Friday, December 29, 2017

Conversational volleyball

There are too many times in life where I feel as if I am trying to play a game of conversational volleyball.

When I'm talking one on one with a person, I do okay. 

But the minute someone else joins the conversation--or two or three or more people--I start feeling doomed.

Because often, the flow of the conversation is such that 1. the exact second someone stops talking, someone else starts, leaving me no room to jump in, or 2. I"m able to open my mouth and get a breath out, or maybe a word or two or three, but then I get interrupted. 

I feel like I'm playing a game of volleyball, but just as the ball comes my way, someone steps in front of me and, whack!  They hit the ball, not giving me a chance to play. 

Here's an illustration of what I'm talking about:

(Me in a group of three people)

Scenario 1:

Person #1:  "Did you read where it might snow this weekend?"
Me:  *thinks yes, I did read that, but before I can open my mouth . . .*
Person #2:  "What?  It might snow?  I'd better go and get my bread and milk!"

Scenario 2:

Person #1:  "Did you read where it might snow this weekend?"
Me:  *opens mouth to say, yes, I read that, but as I inhale . . . *
Person #2:  "What?  It might snow?  I'd better go and get my bread and milk!"

Scenario 3:

Person #1:  "Did you read where it might snow this weekend?"
Me:  "Yes --"
Person #2:  "What?  It might snow?  I'd better go and get my bread and milk!"

Scenario 4:

Person #1:  "Did you read where it might snow this weekend?"
Me:  "Yes, I --"
Person #2:  "What?  It might snow?  I'd better go and get my bread and milk!"

Scenario 5:

Person #1:  "Did you read where it might snow this weekend?"
Me:  "Yes, I did.  It's --"
Person #2:  "What?  It might snow?  I'd better go and get my bread and milk!"

It does not seem to matter what group I'm in.  It's happened in church, it's happened among work people, it's happened so many times that I've just about given up trying to break into a conversation.  One time, I said that breaking into a conversation was hard for me because I didn't want to interrupt people.  The response I got was, "Well, Tina, you just haven't learned how to be rude."

I can remember one time when I heard someone make a reference to Pampered Chef, and it took ten minutes from the time I first heard the reference to the time when there was enough of a lull in the conversation to finally ask the question, "What is Pampered Chef?"

I did get so frustrated one time trying to break into a conversation that I threw a tantrum.  Admittedly, it wasn't appropriate for me to do so.  I'm too old for tantrums. 

I understand that good manners dictate that you are supposed to wait until the other person finishes talking before I say something.  I am supposed to wait my turn.

But what happens when it's never your turn?

What happens when someone whacks the conversational ball out of your hand before you can even hit it? 

I don't know the answer, and I wish someone did.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

How Orkin did not steal Christmas

That headline is slightly unfair to Orkin.  My husband pointed out today that the timing of Orkin's visit could have been a lot worse.

Friday, I wrote this entry about how we got a nasty surprise from Orkin, telling us that we needed work on our crawlspace that was going to cost us a big chunk of change, and that I was going to get very creative on how we celebrated Christmas this year. 

I didn't expect the response I got.

Yesterday, a Facebook friend messaged me asking me what my email address was.

A minute late, I found a Walmart gift card resting in my email box.

When I messaged her back to tell her thank you, she said, "No one goes without Christmas on my watch." 

This morning at church, a man slipped money into my hand so that Matthew could have something for Christmas.  And later, Frank told me that someone had given him another Walmart gift card for Matthew as well.

So I dropped Frank at a nearby Barnes & Noble and trotted off to Walmart (while Matthew was helping out at our second service). 

Thanks to the generosity and kindness of people, this is what my tree looks like: 

I have another gift to finish for Matthew. 

Christmas would have come for us tomorrow, like it did for the residents of Whoville when the Grinch stole Christmas.  Christmas does come without ribbons, bows, and presents.

But Christmas also comes with kindness and generosity, and this was what we experienced this weekend.

Orkin may have "stolen" Christmas, but it was more than returned by others. 

I am grateful.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tina's "Long Winter" Christmas

In the book The Long Winter, one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books, there's a scene where Ma tells the girls that Pa hasn't been able to get work for wages that year, so they can't spare money for presents.  But they could have a happy Christmas just the same.

Laura started thinking, and she realized that there were things she had that she could give as gifts:  a cardboard picture frame she'd been embroidering, a cardboard hair-receiver, some knitted lace.  So she did just that, and that was how the Ingalls family had a merry Christmas in the midst of a brutal winter.

Recently Frank and I had a visit from the Orkin man.  We have a termite bond with Orkin, and last year, during the termite inspection, the Orkin man said that we were having moisture problems in our crawlspace and we needed the crawlspace encapsulated. 

Well, we put off having it done . . . and then termite inspection time came around again.  The Orkin guy showed up at the house unexpectedly (in fairness, he'd called before and I had not returned the call) and Frank and I both happened to be home.  He discussed the different options with us, and we told him that we would let him know what he decided when he came back the next day to do the termite inspection.

What I think he really wanted was for us to do a full encapsulation for over $6000.  Instead, we decided to have a moisture barrier put down and the wood treated for about $2600.

What this all boils down to is that we got hit with a big chunk of change we didn't expect, and as a result, Christmas would be very skimpy.

When Frank told Matthew that we had had to spend money on Orkin and that, as a result, we wouldn't have presents under the tree, I thought, "Not if I can help it."

Thus, Project "Long Winter" was born.

You see, while I have the ingenuity and the creativity that Laura Ingalls had, I also have a resource she did not:  the local dollar store.

The other night, Matthew asked me if we weren't going to have any presents at all, and I said, "No, we're just not going to buy presents this year."  Then I told him that I was going to show him how we could have Christmas without spending a lot of money. 

Yesterday, we went to Dollar Tree, where I bought five tins for a dollar each.  Then, we went to Food Depot and bought six boxes of butter (each box containing four quarters of butter) and two and a half dozen eggs.  (The butter and margarine was being restocked while I was there, and while the big boxes of eggs were still there, the boxes of eggs packed by the dozen were GONE.)

Today, I plan to make brownies and cookies.  Two of the tins I bought will be packed with brownies and cookies.  That will be Frank's gift. 

One of the tins will be packed with a (used) power pack and a couple of (probably new or maybe used) charger for Matthew's phone. 

I will also make him a blue and white hat so he can wear it while watching Doctor Who. 

This year, the fates conspired to ruin Christmas.

What the fates did not take into account was that they were dealing with me.

Merry Christmas.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Mom's eulogy

Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." 

We all know that Abraham Lincoln grew up to be President of the United States.  And while neither my sister nor I will ever occupy the White House, it is true that much of what we are, we owe to our mother.

Mom, obviously, carried us in her womb.  She made sure that we got to church and Sunday School.  Because of that, I carried my faith over to my adult life and made sure that my son also got to church and Sunday School.  She said bedtime prayers with me.  Because of that, I ended up saying bedtime prayers with my son.  And although family lore says that it was my dad who taught me how to read, it was my mother who taught me how to enjoy books.  She once told me that when she was potty-training me, I'd sit there as long as she'd read to me.  She was the one that introduced me to the public library and got me a library card.  And because of that, I grew up to be a librarian and a writer. 

Mom was born and grew up in a small town in Kentucky.  Like most women of her time, she wound up getting married, having kids, and putting her time and energy into her family.  I'm sure she wanted better for Renee and me.  More than that, though, she wanted us to grow up to be good people.  I think she succeeded.  My sister and I both married decent men.  My sister partners with her husband in business, much as our parents did when they ran a preschool.  I used my love of books, which she gave to me, and had a career as a librarian.  Now I proof legal transcripts, write a blog, and plan to publish fiction.  

Mom was always proud of her grandchildren, and she had reason to be.  One grew up to work in the mental health field, connecting people who need help with the resources they need.  The other is training for job skills and will eventually find his niche after he leaves school. 

When Daddy was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, Mom put in every ounce of time and energy into caring for him.  Our Uncle Jerry said that she did everything she could for him, "and then some".  I didn't appreciate the stress on her at the time, and perhaps I still don't, since I have not experienced caring for someone who is terminally ill.  I do know that she took the "in sickness and in health, till death do us part" section of the marriage vows seriously.  When Daddy died, she lost the person that she considered her best friend. 

When my sister called and said that Mom had died, one of the things that she said was, "we loved her".  My sister, in particular, absorbed the lessons my mother taught while caring for our father.  My sister was the one who made sure that Mom got the care she needed.  She advocated for her.  And she made the agonizing decision to let nature take its course when it was time. 

From the time I left home in August of 1981 to go to college, I was never home for more than a few months at a time.  But one thing I could always count on was that I could pick up the phone and talk to my mother about what was going on in my life.  I could share with her about school and work problems, I could complain to her about hating to clean house and do chores, I could share with her about Matthew's latest accomplishments and escapades, I could tell her about the everyday stuff going on.  And I could listen to her soft chuckle on the other end of the phone.  When my mother's health started to deteriorate, one thing I could no longer do was talk to her on the phone.  That will be the thing I miss the most, having her to share my life with.

Some time ago, my mother sent me a copy of Leann Rimes' album, "I Hope You Dance".  She enjoyed the title song and said that it communicated what she wanted for my sister and me.  She wanted us to "dance".  She wanted us to live. 

Both my sister and I agree that the best way we can honor our mother's memory is to remember who she was and to remember the good things that we learned from her.  I think that is the best way that we can "dance". 

We loved you, Thelma Laverne Chitwood Sergent, Mom, Nana, born December 18, 1937; died November 4, 2017. 

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Faustian bargains

When evangelical Christians decided that political power was the most expedient way to achieve their ends, they struck a Faustian bargain.

Now Mephistopheles has come to collect.

Tomorrow, the voters of Alabama go to the polls to elect a U.S. Senator in a special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions.  The two candidates are Alabama judge Roy Moore for the Republicans and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones for the Democrats.  

Last month, several women came forward and accused Moore of sexual misconduct.  One of the women was 14 at the time that she said Moore dated her.  During one of their dates, she said, he approached her while wearing tight underwear and guided her hand to touch his private parts.

Okay, when I hear the word, "date", here's what I envision:

A man calls a woman and asks her out on a date.  He picks her up.  They go to dinner.  Maybe they go to a movie.  Or to a play.  Or to some other event.  They talk.  He pays for dinner or for the other events.  He takes her home.  If they had a good time, they repeat the process.  Lather, rinse, repeat until a) they decide they want to get married, or b) one, the other, or both decide they don't want to date each other anymore.

Nowhere in that description do the words "guiding your hand to touch my private parts" appear. 

There's questions as to whether or not the women are telling the truth.  There's speculation as to why they waited until now to tell their story. 

It's legitimate to ask, are their stories true?  I do believe they should be taken seriously because they do involve a man who has power in the legal system and who wants to be entrusted with the duties of a United States Senator. 

I also think it's legitimate to ask, why come forward now? while bearing in mind that there are good reasons why victims of sexual assault don't report it at the time it happened.  (I almost said "women".  Men are also victims of sexual assault; in fact, actor Terry Crews has filed a lawsuit against a man that he alleges groped him at a party in 2016.) 

My main problem with this whole scenario is the reaction of some Christians:  Well, maybe Moore did do what he's accused of, but hey, he's pro-life and Doug Jones is pro-abortion, and if Jones gets elected, it'll mean another liberal in the Senate, so Moore needs to be elected to the Senate.  Besides, not only is he pro-life, he's a godly man who defended the Ten Commandments, even though it got him thrown off the bench in Alabama.

To borrow a Southernism, that dog don't hunt.

I am sick and tired of the bad behavior of our elected officials being condoned because he's "our guy".  People did it with Bill Clinton, they did it with Donald Trump, and now they're doing it with Roy Moore.  

It's even worse with those that call themselves Christians.  Apparently, we have decided that someone's position on abortion trumps all (pun only slightly intended.)  If you hold yourself out as being Christian and pro-life, you can get away with just about anything. 

Please do not give me this nonsense about "everyone makes mistakes".  A "mistake" is taking the wrong exit off of I-285.  Or adding up two and three and getting six. 

And please, do not tell me, "But David sinned and God used him!"  Yes, David in the Bible sinned.  Yes, God used him.  However, 1) David repented (see Psalm 51) and 2) God, through the prophet Nathan, told David, "the sword will never depart from your house".  David's son conceived with Bathsheba died.  His daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon.  Tamar's brother Absalom murdered Amnon in revenge.  Absalom tried to take the kingdom from David.  David paid a tremendous price for his sin.

When did we decide that the kingdom of God was best advanced by political power and political expediency?  When did we decide that someone's position on abortion--as serious an issue as it is--outweighed everything else that a person did or said?  When did we decide that having people that support "us" in positions of power was more important than holding those people accountable for what they did and said? 

Tomorrow, the voters of Alabama will go to the polls.  I fully expect to see Mephistopheles standing there grinning with his hand held out, demanding payment.

Goethe would be proud.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lancing the boil

The boil on the underbelly of humanity has been lanced, and the results are not pretty. 

Ronan Farrow wielded the scalpel when he wrote his expose on Harvey Weinstein, and when the New Yorker published his article, they made the incision.

Since then, I've lost count of the number of sexual assault allegations reported in the news.

We have Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein.

We have Alabama judge Roy Moore.

And last night, broadcaster Charlie Rose was suspended from CBS after eight women accused him of sexual harassment.

It seems that no man in entertainment or politics these days is safe from accusations of sexual harassment.

It's long overdue.

I'm angry.  I'm very angry at the way women are treated by powerful men in politics and religion.  I'm angry at how the onus is put on the woman for not reporting abuse sooner, rather than on the man for not abusing her in the first place.  We ask the woman, why were you there?  Why were you wearing what you were wearing?  Why didn't you scream?  Why didn't you fight back? When do we ask the man, Why did you attack her? Why did you rape her? 

I'm angry, too, at the constant barrage of, "If it really happened, why didn't you say something sooner?"

In the first place, how do you know they DIDN'T?  How do you know that they didn't tell someone? 

In the second place, it takes a lot of courage to go up against a powerful man and say, he did this to me.  Our tendency IS to believe the best about prominent people.  Also, abusers are usually not dressed in rumpled, dirty clothing.  They're often charming.  They're the well-dressed, well-mannered, well-groomed men-about-town who know what to say and how to act in public. 

And I am weary of the question, "But what about false accusations?"

Yes, there ARE cases where people say things happened that didn't happen.  That's why you need people who are trained in how to investigate such cases! 

I'm also weary of the comment, "the timing of these accusations is suspicious."

Let me ask you this:  When, exactly, IS an appropriate time to report abuse??? 

Ideally, right after it happens . . . but what happens when you feel you can't or, for whatever reasons, you choose not to?  What happens if you're told, "If you tell, I will hurt you.  I will hurt your family."

I am truly angry.  And I am truly weary. 

I hope that the lancing of this boil will bring about proper treatment and healing.  Because, God knows, we need it.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Obituary notice

Thelma Laverne Chitwood Sergent, 79, died on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at the Suncoast Hospice Care Center in Pinellas Park, Florida.  She was preceded in death by her parents, Ralph and Ary Chitwood; her husband, Charles Tony Sergent; and a sister, Mary Alice Walker. 

She is survived by her daughters, Toni Renee Swertferger of St. Petersburg, Florida and Tina Allyn Seward of Norcross, Georgia; two grandchildren, Lauren Renee Swertferger of St. Petersburg, Florida and Matthew James Seward of Norcross, Georgia; a brother, Jack Chitwood of Loveland, Ohio; and several nieces and nephews. 

The body will be cremated.  Other arrangements are pending. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Room 34 Magnolia

My mother will die in Room 34 Magnolia. 

This is her room in the Suncoast Hospice Center in Pinellas Park, Florida, where she is being cared for during her last days.

On Friday and Saturday, I saw her for the last time.

My sister prepared me well for how she would look.  She's no longer wearing her wig.  Her hair is gray and wispy.  She's lost weight.  And the leg that has given her so much trouble is discolored.

She can no longer speak.  But she will turn her head towards voices.

I played some Roger Williams music for her.  He is a pianist that she enjoyed listening to.  I showed her Matthew's graduation picture.  And I read some of my past blog entries to her.  (Whether she enjoyed those or not, I can't say. :-) ) 

Saturday I fed her applesauce and gave her water.  I watched as two nurses' aides repositioned her, and listened as she moaned in pain afterward.  There's no way you can move someone in her condition and not cause them pain.  She finally got some pain meds, and that helped her. 

I had dinner on Friday with my sister, her husband, my niece, and her boyfriend.  (The boyfriend won me over when he asked me to let everyone know when I got back home.) 

Between seeing my mother and having dinner with my family, I went to the cemetery and told my father and grandmother that Mom would probably be joining them soon.

The next day, I had breakfast with my best friend, who drove all the way up from Sebring.  I was fed so well that the next meal I had was at the Chick-Fil-A at the Tampa International Airport.  We talked, and she assured me that the feelings I had were very normal. 

That Saturday, I also saw my uncle--my mother's brother-in-law, also the man that gave me away at my wedding in place of my deceased father--for a few moments.  I gave them some alone time. 

And then I went back in and told my mother that I had to leave.

I told her I loved her.  I told her thank you for everything she'd done for me.  And I told her that if she wanted to go see Daddy, she had my permission.

Then I had to leave.

I saw my sister and niece before I went to the airport.  My sister's still cleaning up after the hurricane (dealing with some property damage) and when I got there, I found my brother-in-law operating an excavator. 

My sister, niece and I sat and talked. 

Then I headed for the airport, was whisked through the TSA pre-check (a nice surprise there!), ate dinner, recharged my electronics the best I was able to. 

At 7:25 p.m., I boarded a Spirit Air plane back to Atlanta. 

We took off at 8:14.

I landed about 9:20.

It was nearly 11:15 by the time I got in the door.  My husband had picked me up at the MARTA station, got me home, and made sure I got into bed. 

Now the waiting begins.

Mom could die today.  Or maybe next week.  We don't know.

I am glad I went, though.  I think I would have regretted it if I didn't take one final time to say good-bye.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Season of dying

Fall is a season of dying. 

It's the season where the trees, after one final blaze of colorful glory, drop their leaves.  The leaves die and the trees stand bare, waiting for spring and their annual resurrection.  

The grass lays brown and dormant, and in some parts of the world, frost attacks plants and early snow covers the ground.

This is the season of my mother's dying.

Last week, I learned that my mother was back in the hospital with another blood clot in her leg.  This is the same leg that's developed blood clots before.  It was blood clots in her leg that sent her to assisted living two years ago.  

In March, she fell and hurt her shoulder.  Ever since then, it's been a slow march downhill.  

I've only watched her dying from afar.  My sister has been coordinating her care, advocating for her rights, and trying to make her as comfortable as possible. 

Yesterday--in fact, nearly 24 hours ago--during my ladies' group, my sister texted me and told me that after a meeting with a doctor, they'd made the decision to transfer our mother to hospice care.  She's sleeping a lot and no longer very responsive.

Tomorrow afternoon I will get on a plane, the first airplane flight I've taken since my son was a baby, and fly home to tell my mother good-bye.

I have no illusions.  My mother probably will not know I am there.  The person I'm going to see will not be the mother I knew.  

Dying is ugly, grotesque, and disgusting.  This season of my mother's dying is cruel.  It's cost her her cognition, her independence, her speech, and soon it will cost her her life. 

She's lived for 79 years, 10 months, and seven days.  She lived 35 of those years married to our father, and then, nearly 25 of those years without him, the man she called her "best friend".  She's had two children and two grandchildren.  She cared for children, an ill husband, took in my sister and her child after a divorce, cared for her mother. 

Now, in this season of her dying, with her body worn out, it is time for her to be cared for. 

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Me, too, it looks like . . .

A friend of mine and I were discussing the #metoo posts on social media this week.  #Metoo was meant to show that "I, too, was a victim of sexual harassment/assault."  The campaign started as a result of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, accused of sexually harassing women over a 30-year period.

At first, I'd posted, "Not me, but I support the ones who say #metoo."

I said that because I've never been raped.  Nor have I ever been victimized by a male boss or coworker demanding sexual favors as a condition of employment.

But I did share with her an experience I had in the eighth grade.

A boy classmate tried to force a ring on my finger in class one day.  I nearly twisted my finger trying not to accept it.  Somehow, it ended up in my purse.  When he demanded it back on a later date, I looked for it and couldn't find it.

I told my friend about that incident and she asked, where was the teacher?  (I don't know; and that is a good question.)

She said, that was assault at the very least.

And then I shared a remark the same boy made on another occasion: "Your little sister drinks milk from your breasts, doesn't she?"

I'd said, "I don't have a little sister."

The implications of that statement didn't hit me until years later:  what he was basically saying was that I had a baby that was young enough to be a "little sister." 

My friend said, okay, THAT I would classify as sexual harassment. 

While writing this, I thought of something else:  while working in an inner-city school library, I told a student to leave the library because he didn't have a hall pass.  In response,  he thrust his crotch at me and said, "That's my pass."

I guess that could be interpreted as a threat of sexual assault.  (I left that job after three months.)

So . . . I'll throw in my #metoo. 

The number of #metoos I've seen on my social media feed this week is saddening and sickening; and there are women who could have posted, "me, too" and didn't because they didn't feel comfortable.

And there are men who could have posted #metoo as well.

When we let harassers off with "kids will be kids, suck it up and deal with it," when we do wink-wink, nudge-nudge while discussing certain attitudes of people; and most of all, when we make people feel guilty and ashamed for speaking up, we create the exact climate where #metoo flourishes.

And then we wonder why so many #metoos show up in our social media feed.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Patrick Kennedy and me

Today is my 54th birthday.  And I just don't feel that old.  I definitely feel older, but not old. 

October 16th, 1963 is my birthdate.  It was also the 1,000th day of John F. Kennedy's presidency. 

Just 71 days earlier, JFK and his wife had a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy.  He was a preemie, like their son John, Jr.  Patrick came five and a half weeks early.

He was born August 7, 1963. 

39 hours and 12 minutes later, on August 9, 1963, he died. 

Sandwiched in between those days was my sister's third birthday.  My mother would have been about four or five months pregnant with me.  I'm sure my parents followed the story, read the newspaper, watched the news, wondered if the Kennedys' baby would live, and were saddened when he did not.

Sixty-nine days later, as I understand the story, my mother went in for a regular doctor's appointment.  Her doctor told her, "You're dilating.  You need to get upstairs, immediately."  My mother's OB's office was right next to the hospital.

I was born at 3:29 p.m., October 16th, 1963, after natural childbirth.  The doctor feared killing the baby if he gave my mother anesthesia.  (This proves that I have been a pain to my mother since before I was born. :-) )

Would the Kennedy baby have crossed my mother's mind?  After all, his brief life and death was still fresh in the public's mind.  He was a preemie.  I was a preemie.  He was born five and a half weeks early.  I think I was born about that early.  I've never known what my real due date was.  Patrick was in an incubator.  So was I.  Did it cross my parents' minds that I, too, would meet the same fate as the Kennedy baby?

Despite a race to Boston Children's Hospital--an ambulance took Patrick from his birthplace at Otis Air Force Base, 70 miles away, in 90 minutes--and despite the best medical care available at the time, Patrick died of hyaline membrane disease, known now as infant respiratory distress syndrome.  All they could do for him at the time was put him in a hyperbaric chamber and treat him with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. 

Did my parents think, the Kennedy baby had the best medical care in the world, and he died.  Will the same thing happen to our baby? 

Thankfully, no.  I stayed in the hospital about six weeks and came home right around Thanksgiving.

Maybe, because Patrick was so fresh in people's minds, maybe the doctors and nurses at the hospital paid special attention to a preemie?  I'd like to think so.

Patrick's death did lead medical researchers to aggressively search for a way to effectively manage hyaline membrane disease.  Today, we know of a branch of medicine, neonatology, that saves the lives of thousands of babies yearly.  At least one of those babies, born at 2 lbs. 2 oz. (half my birth weight) attends my church as a healthy preteen.  A set of triplets born four years ago yesterday also thrive; they are the children of our children's minister.  A friend of mine works as a neonatal nurse.

During JFK's last trip, which ended on a dreadful day in Dallas, he made a brief stop in San Antonio, where the base commander at Brooks Air Force Base invited him to briefly speak to a group of men in a space simulator. 

One of JFK's questions:  "Is it possible your work might help improve oxygen chambers for premature babies?"  He was thinking of Patrick. 

The next day, he joined Patrick in death.

I don't understand the mysteries of life and death.  Why did one preemie, born to the most famous family in America at the time, whose parents could get him the best of medical care, die in a big city hospital, despite the availability of multiple doctors and state-of-the-art medicine? 

And why did another preemie, born in a small mountain town, to a teacher and his wife, who were far from wealthy, and in a hospital that was far from state-of-the-art, live? 

I don't know. 

Yesterday was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  It is a day set aside to honor and remember children loss to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early death.  (My grandmother lost a baby when she was three months old.)  One slogan used to remember these children is, "There is no footprint too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world."

Patrick Kennedy, born August 7, 1963; died August 9, 1963, had a small footprint that left a lasting impact on the care, treatment, and survival of other preemies.

I'd like to think that I was one of the people on which his footprint left a lasting impression.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Going back to my morning coffee . . .

How can I go back to my morning coffee after hearing about the horrific events last night in Las Vegas, Nevada?

And yet, that's exactly what I am doing.

I am writing this at around 11 a.m., Eastern time, with a coffee container to my left.  I woke this morning to hear a report of 20 dead and multiple wounded in Las Vegas.  A half-hour later, the death toll had risen to 50. 

By now, we all know the drill:  Lone gunman, usually a white male, who opens fire on a crowd with a military-style weapon, then shoots himself as the police close in on him.  It's happened before.  It will probably happen again.  It happened at Columbine (in that situation, there were two gunmen).  It happened in Orlando.   It happened at Sandy Hook.  Last night, it happened in Las Vegas. 

And here I sit, going back to my morning coffee.

I've grown numb to the reports of violence, shootings, and stabbings in our world.  What was once a shocking, horrific, rare event has become commonplace.  I don't even know how many mass shootings we have had in the last ten, twenty years.  Statistics depend on how you define the term "mass shooting". 

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the shooting.  However, they have no evidence that they did it.  I will remind people that in the very early moments of 9/11, the PLO claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Twin Towers, and it turned out they didn't do it.

My friend Bron just posted the following tweet:  "We have reached a density of mass shootings where even pointing out that we aren't going to do anything feels tired and oversaid.@emmettRensin" 

We, as a country, are just tired and numb.  We're overrun with violence and bad news.  I have a filter on my Facebook feed that keeps out things I don't want to read about, and even then, reports of violence and turmoil creep in. 

Which is probably why I go back to my morning coffee.

What is there left to be said?  What is there left to be done?  Calls for gun control fall on deaf ears, and our pleas to "love one another" and "stop the hate" seem to do no good.  

Right now, I say my prayers for the people of Las Vegas, for the first responders, for the dead and wounded, even for the soul of the shooter, and for his family.

And then, I end up going back to my morning coffee.  :-(

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The wham shot

(Note:  Contains spoilers from the September 26th episode of This Is Us.  If you haven't seen the episode or don't want to know about the episode, do not read the following entry!)

(Spoiler space below)

TV calls it the Wham Shot.

Last night, Mandy Moore drove up to the exterior of a burned-out house and shrieked, and with that one shot, the producers of This Is Us broke the hearts of America.

For anyone unfamiliar with the show, This Is Us simultaneously follows the past and present stories of the Pearson family:  Jack, Rebecca, and their three children Kevin, Kate, and Randall.

We've known since about the middle of the first season that Jack Pearson died when the kids were teenagers.  We've known since the second episode that Rebecca ended up marrying Miguel, Jack's best friend.  What we haven't known is, how does Jack die?

Last night, in the premiere of the second season, This Is Us dropped a major clue as to Jack Pearson's death.

The first season ended with a vicious argument between Jack and Rebecca, resulting in Jack's moving out.  The second season opened with Jack staying at Miguel's house.

In the "present day" scenes, Kevin, Kate and Randall are celebrating their 37th birthday.  Kate is gathering up the courage to pursue a career as a singer, Kevin is making a movie with Ron Howard (who appears in a short scene), and Randall and his wife are exploring the possibility of adopting another child.

The end of the first episode shows Rebecca going to Miguel's house, banging on the door, demanding to talk to Jack.

She says they can work things out together.

He admits to being an alcoholic, that he's been drunk all day, and that he needs to work this out alone.

He closes the door.

She bangs on it again.

He opens it.

She orders him to get in the car, that they would work things out together.

They drive home, with her saying that things would be okay and that they'd get back to normal.

Cut to Rebecca, wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, driving alone in the car.  A plastic bag with various items sits next to her on the seat.

Cut to a shot of Miguel.

Cut to a shot of Randall and Kate as teenagers, crying; Kate saying, we need to find Kevin.

Cut to a shot of Kevin's leg in a signed cast.

Cut to a shot of the red mailbox reading "Pearson".

Cut to Rebecca sitting in the car, wailing and sobbing.

Camera tilts up to the shell of a burned-out house.

Wham shot.

Like others, I'm a bit confused with the final shots.  Did Rebecca really go over to Miguel's house?  Did Jack really tell her he was an alcoholic?  Did Rebecca really order him to get into the car and drive him home?

Was all of that just a figment of Rebecca's imagination, something she wished she'd done and didn't do?

Was the part where Rebecca ordered Jack to get in the car just a figment of her imagination?  As in, "If I'd just done this, Jack would never have died"?

Or did all of it really happen?

We know that Jack Pearson is dead.

We now know that it had something to do with a house fire.

What other wham shots do the producers of This Is Us have in store for us this season?

We can't wait to find out.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Where's the instruction manual?

Lately, I feel like I'm trying to operate in a world without an instruction manual.

I feel like I have been sent to war without weapons or ammunition, and the rules of engagement say that I'm not allowed to fight back.

Everybody is offended by everything, and I don't know anymore what to say or what not to say, what to do or not to do, what to think or what not to think.

As an example:  In the last few years, there's been a movement towards "person-first" language, especially when referring to people with disabilities.  For example, it's "person with autism", not "autistic", or "person with diabetes", not "diabetic", or "person who uses a wheelchair", not "wheelchair-bound" or "confined to a wheelchair".

As I understand "person-first language", it's an attempt to not define the person by their disability, or illness, or condition.

Recently, in discussing my son, I said, "my son, who has high-functioning autism".  I say, "he has autism" rather than "he's autistic".  In the autism community, there are people who do wish to be called "autistic".  If that's their preference, I'll respect that.

One response I got to my post was, "I must ask that you use person-first language."

Here's the thing:

In referring to my son as "having high-functioning autism," I THOUGHT I WAS USING PERSON-FIRST LANGUAGE!!

I was also chastised by the same person for using the term "high-functioning autism".

For God's sake, what terminology am I supposed to use??  I don't know!

This week, I've seen a post about someone being offended over Hobby Lobby selling cotton stalks as decorations in their stores.  It was a reminder of slavery to that person.  In the same week, the president of Lipscomb University was criticized for using cotton stalks as decorations for a dinner he'd invited black students to, and also for serving collard greens.  Several of the students were disturbed by his choice of food and decoration.  To his credit, the president issued an apology.

I am not going to say that people shouldn't be offended by this or that or the other thing.  If someone is offended, they are offended.

Here's where my frustration comes in:

I don't know anymore what offends people and what doesn't.

I don't know anymore what is considered racist and what isn't.

I don't know how to refer to people in ways that are not offensive.

Is there some sort of handbook I'm supposed to read?  Classes I'm supposed to take?  An instruction manual I'm supposed to consult?

And sometimes I feel like all the understanding has to come from me.  I have to make all of the effort.

I don't want to be deliberately offensive.  If I offend someone, I'd like to be taken aside and told, "I don't think you realize this, but this was offensive, and here's why . . ."

But it seems like everything I think, say, and/or do is some sort of target these days, and I really feel angry and frustrated about it.

And I can't find the instruction manual I'm supposed to use.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Unaccidental coincidences

I was supposed to go on a retreat this past weekend with members of my church's praise team.

I was supposed to go to the Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega, Alabama, (a Baptist retreat center) and spend Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday morning in quiet retreat, along with sessions with our worship minister and his guests, musicians that he's been acquainted with over the years.

I was supposed to learn about worship from our worship minister and from the guests he invited.

Well . . .

I did go on a retreat this past weekend with members of my church's praise team.

I did go to the Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega, Alabama.

I did spend time in quiet retreat.

I did spend time in sessions with our worship minister and his guests.

I did learn about worship.

It just did not go according to the plans we made.

Our best laid plans of mice and men started going "gang aft agley" when our worship minster told us on Saturday morning that a group of FEMA workers en route to Houston (to help with those affected by Hurricane Harvey) had been told to stop because it was likely they'd be needed in Florida (to help with Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma).  A man from FEMA heard us singing.  They found out that we were going to have a worship service that night.  Could the people from FEMA join us?

Of course!

I told our worship minister afterwards, "It is no accident that this happened."

Little did I know.

That evening -- after I'd spent the afternoon listening to practical tips about singing and vocalizing from the people acquainted with our worship minister, and after I'd spent some time walking around the retreat grounds, and after I'd spent an hour in fun singing with some of my praise team friends (after which I was later told I'd participated in a "vocal jam session") -- I went to dinner.  (Side note: They feed you well at retreat centers.)

And during dinner, a praise team member met a minister, Jose Lebron, who'd just led a six-car caravan out of Naples, Florida (which, as I write this, has just suffered the onslaught of Irma.)  He's a Lutheran who pastors the Emmanuel Community Church.  He and his congregants are Hispanic.

Jose told us that he'd gone looking for a place to evacuate to, and providence led him and other members to Shocco Springs.

So we invited them to worship with us that evening and the next morning.

What you saw in those two worship services was summed up by our worship minister as "a picture of heaven".

A group of Church of Christ members, together with members from a community church led by a Lutheran; most of whom spoke English, several of who spoke Spanish, a few who spoke both; kids ranging from months old to mid-teens, all singing together to the tune of a drum and three guitars.

We sang songs of comfort and of hope.  We reminded each other that God had not forgotten us.  We praised God because we knew He was there.  I gave my limited Spanish a workout and called on Google Translate during a couple of difficult moments.  I played peek-a-boo with a three-year-old girl:  "Donde esta?  Aqui!"

We took communion together.  And we prayed.

Saturday night, several praise team members made a run to Walmart, where they bought several hundred dollars' worth of gift cards and presented them to Jose on Sunday morning.  He accepted them with a visible tremor in his voice.

We sang "The Lord Bless You And Keep You" to them at the end.

And then we hugged good-bye and wished them "Dios te bendiga" (God bless you).

There's a saying that "A coincidence is a miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous."  I don't believe it was a mere coincidence or an accident that we "just happened" to be there on the same weekend.  We planned the retreat.  We planned the location of the retreat.  We didn't plan Irma.  Nor did a group of refugees plan to arrive on the same weekend that we planned to.  Call it an accident, call it a coincidence.  I, for one, do not believe it was an accident -- an "unaccidental coincidence", perhaps you could say.

We in Christendom are divided.  We have legitimate concerns about doctrine and practice.  We also bicker and fight over trivial things.

But, for a night and a day, a group from a Church of Christ connected with a group from a Lutheran community church at a Baptist conference center; and for that moment, denominational concerns fell by the wayside.

We were simply a group that gathered together in worship and praise to a God we followed, a God we loved, and a God we worshipped.  We were simply a group that, for that period of time, chose to "love one another" because God first loved us.

Perhaps God does his best work in these unaccidental "coincidences".

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Donating beets

Twenty-five years ago, I woke up to find the interior walls of my apartment shaking.

That was Hurricane Andrew's way of saying, "Hello!  I've arrived!"

I was lucky.  I lived in Miami Lakes, Florida, at the time, which is five minutes south of the Broward County line.  All we got was a lot of downed trees and some relatively minor property damage.  I didn't even lose power.  The worst inconvenience was that my AC didn't work for a week.

The people down in south Dade County?  They lived through what people in Houston are living through now; the aftermath of a severe hurricane.  There are differences between Dade County's experience and Houston's.  Andrew was known as a "dry storm".  It moved in and out of the Miami are very fast, and thus, the majority of damage was wind damage.  The Houston area is dealing with catastrophic flooding.  Much of their damage is water damage.

In both cases, Andrew and Harvey left behind a large population in desperate need of help.

I did have some canned goods in my apartment that I didn't need. So I donated those.  A few days later, I went with some friends over to the Opa-Locka Airport to help sort and pack supplies being ferried in from all over the country.

One well-meaning but misguided soul sent down several industrial-sized cans of beets.

Yes, beets.  A dark-red vegetable that is touted as being good for you but that probably few people would eat.  (No offense to those who are beet lovers.)

So, Tina, what's your problem with beets?

Well, first of all, they're beets.  Enough said there.

But my main problem was this:  You're sending down industrial-sized cans of food into an area with NO POWER.  If you open that industrial-sized can of beets, and you don't eat it all, what happens when you can't store your leftovers because you don't have power to run a refrigerator?
I have many memories of Andrew:  the people that were concerned about us, the pictures on TV, Bryan Norcross' laryngitis after being on the air for so many hours, a piece of plywood with "Welcome to Homelessstead" spray painted on it.  But it's the story of the beets that I keep coming back to, because for me, it just encapsulates in one example what people don't need after a disaster.

In the aftermath of Harvey, I'm heartened to see that one of the very first concerns of people has been, "How can I help?"  And I'm sure one of the first responses of people is to gather up stuff they don't need, pack it, and drop it at the nearest place collecting supplies for the people in Houston.

Well, before you start packing, read this article.

Kindly, but firmly, Amy Slenker-Smith states that Houston does not need your stuff.  What they need is money.  That money can go into the hands of people on the ground there, who know what to get and how to get it there.

This article gets much more specific about what NOT to donate.  Used clothing?  Don't bother? Stuffed animals?  Sounds fine . . . but, as a quote from the article says, a teddy bear can't pay for a funeral.

There are organizations you can contact who know what they are doing and how to do it.  They can tell you what they need and what they don't need.  My own church is in contact with several churches in the Houston area--people on the ground--who will give them ideas of how to help.  Next week we are taking up a special collection of funds specifically for Harvey relief.  We also, in the near future, plan to send people to aid in the recovery effort.  This is similar to what we did many years ago with Katrina--we partnered with a church on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and sent teams of volunteers in over a period of a year.  The people we send, and any items we will send, will only be sent in cooperation with people that are in the area--not a "willy-nilly" collection of items, and not just a group of people saying, "Hi, we're here; put us to work."  (We are planning to collect and send cleaning supplies in the next few weeks--buckets, mops, brooms, trash bags, etc.  Those will be needed.)

So how can you help people affected by Harvey?

Find an organization you trust and make a cash donation.  If they're a group like Churches of Christ Disaster Relief (that my own church has worked with) and they are asking for specific items, go donate.  These groups know how to get the stuff to where it needs to go.

If you pray, pray.   If you belong to a church, maybe they know a place where you can volunteer your services.

Just don't throw stuff into a box without thought and drop it off at a collection point.

And, for the love of all that is holy and reasonable, please do not send any industrial-sized cans of beets.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Harvey, devastation, the truth, and "rich man's problems"

No, a shark was not swimming down a Houston freeway next to a driver.

No, the planes at Houston Hobby airport are not underwater.

No, there are not alligators crawling up Houston driveways.

Yes, the rainfall in the Houston area is being measured in FEET, not inches.

Yes, the National Weather Service did have to add colors so that it could accurately show how much rain has fallen in the area.

Yes, people are stranded on rooftops and being rescued by people with boats.

Yes, the police have gone looking for boats to commandeer.

And yes, the videos and many of the pictures coming out of Houston and other areas are heartbreaking.

This morning, I posted a Facebook status saying that I wondered if some of the pictures I was seeing were fake.  One picture, of an assisted living center with water up to the residents' waists, I wondered if it were real.  Unfortunately, it was real.  My post sparked some discussion about stuff that was fake and real.  There are fake photos going viral (including one of President Obama serving food at a shelter -- that photo is a real one, but it was from Thanksgiving 2015, where he was helping at a homeless shelter.)  It may not be accurate to refer to some photos as "fake", as in "Photoshopped", but rather "mislabeled", as in the Obama picture I mentioned.  Also, the alligators crawling up the driveways are real pictures, but not specifically from Harvey.  I understand that there IS an alligator refuge in danger of flooding where alligators could escape.

I have read at least one Facebook post urging us to pray rather than worry about fake pictures.  A friend answered that it wasn't helpful to be passing along fake information.  I also pointed out that one could pray and also be concerned about what information is true or false.

In my church's small group on Sunday, I shared some personal concerns.  One of them is about our dryer, which decided it didn't want to heat.  It's since decided to start heating again.  I suspect it may need to be serviced.  One of the small group members commented that many of our problems are what are called "rich man's problems".  In my case, although I have a malfunctioning dryer, I live close to a laundromat.  I can take my laundry there and back.

I also tend to whine about not having an iPhone (my Android only has about 2GB memory) and about only having one car.  But I have transportation, and my husband can take public transportation to and from work.

In comparison to the vast majority of the world, I am rich, and therefore, several of the problems I have are "rich man's problems."

In contrast, what the people in Houston are dealing with are NOT "rich man's problems".  They are life or death problems.  Six people are already dead in flooding and I'm sure the death toll will rise.  As I write this, I'm watching Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel, and he's reporting a levee breach in one area.  A FB friend has family in the area and she's very afraid for them.  People have lost power, they have no running water, and they are running out of food.  Hundreds, probably thousands, will wind up losing everything.

Those are NOT "rich man's problems".

THOSE problems put my "rich man's problems" in perspective.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Losing hope

This is a depressing post, and for that I'm sorry.

To begin with, my mother has been in and out of the hospital for the last week and a half.  She had a blood clot in the same leg where she's had problems before.  The whole situation has been very stressful on all the people involved.

I've been concerned about North Korea.  But I also think that the little dictator there has a serious case of short-man complex that he compensates for by saber-rattling.

And then came Charlottesville.

I have not been sitting in front of the TV camped out with either CNN or Fox.  But it's impossible to avoid the news of the last few days.

I am fed up, and I have lost hope for this country.

We are so angry.  We are so much at each others' throats.  We've lost common ground.  I'm just waiting for someone to throw the Molotov cocktail that will launch us into World War III.

And at the risk of making people even angrier, I do agree with our President to an extent:  there is hatred on both sides.  I wish he had called out the Nazis and the alt-right immediately.  When you walk around wearing white hoods and carrying a swastika flag, what in the world do you expect is going to happen??  When you identify with the people who perpetrated one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history, you DESERVE to be called out and condemned, pronto!

On the other hand, it seems that the sins of the right are always magnified, while the sins of the left are ignored or minimized.

I truly feel like throwing up my hands and screaming, "Forget it!" along with a lot of other nasty words.  Because it seems like nothing I can do or say is going to do one bit of good.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nursery Duty

Today I served in our church nursery.  Between three volunteers, we had one baby, and I ended up hogging her the entire time.

She rewarded me by slobbering all over my left shoulder.

Even though I was wearing a smock, the left sleeve of my blouse ended up getting wet.

I loved it.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

I remember they lied

In 5th grade, my teacher one day told all the boys that our girls' PE teacher was sick and that the boys needed to leave the room so she could talk to the girls about it.

Once all the boys left, she passed out permission slips to the girls to see a movie about menstruation.

To this day, the thing that I remember about that whole event is that my fifth grade teacher lied to get the boys out of the room.

This was either 1973 or 1974.  I was ten years old.  We weren't that far removed from a time when sex just wasn't discussed publicly, and where certain subjects such as menstruation just weren't talked about unless it was in secret, or in very veiled terms.  My teacher was an older woman; I remember that she had gray hair and she may have been just a little bit older than I am now.  (Which means that she probably wasn't that old. :-) )  I understand that she came from a different generation, a different way of thinking, and she may not have known any other way to get those permission slips passed out. 

But the one question I still have is, "Did she have to lie?"  I mean, surely she could have said, "I need to talk to the girls alone for a minute; you boys need to leave the room."  She didn't have to tell them why she needed to talk to the girls alone.

I thought about this episode while reading about a very tragic event that happened last week in my county.

Five members of the same family, a father and four children, were all stabbed to death in Loganville, Georgia.  The mother was arrested and charged with murder.

Today, I read a story about the neighborhood the family lived in and the reaction to the neighbors to the murder.  A five-year-old girl who lived in the neighborhood was close to one of the children that died. The article quoted a family member that said that they'd decided not to tell the little girl that her friend had died.

Instead, they chose to tell her that her friend had moved.

When I read that, I immediately thought of how adults, in order to shield children from the death of a relative, would often say that the person "went away" or "went off on a long trip," rather than saying, "they died".  But here's the problem with that explanation:  What happens when the person doesn't come back?

And what happens when the child learns the truth?  That the person died?

I believe this family means well.  They're trying to cope with a horrific reality.  

But some day, this little girl is going to learn about what happened to her friend.  She's going to learn that this little girl didn't move.  Instead, she's going to learn that her friend died . . . and she's going to learn that her family lied to her.  

Yes, the neighborhood is going through shock, horror, and every other emotion in the aftermath of this murder.  How in the world do you explain to a five-year-old that your friend has died?  No, it's not necessary to tell this kid all the horrific details.  She doesn't need to know the entire story.

But although I can understand wanting to shield the kid, why lie to her and say she's moved?  

Because eventually, she's going to find out what happened.  Maybe she'll understand why her parents told her that story.  But I also wonder if she'll think, "Why did you lie to me?  And if you lied about this, what else did you lie about?"

In the case of my fifth grade teacher, I'm old enough now to understand some of the nuances that I couldn't understand when I was ten.  Menstruation is a difficult subject to talk about; it's awkward and messy, and finding the correct words to discuss the subject is not easy.  

It's the same with murder.  Murder is much harder to talk about when it's happened in your neighborhood and when you know the people that it happened to.  

The little girl in this story that lost her friend--when she's old enough to understand the entire story, will she remember what I remember about my fifth grade teacher?

Because, even when all is said and done, even when I take into account the subject and the context of the times, what I still remember is that my teacher lied to me.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Final bike ride . . .

We know her sister got a good night's sleep the previous evening. *

But did she?

She'd been busy for most of the afternoon, and maybe she did collapse in bed that night.  The next morning, she was going on a bike ride.  Her riding partner was due to be there very early in the morning, and she needed to be ready to go the minute her partner arrived.

We don't know what was going on in her mind.  Did she sleep?  Or did she lie awake thinking about that next day's bike ride?

Did she envy her sister's sound sleep in the next bed?

Did she hear the beginning of the rain that night?  Or did she wake up and, only then, find out it was raining?

The rain wasn't going to matter, because she was going on that bike ride no matter what.

Next morning, the ring of the doorbell or the knock at the door may have made her jump, but she was there with her bike at the appointed hour.  Immediately, after telling her parents good-bye, she mounted, gripped the handlebars, set her feet on the pedals, and pushed.

Perhaps the last thing her parents said to her was, "Be careful," as millions of parents all over the world say to their children before they start off on a bike ride, or a car trip, or before doing something risky or downright dangerous.

Telling her not to go, in spite of the rain, was out of the question.

She probably wore a raincoat over her clothes that day.  Her bike tires splashed through puddles and her feet may have slipped a few times on her pedals as she followed her bike partner on their chosen route for that day.  She wore glasses, and if she wore them while she rode her bike, they were spotted with the raindrops, and she would have had to stop and wipe them occasionally so she could see.

Her body was used to her bike seat, and she knew how to maneuver her way through the streets.

This ride, though, held more than its usual share of apprehension.

Were there people looking at her as she pushed her pedals, steered her handlebars, braked as she needed to?  Everyone that met her eyes, did they know who she was and wonder where she was going?

She was missing a mandatory meeting in order to take this bike ride.  Was her name being called at this very moment?  Did anyone know yet that she wasn't there?  How long would it take before her absence was noted, and how long would it be before people started looking for her?

Her heart pounded harder than usual as she rode, and today, it wasn't because she was getting her exercise.

Nearly an hour later, she and her riding partner, soaked from the rain and weary from negotiating the streets, finally slowed, braked, and stopped.  They hurried inside, out of the rain at last.

When the bike rider, fleeing from a Gestapo summons, stepped through the office door at 263 Prinsengratch in Amsterdam, on July 6, 1942, she would not emerge until August 4, 1944.

We know that Anne Frank got a good night's sleep the previous evening.

But did Margot?

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

* ("I was exhausted, and even though I knew it'd be my last night in my own bed, I fell asleep right away and didn't wake up until Mother called me at five-thirty the next morning." -- Frank, Anne; The Diary of a Young Girl : the Definitive Edition.  New York: Doubleday, 1991, p. 21.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Why we celebrate

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --

Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
  • For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
  • For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
  • For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
  • For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
  • For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
  • For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

1,322 words that say it all.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Looking for revival?

"Anybody here looking for revival?"

This is the question that starts off the title song of Third Day's new album, "Revival".

I heard this song for the first time the other day while playing the radio in my car.  It's catchy, and it's a throwback to good-old Southern rock gospel.  

Anybody here looking for revival
In our own hearts and across the land?
Anybody looking for a revival
Lift up your voice and say Amen
Lift up your voice and say Amen

If I were at a Third Day concert and heard that song, I'd be clapping along, tapping my feet, and at the end of the verse, I'd be lifting up my voice and saying, "Amen!" along with the rest of the crowd.  I mean, I'm a Christian.  What Christian doesn't want "revival", especially in this day and age, where it seems like wrong has become right and right has become wrong?
But then Mac Powell's voice continues to sing out:

Ain't gonna find it in a politician
Not from the government or any law
Can't get it going by your own religion
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Come with me
Come on with me, yeah!

I think we are all guilty of looking for a human "savior".  We want rescue, and we'd prefer someone to do the rescuing.  And there are times we need rescuing.  I needed rescue from sin.

Since the 2008 election, I think we've been guilty of looking for "revival" in a politician. People voted for Barack Obama because they wanted hope and change and thought he'd give it to them.  Only history will show whether or not he was a great, average, or poor president.

In 2016, the pendulum flipped, and people put their hopes for "revival" on the shoulders of Donald Trump.  To borrow Dr. Phil's catchphrase, "How's that working for you?"

Government and politics will NOT give us revival.  A "Christian nation" is not going to give us revival.  We can have all the prayer in school we want, we can put up the Ten Commandments on every courthouse lawn/wall in the nation, but this is NOT going to give us revival.

You can work all you want but you might not see it
Give all you got but it can't be bought
Try everything but you best believe it's
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Only by the Spirit and the Word of God
Come with me

Come on with me, yeah!

Church programs, as good as they are, are not going to give us revival.  Simply having more people darkening the doors of a church isn't going to give us revival.  And I hate to disappoint my Church of Christ brethren and sisteren, but a strict adherence to a cobbled-together "pattern of worship" isn't going to give us revival, either.  Neither will adding an instrumental service. :-) 

So, Tina, what's going to bring revival?

Notice the refrain?

Only by the Spirit and the Word of God.

I think we can look for and pray for revival.  But God's going to move when God's going to move, and we cannot force his hand or manipulate him.  I think there's a difference between saying to God, I want revival, and doing things so that we can say to God, "Hey! Look what we're doing!  Now are you going to send us a revival?"

Where does revival start?

If we want Christian revival, if we want a "move of God" across the land, if we really want people to know God, confess their sins, receive the Holy Spirit, and follow God . . . what do we do?

Well, I think it starts with me.

I'm not called to be a minster or preacher in the pulpit.  I'm a writer and proofreader, mother and wife. :-)  But I am called to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength, and I can only do that through the Spirit of God.  I can't conjure up "revival".  I can only ask God for the help I need desperately. 

Anybody here looking for revival?
I am.  And it starts with me.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Liar! Li-errr!!!

I've been doing a lot of lying to myself lately.

Mainly, about how "no one likes me and no one tells the truth."

I dealt with a lot of bullying growing up, and even now, it's very easy for me to project onto people what I think they're thinking about me.  It is so easy for me to think that "no one likes me" when the truth is, plenty of people like me and the vast majority of the world's population doesn't even know or care that I exist. 😊  It is true that there are probably people who don't like me.  In saying that, I'm just stating a fact:  there's no one in this world who is liked by everyone.  Even Jesus was hated by a lot of people.  He still is.

It's also not true that everyone lies.  I do think it's more difficult in this day and age of "fake news" and information overload to determine exactly what truth is.  And while I don't want to be paranoid, I do think that a healthy skepticism is called for.

I asked the question "Am I wrong?" in this last blog entry.  There's things I don't think I'm wrong about.  I believe there is a God, and I believe the Bible reveals Him.  And I do believe Jesus when he says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through me."  (Just a few verses later, Pilate asked, "What is truth?"  He didn't realize truth was standing in front of him.)

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul calls on Timothy to, among other things, "correctly handle" the word of truth.  I grew up with the King James Version, which translated this verse as "rightly dividing the word of truth".  Much of my frustration with "who's right?" revolves around whether or not the Bible is "correctly handled".  This is what I mean when I talk about everyone being able to "prove" they are right by Scripture, but coming out with diametrically opposed conclusions.

In Acts 17, a group of people in Berea were called "noble" because they examined the Scriptures to see if a fellow named Paul was handling them accurately.  It's possible, since we are different people, to come to differing opinions on matters.  Even Paul, in the books of Romans and I Corinthians, addressed matters such as whether or not to marry and eating meat offered to idols, acknowledging that different believers would believe different things on such matters, and that believers should respect the opinions of others.

He did, however, hold firm to certain bedrock truths:  that Jesus was the Son of God, that salvation was not by works of the law but through faith, that Christ had indeed been raised from the dead.  And plenty of people hated him, too.

I am such a people-pleaser at times that it's not even funny.  I care a great deal about "what people think of me" and too many times, that just leads me to a lot of turmoil.  I don't want to use "not being a people-pleaser" as an excuse to be rude, arrogant, and uncaring.  But I don't want to be so wound up in "what people think" that I have no convictions about anything.

Right now, I think the best course of action is to recognize where I've been lying to myself and ask God to steer me towards the truth.

In the meantime, here's a funny note to end on, from The Princess Bride:

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.