The Truth of My Trust

I find my political, social and religious sensibilities are on a collision course these past couple of days.  It is why I haven’t written.  I am trying to sort myself out.

For anyone who has been reading all or most of my blogs, that seems to have been my lifelong task.  Perhaps it is the ultimate purpose God has for us all – sorting ourselves out through a variety of experiences and relationships until all is distilled into the primary relationship we are supposed to enjoy with Him.

It is hard to be in this world and not of this world at one and the same time.  The current of events both public and personal have such a strong gravitational pull-at least they do for me.

So much has been swimming in my head.  Reconciling my choice to be Catholic with articles I read like “The Lost Children of Tuam” or movies like “Spotlight” and “Doubt.”  I knew going into it that the Catholic Church is not a perfect institution and that those who have been and still are part of its institutional structure have sometimes had feet of clay, that they have chosen to do and see things in a way that defies the merciful love of the God I have come to know and rely upon.

All I can say is that in so far as my decision to be Catholic is personal, and not based on the institution of the Church, I joined for the Eucharist.   It was always a joy to get it in the Protestant Churches I attended at Easter, even if it was a pale comparison to that found in the Church in its Masses.  I can only say it is the most profound moment of my week, the most intimate encounter I will have with Christ while on earth and it is something central to my faith.  In the Bible He told me to do this and remember Him when I do.  Where but in the Catholic Church can I fully honor that request?

My surprise relationship with Mary that started 7 years into my conversion has greatly enriched my prayer life.  While I make the rosary “my own” in terms of how I pray it, knowing I can place my prayers, works and deeds in Mary’s hands to perfect them for presentation to Jesus, knowing I can console His heart by wedding my sorrows to His on the cross and thereby quench His thirst – this has become central to my faith as well.

As has the concept of Divine Mercy, practiced the “Little Way” by saints like Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, and St. Faustina.  I can be my imperfect self yet still achieve perfection because of the merciful love that floods from the pierced heart of Jesus to wash me in grace.  I can be my most child-like self and run to His arms to be carried as on an elevator straight to Heaven.  I need only try to take my first step toward Him, and no matter how many times I may have to try and try again, at some point He will lift me up and set me on the heights.  I am trying so hard to have trust in this concept – Jesus, I trust in You.

Trust is a big word right now.  Who to trust, when to trust, trusting for the right reasons.  That’s what today’s news cycle has been about – who do you trust? The objective reality that there was election interference in our country by a foreign government or the new “spin” about the DNC, HRC and the paid for “dossier?”

Unfortunately for the Trump folks, the timeline does not line up with their accounting of the facts.   Whether Trump himself knew of specific tasks done on behalf of his campaign or not, these people got in their heads somewhere that it was okay to do it, it was okay to have low level volunteers and family members of the campaign stay in contact with Russian sources promising access to Putin and evidence of e-mails to hurt Clinton, of assurances that Putin wanted Trump to win.

They took their lead from the tone and tenor of Trump’s own foreign policy pronouncements, if you can call them such.  He has to own that his bombastic praise for Putin and his vitriol about Clinton opened the door for the water to flood in.  He won’t, but he should.

I am not saying he was illegally elected.  Unless they audit the vote, which I don’t know that they can at this juncture, we will never know that for sure.  But it would help if he would simply acknowledge the interference happened.  He’s still President, in any case.  And would impeaching him unite us or further divide us?  I don’t know any longer.

At one and the same time, I anticipate and fear what Mueller will come up with next.

But more than that, I fear the country we have become.

I want to trust that all of our leaders will learn to put country over party, but when the Speaker of the House – third in line to the Presidency – refuses to comment on the election interference scandal occurring under his nose so he can achieve his college kegger dream of reforming the entire tax code -1,000 pages with no input from Democrats!-I am less than assured.

When did “bi-partisan” and “compromise” become such dirty words?  I know, I know, blame it on the Tea Party; no blame it on the Southern Strategy; no blame it on Reagan/Nixon/Goldwater; no blame it on “Bernie got sandbagged;”…has it always been thus and we fool ourselves into thinking there was a time in our civic life when everyone could just “get along?”  When was that, really?

Was it when Southern states refused to sign the Declaration of Independence unless slavery was kept intact?  Was it when one Senator caned another on the Senate Floor?  The Civil War?  Jim Crow?

It seems that until Vietnam, only foreign wars brought us together, until finally one tore us apart.

Are we headed now for a nuclear war because Trump is in such a lather about the Mueller investigation that he will finally send that one fatal tweet that pushes Kim Jong Un past the point of paranoia into death and destruction?

It seems it is not only the childish dictators we fear, but little children themselves.

When did we become a country that pays federal agents to stop a 10-year-old cerebral palsy victim’s emergency ambulance ride to the hospital; posting Border Control agents at the doors of the surgery unit; then at her hospital room; and then finally exiling her to recuperate alone in a children’s deportation center?  What, are they afraid she is the one person who is going to test Trump’s designer wall replicas and show them to be passable by some “bad hombre?”  Seriously?  When did we decide cruelty to children is in our national interest?

I am a person who believes in the basic goodness of most people.  Really, in the depths of my heart, I not only want to believe this, I need to believe it.  It is central to my thinking there is a reason to keep on going in the midst of what seems like destructive chaos happening daily.

The milk of human kindness.  Do we still have it in the U.S.?

Or has the cow run dry?

Patriotism – is it more about standing for the truth or for the flag?

Who are we?  Who am I?  I am not sure I know any longer.  Not unless I have my faith to guide me.

Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

 

DNA Day

Because of the several stories told me over the years as to who my real father is when my then teenaged birth mother became pregnant with me, I have always wondered at core who I really am in terms of my heritage and “birth right.”

Well, the answers are in.  Surprisingly, they are pretty much in line with what I had been told about my birth mother’s side of the family:  my ancestors came primarily from Great Britain (64% of my DNA composition hails from there); 15 % Scandinavian (that was a surprise-I am guessing there were some Viking raiders in Britain contributing to this strain); and 7 % Western European with a ring on the Ancestry DNA map around France and Germany (hello great-grandma Blanche Huntsberger!)

Originally my ancestors may have arrived in the 1700-1750 era when there was a huge influx of English, Scots-Irish and Germans coming here to settle.  In the years 1750-1755 the British Colonial government encouraged many of these settlers – old and new – to migrate west to Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley to act as a buffer against the French in the Ohio Valley and the Native Americans.  These were supposedly grueling years because of the amount of work needed to clear lands and grow crops.  I am envisioning old episodes of Daniel Boone at this point in my ancestry.

Between 1775 and 1800, with the Revolutionary War and Indian wars against the Delaware and Ohio tribes fought and won, settlers such as veterans with land grants and land speculators poured into the Ohio River territory, seen as fertile, “Western” lands.  Pittsburgh became a gateway for people using flat boats to relocate along the Ohio River to other open lands.

Between 1800-1850, steamboats, canals and railway transportation increased the influx of settlers and added to migration.   Towns sprang up where before there had been sparse settlements and places like Cincinnati and Columbus became commercial hubs.  Manufactured goods became prevalent, including furniture and rope, processed pork and tobacco.  Shipping and commerce thrived.

During the Civil War era, the Corn Belt states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio sent hundreds of thousands of men to become Union soldiers.  After the war, railroads and cheap land caused further westward migration.  Around 1900, those who stayed behind in the Ohio Valley area turned to industrial cities like Chicago with its meat-packing industries and Michigan with its new automotive plants as places to live and work.  This latter fits with my family history, as I know the grandfather who raised me (I called him Daddy) was born and raised as part of a large farm family in the Kalamazoo, Michigan area.

I don’t know how Great-grandpa Robert Johnston hooked up with Great-grandma Blanche Hunsberger, who was referred to as being “Pennsylvania Dutch” in background.  Evidently her family moved westward from Pennsylvania to Michigan at some point.

But when all is said and done I am your garden variety, Anglo Saxon Indiana bred girl who was raised on sugar bread and butter sandwiches made on Wonder Bread, plenty of milk and lots of sweet corn fresh from the fields of my father’s farmer friends.

I was so hoping to find out I was related to Mary Queen of Scots.  More likely I had a relative somewhere along the way who emptied chamber pots for Elizabeth I – if they were even that exalted.

Still, there is that Scandinavian wild card in there.  Was one of my forebears ravaged by a Viking during one of their periodic invasions of Britain’s shores?  Dare I hope that the blood of Ragnar Lothbrok rages somewhere in my veins?  Do old Norse Gods sing down to me from Valhalla, telling me of roving raiders who traveled as far west as Newfoundland and around France and Italy to the Iberian Peninsula, Central Asia and even Eastern Europe?  Does that account for the 4% Caucasus also found in my DNA?

If so, I do hope I have some of the fire and grit of Lagertha in me.  It would almost make up for not being related to Mary Queen of Scots.

 

*Note:  Historical information on migration patterns taken from Ancestry.com website; other information found on Wikipedia

The Blah Day

So today was – blah.

Just as I was getting ready to take my car in for its 10,000 mile oil change 3,000 miles late, my stomach let me know I was going nowhere that day – except between the couch and the bathroom. This was not what I had planned.

Planted later on the couch, I wanted to watch some classic TCM, but the choices were pretty much limited to various monster movies and a series of movies about a queen named Sissi that was subtitled.  Too much effort for a day like today.

I read news on Twitter, thoroughly enjoying an account about a note from Einstein on « The Theory of Happiness » that auctioned for more than $1 million, and a jaunty article on a jaunty Joe Biden in jaunty poses for pictures that went with an « In Style” story. There is something fascinating about a man so comfortable in his own skin – even at 78. Or maybe because he is 78 and still – jaunty.

I played Word games. Made Dr appts for all the things I need to get done before the start of the new plan year and realized I have no room to be sick  again for the next six weeks because I will be visiting – doctors.

I made my eye appointment to find out if my cataracts have grown over the last year & require surgery.  I talked briefly with my daughter-in-law about our plans for tomorrow & an upcoming party.  That reminded me to call Sears to get the carpet cleaned.

My Divine Mercy rosary had been prayed before my stomach issues but not in time to include prayers then for a friend’s mother who had passed. I thought of my own Mom’s death and not being there when she passed in 1982.

I thought of the four years my friend Vera lived with me and how that gave me a chance to spend the kind of time with someone who loved me unreservedly as I had always imagined I would one day have with the Mom who raised me. I realized I was blessed.

I told the cat a million times she could not have another spoonful of her nutritional supplement because she just had one. Didn’t matter. I might as well have talked to the wall. You would think I never fed her the $60 per bag prescription only cat food her 16-year-old kidneys require.

A couple of Ministry phone calls took care of some questions and needs to share info.

Clutching the heating pad to my stomach, I watched some news that repeated things I had already read. I finally took a pain pill for my head ache & the sciatica pain from yesterday’s work out with my trainer.

I watched a reality TV show on the New Jersey housewives, as series TV no longer holds weekly enchantment. I would rather wait until season end and binge watch. Netflix and Amazon Prime have spoiled me for episodic TV.

Several times I have thought of the bath I should take and washing my hair. Maybe tomorrow.

The cat is back. Time to give in, give her the spoonful of what must taste like sugar to her, take my meds and go to bed.

And hope for a tomorrow that is far less blah.

My 11:15 pm Update:  Okay, so I did take a bath, brushed my teeth, washed my face & slathered on Kiehl’s biologic peel all over my face.  I decided a gal’s got to maintain some standards on a « blah » day—especially if she ever wants to be thought of as « jaunty » when she one day turns 78.

 

 

The 8th Day

It is the eighth day.

God made the world in six and rested on the seventh.

So it has taken Donald Trump longer to say two little words – I’m sorry – than it did for God to create the universe.

Not that I expected Trump to do so. It would have just been a nice break from his usual egocentric behavior.

Not that we aren’t all egocentric to a degree. It is human to see the world through the lens of our own feelings, experiences and reactions to things.

It is when we refuse to consider that someone else’s reaction is equally valid from their point of view, when we say our ego matters more than their pain, when we have to always be “right” that it all goes astray.

We can be “right” in our own minds but still have the humility to consider we are wrong in someone else’s.  We can be genuinely sorry we unintentionally caused someone’s hurt to be greater than it needs to be.

So why can’t Donald Trump? Just once? For the sake of someone other than himself?

Twenty-seven psychiatric professionals have written a book on why that is an impossibility.  I got half-way through the book and got so demoralized I had to put it down.

I have never been one to walk through life feeling existentially doomed – at least not for long.

Like many who voted for Trump, I look out to see a country I no longer recognize.  It’s just I see it from a different point of view and I voted for someone else.

Was it not so long ago the world was a diverse, vibrant place filled with new possibilities for people who were once marginalized by our society? Had women, people of color and others not become a part of society’s fabric in new and interesting patterns?

How quickly the tide seems to have rushed back in, destroying all those sand castles built in hope on the shores of our collective life.

An old song comes to mind.  “Is that all there is? Is that all there is?  If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing, let’s break out the booze, and have, a ball, if that’s all..”

I don’t want this to be “all there is” for myself, my family or those who will come after.  I don’t want to see disabled children pushed to the edges of life again, for women to not have autonomy over their bodies, for the oceans to rise and Greenland to disintegrate.

An “extinction event” from a nuclear warhead is not how I have imagined my end.  I want to be old, like Rose in the movie “Titanic,” surrounded by photos showing I lived a full and adventurous life.

I want to pass quietly away in the night and awaken to meet my Maker and be among His angels and saints, saved by overflowing mercy and grace.

But I am not sure I can have that end.  All because Donald Trump cannot say the words “I’m sorry.” And because it is now after midnight and the eighth day has come and gone.

 

** Songwriters: Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller
Is That All There Is lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Not All Soldiers Are the Same

Having just finished reading a personal story in the “Washington Post” about why he enlisted in the military and stayed to make it a career, I feel compelled to agree with author Sean Patrick Hughes that enlistment does not mean those who do so are knowingly writing a “blank check” to America that can be cashed in for up to and including loss of their very lives.

Like the former naval officer Mr. Hughes, I believe the reasons for joining the military are many and varied according to the person signing up and at what period in time they do so.

My personal reasons involved an escape from the life I was living in a small, Indiana town and a hopeful escape to a broader life by earning the rights to a G.I. education to college.

Even at 16, when considering which university I might like to attend, I dreamt of places far away from where I lived, like Boston.  However, after becoming entranced by a picture of its college library and a curriculum where I could dictate my own course of study, I applied instead to what was then called Barat College of the Sacred Heart in Illinois.

But at $4,000 a year in tuition in 1971, there was no way I could afford to attend this college to which I had been accepted.  My family couldn’t afford $4 a year, let alone that amount.  And the $500 scholarship I received wouldn’t begin to cut it, either.  So instead I opted for a couple of classes per semester at the regional Fort Wayne campus of IU/Purdue, registered as an Indiana University student.

At the time, I also was working as a bus girl and a lunch time waitress at a cocktail bar/supper club located on the I-69 freeway in Angola, IN.  One of the women I worked with had been a dental tech in the Navy and had had a wonderful experience there, including meeting her husband.

As I was by then recovering from my first major heartbreak in my first ever relationship, it sounded like a good way to get out of town and get my education to boot.  So I drove into downtown Fort Wayne, walked into the Naval Recruiters office, took some tests and was told I was eligible to serve.

As my major at the time was Comparative Literature and I knew I wanted to write, I asked for a guaranteed Journalism school.  But they would not offer it to me, and I didn’t want to “take a chance” on an enlistment where I didn’t know for sure what I would be called upon to do.  That is how I became a “Yeoman,” or secretary/clerk in civilian parlance.

Ever the romantic, I requested postings for Europe and Hawaii as my first and second choices as duty stations after Yeoman’s school in Orlando.  San Francisco was my third option.  I had read a story as a young girl about a mystery involving a jade cat set in that scenic local, and it sounded like a pretty place.  (In fact, I consider it the most beautiful city in the world to this day.)

I ended up in Vallejo, about 45 minutes away.  It was close enough for weekend jaunts that would include drives down the famously crooked Lombard Street, across the Golden Gate Bridge into Tiburon, walks on Fisherman’s wharf eating fresh shrimp cocktail, viewing the Bay from Coit Tower and more.

Since I wrote about my experiences serving in an earlier blog, I will not repeat them here other than to say they were not even close to as fun as my friend had experienced.  But, I did have the chance to attend Community College in the evenings, racking up some credit hours towards a degree.  Eventually I did use my G.I. benefits to matriculate from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo with a degree in journalism.

As a disabled veteran, I still enjoy benefits for which I am entirely grateful to have.  On balance, in my case, I possibly got the better end of the bargain as the outcome, though it didn’t seem like it at the time.

But the point Mr. Hughes was making, that I was making, is that assuming all military personnel sign up in knowing acknowledgement they are literally giving their lives is not a true statement.  People join up for many different reasons.  A long-time service veteran, he says they stay for each other and because the life they are taught to live cannot be duplicated by other experiences.

I wasn’t in the military long enough or in a situation that developed that sort of camaraderie that I can speak to that subject.

But, what he wrote, what I am saying, does speak to the fact that though it was certainly most unintentional, the “condolences” offered by our government this week to the families who lost loved ones in Niger were tone deaf.  I don’t know for sure why La David Johnson joined the Army, but I can guess.

He was a young black man living in a country where that very fact put him at a disadvantage.   He may or may not have had some college.  His obituary says he was an employee of Walmart in the produce department.  He most certainly had a young family to support and wanted to do so to the best of his ability.  As a member of the Special Forces, he obtained both training, experience and pay that would be above that paid to a “regular” soldier.

I am sure he served out of love for his country.  I loved my country – still do.

But to see his life and its affect through the singular lens of soldierly duty to give his life for his country – I doubt that is what La David Johnson was completely about. And there is where President Trump and General Kelly went wrong on the condolence call.

In fact, it is what is wrong about the way we as a nation talk about those whose lives are sacrificed on our military altar, like Sgt. Johnson and his compatriots:  Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson.  We talk about it as if the sacrifice were what defined them, rather than the lives they led and the lives they will lead no longer.

We should honor them for being human, for having fuller selves – not just for being soldiers.

 

At 18 & At 64

I wish my mind worked more adeptly.

I find that often after I have done something and sent it out into the world for distribution, I think of a way it could have been better done.

It is true of everything I have ever written, from the last e-mail I just sent to a poem I wrote long ago and have worked and reworked time and again, only to see it in my final, published manuscript form and wishing I had said something in it a little differently.

That is true of our spoken words, too.  I am wondering if John Kelly today is still standing by his Thursday comments, or if he is having regrets, wishing he were more adept in handling a grief he feels through the lens of a soldier that doesn’t fit the same world view of a wife and mother who has lost that person most important to her.

That’s the thing about words:  once they leave you, they are forever out there:  in print, on camera, hard drives and even on the very waves of the space-time continuum.  If there really are other inhabitants in our galaxy, I wonder what they must think of the many garbled languages and tangled messages that reach them from planet earth.  We must sound like some strange kind of soap opera out there.

Then there are Trump’s tweets, outrageous on the day they are sent and hilarious in context of the history of his Twitter feed, as you can always find something sent a year or two or more ago that is in direct contradiction to what he just said. And he wonders why he is not better respected.

It is not that people cannot change their minds and grow as they gain life experience, are exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking, cultural nuances and life principles from various sources.

But if I stop and examine myself, how much am I still like my 18 year-old me, which I identify as my point of entry into official adulthood, and myself as I am now?

I know I still believe – as I did then – that love is the ultimate state of being, although my concept of love has been refined over the years to include within it the deep wells of mercy and grace the Lord will pour into our lives if we but let Him.

It is still anathema for me to lie; not that I haven’t done it, but that I can’t do it and just let it go.  It stays with me like a too greasy piece of pizza that sickens me and which I must ultimately somehow disgorge.

No way would I steal.  I was wrongly accused of doing so once when I was very young.  The lady who accused me of it went out of her way to humiliate me and – when she was proven wrong – still had the nerve to find a way of blaming me instead of apologizing for being mistaken.  That experience has stayed with me forever.

Generally I believe the best in people, unless they have shown me from the get-go that they have no “best” in them.  I will still make excuses for their bad behavior until I reach the point where I can no longer give them benefit of the doubt for “meaning well” because they just so obviously did not.

I still love to read, to write, to watch movies and daydream by a body of water or out a window watching snow lightly fall.  I love the latter especially at Christmas, with all the lights turned out except for those glowing on the Christmas tree.  It is magical.

My Mom (Vernette) made me French toast when I did not feel well; still my favorite breakfast food.  Her hot, home-made donuts fresh from the fryer and coated in sugar still melt in my mouth even though I haven’t tasted one since childhood.

Although there are fewer of them in the South to see, I love watching the leaves turn red and gold in the fall; walking in air that is crisp and reddens your cheeks; dressing up for Halloween.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” will always be my favorite movie because it captures so many themes: the innocent honesty of children in looking at the ways of the adult world; the inherent injustice built into our “justice” system against people of color, even when it is physically apparent, as in Tom Robinson’s case, he could not have committed the crime of which he was accused; the smallness of small towns peopled with small minds.

I will always wish there were a real Atticus Finch out there for me somewhere, that Bobby Kennedy had never been assassinated, the Vietnam War had not raged on and Watergate had never happened.

Always I will respect this nation’s flag, but I will hold in still higher esteem the Constitutional right of free political speech, unconstrained by government intrusion.  I believe in a free and questioning press as a bulwark of liberty every bit as much as I believe the same of our troops.

I believe that Jesus calls my name every day and it is my duty to respond to that call above all others.

I believe I cannot suborn any of these things or I would not be myself, at 18 or at 64.

 

For La David’s Daughter

Gary died when he was only 20.

I was five at the time. I remember the police officers standing at the door. My Mom (Vernette, who raised me) screamed, put her hand to her head and sank to the floor at the news of his death to a car crash.

The place where her hand came to her hair turned into a snowy white streak that stood in stark contrast to its jet black color. It was her visible scar of the grief she bore her whole life at the loss of her eldest son.

This week we have seen grief on display once again as the body of La David Johnson was returned from Niger.  We witnessed his pregnant wife drape herself in sorrow over his flag blanketed casket. His little daughter stood silently at her mother’s side, watching her woe. She looked to be about the same age as I when Gary died.

I wonder if she – like me – will always remember her mother’s tragic tears?

This should have been a moment of dignity and respect for a soldier who died too young in a far off land most of us will never visit.

Instead, it has become political spectacle started by a bumbling President who tried, but failed, to show true compassion. It was made worse by a Congresswoman who – knowing the young man who died – expressed the family’s offense. It was made far more worse by the camera appearance of a Chief of Staff and Gold Star father who mixed politics and grief to fuel the fued

It is now Friday, and the feud still festers from more Trump tweets and accusations, recriminations and denials in overdrive

What actually matters is this.  A small girl stood silently at her father’s casket, watching her mother change from one person to another     in the face of her loss.

And the little girl will always remember it.

 

Destiny and DNA

How much about myself do I truly want to know?

In my last post, I said I had finally sent off my Ancestry DNA kit.  It had only been hanging around the house since August.  I chalked it up to not having the time.  But, then again, there was a reluctance.  Possibly because I am afraid because I cannot pick out from the stories that have been told me of my parentage what is truth and what is convenient fiction.  We shall have to wait 8 or more weeks to see.

This afternoon I am again launching into the unknown about myself – what my various arteries look like that I have not seen because regular insurance does not pay for these tests unless you are already showing symptoms of distress.  I think having my maternal grandmother and my birth mother both die of stroke is a symptom of distress.  But hey, I don’t run the insurance company.

So this afternoon I will find out the state of my carotid and other arteries through a Lifeline screening.  And yes, I am feeling a few trepidations; having a naturally high cholesterol level that is not truly offset by my cholesterol medication or efforts to eat somewhat healthfully, I am a bit worried about what will show up.   After all, I am only 4 years younger now than my birth mother was when she died of a sudden and massive stroke.

We did not spend much time together over the years.  But when we did, we each searched in the other the “commonalities” that made us mother and daughter.  The mother who raised me said my birth mother and I sometimes had the exact same “sneer of disdain” when being told something we did not wish to hear.  And everyone insists we look exactly alike, although as she ages I see more of my birth mother in my half-sister Niki’s face than I do my own.

But JoAnne (my birth mother’s name) and I would find weird connections between us:  the exact same outfits hanging in our closets; our love of crosswords and reading; certain jewelry that we wore.

We both preferred being blonde, though I suspect that her natural hair color was more the same dirty blondish/brown of my own.  Physically we were built the same:  short in stature, tiny hands, wrists and ankles; more than ample hourglass shapes between our necks and our knees that seem incongruous with the delicate bone structure that underlie them.

We also shared a lousy taste in men.  Enough said.

I didn’t spend enough time with her to find out what more we had in common than this.  We were just making that time more frequent when she unexpectedly passed away.

We were raised by the same man, so I am sure we had some of the same fatherly experiences.  She hated him.  I loved him, but I was well aware of his faults and – whereas she rebelled against him – I trod the “good girl” line expected of me.  I knew he loved me, but emotionally and physically he was distant most of the time, living in a world colored by the beer he constantly drank.  Bartending is an ideal vocation for the alcoholic.

His anger at her for “getting knocked up” as a teen matched her hatred for him.  They could never forgive one another, could never cross that chasm between them.  Whether that chasm was me or something else neither would reveal I cannot say.

I wanted to cross the chasm that divided her and I by time and proximity as I grew older, but it was not always easy.  Like her father before her, it was not comfortable for her to hug me and shower me with the affection I craved from her.  Never once did she say “I am sorry I couldn’t take you with me.”  All I got was a bitter assertion that when she left me behind to run off with another man, it wasn’t her fault, she was “made” to give me in custody to her father and his second wife.  My point was that when push came to shove, she chose a man over her child.  Enough said.

Maybe that is why my son looms so large in my heart, although from the superficial look of it, I put career over time spent with him.  But all that I did, I did to provide him with more than I had growing up. I also never chose a man over my child, because like my mother before me, I knew my judgement was lousy wherein that subject lie.

I held him ever so tight to me when he was little that I can still remember what it felt like to this day.  I cannot remember JoAnne ever holding me at all.

How much do I resemble my mother?  Did the history that separated us also somehow weirdly connect us in ways we searched our souls?

This afternoon I will discover if I may be destined to die as she did.  How weird is that?

 

 

 

Monday, Monday, Not Good for Me

Today has been a long one.  I have been at the computer all day and will be at it again for several hours tonight.

I wish I could say I was doing it to finish writing my dual volume book of Haiku I have been working on, or some other piece of literary output.  Instead, because of my own egregious error, I have been trying to contact people via e-mail and voicemail about a ministry scheduling need I should have handled last week, and prepping for a different ministry meeting this week.  Meanwhile, I am trying to clean up two roster lists for the first ministry where 70 percent of the data overlaps, but the other 30 percent doesn’t.

I may be exaggerating, who knows.  It is possibly back pain talking.  I have terrible posture on top of it all.

My new personal trainer will not be happy with me that I have not yet added the Malic Acid to my diet that we talked about in our initial meeting on Thursday.  He has a degree in Sports Medicine and works with a lot of people with physical limitations like myself.  I am hoping he will give me credit for buying organic bananas and bringing that and a liter of water to my first workout tomorrow.

Jesus is probably not happy with me either.  I promised I would spend time and prayer in relationship with Him this morning as it was woefully lacking last week.  Then my ministry madness set in.  I can only hope He understands it is for His vineyard that I have been plugged in and tuned out all day.  I wonder if there is a special dispensation the Church offers for this?

On the plus side, Ancestry DNA informed me they received my saliva sample.  Perhaps by Christmas I will know what my true ancestry is.  My birth father’s identity turns out to be a bigger mystery than was previously known to me until I was nearly 30.  I am fairly certain of the English and “Pennsylvania Dutch” that is part of my birth mother’s heritage.  With a last name like Huntzbarger, there is little doubt about Great Grandma Blanche’s lineage.  I am not sure about the “Wasson” on another side of the family, though.  Is it Irish?  German?  English?  French?  Welsh?  Scottish?  I haven’t been able to find any country of origin for that one.

Meanwhile, busier days have meant less time on Twitter, so instead of Trump stress I am dealing with the more self-imposed kind.  I did read a wonderful article on Twitter from the “Paris Review” about short story auteur and poet Grace Paley.  She had some wonderful words about being a writer.

The great W.H. Auden told her at a young age that “If you’re a writer, you’ll keep writing no matter what.”  As her writing output has seemed as peripatetic as my own over the decades, I am encouraged.  I am not too late to continue a party I started as a child.

I also loved that she said “Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write.”

Of writing during times of political turmoil, she noted that writers don’t “set out to oppose authority.  In the act of writing, you simply do.  Your job, your reason for writing, is to uncover what the state and the conventions of your town normally hide.  That’s why you want to write.  To tell what hasn’t been told.”

Now that makes me feel so much better that my start in blogging turned political so much more quickly than I had intended.

Well, this one is short, but sweet.  One organic banana and ¼ liter of water down; still much to do.  Including a bath before a 7 pm meeting this evening at Church.

Just enough time to lie on the couch for a bit and peruse the article I saw on Margaret Atwood.  Wonder how her thoughts on writing will compare to Paley’s?

Stay tuned.  If we don’t nuke North Korea before I get back to the computer, I will let you know.

The Sin of Silence

As horrible as the revelations this week of Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women in the entertainment industry, there is a more insidious side to this story.

It is the story of the silence of those who facilitated and enabled this treatment of other human beings to go on for so long without giving it voice that is the most sinful part of it.

If addiction to power and sex are sicknesses, then yes, Harvey Weinstein is a very ill man indeed.  Sadly, he is not alone in this – many men at every level of society have violently abused and sexually disrespected women at some point in their lives.  It is really an all too common malady, not a unique one.  Harvey Weinstein was a “god” only in his own mind; his behavior is ordinary and commonplace.

The idea of a patriarchal society wherein somehow, as Adam being created in God’s image, men are “worth” more than women is pretty laughable when you really examine it.  That a woman should be “subservient” because she was taken from Adam’s side is silly, as some “very religious” people would have it. Adam himself called her “bone of my bone.”  In other words, woman is part of him, not less than him.  When a man disrespects a woman, it is himself he ultimately destroys.

And if Adam were so delightfully happy by himself in the Garden, why did God see it was not good for him to be alone in the first place?  The truth is Adam is completed by Eve; he is made more because of her presence.  Yet our modern-day Adams with their wounded psyches are all too happy to have us believe we are somehow “less than” in the grand scheme of things.

The sin of silence isn’t just happening in our bedrooms and our boardrooms.  It is also happening in the halls of our government.  We have as President a man totally unqualified by training, temperament and experience to hold the most powerful office in the land – some say on the planet.  Yet the leaders of his party will not acknowledge this basic fact.

Along with this conspiracy of silence among his own political party are the enablers – those who prop up his moods and his ego by cheapening themselves before the camera to assure the public that they aren’t doing exactly that.  The truth about what is going on screams at us.  Yet everyone pretends they cannot hear.  Just as some men pretend they did not hear the woman say “no” when he tries to cajole, encourage, eventually even overpower a woman against her will.

Meanwhile our President unthoughtfully Tweets his way through the world, destroying lives, hopes and dreams in the bargain.  He is throwing away alliances, agreements and assurances we as a nation have made.  No one should trust us.  I wouldn’t.

He is a hurricane force of his own-all eye of the storm and total destruction.

Yet we are all supposed to pretend this isn’t happening.  We are all supposed to play an enabling game that will destroy our souls, perhaps our nation.

I for one cannot be silent.  I didn’t start this blog to be intentionally political in what I had to say.  Truthfully it isn’t about my politics at all.

It is about what I see.  And seeing, I must speak.  Even while everyone else pretends there is nothing sickly addictive about the country we have become:  the abuser and the enablers, one and all.