Follow by Email

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sustentations after Sixty

A list of "Firsts after Fifty" came to be as a celebration of seeing my fiftieth birthday. That day could have been one of despair over aging out of a generation of vigor and contribution and into a phase of possible disregard and decline. But, I chose to fully celebrate being in my fifties, knowing that many people never get to experience that phase of life, and knowing that it was no small thing that I had survived to see it.

That list served me well as a reminder of newness of experience even as I aged. I drove a stick shift in Spain, went white water rafting, built a house, lived as a vagabond on the kindness of friends and family, became a grandmother, started a non-profit ... all sorts of things.

Then, the Big 60 approached. Of course, "Firsts after Fifty" includes firsts after sixty, but I felt I needed an appropriate identifier for special markings of this new decade of life. Especially since the last couple of years of my fifties had left me feeling like I was orbiting on the outer edges of validation and visibility in the world. My goal became seeking out places to be and work and live and serve that valued my age and experience. I defined this as following a call to where I could give and receive the best of life. Following a call elsewhere, however, meant exiting familiar and comfortable settings, but ones where my gifts and wisdom were not seen, and where I felt I was seen as an aging woman with little to offer.

Though there was a degree of terror involved in letting go of the familiar, doing so allowed me to be free to seek out new experiences. I've been granted the opportunity to develop the life that taps into what I feel are my best gifts and offerings to the world.

In return, I'm finding I am receiving gifts that nurture and sustain me in the ways I most need. I've led my first "Beyond Just Tryin' to Live" retreat at my family's mountain cabin, and have a flurry of ideas for future retreats. I've spoken French in France for the first real time in my life, leading the way where English failed for me and my travel companions, and been complimented, by French speakers, on my accent. Even my quirky mouth was complimented as being quite suited to the language. I'm finishing up a devotional book that's been 12 years in the making, and a realization has come to me that I am being sustained and expanded in new ways that go deep within my soul. I name this "Sustentations after Sixty."

Sustentation is a word I'd not known until my sister helped me find it in a synonym search of any number of words related to affirmation. Sustentation means "maintenance in being or activity; the sustaining of life; provision with means or funds for upkeep; and, means of sustaining life, sustenance." All these seem quite fitting for what I find I'm receiving in this new path I'm taking as I receive sustentation from friends, family, strangers, husband, and from God. I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Spell Check is a Man

The frustration I feel with spell check/autocorrect has recently been exacerbated when it occurred to me that this function is surely the product of a male mind. Oh, the horror I've experienced when discovering my innocuous little text has become something lurid and suggestive without my permission! Bread becomes breast. Time becomes tongue. Texting becomes some a fight with some sort of cyber Rorschach Inkblot Test. I promise you, my swipes are not intended to convey subliminal Freudian slips, or veiled subconscious desires.

There were times that I have chuckled with the presumptive corrections. When my children were in the throes of the intensity of their high school experience, a text about their high school, Grissom, became gruesome.  There have been times that one substituted word certainly sufficed or even over-excelled in conveying a message. But, for the most part it's an aggravation or an embarrassment of the most supreme sense.

Lightweight is overridden for Lamborghini. And - abs. Organized - orgasm, or orgy (take your pick). 

And sometimes autocorrect doesn't "listen" to me and make the correction I request! Such a man ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dance of Life

They stood facing each other, holding hands. The lights were dim, the room was quiet. A few people milled in and out, quietly checking in and taking care of tasks. But the couple didn't notice the comings and goings, aware only of each other and what was before them. I sat in the corner of the room, waiting for the moments I could offer help or encouragement, and, as I watched them, their pose reminded me of what I had seen as I watched them speak their wedding vows to one another. And still, looking at them four years later, I saw commitment. And love. They rocked gently back and forth, the movement became almost a dance, swaying slowly and reminiscent of their wedding celebration.

But, at the expected time, the gentleness ended. The contractions began again. Her knees buckled. Her head dropped onto his chest. She moaned and cried. He stood steady, giving her assurance and presence.

The labor seemed interminable and was relentless for 72 hours. She never wavered. I have no more respect for anyone than I have for her. And him. He didn't leave her side.

The interminable seemed suddenly soon. Push. Push. Push. Their child arrived. A son. A tiny new life in this great big world. He has parents who will nurture and care. Oh, that all children would know that. Blessed be this child. Blessed be mother and father. Blessed be the God of all creation. Blessed be love. Blessed be life.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Racism in the South ... and the North, and the East, and the West

The southwest United States was before me. That wondrous open sky, stark and blue and beautiful provided a backdrop for snow capped mountain peaks. The cracked windshield of the borrowed ranch Jeep I was driving added to the authenticity of my experience. Even though just a visitor in this part of the country, I could understand the draw and desire to claim a part of this land. There is something Divine here, something that draws the soul to the mightiness of creation here in the mountains and deserts.

At the high, dry altitude, it felt good to be free of some of the heat and humidity of my home in the south, that area defined by the Mason Dixon Line, where one of my young daughters had once exclaimed upon stepping out our front door, "It's soggy out here!" I found myself thinking on further distinctions between southeast and southwest United States and it wasn't lost on me that many people flee, oppose, disdain, and caricature the southeast with one big word ... and it's not "humidity." The word would be "racism."

Just minutes after that thought, I entered the National Park Service Bent's Old Fort just east of Pueblo, Colorado in La Junta, and my whole concept of racism and the south changed. The fort is along the Arkansas River, which you may or may not know was formerly the border between the United States and Mexico. Today, the Fort stands well reconstructed. Peacocks and chickens roam the grounds, donkeys make their way back up from the river to check out who's come to visit. It's a bucolic representation of what was at times a bucolic place in history. A merriest of trading posts and forts on the Santa Fe Trail, it had a bit of European attention to formality and beauty.

And then ...

As so often happens in histories of forts and castles and ships  -  and industries and cities and nations and schools - came the moment in the video of the introduction of dominance, injustice, and wars against the native people, all leading to containment and elimination imposed on the natives by the incoming.

So, yes, the south has struggled with racism and hatred and injustice. But, so has the southwest. Randomly, I thought on the kindhearted mid-west United States, and I remembered some of what I've read of the oppression of the immigrants to Chicago and other urban areas in the beginning stages of industrialization and meat processing in the US. And the Northwest United States, the fresh and glorious Northwest? What comes to mind as I'm still at Bent's Old Fort is the Chinese labor brought in to work the gold mines and build the railroads in the 1800's. Cheap labor. Generally no opportunity for advancement, and generally no hope of return to China. Riots. Discrimination. As if grasping for hope against hope, my thoughts turned to the Northeast United States, surely free of prejudice and oppression. But, sadly, no. From the very foundations of the United States of America there has been dominance of one people over another.

It may be accurate to say that no region of the United States is without a serious, complexion changing blemish with regards to human relations. It may be accurate that no part of the world or of world history is free of those blemishes and outrageous acts against humanity, whether that humanity be the same or different.

But, neither is any region or era of history completely that. Always there are people who not only act against the injustices, but live completely free from any desire for oppression or dominance. It's true. Today in the south, and the north, and the east, and the west there are people of all races and religions living, laughing, loving, and working together with no thought of the race or religion of the other. In the south there are white women and children sitting in a restaurant with a corner full of Middle Eastern men, speaking loudly their Arabic language and robustly cheering a soccer game. I know. I was there. In Alabama.

And such it is that much of what I can claim I know comes from "being there," traveling and meeting people and hearing their stories, watching their passions. It also comes from reading books and accounts of history, and visiting museums. The startling weapon room at Alcazar in Segovia Spain, and the Naval Museum in Halifax come to mind immediately, as do the National Parks of the United States, and the Smithsonian Museum of American History. All have helped tell tales that are inspiring as well as disturbing. A visit to the National Museum of Prisoners of War in Andersonville GA fuels my passion that we have to take the best from the worst, learn from it, and try our darndest to repeat the best. We must.

The honest truth is that I live in the south. I have a love hate relationship with the warmth and humidity. With the struggle for edifying human relations. But, I also have a love for all the people who call this same place home. Many have that same love. Please be a part of that small many with me. Wherever it is you call home.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Photographic Autobiographies

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good tale as much as most people, a well spun story or fantastical adventure, or a thriller with just enough thrill to kind of tingle the back of my neck. But when having to choose just one genre of literature, I invariably choose biographies. Or autobiographies. I've often said that there are so many inspiring, death defying, injustice challenging, riveting life stories out there that I find myself less and less intrigued by fiction. I'd rather spend my time walking along side someone in their real life experiences. I want to gobble up all the fortitude I can muster from someone who's gone down a path that causes me to re-evaluate what I consider to be so darned important or challenging in my own life.

Biographies that influence me are often stories like Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt), from whom I recognized I'd rather be the oppressed than the oppressor, and Christy (Catherine Marshall) that stretch of a biography that draws upon the experience of the author's mother as a teenaged "Christy" who traveled into the dark recesses of Appalachia to learn from a young student that we ain't got no right to not like anybody that God Himself has created. Or, Nelson Madela's Long Walk to Freedom which requires no further explanation.

In a similar way, I see photographs. Sure, I like posed studio photos that capture the best of everybody in the shot, but they've started feeling a bit contrived to me, all a bit the same except for the subjects, and maybe a bit fictitious. Those photos are controlled, staged, one step out of real life drama and experience. According to me.

These days, many people have the means to provide the world with impromptu visual offerings of their life and experiences. I like seeing photographs of families, individuals, groups, friends, or strangers all caught spontaneously in a moment that matters. These moments tell a story of being somewhere, living and breathing and seeing and smelling and hearing and laughing or crying ... not thinking about the pose, not creating a fictional setting.

And now, added to the mix, we've got the infamous "selfie." As I gazed upon a particular selfie recently, it occurred to me that selfies get a bad rap. This person was sharing with me a part of a real life experience. I was getting to journey along with them just as I would in an autobiography. This selfie happened mostly because this happened to be a solitary "journier," a sole person with no one else to capture them in that moment that mattered. Artists have long provided much appreciated self portraits, interpretations of themselves. Now we are merely offering and receiving digital self portraits.

Henceforth, therefore, I shall appreciate the selfie, photo bombers and all. I shall remember what value there is in the moment shared, whether it be one person or a group who doesn't want to have to leave anyone out of the picture. Just as I might choose not to read certain autobiographies, I might choose not to enjoy certain selfies, and still, I am pleased that my new awareness is that Selfies = Photographic Autobiographies.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


They looked at me like I had a fatal disease, and I ought to know. I've seen that look before when I sat on a table in the examining room and got the news no one wants to get. Fortunately, and thanks be to God, I lived to tell about it. But, many years later, against all odds, after chemo and radiation, losing my hair and other parts of my body, I saw "the look" again.

This time, though, I sat in a chair under the bright diagnostic lights of the cosmetics counter, the make up artist and technician consumed with concern about what they were seeing. The concern was about my eyebrows. I'd gone by department store just to pick up some make up, but, what the heck, "the make up artist was free for an hour, did I have time for a refresher course in new products and application?" Sure. Why not. I'd just left Clearview Cancer Institute where I'd had my 18th six month check up, and I'd just had my infusion of a drug to take the calcium out of my blood and put it back in my bones where it belongs ... or that's what I think I know about it anyway. Kind of makes me feel like I have the flu for a couple of days, and my eyes were bloodshot. But time in the make-up chair seemed appealing.

And, it was. It was relaxing to get pampered and shown ways to perk up my skin tone and make my cheeks pop with color. But, the eyebrows. Oh, dear. I sensed something was wrong when the artist picked up a brush and came toward me. "Well, you see," she said "... as we age we sometimes lose some of our hair. Oh yes, that's it, but you could try this or that," and with that she drew the perfect brow. "And always, but always, pluck any brow hairs that fall outside this particular brow line."

I flatly, but politely?, tell her I lost all my hair and most of my eyebrows and lashes to chemo a few years ago, and that I'm quite fond of the eyebrows I have now, even the errant hairs that buck the system and grow outside the brow line. Pluck those plucky daring darlings? I don't think so.

Monday, November 24, 2014

He, She, It

The giggles of my elementary aged classmates still resonate in my head as I recall the introduction of pronouns in English grammar when we came to the third person singular "he, she, it." There was hilarity, for some, in slurring "she" and "it" together to sound out a certain four letter word. There's some irony to that for me now. I am aware that the combination of she and it is what we often find ourselves in when pronouns are used frequently.

Oh that we could avoid the confusion of she, he, they, them. Who are all these people? We may think we know, but have we lost track of the thread of reference, for example, when she told her that they didn't want to do what he had suggested to them?

Rhonda's advice? Just watch out. Repeat names when necessary, no matter how cumbersome and ineloquent the repetition may seem.

After working for many years as an English speaking link to our community within a church congregation where the native language barely includes any pronouns at all,

I think they're on to something. Or should Rhonda say, Rhonda thinks languages that include virtually no pronouns are on to something.