit there beneath the table for a little while, wondering if my little brother has been given any of this dessert. I see the shoes passing by me as other children stand in line for ice cream and strawberries. The table cloth nearly skims the ground. Before long, all the children have taken their dessert elsewhere, beneath the sheltered picnic tables, or under the porch overhang. It is quiet as I sit there, content. The table cloth is lifted; a curly headed older girl peers at me.

"Barbarann, would you like some more? Hand me your bowl; you keep the spoon!"

Shortly, she reappears with a full bowl for me. I can't believe I can have seconds. I get busy with my spoon, digging into the cold ice cream and the syrupy strawberries. This is all mine, not be shared with anyone,  unheard of here, where all things belong to everyone, even our treats. My eyes glaze over, my tummy is full, and I feel complete contentment. I have been here since January 20th. Today is August 13th. It is my birthday. I miss my mother badly. My younger brother has recently arrived to live here with me. I have felt very lonely for a long time now. But with berries and ice cream, things are looking up!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Transitions take a long time

In an already challenged life, it is transition time again. It is, for many cancer survivors, difficult to grant ourselves permission to be well. It just takes such a long time. "A long time" should be old hat by now. Should be comfortable and familiar.

I waited a long time for Mother to get through her widowhood and the War and the recovery of her children to get us to a normal life with a new husband and a new baby. For four years I waited. From the time I was three and a half years old until I was a month and a week shy of my eighth birthday, i waited for my family to be whole again. I waited in an orphanage with care and a "family" of 97 other kids, all waiting. In that time I grew to understand that there was no better,  no other, choice. A widow with three kids in a time of war did what she had to do.

She made ammunition for the Navy, supervising hundreds of very young women dealing daily with nitro and sulphur. Sometimes the place exploded and the on-site hospital was full of injured girls. Sometimes they died. Many of them, including my mother, suffered powder poisoning from inhaling gunpowder blown around the whole plant by huge fans to keep the air circulating, since there was no air conditioning then. While she was doing the best she could...and these women were well brothers and I, all young, were trying to understand why we were put away, albeit in a safe place. Small children only want their mother. We could have been ensconced in a palace with a world of toys and ice cream, but without mother, it is meaningless, comfortless and full of heart ache.

I spoke some time ago to a woman who worked in a munitions plant. She said it took her ten minutes to walk the distance from her work station to the bathroom. While she was gone there was an explosion. When she left the bathroom, half the barracks was blown up. While rebuilding her unit, they all went back to work around the reconstruction. In truth, these women were in the middle of hell. They would be a long time waiting for things to improve. And then, at the end of the war, the plants were locked up, the women sent home to farms and small towns and the money stopped. The freedom stopped. The life stopped. They were once again relegated to the non-role of women. They learned you can't go back.

Many of them were heavily involved with soldiers and sailors gone to war. My mother fell in love with a young blond from a town close to her own. He declined to marry her until, indeed if, he returned from the front. He allowed as how he didn't want to make her a widow for the second time. He swam from the English Channel to the French beach and immediately fell to strafing shrapnel across the water and the sand. He lay there among the dead, trying not to die. He waited three days, a long time bleeding, until the dead truck came and discovered he was alive. They took him off to a French hospital where he spent nine months recovering from his wounds. He waited a long time.

The women at Triumph Explosives were known nationally as the Boom Boom Girls. They often won the production contests for their output. She survived the huge explosion in May of 1942, when five buildings blew up, killing fifteen people outright and injuring many others. Perhaps she was up home to visit her siblings on that weekend. If so, we were with her, for she swung by the orphanage often, so we could visit Gramma Daisy.

Finally home, and hardly healed, he married his sweetheart, got her pregnant and came to the orphanage to claim her children. A life change occurred for all of us. We'd wait a long time for the fallout.

Transitioning from happy toddler to unhappy orphan to freedom and no clue how to be a little girl, took a long time. But to do it we gained a whole town surrounded by open fields that were ours to roam, and in that atmosphere we recovered as best we could from our abandonment. My constant companion was my little brother. From breakfast to dinner time we were on our own in a rural community surrounded by Amish farms, idyllic and serene except for the disappointments and disillusion and danger living in our new home with us. It would affect us, especially me, for a very long time.

Remnants of that time still remain. Childhood never lets go.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Life in the Promise Choir Community

When there is so much support and so much sharing across a quarter century, there is an epiphany when that existence seems threatened. I'm talking about the cohesiveness of a choir in existence without much change for that long period of time. By that I mean that the core group of approximately 60 singers remained the same. We saw each other more than we saw our spouses so our spouses decided to sing, too. We expanded and contracted across those years to about 120 voices but essentially maintained the same headcount of about sixty. But in that time, over nine hundred people sang for some time with this Choir.

We grew from singing in small churches in the region to singing abroad. That story is one of a journey of faith led by a woman whose eyes remained fixed on God and mission. For the first ten years or so we were the morning choir in our own church, and singing concerts in the afternoons or early evening in other churches. We sang in prisons and for other facilities where people were down on their luck. We sang impromptu in local malls. We sang the Trees of Hope program at our local hospital, performing for cancer survivors celebrating their victories, and finally, a quarter of a century later I had to choose where I would be in that place: singing or being sung to. Cancer provided another place for personal victory. We sang three- night concerts in our own church. For nearly 25 years.In the singing we spoke the written Word in song and knew the Holy Spirit came down with some frequency to use us mightily, not because we were gifted singers, but because we were gifted and tasked to share our faith.

We sang in Russia, visiting the Ukraine and missioning with our own in-built medical team. We sang later in Hungary and Romania, treating those who were ill. We sang in the world, taking with us the clear and present message of the love of the Lord for his people. One often wonders, who benefitted more? We think it is us. To give is the greatest gift. To minister to the sick and the helpless, the victims of oppression and the hope of others struggling to serve their Lord brings with it such great reward that we came to know it was the cement that held us in community together. Out of that was such amazing grace given to each other, such a picture of what it means to give oneself away. Such a tremendous sense of how it feels to know beyond doubt that we were an instrument of the Lord, weak but willing servants in His army. And we followed a woman possessed. Her vision never waivered. Her energy was boundless. Her purpose was so beguiling that we all wanted to be aboard her train. She knew the route to the Feet of Jesus. She was fearless. She was driven to spend her waking hours in that service. The choir and its triumphs were the visible picture of her faith. She knew how to get there. We were desperate to follow.

Contrary to words out of  mouths that knew better, we did not worship her. We worshipped Him.We admired her. Believed in her. Followed her faithfully. She took us to heights we would otherwise not have attained. She was the dynamic. We know there is no other like her.Those who would fault this faithfulness on the part of the humble misunderstand. We followed her because she followed Him Simple concept, that.

Are we fabulous singers? No, indeed. We are faith driven and trusting that the Lord who called us to this forum is working His will through the instrument He built. We are envied, not for our glorious singing, but for our sense of community, the natural result of praying and caring for each other. We know full well how to lead worship. An attitude of praise and prayer in singing, the highest form of praise, is what God has given us.

We are a flawed people. Our gift is that we know it. We are, none of us, movers and shakers in our church. We simply love God and show it. We love each other and let it be known. We are the microchosm of the congregational body. with the face of the unsucsessful, the needy, the helpless, the average. We are just people, trying. Our focus is in two places: to praise God in song and to bring the congregation with us. And God has for a quarter of a century, held us up to His calling.

We don't do prison outreach anymore or visit other churches. We are waiting until God provides another with some of the previous talents we have enjoyed embodied in three directors who knew what they were about in His name. They are the ones who have blessed us, shaped us, nurtured us, loved us through thick and thin. Our prayer is that we might again be led by one who is called to the work with a heart for outreach.We are so far from international effort. Age does that. A less strenuous schedule might be a better answer in today's world where demands are way too high on everyone. That we wear the face of God in our music for the community around us is testament to how little it is about us and how much about Him.

It is no small thing when God raises up a leader. He prepares that one without their knowing, until it is time to know. God's hand upon a shoulder, His voice nestled in an ear, is no small thing. But it is insistent. He leans on a heart. He is persistent. The chosen just KNOWS.  God has been faithful to bless us with selfless directors who place Him first. So I leave this to Him who called us in the first place. He has led us clearly and with insistence across an impressive length of time. We trust Him. We know Him. Looking back, we see His face and feel His hand upon us. And so we wait for that next one who is designated, to realize what his or her desire means. And go.

Orphanage Discoveries

Looking for corrections and facts that i can hang my hat on, I called the Children's Home of Reading, PA, seeking solid dates for my presence there. When did i enter? When did I leave? What about my brothers?

There were some surprises. I was not there as long as I thought! I believed my entry occurred in my third year of life and it did. I was three years and four months old. I thought I entered on my birthday. I entered with my older brother who was seven. I have no memory of that, which probably means that we were separated immediately on our arrival. He was sent off to the boys' wing, i suppose, and I saw him mostly at meal time. My younger brother arrived on his third birthday.

My brother remained in this place for only eighteen months, and then was sent to Hershey Industrial School, a different environment entirely. There, cottage living with two "parents" assigned to a small group of boys felt more like a family unit, and while he did not thrive there, he was manageable.

My younger brother was there for three years, when we were both removed to join out mother and her new husband and the baby they shared together. So that means I spent four years and seven months in the orphanage, longer than my siblings. My older brother, though, in total, spent many more years in an institutional environment than we did. Closer, i think, to ten or eleven years. And he was far more negatively affected.

Life in the orphanage was essentially good, as i recall. What was missing, as i have said, was Mother.
I asked in my phone call today for the name of my Matron, a woman who afforded me much comfort and support, took me under her wing, taught me how to pray, helped me memorize scripture verses and kept me diverted and entertained when missing Mother was overwhelming.

But she could not protect me from the assails that all of us experienced: sharing new clothes brought by other relatives....there was a common closet....and having the identical haircut, which meant lots of long curls of many colors littered the cutting floor. We dug shoes that fit from the common brown box container of donated used shoes. Shoes other kids had outgrown. Shoes that fit poorly. Most of us there never saw these things as problems, though when my aunt took me shopping for a Christmas program was red velvet with a large lace collar...that dress was placed on the small body  of another little girl. I never wore it. And I remember it.

I am surprised at the interest in this subject, probably because it is my history. I understand that it is not the norm for children today. But that orphanage today can claim help to eight thousand children in that state, who, though the needs are different, and the care provided is greatly expanded, today children are launched into the world better equipped and better placed.

So I will continue, for a while, to tell this story of how little children coped in a time of tragedy.  WW II would add to the list of needy children missing a parent, finding respite and safety in such a place across the country.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Life in an Orphanage

It occurs to me that not many folks are drawn to the topic of memoir, especially  at a blog site. I just completed a portion of a free telesummit conference and discovered that, to the contrary, memoir is HUGE in the nation both with writers and readers. So I must be hard to find, or hard to get, or just hard?

It was suggested to me that i might write or submit a piece of my memoir here to stimulate interest. But that would be like yodeling across a chasm or yelling down a well. I am here and you, apparently, are not. I am supposed to find a place on this site to click to see how many of you read but not write. Of course, I can't figure out where that button is either. Blogspot is deep into mystery. Which indicates to me I might decide to wander over to some other host where it might be simpler. Why can I not just click and write?

Life in an orphanage feels exactly like this. Where is the door to "out"? Does everything have to be a maze? Can we not get out of our own way? In the age of endless technology, the nerds seem to think tweaking IS the way out. So daily the page changes and the path to the page changes. And I must constantly drop breadcrumbs to the path in and the path out.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Writing It Real Conference NASHVILLE

Wide awake now, I have recovered from the 12 hour drive from my home to Nashville where I attended the Writing it Real Conference held at the Scarritt Bennett Conference Center, a metaphor that demonstrates beauty on the outside, corruption on the explain: beautiful collection of Gothic buildings, majestic, medieval, almost went looking for Mr. Chips flapping by in his black robes. Interior rooms were problem there, for none of us were in them very long. One of us suffered and attack of the ants and needed to change her room at night without any help from staff. Bad move, staff. We'll herald that near and far. To ask a woman to move by herself from downstairs to elevator beyond the pale.

Food was dreadful the first day because a substitute chef had the task and he was pathetic. Regular chef returned from vacay and things improved a bit. The promised forever present coffee wasn't. Once the containers were empty, so were we. Keep the coffee coming seems to not be a Scarritt Bennett thing. So we trekked to Starbucks for coffee and Panera for breakfast on our last day. Some of us stayed over and of course we knew the kitchen was nada. Luckily the walk to said coffee and breakfast was good for us. Enough. Let me get to the good stuff.

The WIR (Writing It Real) Conference was spectacular, not just because of the leadership of Sheila Bender and her faithful cohorts Meg Files and Jack Heffron....a trio that works seamlessly together to present the very best tools a writer needs for developing his or her craft....but because of the particicpants. This, my fourth conference, came with a mix of fine writers all, gifted sharers of their talent, constructive attitudes and the gentlest of critiquers. Their writing was spectacular and there was nary a boring moment either by teachers or writers. I learned so very much this time. Lectures were thorough and informative. The sticky place is still about the nightmare of publishing and what the choices are. The message, though, is really about the mess that is publishing, and has been for a few years now. It is that you, the writer, will be doing virtually all the work and the publisher, if it isn't you, will take a piece of your action. A big piece. So, ergo, do it all yourself.

I can't say enough about the wonderful leadership. To anyone who writes and reads this blog, plan to treat yourself to three days of magic with this trio of instructors. I don't know what I'll be doing this time next year and probably neither do you. But I'm making my plans, regardless. Conferences I have attended with WIR were in Madison, Wisconsin, Port Townsend, Washington, Oracle, Arizona, and Nashville, Tennessee. We do get around. Where would you like to attend next year? It's still an open question.

Each conference I have attended with WIR has made me a better writer. But this one, because of the serendipitous mix, will remain memorable.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Waiting for Spring

In a world of chaos, whether on this continent or some other, with a broken system of government led by corruption seated firmly in the pursuit of power, I am happy to waken to simple blue sky and sunshine. No one will manipulate me today. It is Saturday, and I eliminate all news programs from my view. Actually, a cup of coffee and a pastry are my greatest reach this early in the morning. Always vowing to sleep in on this day, the week behind me, and Sunday before me, I endeavor to not do anything that will disturb or upset me. I don't care, for the moment, that the media lies, the government lies, the neighbor lies, the general public lies to itself. That will keep until Monday when lie sorting is the order of the day.

For now, I will watch the birds at the feeder, listen to the soft honking of the male goose as he calls his paramour to the pond, hope for my first glimpse of a robin...robins are late this year...and ruminate on my heart's desire for this day: the coming of  spring. The weatherman has promised warmer temps and I hope to see the little green noses of daffodil shoots pushing through the clay soil of my geographical location. I am a poor gardener because digging clay and hoping for hearty plants is unlike the soft stuff of my gardening mother when she breathed on this earth. She could sink her spade in up to the wooden shaft with a single thrust and turn the dirt witihout effort. The loam in which she played was rich and dark, easily sifted through the fingers, sucking water like a sponge. Quite unlike the gray cakey clay soil where I live.

Spring is later by two to three weeks in this part of the state, an annoyance for an east coast woman who by now is hoping for the goldenrod to be budding along the waving shafts of giant bushes. Here it is still winter, now witih an underlayer of promise of a soft afternoon breeze harboring a hint of hope.

Spring this year will be more free than last, in a time of physical recovery and release from fear, though trusting in that is an ongoing work. Every day is precious, and I sully it with nagging concern that cancer will rear its ugly head again, though I have fought the battle with every possible tool to stave off recurrence. I have things to do, life to live, writing to be done, trips to take. And I have the hope that got me through to begin with.

My body clings to its reminders: neuropathy in hands and feet, slight lymphodema, all conspire to make me anxious. My fingernails grow ever so slowly, as most of them have fallen off. My hair, a cap of fuzzy cotton, grew long enough to require a haircut, and is coming in with a bit of curl, but the growth rate is slow. I tell myself that this is all very normal, that I have no control over anything including my body except to care for it the best I can. That in hope or despair, the outcome will be whatever it's going to be, and that I might as well claim what is before me, and not anticipate what might never happen.

I feel really well. I can command my day's energy and be productive. I no longer need to collapse in bed, weary when half the day is over. I am engaged in living. What more is there?  My spring is on its way and I look for it with every rising, glad for this day because in a place where the sun appears briefly just to remind us that it exists in some realm, today it promises to hang around until evening. In the difficult weather patterns where I live, this is a golden day, a great reward for the waiting of new life, warmth, blue skies and gentle breezes. Even the birds are singing as if they know what I long for is just around the corner, neve rmind that there will be sporadic snow before the grass is green.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

On Being Popeless

Though not a Catholic, I watched the departure of Pope Benedict XVI today as  his white helicopter went winging him off to Castel Gandlolfo, the lovely summer residence of Popes for ages. The Catholic Church is currently without its head of state.  There was something poignant about a little man in red shoes finding himself too frail to continue in his work, not that work of everyday, but for the coming scandal, both of the Vatican Bank and the sexual debacle at the highest level.

Today he looked ten years younger, to be out from under such a weight. He is a happy camper. I'd be, too, to live at the lovely castle, if only for a little while. It gave me quiet joy to see an escaped man happy to be free.

The political structure of the Holy See is and has been, throughout its history, politically corrupt, the epitome of the corruption of extreme power. In my lifetime there have been good and bad popes. Not being Catholic, I was not intently aware of the machinations of the Vatican. Having worked for Catholic physicians, I learned quite a bit about the church hierarchy and how it works. It functions like any high level corporation with the same triumphs and pitfalls. And is prey to the same foibles and criticisms.

The sexual scandals of the church are impossible to excuse. Impossible to condone and impossible to tolerate. And therein lies the problem: it is still going on at very high levels but not involving children, or so it seems. As the story unfolds, and the financial and sexual foibles are revealed, the church will sustain serious damage. I am glad this good man, this retired Pope, had the good sense to get out while the getting is good. And still might not survive it. For way too long, the Church has been whistling past the graveyard, that one where all their ghosts are buried.


I think I need to turn off the news. It doesn't matter which news channel I watch, though I admit to a preference, as a conservative. Many of my friends are liberals, most with an intolerance for my different point of view. I have no interest in converting them. I know their opinions are fixed and rigid even as they fervently believe themselves to be open. What amazes me is their intolerance for ANY different point of view. That's a killer for discussion. I'm slow. Took me some time to get that liberals that I know do not want discussion. They want full agreement. Because of it I have divorced several of them. I miss them very much. But it is self-degrading to remain in any relationship where  the parties are not seen as equals. No friendship can survive that.

Finding truth on the telly is very hard to discern. I look for balance, impersonal reporting...I don't frankly care to know the opinions of overpaid people with inflated self importance, telling me skewed information. I'm old enough to recall when that was closer to the norm. Wild eyed hype is the order of the day now. Look. It's the news. Stop trying to make it more. not everything should drive me to hysteria.

I make it my purpose to watch CNN, which is tolerable, and Fox Cable, but never ever MSNBC. Those MSNBC folks are not the least subtle in their pov or their lying. Ham handed, they think I'm a moron. They give me a fake conservative and a truly dumb blonde. Their commercials are more interesting than anything they offer. And when the droning isn't too bad, I watch C Span.

I like to think I have reasonable intelligence. The current Administration thinks I don't. What comes out of that crowd now is designed for newly arrived children who have no clue and no memory. That doesn't work for most people over sixty. We do have experience at living, and still retain our memory. We've actually lived. You know, wars, depressions, job losses, illness, stuff like that. We don't all play bridge all the time. My neurons still fire. But I feel that someone thinks I'm a six year old with no life experience worth recognizing, that I can't think for myself and can't find my way home. You can see I won't do well with the nanny state, nor can I tolerate being politicaly correct. Not me nor anyone else. When did i ever allow anyone to tell me what  to say  or what to think or do?

The hardest thing is to discern truth. That, I find, is elusive. In a newsworld currently seeming to be filled with liars, my best move is not to change the channel, but to unplug the TV set.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Value of Writing Essays

I spend a lot of time writing essays in an on-line class. A whole lot of time, and for a long time besides. My class size is usual five writers and an instructor. We respond to each other's essays and all of our writings are responded to by the instructor. With all that cross-work we learn lots from all those points of view. I have gained a lot as I write for those readers, who look for clarity, structure, and interesting subjects. We reveal a lot to each other. It is a safe place. Some essays are fun, some are instructive, some are filled with pain, some are about all sorts of redemption. All are very worthwhile. It is not about great writing, but about writing it real, which is the actual name of the online class, under the tutelage of Sheila Bender, a much published writer of poetry as an outlet for grief. She is an excellent teacher.she is a superior writer. She is stellar about getting her students over their obstacles and into their best work. I continue this because it helps shape my memoir. I stay with it because it keeps me writing.and in this framework, I grow in my craft. I treasure this outlet for my creativity. And as I recover myself from cancer treatment,so depleting, I hope to pick it up. In the spring, ready to put finishing touches on my life story, I hope to move it forward, correct it's weak places, determine what can stay or go, and get it out to an agent. Prayers for this will help, but in the meantime, my job is to get it done. I probably should drop a vignette or two here on the blog so you who read this might comment on it. Anybody interested?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Every Possible Good Thing

There is no way, no collection of words, or any way to order the paltry lexicon I have, to say how huge is my relief and joy to be told today that the tiny cyst in my pancreas amounts to nothing serious, that such a thing is seen more often now because imaging is so much better. I have no other bodily issues and will not need to see my oncologist until May. I will sleep easily tonight, free of worry, content that I have done all that is available to do, and have succeeded at all the effort offered me. I remain hugely impressed with my whole Cleveland Clinic team, whether at main campus or Moll Center or wherever. Mine has been exemplary care, always guided by the Heavenly Hand on which I rely. At every point the way was made clear and my role in it was clearly defined. I regret that I doubt my own intelligence, forget the many things I have learned, or I would have recalled that simple fact of improved imagery showing us things we couldn't see before. Scripture instructs me not to lean on my own understanding, but that doesn't mean to shut my brain down. If I felt less threatened, I'd think more clearly. And worry less. The God in Whom I so heartily believe is and has been so constant, so present and so in charge of my life and I am happy to witness that testimony to His greatness and His ever present love for me. That's right. That same God who holds the universe in place, who is the Author of everything, that God in Holy Spirit form, sat in the chemo chair with me, extended His arm along with mine, to bare a vein for the toxin that would kill to heal. I did none of it alone, but knew and felt His presence, just as today He came with me to hear what I was so afraid would be bad. And when I felt shame for lack of faith, He comforted me like a two year old child, and did not admonish, but encouraged me. He does not hold my little human failures against me. He has always held me close on His lap, rocked me in His arms, whispered in my ear of His loving care for me.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Perhaps I need to simplify my new life. Recovery is on a whole other plane. Or maybe that should read planet. After eight months of hard battle to kick cancer, I'm still revving, though weary. In fight Mideast for so long, relaxing into wellness is a bit of a trick. Takes practice and a lot of belief to bring relief. A few decisions help. I no longer watch the news. I sit idle with deliberation, for this does not come easily to me. I husband my energy, a discipline strange to my natural rhythms. I nap. Ugh! I have been lured back to writing. I savor moments and experience them now, and don't save them up for later when they are cold and dim. I daydream between sessions on the stairs for exercise. I watch the snow fall, like today, when we have accumulated three inches. I watch the birds. They are about their winter business. They are teaching me to pace myself. I am becoming a believer in my recovery. I have begun to trust that I am well. To give myself permission as victory after so much hard work, dogged and faithful in this battle. I have been, indeed, have become, a Ninja. My investment in my future was not for chasing rainbows, but for grasping that healing and cure were a definite possibility, to push any chance for recurrence far into the future, should there be any at all. I have no time, patience or energy to suffer fools. When did I ever? But now, I husband all that belongs to me, like that valuable commodity, and I am learning to not forfeit my power to anyone. There is no acceptable reason to spend irreplaceable time entertaining fools. I have divorced more than one friend over politics and do not regret it. But I understand that arena is empty and false, and playing there is nearly pornographic in it's filth and slime and degradation. I cannot offer up a single good reason to save Soddom. And these are people we elect to represent us. What does that say about us? I permit myself really good desserts. Without guilt. No remorse. A touch more jiggle. More fruit. Green veggies. Wine. So much chicken and fish I cluck and have gills, even if my hair growth is minuscule, and my nails have fallen off. I am still a Ninja Warrior, honing my weapons, knowing all of life is a battle, with small oases of respite. I will be careful who is allowed on my island.

How awful is this server?

I just wrote a whole new post about dealing with recovery from eight months of treatment for cancer to become a survivor. The publish button refused to work and so I previewed my rather lovely essay and could not get out of it to publish it. No wonder so many of bloggers use something else. Like wordpress. This gig needs to be over.

Getting closer

I feel like an alien in a bad movie. Think I need fortification. Either a good breakfast or a good drink. Little early, but I'm considering it. Such is the bad influence of Google. I have been away from my blog for six months and have defrayed out this page, but cannot seem to figure out how to publish. I wonder why google chooses to be user unfriendly? I have no intention to lose a whole day trying to restart this exercise in frustration. I got plenty of that for the rest of my life, having completed surgery, chemo, and two kinds of radiation. Add the indignity of hair loss, fingernail loss, and neuropathy, to say nothing about the scary occurrence of friend's and family finding they too are victims of cancer, in their own battles for survival. I don't need to add google stress to my litany.

Still trying to publish

Nothing is working and I think I can't figure this out.