Archive for January, 2010


life goes on

I had a few rough days and nights as my last post reveals. By Thursday I was nearly undone from sleeplessness and despair. A phone call to my fine feathered friend, whom I shall call the Empress Bird (EB), and another to her dear partner, Queen Bee (QB) brought enormous relief. In the evening Big Dawg and I spent a couple of hours with EB, a person much like me, and through sharing back and forth, all my feelings that had no place to go were witnessed and released. One more time, the waters were not permitted to overcome me. Empress Bird spoke many life changing things to me and I heard them somewhere inside of my own silver lining.

When we left, I had two recordings in my hands that Queen Bee made for us—one for Adopted Daughter and her pain, and one for me and my sleeplessness . My recording was 100% helpful. I slept like a baby. Got rid of some nasty fears through dreams, and am now convinced that whenever I hear the sound of QB’s voice I may just become dumb-struck! AD used hers last night and says it helped her so much. We are grateful receivers of God’s gifts…the miraculous and the useful…we are open mouths for all that God sends any which way it comes.

Tomorrow BD and I will become members of our Little Church That Could in the city and AD will rejoice. Many of our friends from here and there, across the years and recent, will be there. Songs of our hearts will be sung and we will share with everyone what it means to us to have come this long, long way. We will rejoice  as endings fold themselves into new beginnings. Our good friend will come and sing Here by the Water for us…a song about the rough stones we are…stones only God can smooth, only God can make holy. That is our story, BD’s and mine…rough stones in the river of life.

Called by name….you are mine.

Cairn was built by Todd Friesen with love

Composite was made by Naomi with love..



My heart is heavy and I cannot get to sleep. Adopted Daughter has begun her descent. The cancer has metastasized to her lungs. It will be all over in a matter of months…4…6? We don’t know, but I’ve been here before and I know what awaits. I feel as though something is being ripped right out of my body. I am not afraid of death and neither is she. We’ve been cancer buddies since 2006. I am in remission. She is host to her 4th and final recurrence. Her body is unable to accommodate the toxicity of additional treatment. We are reluctant sufferers—she of physical pain, I of the emotional pain of loss. Grief is what my work will be about now…letting go, a very fitting task for the Lenten season ahead. Timing is everything, they say.

AD is dying just a bit more quickly than we’d hoped, but it’s all relative you know. The physical body doesn’t give up as easily as the spirit. That’s why the descent is so arduous. Suffering Servant. At our last, if we are mindful and understand the meaning of life, we get to live our own Pasch and on to that final trip home. I was there once and I know how comforting that homecoming can feel. Medical science kept me from going home, but it can’t do the same for AD. We ask for healing, but there are many aspects to healing. It isn’t always on the physical plane. I wanted just a couple more years for her…for our adopted family. There were things we wanted to do. We wanted to play. I will have to learn how to walk back and forth through the veil the way she will soon be doing. Walking with one who is dying is a great privilege, one I want to have and feel blessed to have…but I hoped it would be just a bit later…after we lived our dreams, played our games and turned down the lamp.

We had prayed for 2-1/2 more years…to her retirement. We all were going to take time off, get ourselves a big RV, paint it beautiful and roam the country for a couple of months. We had plans to drop in on some of those churches that are having a little problem with understanding that Jesus included everyone in the kingdom, most especially the lowliest ones. We had dreams. I’m not sure I can manage dreams without Ms. AD hanging around with her effervescent optimism. Who will say, “Come on, we’re the wild ones!”

My heart is heavy and I cannot stay asleep. Jesus help me live in peace…



Recently a friend shared stories with me of growing up with two grandmothers: Big Granny and Little Granny. I found these stories quite poignant. How lucky he is to have had these two wise women loving him into a fine person! And how lucky were his parents to have had extended family to help with the nurturing of their little birds. The extended family, common in Mennonite culture, is becoming rare in the nuclear-family-is-all Americana of today.

The other day he forwarded one of those trips down memory lane emails full of pictures and clever quips. It was about aprons. He says,

This was sent to me from a dear friend, who thought it might resonate. It certainly did, with memories of both Big Grandma and Little Grandma. I had to laugh at the dusting reference, and cry at the overall memory of what amazing, hardworking, capable and loving women they were—all stirred by a simple piece of cloth.

The Apron email begins this way:

I don’t think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for dusting, drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

My own grandma came from the old country at a very advanced age, having survived the Armenian Genocide. She did not speak English. She probably wore an apron, but I don’t remember.What I remember are the black clothes she wore, head to toe and the sadness she carried about her. However, my mother wore aprons, big-time…it was the 1950’s and aprons were still a practical piece of clothing for older women like my mother. I remember her nagging me to “put on an apron,” but I was headed for the 60’s and 70’s. By then aprons were getting smaller and smaller until by the 80’s they disappeared into jeans and sweat pants. Do I wear one now that I am o-l-d? No, I’m still doing the 80’s thing and wiping my hands on the side of my pants leg!

Here’s a little composite I made for you in honor of aprons…the face on the chubby lady in the center is my mother. The chubby body is not. Ah, the miracle of Photoshop!

Hi Mom!


let there be light

This week I see light at the end of my long,  project list tunnel. The major project on this list has been my participation in the biennial Mennonite Arts Weekend (MAW) coming up in Cincinnati on February 5-7. For the past 22 months I have been thinking about this in the back of my brain, and for the past  4 months working on it, front and center. The theme of the event is, The Art of Place: Sacred Spaces and Common Ground. My talk will focus on  suffering as both sacred space and common ground. This will be  followed up with  a Power Point presentation of some of my work. I had never done Power Point—hadn’t even installed it on my computer, so I had to install and learn.  Adopted Daughter helped me. (Not only is she a banker with thief-stopping knowledge of the world of credit, but she’s good at installing and walking me through PP!)

My presentation will be a total of 70 minutes. In the gallery I will have a four-panel installation of my cancer odyssey, Dying to Live, suspended from the ceiling—creating a space that will allow people exposure to what it feels like to have cancer. In addition to this I will have a few of my assemblage boxes on display, the handmade book version of Pailoun’s Story,  additional digital montage work—both secular and liturgical, and  Thin Places. If you think that this is a lot of stuff and I must be crazy, you are right. I don’t know what possessed me to cast such a wide net. It just kept growing is all I can say. Once I started putting it all together I realized it’s size. I am one to finish what I start and so I did…pretty much night and day.

This is not all I’ve been doing while this blog got thinner and thinner. As many of you may know, a lot has been going on in the LGBT inclusivity arena as well…painful and arduous experiences which led us to our present church community, where I have thrown myself into providing a stable visual art worship component. This has become a ministry—an outpouring of the gifts I have been given. Also in the mix is this blog which I have so enjoyed writing, AD’s cancer recurrence and my becoming a care provider. I am leaving out many lesser projects and tasks that wove in and out these past months in addition to the aforementioned. It is enough to say that I have learned that multi-tasking is impossible, but serial tasking is not only possible, it’s good medicine for both chem0brain and elderbrain.

So, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s welcome…like springtime. Life’s rhythms are returning to a normal level of busy with time to even clean house every now and then (ugh!). In 1 week Big Dawg and I will become members of our new church and 10 days after that we will pick up our rented van, pack it full of all the MAW stuff, get in and head out to Cincinnati. The only gray spot in all of this rosy, forward tilt is the reality of AD’s health. Right now, as I write this, she is having a CT scan to determine the state of the state. We live in the now and celebrate it, breathing in and breathing out…


2010 in like a lion

2010 came in like a lion…we hope it goes out like a lamb.

Full of hopeful anticipation, my partner, Big Dawg and I drove to a popular little 70’s, retro,  coffee shop/diner about 15 miles west of the city to meet with the pastor of the”open and welcoming,” Mennonite church we have been attending for the past seven months. Our mission was to share our stories and discuss membership.

We were packed in table to table, with barely room to lean back in our chairs…but that goes along with retro 70’s, flower-power and all of that fun nostalgia, I am told. At the table immediately behind us…and I do mean behind us…were three persons: a young man sitting alone on the side nearest us (directly behind BD) and two women (or one woman and one man…I don’t remember which) on the side opposite. Sometime in the midst of our private conversation—in the midst of a universe of private conversations—the three people got up and left. It was after we’d closed with a  prayer of thanksgiving, that BD noticed her wallet was missing from her bag. She was sure she must have left it at home and we quickly went home to reassure ourselves.

We arrived home and began a serious and repeated search effort: no wallet. None had been turned in at the diner. Eventually we ran out of places to look. Remembering that she did have her bag on the corner of her chair, and there was someone seated directly behind her, our brains began to clear. Slowly the pieces of recent memory accumulated and we realized that the wallet had been stolen, plain and simple.  Having lost my own wallet a month or more ago,  this was déjà vu. In that first experience the wallet was found, emptied of cash but found with everything else intact…happy ending—round one.

Adopted Daughter, being a banker herself, knew exactly what to do the first time around and went to work immediately one more time, as though it had been a dress rehearsal for the current, actual theft. The first thing she did was to box the thieves in electronically to minimize damage. Remembering what was in the wallet was challenging, there was a good amount of cash, but the most important items were the credit cards, insurance cards and driver’s license. The thieves, with their head-start had already used each card successfully with small purchases. Their attempt to obtain a large cash advance  from the issuing bank of one of the cards was refused, but only because the card was new and didn’t yet carry a high credit amount.  While the three brazen thieves were plying their trade, we contacted all the card companies as well as all three credit agencies and headed them off at the pass. Their last transaction was a cartload of items totaling over $600. When they got to the checkout, the card was not only rejected, but a warning sign flashed for the clerk to confiscate the card!

After our electronic vigilante work was done, we drove to the town where the incident took place to file a police report. While waiting for the officer to take our information, another woman came in to report a nearly identical experience happening that same morning, in the same town, in another tightly packed, little eatery. Unfortunately, her card carried a higher credit amount and she didn’t have the advantage of living with a banker who knows what to do on the double. During the prior week a woman reported her wallet stolen in a similar scenario. It began to look to us like stealing and dealing are alive and well and diners beware.

The following week was one of cleaning-up and counting our blessings. No one died. No one got mugged. Everyone lives to tell the tale (thieves not withstanding) and life goes on. We are working on ways to avoid carrying important items in purses and bags—not an easy thing to do for women. The people who make our clothes don’t think we need pockets. When they do give us a pocket or two, they’re small and more or less decorative—useless for anything but Kleenex.

The moral of the story? I’m working on that.

Happy 2010.

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January 2010
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