Monday, November 7, 2016

You are NOT a Good Candidate

Tomorrow is election day.  If you were running for political office, you may be offended if someone said that to you, but you'd get over it.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

That's not the kind of candidate I'm talking about.

Some years back, I was in the room while my friend's brother Peter heard these words from his doctor.  The doctor had to tell him, "I'm so sorry, but you are not a good candidate for a liver transplant. Your liver is failing, and there are no other treatments available."

Peter didn't get over it.  He died of liver failure, just as the doctor said.  There were no other options available to him.

I recently heard about a heart sister of mine.  I've never met her, but she sounds like a lovely person.  She was young, married about 10 years and had little kids.  She was told those same words:  "I'm sorry, but you're not a good candidate for this procedure."  It was a procedure that she had hoped would save her life and solve her heart trouble.  She died waiting to discuss what other options might help her.

You can hear these stories, but they don't really prepare you for the reality. You hear of a procedure that sounds like it can cure your ailment.  For me, it was the promise of a procedure called an ablation.  I mean, imagine it!  If this works, no more heart disease!  My only reason for not running will be laziness!  I won't be controlled by a handful of pills and a machine in my chest.  I'll be free!  I can go back to assuming I will live to be eighty!

So I had the test, and waited.

...And waited.

And I silently prayed.  And I hoped that this would be the cure I've been waiting for.  And I allowed myself to actually imagine what life will be like if this works out.  For real.

But instead I heard those words, "you are NOT a good candidate...."  Sorry. (Can you hear my hopes crashing into the ground?) There will not be a simple fix.  There will not be an end in sight.  This heart problem will not go away. I'm stuck with it, and after that experience, it feels even more heavy and more oppressive.  I am not a good candidate.  This will not fix my problem.

That was a few years ago, and I've accepted my situation.  If I have 3-6 bad days a month, I'm still in the A- to B+ range.  Not bad for a formerly dead girl.  However, I'm sometimes still haunted by that day in Peter's hospital room.  My heart still goes out to those who are hearing "I'm sorry, you are not a good candidate for this life-saving procedure." It's not the doctor's fault.  There's only so much they can do.  That doctor was deeply affected by telling Peter that news.  He would have loved to tell him some treatment or surgery that would turn back years of mistreatment and neglect of his health.  Just like so many heart docs would love to know a way to turn back the clock so we could stop smoking and start eating healthy and exercising while we were still healthy enough to do it.  Not all heart disease works that way, but 80% is preventable.  We have to make ourselves good candidates while we can.

Tomorrow is election day.  I'll be praying for ALL the candidates.  I'll also be praying that more of my heart family WILL be good candidates for life-saving procedures and transplants. I'll be praying that we can all be filled with hope,  



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Demolition Queen!

We had a leaky roof that caused some water damage to the walls and ceiling of our dining room.  Said walls and ceiling must now be removed and replaced.  Mostly by me.  Because I am a BEAST at demolition!

I had NO IDEA I was a Demolition Queen until I felt the first full whack of the sledgehammer and watched the drywall buckle and bust.  The crashing of the broken pieces of my dining room wall hitting the floor was like a fresh batch of whiskey to a bootlegger! 

I. Am. Hooked.

I might just start randomly pulling down walls just for kicks and giggles, but first I think I need to finish the dining room.  

As I donned my super-sexy dust mask/eye protection goggles/protective hat combo, I started to think deep thoughts about this whole experience.  I mean, for me, the whole journey so far has been a metaphor for my life.  I have reached a point where what I had been "getting by" with no longer works  for me, and may in fact, be making me sick.  (I don't think we have any black mold, but it's pretty nasty looking up there.  It can't be healthy.)  

So, it's time for a change.  I started from the inside of the room,packing up the things I thought I needed to display and have "at the ready".  Like my sewing machine that was last used over a year ago, and the wine selection in the china hutch that hasn't been touched in ages.  I removed those things and packed them away for later.  I've also done that with my day job.  I'll get it back out, when this interior work is completed, just like I will go back to school in September, and continue my dream job of teaching little people to love school, reading, friends, broccoli, and an assortment of other things they never knew they liked.  For now, those skills are boxed up.  With my china.  

I've had to rearrange some big pieces of furniture and remove EVERYTHING from the room.  My life is in flux, and making a space, or allowing things to be gone is hard for me.  Some of my kids are graduating, and are in the process of moving on with their adult lives in their own homes.  They will be missed, and when it's time for them to go, it will be hard.  They are mighty big pieces of the "furniture" in my heart and they can't be replaced.  I also won't replace the dining room table that was so prominent in there.  I tried to move it and the legs snapped off.  Thankfully, the kids' legs are all still attached.  

I pulled out the carpet in one big piece. Just pulled up the edges and rolled that bad monkey right out of there.  I don't need no steenking carpet!  It was stained with 18+ years of nail polish and dog pee and orange pop.  I was in no way sad to see this carpet go, but it was super heavy, and I started to doubt my ability to physically complete this project. Then I was able to carry out the underlayment in 2 separate pieces by myself.  Oh yeah, I don't have anything to prove to anyone.  I'm  just remodeling a room.  Slow down......

Two walls of this room are internal.  They are shared with another wall inside the house.  They are close and intimate, and there is nothing between these walls but air and time, and the dust of all the years.  Opening those walls was like releasing so many loving conversations.  It was like setting free the memories of parties and games and laughter and singing.  I could once again hear the silliness and fun that has happened in my home, and the cheerful voices of our wonderful children that Luke and I have been blessed to share it with.  These walls open easily.  The old drywall comes down in large pieces, and because there's nothing to stop them from cracking, they don't take nearly as much work with the sledgehammer. These walls make me feel invincible!!

The other two walls are external. They are packed top to bottom with blown insulation that is made of mulched old newspapers.  How interesting that we would use the news of the day to protect our family from that which would harm it. That room has always been colder than the rest of the house, so I don't believe it was a very good insulation plan.  However, opening up each section of wall and physically removing all of that crap was so very cleansing.  Some of it would come out in big bricks of puffy stuff. Some would start to come out in a brick, until it missed the trash can and exploded all over my leg and into my socks with a million cells of fluffy, dusty, nastiness. It's like going to confession.  "Here, Father, let me just open up this panel of wall and dump out for you all the old crappy fluff I've decided to pack into my life because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  It seemed like something that would protect me or keep me warm, but it really and truly is trash." So I am absolved, but I still have fluff in my socks, and I still need to fill my trash bags with this stuff, and remove it from my metaphoric "room".  I will try asbestos I can to make better choices. (See what I did there... Anyway.)  

So here I am.  My walls are bared.  My insulation is gone.  The floor is swept of the debris of drywall and fluff.  And dust...So much dust!  I really am made of dust, and to dust I will return.  (I am reminded of this every time I re-enter this room, an put my dust mask back on.)  I take a look around the room and realize that I have done all I can do for right now.  The next step is a doozy, and I'm not sure I'm ready.  I'm not sure exactly what to expect.  

After Luke removes the chandelier, we will take down the ceiling. I'll post a picture.  It's gross!  I'm really afraid of what will come falling down on  me when I open that can of worms. Can I swing a sledgehammer over my head while standing on a ladder?  Should I?  What disgusting assortment of nasty ceiling contents is going to come raining down upon me?  Is my tarp big enough?   Just like my life.  Who isn't afraid when you get ready to take a great leap of faith with the One who is Above you?  Things get dicey when you decide to remove some of the things that get between you and your Creator.  I just want to be closer to Him.  And I'd like to be rid of the damage caused by my leaky roof.    

Who knew how much there is to learn by demolishing a dining room?  Maybe God sent that leak just for me!                 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Elevator, going up?

I don't know why they decided to take the elevator, but they did.  Probably for the same reason people climb mountains and write songs. The Spirit moved them in that direction and they went with it.  
I don't know why it jammed after moving upwards only a few feet.  Perhaps the elevator was faulty. Perhaps they were too "active" in the elevator car.  Perhaps it just happened out of dumb luck.  Perhaps God had some lessons to teach us, and used this elevator for that purpose.  
Let me start by saying that I am fully aware of how much my Harriett hates small enclosed spaces.  I know how she gets panicky when the walls appear to close in on her, and I can only imagine the horror in her soul when she realized that the elevator was no longer moving, and that she may, in fact, be trapped in that metal box with her sister and her best friends, for an indefinite period of time.  They started screaming immediately after the elevator stopped, and their friend and hero, Kathy, was on the other side of the door, immediately calling for back-up. 
Lesson #1: When you discover you're stuck, call for help!  
By the time I got there, it was almost a festive atmosphere. The girls were singing to pass the time and to control the anxiety.  Staff members, priests, and an assortment of supportive team members worked to keep the girls happy, requesting songs and joking with them to keep them calm while the fire department and building and grounds crew did their best to remedy the elevator situation.  

 Lesson #2: When you're trapped in a metal box (real or metaphoric) you get to choose your reaction.  You can panic and cry, or you can rally your troops and sing some 4 part harmony.  

When the second fire and rescue vehicle arrived, things got a little more scary.  Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the fire department would have to use some rescue machinery known as the "Jaws of Life" to open the elevator door.  They made everyone leave the area.  I protested, "Those are MY kids!"  "I'm sorry Ma'am, but you have to go, too."  He was as sympathetic as he could be, given the circumstances.  When I saw the equipment he was about to use on the door that held my precious daughters (and their cousin and friend, who I also count as my beloved daughters) I freaked out a little.    

Lesson #3: When people you love are trapped in a metal box (real or metaphoric) DON'T 

I went upstairs,as directed, but I didn't go outside with the rest of the team.  I couldn't leave my kids! I stood at the elevator door, a floor above them and banged on the door so they could hear me.  I hope they could hear me.  I banged and yelled, "I'm right HERE!  Mom's right HERE! You'll be right out in a minute!  It's gonna get loud, but I'm right HERE!"  I heard them scream for me.  I heard them cry.  I listened to them cry, and I'd never felt so helpless.  I couldn't see what was happening, but I could hear metal grinding and the roar of the machines that must be deafening inside that metal box. I was having a "Mary Moment."  Is this how she felt while her son was being crucified?   

Lesson #4: What God taught me: 

As I banged on the door it occurred to me that I am not the first to feel this way.  Girls, every bit of my heart wants to be in that box with you.  I want to protect you, and calm you and wrap my arms around you, but you're trapped in a big metal box.  I would gladly trade places with you and be locked in that box FOR you, but all I can do right now is to stand above and tell you I'm here, and hope you keep listening for my voice, and that it brings you comfort. For a tiny moment, I felt connected to all of my ancestors who await my arrival in Heaven.  They call to me that they are right there, and they are hoping that I find comfort in their presence: in God's Holy Presence, which they are a part of.   This was certainly how Jesus felt, which inspired Him to be born of a woman so he could get on all of our elevators with us.  This is how the Creator felt in all of the Old Testament stories where the choices of his people landed them in their own forms of captivity again and again. 

This is the story of a parent loving her children, and wanting them to be free so they could be together. 

It's my story of an elevator.

It's the story of everyone who has ever been held captive by addiction, or poor choices, or PTSD, or just the circumstances of life. 

It's God's story of love. 

Lesson 5: Sometimes you have to use power tools to break free from your captivity.  

So this is what the door looked like after the girls were freed from the elevator.  It won't be functional again without a significant amount of help. Some metal boxes need to be broken to allow for a proper and timely escape. Their entire interment was a little over 2 hours.  We enjoyed the biggest hug of their young lives at the top of that stairwell! There was SO MUCH REJOICING that they were free.

Thank you, Lord, for the lessons.  Thank you CHWC Staff and Mike McDuffie. Thank you, camp coordinators, and the Groton Fire and Rescue, and Public Safety officers!  Thank you FC and KDubs.    

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why Bother Vaccinating Your Kids?

Wow!  That got your attention, didn't it?  It's kid of a hot spot for lots of parents of young kids. People feel very strongly one way or another on the issue.  To some folks, they're even fighting words.  So really, Why would you bother to vaccinate them?  What do you hope to accomplish?

Like most pro-vaccine types, you probably believe that this injection will give your child the power to overcome a variety of the more crippling and infectious childhood diseases. By giving your child this series of vaccines, you are empowering them with the strength to fight off that which seeks to destroy and weaken them. Before that threat is anywhere NEAR your baby, you want them to be prepared to fight it off.  Of course you want your child to have that power!  You want to fill their arsenal with the weaponry necessary to grow strong and confident, knowing that Whooping Cough will not take their lungs, and that the Polio will not cripple their legs.  You probably agree that it would be irresponsible of you to send your child out into the world of other children without being protected from the 'pickers and lickers' of the playground, grocery store, or day care!

Or maybe you don't believe there's any benefit in vaccinations.  You don't think there really are diseases that want to damage your baby, or you feel that you personally can keep him or her "safe enough".  Or maybe you don't want your child to be uncomfortable.  It hurts for a little bit.  Sometimes it makes kids cranky for a few days.  (To some kids with febrile seizures, it's life threatening, but not to most kids.)  Maybe you think to yourself, "I didn't like vaccinations, so I'm not going to make my kids go through that. It was horrible and I hated it. If they ask me about it, we'll talk."

Ridiculous, right?    

Has he or she in any way asked you protect them from Tetanus or the Measles?  Of course not!  They don't know there IS any such thing. As parents, we make decisions for our children to protect them and build their strength. We want to empower them to fight off ALL of the things that set out to weaken and destroy them.  ALL the choices we make for our children are because we love them and want them to be safe, and empowered to survive and thrive in a hostile, booger-infested world that wants to crush them and tell them they don't matter.  That may mean that you will force your beliefs about bio-hazards on them.  You will drag them, kicking and screaming if necessary, to the doctor's office because you know they will need what they are receiving.  Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but one day they will.

Just like they need God.

I baptized my children when they were not yet old enough to know what was happening.  I wanted to "vaccinate" them against evil by filling them God. They had no idea they were born with a separation between them and God, just like they didn't know they were susceptible to the Human Papilloma Virus that could render them infertile. I made the choice to fill them with God's Love as a protective serum for their souls. I wanted to empower them so that when the things of this world try to destroy and weaken them, they are prepared.  I hoped to instill in them that they are loved beyond measure, so that when the very real sicknesses of depression and addiction come near, they have God's Love to keep them sober and healthy, even if their physical strength fails.

I admit that I have forced my beliefs about biohazards on my children. I have also taken them to church, even under the occasional protest,  If they didn't like it, that's okay with me. I hoped to accomplish ALL the things that a vaccinator hopes to do. Protect, Strengthen, and Empower.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Loose Tooth

There it was. Hanging out the front of this Kindergartener's mouth was the loosest, most non-connected tooth you've ever seen that wasn't already under a pillow. It had been bothering her all morning, and had just reached the point of no return. 

We all remember that moment, right? We've wiggled that tooth front to back and side to side, we can even see under it when we tip it far enough. She has finagled and twisted this tooth to where it is no longer in its proper place and can't go back to where it was earlier, but it's not out either.  Now she's asking me for help. 
Now being the mother of seven, I have almost 140 instances of experience with loose teeth and have no problem removing the loose teeth of my own kids. This is different. She's my school kid. I'm not her mother, and I feel the true nature of her dilemma.

How many times have we battled with the things that have outlived their place in our lives and we just can't give them up? We poke at them and twist them, even tip them from side to side, but when it comes time to remove it, we just...can't. 

Even when we can see two shiny new adult teeth behind this little obsolete baby tooth, she still held tight to the tooth she had always known, that had served her so well all these long five years of her life.  I just couldn't yank her old friend away from her. However, lunch time was coming soon, and the tooth wasn't going back! The best thing to do in this situation was to look to the future without that hangy little tooth. 

I ended up holding her tooth in a baggie (ziploc hazmat) while she leaned in to let me see the new teeth behind it, and darned if that tooth didn't fall right out! Right into the baggie!

Turns out it wasn't really connected any more. Kind of like the old hurt feelings and grudges I've been holding onto. Perhaps I could just put them in a baggie and finally let them go.

Maybe there's something shiny and new waiting to take their place.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Newly Adopted Baby

I saw a video of a family.  I don't know the Mom, never met the Dad.  They may be a family member of a facebook friend's facebook friend.  Still, I cried.  I watched as the man and woman were handed their newly ADOPTED infant son for the first time.  He was a fresh little newborn, and in that moment, a MOTHER was born and a FATHER was born, and a FAMILY was created.  It was an amazing transformation to watch.  

I watched as these two new parents looked at their son with SO MUCH love and hope.  This little fella could do no wrong, and he carries on his little baby shoulders all of their hopes and dreams to carry on the family name, and show the world what it means to be a (fill in the family name of the kid here, I don't know it.) They have hopes to raise this child in a home filled with love and respect and for that child to grow to be the kind of person that makes the world a better place.  They have offered their love to a child that, for whatever reason, was given to be raised in a family other than the one it was born into.  What a gift those birth parents gave.

As the Mother handed her son to the Father, I watched his face.  This man accepted this child as his son, and accepted him into his arms and his heart.  You could feel so much more than "acceptance" in his expression.  He held his new son protectively, and he will be called on to protect this little man from the hurtful things of this world..  He supported his head, as he will support him emotionally and financially, spiritually and if necessary, physically.  He wrapped his arms around this tiny little baby and TOOK HIM IN.

I couldn't stop crying.  The moment was touching, and the family was sweet, but it was more. The Father looked at his newly adopted son the way I felt GOD looking at me when I was without a pulse.  No words were heard, no vision was experienced, but I came back with the knowledge within every cell of my being that I was (and AM) loved just like that.  Perfectly accepted.  Perfectly anticipated, expected, hoped for, and pursued, and loved beyond all comprehension. Not some random child, but HIS child.

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those that are under the law, so that we might receive ADOPTION. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:7)  

 I am called to be HIS beloved child that carries HIS family name.  I am called to show the world what it means to be a CHRISTIAN (I KNOW that family name!)  I will help create a culture of love and respect, and do all I can to make the world a more loving place. My parents gave me the gift of being part of this Christian family. I love them for it!

My heart cries "Abba, Father!" and he wraps his loving arms around me and TAKES ME IN.

That's what I saw.