Archive for April, 2010

27
Apr
10

graciousness in the subdivision

This afternoon I received a very gracious apology letter from my neighbors, so I went over to meet them. They explained that they did not know the sound penetrated beyond their home, apologized profusely and invited us to let them know whenever we find the music or merry-making too loud. I, in turn explained how the deep base without any lyrics or melody devastates one’s nervous system, creating huge amounts of adrenalin. The pretty young woman understood and offered additional apologies, while her cats peered curiously at me from behind the stair railing.

Referring to a sentence in last night’s blog, which she found offensive, she asked  that I not make assumptions about their values and character without knowing them. This is a perfectly reasonable request, one that resonated immediately in my peace and justice brain. I am in the wrong and apologize publicly. My reference to their drug of choice and case of beer was inappropriate and unkind. As it turns out they are lovely young kids trying to start a life together. We are just a thousand generations apart. We agreed we would work together and parted in grace. One truly cannot judge a book by its cover, or even by its title sometimes.

So, to you my good neighbors, I apologize and welcome you to the neighborhood.

They have cats. We have cats. Already we have something in common.

27
Apr
10

sleepless in the subdivision

I went to sleep tonight around 9:45 p.m. By 11:00 I had awakened twice out of disturbing dreams. In my groggy state I began to wonder what was going on. Then I realized: my next door neighbor is at it again—making noise in his family room—loud, penetrating noise with a steady, insistent beat that doesn’t quit and has no mitigating rhythms. I call this barroom noise, calculated to arouse strong feelings and provoke anger-energy responses in those who have managed to retain their hearing. I have tried heavy-duty ear plugs and white noise. Nothing blocks out the banging noise that pulls the covers off my heart and sends my adrenalin into waves of fight or flight response. I want to smash this guy’s windows…send a rocket through his house. I would call the police, but we are in an unincorporated subdivision. And that means, we are on our own. I reason with myself, pray, imagine going over there and dealing with him. I don’t. The music (I believe that is what it is called) has produced responses in me that have made me fearful of my own anger. Not exactly in keeping with a pacifist view.

It is 12:45 a.m. and I am now fully awake. The 4 cars parked in this guy’s driveway are still there, but the noise has stopped. I don’t know what they are doing over there now. Perhaps they are “cooling off” with a drug of choice and a case or two of beer. I am cooling off too—with a mild sedative and a few sips of port that I know will kick the sedation up a notch. I am resentful at having had my sacred sleep time broken into. I am not feeling forgiving at the moment and the tension makes me want to fall in a heap and cry in protest.  I write instead.

This neighbor fellow has no idea what he has done to our night. He has taken his piece of pie right out of the middle! I do not want to confront him, but I do not know how to speak to him effectively either, for I never see him around his house. He is a bit of a phantom. Don’t know his name. He moved in next door about 6 month after us. These are the times I wish I had a big, courageous, burley husband who would take care of this man-to-man. I do not. It’s just us little old ladies and our 2 little cats, living day-to-day, knowing there really is so little time to waste in this life. Two months ago we lost Bettina, as well as another dear friend of 25 years, 1 year ago I lost my sister, 1-1/2  years ago we lost our cousin, 3 years ago we lost another good friend. All of these to cancer—the thief in the night that I call the old black hag.

Tonight my partner, Big Dawg, went to bed with a heavy heart because another of her cousins in dying of cancer. She lies in bed with this heavy heart. Our neighbor does his noise thing with his buddies. The walls of his house and the walls of our house keep us separate, but the sounds of his travail permeate our bedrooms. Ours does not permeate his. There is an irony here, but I wish it were not so. It is now 2:05 a.m. as I head up to bed. God bless us all.

22
Apr
10

drawing sacred circles

I have a new arts oriented blog site called, Drawing Sacred Circles. This blog, Called by Name will continue to be a personal journal, while the new site will function as an exploration of the ways in which the visual arts (the arts as a whole) spring forth from God’s presence within us—God’s holy knitting together of the parts and pieces of us until we become circles. The art we make as an expression of that knitting together—that integration within that invites oneness with Creator God can serve others in their own becoming process. My fondest wish is for the arts to be integrated into our places of worship as windows  to look through and doors to walk through, if not fly through.

I invite you to join me in this journey. It is not just for artists. It is for everyone who has ever

• looked at a work of art,

• listened to a piece of music,

•heard a poem read,

•watched people moving in dance,

and been transported beyond themselves by the beauty and wholeness of it. There is a page on this new blog dedicated to your thoughts and vision, called Write to Me • This Page is for You. One need not be limited to commenting on specific postings. I hope to meet you there.

15
Apr
10

smiling from memory

I am immersed in constructing a new blog and preoccupied with it. It will be something different—a site dedicated to the practice of art as spiritual experience. But I have to keep Called by Name and Longing for Light going as well. Pondering what to add to this one since my last posting, I look out toward the porch where Adopted Daughter, Bettina, used to conduct teleconferences last summer. She was vital and energetic. We were certain she’d be a long-term survivor, just because we couldn’t imagine it any other way. I am overwhelmed by the sunlight, the young green, the gentle breeze, and the peacefulness. The cats sleep. All is quiet except for the occasional rustling of the breeze through the living room vertical blinds. It is the same today as it was last year. Nothing has changed but the occupancy. I am quite alone today, and every day.

This gets to me now. We used to be a little family of three. She was here quite a bit of the time because she worked from home a lot. We got on very well. She was busy with her work and I was busy with mine. We were friendly wallpaper for each other. And then there were the cats who roamed about in their friendly furry ways. Troubles aside, life was good in those family days—family is good. Alone is good too…when it’s partial…when I know the family will assemble at the dinner table…when the family will talk and share and the house will fill with energy.

I found these notes on an entry I’d intended to post, but never got around to doing so. It was to be a loving bit of humor. With a bit of editing it’s a loving look backward to share with you:

I used to live with a business engineer, a fixer of problems, a leader of persons. All day long AD sat in a big chair with a computer and a headset. I was in a room below, just far enough away to hear the conversations rippling along as I worked along in my own world. Every now and then I actually heard, or I should say listened to what was being said. After many, many months of this I had been able to piece a few things together…enough to know that AD was something of a symphony conductor, keeping a whole group, or team of persons moving forward in a world of endless projects needing completion. The quality of completion is important. To reach the client’s expectational need is a must, but to go beyond that to fantastic and under budget is another diamond in the Executive Vice President’s crown and a twinkle in AD’s eyes. She is good, very, very good.

Her world has a language of its own, which I sometimes find quite amusing. Here are some of the words and phrases I hear repeatedly,  I even began to recognize who some of the people were, just by the sound of AD’s voice. If I listen with my ears tuned to memory, I can still hear it:

Acceptance rate

Approval rate

Circle back

Good with that!

It’s all good! It’s all good

It’s all about…

Moving the needle on this thing.

No worries!

Qualification rate

Reach-out

Right? Pause for 3 seconds

Shoot you an email

Take rate

We’re all about…

Zen, baby, zen!

Some of you may be familiar with this business-speak. I found it curiously strange. I don’t think you will hear me using any of these phrases. I have my own language. On a good day, I can even remember what it is 🙂

05
Apr
10

from dark to light

Continued from Lessons in Grieving, April 1.

The next day gradually took on a better hue except for the visit I had to make to my oncologist the following day. I was not looking forward to any part of it and anxiety was floating overhead. I’d never had to go alone before and the prospect was unpleasant at best. It would mean a trip via expressway and toll road into the city—finding my way to the parking lot, then across the sky bridge to the Lurie Cancer Center on the 21st floor and finally just being in that graceless environment again. Five weeks of care-giving and five weeks of grieving didn’t set a positive stage for this return engagement, but  I knew I had to do this (learn to take myself so the Big Dawg wouldn’t have to use vacation days). I just wished I didn’t have to go alone. I couldn’t think of anyone to ask, so I didn’t. Then, as a gift from heaven, a friend offered to come along. This was amazing because I knew the medical environment was not her cup of tea, so I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving and promptly took her up on the offer as she is a veteran highway traveler and would be helpful, along with my newly acquired GPS, which I’d not yet used.

The next day was warm and sunny (unusual for March 31). We set out promptly in the afternoon and found to our surprise that traffic was unusually light, which put us in the parking garage about forty-five minutes early for an appointment that traditionally is never on time. Elevators are not her thing, but twenty-one flights preempted her inclination to take the stairs. The elevator door opened in less than a minute and there we were. We walked in, presented the parking ticket for validation, and were told that the lab was running on time, and I would probably be called soon. Soon? That would mean early because we were early! This was shockingly unbelievable.

Not only were my labs done early, but pleasantly as well—the technician even seeing to it that I would see the doctor directly. (That would be a first.) My friend and I no sooner sat down in the huge waiting room again, than the beeper went off, a door opened and my name was called. This was looking like the eighth wonder of the world. Early. Everyone was early, relaxed and pleasant. Yes, the eighth wonder to be sure. Once we got into the exam room, the ninth wonder was about to unfold.

They had had several cancellations that day, so for the first time in the four years that I’ve been an oncology patient, the medical people had time, not only to talk to me but to listen as well…listen with heart, not just mind. I was able to tell the doctor about my experience as a care-giver, which I think was heard well and profitably. (Thank you God.) When I said, “I don’t know how you all manage to work in oncology,” I heard something I’d never heard before.

The doctor said, “Oh, but we have success stories.” I had to question that, as I’d come to dread cancer in all its thieving forms. “Yes, she said, ‘You are one of our success stories.” Imagine my surprise, since it had taken me nearly three years to recover from it all.

“Success,” I queried?

She went on to explain that I am in full remission, and although my follicular lymphoma will probably recur (five years or more), it will not again transform aggressively and will be quite treatable. Then she told us that lymphoma—a cancer of the lymphatic system—is more treatable than solid tumor cancers, and that treatments for lymphoma are developing more rapidly and more successfully than treatments for solid cancers.

This was news—big news to me. For four years I had expected to have to go through the dreaded R-CHOP again and probably end up dying within eight to ten years as my sister had done, because each recurrence and treatment weakens the body. I felt like I’d been given my life back…that I could once again entertain the idea of  making art into the sunset. I had three lovely upbeat days with wings outstretched and then returned to earth. It had been a good flight…grace poured out like a river.

Life goes on. Unless I am hit by a bus, I will probably still be here when some of you younger folk start looking older. And when you do, remember, I was there first and told you all about it 🙂

(This is a newspaper photo I had for a few years prior to my cancer diagnosis. This 92-year-old lady was my hero. I’d planned to be just like her…making art into the sunset. After cancer I’d taken the picture down and filed it away. Now it’s back, more as a reminder than a goal. Who knows the mind of God. Not I. And that’s a fact!)

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03
Apr
10

lessons in grieving

Today marks one week post Bettina’s memorial service, and five weeks since her death. I should have written about the memorial service last week but couldn’t. It really was beautiful, just as I’d imagined in my March 22nd posting, 2 weeks later. In fact, much more beautiful than I’d expected, but just as heart-wrenching. My dear old friend (DOF) flew in from New Mexico to dance to, Who has Known (the mind of God…), and that was sheer blessing. From now on I will no longer refer to her as dear old friend, even though she is my oldest  and closest friend. She is a dancer inside and out even though her best dancing days are behind her. I will now call this person the Dancing Queen in this blog: DQ. (Do not confuse with Dairy Queen, please.)

The memorial was truly worshipful and I know Adopted Daughter, Bettina was there enjoying every minute. The next day was Passion Sunday and our church did a deeply  moving version of the Stations of the Cross. It was so deeply moving that I became just as deeply depressed. Up until then I was busy with so many things to do, then suddenly it was all over. DQ went on to visit daughters and grandchildren. The house resoundingly empty…silent…like it had been the minute the oxygen machine was turned off.

My heart cried out: “Where did everybody go?” I knew I could phone one or two friends, but also knew everyone was tired and busy getting on with their lives. It had been a very intense weekend. Big Dawg and I were unable to address each other’s needs. She went out feeling confused and helpless. My chief fear—abandonment—had been touched. I was alone with emotions too deep for words…too painful for comforting. I sank to the floor with emotion only anger can express. I was uncontrollably angry about many things. I yelled everything I had at God until there was nothing left to feel. Then I stopped yelling and stopped crying and waited. I felt remorse. BD and I would get through this. We would turn the page, start a new chapter. I just didn’t know when or how. Bedtime came soon and I prayed for help toward a better day.

The next day was dark and dreary. I was very depressed. Empress Bird called to check on me and we talked for a long time. Poor Empress. I did put her through some arduous paces. The day was craggy and disjointed. Nothing made much sense to me. My dear friend, Deeply Thinking, was coming that evening to help me start a new project—one that Bettina had supported wholeheartedly. The meatloaf I’d prepared that morning for our evening’s supper never made it into the refrigerator. When I saw it sitting there on the counter at 4:00, I panicked and the depression-fueled feelings of failure took over. What to do? Cancel? Couldn’t do that because I knew I’d feel worse. Tearfully, I took something out of the freezer, all the while wondering, who am I…who am I turning into? The doorbell rang. DT stood outside the door smiling. I said I was in a terrible mood…very unpleasant…not a nice person, etc., come at your own risk. He came in, took his shoes off and prepared to meet the monster I felt I’d become.

While we were all in the kitchen, I managed to burn my hand on the oven rack and proceeded to have yet another melt-down. DT is very cool. Whatever phases him does not manifest quickly. BD suggested we to go down to the studio and get started while she put dinner together. We did, and sat down in front of the computer. I proceeded to deliver an intense monologue about what a really nasty person I was and all of the unpleasant, unloving things I felt. Again, DT listened with barely a muscle moving on his face…no judgment issuing forth, no advice-giving and no insights. I appreciated that began the slow rise to the surface. I love this DT and I know it is returned: Grace.

Dinner went well and we got a good start on the project. Grace flowed. I had a few hours of light gray to off-white and then it was time for bed and another prayer for help, this time intercessory prayer as well.

To be continued.

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