The Miracle of Earth

I have never ceased to be amazed at the miracle of the earth. It is no wonder that from time immemorial human beings have been awed at the magnificent crafting of our universe by a force that caused it all to happen, and named by some, “God.”

Consider the ozone layer that protects us from terrestrial rays of harm. Consider the amazing propinquity between the plants and the human, each giving life to the other and without the other would not exist.

Consider the majesty of creating another life in the womb of a female through the union of egg and sperm, or the scattering of seeds upon the ground.

Consider the vastness of the variety of animal, birds, fish, butterflies, insects, roaming this fragile planet giving all life food and natural fertilizer for our plants.

Consider the dog and cat, our furry companions, ready to give us unconditional love so we know it and should model our life on that kind of love.

Consider the transit of our rock around the scorching sun that gives all life its light and warmth that germinates and grows us into healthy forms, yet gives us night to restore and rejuvenate us.

Consider the moon that lights the darkest path when none else is there. Consider the north star that guides us when we are lost.

Consider the billions of stars revealed to us through the Hubbel telescope, the beauty of which our naked eye cannot even imagine.

Consider the force that keeps all life from bursting apart until our time is done, our work accomplished, our body weary and worn, ready to become dust and rejoin our mystical, magical, place in the universe, perhaps as star, perhaps as soul, perhaps as angel, perhaps as some yet unknown form.

With my God, or with whatever your ancestors named your creator of the universe.

TransParent

I know its a good thing, I really do. However, at my age and with my plate already full, I probably should have said “no.” But…I didn’t. And I’m glad I said “yes.” And so, on October 12th I will take the training with three other folks to be a TransParentUSA facilitator for establishing a local chapter of TransParent. We will be called Delmarva DE TransParent. This will be a badly needed support group for the parents, grandparents, and caregivers of transgender children and adult offspring. For more information on the national organization go to https://transparentusa.org/

Our organizational meeting will be on Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00 pm in the Lewes, Delaware, Public Library at 111 Adams Street. We have invited community leaders in the transgender community to attend so they will know we exist and are supported by a national organization helping us be successful. We are encouraging parents and grandparents to attend to learn about who we are and what we are planning for this group and become members. For more information see a recent interview with Kathy Carpenter Brown, founder of Transliance, a support group for transgender persons, and myself, the parent of a transgender daughter, Episcopal Priest, writer and author, here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=670445380143452


It is my vision that while this will be a group for sharing our stories, it will also be a group where we can provide focused speakers on relevant subjects, education, and resource materials for living, journeying, and accepting transgender offspring.  Information that will help parents understand what it means to be transgender, how rejection deeply affects them, and how to be loving and accepting. I don’t want this group to devolve into “gripe” sessions, but I do want the members to feel it is a safe place to express their fears, disappointments, and concerns.

Blessing

We moved into our rebuilt townhouse in January 2019 after a devastating fire on July 8th, 2018. I love the new place, I chose colors, rearranged the kitchen to my liking, bought all new furniture, applicances, linens, and basically started over. We kept a couple of dressers and a hutch, that while smoke damaged were ones we couldn’t find suitable replacements. So they are now what we call “distressed” pieces. I still have one spot in our West Wing that needs a piece or a chair to complete the room. We’ll find it someday. We settled in, hung our artwork, and thought we were done.

I however, was still not what you would call “comfortable” living there. I knew that it was fear that another fire would start, or that some other disaster like a flood or hurricane would consume us. It was an uneasy feeling rearing its ugly head sometimes stronger than others but always there. I new that it was a sense of spiritual well-being that was lacking. That I needed. That feeling that you have when you are safe, being held in some unseeable blanket of comfort and security.

And so I decided that what I needed was a blessing of our home. A deliberate, vocal, water sprinkling, covering every nook and cranny house blessing. I asked my good friend and priest The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton to preside at the blessing. Here is what she says about house blessings:

In Christianity, blessing a home is an ancient tradition that can be found in Anglicanism, Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity, and Roman Catholicism. House Blessings are usually performed by a priest who sprinkles holy water as s/he walks through every room of the house, accompanied by the occupants of the house and their family and friends. There is a great tradition in the Anglican church to bless homes during The Season of Epiphany. Many Christians when moving into a new home, or after renovating an old one, like to offer the house to God, and ask for a blessing on those who live within it, or might visit.

Perfect. Just what I wanted, no needed. I needed the invocation of God to come into my home and make it holy. I needed God to make me safe. I needed God to be in my head and heart to feel God’s presence and security. And so, on a devilishly hot Saturday afternoon, forty folks came to witness and participate in our blessings. These were folks who had shared their love, help, and generosity with us during the darkest days after the fire. Who provided us with love, clothing, food, love, meals, items to help with daily living, supportive visits, and did I mention love? They sustained as did the other 70 some folks who couldn’t make the blessings.

It was an afternoon full of the Holy Spirit, full of love, and just the thing I needed to relax, feel safe, and enjoy our new home to the fullest.

Medical Cage

It started at home but morphed into a ride on an ambulance gurney rushing an almost comatose me into the hospital.

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An antiseptic scent wafted all around me and a dozen hands grabbed at the sheets under the gurney that had brought me to this place and in one swift tug pulled me from the gurney to the waiting white plastic bed replete with pictures of two supine bodies with little arrows over them, one up, one down and a round red picture of a nurse. Then it happened.  One, two, three, and before I knew it I was entangled in a

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hospital cage.  The cage bars were all flexible, colored, and connected to several monitors that each had its own distinctive beep, buzz, or hum. Each monitor displaying colorful numbers one on top of the other and others that all flashed around on the monitors. 75/45, 37, 93, 15. Stretchy cloth tubes hugged around my calves and ankles then inflated and deflated with regimental regularity.  My current condition on display in orange, pink,and  blue, neon. A slender white stick was inserted under my tongue and a cheerful young girl called out 97.4. 

A tall handsome man with a manicured mustache held up a bag of clear liquid that he put on a stainless steel rod which contained several hooks, Then taking my left arm slowly, painlessly inserted a needle into a vein and said to the nurse next to him, “the I.V. is in,” Then the clear liquid bag began to dribble its saline contents into my body. Without missing a beat, a short, stocky nurse with a ring in her nose, started slapping nippled discs all over my body and then attaching leads to them to another machine next to my bed.  This machine produced a ribbon of tiny squares scratched with lines spiking up and down is a crazed, jagged pattern trying to find its way home. 

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This was my home for the next four days while doctors, nurses, my worried Ralph, and super worried Kristen all tried to determine why I tanked with low blood sugar, very low blood pulse, and too low blood pressure.  After almost every test known to man the mystery was slowly untangled, the machines disappeared, the bars of the cages curled up and put on hooks, the lights dimmed, the people left, and I was discharged. Diagnosis: Too much metoprolol for my heart. Don’t’ know how, don’t know why, but I got sprung from my medical cage and was sent home clutching a $15,000 bill.

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Preparing for Widowhood

It occurred to me last year that at any time I could become a widow.   What triggered this thought was the fact that my spouse had broken his hip and was confined to walking with a walker. Overnight I found myself in the position of having to do everything in and out of the house.  My spouse used to run a lot of errands, do most of the driving, and help me with many of those everyday mundane things we do. He’d make my coffee in the morning, get the paper in the driveway, and help with the laundry. He’d hop in the car and run to the store for a quart of milk or pick up the cleaning. He’d be sure my gas tank was full and drive to anywhere I wanted to go.

I now had to do all those things and drive him everywhere which really cut into my schedule. As the weeks dragged on, I got angrier and angrier at the inconvenience this life hoisted on me but I knew I had to find a way to cope. The first thing I did was realize that some of the things I had to do were just for me and I was already doing some of them albeit with help. Things like washing and folding my own laundry, driving to my writing classes, doctor’s appointments, making my side of the bed, etc. You get the idea.  None of them had to involve my spouse.   Once I took those items off my “gripe” list, things eased up a bit.

Then it occurred to me that I had started preparing myself for widowhood.  I began to preface every task with, “If Ralph wasn’t here…”  And then making my coffee and breakfast every morning was added to the list as well as getting the dog clean water and his breakfast. As time wore on I added clearing the table, going outside to pick up the paper, loading the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher, making out my weekly grocery list, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, pumping my own gas, oh my the list kept growing.  I never realized how many things we shared together.

This morning I was up before my spouse and adult child who lives with us. The house was quiet. I scrambled two eggs, added a bit of shredded cheese, made my coffee, fed the dog and sat down to read the paper. It was quiet. Widowhood I thought is going to be like this.  Later, as I made the bed after my spouse got up, I realized I no longer felt bothered by the additional work of doing the things he could no longer do. If he predeceases me I will be forever doing everything myself but I’ll be ready for it because I am practicing being a widow.  It helps. And, thanks be to God, while he isn’t driving any longer, he now makes coffee in the morning, feeds the dog, clears the table, and helps whenever he can. I am grateful for those things he does.  They help too.

Mother and Child

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Mother and Child

Every year during this season, my mind wanders to the heart of Mary, mother of Jesus. All through the year we focus on her son, Jesus, and his teachings. But, for one day a year we focus on this mere slip of a girl, maybe as young as 12 years old, walking or riding a donkey 70 miles or so, nine months pregnant only to give birth in a barn with only a manger for a bassinet. We don’t really understand the dirt and filth and ugliness of a manger because we don’t call anything by that name anymore. It isn’t as bad as a rat-infested dumpster, but if you have ever seen those feeding troughs in a cow field or a horse barn, that’s it. No amenities, no inside plumbing, no heat, no lights, no turned-down bed with a chocolate mint ready for her pleasure. A manger is a dark, dank, smelly pit of a place, not fit for a freshly born baby.

By comparison, the comforts of my life, which are modest by many standards, seem like the most luxurious trappings. But it isn’t the surroundings of Jesus birth that draws my soul to Mary. It is the fact that I too have given birth and understand what it feels like to be nine months pregnant. It is uncomfortable at best. My eldest was born in the middle of a snowstorm in winter. I try to imagine me riding a donkey or walking in the dark on a rough road to a place where I would give birth, not even knowing if I might have this child in a ditch along the way.

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Any mother who has given birth knows that childbirth is accompanied by pain, lots of it. Labor pains, because we labor to bring a new life into the world. Mary must have had labor pains but no one ever talks about it. Surely, Luke didn’t. But I think about it. I think about not being 21 when my firstborn arrived but, 12, or 13, or 14. I wasn’t even mature enough to care for a child at that age. They’ll say “Well, girls had babies at a younger age back then.”  Sure, I know that. But still, so young, so inexperienced, so innocent, this Mary. I would be scared, maybe Mary was too. So far from home, no mother to comfort her or wipe her brow.

 

And exhausted, probably dirty, maybe thirsty, discouraged that no inn had a bed for them. Perhaps Mary was crying, maybe even sobbing as she told Joseph that the pains were getting worse, closer together. Closer. Closer. Finally, sometime after midnight, in the cold, damp night air, a barn with a manger is all that awaits this Mary, this mere slip of a girl, about to give birth on the streets of Bethlehem. Maybe the straw on the barn floor was fresh and fragrant. I certainly hope something was clean.

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And then, to the cadence of Mary’s screams this special child is born; the screams of his first breath melding with those of his mother. Then, then…silence…as the pain subsides and the babe, wrapped in one of Mary’s scarves, begins to suckle her warm, life-giving mother’s milk. And, I like to think, Mary forgets about the manger and the filth and the exhaustion as she cuddles her newborn son, names him “Jeshua,” and snuggles closer keeping them both warm with God’s almighty, everlasting love.

 

Jonathans

When my second husband was courting me after my divorce, he gave me a copy of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull which we both loved and often talked about.  Later in our courtship, he gave me a gorgeous sterling pendant of several seagulls along with a touching love letter.  The letter described our relationship as those of two seagulls who fly together for a while, separate to fly on their own, but in the end always come back and fly as one. True to his vision, although we are often apart in many things and many ways, to this day we always come together in love.

Five years after our marriage, my Jonathan flew far, far away and hurt me deeply. In some respects that old hurt comes back to haunt me from time to as a fleeting memory now some thirty-five years old. It doesn’t hurt as much, but it is an unwelcome visitor. As we were flying back together lo those many years ago, I thought it might be a good idea to give my errant love a Jonathan reminder similar to my pendant.

Our local jeweler crafted two gold Jonathans in flight together and I selected a light chain on which they would be hung. I didn’t want a heavy chain, but a light one that would be a reminder of our linked marriage vows, but not be suitable to represent a ball and chain.  We both still needed that room to go our separate ways from time to time.

Now, almost thirty-nine years later, my Jonathan wears his pendant with pride, enjoying telling others of our Jonathan story and he has never flown so far away since.  I do too. I also have a similar pair of Jonathans on my charm bracelet.  We call them our “logo,” our love symbols. And, I still have that letter along with all his other love letters. Maybe someday my children will find them and understand what binds us together as two Jonathans.

Hate

There are many days that I hate all the hate around us and all the hate within me. I don’t want to hate anything or anyone. I don’t. But I do. A friend once said that if you hate someone think of them as a baby. I tried that. It worked for three seconds. Then that damn baby grew up and I hated it all over again. Hate is the worse glob of shit in one’s soul imaginable. It stinks. It putrifies you. It contaminates everything around it. It smears its ugly brown all over any love you have in your soul until that is all that is left of you. Hate. I was beginning to get that way almost four months ago over the apparent demise of our country’s values.  And then I was cleansed by fire. The fire that consumed more than half of my home. The love that surrounded me was astonishing, overwhelming, unspeakably generous. Strangers even, among the many friends. Suffering that loss and being washed by the love of those around me, washed that piece of dung out of my soul. Almost all of it. Today, I try to post positive things political. Things like, thank God we have term limits on the presidency.  Things like, please vote, no matter what your party. I try to find good in anything, everything. Even the ants in my kitchen (God’s creatures, so I feed them outside with bags of sugar). The dog vomit on my bed (Oh well, I needed to wash that spread anyway). My daughter yelling at me for some surreal thing I forgot I did (She’s just tired, she didn’t really mean it). Looking for love and the good in God’s creation, not spewing hate, is transformative. Try it. 

Fire, Fire, House on Fire

On Sunday it will be two weeks since our townhouse fire. I am convinced that this will mark our life so that everything will now be “before the fire,” or “after the fire.” Life is like that when big things happen, like before the baby was born, or after mom died, or before the earthquake. An irreversible wall of separation from an old life to a different life. 
 
So where are we now? Well, we are settling into our furnished interim condo (just across the street) and friends and neighbors have brought us groceries, meals, clothes, and donated generously to a fund set up for us by St. Peter’s in Lewes or given us cash, checks, Visa cards. We even got a donation to our Amazon account. All of which will help with the large expenses like insurance deductibles and small unexpected expenses like boxes of kleenex. We are amazed at everyone’s generosity and can’t thank them enough.
We have talked to three fire inspectors, three insurance adjustors, Amanda, our project manager from ServPro, who is overseeing the salvaging and demolition. We have moved our handicap ramps for the second time. We have had Verizon install our FIOS for the second time. We have filled out authorization forms for security deposits and started the process to repair our van which suffered some melted plastic areas. We have sifted through the debris to see what could be salvaged.
 
We are blessed that many items could be saved and will be cleaned and restored. Things like china, crystal, flatware, pots, pans, plates, and utensils. A dozen boxes of canned and sealed food are waiting to be put on our kitchen shelves. Some artwork was unharmed, and there are 15 items at an art restorer to see if they can be resurrected. Clothes not so much saved, but then we didn’t have a lot to begin with and in slower lower Delaware we don’t need a lot of fancy duds. Some of our electronics can be restored – we just got our 40-inch TV back, and we are hopeful “Alexa” will make it. Most of our furniture didn’t survive, but it was showing lots of wear anyway. Smoke is insideous and everywhere even where you didn’t think it could penetrate and is almost impossible to remove. Irreplaceable files and papers were saved but still haven’t found our birth certificates or Baptismal records.
 
We have also managed to do some “normal” things like open our mail, get haircuts, stop for ice cream, and do a bit of grocery shopping.  Next week “normal” will be paying some bills, lunch with a friend, and shopping for slacks for Ralph. We continue to feel blessed that we are alive and can still cuddle with our precious Loki to watch Jeopardy each evening. God is indeed good.

Hacked

My debit card has been hacked four times in the last two years. The last time it was less than a month with my new card. Fraud folks recommended a new account number. Said everything would transfer over from the old account to the new account. No problem. NOT! Ralph and I have just spent two entire days calling businesses that were on autopay and auto-deposit informing them of our new account number. I was on hold with two companies for over 1/2 hour, and with two other companies, it will take two pay periods for the changes to take effect. Thus my income from them will be delayed by at least a week while they mail me a check. And, one of my pension providing companies failed to fax me the forms I needed to fill out. That was after waiting 35 minutes 24 seconds on HOLD!   AND, AND…we haven’t even ventured into Social Security. That is tomorrow’s horror story. My God, don’t corporations realize this is the 21st Century and we are digitized, electronified, and can send a message to Tokyo in a nanosecond, but they can’t change a bank account number in less than 45 days? Sorry for the rant, but this has been a horrific nightmare. Oh, and did I mention that when I went to use Quicken and download my transactions from the bank, it didn’t work? Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

UPDATE: First, after waiting about an hour and a half, the Social Security folks couldn’t be more helpful and the change was accomplished in about five minutes. BUT…because it was today, and not yesterday, MY check will be delayed about a week!  A friend said that there may be one of those “Give me your info” thingy on WaWa gas station pumps.  Who knew? Well, I know mine wasn’t hacked that way because the hack last Sunday was made in – are you ready??? – Istanbul, Turkey for – are you really ready???- 27 cents!!!!! SHM till it almost falls off.  Well, after SSA we decided to go to the bank. That was good news. The bank is transferring all our auto-deposits into the new account and letting those folks know we have a new account number. SO, WHY DID THEY TELL US TO CONTACT THOSE FOLKS, CONFUSE EVERYONE, INCLUDING US, AND CREATE HAVOC??? God knows what will happen when I tackle the bank and Quicken on Monday. I’m too busy living my life to do it tomorrow. My head just fell off!  How will I drink my wine?