Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Time for a change

This blog began in May 2007.  8+ years ago.  Wow.  Some 700+ posts later, it's time for a change.

The blog address refers to a life that I no longer live - I'm not FPresbyterian's Youth Director any longer (fpresyd).  Haven't been for 4 years.  It's time for a change.

My blogging has been irregular but I'm not ready to give it up completely.  Just changing locations.  It's time for a change.

There are several options out there.  I may simply open-wide the private blog I've had for awhile, or I may start over somewhere completely new.  I'll let y'all know when that switch happens, if there is anyone that cares to follow.

Thanks for reading for 8+ years.  It's been a great journey.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A right to life and a right to die

This post was written Thursday, October 22.  I had to let it sit awhile before posting.  

This morning I lay in bed in that half-awake dream state, waiting for my alarm to go off.  I can't tell what time it is by the light coming in my window, these days,  I'm one of the few who actually love the mornings when it is 6am and still dark...but I digress.  After battling with my want to stay asleep and the sounds of life coming up from the valley, I gave in to the knowledge that it was bus-to-work Thursday and I had no wiggle room in my schedule. I rolled over and flipped open my Kindle to check the time.  It was 37 minutes after my alarm was supposed to go off.  I had three minutes to get out the door to make the early bus.  Not happening.

The morning started in a rush.  As I was getting ready and listening to the news, I caught part of a scrolling headline...right to die bill likely to be held up for months...


Memories of June 2014 came flooding back and the moment when I knew we were to leave the hospital and Papa Bear wouldn't be coming with us.  The moment when I leaned over him and said "I don't like this decision but it is your decision to make and I will respect it."  That day Papa Bear made the decision to end his life.  We could have kept him on the machines and hoped and prayed and fought for him to stay alive but it was ultimately his choice...and we all honored that choice.

The tears started to flow.  It wasn't even 7am.

On the bus ride to work I started thinking about my friends D, J and S who are waiting to see if their Dad/Grandpa Hal, after almost two weeks of hoping and praying, will make a rebound.  The ups and downs of the days are eerily familiar.  He is on a ventilator.  There is gunk in his lungs that need to get out.  The question is, is he strong enough...**


I started thinking about modern medicine and science and God and faith and all the things that seem to stand either for or against the right to die bill.  We have come so far, with modern medicine, both for the good and the bad.  We stay alive longer but, do we keep people alive longer than they should be, causing a new set of angst and pain that didn't exist before scientists and doctors figured out a new way of attempting to fight diseases?  Does longevity of life outweigh quality of life?

Do we call it something different when someone is being taken off life support after, in our case, going through treatments in an attempt to save a life, which is why he was one life support to begin with, because it's easier to justify that then when someone doesn't want to wind up there at all, knowing that they have a terminal condition that is untreatable and wants to choose to end their life before the machines and the surgeries and the treatments deteriorate their quality of life?  Why is one right to die justifiable but the other not?

Papa Bear made the choice to end his life.  He chose to fight the leukemia to begin with but he also chose to stop fighting when hope ran out.  If circumstances had been different, if we knew that there was no hope from the beginning, and he wanted to end his life before his quality of life deteriorated, I would have supported that decision.  He had the right to live...he also had the right to die.

It's easy, so easy, to say what is right or what is wrong when you don't have to make this type of decision.  It's another thing altogether to be by the side of the person who is looking down the road, seeing the potholes and road closed signs.  It's easy to judge.  It is far harder to be in the passenger seat, trusting the decisions of the driver.

I woke up 37 minutes late this morning...4 hours in and it's already been a long, emotional day.

**Addendum: Hal was taken off the ventilator and a few days later he passed away surrounded by his family.  I will never again hear the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" without thinking of Hal.  Godspeed, Hal.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pondering change courtesy of The Walking Dead

Somehow I became a fan of the TV show The Walking Dead.  If you know me in real life, you are probably just as surprised as I am. I don't like horror movies and do NOT like to be scared.  Zombies are not my usual fare. I am not ashamed to admit, I watch the show with my finger on the mute button. The zombie moans and sounds of heads being bashed in are too much for me. (Yo Momma would be recounting the story, right about now, of how when I was little I was watching something and got scared, prompting me to cover my ears and say "I don't want to watch, I don't want to watch."  It was the noise that was the problem.)

I got sucked into The Walking Dead by one of AMC's marathons.  I think I originally started somewhere in Season 3.  I got to know the characters after they had been entrenched in this zombie apocalypse for awhile.  They had this zombie thing pretty much under their belts and were dealing with the human conundrum.  I never went back to watch the first seasons, until the latest AMC marathon.   I got sucked in, again, but this time for another reason.  I sat there, looking back to the beginning of the show, amazed at how much changed in such a short time. Not only in the story line but in the characters themselves.  I "met" old-but-new-to-me characters.  I marveled at the differences in the voices of characters.  Really, go listen to Glenn in season one and then go listen to Glenn now...his voice has changed.  I almost didn't recognize Carol.  And Darryl...WOW!  He actually talked, a lot, those first couple of seasons...and his hair was really short.

It's just a TV show but marveling at the differences between season one and season five, I began to think about real-life.  We all go through changes, most are not nearly as extreme as the zombie apocalypse, but many are extreme and really tough to deal with just the same.  I wonder what I would marvel at if I was able watch a movie of my life...or my friends lives...or my family members.

I know that I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago or even a year ago.  I can look at family members and friends around me and say the same thing.  Our circumstances change us.  We adapt and, hopefully, grow with each new situation we find ourselves in.

The last few years have brought about a lot of changes in my life.  Some expected, some unexpected.  There are many I would like to go back and get a do-over on, but one thing is for certain, with each change comes new growth, new vision, new wisdom, new opportunities and a reminder that I have a responsibility to make something out of my life, right now.  I can just sit by and watch the days go by or I can choose to get up, to walk out the door each morning and participate in the life I've been given, changes and all.

Maybe, that's why I've connected so much with The Walking Dead.  These characters have found themselves in a situation where they are forced to adapt to the changes of the world around them, or die.  It's fascinating to see the metamorphosis of the characters as they learn to deal with the situations in front of them and fight to survive, as best they can, accepting the good and the bad inside of themselves.

Sunday night, as exhausted as I was from a super long day, I found myself staying awake, waiting for 9pm and the beginning of a new season of The Walking Dead.  It was gross and awesome and there was more humor amidst the darkness than I had noticed before.  I actually laughed out loud a couple of times...huh, change?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pull up a chair, let's talk

On a Facebook page recently, there was a question - "When you meet God, how will you introduce yourself?"  I believe the question came from a book.  Since I haven't read the book and don't know the context of the question, I took the question at face value.  I was reading through the comments and thinking about my own reaction when I realized "that'll blog".

I believe God will know me when we meet, and I believe I will know God when the time comes, so I don't know that I will introduce myself.  Or, maybe I will say, "God, it's nice to see you face to face...now I have some questions."

I would like to sit and chat with God about those things which perplex me.  I would like to chat with God about all the things we God-followers say God stands for and really hear what God has to say.  I would like to know what God's true stance is on all the hot button topics - and would like the chance to say "A-ha!  I KNEW it!" but that's my ego talking. I would like to chat with God about the big picture, about the hard stuff that I've dealt with, the loss, the hurt, the confusion, the emptiness and the longing.  I would like to chat with God about that verse in Psalms - the desires of your heart one - and then unfold what the desires of my heart really were as opposed to my brain conjured desires.  I have a hard time telling the difference between the two sometimes.

I would like to ask God about the roads I've taken, the choices I've made and where I could have taken a different path.  I'm merely curious at what God would have done differently.

I would like to ask the silly questions:
- Why mosquito's?
- For that matter - black widows - rattlesnakes - scorpions - you get the picture.
- Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
- What was the fruit on the tree of knowledge?

There are tougher questions.  Questions that come up when I am in low spots, when I'm wondering what life is really all about.  Questions that plague me when things happen and people make remarks that fly in the face of my experiences of what is deemed God's nature.  Questions that will remain between me and God.

Yes, I have a lot of questions for God, from the silly to the serious.

I've had people tell me that when I meet God, I won't really want to ask any questions.  To which I silently say, "Thanks for pointing out how ridiculous I seem to you.  I'll stop talking now."  That doesn't stop me from having questions...and from hoping that when we meet, the God I follow would look at me, after my initial approach, and say, "Pull up a chair, let's talk."

Friday, September 11, 2015

I am concerned

I have concerns.  I have a lot of concerns.  I just don't know what to do with them.  Would you like a list?

I am concerned that modern day Christianity is being reduced to a list of do's and don'ts, and who is and isn't acceptable rather sharing the love, grace and peace of Jesus.  Sometimes I think Jesus just doesn't fit into the mold of modern day Christianity at all!

The game seems to be about "winning souls" for heaven.  I don't like that game.  If the whole point in knowing Jesus is going to heaven, why do we then stick around earth for so long?  Why doesn't Jesus just snatch us up the moment we believe?  It bothers me, a lot, that the people I am around seem to focus solely on that one area.  I'm not in the club because I get a "get out of hell free" pass.  That doesn't hold a lot of appeal.  What does have a whole lot of appeal is putting the words of Jesus into action, loving others, helping the poor and needy, being a light - a ray of hope- in the darkness, those things appeal to me.  That's why I'm in "the club".

I am concerned that politicians are too focused on women's bodies and the things that women SHOULDN'T be allowed to be allowed to do with THEIR bodies.  I am really bothered by the movement to restrict women's rights, in general. It concerns me that the work of generations of women, to be treated fairly and equally, seems to be taken for granted.  There's still work to do, ladies!

I am concerned that one portion of the movement to restrict women's rights is focusing on an organization that performs many worthwhile services to women who need health care.  Many more services than the one that is garnering the most attention.

I am concerned that I am plodding through life, just merely existing.  I'm not sure what to do about that one yet.

I am concerned about our nation's fascination with guns and the ideal that guns will "protect" us.

I am concerned that we are so politically polarized as a nation, we can't even listen to each other.

I am concerned about the potential of an El Nino year and the potential rain it will bring to our very dry state.  I foresee many landslides in the winter if the rain comes down, down, down.

I am concerned about the church I attend and the viability for the future.

I am concerned with the amount of time the man with the really awful hair running for President gets on TV and in the news media.  I'm extremely concerned that people are actually taking him seriously.

Switching it up - with all due respect to Papa Bear, I am REALLY grateful he isn't alive during this Presidential election.  He would be going through the roof.  I miss him, a lot, but I don't miss some of those political discussions (and I agreed with him 95% of the time.)

I am concerned...I am concerned...I am concerned.  Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A tale of a purse, a phone and a video

I got a pretty new purse some months ago.  It's quilted with a black and white print. The other day, I was looking at my pretty new purse and thought "it's time to wash this!"  The white was looking a little more yellow in places.  Gross.

So Sunday, I came home from church and a quick stop at G.G's to turn on the water for her dogwood tree (being a dutiful niece following a text from her uncle who was thinking about his mom) and gathered up clothes to wash.  I remembered my yellowing purse and grabbed it, emptying the contents onto the coffee table.  I put everything in the HE washer, hit start and went back out to go back to G.G's house to turn off the water (it had been about 20 minutes total).

As I drove the mile and a half or so, it occurred to me that I didn't have my cell phone with me and my brain began to backtrack.  The last place I remembered having it was when I was sitting in the chair, with my purse.  Hmmm.  I finished what I was doing at G.G's and headed back home.

I arrived at home and searched for my phone.  High and low.  With dawning horror, I called my number, listening for the buzz so I could locate it...and it went straight to voicemail.  CR*P.  I knew where it was.  At that moment I heard the washer slow to switch cycles and I hightailed it to the bathroom.  Opening the washer, I reached in, felt around and found my phone.

And I fell apart.  Not because of the phone.  I could care less about the phone.  It wasn't about the pictures.  Yes, there were some great pics on the phone but they were on a MicroSD card that was more likely to be salvageable.  No, I fell apart because on that phone is a video from December 2013 of Papa Bear and Little Miss P.  It was after dinner one night and she was using the napkin rings and napkins to decorate her Grandpa.  At one point she draped the napkin over his head, placed the gold napkin ring on his ear and proclaimed "He's a pirate!"  She was giggling, he was giggling, sitting patiently and enjoying the moment.  The video is only a minute and 35 seconds long but it's the only thing left where I can hear Papa Bear's laugh and his voice.  Where I can see him move, blinking to adjust the contact lens that was knocked off his eye in the fun, holding onto Little Miss P so she didn't fall off, and in the final seconds, leaning forward and to hug her.  I fell apart fearing that one last connection was lost.

We aren't a family that has done a lot of video recording, nor are we so good with taking photos, though I have plenty of photo's to remind me of good times with Papa Bear.  It's the sound of his voice and his laugh that I so desperately long to hear again.  As I sat pulling apart the phone, drying off everything I could reach, googling how to dry out a phone and MicroSD card, my heart was breaking again.

Yo Momma and I had made plans with some friends, and so after doing what I could to salvage those items, we left home.  I broke down on the car ride to our friends house.  The looming sense of ONE MORE loss just too much to handle.  Yo Momma cried with me as I shared my worries.

I've held myself together over little, silly things these past 15 months.  But this one didn't seem so little or so silly.  This one was tangible.  I can watch that video over and over again and for a minute and a half, I can see and hear Papa Bear again.

As I contemplated my phone that was sitting at home drying out, with the potential only copy of an irreplaceable video trapped inside, a glimmer of hope suddenly pushed it's way to the surface.  When I was putting together the slideshow for Papa Bear's celebration of life party, had I transferred the video from my phone to the laptop?  I patiently waited through the movie and ice cream with my friends (and enjoyed the time) but once we got home, I turned on the laptop and stared at it with the fervor of that lady who starred in the Mervyn's ad's years ago thinking, "Open, open, open."

A few clicks later, I opened a file and breathed fully for the first time in a few hours.  The panic eased as I watched Papa Bear and Little Miss P on the screen, playing, laughing and hugging.  I heard his voice, listened to his laugh and saw Papa Bear again.  I cried and cried and cried.  I hadn't lost that connection after all.

My washed phone is truly dead.  I have a new one.  Phones are easily replaceable.  I've lost most of my contacts but I can get many of those back.  The MicroSD card works.  I've transferred the photos onto a flash drive.  I've backed up the video onto a flash drive and will be putting it on a DVD and Dropbox.  I'm not taking any chances.  All was not lost, and for that I am very grateful.

"He's a pirate!"
 *Sorry, I couldn't fix the photo so please excuse the eye glare.*

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflections of a Hurricane Katrina volunteer- part 1

10 year have gone by since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.  9 1/2 years ago I made my first trek to Pearlington, Mississippi with a group of 20 teenagers and adults, ready to do whatever we were asked to do to help with the clean-up and recovery work.  We never expected to feel so tied to that community that we would go back, twice a year, for the next 6 years.  It just happened.

Mississippi changed me.  I found a part of myself there I wasn't aware existed.  I learned some hard lessons on those trips, and did a lot of growing up...A LOT.  I KNOW the grace of God.  Not just because of my experience with God's grace but because of the stories of those with whom we came into contact.  On that very first trip, one of the women at the First Missionary Baptist Church of Pearlington told our group "I'm so grateful for this storm!  If it hadn't happened I wouldn't have gotten to meet all of you!"  As I drove through town that week, as I pulled moldy sheet rock off the inside walls of the 2nd story of a house, as I heard the stories of the team each night, and slept on Army cots in a corrugated plastic pod, I couldn't really fathom being grateful for the storm.  It had done so much damage and taken so much away.

And yet...and yet all these years later I can say I am grateful for the storm.  I am grateful for the opportunities we had to make a difference.  To help others.  To make new friends.  To be light in the darkness. To look into the eyes of a stranger and know that we had helped to bring hope, laughter, goodness back into their lives in whatever small way we could.

It's been three years since I've been back to Mississippi.  Thankfully, there hasn't been a hurricane in that time frame.  I would go back in a heartbeat, though, if there was or if Mr. Ben called and said "I need help."  I would be on a plane as fast as possible.

There's a Mississippi state sign, on the edge of town that reads "Mississippi - It's like coming home".  I'm not sure why - my liberal, California woman beliefs definitely have a hard time meshing with the conservative Mississippi culture - but that sign felt true.  Every time we drove across the state line it felt like I was going home.  I miss it.

I want to go back.  I'm ready to rent a camp on the Bayou and sit in the humid breeze listening to the insects buzz.  To go with Mr. Ben and Miss Sue up the road to get the best fried chicken ever made by the man who will serenade you as it cooks. I'm ready to drive through the neighborhoods and see the changes made.  To sit on the porch at the Pretty House and watch the neighbors drive by, listening for the dogs at Mr. Sam's.  I want to go to the Turtle and eat Fried Shrimp po'boys while watching for the alligator.  I'm ready to go back and wander through the shops in Bay St. Louis and have coffee at the Mockingbird Cafe.  To drive along the coastline, to walk on the beach and put my toes in the water of the Gulf.  I'm ready to go back and watch for armadillos as we drive along the road (though, the armadillos might not want me to go back, I only see dead ones).  To burn my mouth on the hottest (spiciest?) corn on the cob ever  while trying desperately not to think about the yellow stuff that comes out of the head of the crawfish as I chow down.

Hurricane Katrina changed the Gulf Coast.  For many there wasn't anything to be grateful for about that storm.  I won't disagree.  Hurricane Katrina changed me and for that I am eternally grateful.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A text message reminder

My phone buzzed with a new text message..."Hey Britt!  What was the name of the tall kid that went to the Giants game?"

Back in July, I and other H.S. youth group leaders took a group of students up to the SF Giants game.  It's a tradition, round here, and one that I look forward to every year.  This year I had three students in my car.  One young lady going to be a Junior and two young men going to be Freshmen.  The car ride was interesting.  My Junior friend has a lot of energy and talks a lot, no matter what, but combined with one squirrel-y going to be Freshmen boy and his tall friend, the car ride was extra fun.

So was the walk to the car to the stadium, the hours in the stadium, the walk back from the stadium to the car and the car ride home.  Once back at the church, the two boys headed home before my Junior friend, so we sat in the parking lot and talked.  We talked about the boys.  We talked about being freshmen and going to a new school.  We talked about how one of the boys was going to her school and didn't know anyone.  It was then that I said, "It would really be cool, on the first day of school, if you said Hi to Tall Guy if you see him on campus."  She looked at me and said "I can do that."  No questions, no hesitation, just an understanding that it can be tough to be at a new school and she could do a little bit to make someone feel welcomed.

School starts this Wednesday.  My Junior friend remembered.  If she sees Tall Guy (we did figure out his name), she'll make a point to say Hi.  Probably in her awkwardly social, goofy way...which is part of what makes her so lovable!

That, right there, is what keeps me attached to Youth Ministry.  One simple conversation and one text message that reported she was listening, she remembered and she intends to follow through.  A part of me didn't think she would remember...but then that text message came through.  My heart is smiling.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nature's fireworks

I sat under the stars last night.

In the coolness off the early dark of night.

I sat looking at the sky, watching for the zip and swoosh of meteorites.

The sounds of cars, zipping and swooshing on the roads through town came filtering up to my place on the deck.

A sudden splash and sounds of laughter alerted me to the neighbor boys enjoying their pool. "Marco." "POLO!"

I sat watching the sky for movement and saw the lights of planes heading to and from the two big airports 30 and 60+ miles away.  There were a lot of planes.

The neighbors below were out watching the sky as well. Lovely lady neighbor ooohed and aaahhed as a meteorite slashed across the sky.

I leaned my head back on the chair, fighting to stay awake...watchful...hopeful...THERE!

An owl softly booted somewhere nearby.

The light clicked on in the garage...we have rodents.

My eyes grew heavy but I didn't want to leave my place on the deck.

Zip! Swoosh! "Wow!" I said to the night sky.

The coolness started to chill my tired body. I had to get up in 6 hours...I could just sleep here. Maybe wake up in the middle of the night to view more of nature's fireworks.

One more, just one more...beautiful.

Time for bed.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Happiness is..

  • Driving teenagers on adventures.
  • Baking with friends and learning a new recipe...Thanks Margaret!
  • An I-Pod filled with songs that bring happy memories.
  • Cool evenings that take away the heat of the day.
  • Quinoa salad...thanks K for the inspiration!
  • Reading M's blog.
  • Texts that remind me I'm not the only awkward one in the world.
  • Hanging out with Yo Momma.
  • Thursday nights commute home.
  • Netflix on my Kindle.
  • 3 CHP officers on the big hill during today's commute.  A good reminder to drive slower and hopefully a sign of better presence in the weeks to come!
  • A new wall hanging and a new arrangement of items on another wall.
  • Hair dye...I'm just not ready for the world to see all the gray hair on my head.
  • Skirts.  I'm loving wearing skirts this summer...though the wind could be a little lighter when I'm outside.  There have been some close calls with the whipping wind.
  • Books.
  • Shakespeare on the lake!
  • The anticipation of seeing plays in Ashland.
  • An upcoming trip that will include seeing friends in San Diego and...
  • A couple of days in Disneyland and a stay at the Paradise Pier Hotel. I'm so excited!
  • A new desk at work.
  • Miss Nancy.
  • A new season of The Walking Dead...two weeks until it begins.  Do not ask me how I became addicted to this show.  It's very unlike me.
  • Photos of Papa Bear.
  • God who loves me...despite me.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Howl at the moon

Friday night my neighbor was howling at the moon. 

It seemed more than a little strange for this neighbor.  It was a little more strange when I went out to see if I could see the "blue moon" and realized it wasn't even visible from my neighbors yard.  It was still behind the hill, way out of view of the neighbor. 

Then I came across an article - little Maddy's mom had suggested that at 8:30pm on the night of the blue moon, people wishing to pay their respects to Maddy howl at the moon.  Maddy loved wolves.

I couldn't howl at the moon.  All I could do was cry.  Cry for an eight year old whose life, whose innocence was so senslessly taken away.  Cry for a Mom who was howling at the moon with gut wrenching sorrow.  Cry for a community that is in mourning, in shock and trying to answer the question, "Why?"  Cry for a 15 year old boy who is sitting in jail - for the hurts of his own that no one ever saw.

I listened to the neighbor howl at the moon, a haunting, lonely sound and no longer found it strange but healing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The unthinkable

She was 8.  The last time she was seen she was doing what an 8 year-old should be doing, riding her scooter with her helmet on around the courtyard where she lived, waiting on her friend to come play.  A courtyard with surveillance cameras.

There's a photo, a little blurry, from that surveillance camera of her.  Helmet on to protect her if she should fall.  It didn't protect her...

This little 8 year old girl was reported missing Sunday.  According to the Police Chief she was last seen a little after 5pm.  At 6:08pm she was reported missing.  By 8pm the news was spreading the word and social media took it from there, spreading her photo far and wide.  That night and the next day people were canvassing, putting up flyer's, desperately looking for this little 8 year old girl -the police, the sheriff, the FBI, locals, friends, family.  The river, the beach, the woods, the neighborhood, the apartment complex it was searched over and over and over again.  Her disappearance soon made national headlines...or at least Yahoo news.  Where had this 8 year old gone?

On social media the comments started coming in - "She lives across the street from a homeless shelter", "has anyone checked the homeless shelter", "don't forget the homeless shelter".  The homeless shelter was searched.  She wasn't there.  (I was amazed at how quickly blame was placed on those who don't have a building they call home.  That type of reaction seems as wrong to me as racism.)

By 8pm last night, 24 hours later, the news was reporting again, this little 8 year old girl had been found, dead, in a recycling bin.  The person under arrest, a 15 year old boy who lived in the same apartment complex.  Someone she may have seen or known before.  The police are reporting that it seems she went willingly into an apartment with the boy.  The Police Chief at today's news conference, when asked, said "We don't know the exact time of death at this moment but my feeling is that she was dead before we got the call that she was missing."  I watched his face as he made that statement...there was a soul deep weariness there...the search had been lost even before it had begun.

She died at the hands of someone she probably knew.  Not someone from the homeless shelter across the street.  Not a stranger.  Not the unknown bad guy that we all fear but someone she probably knew.  The alleged bad guy is a neighbor.

Praying tonight for a Mom and a Dad and extended family who are dealing with the unthinkable.

Praying tonight for a Mom who watched her son be arrested for allegedly doing the unthinkable.

Praying for my community that is in mourning...that is angry...that has questions...that is stunned.

Praying for a boy who has been accused of the unthinkable. (That is admittedly more difficult than the other three prayers.)


The last photo of this little 8 year old girl is a blurry surveillance photo of her riding her scooter, helmet on her head. How I wish it could have protected her.

Praying tonight for Maddy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


When I started this commuting thing, three+ years ago, I never really thought about how long I would be driving over the Big Hill.  It has gotten old. 

Now, I don't have the commute that some people do down in Southern California, where the road just washed out and now a 1 hour straight commute has become a 3 hour round-a-bout commute.  Or when going 10 miles down the road takes 50 minutes.  My commute is 35 miles, one way.  It can take an hour to an hour and 45 minutes, depending on the day or the time of year.   Yesterday it was 1 hour and 40 minutes.  There was an accident.  This morning it was 1 hour and 15 minutes...I missed the accident by 10 minutes.

On my computer at work, on my Kindle, on my cellphone I have the CHP traffic website and SIG alert bookmarked.  I check them before I leave work.  I check them before I leave home.  I check them while on the road when traffic stops and we sit and sit and sit. (Not while the car is in motion, and, yes, I still know it is illegal here in CA.)  More than once I have made different decisions about going straight home after work because of those websites. 

When Papa Bear was in the hospital, I started driving myself, instead of taking the commuter bus, to work every day.  Before that I was pretty much a regular bus rider.  I'm very irregular since.  I've needed the hour plus to myself each morning, preparing myself for the day and the hour plus on the way home to decompress.  I've gotten good at crying and driving.

I've gotten used to sitting in traffic. 

I know that the right lane, on the Big Hill, usually moves faster when we are in stop and go traffic and going down the hill. 

I can tell the people who are "city folk" and don't know how to drive the windy road of the Big Hill.  Here comes a curve...BRAAAAAKKKKKEEEE.  It's straight ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM.

I know that those who weave through traffic are usually the cause of some of the traffic as those they cut off slam on their brakes. 

I also know those who weave and race through traffic are usually just two or three cars ahead of me at the light in town.

I know that when I am in a hurry, I make stupid decisions in the car.  I work really hard to not be a hurry. 

I know that there are more people traveling to work in the Big City who have to travel the Big Hill, which means there are more people employed and that is a good thing.  So I work on my patience and get up a little earlier or stay a little later and just go with the flow as best I can.

That doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated with those who won't move out of the left lane of traffic and let people who want to go faster pass them.

I know that the roads around work get super busy at 5pm and if I leave after 5pm, it's a guaranteed 20 minutes to go three blocks.  If I leave around 4:30pm it's not so bad. 

I've learned that no matter what direction I go after 5pm, it will take 20 minutes to get to the main freeway, no matter what.

I've also learned that in heavy traffic, people make up their own rules of the road...which pisses off this rules girl to no end!

After three years, the biggest thing I've learned in commuting is a huge appreciation for the Moms and Dads who commute everyday to their jobs.  Those who have children at home waiting for dinner or who need to do homework or have soccer practice or gymnastics or swimming or whatever it may be.  I get home and I don't usually have any responsibilities but to water the plants, feed the birds, eat dinner (and if Yo Momma is home she is most kind to have dinner ready) and get ready for the next day.  I'm in awe of the Moms and Dads who commute over an hour to work every day.  They are awesome.

That said, after three+ years the commute has gotten old.  I would not be sad to not have to commute anymore for work.  I would be very happy with a 10 minute commute again. Maybe one day it will happen.

Gotta go.  It's time for bed...I have an hour plus commute in the morning.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

This is grief

There are moments, say at a Baseball game when the bases are switched out after 3 innings, when the thought runs through my head, "When I get home I'll ask Dad why they do that."

Or I drive the Prius and look down to see that the MPG is at 52 and I think, "I need to take a picture and text it to Dad and prove that I can get good MPG in this car too."

Or every time I walk by his computer.

Or when I walk in the door at the Tahoe house.

Or when I really, really, really want to talk politics with him.

Or when I go to make a change on the laptop and find the icon that says "Dad's phone".

Or I really need a Dad hug.

Or when I fill the bird feeders because he isn't here to do it.

Or I see someone riding their bike on the road and for just a moment it looks like my Dad.

Or when someone looks at me and says "I thought about you and your Dad the other day."

These moments and so many more continue to tell the story of my walk with grief.  It's the daily reawakening to the reality of life without my Dad.  A year and a month hasn't lessened the pain.  A year hasn't healed the wound, though it's not quite as gaping and oozing as before.  The healing continues.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Today's truth

I keep starting posts and not finishing them.

I have things to say.

I start strong but I can't get through to the end, to the final thought or statement.

36 unfinished posts sit in my draft folder.

I have things to say...

I just can't find the energy, the creativity, the drive to finish my thoughts.

That is today's truth.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What's the context?*

A few weeks back I sat in on a discussion/exploration of Genesis 2.  It was led by a professor of Religious Studies at the church I currently attend.  As the discussion unfolded, I became more and more aware of how context can influence the Bible.  Understanding who the text was originally written to (and by), what was normative understanding for their culture at the time and how certain words could have different meanings are important to interpreting the text itself.  It wasn't a new thought, more a reaffirmation of conclusions I have come to on this journey of faith.  I left the discussion that night excited and inspired.  As an aside, a Bible Study group I had been a part of a few years back, took on Genesis 2 and pulled it apart FOR WEEKS.  We came away with many of the same conclusions the professor of Religious Studies had made that evening...yes!

The day or so after the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, there was a national news agency that attempted to change the intentions of the shooter.  The original context of the incident seemed clear to me; the white culture in the United States continues to struggle with racism, with seeing others with different colored skin as lesser than or as a threat and this young man, in particular, choose to act on his fears and racism.  9 people died because of that continued struggle with racism.  Yet, because it happened in a church, this news agency kept trying to change the context...it wasn't about race, it was about belief in Jesus.  I'm not buying it.

The headlines I saw last Monday morning on my Yahoo page attempted to take the context of words spoken by the President of the United States and manipulate them to have people jump to a conclusion without reading the actual statement made by POTUS. (Yes, I have watched every episode of West Wing...multiple times.  Thanks, Netflix!)  The actual statement is bold and truthful...we have a long way to go in this country in regards to racism.

As a white, middle class woman I take a lot for granted.  I haven't experienced much in the way of discrimination.  I can't put myself in that context...but I can watch, listen, learn and change my own way of thinking.  I can speak up in my social and family circles when something is said that sets off my racism radar.  I can choose my own words carefully and wisely.

It's past time to starting looking at the context of racism in the culture of the United States.  It's time for us to re-examine our ideas about those who "look" different and stop feeding the fear that keeps racism alive.  As a wise person once said, "When you do what you always do, you get what you always get."  It's time to do something different.

I'm not going to try to change the context of the events of the last two weeks...but I am going to start to change me.

*This post was powered by my respect for Opinionated Friend and the freedom she has to express her opinions.  Many times I get stuck in fear of saying something that will offend others.  A recent discussion with OF reminded me that it's okay to say what I'm feeling and thinking...a well timed lesson indeed.  Thanks, OF! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Last spring, Youth Pastor friend made the decision to step away from full-time ministry.  Can I just say, for the record, the timing between Youth Pastor friend making his decision official and leaving and my Dad's diagnosis and death really, really *ahem* stunk.  But that's all for another post.  Anyway, Youth Pastor friend's last day was the last Sunday in July 2014.  A day later we learned there was a new Children and Youth Director starting the following Friday.  A day later.

Side note:  On behalf of volunteers in churches, I humbly ask that church hiring committees include at least one person who is involved in the specific ministry in question in the conversation about who is being hired...they don't have to be on the committee but at the very least ask for their input and then keep them in the loop about where the process stands.  I cannot emphasize that last part enough.

It was a rocky start.  The volunteer leaders were incredibly offended by the lack of communication (or warning) of someone new coming on board.  Eventually, I sat down with the Lead Pastor and had a very open and honest conversation about the whole thing...as a volunteer and as former youth director.  It was an incredibly wonderful, refreshing conversation.

The New Director was gracious and willing to work with the team and couldn't be faulted for the beginning.  However, new beginnings are always difficult, especially with a group of 15 High School Seniors who just didn't want to adjust to a new person.  It was tough going.  As we moved farther and farther along, the High School leaders were all coming to a realization.  All five of us, unbeknownst to the others, decided we were done.  D.O.N.E.  It wasn't healthy for us to continue as volunteers, knowing that we were having a hard time with some changes and feeling as though we were part of the reason why the group wasn't able to move forward.   And then New Director announced his resignation.

It was when we sat down with some church leaders to discuss how things were going to proceed (yes, I pushed that meeting) that we all figured out just close we had all come to quitting.  As we talked, it became apparent that we could keep things running through the end of the school year but after that two of the leaders definitely couldn't continue, one leader could continue but only until August, another leader was on the fence and really needed a break and then there was me.  Four years ago, I could have run the program all summer by myself...when I was in full-time ministry!  Now, there's not a chance.  My 45+ hour a week job/commute barely allows me to be a competent volunteer.

So, the volunteers agreed to run weekly meetings through the end of the school year.  We've been very open about our intentions with the Deacon board.  We just can't keep going at the rate we're going.  It's painful.  It's hard to seemingly walk away from the students and this program that we have invested ourselves so deeply in, but this youth ministry train needs a really good engineer who is going to put time and energy it and make it work.  We just can't keep pushing the train with a missing wheel, a wonky track and no coal or steam to power it.

Parents and church members have not been afraid to let me/us know just how they feel about the lack of youth group over the summer.  I walked into church this morning and the person leading the announcements and prayer* started off by saying how disappointed she and her 14 year old son were that there wasn't anything happening over the summer.  Not in a "we're so thankful for the volunteers who kept this going for the last three months and know they need a break" understanding kind of way, either.  Then the person reading the scripture said pretty much the same thing.  And then someone after church stopped me and said the same thing.  Not one of those individuals volunteered to help do anything about the situation, though.  They just lamented at the lack of something happening.

I left church this morning really, really tired, discouraged and done in a whole new sense.  I don't need daily thank yous or to be told how wonderful we are, but I do need to hear grace, compassion and understanding amongst the laments.  Sadly, in this situation, that has been lacking.  One of the youth volunteers said on Wednesday night, as we were kind of debriefing and looking ahead, "I won't be coming to this church again."  Wednesday night I was frustrated with that statement...this morning I got it.

*She also chastised those of us who come late to church on Sundays...and then her sons and husband walked into the sanctuary five minutes later.  Words fail.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A year and a day...

The last family photo we took together was found on my Dad's computer just days after he died.  He had this way of taking photo's and then editing them and never doing anything with them or at least we family members never saw them again.  As soon as I saw it, I remembered taking the photo in the house in Tahoe, Thanksgiving night 2013.

We took several photos, with Dad setting up the camera and trying to figure out the timer and then rushing to sit on the arm of the couch.  Little did we know, as we sat there giving him a bad time, that would be the last official "O" family photo we would have.

The man sitting on arm of the couch on the left, in this photo, just shouldn't have died so soon. There is a part of me that wishes he would just get up off the arm of the couch, walk in the room and say "Gotcha!" and erase all the pain and sorrow of the last year.

 What I wouldn't give for just one more family photo.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memories of Memorial Day

Last year I spent Memorial Day sitting by Papa Bear's bedside, with the gradual realization hitting my soul...I was losing my Dad.  By the end of the day, I had first hand experience with what happens when a crash team is called into a room at a hospital. I stood in the corner, trying really hard to be brave and strong.  Really, I was falling apart.

The crash team was accompanied by the hospital chaplain, a woman, which made me extremely happy.  She made her way into the room, stood by my side, put her arm around me and said, "This is your dad?  Can I pray?"  I'm pretty sure I fervently said yes, please and then she prayed.  I don't remember the prayer but I remember the moment and the comfort I received, being reminded that God was there.

The past year has been tough.  Really, really tough.  In the last year I've realized that I didn't just lose my Dad that week, I lost one of my best friends.  The friend that greeted me each day when I came home.  The friend that I talked politics with, watched Giants (baseball) with and the Jon Stewart show on occasion.  I lost a friend who helped me see beyond myself and my little world, who urged me to explore, cheered me on and made me laugh, even when I really didn't want to laugh - I cannot tell you how frustrated that skill made me as a teenager!

A month or so after Papa Bear died, I was in Star$ and ran into a friend.  It was one of those days where I had woken up crying and just continued to cry throughout the day.  I was holding it as together as I could, while getting my coffee before going to work, when I saw this friend.  He came over and said "How are you?" and the tears started again.  This friend looked at me, with the wisdom of someone who knew about grief and said "It comes in waves.  Just ride the waves."

This week, I'm going to be riding the waves.  The waves of memories of the week when life changed irrevocably, the waves of pain that have been hidden under a protective layer for a few months, the waves of loss and loneliness.  Yep, this week I'm going to be riding the waves.  I miss my Dad...a lot.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Getting back in the game

My blog feed reader, Feedly, was filled today with blog posts by individuals that are titled "How To...".  I looked at those titles this morning and closed Feedly without reading a single one.  I may be in one of those moods but I just don't want to read a "how to" post on being a better Christ follower or person, the formulaic sound of those titles just turned me off.  As I've mulled over it I realized that blogging, in the years since I started (8 years ago this coming Sunday!), has changed.

I rarely read blog posts about a regular persons life anymore.  I read sermons, or "how to's" or blog articles bemoaning about the changing culture of Christianity.  I read blog articles telling me how to live a better life or the 15 steps I need to take to be a better person but rarely, anymore, do I giggle over stories about someone's day or sit and cry in a crowded airport as someone I have never met shares their heartache over lost relationships in a heart wrenching blog post. What I want to read is about the messy, mundane, at-times spectacularly unsuccessful regular persons life.

I miss those posts.  I miss the humanity in those posts.  I miss the connections. I miss blogging, myself.  So, here and now, I vow to return to regular blogging (minimum once a week).  I'll be one messy, mundane, at-times spectacularly unsuccessful regular person who shares her messy, mundane, at-times spectacularly unsuccessful life with those who care to read about it...one blog post at a time.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Well Hello...

Long time no see.

Yes, I still exist.  Yes, I do remember I have a blog.  Yes, I do miss writing here.

I'm finding writing difficult, these days.  My work days have me up between 5:45 and 6:30am, depending on the day, out the door by 7:25 (at the latest) and home between 5:45pm and 6:30pm...depending on the day. There is a span between Tuesday evening and Thursday evening that I usually don't even see Yo Momma...and we live in the same house!  The last thing I want to do have energy for when I get home from work, in the two or so hours before I go to bed, is think and write a blog post.

The weekends aren't much better.  Being a true introvert, my Saturdays are usually spent trying to recharge so that I can call up all the energy I need to pretend to be an extrovert for work on Monday...and church on Sunday.  Add in the weight of grief and depression I've been dealing with for awhile now, and well, I just don't want to think very hard on the weekends either.

The time that inspiration does strike I'm usually either,

  1. In the car driving to or from work.
  2. At work.
Neither of those times are conducive to writing a blog post, so the blog sits, waiting for attention.

Actually, a lot of things, and people, sit waiting for attention.  I just don't have the energy, mental, physical or emotional.

I've struggled with the guilt of seemingly letting people down.  It is difficult to navigate the road of other's expectations and my own mental and emotional health.  I've had people try to shove guilt on my head and I've had people look me in the eye and say "You have permission to focus on yourself, to take care of yourself."  I'm trying to listen to the latter group.  What I realize is that I am not the person I was in April 2014.  I've changed...life has changed, not just in the last year but in the last three years...and I can't go back to being the person I was.

I'm wounded.  I'm healing. The scars are still fresh and painful to the touch.  I'm waiting for the day when they just ache but that's still a long ways off.  Until then, I get by the best I can.  It's all I can do at the moment...and that's enough.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Where am I going...I don't know

I had a visitor in the office yesterday.  He just showed up.  We hadn't met before but he had a couple of questions, knew the office address so he came by.  Seeing as how I send out monthly newsletters to over 3000 people and the office address is on the newsletter, I'm actually surprised I don't have more unexpected visitors.
This gentleman sat and talked for quite a while.  He has a heart for helping those in need, for helping people find their voice and using that voice to better the world and their lives.  I think I answered his questions...actually, I think he just needed someone to listen, and so I did the job required of me for that moment.  As he was getting ready to leave, he asked me, "So, what great things are you going to do?"  My answer, which is standard when I don't haven an answer was, "That is a great question.  I have no idea."

It's true.  I have no idea.  I know that I'm marking time on the calendar, making check marks next to the days and there is a placeholder where my future goals are at the moment.  Some of that is residual from starting a new chapter in life 3 years ago, taking a leap of faith into the great unknown.  Some of that is the continuing journey of grief and knowing that my soul is still healing.  But really, I just don't know where I am going or what I want to be when I "grow up".

What I do know is that I have a job.  A good job, with good people.  But a job that doesn't completely satisfy my soul.  I do know that I have a story to tell and a desire to help other people.  I do know that I can do more than what I am doing right now...I just don't know what that looks like.  I don't know where I'm going.

Growing up, I developed a love for a non-typical Clint Eastwood movie called "Paint Your Wagon".  The movie was musical of sorts, set during the California Gold Rush.  Ever since my visitor yesterday, I've had the chorus of one of the songs in my head...

"Where am I going?
I don't know.
Where am I headin'?
I ain't certain.
All I know is I am on my way."

I know at some point in time, I'll look back at this period and life and connect the dots.  I'll have new stories to tell and new revelations but until then, I don't know where I'm going...all I know is I am on my way.

(The video below is not from the movie...but the song is!)

Friday, February 20, 2015

An hour in Star$

I'm sitting in Star$ in an area of town that has a little trouble with bathroom abuse. So they have put a lock on the door that requires a code to unlock.  People keep going up to the bathroom door and trying to get in, despite the code lock on the door. They turn the handle multiple times, to no avail.  Multiple times, they try the handle, only to finally realize they can't get in.  There is a man sitting near the door who keeps telling the people the code. 10-6-6-9.  Over and over again.  He should be given a free cup of coffee for his efforts.

There's a mom and her kids at the table next to me. The kids are having a great time on their games, while the Mom is focused on whatever work she is doing at the moment. She has said several times to the kids, "we're going to go soon, I promise."  Soon is a relative word.

The employees are busy behind the counter, one taking incessantly. His voice reminds me of someone I know...but it's not the same person. He is, however, an employee that was at my regular Star$.  The one that I could tell didn't do much of anything when the manager wasn't around.  He still doesn't do much but talk...loudly.  

People flow through the door with regularity.  Life just keeps moving along. I'm a silent observer.  Watching and listening and pondering it all.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Dear Facebook,

I saw the generated post on my wall the other day "It's been a great year!  Thanks for being a part of it!"  I saw the photo that the algorithms came up with as the one to highlight my "great year"...and I pulled the drop down arrow to hide the post.

For me, Facebook, 2014 was not a great year.  It was a pretty sucky year.  I would give pretty much anything for a do-over.  The photo chosen as the cover for that generated post was the last photo I have of just me and my Dad.  I know a bunch of people liked it, which is why it was front and center on that slideshow thingy.  When I saw it, though, I started to cry.  I'm not blaming you, Facebook techie people.  I know the intention behind the post thing was to remind people of the good things that happened, the places we've been, the people we've met, the memories we have, the things that occurred in our lives, so in one sense you did accomplished your goal.

It's not your fault, Facebook, that in 2014 leukemia disrupted my family.  It's not your fault this f***ing cancer wasn't eradicated by the massive amounts of chemo my Dad was given, opening his immune system up to the infection that took hold of my Dad's lungs and wouldn't let go.  The photo's that slide through my mind when I think back to 2014 aren't on your generated post.  They are in my head, snapshots of moments when I knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again, as I watched my Dad go from strong, healthy, happy and hug-able to a resigned, defeated man who spelled out the word "torture" with his fingers, because he was on a ventilator and couldn't speak, and mouthed the words "I'm ready to die".  You don't have the pictures of the wild look on his face when the fever spiked, nor the picture of the scene of the room when the crash team came swarming into his hospital room.  You don't have a picture of the hospital chaplain who stood by my side in those moments offering a silent prayer, with her arm around my shoulders, nor of the ER doctor who rode by on his bike as I sat outside by the fountain, the day my Dad died, and gently raised his hand in greeting as our eyes met.  He knew what was happening in the room three floors up.

I'm the only one who can see that slideshow.  It reminds me daily that 2014 was not a great year.  It was a year that my family is going to take a long time to recover from.  Yes, there are some good memories in there.  Somewhere down the road I'll be able to go back, look at 2014 and find the good memories.  So, thanks for storing those memories, Facebook.  But if you don't mind, I'm just going to skip right over everyone else's "It's been a great year posts".  It just hurts too much today.