Monday, April 09, 2012

Clean But Tired Feet

It was a long but exciting Holy Week for my church. We shared the service with three other churches. Each church hosted a service and led a different one. This made for some pretty interesting experiences.

First was the Tenebrae service. I’d never been to one of those even though I’m a “cradle Episcopalian.” As services go it was very meditative and spiritual. There was lots of praying in silence. This service was supposed to “set the stage” for the rest of Holy week which I think it did fairly nicely. Enough so that I chose to ask my priest if we could hold one again next year.

Then came Maundy Thursday. We had our traditional lamb stew cooked at a different church’s kitchen and then went in for the service. If you’re not familiar with Holy Week services this one includes the washing of feet. I’ve only participated in that part once before and for that one everyone’s feet were washed by the priest. This time we took turns. You got in line and when your turn came your feet were washed by someone you may or may not have known. Then you took the spot in front of the chair and washed the next person’s feet. It turned out to be quite an eye opening experience. Let me tell you that after holding someone’s naked feet in your hands you can never think of them as strangers again. Not even acquaintances. A part of me is wondering if I should get the woman' whose feet I washed some red nail polish as a gift for Christmas.

On Friday we held 2 services, one in public and one at a nice church with a familiar feel as I’d been there once  before. The public service was Stations of the Cross and was held at the Riverwalk here in San Antonio. Each station had a work of art or a performance held at it which had been inspired by the events we were honoring. They were all good and my favorite was the performance by a fellow church member of Mary receiving her son’s body. It was very moving and we were all in tears at some point during it.

That evening’s service was also nice and in a church that had something you may not see as much as you used to. It had real stained glass windows. The sun setting through them gave the whole place an intense glow and very special feel.

The Saturday evening service was The Great Vigil which was held at my church. This was a very music filled service with members from the other three churches joining us in the performance. Our choir director had an extra high energy level with that large a choir to direct. The sound was magnificent and many of the other choirs members had wonderful music skills and great voices. There were five priests participating in this service and it was kind of funny watching them rehearse and figure out who would do what. At one point we knew that they were all going to be back in the hallway behind the sanctuary throwing off their black robes to put on white ones and make it back tg celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We all giggled over that mental image.

Then came Sunday morning and everything was back to normal. We were at our usual church with the usual faces plus a few we seldom saw. I was delighted to see a familiar face from the early service in attendance at the late one because he had been taking care of his wife for a long time. She’s still with us but not so much mentally. My prayers are with him.

News about my own mother is that she is on Hospice care and will probably not be with us much longer. My father has told us that we need to make visits soon so that we can see her before she is either too unconscious to visit or has moved on. I’m sure that this knowledge had a large effect on my reactions to Holy Week. It’s filled with love and I needed that this year.

It is my sincere hope that you had a good Easter and spent time with your family. God Bless!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Plans and Such

White wing dove for dinner and the family gathered around my grandmother’s table. Mom busy in the kitchen. My sister and me checking in frequently to see what Mom and Grandmom had finished making and helping set the table. Stealing black olives from the tray of nibbles that sat on the table every year. That was a common theme for Thanksgiving when I was a kid. My uncle would be there and later his wife and kid too. It was a fun time. Even more so than the trip I and my sis would make with Grandmom and Granddad to the white wing hunting grounds in September so that Granddaddy could fill his game bag. Sis and I were the bird retrievers. Then we’d go back home to sit outside around a huge galvanized wash tub to pluck the feathers from Granddad’s catch.

Those days are gone and I’m solo so my Thanksgiving meal is often with friends and sometimes alone. This year I’ve been invited by friends Charlie and Nancy to join them and their daughter for a somewhat different type of Thanksgiving meal. We are having duck. The only time I've can remember eating duck was a Chinese dish which I think was Moo Goo Guy Pan. After reading the description on the menu I’d ordered it because I’d never had duck before. Visions of films showing how ducks were raised by folk who lived on ships and were sent into the water to eat and catch fish and then called back onboard with the ducks walking up a plank to the deck come to mind.

Being a good guest by my mother’s standards means that I bring something to the table or go over early to help with the preparation. I’ve offered to do both and will head to the store today to see if I can find some tiny “C” sized red potatoes to sauté. If the results are the same as the last dinner party I served them at there will be no leftovers.

John Knox Village where my parents live has been decorated for the past week and everyone is looking forward to the fantastic meal that will be served in the dining hall. Dad will be turning 88 on Thanksgiving so I’ll call later to talk, wish him, “Happy Birthday,” and chat with Mom. She’s been doing some better lately. There have been days where she was pretty alert and involved in all the activities that go on in the care center. Those are offset by days where she isn’t alert and involved, but even those are showing some improvement. Best of all is that I’m no longer getting one word answers from her when we talk on the phone. My sister continues to Skype with Mom regularly and that’s a real blessing since she won’t be able to come to TX for a while. I hope to go down sometime in December, but haven’t set a date yet as I’ve got church obligations and the guest rooms will be full on Christmas weekend. It may be New Years weekend like last year. The college I’m attending online decided to give us all a break for the last couple of weeks of the year so that may be my best time to go.

I’m looking forward to reading all about everyone else’s Thanksgiving meals and plans and have already started with San’s So till next time…

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Update by Request

Our beloved David, came by and asked about Mom. When I first got back I needed to space myself from what I’d experienced. Now I’m doing better, so this is what the news on Mom is.

Mom is working past her second stroke. She’s in a wonderful place called John Knox Village (JKV) where she and Dad have lived for quite a few years. The care center at JKV is really good and I couldn’t ask for better, more attentive nurses than they have (One of them caught the stroke while it was happening! Great nurse!). Dad sees Mom everyday and keeps us updated on how she is doing.

While she was in the hospital a cardiologist examined Mom and recommended a pacemaker because her heart was slow and irregular. That was done and hopefully Mom will continue to improve.

Post stroke, she has been kind of non communicative and wants to sleep a lot. Her doctor tells us that is normal and that she will come out of it over the next couple of months. Dad’s latest letter seemed to indicate that she is becoming more aware of her surroundings and seems to be interacting with others again.

While visiting, my meals were delivered to the care center, so I was able to join Mom for every meal. It was good being with her. I plan/hope to go back in December to see her again. We celebrated her birthday the Saturday I was there by gathering, giving her gifts, and using one of them (My sis sent a net book.) to Skype with my sister and her husband in FL. Mom really smiled seeing Jill and Bud.

Part of me says this post is done and part keeps saying, “You need to address both sides of the experience.” It hurts to think that Mom won’t be with me forever. Trying to come to terms with the idea is a changing experience. I keep reminding myself that Mom is a believer and will join Grandmom and Granddad in heaven. Local friends as well as distance ones have been very supportive and I’m so grateful for their love and understanding. While this is not something I’d want anyone else to go through I guess it’s unavoidable that some of my friends have and they are SO empathic with me that it makes me want to be like them. “God, help me grow through this and become more like Mom and my wonderful, caring friends.”

Peace! & Hope!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Call Me Inspired

There is great news in blogland today. David McMahon of Authorblog is back! This was so exciting that it made me want to blog something too. That’s something I’ve not done in quite a while. I’m sorry that I was away for so long and I’ve no idea if I’ll be able to keep up steady and regular posts, but since I’ll be following David’s blog with near religious regularity I’ll surely be more inspired to write something too.

My last post talked about my mother’s stroke. She has spent quite a while in the nursing home wing of John Knox Village, the retirement community where she and Dad live. Right now she’s in the hospital, having had another stoke last Sunday. This one has affected her left side. We are taking things day by day. This is scary! It doesn’t matter how adult you are or together your life is, the thought of losing your mother is enough to bring you to tears. Attending the healing service at church this past Wednesday helped. So did telling my friends and church. Lots of praying is going on. I’m blessed to have Sandi as a friend. She and I had a chat about how to handle this and it really helped.

On the work side of life, I finished the 2010 Census job back in September. It was a lovely experience and one I’ll always remember with fondness. It seems to have given me a desire to work on mission oriented jobs, so when a friend of mine told me about a training program to create a workforce to convert the nations medical records from a pen and paper system into a modern database I jumped at the chance to help out. I’ve been accepted into the training program and will take 6 months of online classes. Onsite Tech Support is the job I’m aiming for since that’s where my work experience and education fit best. I’ve also kept my relationship with Pearson Education and will be scoring for them from time to time.

Mom’s birthday is the 23rd of October and if I don’t need to hurry down there before then I’ll be going to the Rio Grande Valley to see her and celebrate that day with her. She’ll be 87. It was going to be a festive gathering of her family, but my sister found reason to go down this past week so I may be the only daughter in attendance that weekend. That’s okay. I’ll spend lots of nice uninterrupted, unhurried quality time with Mom. We’ll visit with her friends, play games with Dad and others, and just chat. I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a weekend!

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Rough 6 Weeks

On May 14th Mom had a stroke. It happened during the night and she woke confused, disoriented, and weak. Dad took her to the emergency room where they ran a bunch of tests. The result showed that she’d lost some cognitive functions and a bit of peripheral vision. They moved her to the full care section of the retirement community my folks live in. My sister and I’ve been down to see her and will go again sometime next month.

It’s somewhat reassuring that Mom & Dad live in a really good place where the care is excellent. She’s getting at least 3 different types of therapy (cognitive, occupational, and physical) to try to get her eligible for assisted living. It’s going to be a few weeks before we know if she will be able to do it, but she is making progress. Last report was that she is stronger now and her memory functions are improving. There’s a list of things she has to be able to do before she can qualify for assisted living and Mom’s ticking them off as she accomplishes them.

One of the hardest things for me is the feeling of disconnect I’m experiencing. For several years now I’ve started my morning by working a jigsaw puzzle and emailing it to Mom with a short note about how things are going in my life. Now that’s stopped because there’s no computer in her room at the care center. I call but they have to go get her from where she is to bring her to the phone. If she makes it to assisted living there will be a phone in her room instead of at the nurse’s station.

On the life in San Antonio side, I’m finding work more stressful these days. It isn’t as much fun and since the Census is heading into the last stages everyone is polishing up their resumes. I recently went to a sneak peek movie screening and saw Despicable Me which comes out in July. It’s a really good kids flick with a heart warming ending. It’s funny too. My face just kept smiling bigger and bigger all through the movie. I’ve been dong some minor repair things around the apartment. My vacuum cleaner has a new belt and the bathroom has a new showerhead. The stray kitten living on my porch had gotten pregnant but the baby didn’t survive. However, that little girl is letting me pet her now and sometimes seems to want petting more than the food. I’m not sure she’ll let me pick her up yet. And, in honor of my friend Susan, with a nod to Jeremy who took me to the yarn store, I’ve started learning how to knit. I bought some yarn, needles, and an instruction book and cast on 50 stitches which was way too many for the length of my bamboo needles. Never the less, progress is being made. I’ve pretty much gotten the hang of the knit stitch and am now practicing the purl stitch. Jenny and I took a lesson at the yarn store this past Saturday and I learned how to hold the yarn in my left hand which is much faster, but I need to practice more because I don’t think my stitches are as even with that method. If I get good enough to actually knit a real item of clothing I’ll be delighted and probably never give this up.

Hope you all have a good 4th of July! Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In the Quiet Places

Added in a couple of items to the Tiny Lifestyle Changes today. One I’ve been doing for a while and it is working well for me. The other is a suggestion made by my associate rector, Matt, and it’s the kind of thing that would work for me if I did it regularly so I’m going to make the attempt to do that too.
The one that I’m already doing is from my pastoral counselor. He suggested that to handle stress and anxiety, since it was keeping me awake at night, I should turn over to God the things that were bothering me most. He suggested a journal, but I’m just doing it in prayer. I’ve been negligent of my prayer life, so this is a good way to get back in the habit of talking to God. When I was a new believer I used to fall asleep reading his word. I sort of miss that comfort and I hope this tiny step will lead me back to that, or at least to more consideration in the quiet of the evening when I’m lying there trying to shut down my day.
Last Sunday Matt gave a really good sermon that included 2 midrash. That may not be spelled correctly and it’s not the plural form. He told us during the sermon but I didn’t get that bit down. One of the midrash talked about the space between the lines of text in the Torah being the place where the true meaning was to be found. Then he talked about the name of God as it is in Hebrew YHVH, which is never spoken, and what the sound might be if we did try to pronounce it. Without the vowels that Christians have added in it sounds sort of like breathy sounds that one hears. The PH sound, the H sound, maybe some of the S, those where you are exhaling strongly. I kind of laughed when he first did that and tried to say it without the vowels. It sounded like a bit from Harry Potter. Then as his lesson continued I came to think, the breath sound might represent the breath of life that God gives us or that energy which was sent forth from God when he made the world. If that’s what we find in the quiet spaces maybe it’s a good idea that I go back and reread my priests’ sermons so that I can reflect on their teachings and gain what is between the lines of text. And that’s the second item I added into Tiny Lifestyle Changes.
Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reflection – Did I see the light?

If you’ve read my blog a lot in the past you know I like to think back on things and see what effect they’ve had on my life. This is a skill I learned late in life. It was something I had to do for some college classes and believe I’m much the better for having gained it. The process was called reflection.

Reflection has given me lots of awareness on how things affect others too. When I was a child I didn’t spend time analyzing other people’s actions or emotions until it affected me and then it was usually a frenzy of trying to look at why they did or said whatever it was that had hurt me so badly. That’s not socially helpful, but it let me express my angst till I’d owned it and come to a better understanding of the situation. Thankfully I’ve grown some since those anxious teenage years. These days I try to understand the other person’s needs or behaviors based on what I know of them and not how I feel. It helps a bunch because I’ve come to love harmony in my life, a gift from Mom, and hopefully that longing for peace and harmony makes me more of a peacemaker than an irritant to any situation I run into.

This morning I was reading an article from WebMD that talked about a study researching the effects of darkness on people’s behavior. It said that when the room is darkened, not lightless but dim light, or people wore sunglasses they might behave in a less ethical manner. I found that very interesting and suddenly I was imagining what I might say to a child who wanted to wear sunglasses all the time because he, “thought it made him look cool” because another kid he knew wore them and he thought that kid was cool. I guess our teachers were right; you shouldn’t wear sunglasses all the time. Since the eyes are windows to our heart and mind, if someone feels you can’t see what he’s thinking or feeling he feels anonymous and can thus act in ways that might not be right but won’t be attributed to him because of that self perceived anonymity.

I think I can understand how a kid might want to be anonymous if he’s constantly being corrected for things he does. We probably all experience times like that as adults too. But knowing this means it’s important to look people in the eyes to really know them, that it can’t be done by just hearing their words without knowing the emotions behind them, or maybe the experiences that have generated their response to a situation. That’s not always easy to know even when you do look someone in the eye, but it gives you the opportunity to ask them for more so that they can express themselves and feel heard. I think that’s called active listening today and we all know how much we want to be heard when we are struggling.

I want to go back to that darkness article and think up some more ways that it can affect us so I guess I’ll find a friend I can discuss that with, or maybe my counselor since he’s good at role play too. If you read the article on darkness and come up with any insights I hope you’ll share them.

Peace! Hope! & Joy!