Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A laugh and a triumph!

I finally figured out how to share a You Tube video in a post!! I'm so excited...and it only took me half a day.

This video is called, "Kitten and his box," and I share it because it made me laugh on a day when I had not intended to even smile. So, if you don't like cats...well, there's something wrong with you, but also, you don't have to watch it.

No cat-hating comments, please...I don't want to have to hurt you.

Blessings,
Arlene

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The War Prayer

My friend, Brian, posted this powerful video on the spiritual impact of war on his blog. Mark Twain wrote the poem, "The War Prayer," after the Spanish-American War, but it was published posthumously after the first World War. He agreed to not publish it until after his death because his advisors and family thougt it was too controversial.

I guess some things never change. We still can't talk about the evils of war in open public discourse. We still label war protestors, and even those who question the legitimacy of any particular war, as disloyal to the country, and worse, as standing 'against the troops. '

That's why this video* makes such a crucial statement now. Even a century later, Twains elequent words still reveal a deeply imbedded truth about us...this insidious fear of being pegged as an outsider, a troublemaker, a traitor, simply by hating a war and it's massive destruction.

As Twain said, "None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth."

I especially like what Twain does with the implications of praying that our side 'win'...what it means for the 'other side.' I believe we can support our troops and pray for their safety without villifying the 'enemy.' The Iraqui soldiers are sons and loved ones, too. The Iraqui civilians who live in constant mortal danger, have dreams and lives and families, too.

I pray for more diplomacy and compromise in the world...more conversations and fewer debates, more compassion and less competition, more courage to speak the truth in love and less fear of those we don't know and refuse to understand. I pray our law makers do the right thing and find a way to withdraw...for everyone's sake.

God bless the universe, and everyone in it.

Blessings,
Arlene

*(I told Brian my only complaint about the video is that the voices and illustrations are decidely 'white male'-esque. It could use some diversity in culture and gender.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

An Open letter to Rosie

Dear Rosie,

I know this letter would have been more timely had I written it last week. After all, the pundits have run out of things to say about your big fight with Elizabeth last Wednesday. (That doesn’t keep them from repeating themselves, of course.) I thought about posting a comment on your blog…but the space didn’t allow for everything I wanted to say.

To be truthful, I have been thinking about writing you a letter for years. I loved you on Star Search, in Sleepless in Seattle and in A League Of Their Own. I loved your talk show, and your crush on Tom Cruise, which I shared until he slammed Brooke Shields for taking care of herself. I loved your standup routine, your honesty about depression and your willingness to come out, even though you valued the privacy of your private life.

It’s weird how celebrity works. We think we know people we’ve never met. I feel like we might have gone to high school or college together. We’re even the same age, born exactly a month apart (my DOB = 2/21/62; your DOB = 3/21/62). We have a lot of other things in common, too—weight issues, depression, an artsy-craftsy side, and I think I could go toe to toe with you on knowing all the TV theme songs and commercial jingles of the past 40 years.

Another thing we have in common is our passion for social justice that is forged from our compassion for people. We share an ability and willingness to speak for others who cannot speak. We also have a similar penchant for getting in trouble for speaking the truth, for ‘not knowing when to shut-up.’ And while I have regretted the way I have handled some heated encounters over the years, I count it as a gift that I refuse to shut up and sit down. You, me, the Dixie Chicks, Gloria Steinhem, and many other uppity women through the centuries—we are in good company. Uppity Women Unite!

You know, I was actually there when it happened, this latest fight. I was sitting in my big chair by the TV, with The View on in the background while I worked on a freelance project that was due that day. Joy was saying something about Bush, and Elizabeth was interrupting, and all of a sudden, you asked her a question, and the two of you were into it.

I gave you my full attention, then, and I noticed something that few people are talking about. There was a lot of pain in your eyes. You were really hurt. And I don’t think it was just because Elizabeth hadn’t backed you up on Monday. I think you were hurt because you had really tried to be her friend, and you had thought friendship meant the same thing to her as it does to you. There’s another similar trait—fierce loyalty to our friends. I always have my friends’ backs, but if I can’t stand behind a friend’s actions or words, I say so, and so would you.

It was painful to watch, not because of the argument, but because of what was happening behind it. A friendship was dissolving before our eyes. I could even see pain in Elizabeth’s eyes. I’d like to dismiss her as insignificant, to put her in the same category as Ann Coulter, behind whose eyes I’ve never seen anything but ice and steel. But Elizabeth is not the enemy. She’s young and naïve and loyal to her party…so are a lot of people. But she has the potential to move beyond that and be multi-dimensional. I think you saw that, and I think part of the pain on Wednesday was realizing she wasn’t there, yet, and that you couldn’t help her achieve it without denying who you are.

So I’m sorry, Rosie…sorry you had to go through that; sorry it had to be on national TV; sorry we live in the age of You Tube, where we can see it over and over again. But I am grateful, too…grateful you had the dignity to say ‘enough is enough;’ that you had the spiritual and artistic integrity to create the video “True Colors” with your collages and Cyndi Lauper’s song; and grateful that you are surrounded by a wonderful support system of friends and loved ones—another thing we have I common—that can hold you up and carry you through to the next leg of your journey.

Blessings,
Arlene

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Spring Fever

It's such a pretty day in DC, I thought I'd share a photo I took in Spring 2004. Of course, the cherry blossoms are gone, now, but rmembering the sight of the delicate opink and white petals covering the city makes my day brighter...hope it does yours, too.

I've got more pics for you to peruse if you'd like a small distraction. There's a link to them on the left side of the screen, under the Notable Blogs links.

Oh, BTW, I've fixed the comments section so anyone can post a comment. Sorry; I didn't mean to be exclusive before, just didn't know my options. This blogging world is addictive, but there is a lot to learn.

Blessings,
Arlene

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Graduations and such

My nephew graduated from high school this weekend. That just seems impossible. He was a tiny baby in my arms when I graduated with my MA. And wasn't that just yesterday?

The family met in a park in Greencastle, Indiana that summer. I have a picture of me holding Michael. He's looking over my shoulder, sleepy-eyed, and I am looking at him. I really could swear that was just the other day!

I am sitting here staring at the computer, not sure there is much else to say. Except I love him the same as I did then. He captured my heart--it was adoration at first sight. I didn't think I could love any person more. Then his sister, Elizabeth, came along three years later. Seven years after that, her cousin, Randy was born. Well, what do you know? Love expands.

Elizabeth is quite different than Michael. She was a runner, a screetcher, and a climber as a small child. He was quieter, more pensive and intent on the task in front of him. Now, he's a straight-A student and a writer of science fantasy. She's an artist and dramatist. I think they were both born to notice everything about the world around them--and then go out ad explore the rest of it.

Randy is also smart and funny and adventuresome. He wants to adopt every animal in the world--so their house is full. Randy and his mom, Carolyn, have a special symbiotic bond. It's really cool to watch.

Could these three wonderful kids really come from my big brother and sister? I guess we are plenty old enough to have children and even teenagers. It just seems weird. When did we mature? When did we take on such overwhelming responsibilities--kids, jobs, houses...

OK, I don't have a house or kids...or a job right now, for that matter. (More on the latter in a future post.) I know these are not my kids, but since my sisters and brothers and I sort of raised each other, I just tend to feel like what's there's is mine and what's mine is therirs. Obviously, I don't mean that literally, but they are my blood and my heart.

And you know what's the best part? They are such great people that they'd be in my heart even if the blood part wasn't a factor. I got lucky with my siblings, and we got even luckier with the next generation.

Blessings,
Arlene

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mothers and daughters 2

Another example of the mother-daughter bond. (Sorry, this one is longer...I didn't know where to cut!!)

Blessings,
Arlene

December 12, 2004
Waiting Expectantly
Luke 1:46-55

Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

This time of year, when we share in Mary’s joy, we anticipate with wonder and awe the miracle of Christmas in the birth of the Christ child. But I can’t help but recall another young woman who was pregnant and homeless and facing a difficult future.

I met Marshay at a shelter in St. Louis for homeless pregnant and parenting teens when I was a student at Eden Theological Seminary. I was doing my field education work there that semester. I would go to the shelter weekly and meet with the girls around their large dining room table. They ranged in age from 13 to 17. Some of the faces would change from week to week as girls moved in and out of the house. Some left because they were able to “graduate” to another level of care—moving closer to independent living with their babies. But some would run away, others were asked to leave because they couldn’t follow the rules…they would usually go to amore restrictive environment. A very, very few were able to go “home” and live with a relative.

When the girls came downstairs for our time together, most were not happy to be there. It seemed like just one more required meeting…and they had plenty. They met with social workers and case workers, counselors and healthcare workers. They had group meetings and individual meetings; they had classes, discussions and lectures. They also went to school, some held part-time jobs and they cared for the house, themselves and their babies. They certainly weren’t impressed with me with a bible in my hand, a carefully laid out plan in my head, and naïve idealism in my heart.

So, things didn’t always go the way I had envisioned…take the night I describe here in an email to a friend…

**Tough crowd at Olive Branch tonight...it felt so right to be there.
I started out with a plan, but soon realized it wasn't going to work, so I decided to get them to talk. I asked about their day--what was the worst, what was the best that happened today? Not much response. I stumbled around awhile longer. Finally I told them this was their time. I didn't want to do something they weren't interested in.

"What do you want?" I asked them. "What are your questions?"

They just poured out.

"Why are people so stupid?"

"Why are people mean to each other?"

"Why do people have to suffer?"

One asked, "Is the world going to end by fire? Did it begin with water and it's going to end by fire?"

We looked up the creation story in Genesis 1. Yep, the world began with water and wind.

"That means it will end with fire," she said, leaning back in her chair with confidence...no fear in evidence.

I said, "Some people think so," and began to explain that Revelations is a dream...but she went on before I could get two sentences out.

"What's judgment day?"

I began to explain, "...well, some people think..."

"So no one knows what he looks like?"

"God or Jesus?" I asked.

"Either one."

"No," I said.

She looked unimpressed when she asked, "Don't know if he's black or white?"

"What do you think?" I asked, in a moment of inspiration. "What do you think God looks like?"

"Like me," she said without hesitation.

"You're right," I said, looking unwaveringly into her eyes. I think I passed her test, because she nodded as I continued. "It says God made us in God's own image, so if we are the image of God, then God is black and white and..."

"...Everything else," she said with a nod of certainty.

There was another young woman there who was not so certain. She had a lot of anger and a lot of questions "for the man upstairs," as she called God. She's not sure she believes and she does not understand why people suffer without relief. Why did those people kill her cousin? She was a good person, and they just took advantage of her goodness.

The young woman says she had faith at one time, prayed every day. "But nothing changed...it just got worse...so I gave up."

I didn't have an answer for why good people suffer, just to say that I don't think God causes suffering. "Tragic things happen in our lives and we make bad choices," I said. "And God is there to help us through it, to give us strength."

But she would have none of it. "If that's a blessing, than I've got some stuff to say to him!" I didn't push it much further. It took a long time to build up such anger and disappointment. It's not going away quickly...and it's not mine to take away.

I told them they had good questions and that it's ok to ask them. I said a lot of people are wondering the same things. I told them I will not tell them I have the answers or try to make them believe a certain way. I said we'd wrestle with the questions together.

It was time to do an activity, and I returned to my original plans. I asked them if they would write down what they are thankful for, so that I can share it at the Olive Branch Thanksgiving dinner Monday night. I told them they didn't have to if they didn't want to. With the discussion going as it did, and few of them willing to share their blessings out loud, as I had invited them earlier, I wasn't sure they would want to.

They didn't hesitate. They all participated, writing each word carefully, some of them decorating their pages in bright colors. They are thankful for their families, their babies--born and unborn--their lives, going to sleep safely and waking up.

One wrote, "When I wake up and look at all the times I could have been killed, shooted or even raped, I thank God I didn't." She's a 13-year-old with a two-month-old baby.

One wrote, "I am also thankful for myself. In other words, thankful cause God gives me the strength to care for myself when no one else does." She did not share out loud during the whole meeting.

The one who isn't sure she believes? She's thankful that her grandmother "is still alive, and whenever I am down, I can always talk to her." And she's thankful for brothers and sisters who look up to her and love her.

The one who knows she looks like God? Among other things (she wrote three pages), she's thankful for Olive Branch because "They brung me off the streets with nothing to look back on. Now I have myself and my life to attend to."

Me? I'm just thankful I was there to be in the presence of Christ. I sure don't know what I'm doing, but I'm even more sure that he does. Praise God from whom all blessings flow...**

Marshay was the one who wanted to have a talk with the “Man upstairs.” At the time, she was pregnant with a little girl. She came to class each week and wore the same chip on her shoulder, expressed the same wariness in her voice and kept the same suspicious look in her eyes whenever I spoke. But she always participated. I had decided that the best way to get them to talk and share was to bring a different craft project each week. I didn’t have to have a specific plan for what they would make with the materials I provided, because their creativity was always greater than mine anyway. Marshay made some of the most beautiful artwork and wrote some of the most profound poetry and prose.

Marshay delivered way too early and her little girl, Kyra, wasn’t able to leave the hospital. She would visit the neo-natal ICU as often as she could and continued to attend our gatherings whenever she was in the house. I made a couple of trips to the hospital myself. It was the first time I had seen such tiny sick babies. Here is how I described one visit to friends.

**Just wanted to share my experience this afternoon with you. Thanks to Gayle's encouragement, I went to Children's Hospital and visited Kyra, Marshay's baby after church. I had to face some anxieties about going--hospitals in general, children's units, ICU. I was going to wait until I knew Marshay would be there. Anyway, it was easier to get in than I thought, and the nursing staff was very kind.

When I went in, there were all these tiny babies in beds hooked up to lines and tubes. There were families at many of them. They all had the same look in there eyes--a mixture of fear and hope. No one was visiting Kyra at the time, but a nurse was feeding her. She trembled when she put the dropper in her mouth and the nurse held her hands to help stop the trembling. There were things on and around her bed that made me think of Marshay keeping vigil as much as she can...a valentine with Kyra's name, a teddy bear...

She's so tiny. She weighs about 3 pounds, now. She's stable, but the nurse said the long-term prognosis is not good. They want Marshay to sign a no-code agreement, but she won't. I asked about the blindness, and the nurse said she was to have laser surgery on her eyes, but she didn't know the results.

She was still in one of those beds with the protective glass that has those circles on the side where you can put your hands through (I don't know what they are called, and, truthfully, I've only seen them on TV). While I was there, they moved her to a bigger bed without that protective thing, so I am hoping that's a sign that she's doing better. The nurse let me touch her (after I washed my hands), and I stroked her fuzzy hair, her tiny feet, her little balled up fist...and I prayed for her and Marshay.

Normally, I pray for whatever happens to be the best thing for the person and the person's family. But this time, I just prayed for Kyra to live. Marshay needs to know that God does not take everything away that you hold dear. That's been her life experience. She is struggling so much with why do bad things happen to good people and why doesn't God answer my prayers. I just wanted her to have a reason to believe...

But on the way home, I realized it was my own faith that is in question. I want a miracle. I want to know that there is something more to this baby's life than living in that hospital bed. I admitted that to God, but I haven't changed my prayer. I still want Kyra to live. I still want Marshay to believe. And, as unrealistic as it sounds, I still want to see a miracle happen.

I left a card and a tiny stuffed lamb toy with the nurse. In the card, I told Marshay I had been there and would be back to see her and the baby. I told her that the lamb is a symbol of Jesus and that I am praying that Jesus watch over them both.

I know that even if the baby dies, there has been a purpose to her life and that God is present in our lives. I know in time that Marshay could still believe in a compassionate God. I also know that if the baby lives, she and Marshay will have a lot more struggles to go through...I know that this is hard, and I believe it's hard on God, too. I just hope that I and others in Marshay's life can convey the compassion and all encompassing love of God to her and that she can feel it and see it in her own life.

That, finally, after all my fears, doubts and anger are set aside, is my prayer.**

Kyra weighed one pound at birth. Nearly three months later, she weighed a little over three pounds. She still couldn’t breath without assistance. In my mind, I knew the nurses were right—she wasn’t going to live. But my heart was with Marshay—wanting and waiting for a miracle. Any time I asked about the baby, Marshay would give a weak smile and say, “She’s doing better.” But eventually, even she realized that Kyra’s frail little body wasn’t strong enough to sustain her soul. A few weeks after that first visit to the neo-natal unit, I went back to be with Marshay as she stayed with Kyra the night before medical personnel were to take the baby off the machines. To tell you the truth, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do that night but be present. We exchanged very few words, but Marshay asked if I would conduct the funeral. The next morning, Marshay held Kyra in her arms as the machines were turned off. The baby died a few minutes later.

At the funeral, Kyra looked like a perfect china doll in the tiny white coffin. Marshay looked up at me the same suspicion in her eyes as I delivered the eulogy. Although the room was filled, my words were just for her. I told her about the hope we have in Christ, that death does not win…that Kyra’s life, brief as it was, was not lived in vain. “God is grieving, too,” I said. “God did not want this, God does not enjoy seeing you in pain, but he is right here with you, sharing the pain. “You did nothing to cause this,” I told her. “You were a good mother.” I told her I hoped my words would make sense to her one day, some day when the pain is less sharp, the memory more a comfort than a loss.

Then I read her own words of hope in the form of a poem written about Kyra. It was an exercise from one of our weekly gatherings, a formula poem that is designed to lead the writer to better self-understanding. She wrote the first one for herself:

Marshay
Kind, caring, smart, pretty
Lover of Kyra, God and my grandmother
Who dreams of happiness, Kyra getting better and to go to college
Who needs love, family and God
Who gives love, kindness and laughter
Who fears sadness, death and my mother
Who would like to see people getting better, people being happy
and kind people all the time

Then she wrote one for Kyra:

Kyra
Strong, pretty, sweet, bless
Lover of Mom and God
Who dreams of happiness, love
Who needs attention, God and Mom
Who gives love, happiness
Who fears nothing
Who would like to se home with family

“Isn’t it wonderful,” I said, “that Kyra will never have to fear anything? Isn’t it a sign of divine love that Kyra is home with her family in God?”

Yes, when I think about Mary and her hymn of thanksgiving and joy to the Lord, I can’t help but think of Marshay. I don’t know where she is right now. I imagine that this time of year, she thinks about her little girl, her first born, Kyra. She would be about six years old, now. These poems were her own unique Magnificat, although she would never have seen them that way. I hope when Marshay looks back, she can feel a little bit of the hope that Mary expresses…that she can say with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” I hope she can see with Mary that God has “brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” I hope her life is blessed.

How would your own unique Magnificat develop? What are the blessings in your life? If they do not come to mind right away, look deeper. They may appear at first as burdens, as sorrows, as anything but hopeful. Keep looking, where’s the joy in those places of despair? Where’s the presence of God in those times of fear? Look closely—is God holding you up? Nudging you forward onto an unknown path? Cautioning you from running headlong into a deadly path?

In this season of hope and love, this season of joy and peace…as we wait expectantly with Mary for the miraculous birth of the Christ child, let us each write our own Magnificat on our hearts. Let our own souls magnify the Lord and seek out new ways to express just how grateful we are for the life we have in Christ. And one more thing, share the blessings, the good news…don’t keep it a secret, tell everyone…a child will be born to us, and through him, we will be born again.

Mothers and daughters 1

I mentioned in my earlier post ('Mother's Day--mixed messages,' below) about the complexities of our relationships with our mothers. Here I share a story about dear friends Laurel and Evelyn. I wrote this as part of a sermon a few years ago after Laurel shared with me what it was like to be with her mom at the end of Evelyn's life. I had envied Laurel's relationship with Evelyn, but now I just experience it as one example of the mother-daughter bond. In the next post, above, I'll share another example.

Blessings,
Arlene

Evelyn

Evelyn lay on her bed in the corner bedroom of the house where, as a widow, she had raised her four children on her own for the past nearly 30 years. As a hospice care nurse held and stroked her hand, she tried to allow her body to relax, like the nurse kept urging.

"Come on, Ev, you can do it," the nurse was saying. But the breaths kept coming out in rasping heaves. Her body was resisting death, just like she had for the past several months.

Always strong and independent, once by necessity, later, perhaps out of habit and a bit of pride, Evelyn had resisted every step of the way. First it was giving up her car, then enduring strangers in her house saying they were there to take care of her. And then there was that blasted walker. Why did her legs keep failing her? And her mind? She kept forgetting things. Now, she could feel her body shutting down moment by moment.

She knew it was near the end, and so did her family. Two of her children were in the other room, waiting. But they had been waiting for months, as they all thought she had reached the end of this life before. They'd said their good-byes more than once. They had made their peace.

“Why do I linger?” she thought.

"Come on, Ev, you can do it," she heard the voice say above her. Was it the nurse, or God? Either way, she wished she could tell the voice, "My name is Evelyn."

She became vaguely aware that there were more people in the room, now--her youngest daughter and son. The nurse must have called them in. It must be the end, again.
Laurie watched her mother's chest move up and down and heard the loud wheezing sound coming from her mother's throat. “Is this the end, again? How many times will we have to say good-bye?” she wondered.

The labored breath sounded ragged, as if torn from her body, she thought. Could that really be coming from her mom? The nurse had told them the body does this at the end. It fights to continue, even when it's too weak to breath. In fact, the body can be so weak, it can't relax, she had told them.

Soon, the breathing changed to a quieter, more peaceful sound. It was a sign that her mom was able to relax, the nurse said. Then the sound stopped altogether. The silence was huge and overpowering in that small room, where, as a child, Laurie had run to her mother's side for comfort.

"Is she gone?" Laurie asked the nurse.

"Yes, she's gone," the nurse said.

The silence was replaced by sobs coming from her own throat and from her brother beside her. Suddenly, a loud gasp, a desperate intake of air came from the direction of the bed and it startled the two of them. She almost laughed when the nurse explained, "sometimes they do that. They take one last gasp of breath."

Clearing her throat and wiping away the tears, Laurie hugged her brother and headed for the telephone. There were a lot of people to call, arrangements to be made….

Mother's Day mixed messages

Anybody else get melancholy around mother's day? I usually go to church, or am leading church, on the day we set aside to honor mothers. First of all, most M-day sermons are full of how wonderful and self-sacrificing moms are. The preachers wax poetic about how sweet mom was, how understanding and gentle, meek and mild... Does that describe your mom? Not mine.

Most mothers are lovely women, I grant you, but aren't they just ordinary mortals? They have flaws just like the rest of us. And some moms are just not invested in the care and nurture of their chldren. There are neglectful and abusive mothers, absent mothers, mothers who are more selfish than selfless. Making it sound like all mothers are supposed to act in a certain way only heightens even the adult child's awareness that their mom didnt measure up--that there must be something wrong with them that their mom wasn't the spokes-model for Mother's Day.

I have no problem with the idea of celebrating motherhood, but I think we can honor our moms without resorting to platitudes and pleasantries. Don't our moms deserve better than a superficial flowerfest? Don't our relationships with our moms--or those who took the mom-role in our lives--go deeper than that?

And that's just addressing how we as adult children feel...what about the moms in the congregation? Many of them feel inadequate, given the false standards of a 'prefect' mom. Other women, those who either can't or have chosen not to have children feel like second class citizens, or worse--less of a woman--for not having borne children from her womb. Women who've had miscarriages can find themselves grieving all over again. Obviously, this doesn't come just from a sermon. It's more about societal pressure on women to reproduce.

I don't have the experience of being a mom, but I know it can change your life entirely--your priorities, your sense of self...it can kick start nurturing instincts you didn't know you had. All my friends who are moms are grateful to be so. But they also know that there are time of struggle: Times when they screw up; times when they need to be selfish and say "this is what I need."

I think that it is in having friends who are mothers, as well as working with children in church and as a childcare worker, that I have come to appreciate moms more, and especially my own mom and her gifts to me. (I also had a similar experience appreciating dad's more, but this is about mother's day!)

I love and admire my mom, but she was not the warm, fuzzy, greet-you-at-the-door-with-a-plate-of-cookies kind of mom. Of course, I could handle that. I didn't care that she was different. I admired her independence and freer spirit--at least as I grew up and came to understand it better. But she was, to be blunt, bordering on neglectful. She didn't hug or kiss,; she didn't say "I love you." In fact, she didn't talk at all, sometimes. I think there were times she didn't fully realize I was there. (But that could be that I'm the fourth of five, and I always felt invisible.)

And through the years, I've had the fights and the you-drive-me-crazy arguments. She's let me know I drive her crazy, too. I cut a visit short one time, because I just didn't want to talk about it anymore. I always felt like she was much more eager to tell me everything that is wrong with me than to even hint that I had the strength to make it in this world and that she had my back.

But I did my own work over the years--dealing with my demons, so to speak. My addiction to food, my depression, my PTS (Post traumatic stress from child sexual abuse--not by a member of my immediate family), my self-doubts. Eventually, I got to the point where I allowed my mom to be herself--the gift I always wanted from her. And you know what,? I just realized this weekend when I called her--She's OK with me being myself. Now I am wondering which of us offered that gift to the other first? Was I so invested in being the neglected child to notice that she had my back, but not in a way I could recognize or acknowledge?

She still drives me crazy. I am counting on the fact that she gets annoyed with me, too. Sort of maintains a balance that way.

Back to being in church on mothers day...I was grateful the congregation didn't give out a flower to all the women--or just the moms. Either way, women who can't have children, or "forgot to have children" as the old T-shirt says, feel singled out. I like the way the preacher, a dear friend of mine, Dr. Ron Hopson, put it. (I'm paraphrasing here) "Happy Mothers day to all the mothers out there, and all those who are mothers by spirit or by intent, if not by biology."

And I am grateful for Ron's sermon, which talked about remembering our moms as they really are or were--the good, the bad and the indifferent--and not try to gloss over everything and make it look idyllic. On the one hand, we are just ordinary human beings. But on the other, we are, each one of us, an unrepeatable miracle of God. It is good to honor our whole selves and our moms as they really are, not as we want them to be.

Blessings,
Arlene

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Just starting out

Hello, whoever you are. Did you find my blog by accident? Were you fooling around on the Internet and typed in something that caught Google's attention? That's how I find a lot of things on the Internet...quite by accident.

Well, however, you got here, I am glad you came. I embarked on this wild ride in bloogersville because I want to share my journey, such as it is, with you and others out there in cyberland. I thinking sharing our stories makes our paths a little smoother...if only for a moment.

I can get very philosophical, even maudlin...but I have my humorous side, too. I will try to strike a balance in my musings.

That's it, for now...my first stab at this. I'll have more later. In the meantime, if you stumble upon my little corner of the blog world, please leave your blog's or web page's url, if you have one. I'd love to share your journey, too.

Blessings,
Arlene