Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Beatings Never Really Stop

Not my story, thank God, but one worthy of documentation and remembrance.
Dating the woman who would become my wife I asked in the course of casual conversation about growing up, “…and remember when you would walk in the door and your dad would knock you to the floor, kicking and hitting and yelling?” She stared at me in stunned silence. There is no normal. The rational has been torn away from your ability to grasp it.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Literacy in America


"Illiterate and semiliterate Americans are condemned not

only to poverty, but also to the powerlessness of

incomprehension. Knowing that they do not understand

the issues, and feeling prey to manipulative over-

simplifications, they do not trust the system of which they

are supposed to be the masters. They do not feel

themselves to be attractive participants in our republic,

and they often do not turn out to vote."


Saturday, September 13, 2014

This Happened Tonight Near Seattle

My brother proposed. He surprised his fiancée by secretly flying from Peoria, IL to Seattle. He'd asked our sister and brother-in-law to invite TH for dinner. They told her PJ had sent a surprise; close your eyes. When she opened them, there he was on bended knee.


She said, "Yes." Details are developing toward a November wedding. TBC


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Best Birthday Gift Ever; A Letter from My Brother

My brother @1965 at approximately 6 years old.
Picture Day.


After the email exchange of a few days ago, I didn't hear from my brother. But, he posted this photo on Facebook, indicating he did that for me. Then, I woke up to find the following had been emailed late on my birthday yesterday.


Hi M,

Hope it's been a great day with JE's family, grandkids must be a blast. Looking forward to it. I'm sure they take a lot of energy to keep up with.

I wanted to wish you a very Happy Birthday, and yes, I screwed up on the card thing, and no, this is not in lieu of. I just felt the need to express what a great big sister you have been to me. For as long as I can remember you've been doing things for me to make my childhood and beyond a little richer.

I remember you making it possible for me to attend basketball camp at Wheaton College, and taking me horseback riding for the first time. I still have vivid memories of both, and I'm sure I'm leaving out more. Words can't express my gratitude for what you did last year, all the time on the phone, trying to help me keep it together. I was so conflicted in my mind I didn't know what was real. I'm so sorry for what I put you and the rest of the family through, especially last winter. Then when you stood in the gap between hospital and home, well, that was just over the top. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The email you sent about the picture and my growing up was spot on. Although, I wasn't really raised by wolves; Jesus had a hand in that. Through Sunday School and Christian Endeavor, Bible Club and Vacation Bible School, good neighbors and teachers, He provided just what was needed. Mom instilled a conscience in me that guides me to this day, although I have chosen to ignore it at times it's always there.

I wrote another poem yesterday, a somewhat fictionalized version of some of what I've come through in the last 2 years. I'll share it with you later and you can critique it for me. Part of me has wanted to try my hand at song writing, (country of course) but I'm not sure how my style matches up with how they do it. If nothing else, it seems to be cathartic for me (pretty fancy word for a redneck wanna be, huh?). Hahaha!

Well, (as mom would say) well, thanks again for everything, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!


My response? A simple, "I love you."

P.s. He ALWAYS sends great birthday cards.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Being Heard

Had my second cataract surgery very early this morning. Very happy to be on the far side of dealing with this "old folks" malady. A few more follow-up visits with the opthamologist and I can put this to rest.

But, the big news is that yesterday I finally had a chance to address my long list of annoying, painful, and/or vague symptoms that have been kicking around and accumulating for several years. Those symptoms that 2-1/2 weeks ago finally drove me to choose to pursue a gluten-free, limited dairy, limited legumes dietary revolution.

I felt so very encouraged as I left the Internist's office. I later sent this email to family and friends:

I have just not been well this summer. Certainly we had a lot of stress earlier which easily could have triggered the worst recurring symptoms of pain, insomnia, fatigue, etc. that I've had in the past couple of years (or ever).

Today, I am one happy camper. I don't know much more yet about what ails me, but there was blood work to (hopefully) eliminate Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I'll have those results in a few days, and fully discuss with my doctor in two weeks.

He's also reviewing all the cardiac tests I had in February 2012 (before the Shingles rashes appeared to clarify what I was dealing with). My first medical attention that time was due to cramping pain in my chest. All those tests were good results, but he'll determine what if any should be repeated. I don't feel at all like my heart-health is impaired, but with some labored breathing and fatigue we have to check...

After that, if nothing shows up, we will proceed as if I have an Auto-Immune Disorder. Probably Fibromyalgia. He will change-out the Lexapro I've taken for a number of years (periodic anxiety and agitation (a bit of depression)) for Cymbalta, which is in the same drug family but has added properties that calm down nerve endings. I could take Lyrica for the same symptoms (took for nerve pain when I had Shingles), but he prefers to stay in the same drug family as Lexapro for now.

I worked late into last night (after we came home from Small Group) to organize my research and symptoms, and to consolidate into a few brief statements. I had documented my symptoms from mid-June to mid-August, and he had that list scanned into my medical records.

During the past months, he pretty much brushed off any attempt at conversation around my fatigue and pain. I was fairly certain I'd have to find a new doctor, but today he was kind, gracious, and consoling--what we've come to expect of him over the 35+ years he's been our Internist.

Interestingly, ten days ago his very youthful and fit 65-year-old wife's heart randomly went into Tachycardia, just like CA's. He was very vocal about understanding what CA and our family had just been through and wanted to make sure I told CA that they identified strongly with our experience. His wife's heart reset itself, thankfully, so she didn't require cardiac ablation. She's on blood thinners, etc. for the rest of her life or until she requires more attention. Being married to a doctor will facilitate monitoring her INR levels much more conveniently than CA experiences. Thankfully, CA should be off Coumadin mid-September.

Anyway... I'm hopeful that many health-risk channels will be eliminated and that treatment will be as easy as changing meds. Cymbalta won't cure me, but less nerve irritation should result in better sleep and general well-being.

Lexapro is the only Rx I take, so far! My blood pressure dances around borderline, then settles into normal range, and my cholesterol has always been mid to high normal.

Enough about me! Really. I'm doing all I can with nutrition, and plan to up the exercise quotient once I'm recovered from this second cataract procedure (tomorrow). I expect good results.

I know, TMI.

As responses and encouragement emails have come in, I am interested in a recurring theme. At least three female family members and friends remarked that it is so good "to be heard." Interesting.

I know our world is full of pop-psychology and self-help lingo, but these women are thoughtful, introspective women of faith and wisdom. They probably wouldn't voluntarily call themselves feminists, but they each recognize on a deep level that every woman deserves to be heard. And, I'm pretty we are all more self-aware and self-confident than our mothers ever knew to be.



Monday, August 18, 2014

A Birthday Letter to My Brother

I was surprised at how much you hate this photo. I find it winsome and touching.

You were a little boy. A much longed-for and loved little boy. Unfortunately mom was not up to taking care of you; keeping track of all the things mommies do for their little boys. That doesn't lessen her love of you, nor does it excuse their lack of attention to your needs.

You were raised by wolves, yet you've managed to become a worthwhile, charming, intelligent, loving man. Good for you. Bad on them.

I think when you see this photo you don't want to feel that pain, suffer those memories again. I do not enjoy strolls down memory lane re: my growing up years, either. When I see this photo, It reminds me of your sweetness and the fun we had with you. I love your innocence, and a couple of my grandkids look a bit like this photo of you.

Everyone has a story. It's what you do after that counts. (Sue Miller's For Love.)

We write our own stories. (Don Miller, et al.)

Sometimes you need to let go of your old stories to make room for the new ones God is writing with you.


We mostly weren't beaten or ever locked up, so its hard to allow ourselves to acknowledge there was emotional abuse and certainly neglect. Yelling, empty threats, shaming, rage, embarrassment, disappointment--plenty. Yet, we had grandparents and aunts who loved and trained us, and they along with mom covered us in prayer. God is faithful.

I think having been a part of the first 5 kids--your sisters shared and reinforced the good memories. Some of us pretend they were all good. You were just too young while your sisters were at home to remember all the love we showered on you. And, our grandparents were older and less active by the time you could have most benefited; although I know you treasure your memories of both sets.

So, I'm loving this reminder of my baby brother. You've always had to make it up as you go along. Guess what, so did your sisters.

Now write a great story with the next chapters of your life.



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

That's My Story, and I'm Sticking to It


Image via @ginnybranch on Instagram.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Give of Your Excess

Yesterday a wise reader wrote in to Ask Amy in the Chicago Tribune...

... Something valuable I learned is that you can only give of your excess. If you give to others from your essence (that which you need to keep yourself emotionally healthy), it will create a vacuum in your own life.

That vacuum will fill up with all kinds of negative things--resentment, frustration, substance abuse, etc. Giving to others is a beautiful and satisfying thing, but only if you can afford to give it.

-Learned the Hard Way


Sunday, April 6, 2014





I've never minded getting older. At least until my 60s. I still don't mind terribly. I just hate the age spots. More than the wrinkles.

First thing in the morning CA and I resemble Neanderthals until our muscles and ligaments get warmed up and we can finally straighten our backs. Some mornings require Yoga stretches. Most mornings require Advil.

I love being a grandma, and I love being invisible. Middle-age and Elderly women are like celophane--invisible. That's freeing. No worries. Sweatpants out and about? No one notices. No make-up? Ditto. I have freedom to move about, observe, and eavesdrop at will. I'm invisible.

I try not to "sweat the small stuff." I know I've acquired some wisdom from living. A perspective on the "bigger picture."

I have time to grant wishes for my Fun Kids. Bake cookies? Sure. M&Ms or shapes? Teach sewing? Let's get out the machine. Pillow? Purse? Pocket heart? Take your turn. We can make anything. Tic-Tac-Toe? Will you be "X's" or "O's?"

A Bear Hunt? Get your flashlights! Let's sing a-long. "We're going on a Bear Hunt. We're going on a Bear Hunt. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid..."

Let me brush your hair. You have beautiful hair. You're such a nice boy/girl. I'm very proud of you. Did you know that grandma prays for you every day? Bunches of times a day.


The hardest part of getting older? Aging parents and siblings. Confusion, mania, depression. Illness, surgeries, anger. Theirs, not mine. Mine are a whole different issue!


I think more about death. My life as a widow, or CA's as a widower. Our differing funeral wishes. I want no fuss, no muss--cremation and a simple graveside service. CA leans way into the traditional--visitation (wake), a coffin, and the full funeral rites. We don't have to match.


When KG asked us to reflect on Aging and to write a short summary for Small Group tonight I immediately remembered this photo and the cute comment that accompanies it.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Saying No


Caught part of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR as I drove home from the gym today. She was interviewing Jane Fonda, whom I've grown to respect. She is a fine actress, and has lived an interesting life.

The interview centers around a newly released book by Fonda-- "Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know about Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More."

This particular excerpt really caught my attention:


(Jane Fonda)

I want you to use protection, so forth. If you can't talk that way, then you can't, you're not ready to have sex. If you don't trust the person you're with, it's not a good relationship. There should never be pressure or abuse or force. No is a complete sentence. I mean, we've got to keep saying this to our girls and boys.

No is a complete sentence.



I'm going to use that; remember that; apply it.


Friday, March 21, 2014

In Other Words




Or, "It's all about me."


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Wind is Not a River

Brian Payton
Some men have the great misfortune to stand at life's continental divide and see that the land beyond is barren. There is no hope of turning back. What does one do with this view?
It takes the rest of the day, but then the answer descends on him like a revelation. Easley's eyes open wide, he stands to greet its arrival. It is the phrase, the riddle he has been repeating like a prayer. It is, of course Tatiana.
The wind is not a river.
Her chain of islands that dares to separate the North Pacific from the Bering Sea. A chain through which the wind whips into some of the world's most fearsome storms. One minute it's a hurricane, the next a breeze. But rivers! Rivers flow throughout the seasons--under bright summer sun, plates of winter ice--morning, noon, and night. Wind rises up and fades away, but a river flows endlessly.
And our suffering? This too shall pass. The wind is not a river.
pg. 186
If John were with her now, he would hold her hand and tell her not to fill the void with fear. Be realistic, he'd say, but do not jump straight to catastrophic conclusions... There are enough hard facts to confront each day without letting our imaginations get the better of us--without letting worry drain our real lives away
pg. 264

Just posted a review of this wonderful novel on my First Paragraphs blog. Need to capture these quotes here, as they are a necessary reminder and a caution besides.