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These Dreams…

“As a hungry man dreams of eating, but is still hungry, and as a thirsty man dreams of drinking, but is still faint from thirst when he wakes up, so your enemies will dream of victorious conquest, but all to no avail.” (Isaiah 29:8)

I am grateful for this Covid-19 shutdown.

No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know people are sick, dying, or have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I would be an insensitive clod to be grateful for that. Far too many people also don’t know where their next meal, or rent/mortgage payment, is coming from while they wait until it is truly safe to venture out again in numbers greater than 10. Without some serious assistance from our government, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming anytime soon, far too many people are at risk of losing their homes. I’m not grateful for that either.

What I am grateful for is the stop of nearly everything “normal” in life.

You see, somehow along the line my life got “stuck” in survival mode. It’s been driven by purpose, by necessity, by the sheer panic that a potential foreclosure can instill in someone. Yes, I write my blog, my book, take care of my animals during “normal” times. Mom and I play games together, too, when there isn’t a pandemic.

But I don’t “stop”.

I can’t remember the last time I just sat and listened to music. Not while I’m playing games or doing housework, but just sat and listened. And dreamed. I can’t remember the last time that I woke up without an alarm and got to lay there and…yes, dream. Where do I want to go? What do I really want to do this day?

Daydreams…

Imaginings…

Manifesting…

Planning for the future…

During this crazy pandemic, I’ve actually been thinking about a future again. I’m looking at what I have, where I want to go, and allowing myself to dream about it…sort of like I did when I was a young girl just starting out in life with everything open before me. That is a gift, if we will only choose to look at it as such.

No, I don’t plan on wasting a whole day doing nothing but dreaming, but allowing one’s self to dream from time to time, actually opens our imagination. We start thinking about making the impossible, well, possible.

So, what do I dream about? What do I see when that imagination opens up?

Besides a few novels gracing the best sellers’ list, I’m imagining how my whole front lawn is going to look once I’m done landscaping. I’m envisioning all manner of herbs, small fruits, vegetables and flowers…a veritable food and medicinal forest. I’m seeing a stand along the roadside with cut flowers, herbs and plants for sale. I’m imagining that other half-acre fenced in and providing more ranging space for the goats, chickens and ducks. I see an agility course and several Border and Bearded Collies, and Welsh Corgis, running through lickety-split. I’m dreaming of a Great Wheel, a loom and a loom tool (another type of spinning wheel), and a number of Angora rabbits and goats providing fiber for spinning and weaving.

Sometimes, though, that dream isn’t here, but in another place…kind of murky and undefined, but larger, with room for more goats, and sheep. I see some greenhouses for growing spices, like cardamom and turmeric, year-round. I’m envisioning an aquaponics’ system and racks of microgreens and sprouts. When I’m really being far out, I see a greenhouse full of mulberries and silkworms…and the necessary apparatus for spinning their silken threads. I’m thinking of a thriving Reflexology practice–not just the occasional client–and herb classes hosted in my own extensive herb garden.

More, I dream of hosting potlucks and quiet nights spent with loved ones around a campfire.

Yes, all of this probably demands more energy, time, etc. than I have these days. This run-down, ramshackle abode has become a money pit; it would take too much to make such happen. Or would it? Maybe what it needs is simply for me to take a few more steps forward…and to really start thinking about that transition from impossible to possible.

That’s another thing to be thankful for: I have some time on my hands to do some of the work for those things I can do here and now. And I’m being honest enough with myself that I may not get all that I’d like to accomplish done, but I can certainly make a dent in it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying not having to make a mad dash through life. We’ve got to take the silver linings where we can find them.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Lamentations of the New “Normal”

“A time to kill; A time to heal; A time to destroy; A time to rebuild.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3)

Yes, like many others, I’m growing rather tired of being home 24/7…despite being pretty much a home-body even during “normal” times. I know it’s more important than ever that we do continue to observe the quarantine imposed by state governments so that we do not wind up with another Swine Flu of 1917/18. Though many areas of the country are reporting the curve being flattened, there’s still a great risk of it spiking again. And, as someone who would be considered a “risk” (asthma), it is a concern.

But it’s not easy.

I feel like life is on hold again. It reminds me way too much of the Great Recession of 2008 when we all waited with baited breath to see what would happen next, cringing every time the boss walked out of his/her office, lest, he/she be handing out pink slips, and feeling the heartache growing every time a new tent “city” cropped up in another park, under another overpass, behind another church.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good right now (insert sarcasm here).

Is it me? Or does everyone else feel extra tired, maybe a little numb…or dumb?

I’ve had way too much screen time…and not of the productive kind. Though I’ve done some brainstorming as regards my novel, I’ve done very little work on it and may undo many of the changes I recently made to it. My homework assignments have all gone in late and without the usual level of interest I typically feel for them. I have the perfect opportunity to get some projects done and I’m glued to the news, social media, and endless games of Solitaire. The road to hell is paved with good intentions but the eternal procrastinator needs a good, swift kick in the you-know-what.

Yes, I know…complain, complain, complain (chuckle). I guess I needed to get that little rant out. I’m my own worst enemy at times and I’ve been a slug for the last few days: no energy, no interest in anything, just mindless distractions.

It doesn’t help that I lost an aunt this week, presumably to Covid-19. Sadly, because there aren’t enough tests, anyone who passes due to an upper-respiratory complaint is considered to have had Covid-19. Whether she really did or not, we’ll probably never know. And, sadder still, we cannot pay our last respects. It would require a gathering of more than 10 people.

We will get through this.

And, when we do, if you’re like me, you have so many “dates” with friends, family members, etc. that life will be one big party to make up for this dull, lethargic state for a very long time.

I talked to a friend on the phone today. It was an actual conversation, not just a text or a posting on social media. It broke the sluggish “spell” I’ve been under…and has made me appreciate that I have at least had Mom here to talk to when so many others live alone and do not have this interaction. It has also made me realize the real impact this Covid-19 is having on our society. Though this quarantine is necessary to reduce the chance of spreading this virus further, depression, loneliness, anxiety are all taking their toll. So I’m making a pact with myself to pick up that phone a little more often. The sound of a loved one’s voice on the other end is one of the best medicines.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Sunday Cyber-Service

“Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves–whether men or women–or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day; so He blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

So this feels just a little awkward…so I guess I’m on the right track. God loves to take us out of our comfort zones. He wants us to trust Him…even in the midst of coronavirus. Actually, I should amend that: especially in the midst of coronavirus. And, while this isn’t exactly a traditional service, I’m going to start by sharing a song by Christian artist, Zach Williams, called “Old Church Choir”. Though I can carry a tune myself, just for today, I’m leaving it to the pros. Let’s lift the somber mood of these past few weeks just a little bit:

For everyone reading this today, I hope that the prayers and Scripture I offer, even the music I share, will enrich your day, your week, and bring you solace and hope in a seemingly chaotic situation. Truly, faith in Something–Someone–greater than one’s self is the only thing that does bring hope in the face of chaos and adversity.

And the adversities we face today are unlike any that we have seen in 80, 90 years.

I don’t share that to overwhelm, or to spread further terror. It’s to bring this situation into perspective. There’s been so much anger masking fear and uncertainty, so much finger pointing–something of which yours truly has been guilty–and it only excerbates the situation…both in our hearts, and in our communities. Yes, we are seeing who the *true* leaders are, and those whose hearts the Adversary’s lies have settled into as well. And, no, they’re not the ones closing down even the churches. The officials that have closed nearly every door are doing so to save lives, to prevent the spread of illness. However, the Adversary is watching this, wringing his hands together at the opportunities he sees before him now that so many of us are not coming together in prayer, to receive Communion and fellowship, to confess our sins of the previous week(s), and to seek forgiveness. I say we pray without ceasing, giving praise to the One who is truly in control and has our backs in all of this, effectively binding those wringing hands from doing their dirty work. We have enough to contend with in Covid-19. That’s enough chaos for one community, one country, one world. And, without God, without a belief in Someone greater than ourselves, where will we find the strength to get through the weeks ahead and their endless challenges? Or to resist those adversarial lies?

Yes, you read that correctly: give God praise during this epidemic. He knows what He’s doing, and why. It is our job to trust Him, to believe Him, when He tells us He loves us, that He has our best interests at heart. Though it may not seem apparent at the moment, He does. He truly does. If we give in to the doubts, and I know it’s difficult not to at a time like this when so many are sick, scared, dying, but this is where He needs us to follow Him ever more closely. He needs us to be steadfast and stand together in solidarity with Him, to root out the lies and bring them into the Light, to bring comfort to those who are afraid, or have suffered loss.

You know, we talk about pulling together during this crisis. And yet, we are being asked, for safety’s sake, to stay apart. It seems a bit of an oxymoron but, while we may not be together physically, we CAN be together in our hearts, in our minds, in spirit…in Spirit. It is, in my opinion, the only way we will get through this crisis.

And that brings me to another point of this post. I’ve talked a lot in previous posts about being an introvert. Truly, it’s not all that difficult being an introvert in America. Our society encourages distance even when things are “normal”. Look at how we are structured. Most people travel to work solo. In fact, I know of plenty of people who look down their noses at people who carpool, or utilize public transit. The auto industry touts independence, freedom of spirit, etc. to sell their products. If you don’t have an automobile of your own, people are scandalized (I have first-hand knowledge). In short, we’re encouraged to be alone in our commutes. Though “tiny houses” are all the rage today as sort of a grassroots’ movement that is gaining some traction in the mainstream, our housing/construction industries push the mantra of bigger being better. Our streets are lined with countless McMansions, surrounded by acres of well-manicured status symbols of lawns that rob us of clean air, clean soil, clean water…even home-grown food so, if for no other reason, we do not starve during an epidemic. We’re disconnected from the earth, from our food, from the animals that sacrifice theirs that we might have life (oftentimes under horrible conditions). More importantly, we’re disconnected from each other. Again, in short, I see millions of “islands”. I get needing elbow room…and we don’t always find “good” neighbors, but in these Islands of Suburbia, we might never know. How many of us, when there isn’t a pandemic, have walked across those acres of useless grass to extend the hand of friendship to those whose multi-acres of McMansion border ours? And, sadly, even within the walls of those McMansions, we remain islands of humanity. Every child must have its own bedroom. We must have a man-cave, or a she-shed. Every human in the house must have their own bathroom, too. I suppose during a pandemic such as this one, we might conclude that the distance between us, even within our own communities, is a good thing to help slow the spread of infection. But do we know how to sit down as a family and share a common meal? Do we even know how to cook a meal without zapping it in a microwave? We’re not running off to countless after-school sporting events, clubs, extra-curricular activities right now. How has that changed the dynamics? Do we know how to entertain ourselves as a family? When was the last time we pulled out a board game? Or a deck of cards? When was the last time we prayed together as a family…outside of our church, temple, synagogue, or mosque? For those of you who have been sitting down together as a family to share a meal, a game, or a prayer, you are truly the wealthy during this crisis. And that’s something we can all appreciate, whether introverted, or extroverted.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I praise you in this “storm”. We truly are at “war” with an enemy we cannot see. But I know that Your Eyes do see this “enemy” and You’ve got this! I praise You for that knowledge. I praise You for the knowledge that You are giving to doctors, nurses, first-responders, scientists, etc. to help heal those who are ill. I praise You, too, for protecting these healthcare workers from contracting the Covid-19 virus themselves; we need all of their expertise. I praise You for lifting every healthcare worker up, relieving their fatigue, and for giving them clarity when it is most needed.

I praise you for every grocery, pet and/or feed store worker, for every pharmacist, for every essential worker who is also on the front lines during this epidemic. I praise you for protecting them also, and the families that they go home to each night.

I praise You for our government officials. I pray that sound minds and compassionate hearts will prevail in this crisis. I praise You for guiding the hands of those who would lead…and showing us just who those people are. I praise You for touching the hearts of those who would profit from the sufferings of others that they might repent and seek You in all future endeavors, bringing Light, instead of the darkness that our world has become.

I praise You for lifting up the hearts of all people everywhere during this epidemic. Where hearts are hungry, provide them Your sustenance. Where hearts are frightened, give them courage. Where hearts are angry, bring them peace. Where hearts are in doubt, fill them with Your grace. And, for those who have lost a loved one to this illness, I praise You for comforting them in their hour of sorrow and loss. Help them to remember that when we are a part of the body and blood of Christ, we are never truly alone. I praise You for the hope that is forever Your name, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power,
And the Glory, forever and ever…Amen

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2008). “Praise You In This Storm (live).” Lifesong (2005), producer by Mark A. Miller, Beach Street/Reunion Records. Neyolov. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ype1xE0wzsg

For King and Country (2015). “Shoulders (Official Music Video).” Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong, producers Ben Glover, Matt Hales, Seth Mosley and Tedd Tjornhom, Fervent Records alongside Word Records. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfiYWaeAcRw

Williams, Zach (2017). “Old Church Choir (Official Music Video).” Chain Breaker, producer Jonathan Smith, Essential Records. Vevo. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOEviTLJOqo&list=RDyOEviTLJOqo&start_radio=1

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Moments of Reflection

“But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow Him more closely.” (Psalms 1:2)

There have been way too many outraged, ranting and raving against a broken government, system, and society type posts that I cannot change/fix, etc. with my outrage, rants and raves. I cannot fix a pandemic, or a collapsing economy, with it either. So, though I’ve sneered a little bit in the past over those rubber bracelets that people wear that say, “What would Jesus do?”, I did exactly that. What would Jesus do? Or, more importantly, what would He have me do right now? Can He use me in this pandemic? And how? How may I best serve Him? And/or my fellow Man?

Yesterday was a day of reflection, of finishing some organizational projects, of completing homework assignments, and connecting with friends.

Certainly more productive than ranting and raving.

I’m not 100% sure yet what He has in mind, but I’m contemplating doing something special with this blog on Sundays. Connecticut has shutdown even places of worship. I don’t know about everyone else reading this, but I miss my worship community. I miss singing with the choir. I miss giving the readings, serving Communion. I miss Father Ben’s gentle homilies. And the fellowship of friends, of course.

That’s the hardest part of this enforced quarantine: the loss of social interaction. Though I consider myself an extreme introvert, even an introvert needs someone to chat with from time to time. Thankfully, I have Mom here with me…and a large network of friends and relatives just a mouse click, or speed dial, away from a long distance connection. How much harder must it be on the more gregarious of our brethren? Those among us who are always in the thick of things are suddenly caged. And, to be honest, though I’m an avowed introvert, I’m also a free spirit who hates even a necessary oppression of that free spirit…such as a shutdown. I guess this is proof that we always want most what we cannot have.

The flip side of this is the elderly, the shut-ins, people that are often alone and forgotten in the best of times. We had a Texas “leader” recently suggesting the elderly sacrifice themselves for the younger generation. Sure, if I contracted the virus, and it came down to one ventilator between myself and one of my nieces, you bet your a** I’m going to give it to them. And I know this is what this politician was saying, but it came out bass-ackwards. At any rate, before I go down another rant, oftentimes, the elderly, the shut-ins, etc. only ever see folks when they come to church/synagogue/mosque or temple each day/week. Though it is impossible to get together physically, I’m thinking it might not be amiss to come together for a Sunday Cyber-Service. I am an ordained minister, after all…non-denominational. And, if nothing else, what I manage to put together might bring solace and comfort to those who read it. If I knew how to do conference calls, I’d host a prayer meeting via phone…or Skype.

(I thinking it also might not be amiss to use this enforced shutdown to teach myself some of these technologies…)

In closing, I can’t promise that there won’t be some future posts that continue to rant and rave and rage against what is happening in the world today. Like everyone else, I am frightened for our future. I have an elderly Mom, a brother who had his spleen removed last year and cannot fight infections/viruses as easily as most, and a niece who is Type I diabetic. I have a couple of beloved aunts who are Type II diabetic, several aunts and uncles who, like Mom, would be considered elderly, and a cousin who just had a kidney transplant and is also vulnerable right now. So, yes, I do worry about them…despite my faith…because, though I know losing loved ones is inevitable under any circumstances, I’d prefer to keep them all here for as long as God wills it (and I’m not above praying to Him and begging for their continuity in my life either).

So, while it may be scary and feel unproductive to be home, instead of at work/school, please stay home anyway (if you can, of course; front line workers and necessary trips to the grocery store/doctor’s office being the exceptions). Wash your hands frequently. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces, like doorknobs and countertops…and steering wheels. Avoid gatherings with large numbers of people. No, we probably won’t be back to “normal” by Easter, but we can find peace in our hearts, knowing we’re doing everything we can to protect those we love and cherish. Here’s praying all of your loved ones are safe and healthy, too.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Racism in America and Demonizing Poverty

“Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.” (Proverbs 14:31)

Kudos! to Tulsi Gabbard and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for introducing legislation that would put money into the hands of the American people during this pandemic that has our economy floundering, at best. And, in these very frightening and trying times, I’m going to surprise a lot of Democrat friends by giving President Trump some credit. He is running with it, trying to get money into the hands of the American people who are struggling right now. He even went so far as to reach out to former Democratic candidate, Andrew Yang, to learn more about Yang’s signature platform, Universal Basic Income, or as Yang called it, The Freedom Dividend.

Now, before my Democratic friends think I’ve turned coat, or lost my marbles, no, one good deed does not override countless bad ones. He’s still calling it the “Chinese” virus and, sadly, many Asian Americans have been physically attacked because of it. CNN reports on it here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/us/coronavirus-racist-attacks-against-asian-americans/index.html. (And before all the accusations of “fake” news circulate, I also have an Asian acquaintance who has experienced this herself first hand) Racism wears many faces and fear-mongering blows it out of the ballpark. We are all in this together. And many of our Asian neighbors have, or will, contract Covid-19 the same as Caucasians, Native Americans/Alaskans, Latinos, Hispanics, African Americans, LGBTQ, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Wiccan, athiest, etc. In short, while we may still be spouting racist dialogue here in America, Covid-19 does not discriminate. If you are calling this the Chinese virus and are reading this, please STOP…NOW! Our fellow Americans are not the cause of this virus. The first case may have been diagnosed in China; it does not make every Asian in the world responsible for a whole pandemic.

I am sensible enough to know that President Trump’s main motivation may simply be to gain approval from everyone and garner some more votes in November. However, it’s the right thing to do. And it doesn’t really matter how he got to this point. He simply did. Whether you agree with me or not, nobody is all bad. We each have dark and light moving for dominance in us at all times. It’s the choices we make that define us. And, again, most of the choices President Trump has made thus far have been bad ones…very bad. But that’s not the point of this post. I am giving kudos! to President Trump for reaching across the proverbial aisle, for putting partisan interests aside and being willing to work with others to help this country.

Sadly, I can’t say the same for members of Congress, on both sides of the political aisle, who want to drag their asses about passing said legislature to test means and decide who should be eligible. While I agree someone making 6 figures per year probably doesn’t need an extra $1000 a month to weather this pandemic, there’s also been some talk on various news’ programs that some of the discussion/hold up is to decide if people making less than $25K a year should receive assistance??!!?

The rationale behind this cruelty is that those in extreme poverty aren’t contributing enough to society under normal circumstances. They’re people who don’t want to work. They’re lazy; why should they benefit? All of the many EXCUSES that so many in our society dream up to justify cold-hearted cruelty to our fellow man.

First of all, the media lies. Our president does, too. Our economy is NOT booming…nor was it before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. GDP and Unemployment Insurance (UI) numbers do not reflect the true state of our economic affairs. Lower UI numbers simply mean less people are collecting UI benefits.

Period.

Are they truly back to work? Or did they simply exhaust those benefits without actually finding employment? Did they give up and simply not file another claim, having become despondent and depressed owing to the true state of our current job market?

I can relate. I’ve been in this job market. And it’s not pretty. The majority of the jobs out there are part-time, seasonal, temporary and/or minimum wage. The full-time, decent-paying positions are few and far between…and usually go to younger workers, i.e. under 50. A lot of industries are disappearing, too. Those of us with a career history in administration and tech support are no longer needed. Those jobs, thanks to modern technology, went overseas where companies can save on the cost of wages and medical benefits. The same is true for customer service. Automation is stealing retail positions, cashiers–how many of you have gone through self-checkout at the local grocery or department store?

Minimum wage in Connecticut recently went up to $11.00 an hour; it is expected to rise again to $13.00 in September. If you’re fortunate enough to be earning considerably more than this per hour, think about how much you might be struggling at $11.00 based upon your current monthly expenses. I know I’m being redundant from an earlier post, but let’s do the math again. $11.00 X 40 hours per week (if you’re lucky) = $440.00 before taxes, etc. are removed. If you’re full-time, you’re also fortunate enough to receive medical insurance through your company. So, to make this easy, let’s say you’re taking home $330.00 a week. It might be more, it might be less, but you get the idea. That comes to $1320.00 per month and, in Connecticut at least, the average rental is around $1000 per month. Again, it might be more, it might be less but, unless Auntie Mimi is renting you the in-law apartment she has dirt-cheap, there’s probably not much left over once the rent is paid. Or mortgage, depending upon your situation. Some of us once had better paying positions that made us eligible to purchase our own home…positions that The Great Recession took away.

I did this redundant exercise to prove a point: there are many, many Americans earning less than $25K per year, who will not receive a stimulus, if those Congressional “leaders” have their way. They are not earning less than $25K because they don’t want to work. They are earning less than $25K because the work isn’t there. Or, at the very least, the wages. They are earning less than $25K because our country has NOT fully recovered from The Great Recession of 2008. It is all too easy to envision, not another recession, but a depression that makes The Great Depression of the 1930’s look like a walk in the park.

This is a pandemic, folks. This is human life we’re talking about here. And an economy that needs sustaining while businesses shutdown to help preserve our lives. People, regardless of their income, need fresh food, clean water, medicine, etc to weather this medical storm. They need to pay their bills. They need to keep the roof overhead. It shouldn’t be conditional based upon the impaired vision of those who continue to look down their nose at those less fortunate than they.

Yes, looking down the nose.

We have such a stigma against poverty. Our society is guilty, even during a pandemic, of judging others based upon how much they earn. So many never stop to consider why that person may not earn that much.

America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Yes, we have awesome colleges. Ditto for trade schools. Yet, sadly, many high school students are often dissuaded against going to a trade school rather than university. I guess the idea of getting your hands dirty is equated the same as poverty: it’s somehow beneath us. However, even in economic strife, we may still need the brakes fixed on our cars, or the furnace tinkered with to make sure we have heat this winter. These positions often start at $20.00 per hour, sometimes more. Had we encouraged that high school student to pursue a career as a tradesman, maybe they wouldn’t be hurting so bad in a tough economy. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a lawyer…or even a school teacher.

There’s also a lot behind poverty that has everything to do with extenuating circumstances rather than personal ambition (or the perceived lack thereof). I once received a video in an email…and I wish I knew who filmed it so I could give credit where it’s due…that placed a couple of dozen young people in a line. It was supposed to be like a starting line to a race. The young people came from all walks of life, varying socio-economic backgrounds, male and female, African American, Asian, etc. At this “starting line”, if all things remained equal, they would each have a good chance of winning that race. However, the person hosting this short film asked every person in that line, if any of them came from families where their parents had divorced, to take a step back. The ladies were also asked to take a step back. They went on to ask every non-Caucasian person to take a step back. Every family who had been affected by alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, physical, mental, and/or sexual abuse, etc. You get the picture. And, suddenly, that starting line was pretty uneven.

Many of us are like that. Though my western European ancestors won out in the gene pool, I can claim Native American heritage. That’s a step back. I am female. I could take a step back for alcoholism, mental and sexual abuse, divorce, suicide (aunt; father attempted a few times). We were low-income. I spent a number of years living in the inner-city (Yes, neighborhood/community was one of the steps back, too).

None of these factors were the fault of these young people. Yet we point the fingers and judge others for making what we, in our biased and narrow visions, consider poor “choices”.

If you grew up being told how stupid you were, do you think you’d think highly enough about yourself to shoot for a full scholarship to a university? If you were laughed at and bullied (another step back) in school, are you going to extend yourself and risk further ridicule? Not everyone rises to the occasion in an expression of defiance against the box they’ve been initially placed in. Or, if you were perpetually put down at home, abused in some way, etc. would you have that sense of self-worth that keeps you from entering into another abusive relationship? Oftentimes, when you’ve grown up with abuse, another abuser is what I call a comfortable-familiar. You have instant rapport because they’re just like the parent/sibling, etc who abused you and that gives you a false sense of security that the abuser will feed on perpetually to keep you with them.

In truth, if you’re poor in America, our society is going to continue to abuse you. This debate about whether or not extremely low-income families should receive this stimulus is proof of that.

I don’t remember the video talking about physical or mental limitations but it’s been awhile. We could also ask those who are blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, stricken with asthma or diabetes, etc. to take a step back. If you sustained an injury somewhere along life’s course, or have developed an autoimmune disease, if you’re older and have developed one or more of those conditions that come with age (macular degeneration, arthritis, etc.), you can probably take a step back, too. Because a stimulus that refuses to help those below a certain economic level will look at your SSI check and find you wanting.

And what about the value of that stay-at-home parent or caregiver? Or the person who chose life and has grown a rather large family? Apparently, you’re not worthy of a stimulus either.

And that’s just wrong…on every level imaginable.

In the hour or so it has taken me to write this, things may have changed. More compassionate hearts may have prevailed and, maybe, just maybe, even low-income families will receive the help they need to survive while we all stay quarantined in our homes to prevent the spread of this Covid-19.

I hope so. I hope that in this unprecedented pandemic reaction that families do not have to further compromise their immunity by stressing over how they’re going to pay the rent, or mortgage. I hope that families will not have to choose between food and medicine, but be able to choose both. In short, I hope that lawmakers, and those who have more, will make a good choice this time: a choice to save lives everywhere…rather than continue the abuse against those less fortunate. I hope, instead of looking down the narrow curve of one’s nose, we look the face of poverty straight in the eye, place a bowl of homemade soup in front of it, a warm, cozy quilt about the shoulders, and say, I believe in you. You are worthy of His love…and mine. You are worthy of consideration. Now let’s finish this race together.

May God bless you & keep you!

Abuse, Addiction, Alcoholism, Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Compassion, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, History, illness, Lent, Love, Memories, Music, Nature, Nostalgia, Prayer, Rock & Roll, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Sleep Deprivation, Understanding

It’s Definitely NOT Like the Movies

“A man that strays from home is like a bird that wanders from its nest.” (Proverbs 27:8)

In my last post, I mentioned how seasonal allergies had left me feeling blehck! Well, over the last couple of days, seasonal allergies morphed into a little something more than just feeling blehck!. Tuesday evening post-nasal drip, headache and plugged ears added fever and chills to the mix. No, I don’t have coronovirus (don’t get me started on that one!). However, I do have some kind of virus. I went to bed early Tuesday evening, around 9 p.m., and slept through until 8 a.m with only one bathroom break around 2 a.m. I got up, took care of the farm, sank exhaustedly into the easy chair in the living room afterwards, and dozed some more. Needless to say, when I went back to bed Wednesday evening, I became the insomniac. And I did exactly what sleep experts say you shouldn’t do:

I picked up my cellphone and web surfed (blue light is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and actually wakes you up, making it harder to fall asleep).

I was good. I stayed away from Facebook, one of my Lenten vows. Instead, I opted to do some genealogical searching. In times’ past, I’ve typed in the names of grandparents and great-grandparents and found some pretty cool stuff. Like, I always knew my maternal grandfather was one of 18 children (yes, 18…) but I never knew all of their names. I once found a census record that listed the names of all my great-aunts and uncles. I found a great-aunt Doris (now one of three great-aunt Dorises) who died in infancy. I knew my maternal grandfather had a sister named Viola (I also knew her; she died when I was in my early-20’s), but there had also been a Violet who died when she was just a little girl. In fact, later scrolling had led to a confusion of these two great-aunties, though two very separate dates of birth existed. Another time, I googled my paternal grandfather’s father’s name and found this really cool article on The Outlet Co. in Providence, Rhode Island that talked about Mortimer Burbank’s history with their radio station…and the elephants he arranged for a parade through the streets of Providence. My great-grandfather eventually became owner of The Outlet Co., which in turn, passed to my grandfather. Before his passing, my Poppop (my nickname for my grandfather) liquidated everything to put into a trust for my Aunt Marjorie, who was a lot like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie, Rainman. It served her well until her passing several years’ ago.

I’m not sure what made me google my father’s name Wednesday evening but I did.

His obituary came up. He died a year ago, March 6, 2019.

Now, before everyone starts scratching their head in confusion, I have not seen my father since my paternal grandmother’s passing in 1976. He pretty much severed all contact with his family after her passing, except for a brief visit to his sister, my Aunt Nancy, down in Mississippi that ended with that tie also severed shortly thereafter.

Anyway, Wednesday evening, after more searching to ascertain that this obituary really was my father’s, and not another man by the same name, I called his one surviving sister, my Aunt Sandy, to tell her the news. Like so many other times, I wished we lived closer. I wanted to reach out and give her a big hug. Words can be awkward things at times like these. We expressed regret that every attempt at reconciliation had been rebuffed over the years. And acknowledged that what were the chances of finding out about his passing in such a way. Then we moved on to other topics (my new job as librarian; my cousin’s successful kidney transplant–praise the Lord!) before circling back to the original intent of the call.

Again, I really wanted to hug my aunt.

I’ve been grappling with telling this story ever since.

My father was a late child for my grandparents. He was the youngest of 5 children and the only boy. He was also 10 years’ younger than the youngest of the girls–my Aunt Sandy–and, by everyone’s admission, terribly spoiled. My grandfather, sadly, was already an alcoholic by the time he was born and didn’t have a lot of time for my father. My grandmother overcompensated by often giving my father what he wanted. And, of course, he had 4 older sisters doting on him.

He was also an extraordinary guitarist.

I don’t consider my own playing ability “extraordinary” but I get my love of music from him. One of the few childhood memories I have of my father was creeping into his room to listen and watch him play. A few times he put the guitar in my hand and tried to teach me. The first time, I was still too small and my arms wouldn’t even go all the way around the guitar. Later, tender, young fingers protested the necessary pressure needed on the strings to make a clear, ringing sound (Ouch!). Such quality father-daughter moments were few and far between however.

My parents were wed in August of 1966; I was born in November of the same year. My mother had been in an accident as a young girl. She had been riding in the back of a pick-up truck when it collided with another vehicle. She flew. The doctors said she’d never have children (she should’ve sued). Doubtless, she told my father this, and so, he was unprepared when he found out that she was carrying me. From Mom, from both paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, he turned abusive, obviously resenting this forced responsibility (in those days, folks didn’t have a couple of kids and then get married…). In his defense, he may have felt “trapped”. But it does not excuse the many horror stories I have heard throughout the years of my mother being knocked down flights of stairs, having her stomach burned with a Zippo lighter, etc. all with the intent of forcing a miscarriage.

Before I go further, if my Aunt Sandy, or any other family member is reading this, I don’t write these things to hurt, or embarrass, anyone. And I apologize here and now, with a full heart, for any pain that reading this causes. It’s just that the hurt from someone does not stop with the grave and I need to acknowledge it to let it finally go. And, I promise, there are also some good memories and anecdotes as well. Nobody is all good or all bad; we each have a little of both in us.

I don’t remember my father living in the same house with me at all. He and my mother legally separated 4 months’ after I was born, though their divorce would not be final until 1974. There were a few attempts at reconciliation but they never took. I saw my father in passing on the weekends I spent at my paternal grandparents’ house, which were loving, magical times because of the love I received from them, my Aunt Marjorie, and from my other aunts, uncles, cousins who came visiting. “In passing” because, though he lived with his parents again after he and my mother separated, and though I ran shrieking “Daddy!” joyfully every time he came in the door, I usually received a non-committal acknowledgement of my greeting. If I was lucky, a pat on the head as he quickly ran upstairs to his room and shut the door.

Obviously, by one of the earlier paragraphs, the door didn’t always stay closed. He never chased me out when I came to listen to him play and he even talked to me sometimes…albeit in the same monosyllables as his greetings. He did put together a dollhouse for me once.

By far, my fondest memory comes from a weekend afternoon when I was about 6 years’ old. My father, grandmother and I squeezed into his little MG convertible sports’car and traveled to a farm up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts where my father boarded a couple of horses. Bourbon was magnificent. To the perception of a tiny, 6 year-old girl, I would wager he was a Percheron. But, again, I was a lot smaller than him. He may have just been a large, white horse of some other breed. But, to my young eyes, he appeared much larger than my Uncle Ernie’s Palomino, Sundance, so I’m going with the draft horse. My father picked me up so I could pat his nose, which was beyond my reach (Sundance’s was not). Travis was smaller, dappled gray in color, and incredibly fast. My grandmother stayed in the MG because she was deathly afraid of horses. My father knew this but it didn’t stop him from riding Travis right up alongside the MG, Nanny (my nickname for my grandmother) shrieking my father’s name in terror as the horse drew closer and closer. I remember laughing because I knew he was teasing her (and now, looking back, acknowledge the maneuver as rather cruel; she was terrified). Then my father did an incredible thing. He reached down a hand for me and pulled me up in front of him. He held on as we galloped all over the barnyard for quite a length of time. Nanny said afterwards I looked ready to burst my buttons with joy.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got for truly happy memories of my father.

My mother remarried in 1974. We moved to Missouri, then Oklahoma, and came back to Rhode Island less than 6 months’ later in early-1975. It was just in time for me to see my Poppop one last time in the nursing home where he was being cared for when his alcoholism finally took its toll. He smiled for me. Nanny said it was the first smile she’d seen from him since he’d been admitted. Unlike my father, I have loads of happy memories of my Poppop. And then, a year later, Nanny was gone, too.

My family moved to Missouri again in 1978 some months after my brother, Shaun, was born. I found a new family in my stepfather’s parents, brothers, sisters, etc. but I still missed my Nanny and Poppop, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, with whom I had lost contact after my grandmother’s passing. When we returned to Rhode Island in 1985, I looked up my Aunt Marjorie, knowing that she had become a ward of the state through The Trudeau Center in Warwick. Through her, I was able to get mailing addresses for Aunt Sandy and Aunt Nancy (the 4th aunt, Janet, had died before I was born).

My father, however, continued to elude all of us. None of his sisters had heard from him since that unfortunate visit to Mississippi some years’ earlier. Eventually, I would meet friends of his, people he had worked with, etc. who would tell me about what a wonderful sense of humor he had–great guy–and I would find out where he worked. Ironically, it was at a manufacturing facility on Jefferson Boulevard that an inexperienced teenager had applied to some years’ earlier and gotten the position…only to have to turn it down as my friend, who applied with me, was also my transportation and she did not get the position (they were hiring for several). I sent a letter. No reply. I saw him once when I was dating my first husband. We were driving down Route 1, just passing through Apponaug and into East Greenwich, when I saw him getting into a car. My boyfriend turned around as quickly as late-afternoon traffic would allow but, by the time we reached the house where we’d seen him, he was gone. I found out later that he lived on the second floor–almost across the street from The Trudeau Center, though he never attempted to see my Aunt Marjorie. I sent more letters and cards. Still no reply…until, in the late-90’s, my Aunt Nancy passed away. I sent a letter through the manufacturing company, hoping he still worked there, and told them who I was, that my father’s sister had passed and I didn’t know how else to tell him. He responded. Not to me, of course, but my Uncle Lou in Mississippi received a sympathy card.

My father moved. I don’t remember how I found the new address but I sent another letter, inviting him for coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from his apartment house, my treat. Though he didn’t reply, I went to Dunkin Donuts anyway and waited for over an hour. A car pulled into the apartment complex across the street. A man got out. This was years later. The hair was longer, grayer, and there was a definite paunch but I wasn’t entirely sure…until he took a step in the direction of Dunkin, searched the windows, zeroed in on me and then turned away and went into the house. I waited a bit longer, still not 100% sure it was he…except the shaking hands that fumbled with the keys as I attempted to drive home afterwards. I wonder now if I should’ve walked across the street and knocked.

Some more years’ later, I actually paid a search company to find him. The apartment complex where he had lived had been torn down and I didn’t know where he had gone. The company provided an address. My Aunt Sandy and Uncle George (her husband) came up to visit. Along with my Aunt Marjorie, we all drove to the mobile home park and found his unit on the organization’s map on the wall in the office. We drove to his unit and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but the house was dark, and there wasn’t any car in front of it, so we assumed he was still at work; it was in the afternoon. However, the ashtray on the porch was full of butts…and the little matchstick figures he used to make…and, through the window, we saw a couple of guitars in stands. We left a note with all of our contact information. And, nearly every year since, I have sent a Christmas card, sometimes a birthday card, too. Always the same, inviting him to call, to visit, giving my address and telephone number. I think I even left an email address once, though I was never sure if he used email. I randomly searched his name on social media, too. I never found him there.

This past Christmas, however, I didn’t send any card. It came as almost an afterthought after I had already filled out the cards I would send to other family and friends. I was out of cards in the box that I had bought but considered buying a more personal one the next time I went to Walmart. And, unusual for me, I rejected it with an angry little voice saying he never answers anyway.

Little did I know he wasn’t there anymore to answer…even if he had been so inclined. I guess some part of my heart knew…even without the obituary found three months’ later.

I’ve grappled with writing this but I’m still not sure how I feel right now. All these years I’ve held onto that afternoon with Travis and Bourbon, and wondered if my stepfather hadn’t been right: that it only happened because my grandmother had poked and prodded him into it when I wasn’t there to see it. Had riding Travis up to her side of the car been a challenge? Or have I read too many novels? Could he have been capable of such? And how do I justify such thinking…especially now when I can acknowledge that I never really knew my father.

And I never will.

It’s hard to truly mourn the loss of someone that you’ve never really had in your life, never really known. It’s like that movie star, or rock star, that you’ve always admired from afar. And, like the movies, I’ve always held this little spark of hope that one day my father would knock on my door–or at least call–and say, let’s not waste anymore time; I want to know you, see you. Like on the Hallmark Channel. And now that hope is gone.

And, yet, I can’t even mourn that. It was false hope. If his sisters, with whom he had had relationships with, who doted on him throughout his childhood and cared for him, no longer existed in his world for him, how could the daughter he hadn’t wanted in the first place rank any higher?

It’s his loss. It truly is. Like all people, I have my faults. I’ve been spoiled at times, too. I can be selfish, the veritable loner. I tend to be a control freak at times. I’m impatient. I procrastinate…horribly! I’m also willing to lend a helping hand if you need it, an ear to listen and keep your secrets without ever sharing. I have a hope chest filled with family pictures (even two of my father from my maternal grandfather of when he and my mother were dating) and keepsakes that I would risk life and limb to rescue if there was ever a fire or flood…because they all matter. I’m smart and talented and I share my father’s love for horses and guitars. And I acknowledge this unwitting gift to me from him…that, and the grandparents who gave a lonely little girl a safe place to spend her weekends, and the aunts, uncles and cousins, who have been such an important part of this 53+ years of life. We could’ve had fun jamming together in impromptu music regales. We could’ve gone horseback riding…or simply chatted on the front porch, or over a table in Dunkin Donuts together. As someone who wanted a house full of children and didn’t get even one, I struggle to understand how someone can refuse such a blessing as family. Period. But, again, it’s his loss.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I am not bitter or angry at my father. The only emotion I can pinpoint right now is a sadness, a sadness for what could’ve been. I know he lived with a woman in common law marriage. Did she know about me? Is she the jealous sort who didn’t want him to have contact with his family? Some of the cards sent were returned “addressee unknown”. Others never came back. Did he throw them away? If he saved them, why? Did he always intend to respond at some later date that never arrived? Or is there a chance he never got them at this last address? Even the note we tacked to the door…despite verifying it at the main office of the park that it was his? He died without any other family there by his side. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that. Seems like most people I know want their loved ones near when they pass. Did he die suddenly? Or had there been a long illness involved that maybe, for genetic reasons at least, I should know about? I’ve considered contacting his widow; I’m not sure if it’s the right course of action. If she doesn’t know about me, how much hurt might I do to her memories of my father? And yet, if she does know about me, maybe she thinks we’re all a bunch of insensitive clods who didn’t give a damn about him. It is something I will be weighing carefully over the next few days.

I wish my father well, as I always have. I pray that his spirit is finally at peace. I pray that he’s happy; I pray that he was happy in life all these years…even if he couldn’t share that happiness with his sisters and their families, or with me. I pray, if there was an illness, that he didn’t suffer over-long with it. He had been suicidal in the past; it runs in the family. I pray he was not driven to such despair and that his passing was a natural one. In short, I would like to say “I love you” to him…even though I never heard those three words from him…and I forgive him for whatever it was in him that could never reach out to me, to my aunts, to family in general. I pray he’s finally the rock star he always dreamed of being…and that Bourbon and Travis were waiting over that Rainbow Bridge for him to ride another day.

May God bless you & keep you!