Friday, March 25, 2016

Dark Night

The clock just turned past midnight - it is officially my birthday.  I've got a cup of tea to help me stay awake this one more hour - but I'm not sure I needed it, for I find myself curiously wide awake.

Tonight, we had our Maundy Thursday service at the church.  If you don't know this, it is the last night that Jesus got to spend free and with his disciples.  It is the evening of the foot-washing, the Last Supper when Jesus defined the Eucharist as representational of his body and blood, and when he sat right next to and shared food with his betrayer.  I find it a bit sad and strange that this particular service is not well-attended.  It is all about the ritual that is central to our worship - Communion.  This is where it began.

A big storm moved in during the service.  The lights seemed low and the large, yawning space of soaring roof and stained glass felt cozy in the evening storm - safe.  After the service, but before the recessional, we stripped the altar.  The cloth was removed.  The candlesticks taken back to the sacristy.  There is nothing left but a bare table with no adornment at all but for the cross that hangs above it, a stark reminder of what is about to happen 2017 years ago.

And now, it is midnight.  It is the hour I chose to sit vigil - to wait with Jesus during his darkest night.  He knew...  about Judas.  About the soldiers in the morning.  About all that was to follow a kiss from one of his closest friends.  He didn't want any of it, asked that it not happen, but accepted it anyway.  So I sat and waited too.  I read all four versions of this night as remembered in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Most were quite short and not terribly detailed, but Luke spelled it out.

For me, this was like time travel...  I sat with him when his own friends and disciples slept.  I sorrowed for his morning as I looked forward to my own future.  How different we are, and yet how much the same.  At the end of my hour of vigil, I turned off my light, knowing that I did what I could and slept soundly until my alarm went off this morning.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Christmas Spirit

I have reached that fairly comfortable place in my life where there is little I want or need for Christmas.  A book is nice, but I have lots of books that I haven't even read yet.

Today, as I drove to pick up my lunch from a nearby sushi place, I was flipping through radio stations in my car (why, oh why is Prince the first thing I hear on almost every station???) when I accidentally pressed the button that turned my favorite station into 24/7 Christmas music.  Don't get me wrong - I love Christmas music - but I don't want to hear it from before Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas Day.  Start it up on December 15th or even the 20th.  That's plenty of time...  but I digress.  So, I accidentally pushed that button and "The Little Drummer Boy" was playing.  It was at the part where it goes "... a child, a child, shivers in the cold.  Let us bring him silver and gold..." and I teared up.

Yeah, sometimes I'm a sap.  Songs and commercials get to me.  But this.... this triggered a whole series of thoughts about children and cold and homelessness and hunger.  It also started me thinking about the the way the world is today.  All those borders that are being closed to refugees.  People being shot for being teens or cops or trans-gendered or just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.  These people who commit all these atrocities against other people - were they cared for as children?  Did they have enough to eat?  Were they warm enough?  Have they had enough opportunities to make something of themselves?  Were they loved?

I was one of the lucky ones.  I was always loved, always fed, always housed.  I did well in school because I was smart, but also because my stomach wasn't empty and I had a loving home to return to at the end of the day.  No one was beating me or telling me I was worthless or sexually abusing me or depriving me of sleep so I couldn't focus on school.

Shivers in the cold.  Not just little kids either.  Teens are a huge homeless population.  So are veterans and people with mental health issues.

I am only one person and I am not rich.  I cannot fix the world by myself.  But because I am in this place where I don't want/need Christmas presents, I have a request of you.  If you are someone who might normally give me something, would you instead do something to support a shelter or a food pantry or a program that helps the homeless and/or underserved?  Something big, something small - it doesn't matter.  You don't even have to tell me - just do it.  Below, I've posted some organizations around Tallahassee that can use some help, but if you're not here, feel free to explore organizations in your own area.  This is, unfortunately, not a local problem. 

Going Places (supports homeless and traveling teens)
Grace Mission  (feeds/clothes homeless and underserved, programs for children)
Kearney Center  (homeless shelter)
Good News Outreach  (food ministry, elderly)
ECHO  (people in crisis/poverty)
Refuge House  (domestic violence)

And I'd like to add Orphan's Heart, which feeds undernourished children in Guatemala and all over.
I know of this one personally through another blogger who goes there as often as possible and helps out at the Malnutrition Center in Guatemala.  Because of her, I've gotten to see a tiny boy named Bili grow from a weak, tiny child to a strong, robust one who started school and moved home with his family this past year.  To read about it, visit From a Heavenly Land and search for Guatemala.

P.S.  Our new program, LOCAL ROUTES on WFSU-TV recently featured a story on Going Places.  Take a look.

These are but a few.  I'm sure you can find more.  Part of me thinks (hopes) that if we can care for the people out there, young and old TODAY, perhaps the future can be more about love than hate and anger and me-first.  Thank you.  And Merry Christmas.

Monday, September 21, 2015

In the Pink

I had an EVENT to go to Saturday night.  It was a fundraiser for Grace Mission, which feeds and clothes the homeless and/or disadvantaged and also offers tutoring and mentoring to at-risk children.

I was home Friday night moaning over a sore belly when a friend facebook-chatted me asking if I'd like to go - she had a spare ticket.  I've been to a couple before, so gave her an enthusiastic YES.  Saturday was a quiet day, and I decided to start getting ready around 4.  Then I looked at the invitation - Cocktail Attire.

What?  Cocktail Attire? 

I only have one dress that might qualify, but I had no shoes!  My shoe wardrobe consists of my running shoes and a pair of "hippie" sandals.  Neither are new, and the sandals tended to smell like feet when it was warm out (it was in the 80s).  That left my running shoes.  If I had any other shoes, I couldn't find them (having rearranged my closet and room a few months ago).

So.  Running shoes.

What could I wear that would work for this fundraiser AND my running shoes?

Finally, I settled on a pink t-shirt with a crazy purple and pink and white skirt.  The trim on my shoes is pink, so that actually worked! 

As I approached the party, I saw lots of people in slinky black and high heels, floaty chiffon tops over sleek black pants.  Everyone looked so beautiful and dressy!  I felt a bit under-dressed in my t-shirt and running shoes.  While I was standing there, taking it all in, a car pulled up and a woman jumped out, came around and handed out a tiny old woman and her rolling walker.  The woman asked if she'd be okay to wait there while she parked the car.  It was hot.  The sun was still hot on the skin, so I offered to walk the tiny woman towards the party while her daughter parked the car. 

We walked slowly, chatting - and found a bench in the shade just before the table where you turn in your tickets.  We sat and I learned her name was Jerry and that she ran a pharmacy.  At 90 years old, she still goes every day.  I was thoroughly enjoying our talk when her daughter came to claim her.  We said goodbye and I realized that how I was dressed wasn't going to affect how much I enjoyed talking to the people I'd be with.

As it turns out, the men in their suits and the women in their heels weren't as comfortable as I was.  There was a silent group sigh of relief when it was time to go in and sit down for dinner.  Pastor Amanda, who heads up Grace Mission had actually ditched her shoes altogether by then and spent the rest of the evening walking around in her lovely dress barefoot.

It was a very good night.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Peaceful Surroundings

In the morning, after our 5 hour journey to the hotel room, we got up, had a lovely breakfast in the hotel diningroom and set out for North Wales.  We had two choices - we could go the coastal route or we could cut through the middle and drive through the mountains.  We chose the mountains.  I figured that if we got lost or had trouble, it would be better to do it on our way down than to have an issue when we were trying to get back to Manchester to catch a plane.

I've always approached Llanbedr from the southeast, driving up from London.  This was my first time seeing the northern part or driving through Bala (a semi-resort area about halfway between Manchester and Llanbedr).  I must say, it is even more beautiful than the southern route. 

Now that I actually have the hang of driving in England/Wales, I can enjoy the drive!  We took our time and stopped when the mood struck us, and rolled into Barmouth (south of Llanbedr) and drove around in there for a bit.  I showed the guys where the summer fair was and the train station and the grocery store I shopped at the last time I was here.  I took them along the beach road and we got out to stretch our legs a little before climbing back into the car for the last leg of our journey.

We stopped briefly in Dyffryn and bought some eggs, milk, bread, butter, cheese and ham before continuing on...

I knew the way from Barmouth and truly enjoyed the drive without worrying about maps.  Corky and Z were minorly concerned, but soon relaxed as they realized I knew what I was doing.  I talked about the various landmarks between and told them we'd be very close once we crossed the bridge over the Nantcol and turned at the Victoria Hotel.  When those two landmarks turned out to be real, they started getting excited!  We started heading uphill, made a sharp right and crossed another bridge, and when it seemed the road was ending, I turned up a steep drive and headed into the woods.  The single lane road was quite roller-coaster-y and I tooted my horn a couple of times coming up a totally blind hill or around a blind corner.  We passed through a stone wall and back out into the open fields and continued up a dirt drive, passing the Thomas' farm before finally arriving on family property.  I told both Corky and Z that if they opened a gate, they had to close the gate.  Nothing irks people faster than having their livestock roaming free.  Cattle grates can only do so much.  Z hopped out and opened three gates (and closed them) between the property line and the dooryard.  In the first field, we saw lots of sheep - ewes and lambs who came running, thinking that we might have food....  The guys were charmed before we even got out of the car.

Cousin Ben had not arrived yet, but Aunt Pip left the key in the door to Y Bwythn (literally The Cottage) where we would be staying.  We unloaded the car and headed upstairs.  Z set up in the bedroom with the twin beds and Corky and I headed for the king in the other room.  Once we were settled, we went for a walk.

I took them down behind the piggery.  A big storm had blown through a while before and there were huge trees knocked down all over.

One appeared to be resting on the roof of the piggery, but clean up from that storm seemed to be progressing slowly.  After inspecting the little stream and the downed trees, we walked back up to the field behind the main house.

There are varying stories of how old this house actually is.  When I was a kid, I was told it was 800 years old.  Recent geneology rememberances put it at around 400.  It's built of the fieldstone around the property (you can see a bit in the grass lower right in the picture above) and when I was here in 1980, they were about to build on a new kitchen (bottom right of the house), so Dad and I joined with Uncle John in his quest for rocks to build it with.  It was fun and interesting and involved a dynamite guy called Daffyd the Bang to blast rocks out of the ground.  At one point, we were in the woods and Grandma was there with us - Daffyd set the charge while we hid behind trees.  After the explosion, Grandma stepped out to see, just as bits of rock started raining down.  Uncle John yelled "Get back behind the tree - it's not the bang that kills you!"

We walked up the lane (the driveway into the dooryard) and back through the field we'd driven through and headed down towards the woods.  It looks so cool, dark and inviting just beyond the wall...

And we walked in a bit before turning off the road and onto a path.

It led us a bit deeper in until we started downhill and came upon a small reservoir formed by a dam.

The water supply for the farms on the mountain and down in the village.  I asked Grandma once where the tap water came from and she said it was God's own water off of God's own mountain.  There was no problem drinking water from the tap back then, but these days there's occasionally ecoli in the water supply, so if you're not a native, bottled water is suggested for drinking.  Ben keeps large jugs of bottled water in the Cottage for guests as well as a Brita water pitcher which we ran tap water through before boiling for tea.

After exploring the reservoir and woods for a bit, we headed back up the road towards the farm.  Z was captivated by the view - it was like nothing he'd ever seen before.
Corky was also busy falling in love with the place.  The rock walls spider everywhere all over the mountains and valleys, marking properties and containing sheep and other livestock.

As the sun began its slow descent (the sun doesn't set until nearly 10pm at that time of year), we headed back to Y Bwythn for a simple dinner of eggs, ham, toast and tea before watching a little telly and finally climbing the stairs to bed.


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

World Travelers...

School is back in and my son is taking an ACT/SAT prep course.  He's actually getting into this class.  It's making him think about what he wants to study, where he wants to go to college and what he might like to do to earn a living in the future.  My little boy is suddenly behaving a lot like a man - which is a good thing.

On the first day of class, his instructor asked if any of them had been overseas during the summer.  He admitted to me that he was absolutely thrilled to be one of two students to raise his hand! 

This past summer, I decided it was time to introduce my son and my husband to my favorite place in the world.  It is NOT in the United States.  I've been numerous times, and every time I came home, I would say wistfully that I wished I didn't have to come back (much to my husband's consternation).  Now, he understands.

I started saving money last year, thinking we might do this - my grandmother who lives there is 96.  She's still chugging along, but I realized that my opportunities to see her and spend time with her were becoming extremely limited.  It was time to act!  I got the guys downtown to apply for passports, and told Z that from now on, he should always have a valid passport because when opportunities to travel crop up, you want to be able to GO!

School wrapped up and the following weekend, we drove to Orlando to catch our plane.  My friend Jennifer babysat our car and took us to the airport. 

It's only been a couple of years since I flew to England, but things have changed already...  You can pre-purchase specific seats for an extra fee (a rather hefty one at that).  If you don't, you can choose your seats for free 24 hours before the flight - but if you're not on the ball, you won't get what you want.  I did manage to snag a couple of extra legroom seats for Corky and Z, but I wound up sitting several rows up, squished between a snoring little Indian woman and a very large man.  It was not the most comfortable way to spend 9 hours..

We flew into Manchester rather than London, since it was relatively closer to the part of Wales we were headed towards.  I'd already rented a car and booked a hotel room because I knew we'd be too tired to drive down after the flight.

The car I booked was a stick shift, but I realized, having never actually driving in England, that I would rather have an automatic transmission so I could concentrate on the actual driving rather than working clutch and stick in an unfamiliar configuration while trying to navigate the streets.  In the end, we wound up with a Mercedes hatchback (!) for way too much money - but as it turned out, it was a very good move on my part.  Another good move was having traveler and rental insurance (more about that later). 

Having arrived, settled our car and loaded our bags, we set out for our hotel with directions from the rental place.  Now let me tell you this - road signage is NOT something the British road system is very good at.  And many, many intersections are round-abouts with between 3 and 7 roads to possibly exit onto (but not labeled well) made navigating difficult to say the least.  It's easy to lose your bearings when going around in circles.  The hotel was a Holiday Inn in West Manchester, in an area called Salford - supposedly about 8 miles from the airport.  FIVE HOURS LATER, after having stopped in a library in Eccleston and getting directions, we finally found the Sainsburys on the corner near where we were supposed to wind up.  It was enough to go on, and we finally found our un-signed road and the hotel with the sign hidden in the bushes.  Life is different in Manchester than in the US.  In the US, there would have been signage screaming everywhere - STAY HERE!  Just up the road a little more and you're THERE!  This journey felt like we were tracking down a national secret - and when we finally staggered into the hotel after being awake for over 24 hours (for me), it was a huge relief.  I can't even remember what we did about dinner (I think we walked to Sainsburys for cheese and crackers just to make sure our legs still worked), but when I hit that bed, I felt like I'd landed in a cloud and slept soundly (and, according to the guys, loudly) for at least 10 hours.

More to come.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Taking Charge of My Health

If you know me, you know I'm a big girl.  Not tall-big... round-big.  I've been fighting it my whole life and a couple of times, I passed by "normal".  The first time was as a teen and an anorexic.  The second time was while I was dating my second husband and we were ACTIVE all the time - riding bikes, climbing, hiking, walking... ALL.THE.TIME.  When I got pregnant, that was pretty much all she wrote - I couldn't get rid of the extra.  I tried dieting; I tried exercise; I tried, well, everything.  And I was tired.  So I got bigger and bigger.

I'm always shocked when I look in the mirror.  The outsides sure don't match my brain's image of myself.  I forget that I'm as big as a house until I look in a mirror - and I rarely look in the mirror.  I don't buy clothes, so I don't have that guide much either.

I turned 53 this year.  I wanted to go visit my grandmother in Wales while there was still time (she's 96), so I took my husband and son and introduced them to my favorite place on earth.  To do that, I had to fly, which is pretty uncomfortable when you're as big as I am.  And while we were there, I found I was limited in what I could do because my body hurt so much.  No problem going UP hills, but coming down made my hips scream.  I couldn't climb the mountain this time.  I had to wave goodbye to my guys as they set out to visit the cairn on top.

That trip made me realize something.  I might be 53 years old, but I can still change my life.  So I've started.  I'm blogging about that little adventure over at 53 And Change.  You can visit if you like.  Just be nice, okay?  I've said enough mean things to myself already.  It's time for a change.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Posts are coming

I suddenly feel like there is a lot to write about.  Boredom.  Aging and Alzheimers.  Maturing children.  So much has been going on that I rarely feel like I have time to write - but I realize that some of this stuff just needs to be put down before my head explodes.

Probably after this weekend...