Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Goodbye and good riddance!

I was going to end this year with a list of the famous people who died this year.  But when I downloaded a list from the NBC News website and tried to format it so I could reproduce it here, it came out to be THREE PAGES long.

So, all I'm going to say to this year, the year that cost us Princess Leia and her mother, that took away Prince and his protege Vanity, that killed 49 people in Orlando, five in Dallas, and a long, long list of others, both famous and not famous:

Goodbye, and good riddance!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Honoring a Gator . . .

I'm a graduate of FSU, so if anyone were to ask me to wear orange and blue in honor of a graduate of the University of Florida, I would have one of two reactions:  either laugh, because that request was obviously a joke, or give them a puzzled/bemused look and then ask, why in the world would you want me to do that?

Except today.

Today, I was asked to wear orange and blue in honor of a Gator, and I would have gladly done so . . . except that I had nothing orange in my wardrobe that was suitable to wear to a funeral.

Last Friday morning, two days before Christmas, radio listeners and/or TV watchers in the metro Atlanta area probably heard reports of gridlock on north I-75 in Cobb County due to a fatal traffic accident.  Gridlock is normal in the Atlanta area, and sadly, "fatal wreck" is all too common.  I heard that traffic report, but I'm afraid I paid more attention to the "gridlock" part than to the "fatality" part.
The next day, I found out that the fatality was a member of our church, Maurio Andrews, 32, father of two young children, Ava and Ian; and wife to Ashley.

I'm embarrassed to say that when I saw a mention of Maurio on someone's Facebook page, I had to ask who it was and if they knew him.  That's when I learned that he was a member of North Atlanta.

This isn't the first time that our congregation has been rocked by the results of a traffic accident.  In 2009, we lost two members, Matthew and Jeannette Prather, when their van's tire blew, causing the van to flip over.  (Ironically, this accident also happened on northbound I-75 in middle Georgia.) Counting Matthew, Jeannette, and now Maurio, we've lost five members of our congregation to traffic accidents since 2009.

Today we held Maurio's funeral.  Because Maurio was a graduate of the University of Florida, the family asked that the people who came wear orange and blue in honor of him.  It was the first time that I would have almost moved heaven and earth to find something orange that I could wear.  I have nothing orange in my wardrobe except for an orange sweatshirt and several orange T-shirts, and none of those would be appropriate for a funeral.

So I ended up wearing a blue plaid dress over a blue shirt.

Today, a sea of orange-and-blue clad mourners said good-bye to a man who was known for his intelligence, his big smile, his love for his God and his family, and his passion for the University of Florida Gators.  They said good-bye to someone who was lost too soon, whom tragedy stole from us in a cruel act of fate just two days before Christmas.  They remembered someone who served, someone who gave, and someone who left behind a legacy of love and passion.

For that reason, I would gladly wear orange and blue to honor a Gator.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Baby Rapp and Bobbie Lee

Between my birthday and Christmas money, I was able to reactivate my subscription. Since then, I've been poking around and clicking on links, trying to create my family tree with new information.  

I just found a death certificate that blew my mind.  

Actually, I found two death certificates that blew my mind.  

The first one, I discovered when I was tracing my husband's line backwards.  While investigating his grandparents' family, I found a death certificate reading simply, "Baby Rapp."  

I had not known, until that moment, that the first child of my husband's grandparents was a stillborn son.  No name except "Baby Rapp."  No record except on a death certificate issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, file number 44012.  Date of death, April 9, 1927; time of death, 9:30 a.m., cause of death "stillborn (at term)".  In other words, Baby Rapp was a full-term boy that was born sleeping.  He was buried two days later.  

My mother-in-law was born the next year, the first of four living children.

The other death certificate rewrote a small portion of my own family history.

You see, I'd been under the impression that my maternal grandparents had had a daughter who was stillborn or died right after birth.  I don't know if my grandmother had told me she'd died at birth or exactly how she'd told me the story, but that was how I remembered it.

This morning, while looking up my grandmother's information, I found a link to a Billie Lee Chitwood's death certificate.  I wondered if that was actually Bobbie Lee Chitwood, because this particular daughter was named for my grandmother's father, Robert Lee Thompson.

So, I clicked on the link and found a death certificate, issued by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, File No. 27041, Because of the handwriting on the death certificate, "Bobbie Lee" was probably misread as "Billie Lee" when it was transcribed for the site.

Her date of death was November 13, 1935, around 10:30 p.m.  Cause of death: gastro-enteritis.  Age: Three months, 12 days old.

She didn't die at birth, like I'd always thought.  Instead, she lived with her family from August 1, 1935, until November 13.  And she died of a disease that would probably be easier to treat today but that, in rural Kentucky in 1935, was probably harder to deal with.

My mother was born two years later.  Then, my uncle.  

So now I know that the second child in my grandmother's family was Bobbie Lee, and she died before my mother was even conceived.  And not only did she die, she lived for a little while.  And then, around November 5th, she got sick.  A Dr. Bailey first saw her on November 8th.  Five days later, she was dead.

How do you go on after losing a child?

I now know that my husband's grandparents, and my grandparents, faced that question.  And somehow, they went on.  Because they went on, my mother and my husband's mother were both born.

I find it fascinating how death and life intersect, how just one moment, one decision made, one unforseeable circumstance can change a person's life in ways we can never, ever forsee.

Had Baby Rapp not been born sleeping, his parents probably would not have conceived my mother-in-law.  If Bobbie Lee hadn't died when she did, it's possible that her parents wouldn't have conceived my mother.  It takes one particular egg, one sperm cell, and one particular moment in time to make a child.

So, in reading the account of Baby Rapp and Bobbie Lee, and thinking about when they were born and when they died, I find myself asking the question:  Would my mother and mother-in-law have been born if these two babies had not died?

If they hadn't . . . I probably wouldn't be here writing this.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The ticking bomb . . .

I don't know who first came up with the illustration, but in nearly every account I've read about the First World War, the situation in Europe was described as "countries sitting on a powder keg".

The bullet fired into the body of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 lit the match that exploded into WWI.

Lately, it seems that the world is sitting on another powder keg and it's just waiting for the right match to light the fuse.  Yesterday, Russia's ambassador to Turkey was murdered in front of a crowd by a man who shouted, "God is great!  Remember Aleppo!  Remember Syria!"  On the same day, a man drove a truck into a crowded marketplace in Berlin, killing nine people, and current reports now say that authorities aren't sure if they have the right person in custody--meaning that the driver of the truck may still be at large.  And in an incident that hasn't gotten nearly the same amount of coverage as the previous two, three worshippers at a mosque in Zurich, Switzerland were wounded by a gunman who opened fire during prayers.  Swiss police think they have found the body of the gunman.

In our own country, we've had too many shootings and other violent incidents to count in the last several years.  I think the last major one was the stabbing at Ohio State.  And the fact that I have to write "I think" says a lot.

December 14th marked the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.

This summer, two African-Americans were shot by police, and five officers in Dallas were shot.  And I've lost track of the number of people shot by police and the number of police shot.  Only a few days ago, two Americus, Georgia police officers--best friends to each other--were shot and killed responding to a domestic violence call.  Four other officers in the state of Georgia were shot in the same week.

Forty-nine people died this summer in a mass shooting in Orlando.

The hysteria leading up to this year's presidential election was unprecedented, and the hysteria afterwards also unprecedented.  Depending on who you listen to, Donald Trump is either the savior of the United States or the Antichrist--or at least, the False Prophet to the Beast in Revelation 13. Yesterday, this savior/antichrist was officially elected President of the United States.  Here in Georgia, protestors met the 13 electors who went to cast their votes at the state capitol building.  One of the electors has a name similar to that of a friend I attend church with.  She -- my friend -- received four letters begging her to change her vote from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.  And other electors around the country can share similar stories.

Although I refer to "hysteria", people do have legitimate concerns about this coming administration. A friend who received an appointment to the US Diplomatic Corps decided not to accept it because she is very concerned about the possibility of violence towards Americans overseas.  And I can't blame her.  Others worry about the possibility of actions towards Muslims and other minorities. The "alt-right" -- a term I never heard until after this election -- raised its ugly head with its "white supremacy" nonsense, and "fake news" is now a trending topic in mainstream news coverage.

In my Facebook news feed, I see posts condemning Donald Trump, and then, the very next posts praise him.  Never mind that there may be very real concerns about his attitudes/statements towards women and minority groups, at least he's going to fix the economy.  </sarc>

The divide between groups is as deep as I've ever seen it, and I don't think it's ever going to heal.

When the reality show Deadliest Catch began advertising its previous season, it used a song by Aloe Blacc with the following lyrics:

The whole world sitting on a ticking bomb
The whole world sitting on a ticking bomb
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And it's about to explode!

Whoever picked that song may be more prescient than they realized.

I hope they're wrong.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"But was it organic ketchup?"

"But was it organic ketchup?"

That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me as far as diet was concerned.

I'd been visiting an alternative medical clinic, trying to get help for adrenal fatigue.  While I got better for a time, the place ended up loading me up with supplements (I was taking TWENTY-TWO different supplements at one point) and insisting that I eat organic food.  I was told I needed to eat berries for breakfast, and not just any berries--specifically, blueberries and blackberries (strawberries didn't count.)  I needed to eat more protein (not bad advice) and go low-carb--and was also told at one point to go "no-carb", which turned out to be impossible.  The point the doc was trying to make about the organic ketchup was the amount of sugar in the ketchup.

The diet advice was good, as far as it went.  But that was not the first time I'd been told to "go organic".  When I said to the person that I couldn't afford it, I was told, "Well, it's better for you in the long run."  No mention was made of how much it cost.

I'm dealing with a lot of stress right now.  It seems like there is still so much on my plate and I have no idea what I can take off of it:

1. Today I see my TMJ dentist, and I still have a dislocating right jaw.  I can pop it back into place, but it shouldn't be dislocating in the first place.  The appointment will cost $85.  Insurance won't cover it.
2. I am still dealing with the adrenal fatigue, and treatments are expensive and not covered by insurance, for the most part.  Currently, I'm not seeing a doctor for it; I'm trying to rest as much as possible when I get overtired.
3. I use a CPAP for sleep apnea.
4. I am obese.  I need to lose weight.  I've been trying to go swim lately--I had been walking, but it caused pain in my feet.  Swimming is good, but if I push myself too hard, I run the risk of getting overtired, which makes me unable to exercise, which doesn't help my weight . . .
5. My blood sugar does need to be controlled.  See #4.
6. I have back pain.  Friday I go back to the chiropractor--again, which isn't covered by insurance.
7. My mother, who lives in another state, is dealing with her own health issues.
8. I have a child with autism.  We've just filed papers for guardianship.
9. I am dealing with all of my past issues from being part of an unhealthy church.  We also have issues we are dealing with in our present church (not bad issues, just changes we have gone through and other changes that will happen soon, mainly with our small groups.)
10. I also deal with past issues from being bullied.
11. I need to finish my Christmas decorating.  (My husband took stuff UPSTAIRS in order to vacuum the rugs.  Now I have to bring it back DOWNSTAIRS.)
12. I have writing I want to do and it seems like there are so many projects I will never be able to finish:
--Seven books involving four friends and their families
--Four books revolving around the life of a teenage track runner
--Two books loosely based on my dad's life
--One dealing with a teenager in an abusive church
--One dealing with a woman's relationship with her gay neighbors
--One dealing with a possible Muslim takeover of the US.
--One dealing with a French girl who loses family in WWII, moves to Atlanta and gets involved in the civil rights movement.
--A collection of essays about people we don't normally think about when we think of Black History Month.
--A study on I Corinthians 13:4-8 and I John 4:18.
--A collection of blog entries.  I just need to format them and put a cover on them . . . and I am having a horrible time designing a cover!!!
13. I HAVE to earn money to pay back some serious debt we owe from court reporting school, and we also owe credit card debt.  My husband is working as much overtime as he can as well.
14. There are current events that are going to affect us, whether I pay attention to them or not.

This morning I feel tense, pressured, and stressed.  Organic ketchup is the last thing I need to be concerned about!

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"Air raid, Pearl Harbor - this is no drill."

I have no idea exactly where my parents were or what they were doing on December 7th, 1941, 75 years ago today.

My father was nine years old and living in Harlan County, Kentucky; in the unincorporated area of Rosspoint.  Thirty-seven days earlier,  he'd lost his father when a train hit the car his father was riding in. 

My mother was eleven days short of her fourth birthday. 

My guess is that, around 2:30 or so that Sunday afternoon, after a morning spent at church and after having their tummies filled with Sunday dinner, they were sitting around the house listening to the radio.  Maybe my grandmother or my Granny Mary was cleaning up after Sunday dinner.  It's possible the kids were playing, or maybe fighting with each other.

Whatever they were doing, they were probably several of the millions of Americans who, at 2:30 p.m., heard John Charles Daly report that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese.  (A history of the first radio bulletins can be found here.)

What happened next? 

Probably, my parents and grandparents would have stopped what they were doing, frozen in shock.  Then, they ran to the radio and listened.  They tried to absorb the words, "Japanese," "bombing," "Hawaii," "Pearl Harbor," and that final word, "war." 

There was no such thing as "breaking news" in 1941.  CNN and Fox didn't exist.  (Some people might think, "Thank goodness.")  Rather, information came piecemeal, bit by bit, bulletin by bulletin. 

Some things don't change.  When 9/11 happened, information also trickled in bit by bit.  Rumors flew.  (I remember hearing that a car bomb had been found in front of the State Department.)  What rumors would have flown in the hours and days following Pearl Harbor? 

If my parents and grandparents were like I often am when "breaking news" happens, they were probably glued to the radio, wondering what was going to happen next.  Would the Japanese start bombing Los Angeles next?  Seattle?  San Francisco? 

Four years of war followed, four years of rationing, four years of being told to sacrifice "for the boys", "for the troops".  If you listen to shows such as Fibber McGee and Molly, The Great Gildersleeve, and Jack Benny, you'll hear exhortations to save your rubber and paper, turn your fat into the butcher, make your cars and other appliances last, because new ones will not be made until after the war. 

Seventy-five years later, what would we Americans do if we were hit in the same way that we were hit in 1941? 

We were hit in a similar way on 9/11; in fact, 9/11 is often referred to as this generation's Pearl Harbor.  Most of us remember exactly where we were when we heard that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. 

We saw an upsurge in patriotism for a time . . . and then, we went back to attacking those in charge, those in power, questioning decisions, and fighting amongst ourselves.

In 1942, Americans sacrificed.  They put up with no new cars, sugar rationing, and saying good-bye to fathers, brothers, and sons. 

In 2016?  I don't know if we'd be willing to make the same sacrifices that Americans were in the 1940's.  Too many years of being exposed to news has left me cynical.  I fear that, if Americans were told that manufacturing plants would be devoted to making war supplies, or that certain foods and other supplies would be rationed, a howl of protest would go up around the country, like spoiled children being denied a favorite toy. 

On the other hand, I could be wrong.  Thousands of Americans sacrifice, year after year, when they give their lives to the United States armed forces and leave their families behind.  Their families sacrifice, learning how to get along without that loved one. 

Forty-five days from now, we'll be inaugurating a new President.  I pray to God that he will not have to hear anything like, "Air raid, Pearl Harbor - this is no drill."

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hey, Siri! . . . uh, never mind . . .

Matthew was asking me just now about the promo music to the Chicago franchise (Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and soon to be Chicago Justice).

I said, it all depended on which Chicago series you were talking about as to whether or not I knew the promo music.

I was sitting right next to my iPad when I said it.

Suddenly, Siri pipes up with:  "Okay, here's the current weather in Chicago!"

Matthew immediately said, "No, no, no, no!" while I was too busy laughing!

Moral:  Either turn off your iPad when you're talking to your son.  Or be careful what you say.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dear T . . .

The other night, I dreamt of you.

In my dream, you came to my church, and I was happy to see you.  Then you told me that you were going to marry the woman who played Jan Brady in the Brady Bunch. (I'm sure the Brady Bunch reference came about because Florence Henderson just died.  Now, why you were going to marry the person who played Jan Brady, that's another question . . .)

I congratulated you, because I was happy for you.

And then, to other people, I started wondering aloud, was I not "spiritual" enough to have a boyfriend?

You were the third boy, and the first Christian man, to kiss me.  I was 19, and I think you may have been 20.  We stood at the doorway of the dormitory I lived in at the time, and we were saying good night after a wonderful, romantic date.  I feasted on the memory of that kiss for months.  That summer, I sat in an English literature class about Shakespeare, and I daydreamt about that kiss, about how it felt on my lips.  It was light and sweet, just like a first kiss between two people should be.

And then, that October, after an FSU football game uncharacteristically held on a Thursday, you told me that you weren't sure if I was "the one" and decided to stop taking me out.

I respected that decision.  Because it was more than I got from my high school boyfriend, who broke up with me and never bothered to tell me that the relationship was over.

A year later, you left the church we both attended.  The last time I saw you was in the checkout line of a Publix, where you said hi to me, and I didn't respond.  I think I just smiled.  I've regretted that many, many times.

I know now that a relationship between us may not have worked out.  I wouldn't have been a good girlfriend, nor would I have made a good wife.  I didn't have the maturity to understand that a relationship between a man and a woman required a certain give-and-take, that I was called on to be a partner and a helper, not just a taker.

One other reason that a relationship between us would not have ultimately worked out is because the entire environment we were in was so rigid, unhealthy, and fake.  Dating relationships were forced and stilted in so many cases, with rules and regulations about how long you could talk, how much time you were allowed to spend together, and when you could go out on single dates.  Could we have had a healthy relationship?  A healthy marriage?  A healthy family?  The only honest answer I can give, I don't know.  Knowing who I was at the time, my gut reaction is to say, "No."

I'm married now.  I've been married for 23 years to a wonderful man who's an intellectual, who strives hard to be a good husband and a good father to our son.  Our son is a teenager with autism. My husband has stepped up to the plate and been an involved father with him.  That can't be said about all fathers.

Ironically, I ended up living in the same city you called home, and I attended the same church that you did when you visited home.  I wondered at times if we'd run into each other.  We never did.  I have no idea if you were living there when I did, and I know you did not attend the same church I did.  And in another piece of irony, the man I married attended that same church.  Perhaps you talked to each other and didn't know it.

There are two questions, though, that I've never had answers to:

1.  Did you make the decision to stop dating me on your own, or were you told to stop dating me because I was somehow "not spiritual enough"?
2. What happened that caused you to leave the church?

I've wondered about these two things, because I know that in the church we were part of, things went on behind the scenes that we were never told about but that affected us.  People left, and since we were "encouraged" not to associate with them, and we were often given the "spin" version as to why they left, we probably never had the whole story as to why they left.  The onus was put on the person that left.  We never stopped to think that there might have been a problem with the church, or with the structure that we were part of.  

I've wanted closure on those two questions for a very long time.  But I also ask myself:  Just because I desire closure, does that mean I need it?  Suppose the "closure" I want just leads to more questions than answers?  Or suppose it gives me answers that I wish I did not know?  

You were not the only one who left the church we attended, or who left the group of churches we were part of.  I know of a long list of people who did exactly that.  Some of them went to other churches, and some of them simply left God.  Given my experiences in religion, I'm surprised that I still have any faith left.  I still struggle with many aspects of faith in God and in Christ, I ask myself questions that often have no answers, and I get angry at God during many difficult circumstances.

But as I've been writing this, I've been listening to a series of Christian songs on my Spotify playlist, one of them being Building 429's "Impossible" and another one being "He Reigns" by the Newsboys. I still believe.

I'm sorry I wasn't a better friend to you.  I'm sorry I didn't try to come alongside you when you must have been struggling.  I have prayed for you often in the years since you left church and school.  I hope you have found faith again.  If you're married, I've prayed for you to be faithful to your spouse. If you have children, I've hoped you've been a good father to them.  If for some reason you're divorced, I hope you have treated your ex-spouse and any children decently.

And, if by any chance you are no longer alive, I pray that God will have mercy on you.  We know that God is a just God, and that he is a merciful God.  James 2:13 says that "mercy triumphs over judgment". I believe God's mercy will triumph.

May God bless and care for you, T.


Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.