New Tree. New Jelly. Nailing Jelly To A Tree

The huge, unbending and powerful tree is a Goliath medical center.  The jelly is us, our less than slingshot sized strength, our emergency room experience.

Try it.

Try to nail jelly to a tree.

Try to meet Goliath on a fair and level field.  Speak quietly.  Be totally honest.  Be completely open.  Express your truth without hesitation.  Share your careful notes.   Speak quietly— trusting that you are being heard.

That ooze slip sliding off the tree has little chance of finding traction.

Imagine yourself in an emergency room, caring for a loved one in great pain, frightened and insecure.    Try to imagine that you trust in the oath that protects from harm.  Try to imagine that you actually expect medical help.  Try to imagine that personnel recording the ER visit are careful, vigilant and accurate.   Normal expectations, right?  Why we visit the ER is cases of extreme need, right?

I have a few words of advice.  Give up imagining. Become annoying and insistent.  Be vigilant, watching, listening, double/triple checking on the ER personnel so that your concerns are accurately recorded.  Demand to see each entry in the ER record.

This isn’t the time or the place to list and lament our details.  Maybe that time will come later.  Maybe never.

For now, this moment of extreme frustration and utter disappointment, my rant is clear.  Should you need ER care, make very certain that you see the notes as entered into the computer.  Check the facts that  each member of the ER team enters.  Insist.  Demand.  If needed, amend and clarify.  Be aware that the first entry by ER personnel is what every subsequent  ER person sees before she/he sees the patient.

Why would any ER see sharing the notes as a problem?  Why would it be necessary to deny the patient access to the computer files?   For our situation, I am asking these questions too late.  For you, Gentle Reader, the questions might save another attempt to nail jelly to a tree.


A Mini Ramble (ccr)

Although I had no intention of being funny, Melinda was laughing. She is scary-smart and has a way of hacking the fat from any conversation.  We have been long distance friends for many years.  The reconnects are never awkward.

Actually, whatever made her laugh isn’t important. Our conversations  lead to new ways of looking at both the current topic and many life decisions.  She forces the search.

There has never been a time in my life that I did not long for a spiritual belief system that sustained. Being raised a Catholic, and nurtured by Dad who believed to his core, made the early years safe. At this moment, I can feel the comfort of those years.

The process of maturing is ongoing and isn’t always accepting of early comfort. Reality overcomes.  Beliefs suffer challenge.

Melinda’s laughter is often one of those challenges.  Dan’s recommendation of the works of Huston Smith is another of those challenges.   My frequent (often inspiring)  exchanges with Chris,  Mark’s unique perspective, Two-Names wisdom, Karol’s unflinching support,  Martha’s terse emails keep me prickly and searching.  I am profoundly grateful.

I believe that it isn’t enough to be part of tradition and community, though these are vital to human comfort. The greater need is for something more, so much more than physical comfort or the false security of following the letter.

What a waste to attend a church service and walk out into a life that doesn’t require more than that hour of worship each week. What a waste to claim spirituality over religion if spirituality is lazy and uninvolved.

Wouldn’t we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the children, seek social justice, educate and clothe,  welcome those we see as ‘different’ IF religion and spirituality were true seekers?

Wouldn’t women and men who perform these works be joined by thousands more if religion required embracing message and  mission?

Raised To Be Sleek

In Michael Perry’s book Coop, he writes about the funeral of his young nephew, Jake. The room was oppressive with grief, the choking sadness of a child’s death.   Michael looks around at the ‘sunburned old dogs’ with Brylcreemed hair approaching Jake’s father.  Each man there, knowing that there are no words to comfort, nothing to ease the ache, but there because that is what we do.  Michael’s stray thought wonders at the juxtaposition of craggy faces, work-worn and weary, slicked with the grease and smell of hair.  He  writes, “At times like this I am grateful I was not raised to be sleek.”

I love that.

I love Michael Perry’s perception that grieving touches the heart, no matter the look of the mourner. I love the acceptance of everyman, no matter his dress. What matters is the need to share the grief, to do something to make the pain less crushing.

“…not raised to be sleek.”
My dad was born in 1910, a long time before education and experience brought us to our easy enjoyment of cultural diversity, our acceptance of everyman. But Dad knew all that without education and experience.

Some family lore has him graduating from high school and the flip side says he quit high school to earn money so he could impress Mom. Heads or tails, the story works.

Our Kansas City, Kansas high school (1950’s) had some cultural diversity though not the degree enjoyed today.  Wyandotte County definitely had class and color lines.  Dad saw color, but color had no other significance than shades of skin. His friends were as diverse and they often filled the big kitchen bantering with us and filling the house with laughter.

Dad was bandbox perfect in his personal appearance, but the scruffiest kid could come to our house and be welcomed. Dad really believed that idea that every moment is just that–a moment, a snapshot in a life.

Actually, the lingering aftermath of the depression probably prevented us from being raised sleek, even if our parents hoped for that. But I believe that Dad saw people as good, as a reflection of one another mirroring only the best.

I am grateful to Michael Perry and his book for reminding me of this wonderful part of who my father was, of the depth of this special side of his character.


Kahlil Gibran said, “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.”
Isn’t that beautiful! Friendship becomes a force–a sweet imperative for a rich life. But more…so much more. Responsibility takes friendship out of the modern concept of both networking and good times. Responsibility puts friendship into one of the most important commitments we can make. Nurturing a friendship is a nurturing  never to be taken lightly.

Often we read that a true friend will accept us totally, the part we show the surface world and the part we cover in shadow.


But the shadow part cannot surpass the boundaries a friend holds as inviolable.  There are limits of acceptance. Many friendships strain against lines unknowingly crossed.     Even mundane social mores can become that line in the sand.  In parts of society caring for the friend as one cares for self  isn’t going to happen.

Sadly, some of us accept the ministrations of friendship as due, but  pass over a quiet plea for help.   It is easier to receive the care from friendship rather than be the provider of shelter in those darkest times.

Maybe the process of friendship is ongoing…takes a long time to become…has name but not substance for extended periods. Maybe we need a new word that fits between acquaintance and friend…a word that honors the becoming but does not presume the result.

Exploring friendship, we can discover those who truly listen and care about the voice in which we speak. We find those who let us unfold one conversation at a time accepting differing points of view as a building process and not as personal attacks or arguments.

If we are very lucky, we share a great deal of laughter and support as savor to the sweet responsibility.

Catholic Church: Justice Via Restitution (ccr)

For many of us, The Sacrament of Penance was a weekly ritual.  Kneeling in a darkened box we recited our list of sins, prayed for forgiveness, received a penance and were then absolved of our wrongs.  This initiation into guilt began far too early.  From childhood, our church required repeated opportunities to be humbled in guilt, to feel the ugliness of transgression for such things as forgetting morning prayers or for having a stray and uninvited thought.

Renamed ‘Reconciliation’ and placed in the light of face-to-face humbling has not increased the use of this sacrament.  The opposite has evolved to sparse use of this channel of reconnecting with grace.

Our book, Four Ordinary Women, has a chapter ‘Spiritual Beliefs’ so my own Catholicism has been open and self analyzed.  Many of my blogs attempted to find some semblance of sanity over the sexual abuse of children by trusted, ordained, men of authority–priests.

Last evening a conversation that started with the historical definition of decimation wound  to an idea to help secure justice for the thousands and thousands of abused children.  In addition,  justice is required for the millions of loyal Catholics waiting for their church to step up and take an honest and thorough run at confession, penance, absolution and justice.

The following idea is new to me.  I will Mark The Day as a new beginning for the search for justice.

Churches received tax exempt status because of the mission of bringing good to the people, of offering sanctuary, of caring for the spiritual and temporal needs of ‘the flock’.  (Isn’t that a disgusting choice of descriptive noun?)  Tax exempt status allows more money to accomplish these goals.

Obviously, all tax exempt churches enjoy every benefit of local, state and government taxes.  No pain, all gain.

Sexual abuse of children by ordained clergy and the subsequent million dollar cover-ups completely negates any belief in the justice of avoiding payment of taxes for the good of souls.

Revocation of tax exempt status is a step toward social and spiritual justice.

After This Storm

As children, we sat on the porch swing in our quiet Kansas City, Kansas neighborhood and relished every lightening/thunder eruption.  Early winter  storms meant dragging out grandma-made quilts, clutching the wraps like cocoons.  A really super storm could wet our hair and send rivulets down our faces.

In his book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds, George Singleton gives the rule for using clichés.

Rule # 1 Don’t.
Ahh…I love clichés–almost as much as I love quotes.  And so does Mr. Singleton.  On page 122, he saves the day.

Rule # 169    Guilty Pleasures.  Sometimes a well used cliché is the literary device that gets us where we are going with minimal explanation.

Good rule.  A dog-eared cliché is the scene outside my window. Damaged branches have gouged holes in the yard. Flower petals on the walk, broken pots, gutters down, deck furniture upended, a beautiful washed-clean-world. And that circles to another cliché.

What better frame could we find for the emotional dramas that storm though our lives? Upheaval, especially in family situations, has it all–thunder, lightening,  destruction of damaged parts and even the guilty pleasure that can come with the cleansing.

Most often, those family upheavals come from some pretty ugly storm seeds.  The need to be right, to have others bow to one’s perceived version of right and rules–our rules.  The need to control.  The need to decide how straight the narrow. The need to create family by the rule of law, and again, one’s perception law.  Sadly, understanding and compassion play a very minor part.   Family breach might salve, but the memory of pain rarely goes away.

Nature’s  destructive storms can leave a washed-clean-world.  A porch  swing storm, a family upheaval, rarely leaves a truly washed-clean-world.  Granted, it  might help  find new ways of taking out the broken parts, replacing the old ways, coming closer to cherishing one another.  But I think we would do well to remember that emotional damage rarely heals.  Spiritual damage doesn’t wash clean, ever.

Brain By The Book

I rarely forget where I put the car keys, my current library book, my purse. Food on the stove doesn’t burn and nothing gets locked in the car. My calendar keeps us on time and in the right place each time.

Because my mother spent the last years of her life lost in dementia, I soon learned the awareness tests. In a ‘just-in-case’ moment that comes from my chronic planning gene, I decided that the “subtract 7 from 100 and continue to zero” must become as easy as reciting the alphabet. To be on the safe side, I put encyclopedia in my list of words to spell backward.

Imagine–preparing for dementia!

And it just might be one of my better planning-to-plan ideas.  Light switches have been known to migrate from one side of the doorway to the other.  Appliance dials  seem to be programmed to malfunction after 9:00 PM.  On the rare occasion, I have looked out the passenger window and have needed a nano-second to become orientated.

Part of my strategy was an arm-load of Brain Books.  The consistent message is  clear.  People my age are constantly reminded to do both physical and mental gymnastics, push ups for the muscles and connections for the gray matter.

So I bought several and checked out even more from the library.  Odd.   As I thumbed through the books, I noticed a strange and consistent editing error.
Beginning language (right brain) activities were  often English 101 type exercises…fairly easy,  predictable and kind of fun to whip  through.

But the math activities! Why would that much quoted rocket scientist spend time designing totally unreasonable math stuff for such an easy language book? And who invented Sudoku? More importantly, WHY invent Sudoku? If all the columns and rows add to the same number, why not just tell me the number and move onto a crossword puzzle?

Are there more  Brain Books in my future? Maybe, but someone needs to do a better job of balancing the material–say ratchet up the language stuff and understand the proper use of the delete-all-math key.