Is What We (Who are Not Pumpkins) Need Here?

early novThis is the sunrise in Ripley Ohio today.

My stomach has been in knots for several days now – in no small part to the terrorist events in our world – far and near.

For me, my sadness is only in part about the bombings in Africa, and Beirut, and Paris – it’s about noise. Our world is so full of superficial noise. I don’t want that for my grandchildren.

That is not what I want for them. I want more than for them to know that Granny’s new favorite phrase in ASL is “my hear is your heart.” I want more than to teach them to say that to me in silence. I want more than to sing them to sleep. I want far more than to hear their squeaky little voices. I want them to trust the world beyond the front door…beyond the village borders.

I want them to trust the feeling of joy – but if I don’t – how can they? And I don’t.

As I get older I question joy, all….of….the….time.

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Every year at this time I have the same dilemma, one that is shared with the couple of weeks that come before Lent: how will I celebrate Advent this year?

“What do you need this year?” I ask myself – “Where are you hurting? What do you need to deepen? Question? Celebrate? Learn? Strategize?”

Don’t know about you, (you who do the Advent thing that is….) but it’s a matter of setting up routines. Likely, most people fall into the comfort of old routine – pull out or make the wreath, gather a prayer book, set aside a few extra minutes.

But of all church seasons….Advent means the most to me because it is about quiet. I love quiet as a way of life more, and more, and more….every day.

Neurotic am I though….part and parcel of not coming into the world as a pumpkin in a patch or a set of shoes on a store shelf – I worry.

So, every year at this time ruminations are about what routine will be set forth in a week or so for the next month of preparations for……drumroll…

the

                                                          holidays.

This year I’m going to try and write.

My prayers, unless they go in a different direction…will be about abandon. The process of finding work, making friends, committing to a bit of a career shift, and enjoying the luxury and privilege of yet another educational gig – it has softened me. I hadn’t realized how lonely and bitter I’d become because…well,

because I’m not a pumpkin or a shoe.

So, that’s that….here are the flagship words that sit by my desk and tempt me to walk out the door as I do these days….

“What We Need is Here” ~ Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith; what we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.

Lord have mercy.

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End of the Semester Insomnia Rambling Thoughts

grad“In truth,

who we are is fiercer than anything we know.”

~ Nancy Collier

The good thing is this – it’s only four times a year or so. I’ve been through much worse… I’ve struggled with insomnia – really scary amounts of it at a few points in time, for around 14 years now. Before that it was the “normal” kind. Worried about a test, up all night with the baby, excited to marry the man of my dreams…. But – by and large, I’ve got routines and interventions in place that have these all nighters narrowed down to four times a year or so. And the great thing is – it’s not really any longer a gigantic big deal.

It’s kind of like going to the dentist. It’s a little bit like getting ready for a birthday party.

It sometimes reminds me of childbirth.

It’s no worse than waiting on an oil change.

It’s like meeting a new gynecologist for the first time and finding out that he is old, ugly and short.

Oh well. C’est la vie, right?

No – these quarterly lay awake all night episodes have a scientific link – it happens with every season change. Go ahead and roll your eyes if you need to about Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a thing. It’s on my chart and lands me a half-dozen or so check ups a year to be sure that my GrandPlansToSleep a solid 8 most nights of the year has fallen off course.

And, yes – it’s all in my head.

Which happens to contain my brain.

Which creates (and doesn’t create) chemicals that lead to a decent day after day and night after night… Yet….in the end….my hope is this: I never want a Dark Night of the Soul episode…ever…again. Literally. I can’t control that I suppose, but I dread the idea that the night may become my enemy at some point again. Night is for sleep. I’d rather wrestle demons in the day time, thank you very much. long range kitchen color plan So…last night I never did fall asleep.

I tried every single trick, of which I have honed to approximately a dozen. No luck. Oh well. Instead, I got sleepy watching “Madmen” for the first time with the volume too low to hear and my glasses off. (trick #8) Oh my goodness – that looks like an awesome series. Note to self.

And then, I got sleepy enough that my muscles started to twitch and my mind settled while listening to Kate Rusby on Pandora. (trick #2) No luck. She broke out into a fiddle reel and I got wound up about needing a passport if I’m ever going to Ireland.

So, I broke my CardinalRule of stay horizontal until 5 a.m. and brewed some coffee at 4:00. But…. at those several points when I tried to pray (trick #1, #7 & #12) they all kept landing back on hearing words like “you deserve this” and “don’t give up” and “just keep moving.” Motivational poster sayings. I HATE motivational poster sayings. So I became annoyed and woke right back up…

What brought me peace and lead to the decision to break my lay still until 5 a.m. rule was that for just a moment – I had a teeny, tiny little moment of: “you are enough.”

My nanosecond of real calm doesn’t change the fact that I have a crap pile of life to untangle…but for a moment as I was en route to dozing to a Celtic tune – I let myself be strong. So, if you too are experiencing your quarterly Spring to Summer Serotonin Spiritual Review – feel free to skip straight to giving yourself an A+ and consider this quote by Nancy Collier. I feel pretty certain that she is a Deaf woman who I quoted in a paper…she could also be someone else – it’s a sticky note quote on my desk that I just noticed…maybe she is Kate Rusby’s lead fiddle player, and is blind…who knows. At any rate…

“In truth,

who we are is

fiercer

than anything we know.”

~ Nancy Collier

About Loud Dishwashers and Quiet Strength

handsigns_K“Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

Well now, I hope that da Vinci is right, because the world around me seems to believe and behave otherwise. If I had time this morning, I would figure out what the sound level of my dishwasher is right now. At the moment, my house is silent other than

1: the dishwasher – a noisy one. Very noisy.

2: my dog Paul and the clinking of his dog tag on my feet. and

3: the pleasant chatter of NPR news which I’ve got at a low-level to keep me company and on task.

I’m pretty sure that I can also hear our dog Lennon chomping on some breakfast as well.

Probably this sound mix seems relaxing to some, boring, or maybe annoying as crap to others. My youngest son LOVES noise – he makes a lot of it, and feels anxious if he’s not surrounded by a clashing mix of various people and media streams. Oh, I think that most of us like the IDEA of silence – and maybe even envy those of us who are quiet and highly sensitive souls. I’ll let you research the statistics yourself, and they certainly are out there. Our world is getting louder. Commercials, radios, classrooms, churches, grocery stores. You name it. All of the day to day places we go to have been proven (in first world type of settings) to be really, really loud anymore. So with that in mind, indulge me as I start sharing some tough crap I’m up against of late.

I can’t be the authority of everything I want to control and change – and I can’t perfectly manage my sound environment – after all, I’m not cloistered and I’ve not yet taken a vow of silence. But I LOVE what Da Vinci says, and I want to switch his quote up to something more personal:

“Nothing can, nor has ever strengthened my authority better than silence.”

And, on the flip side – lore has it that the reason VanGogh cut his ear off is not because he1959461_10153074983048810_36322649183088841_n was insane, it was because he had tinnitus – sound that is not sound. It’s fake noise that is created by the brain of someone who is hard of hearing or deaf. It can be related to a lot of things – injury, stress, a reaction to environmental sound, tight jaw muscles, and from what I can tell – it always involves an out of the norm auditory system or event.

I still don’t know why it is true, but I found out a year ago that my hearing status, for now in one ear, is permanently out of the normal range. That may not sound (pun intended) like a big deal, but it really is. It’s a very big deal for me. What I’m up against isn’t as clear as the typical getting older and starting to hear less clearly.

Strangely enough, it is the symptoms that come with what ever is going on in my auditory system that is, I have to say, kind of maddening at times. And what I have going on isn’t even in the ball park of what many hard of hearing and Deaf folks go through. Thankfully, this isn’t my first unexpected life rodeo ride, so for the most part, it’s not too hard to take in stride. world has ended many times I read this morning that one way to deal with tangled feelings from our past is to accept our limitations as deeply and quickly as we can when these limitations become clear. I agree for the most part – I’m a fan of facing the truth, even when it sucks.

So, in a few weeks if at my 6 month hearing test the truth is that my hearing status is the same mild and mysterious scenario, my body is still going to keep telling me: things just are not right. If the ENT is dismissive and says again, “we don’t know what’s going on, there is nothing we can do yet, come back in another six months,” how should I respond?

The discomfort of constant ear pressure and the annoyance of mild tinnitus that I deal with 24/7, again, is nothing compared to many others. I am getting to know a lot of great people who have profoundly difficult symptoms such as frequent vertigo or severe tinnitus. Many of them can’t work, and many of them work anyway…how, I’m not yet sure.

I do know this:

I adore American Sign Language (ASL). It’s not just fun (which it is), it’s not just cute (which it can be) it IS – well, it is indescribably in written word. Because it’s not – it’s not English, and it isn’t written. It is something that we DO and SEE.

It is the BEST language ever, and I would say the same if my hearing was top notch. It conveys feeling, thought, time, time, space, story, history, and details in a way that no other language will ever be able to do.

So, “God willing, if the creek don’t flood,” hopefully between now and mid-April,  I will have the courage to face this ongoing physical limitation by allowing myself to reflect on these difficult questions and not feel ashamed of the resulting fears and anxieties that are about as normal as normal can be.

I’m out of time and brain juice to figure out a way to transition what I’m saying to a recommendation to read these two articles from a friend – so I’ll just add them as a Post Script here. They are all about the topic of this blog: grace.

Take care, and be warm, Kate

10429303_10153075073858810_8420602525960782671_nStaying open to Grace: http://wp.me/p3gSTz-T2

When ‘Happily Ever After’ Meets Life’s Hardships: http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/when-happily-ever-after-meets-lifes-hardships/

A Super Duper Beautiful poem: http://youtu.be/9GdawG7CBNo

 

 

 

Ash Wednesday : Your Work Will Be Rewarded

k2773601For those of us who observe Lent, today is a day that we are asked to be brave and remember that some day we will die. It is Ash Wednesday. We remember that we aren’t perfect, and as Christians, we need to renew our awareness that Jesus offered His life in order that we may stumble into God’s light….but not alone. God doesn’t want us to be afraid of failure – but the relentless pressures of life, even the most basic stuff, sometimes feels just like a black smudge right in the middle of my noodle.

So, sometimes I imagine my worst fears, my greatest burdens – I dredge them up and then close my eyes and imagine that I am in a row boat with Jesus. Some days just the undone heaps of laundry are enough to send me into an anxious flurry of worry. But, the boat image – it always helps.

The President of Saint Ambrose University wrote something interesting in an online Lenten reflection:

“The great Psalm 51 is perhaps the ‘classic’ articulation of our awareness of our sinfulness:

‘Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness…For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always.’

We know that we are need of forgiveness: from God, from each other, even from ourselves. In God’s dealings with humanity as seen in the Scriptures, we see that God asks us to DO something in order to show a sincerity in our search for forgiveness.

I also found some related quotes, and have been pouring through some photos which, to me, don’t smack of failure one bit.

“Time is the coin of your life.

You spend it.

Don’t let others spend it for you.”

Carl Sandburg

paper hats552781_10150679738048810_837678809_9152804_1430953596_n

“Nothing strengthens authority

as much as

silence.”

Leonardo da Vinci

whole wrld

“But as for you,

be strong and

do not give up,

for your work will be rewarded.”

2 Chronicles 15:7

Wendell Berry: Everything is Here

Everything is Here

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith: what we we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.

~ Wendell Berry

I’ve already growled at my family twice, And you?

So many of us in the U.S.  may be feeling like my two oldest sons (who are now men!) did on that 4th of July years ago. I woke up this morning both elated that Election 2012 is finally here, and a bit miserable as well. 

I have been exchanging anxious messages with a college friend on Twitter, and thankfully a second friend has joined us this week. She doesn’t get quite as over excited as my other friend and I, so she is doing a good job of diverting our mouse clicking with some silly conversation as well.

It’s only 8:00 and I’ve already growled at my family twice, so this could be a long day. To that end, I’m making myself listen to the full 21 minutes of prayer by Benedictine nuns. I think it is from Erie, which makes it at least near a chapel that I went to retreat in as a teenager from Meadville PA. I find it odd that at age 45 I’m far less able to sit still that long. I’ve had to restart the podcast twice already. I suppose it could be that my rebellious years have just begun.

How is everyone else doing so far this morning? Let me know.

riverhills90@gmail.com

@kateocoop on Twitter,

or the comment box below.  : )

I doubt that I am alone in my excitement and worry today. This is how I spent the afternoon trying to Get Out the Vote yesterday. ( YouTube by trial and error )

Defining Grace Two: Let It Be Me

During the American Presidential election debates, I became increasingly angry.

Ouch. (Rubbing my ears.) Yes, I just heard the “so was I” shouts and moans.Ever wish you could just romp and call it a day?

In my case, I’d never watched a political debate in my life. My parents, and then my husband did the watching and grousing up until this year. Until this year, my attitude has been:

What could be fun about worrying that the candidate I oppose is the fool who will lead my sons for four, maybe even eight years?

With this election, those eight years take our January baby right into adulthood. So, hearing the careless, utterly wrong and jacked up feather fluffing of the candidate I oppose went straight to my mom brain and has me sleepless with worry once again.

This blog is not about politics, so don’t leave me now, as this post will stay non-partisan and will get to my point in a few scroll clicks.

Oh “hell’s bells” as my mother would say, I’ll just get to the point now, and if you have time to read my longer than usual post, feel free to scroll and read on.

Are you ready?

The process of trying to experience grace has more than once, more than twice, even more than thrice made me mad. Very, very mad.

But, life has taught me that the only way through is not around or under these speed bumps, but to ramp those suckers and hope for the best. ~ Kate

After I got a few sentences into this post the other day I started thinking about when might have been the first time I felt the effects of trying to ram rod good to happen in my life. I found myself being little in my mind’s eye. How old are little girls when they first try the “he loves me, loves me not?” game of pulling daisy pedals off one at a time to learn the “truth” by way of an empty flower stem?

Young. That’s for sure.

I remember sitting on our front porch stoop and being irate that the damn flower didn’t work. Who knows if the object of my heart was “Fonzie”, or the handsome dudes on the T.V. show “Emergency,” or the acting student at my father’s work that ‘I could die for.’ Maybe it was the 5th grade dream boat that declared his crush on me with a Grape Ape Shrinky Dink, only to be too shy to deal with teasing as we continued to pass notes in class.

At any rate – that is what trying to jam prayers, hopes…dreams into the God funnel feels like. It’s like a little girl who did

every

single

thing right,

including trying a few more flowers and cheating by counting the pedals or accidentally on purpose plucking two to get the “he loves me” right on cue. For some reason what I remember about that day is that I plucked my little heart out, and what made me so angry is that I said to myself:

One more. Try just one more.

And the stupid thing landed on “he loves me not.”

Hopefully I went inside the house and had a cold glass of Tang and then skipped off to some other more productive activity.

But, isn’t that what wanting to throw things at a news clip of a debate is like? In the end, what upset me the most about the debates was the hyper active predictions, and re-predictions, and conflation about who won which debate and why. I’m actually a pretty big fan of social media for the sake of what it can do for good. I figure that this is where we are…many are living and breathing and believing all that is online – so grab that communication tool and promote what deserves to be promoted and try to ignore the rest.

But Good God Almighty! The concept that a news headline, or political leaning of a news channel is what decides the winner of a Presidential debate is Cray and Zee in my world. I’m not mad at the media, they are feeding us the Hostess treats we ask for…and repeating it every nanosecond because our attention spans have become that short.

Maybe the issue for me is that I had good parents and was raised to somehow know that lousy daisy pedal odds or not, my voice counts, but only if I use it.

So, use it I am…trying anyway. I’m retweeting and praying and going to rallys and signing up to give out water to the good people who are running the voting (not prediction!) polls. I launched a get out the female vote pumpking carving #GoVote TweetAThon with me, myself and I. It made absolutely no sense, but did burn off a lot of worry and impressed the heck out of said ten-year old son when lit up in our dark family room.

...tragedy, comedy, and anxiety

…tragedy, comedy, and anxiety

So, I mentioned in the previous post is that my plan is to come up with five definitions of grace, and to pass on a song that touches me in connection to that pondering. Here goes:

Grace is about being a mad hatter.

Grace is when you wipe out your mother’s garden and STILL have no luck with getting the cooties.

Grace is that the television you threw your slippers at was the 200 pound NotSoFlat screen and that you remembered to say You Rotten JackWagon! rather than…..

Grace is just that. It’s graceful!

And the music? Ray LaMontange and his song Let It Be Me. I close my eyes and try to imagine Jesus himself rowing me in a boat…and some times I am calm. Off to listen again.

Bye for now, Kate.

Recently, City Life Was strEssfuL

until our youngest son, along with his dad and I, exhaled into a pew just on time for mass last weekend.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that getting ready for the new school year was a bit intense this year for one reason and another.

image: art parts clip art

As part of his warm welcome back to campus sermon, the college chaplain repeated a phrase from one of the gospels that said something to the effect of:

“Come in here.”

My brain was still buzzing with post week one of elementary and high school forgotten or screwed up back to school purchases, so this repeated phrase was all I could gather from that hour of rest.

“Come in here.”

Kate’s brain: “JesusMaryandJoseph where are those stupid receipts?”

I did manage to hear Fr. Chuck say,

“As a chaplain, I’d love to have a big sandwich board sign out front that says just that:

 

‘Come in here.’ “

It felt so incredibly good to sit still, yet my two adult sons were at work and rest, so it was a three person attendance.

That was a little bittersweet.

And,

rather than feeling sad that the college students we sat with are the

same age as our older sons, somehow,

my mind started to wander about this theme of signage and coming in and out of various doors.

Which led to a series of odd, I admit, but calming images about turnstiles and revolving doors.

Here goes one about revolving doors. (I won’t bore you with my communion service turnstile idea):

Being a parent is like being a fancy hotel guy with a gilded cap who says “good afternoon” as stressed and giddy folks push through a revolving door. Our off spring, their friends, our nieces and nephews, and a host of others, come through our doors,

hour after year,

after, “was that day ago, or did I lose my 2nd cup of coffee again?”.

I can think of at least 10 doors that belong to houses that we’ve been in as a family that have seen such action.

Yet, unlike the gilded door guy,

parents don’t get a paycheck for politeness.

Or a raise for anxiety and stress management.

Or a maintenance crew to keep the thing flowing and unfogged.

Or a secret panic button that will hail Super Grover to save another day.

But, we do get invited back. To church, to the gym, to the dog park, a knit n’ gripe group, an over the fence chat with a neighbor. The list is pretty darn long of the spots where faith in a Good God dwells.

I do miss Super Grover every so often though. 

From Sesame Street Workshop press archive. I told you the guy was cool. He has press agents.

Stinkin’ cute you must admit.

(p.s. If you have an extra 4 minutes and 32 seconds, click above on the blue JesusMaryandJoseph for a very sweet Irish back to school YouTube video)

Moving On From this week’s “Worried Wednesday”

Sigh.

Okay, the good news from my little window is that I popped by our youngest son’s school for Mass yesterday, and brought with me a huge load of adult anger and worry about what has popped up on the news of late in Florida.

Thursday is supposed to be my day to move on from my worried Wednesday and point out good things to myself and via this post, but up something, or

some

things

that will get me, or not…to Forgiveness Friday.

Fine thing #1: Those who hate open windows are off to work and school for two days in a row – WHOOSH go the curtains I said!

Fine thing #2: Florida’s best guy (that would be my dad) has the whole thing under control. After a very long talk, I think he may have heard my voice and is bringing and extra $10 to poker night next week.

Fine thing #3: Florida’s second best guy (that would be my uncle) is out on his three-mile walk right now, and has the alligators in his realm under control.

Fine thing #4: What has been one of the longer Lenten seasons that I can remember , yet it seems to be going by faster than I realized, and soon I will be raiding preparing a couple of baskets.

Not fine thing: the news. I am not sure how to describe where I was coming from yesterday as I was trying to process a bit and made my comment about a realization I’m working on about whether or not the world is, or is not “going to Hell in a hand basket”.

Honestly though, by the end of the day yesterday it was a relief to have gotten some of these thoughts down and I realized, that as a Lent goer, doer, lady…whatever you want to name it, I realized that I was doing what I’m supposed to during Lent:

giving myself permission to look at what Royally Sucks in and around my world.

There isn’t the Christmas pressure of joy and happiness that is an odd and complex mix. It’s Lent – it’s okay and we are expected to bravely take a more quiet, a more paced, and a deeper look at, well,

what Royally Sucks in and around my world.

And as the mom of two men and a boy, and Godmother to two men and a boy, and Aunt to two women and a girl, and…and…and….

that’s where, this week anyway, the news story about yet another young male being murdered over Skittles has hit me.

I think I shared in a post a few days back that part of my Lenten “grand” plan was to send the best fan mail letter that illustrator Maurice Sendak has ever received.

This week I remembered too, that Lent is “supposed” to be a time of quiet and gentle reflection, so I’ve downgraded my goal to,

just send him a lovely birthday card, as I just read that he will be turning 88 sometime around when my card should arrive.

Happy Third Day of Spring to Each of Us,

Kate