“…Of Cabbages and Kings”

The disclaimer is first, Gentle Reader.  A ramble is gearing up.  So many clichés, so little time.

It has been a couple of days since I visited with you and those days have not been vacation days of ease.  Rather, there are a few too many personal challenges of the moment.

I am not a lemonade woman.  When life hands me lemons, I don’t seek out, don’t want the sugar.  I might sound like Pollyanna, but that is a cover.  Just deal.  Deal with the lemons.

Stuff happens–that pony poop sort of stuff.  There are times when it feels too deep, too overwhelming.  Giving up is not an option.  Those times that I did give up were unrepairable mistakes.

Yesterday I enjoyed some hours with three friends from high school.  Bright, articulate, involved and caring people.  We spoke about the amazing group with whom we shared our four years at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas.   Some of our 1956 classmates are still working, many to most volunteer in various ways.  We learned that depth of commitment in our homes, our church,  and in our schools.

I remember learning a prayer with a repeated tag line, “I am responsible”.  What I  failed to learn is discretion and discernment.  I failed to learn the sorting process.

During yesterday’s conversation of ‘cabbages and kings’, we touched on church, family, education and societal issues.  Three of us are educators and one of us had over 30 years experience in a law office.  Three of us are parents and grandparents and one of us is an ordained priest teaching in a major university.

I listened.  I learned.  I appreciated the wisdom of my friends, but I came away with no better understanding of  “I am responsible”.  My church is struggling.  The list of societal issues is long and compelling.   My time, talent and treasure are not able to keep up with “I am responsible”.

I need help with discernment and balance.

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Retirement, Alzheimers And Beyond

Oh the places we go, the topics we touch, the feeling we share…

I have two brothers, both married to wonderful women, and two sisters, one married to a special man, Mike, and one sister, divorced.  Each month we meet for breakfast to catch up on children, grandchildren, solve the problems of the world and simply enjoy being together.  At our ages, hospital visits and funeral rituals can become the primary gathering time, so breakfast is  the most important meal of the month.

The youngest of our group, Barbara, retired on April 15 and her sadness was evident.   She had hoped to continue working 20 hours a week, but no part-time position was open with her employer.  For 10 days she has emotionally wandered, wondering how she will fill her days once the closets get sorted.

Last month, Susan talked about her retirement which lasted 30 days until she took a new position, saying that becoming invisible was not an option.  I, too, found retirement unsatisfactory and have filled my time with far too many volunteer commitments.

Susan’s comment about invisibility was appropriate in that we reflect so much of ourselves through our jobs,  partially defining each day by success or failure linked to performance at work.  More than that, when working we are productive, contributing and earning our way.  When work ends at retirement, we get one more glimpse through the veil of mortality.  We are old enough for society to send us home.

But we are not a family to sit back and wait for the inevitable.  We challenge the definition of retired.  We know the end-game, but we intend to keep playing until the end-moment.

And of course, because we face the prospect of Alzheimer’s  our breakfast bunch constantly investigates new and challenging activities so those brain cells can multiple.  We admit to being terrified of losing that part of ourselves stolen from Alzheimer’s victims. Nothing is too bizarre for consideration.  Line dancing for the two-left-feet-rhythm-challenged, wood crafting for the computer security expert, quilting for the spatially inept, even the dreaded (and dreadful) Sudoku for the wordsmiths become new challenges.

So Barbara left, armed with ideas and propped with the support of the family who recognize her as extremely talented, genuinely empathetic and absolutely up to the challenge of handling retirement with the same grace by which she has managed her life.

I don’t remember what we ate to nourish the body, but it is totally clear how we nourish the spirit.

This I Know

Humans are marvelous creatures.  Right now, in these economic times, humans step up and display.

A man looses his job and after months, prepares for the loss of his home, selling possessions to stave off the inevitable.   His new work is job apps, interviews and piece work as it comes along.   Depression cannot be avoided, but he continues the job search.   Each day is a mountain, but he never stops climbing.  Today, after months of struggle, he said, “I am so grateful to live in this country.”

Young mother, divorced, two daughters and struggling to manage each hour of the day, staying centered so her daughters are less fearful.  And the grandmother is there, a constant source of help and support.

A home burns and the family is left with nothing.  Not so.  The family is left with neighbors, family, friends and strangers offering help.

Marine Toys For Tots boxes filled in so many commercial places.  Nice toys, not junk stuff, given with true concern.  All over the city, volunteers gather to wrap gifts and fill food baskets.

The ‘bicycle guy’ repairs and restores.  Food kitchens continue to serve warmth and smiles right along with the hot meals.  The mobile food truck is out in the bitter cold.

At this minute, a free health clinic is serving the uninsured of this city.  Some clients have not seen a medical profession for years.  Volunteers have given two days of intense service to a need that seems to defy solutions.

Hundreds of volunteers work to acknowledge the families of service women and men deployed and unable to come home to share the holidays.  Opportunities to reach those serving us with their lives—with their lives–are there for the taking.  Find those opportunities.  Participate.

This year, as much as in any year of our history, we need to find the words of The Eight Beatitudes and live the meaning.  Our worship of our God is in the streets more than in the churches and temples.  Our prayers need actions more than rote.  The beauty of a mid-night service doesn’t reach the cardboard box under the bridges.

We keep what we value.