In Relief

colddesertMy neighbor’s Mexican tile roof shines in bright relief against a darkening sky.  Has Old Man Winter cast a glance westward? The temperature has dropped to 66 degrees. I hear you laughing. In Buffalo, New York, rooftops piled six feet high with snow threaten to collapse so I’m not complaining.

We went to the store to buy warm clothes for our Thanksgiving trek to Arkansas. I’m counting on my theory that not many people will fly East on Thanksgiving Day, not this year. I’m hoping we will both have an empty row.  What a relief that will be.

We won’t get to our mom’s in time to eat turkey with her, but for the next few days we will have as much holiday fun as a person can have in a small rural town in the chilly Ozarks; dinner at the diner, caroling in the caves, porch or parlor setting while the town makes music over on Courthouse Square. (One does not sit, one sets for these occasions, the difference being you stay in your chair until you grow roots.) When we return, I will fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions a month early. 

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Witness Protection

suitcaseA Facebook posting by Jeremiah Peters caused me to revisit my list of acceptable hideouts should I ever require witness protection. Jeremiah was hanging out at Barnes and Noble, trying to get some work done, when a guy sitting next to him took a phone call, put it on speaker phone, and proceeded to discuss his security clearance with a job recruiter, or something like that. The posting garnered some witty comments having to do with the danger involved in overhearing such a conversation. That naturally led me to reflect on the list I keep in my head of acceptable places to relocate, should I ever require witness protection.

Some people fantasize about winning the lottery. I fantasize about being forced to relocate to a city or town of my choice at government expense. I’m sure that’s not how it works, but a girl can dream.

What is it about this scenario that I find attractive?

  1. I love new beginnings.
  2. Nothing solves the problem of clutter like having to make a quick getaway. If it doesn’t fit in a suitcase, it gets left behind.
  3. If you feel stuck in a rut, relocation energizes. Lose the baggage. Lighten the load. Hit the reset button. Footloose and fancy free. Reinvent yourself.

Every place I visit auditions for a spot on my Witness Protection Program relocation list. I realize my criteria should be based on where I’m not likely to be found, but these days, I honestly don’t know how that is possible. You can change your name, but you can’t change the retina pattern in your eye. Just sayin’.

Here is my top ten list of places I would happily disappear at government expense (not in order).

  1. The 14th arrondissemente in Paris. (For those of you who are not Francophiles, that is Montparnasse.)
  2. Camelback Mountain above Scottsdale
  3. Carmel Valley
  4. Barbados
  5. Queen Anne Hill in Seattle
  6. Ashland, Oregon
  7. The owners suite on a tall sailing ship
  8. A writer’s residency in any national park
  9. A beach house in Aptos, CA
  10. A condominium at the harbor in Winslow on Bainbridge Island

Fantasize with me. You’ve witnessed something that puts you in danger. The Feds are at your door with the offer of protection if you cooperate. (Do you have a choice? I don’t think so.) You glance at their list of dismal places to disappear. You have a quick minute to counter their offer. Go!
photo credit: chispita_666 via photopin cc

Beyond Reason


 Beyond Reason 


Have you ever sung a hymn in church and puzzled over the lyrics? For years I’ve sung about being covered by the blood of Jesus, knowing in my head it refers to God’s sacrifice of his Son on the cross to save me from my sin, but feeling in my heart like an accidental bystander sprayed with the blood of a luckless victim.

This morning I finished Still Alice, by Lisa Genova (see my review) and had an epiphany. As Alice descends into the fog of early onset Alzheimer’s, her husband John struggles with all he is losing. Alice plants her feet firmly on the plateau of what she still has, but she fears that John would just as soon help her jump to her inevitable death to save himself the pain of her lengthy demise. I know that pain.

I knew less about Alzheimer’s during my father’s final years with the disease than I do now. I will admit that I just wanted it to be over, for him and for me. I loved him, but I truly had no desire to stand with him in those long days of confusion and inactivity.

Genova heightens the tension of Alice’s situation with a career opportunity of a lifetime for John that would remove him, physically and emotionally, from the family. It is a move he can justify. Being a master at rationalization, I am in no position judge him for what might look like insensitivity, though I wonder how faith factors into his decision, if it does.

To turn down an opportunity to use your knowledge and talent in a (largely) selfless attempt to better mankind seems foolish. But then, God has a history of asking people to do foolish things. Example: He gave Abraham a son and then told him to offer the boy as a sacrifice; kill him. That is just one tree in a forest of God’s expectations. His appetite for sacrifice culminates with the requirement that Jesus die a painful death on a cross to save our souls.

To look beyond reason is to see that the tempting job opportunity may in fact not be John’s last chance to make his mark in life. When we yield our highest ambitions and closely held beliefs about our identity to the way of love, we avail ourselves of the Christ who has gone before us and now stands on the plateau, ready to walk with us through the shadows and valleys into the light. What appears to be
senseless blood-letting turns out to be life giving.

photo credit: Rosie O’Beirne via photopin cc

 Still Alice: A Review 

I don’t know anyone who isn’t terrified on some level of developing Alzheimer’s, or watching a family member or friend succumb to this particularly horrifying disease.

Lisa Genova tells the story of Alice from her unique point of view as a neuroscientist. More important, she tells a human story with a heart of compassion. Still Alice puts readers in the position of the afflicted and asks the deep questions: When we lose memory, do we lose our identity? What is our identity really based on?

I have been outside this window looking in, so I understood the struggle between Alice, who is losing herself, and her husband John, who suffers the pain of watching her disappear and wonders how much of his life he wants to give up to go on the journey with her. The author expresses it as a choice to stand on the plateau with the afflicted, or to push them off the precipice.

This thought led me to some soul searching. Without faith, the temptation of give circumstances a push to end the pain is strong. Genova does readers a service by revealing the issues and inviting us to think deeply about our existence.

photo credit: Paul:Ritchie via photopin cc

Clearing it out: a meditation

Header-Issue-32 (1)
Our son visits on Father’s Day, pokes around in the refrigerator, and pulls out a bottle of BBQ sauce with an expiration date of 2002. He holds the bottle up in front of me and points to the offending date.“Seriously, Mom?

Time to clear out the fridge.

In yoga class the teacher invites us to clear all thoughts of the day’s activities from our heads. I tick through my “to do” list and wish for a “Clear All” button to press. I visualize a screen full of “to dos” disappearing. Then the screen in my mind’s eye refreshes with the next fity items on the list.

Time to clear out of town and go on vacation?

I’d like to tell you a story of a time when I cleared out the clutter and lovely whitespace appeared, but like an ocean tide, chaos goes out and comes back in again. For one small moment, sun glistens on empty sand and catches the light of bubbles that mark the spot where tiny sea creatures burrow. Then the sea rushes back.

For one small moment my refrigerator is clean and I can see my choices; my mind is free and I can focus on my body; the beach is quiet and my soul is at rest.


Reprinted from Ruminate Magazine Issue 32 Summer 2014

Assisted Living: Bottom line and blessings

helpinghandWhen you find yourself the point person for relocating your aging mother, the bottom line is that you now manage her life. It becomes your responsibility to ensure that her bills get paid, she gets to her medical appointments, and she has appropriate clothing. (Older people can’t deal with clothes that challenge their agility.)

Here are some steps we took that made the process work. 

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