Reminders from Thomas Merton and St. Francis and a Mute Button about Small Favors

popeILY“My mom’s home care nurse called. She was having distressed breathing. Her pulse ox level was 83 which is poor. She was struggling to breath. Having pain. Ambulance was called…I am beside myself….

Gracie’s pain is being managed to the best they think we can do without surgical intervention….

Today we will be discharged…we will be making (her 90th brain) surgery date in the next few days. Grace has had a wonderful spirit through all of this. She just wants to not have pain anymore. Team Amazing Grace needs prayers for wisdom and peace…

Please pray for. Grace we are turning back to go to the. ER … I am over an hour out and she is. 10 pain. She is not well…”

Those are just a few of the frantic Facebook status updates that a friend of mine has been putting up in the past two weeks as she asks for prayer from her huge circle of online friends. She is one of a small handful of women that I’ve tried to keep in touch with for almost fifteen years on the internet. I met them while looking for information about adoption before our youngest was born. Lately contact with them has dwindled to a lot of clicking of Facebook “likes” or these cute cartoons that have a bit more flare in a response and “save time” for a “real” response. Two of us have been going in a new directions – one as a writer and me with my American Sign Language studies. One of us has been doing a lot of elder care and is busting out all over with pride as her daughter is stepping into her own skin and singing like no other all over her town.

In this small group of friends two of us, the mom whose status updates I quoted and another mom – have during that 15 years buried three children. One child took his own life and two other boys died from genetic illness. Another mom’s child has been diagnosed with a lot of maybes – but a “probably” that he is struggling with neuro sensory issues that are along the lines of autism. He is a complicated puzzle of emotions. He is a delight and she sometimes shares quotes of what he is saying out loud that are at times hysterical. Other times his quotes are heart wrenching observations about the world that should be coming from an old man, not a Ninja Turtle who is barely old enough to read chapter books.

What I appreciate about this group of friends that I have never met is that because we’ve grieved together with prayer for those three sons that died – we don’t, well I don’t anyway, always necessarily explain what prayer is being asked for when one of us requests an all out bended knee effort. And we And I feel comfortable with not always having the time to explain the details of what is going on with me or my kids when I share with any one of this small bunch – I have sort of a code phrase that is about the song “row, row, row your boat.” If I make a swing by comment about that song it means either that I know that their mom heart is in a state of worry, or it’s a general announcement that I’m in a bind and don’t have time or space to explain why I am a ball of nerves and doubt.

merton worthy

I have to share something really cool that just happened…but I promised my husband I would do an important chore in a few minutes, so forgive me if I don’t make sense.

Early this morning I read what could be a day old status update that my friend’s daughter is needing her 90th brain surgery to help with hydrocephalus – I started looking for some music to send her way. Her oldest child is a wonderful musician. And I went with a liturgical dance video that I found yesterday while looking for videos of church sign language interpreting.

But…as I mentioned in my last post, music sometimes hurts my ears of late – especially violin or high pitched vocals. I read a recommendation to listen to cello music because the frequency is lower.

So, I’m watching the liturgical dance video and wondering if I should share it, got cranky that the music was ruining the video for me, and clicked off the sound button on the video itself.

I had forgotten that I had Pandora running at the same time and an instrumental song called “Expression” was being played by Helen Jane Long. (The link I attached to her name is not the same song – but just as pretty).

Here is the amazing thing: the instrumental song, when I replayed it in the background, but watched to video in front of it (remember now, the actual music that was being used in the video was turned off) – when I paired the instrumental words with the St. Francis prayer dance – they were PERFECTLY in step – seriously. Don’t quote me but I think it was in 3/4 time – and in any case, there are a few moments of silence after the song finishes and she finishes her dance prayer.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that 15 minutes of my day much more interesting than the day of chores I have ahead. And I may not be able to to check in on my friend and her little girl until tomorrow – but I firmly believe that the music, and the dance video, and my friend’s pain, and my sadness about singing out of key- all of it – got a really, very, super nice fifteen minute reprieve.

We can’t do it all, can we now?

But every once in a while, we get a deep breath from out of what seems like no where at all.

Thank God for small favors, eh?

Litany: Billy Collins

Litany by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,

The crystal goblet and the wine…

~Jacues Crickillon

 

You are the bread and the knife,

the crystal goblet and the wine,

You are the dew on the morning grass

and the burning wheel of the sun.

You are the white apron of the baker,

and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

 

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,

the plums on the counter,

or the houses of cards.

And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.

 

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,

maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,

but you are not even close

to being a field of cornflowers at dusk.

 

And a quick look in the mirror will show

that you are neither the boots in the corner

nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

 

It might interest you to know,

speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,

that I am the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

 

I am also the moon in the trees

and the blind woman’s tea cup.

But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife,

not to mention the crystal goblet and – somehow – the wine.

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.

Ma’am, would you like your cake first?

Well.

What I wish is that this morning I could have some time and energy, and focus to write “a bit” about the terrorism that has swept my nation right before starting the school year.

I’m not so sure how much energy I have to help “us” process how, or why, or when, or where to take a knee on the terrorism part.

I’m a pretty big fan of theaters and houses of worship. (Looks at calendar on wall). Yup. Pushing 50 years of both types of buildings being my safest, bestest spots on earth other than a nice little tree stand to sit and day-dream for a minute before misplacing my planner again.

Not good timing in this family as our calendars rotate by way of the school year by trade and young’ins.

Nor as the daughter of the best actor on earth, or friend of the hippies that really did start Saturday Night Live.

But, I’m digressing again, and won’t go there yet other than to share that Mr. Coop and I fell into a date last night by default of kids being too busy to eat with the rents and we had a couple of seconds to take a deep breath over schmanzy heated salad dressing.

And, I’ll admit that I wasn’t much of a date other than I am certain I brushed my teeth before we left.

My mindset for the first, at least, quarter of our yummy meal, or maybe half, was the big deal I made with the waitress that dessert needs to be ordered first.

She actually came back to the table and said, :

“Ma’am, would you like your cake first?”

because I was being so complicated with my food order.

Okay. Truth told, I managed to pull out my theater background and make the entire evening about that chocolate heath melted surprise. But, Professor Cooper was a sport and yes, I got my cake and ate it too.

School readyness thinking on my part a few weeks ago was along the lines of the kool-aid mom thing going on in our new ‘hood. This is fun, worry about the pencil box later.

After baseball was over for our youngest he figured out that much of the team is within a block or three reach of our door. He’s extroverted. I’m not. I get that.

I didn’t think he could surpass his oldest brother with extraversion, but he has in a certain cute way that involves fifth graders in and out of the door for most of July. I picked up on complicated baseball conversation that involves something about Omar from Chi-town and dancing in the rain at the Big Red Machine Stadium vs. Babe Ruth and did the Great Bambino use to stuff their gloves with sawdust or not?

These, thank GOD are still at the top of the minds of some of the littlish people who crossed the door this summer.

These, I think, I know, are very good worries for a guy to have.

Fast track to a few days ago realizing that my favorite son of the week, the track star who I forgot to sign up for ACT’s who really does want me to remember to buy him a birthday cake this year for his birthday, zzzzpt…fast track to the one who is my favorite at Christmas who has decided to rock the work world in Ohio for us and made me take a nap in his apartment this summer on his couch….pppsssszzzzdddt. He’s the one that I can’t remember if I dreamed about mailing a birthday cake to last December or not. It was an odd winter on that front.

Sons. Hmm. Overwhelming? Yeah.

Are they doing okay? Yup. Check. Not bad at all really.

I could scroll the play list for you to my father moving, my brother and I helping him do that while balancing moving our adult kids into the universe, another niece getting married and one starting kindergarten and,

yeah.

I guess insomnia does have some logic of late.

And.

Thankfully, I had a moment to take a knee by way of scoring the two photos in this article from Facebook. The cute daisy from a bestest college friend who knows I don’t sleep, and the other of my father’s favorite students of the ’70’s.

It will all be okay.

John Fugiel Improv Troop, circa '70's

John Fugiel Improv Troop, circa ’70’s

Great Quote for Scaredy Cats

The girl does love her Ant Kate, and moi back at 'er.

Odd.

I almost paid $4 for a broken framed print of a little girl with a cool saying that would work well in my office.

I’ve been struggling more than usual with this plan that I have to be a writer. It got far worse when I started on a book a few weeks ago.

Plus, then some life happened.

So, then tonight, I was awake because a neighbor was taken by ambulance, so I was awake thinking about her, and turned to Jay Leno for some solace…and it worked quickly in the form of Jay Leno and Steve Martin.

But it woke me up. And here I am two hours later.

Odd though, because some other comedian after Leno used the quote again for a little thingy, so I wrote it down.

It’s this:

It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

~ George Elliot

Nice.

ExhaleNSayRealFast: VWXYZ

…thanks for your patience and consideration with this Blogging A-Z Challenge…it’s been fun! (pictures to follow, hopefully tomorrow)

Here is the rest of the alphabet…

Made up “v” word of the day: VeryVerily

Definition: When a person gives that extra “umph” to a church reading which makes the sleepy parishoner wake up just a bit.

Example: The enthusiastic reader found himself saying “and VeryVerily unto the Lord” and no one actually noticed because they were distracted by the incredibly cute twin boy and girl three pews ahead. (I was anyway this week!)

Made up “w” word of the day: Whoopsie

Definition: When a blogger who agreed to participate in a challenge that included posting all of the ABC’s in some cool way over the month of April realizes that she has three letters to catch up on. And she sees this fact on May first. (well, it’s 1:00 a.m. and my friend messaged me on FB with a Scrabble Cheez-It Crisis, so count me in on the human race!)

Example: Yesterday she got most of the final post ready for the challenge and assumed that today, the last day of April, time would allow finishing the task. Not so. Tempted by the quiet and solitude after the rest of the house was asleep, she got on the computer in late hours to put a sticky up of a quote she’s heard twice this week that is really quite cool.

Then she googled Steve Martin and his blue grass band.

Then she copied and pasted a Martin gig on Lento to her son so that he could watch some good comedy.

Then she opened the Scrabble Cheetos and grabbed a glass of wine.

Then she started the rollicking messaging with her friend.

Then, she messaged “whoopsie! It’s already 1:00, but it’s so damn quiet and everyone is asleep…let’s pretend we aren’t old moms and stay up all night chatting!”

“Sounds great.!..laptop battery dyyyyyyying. TTYL. Nite!”

Made up word of the day: YohYohYohY

Definition: The act of persistent questioning.

Example: YohYohYohY am I still awake when tomorrow is the day that I need to be awake and energized for?????????????????????

and

last (yawn) made up word for the  (mmm, stretching) 2012 Blogging A-Z Challenge….

 

ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

Forgiveness Friday: Compassionate Prayer

I pray on the principle that wine knocks

the cork out of a bottle.

There is an inward fermentation,

and there must be a vent.

~ Henry Ward Beecher

Oh my goodness.

I’m involved, thankfully, in a very intense exchange of messages and posts among some online friends who are fighting for their child’s life. For real!

A week or so ago a friend started a message thread to several moms that asked for prayer because her son had attempted suicide. Soon after, another mom announced that her child was having severe behavior issues at school and that things were not looking good at all. A few days later one of the other moms had to announce that her adult son with special needs was suddenly gravely ill. Sadly, his funeral is tomorrow. Word arrived this morning on this thread that yet another mom was having her child air-cared to the hospital and is in grave condition.

Why is this thread something I am thankful for today? Certainly not because I enjoy drama in the form of real life crisis.

It’s because I’m reminded that prayer is so real, and so doable. I’ve never met any of these women. A few of them have met at conferences and the like, but to my knowledge, most of the connections between the women that the thread started with are by way of prayer and online communication.

Prayer may not change things for you, but it for sure changes you for things.  ~Samuel M. Shoemaker

Have you ever had the sudden feeling that you were being prayed for? It’s odd. Cool, but odd. I had it happen a week or so ago. No clue who it was rallying the angels on my behalf, but it really did feel like an out of the blue – whoosh of, fresh air. This is good, because I was, and continue to be in a knot of worry. When I get this way I really can’t pray much. I try not to worry about that. These issues and days and phases always pass, and like trying to remember how to do a certain dance move, my conversations with God start right back up again and we carry on together in a slightly different light. Well, sometimes the change is massive. Depends on the crisis load at the time!

In the mean time, I remain thankful that I am being prayed for by others, and even more thankful that I am being kept in the loop of these mom friends who are humble enough to admit their pain and willing to ask for help.

I stumbled on an article yesterday that is about compassion fatigue. Author Trevor Hudson explains that “Self-love and other-love are bound together.” Simple concept…but often forgotten and avoided, especially during crisis. I’m going to copy and post the whole thing in another spot. If you want to read the whole thing (it’s short!) you can find it here.

Phew. Life. Details. Stress. Phew.

Much peace to everyone, about, well, every thing!

Worried Wednesday: Hell in a Handbasket, or What?

So, on Wednesday, when I post, I almost always call it “Worried Wednesday.”

This is because, particularly since I have become a mom, I worry. I came up with this theory, I think it was last winter, that I would take my mother’s suggestion to worry with abandon at least one certain time a day for “x” amount of time. I can’t remember if she said ten minutes or an hour, and that for her, “poof” – the worry chore is done and off she would go to the groceries or art or library or lunching she would go.What more could she do until the next wave of anxiety hit? Do something – plan a garden, whip up a poem, make some soup. And then meet worry at the door at “x-o’clock” the next day.

At any rate, at some point in the last year I decided to take up that idea and to work as hard as possible to worry all day on Wednesdays. I was thinking along the lines of the old-fashioned Monday is for laundry rule that my children’s great-grandmother still stands by.

It started as a good plan and worked well for a long time. As a matter of fact, it became a great joke between a friend who was battling a sudden and intense bout of cancer last winter and spring. She knew about my Wednesday plan of sorts, so I could leave phone messages to her or her daughter saying: “It’s Wednesday what’s the deal? Give me some worries, call back with white cell report, having a good day – bring on the worry.”

Okay. I’m not sure if I left that message. I do know I thought of lots of strange messages to both my cancer friend and her oldest daughter.

It’s either very sad or very funny, or a mix of both that social networking has my brain wired this way…into bits and pieces and messages.

At any rate, oddly enough it was me needing to say good-bye on a fairly short notice as we started our adventure to Iowa. My good-bye to her was one of the hardest. We held hand on her porch for a while and she and I exchanged out loud our bottom line mom worries

(hers being – “what if I die before our youngest turns into a teenager?” and mine being, in a nutshell, “now that mine are flying nest, what if the world sucks ALL of their confidence, imagination and serves the devil on a platter and it is, God forbid, one of them that we bury first, then what?”)

I will also admit that, for a fact, I left no less than six bizarre fashion messages to these same friends since last year saying something to the effect of: “No. Not joking. DyING in the changing room. Dress emergency…” Yada.I hate to shop. They love to shop. It’s a fair exchange.

Actually, the last fashion bizarro message, aka: “let’s change the subject about death diversion tactic message” involved a forty minute dash in my new city to find something “appropriate” to wear. The only way I managed the stress of being the new girl on the block that week was to call and leave one more fashion message for my friend (the one with cancer)’s phone saying (tongue in cheek and laughing at this crazy dress situation):

“Okay – I’ve devoted a year’s worth of Wednesday’s to your stupid cancer – drop a knee NOW! and start your crazy novena’s because the next hour is about me and the damn black dress that I never found last year.”

It turned out to be perfect timing because the message ended up on speaker phone to not only my friend, but her other six daughters she was in the car with, as we were all apparently whipping down highways trying to save the day by way of consignment salvation.

I

know

I’m not the only one, nor the first mom, dad, uncle, aunt, person to lose many, many hours of sleep over worries that the fact of the matter is that the world is, generation after generation going to hell in hand basket. It is!

As I did some research to write a post on a racism vigilante tragedy in Florida, I found some other headlines for articles I could have read:

HLN must see, must share:

  • A road made from toilets,
  • coach accused of biting winning coaches ear,
  •  child’s fingers found in dumpster ,
  • cops catch mom choking an 11 month old,
  • sister salutes brother in Afghanistan,
  • Hunger Games and the $140 million weekend?,
  • and in other news Ashton Kutcher is heading to space

You know what I’ve decided this year if I’ve decided anything?

The world has always been going to Hell in a hand basket for children the adults who work to make it, one would hope, the safest, most fun, and maybe even funny place to live.

Not a bad realization to sit with as I think, I am half way done with my first Lent while living West of the Mississippi river.

And yeah. I’ve lost several hours of sleep this week over, no, not needless worry about my son’s becoming men and flying our nest – it’s the real thing! Oh yeah, violence, racism, drug addiction, poverty…. Ack! It keeps me up most of the night every few months.

Last night was one of them.

And the other thing that I’ve decided this year if I’ve decided anything?

I can’t make it through this mom job of getting my sons to adulthood, reasonably in tact, without a lot of laughter.

Maybe it’s just me, but the ’70’s Sesame Street clip in this article I found while avoiding what really has me worried, is for now, the thread of sweetness that I’m going to hang my hat on while I wait on the sun to rise here in a few minutes.