Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Five: Bah, humbug!

Well, I haven't played the Friday Five over at RevGals for a while now, but I popped in this week and thought this list was pretty funny.

Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey? Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols? Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stick it? (Lights please.) Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food
2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)
3) tradition (church, family, other)
4) decoration
5) gift (received or given)
BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.

I know, I know.... pretty grumpy for November but why not get it out of our systems now so we are free to enjoy the rest of the festivities.
So here goes! But I'm going to balance the humbuggery with my most favorites as well. Yeah, I can't ever just be completely humbuggy about anything. Sigh. I guess that's why people insist on calling me perky. :-)

My least favorite / most annoying seasonal...
  1. dessert / cookie / family food - Well, I'm not terrifically fond of pizzelles, don't like pumpkin pie, and can't stand cranberries. However, my most favorites are a couple of family recipes - cinnamon caramel pecan bubble bread and cookie-cutter cakes.
  2. beverage - eggnog, PLEH! :-) My tummy doesn't like dairy, but then to add eggs to it? Pleh! My most favorite beverage (other than a Starbucks cinnamon dolce latte) is my parents' recipe for holiday punch, which includes cranberry juice, orange juice, lime juice, and lots of ginger ale. And in the grown-up punch bowl, rum.
  3. tradition - okay, this really makes me a humbug. The tradition of lighting candles, kneeling in the dark, and singing Silent Night after communion at the Christmas Eve service is just too saccharine for me. It strikes me as being all about the sentimentality, rather than the joy and light and wonder and awesomeness of this Feast. Told you - humbug! Of course, one important tradition I treasure is that all of the beasties in the house have stockings that Santa fills. But my most favorite holiday tradition is one that came from my grandparents, through my mom to me, and now is continued with my children. On Thanksgiving Day, if you've been a good boy or girl all year, Santa sneaks into the house and leaves a Santa figurine. This is his promise that he's going to come on Christmas, when he picks the figurine back up after he fills the stockings and leaves the gifts. It's always a surprise when Santa is going to manage to sneak in, and where he's going to leave the figurine. Sometimes you really have to hunt for it! But this year, since I was in a new place and Santa had to bring a different figurine, he placed it in the middle of everything, on top of the piano, so we would know it was from him.
  4. decoration - I'll admit, I'm not so fond of the inflatable yard decorations. Some of them are better (and worse) than others. I particularly take amusement at the merry-go-round one that spins Santa, a snowman, and a penguin (South Pole, folks? Plskthx) -- backwards. My most favorite holiday decoration would be... hmm... just about anything else? I love fresh greens - the look, the smell, the feel. I love twinkly, sparkly lights to turn everybody's home and yard into a fairyland. I love a real Christmas tree with decorations I've had since I was young, and now some treasured antiques that my grandparents have handed down to me.
  5. gift - Hmm. I love giving and receiving gifts! Even little trinkets are fun. Some of the most fun I've ever had was the year I bought a pack of those little school valentines and passed them out in the office. This wound is a little personal, but I think my least favorite gift ever was the flute I unwrapped last year. I'd been saving up from my wedding money to buy this flute, but last September, my ex surprised me with it. He said he was impressed by how hard I'd been working with the weddings and thought I really deserved the new instrument. As the holidays approached and we were buying gifts, I really wasn't paying a whole lot of attention until about the 22nd of December, when he announced that the flute had really been my Christmas gift, so he wasn't getting me anything. This stung a bit, because he hadn't said this up-front. What stung even more was that he then snuck it out of my gig bag and wrapped it up on Christmas Eve. He thought it was cute and funny, but really, it hurt and angered me, and he never did understand why. Now, for most favorite... that's very hard. There have been some wonderful ones, like the rainbow-colored rosary my son made me one year from sculpey, or the mug and selection of gourmet cocoa my mom gave me one year. Best of all would have to be the little girl who was born on the third day of Christmas, who will be thirteen this year during the Christmas season.
Bonus: CD or song that makes me want to tell the elves where to stick it? Okay, the Christmas shoes song - sappy, sickening, sentimental, pleh. Whitney Houston singing just about anything - with Christmas music, I have got to sing along, and she yucks everything up so much that you just can't sing with her. Now for most favorites... Coventry Carol. Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming. Sting singing Gabriel's Message. Venite Adoremus. The Cherry Tree Carol. Okay, and there are plenty more, but I'll stop there. :-)
That was a fun play! I'll be looking forward to reading everyone else's. Happy New Year!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy New Year!

Okay, so the New Year doesn't start until Sunday, the first day of Advent, but I always kick off my lectionary posts in advance, so I'll send you the greeting now. Happy New Year! Also on Sunday, The Episcopal Church changes over to using the Revised Common Lectionary rather than the one in the Book of Common Prayer, so our readings will be a bit different now, but will be in line with other liturgical Christian denominations as well as with Anglicans in other provinces who have already been using the RCL. So, that said, our readings this week are:

When taken in this sequence, this is an intriguing set of readings. We start in Isaiah, with a journey up the mountain to God's kingdom. This journey takes us out of the violent, warlike world and into a place of light and learning and peace. The psalm continues this image of a journey from this world into the kingdom of peace and quietness and prosperity. The epistle speaks of waking from sleep, making the journey into wakefulness, the place of light.

This idea, this image - it was not new to the people of Israel. They cut their teeth on the stories of Moses and the Israelites, and their long journey from their lives as slaves in violent, decadent Egypt into the promised land, the land of milk and honey and flowing streams and growing crops and all good things that could be showered upon them. And later, when Israel was overthrown, and the Jewish people went into captivity and exile, they still dreamed of their journey back to their glorious homeland. They yearned to leave behind this place of pain and frustration and anger and hurt, and make their way back to their homeland, where they could have freedom and peace again. Back to Jerusalem, where they could have peace within their walls and quietness within their towers. And prophets, like Isaiah, came to them and told them of a savior who would be sent by God to kick out the violent oppressors and lead them into a new age of peace and prosperity, so that all the world would look up to God's chosen people and admire them.

Of course, what they got was Jesus. Jesus did not kick out the violent oppressors, and he did not lead the people on a march to prosperity. In fact, he turned everything upside-down for the Jewish people, by telling them that it was next to impossible for a rich person to get into heaven, and that in the end, the poor and the humble and the meek would get everything. And because of this, many of them - most of them, almost all of them! - did not recognize Jesus when he came.

These people did not know when the messiah was going to come. They had heard the prophecies and the stories for years, for decades, for generations. Some had given up hope that a savior would ever come. Those who thought they were prepared would jump on the bandwagon of this prophet or that one, until he was arrested by the Romans for insurrection. They were desperate for a new message, for good news, for the journey into peace and prosperity and light.

This new season of Advent that begins on December 2 - it is our season of preparation for the messiah to enter the world. One of the wonderful things about God is that God lives outside of time. God is not bound by yesterday and today and tomorrow as we are. So while we know that Jesus did come into the world at one particular time and in one particular place, that does not keep God from entering the world right now, or three days from now, or six months ago. God is continually born inside us, and the messiah is continually entering the world. Given this, why does God need Advent? Why isn't every day Christmas?

And the answer is: God doesn't need Advent. And every day is Christmas, just as every day is Good Friday and every day is Easter and every evening is the Last Supper.

But we need Advent. And we need Lent and Christmas and Easter, and we even need that interminable stretch of Ordinary Time. We need to remind ourselves of the things that are important, the things that are good and real and true. During these four weeks (give or take) of Advent, we can be pregnant with Mary. We can walk that road to Bethlehem. We can hear the prophets who say, "Soon! Your savior will come to you soon! Turn your heart to God and be ready!" We can hear the voice of Jesus in the gospel lessons, telling us "I am coming back for you. Be ready for me!" We can make a space within ourselves for Jesus to enter our world. Isaiah - the great civil engineer of the bible - talks about filling in the rivers and bringing down the mountains and building a straight path for God to walk. And we know God doesn't need a straight path. But we do. If we make that space within ourselves, if we remove the obstacles, then we can see God coming. ("Jesus is coming. Look busy.") And, like the father of the prodigal son - or like a child whose parent is returning after a business trip - when we see God coming, we can run out to greet God. We can jump up into God's arms, settle in for that divine hug. We can smile up at God, feel God's hand tousling our hair, hear God laugh in sheer delight at our joy that we are together.

This is why we need Advent. On Christmas, we run to God, and we say, "God! At last you are here!" Maybe even, "Whadja bring me, Daddy?" But until then, we wait. We get ready. We vacuum the carpets in our mind, brush out the cobwebs in our heart. We sweep the leaves and branches from our porch and shovel the snow from our front walk. We light a fire in the hearth and a candle in the windows. We open ourselves to make a home where God will feel welcome. And then, because all journeys are unpredictable, we wait. We listen for the footstep, the knock on the door. We know it will come, because we have been promised for years, for decades, for generations.

The savior will come, and awaken us from sleep. Jesus will be born, to lead us on that journey to the kingdom of peace and quietness and prosperity... though these may not be exactly what we expect. But we have to be ready, because God may not - will not - come in the shape we expect to see. God is a God of mystery and surprise and great, deep humor.

So here I sit, wearing my t-shirt and sweats, my hair tied back in a ponytail, a smudge of dirt on my cheek. The dustcloth is in my hand, and I am readying my space for God to visit. And when he comes, I will walk in the light of the Lord. Won't you join us?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

For your listening pleasure, I offer you the Prelude on How Can I Keep from Singing? composed by me, and performed at last night's worship service at Old Donation Episcopal Church by myself and our organist.

This morning has been a beautiful one here in Virginia Beach. I was awake at 5am, so I got my grocery shopping taken care of. Unfortunately, I hadn't turned off my alarm clock, so it awoke my poor daughter, who then couldn't get back to sleep either. We went down to the oceanfront, since it's so warm this morning - until the cold front comes through this afternoon and drops our temperature about 30 degrees F - and Becca waded in the surf and collected pretty shell fragments and rocks while I look lots of photographs. Even better, we saw not one but TWO rainbows in the northern sky this morning. It was amazing.

We're having beef stew for supper tonight - and of all things, Taco Bell has been requested at lunchtime today - and have plans for nice meals later in the weekend. Slow-cooked pork barbeque is on the menu for Saturday's supper, and Sunday will be a full turkey dinner at my parents' house. So even though we didn't make our trip to Baltimore, we're still going to have a great holiday weekend, just us girls.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that, no matter where in the world you are, you find at least one thing to feel thankful for today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As if there wasn't already enough drama in my life...

An ominous title for a post, isn't it? Yes, indeed, as if there wasn't already enough drama in my life, my car was rear-ended this morning as I drove in to work. And while the driver whose car struck mine has been ruled at fault, the accident was actually caused by a Virginia Motorist Assistance worker who pulled out from the shoulder into traffic in front of me - without using his turn signal or having his flashing lights on. And then he was unable to tell the State Police where we were, so they were delayed getting to the scene. This was actually kind of nice, though, because it gave us time to call our respective insurance companies and get our claims started. And since we had enough time, we ended up switching cell phones in the middle of the calls, so that I could talk to his claims rep and he could talk to mine. I found this both amusing and terrifically convenient. So by the time I got to work, his insurance company had already taken responsibility for the repairs, and I just had to pick a body shop (and they have a direct-bill shop that I've worked with before and like and trust). They've already arranged for my appraisal, repairs, and rental car, so I'm set. But my poor Lady Jane! I can't open her back hatch right now, and she looks so sad. :(

The real pain in the neck (hee) is that my physical therapist won't see me for my next appointment - tomorrow morning - until I've seen a doctor and been cleared for PT again. My orthopedist didn't have any appointments open before PT, and I really don't want to cancel this appointment when I won't get in again until Monday. So I'm going to hit a doc-in-the-box after taking my daughter to school in the morning, and I'll have to explain everything that's going on, and I know they're going to want to take (expensive and unnecessary) x-rays and check things out fully.

And I ended up cancelling my plans for this weekend, which had been to go to DarkoverCon with my daughter. Her absolute favorite author is one of the guests this year, and she's bummed. But we have some special plans for the long weekend: taking a walk at the beach, seeing a movie, getting up to the Virginia Living Museum, playing our karaoke game, and just having some good girl tomboy fun. So while we're bummed about our change in plans, I know we'll have a good time together.

Amusingly enough, after I got to work this morning, I was there for about an hour before we lost power. It was out to a sizable area around my office, and after about 45 minutes in the dark and with no telephone or network connectivity, management sent us home.

I was telling a friend earlier how nice it would be to have a month with no drama. Then I thought, well, shucks, I'd enjoy a week with no drama. Hell, I thought! Right now, I would be so happy to just have one single day with no drama at all. I can't remember the last drama-free day I had!

Ah well. I know that I still have much to be grateful for. I am being incredibly naughty and listening to the Christmas channels on my xm radio now. But that's okay, right, 'cause it's not Advent yet? We can't listen to Christmas music during Advent, but any other time, right? :-) Actually, I don't really care. Liturgically, I have definite opinions, and I don't like to see Christmas music in church outside the Christmas season (which doesn't begin until December 25) . But at home? If I need Jesus to be born in me, I'm listening to Christmas music. I will also listen to Jesus Christ is Risen Today any time of the year, though I do refrain from actually singing along with the alleluias during Lent. If I need some Resurrection, then I'm listening to Easter music! So there! Nyah!

I am grateful that I wasn't hurt in the accident, and that my car really isn't that bad off. I'm thankful that I have understanding coworkers and management. I'm thankful that I know what's going on with my body now, and that I have a way forward. I'm thankful for the really good medications I'm taking now, that don't sedate me too much or make me feel queasy during the workday. I am grateful for my peaceful and pretty home, and I am grateful for the care of family and friends, and I am deeply grateful for the overflowing love of God... even when I have a hard time understanding or accepting it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crown him with many crowns! (A lectionary post)

This coming Sunday is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time - thank GOD!!! - and as such, is celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King. I enjoy this Sunday, in part for the break from the godawful Ordinary Time lections, and also very much because we get to sing some awesome hymns. Our choir is singing a chorus from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, the Sing Unto God. I'm looking forward to it.

So. The readings for Sunday are:

Okay, so on reading those gospel options for this week, it's clear to me that I've never paid all that much attention to the lections on Christ the King Sunday. This is probably because I was sitting in my pew, happily earwormed with those awesome hymns. But if you've read this far, this probably isn't true for you, so I actually need to read through these and think about them a little.

It is intriguing to me that the two options for Sunday's gospel are the bookends of Jesus's last week in Jerusalem, his last week here with us, on earth. And it is yet more intriguing to me that each bookend is a story of triumph and honor and kingship, but in the slightly askew way that Jesus shows triumph and kingship. Here is Jesus, entering the city in a royal procession... on a clumsy donkey's colt. And here is Jesus, proclaimed as king... on a sign hanging over his head at his execution.

I remember in a fantasy novel I read some time back, a young prince of eight or nine trying to get his way in an argument with a headstrong young noble girl, and finally having to resort to saying, "Well, I'm the prince, so you have to do what I say!" His mother overheard this, and after the girl had gone, she said to him quietly, "A prince who has to remind others of his rank is not much of a prince at all." Jesus does not go around reminding us that he is a king. He knows who he is. Those who recognize this in him and do him honor are blessed by it. And those who mock him... well, they probably recognize it, too, but are frightened and threatened by it. They have to tear down Jesus's nobility, his honor, his triumph, his kingship, because they know they do not deserve it.

In 21st century America, we tend to not be very comfortable talking about submitting to kings. The last king we remember was the one we rebelled against, and we sent him packing back to England to leave us alone, thankyouverymuch. We can do just fine without a king. We can govern ourselves. We can take care of ourselves. We are free and independent and strong.

And yet, when I say these things to myself, I find a small, quiet voice inside me, calling out for a loving king to guide me. I know I can take care of myself and govern myself and be free and independent and strong, but it gets awfully tiring always having to do and be these things. The issue with human kings - or even elected rulers - is that we don't always know that they will be loving and kind and good. But we KNOW that God is good. We know that Jesus loves us perfectly, infinitely, far more than we can ever deserve or ask or imagine. And he is our king. Riding on a clumsy colt. Stripped naked and derided and mocked. Lying in cloths in his mother's arms, perfect and innocent and helpless. Speaking in the synagogue. Overturning tables and throwing the moneychangers out of the temple. Walking, always walking, all over Judea and helping and healing and teaching.

The epistle from Colossians this week is very moving to me. This reading opens with a beautiful prayer, and I would love to see this prayer set to music.

May you be made strong
with the strength that comes
from God's glorious power.

May you be prepared
to endure everything
with patience.

May you joyfully
give thanks to God
for God has enabled you
to walk with the saints
in light.

May you know you are rescued
from the powers of darkness
and given into the arms
of God's beloved son,
into the arms of the son
who has brought us redemption
freedom from our sins.

May you stand
faithful and confident
knowing that Jesus will remember you
and will bring you into
the light
of God's kingdom.

I don't have a whole lot more to say on these readings right now. But as I write these words, I pray this prayer for you, and as you read them, I hope that you feel the blessings of God upon you. God's kingdom has been opened for us, and when the saints come marching in, Jesus is at the head of the procession, guiding us and leading us into the Light.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An update for the Sabbath

Hello, dear ones! I wanted to let you know what's been going on, since I have done a lot of complaining in recent posts. :-)

First, the kitty. Midnight is on a different appetite stimulant that has really been stimulating her appetite since Thursday. She's eating at least as well as normally now, and seems happier. I can tell she's not feeling completely back to normal yet, because she still doesn't want to leave my side, and really just wants to cuddle and/or sleep. But this is okay. She's going to pull through, and I didn't have to hospitalize her, and I am deeply and joyfully thankful for both of these.

Second, me. Sigh. It turns out that there is something I'd been suspecting for a while but not been able to verbalize. Every joint in my body is hypermobile, meaning that it can move too far without me knowing there's a problem with this (i.e., without the warning sign of PAIN), and can then cause injury to the joint, to the connective tissues, or just general pain all around until it is put back into the right position. This form of hypermobility is hereditary (my mom has it, too, and possibly my son), is usually accompanied by easy bruising (check!), and usually leads to the early onset of osteoarthritis in the joints (my hands are already starting). The apparent cause of this is a problem in the way the body produces the collagen that makes up the ligaments, and there's not a known way to "fix" this problem. There's a pretty decent overview of hereditary hypermobility here.

What this means, in general terms, is that I have to strengthen and tone all of my muscles - especially the little ones inside the joints that most people never know they have - so that those muscles can do some of the work that my ligaments are unable to do. And I have to keep these muscles strong and toned for the rest of my life.

The first place we want to address is workplace ergonomics, since I spend so many waking hours sitting at a desk in front of a computer, at a cubicle and in a chair that are designed for people about a foot taller than I am. Meanwhile, I'm continuing in PT to get the shoulders back to where they should be, so that then they can help me get into a more generalized exercise program to help the whole body. I've been told to avoid absolutely anything that has impact, and to stick with things like tai chi, aquatic exercise, and Pilates. Yoga is out, due to the hypermobility, and the martial arts I love so much are out as well, because of the impact.

For the immediate short term, I've been prescribed a muscle relaxant and a painkiller that have relatively low side-effect profiles, as well as a sleep aid to get me sleeping through the night again. These do make me a bit slow and sleepy during the day, but I'm still more "with it" than I am when I'm in incredible pain. With the added benefit that I'm not in incredible pain. Just a bit. Still, all the time.

My daughter and I were hoping to get to a convention over Thanksgiving weekend in Baltimore, but I'm not sure yet whether I can do that five-hour drive each way. So we'll have to discuss this over the week. I have resigned from the concert band I'd been playing in, because I cannot handle sitting and playing flute for two hours straight each week. Maybe in a couple years, after working the muscles up to tone, but not now.

However... I do have one bit of exciting news. My parish is hosting the ecumenical Thanksgiving eve service for the congregations in our neighborhood this year, and our organist had approached me about playing a flute/keyboard piece for the prelude. I took this a step further and wrote a prelude based on How Can I Keep from Singing? for flute and organ. I had much help from my best friend. I got to hear it for the first time today - other than through Sibelius on my computer - when we rehearsed after church this morning. I'm pretty excited about it; I can't wait to hear it Wednesday night. And it will be interesting to see how long it takes people to notice from the bulletin that my name is in the place where the composer usually goes. Hee hee!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


For this week's writers island prompt:

My little friend is sick. She has been with me for about six and a half years now. I remember when she was just a little baby, when I first brought her home with me. I remember the toys I brought home for her, the meditation about our relationship with God that I wrote because of her. I remember writing this poem about her this year, and this one, too.

When I moved out of the house this June, into my own place, my little friend came with me. She was afraid of this new place, as I was, to be quite honest. But she snuggled up with me in bed that first night, and together, we knew we were home.

When I came home from my shoulder surgery in July, I settled on the couch and snoozed for the first couple hours, and my little friend spent that entire time on my lap. She shared her warmth and affection with me until she could tell that I was more with it and feeling a little better.

Every morning, she begins to beg for her breakfast at about 4am if she senses that I might possibly be awake yet. But every morning, I wait until 6am to get up and feed her. Every evening, she tells me that 5pm is approaching, and then leads me to her dish for her supper. (And looks at me with disdain when I ask, what is it girl? what is it? you want me to follow you? did Timmy fall into the well again?)

My little friend is a very respectable middle-aged woman now. She protects her home, tends to me, and keeps my daughter in line. And she hasn't eaten since last Wednesday. She went to the doctor yesterday and suffered many indignities, but we still don't know what's wrong with her, other than it looks likely there's a problem in her liver.

I try to entice my little friend to eat every hour. I tempt her with the stinkiest foods and treats I can find. She may take a bite or two, but mostly she licks the wet food or tastes and chews at the more solid treats for a moment and then spits them out.

My little friend is trying to share my lap with my computer right this very moment. She doesn't feel good, and all she wants to do is snuggle with me and rest. Just like our first night in this new home. Just like when I came home from my surgery.

I am pretty worried about my little friend. My kitty Midnight has been a sweet and loving and loyal companion, and I'm not ready to lose her.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Update to Waaaaaaaaaaah!

Well, there's not a whole lot of update yet.

I have a new supply of pain meds, and a referral to a physiatrist at my physical therapy practice. They're supposed to call me to schedule an appointment, and I'm hoping I'll get in next week. Meanwhile, ice, heat, and pain meds. And restricting my driving, since that seems to be the absolute WORST.

With the help of my kids, I've managed to get some of the household stuff taken care of. At least the stuff that's in the front rooms, where visitors might see it. :) I also discovered that the World's Best Cat Litter is anything but, and I need to get a new supply of cat litter plus figure out a way to get the half-inch-thick layer of solidified (heavy, smelly) cat litter out of the bottom of the litter box. The children will probably be engaged to help with this oh-so-fun chore, too.

And, sadly, I think I'm going to need to rehome my hedgehog, Angel. I'm not playing with her or taking care of her as she deserves. I'm going to make the first offer to the really sweet family from church who have cared for my beasties when I've gone out of town. If they decline, then I'll ask the wider parish community, and then probably list her on craigslist.

As before, my parish family has been wonderful, especially our assistant rector (Hi, Eliz F!). She's understanding that I'm reluctant to go public with this in the parish just yet - which is ironic, given that I'm posting it here, but at least here I'm somewhat anonymous, hiding behind my pseudonym - and is being very supportive within the boundaries I've been stubbornly (and yes, irrationally) clinging to. I need to get over my sense of shame (and probably a touch of failure) at hurting so badly, at not being perfect, at feeling so needy, and probably even at getting worse again after making so much progress since my surgery this summer. But after I see the doctor this week (I hope!), I will know more about what I am and am not supposed to do, so I'll have specific things I can ask for help and support with. Until then, it's all so vague. And being very much a J on the Myers-Briggs, I can't stand vagueness!

So yes... prayers are much appreciated. Peace be with you, my friends.

Update to the update: My appointment with the pain management specialist is next Friday morning, right after physical therapy. So I should really be feeling it for the doctor at that point!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Proud Momma Moments

Just now:
Daughter: I had to get mad at someone in health class today.
Me: Why is that?
Daughter: Because he said nukular.
Me: (silently) You GO, girl!
Daughter: Apparently I've become the grammar nazi of the seventh grade.
Me: :Sniff!: (silently) I've never been so proud in my life!

A little while ago:
Daughter: I guess I'm just impulsive. Wait - what does that mean? Oh, it doesn't matter - I just felt like saying it.
Me: (falls off of couch laughing)
Daughter: What? What does it mean?
Me: It means you just do things because you feel like it.
Daughter: (laughs, then repeats the exchange to herself so she'll remember it)

Yesterday morning:
Son: There just aren't enough sarcastic people in the world.
Daughter: Of course there aren't.

Monday evening, at supper:
Daughter: (keeps talking about flatulence, boogers, puking, and other unsavoury subjects for the supper table)
Me: (asks her to stop, multiple times)
Son: (asks her to stop, multiple times)
Me: (sternly) Okay, I really mean it. That is enough of the nasty stuff right now. We're eating supper. So no more, okay?
Me: (points to the bowl of rice) Now could you please pass the maggots?
Daughter: (sprays the sip of chocolate milk she had just taken)
Son: (flees the room)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Okay, this post will be a shameless whine. So if you don't want to listen to me bitch, moan, complain, gripe, and whinge, then you should either skip down to the next post or move on to the next feed in your reader. Fair warning given, let the curmudgeonliness begin!

So. Back in December/January, I started having pain in my shoulders. It was worse in my right shoulder. At first, only certain motions made it hurt, but before too long, I was in pain just sitting still. Since regular home care and OTC meds weren't touching it, I went to the doctor. The orthopedist injected me with cortisone, with a warning that it would probably feel worse for the first few days, and then may or may not feel better. It did feel worse for about five days, after which, it did not feel better. Meanwhile, I started physical therapy twice a week. In March, after my third visit to the orthopedist, with no improvement and a definite increase in pain, he sent me to a different physical therapy practice that has a very different approach. This therapist's first words to me were, "Congratulations! You have a very impressive diagnosis!"

Uh oh.

The diagnosis was tendinitis, bursitis, a very small tear in my rotator cuff, and best of all, a multidirectional instability. We worked on strengthening the muscles in the shoulder, so that the weakness would not allow it to dislocate itself at will. But the pain was not relieved. In May, my physical therapist broke the news to me. You really need to get that rotator cuff surgery done. He explained how leaving that to rest had complications down the line that I really didn't want to face. So I went back to the orthopedist, resigned, and got the surgery scheduled.

On July 16, this summer, I had the arthroscopic shoulder surgery. The bursa sac was very swollen and inflamed, and he removed this completely. He did not have to go into the muscles and work on them, which was a blessing. The nerve block in the neck was wonderful, but there was pain after the surgery, as expected. I came home with the cryo-pack, which is far colder than anything I ever expected to take out of my own freezer, and my sling and a bottle of double-strength percoset. I started physical therapy that Friday - four days after the operation - though it was purely passive range-of-motion stuff for the first month.

I've been doing really well. At my two month post-op checkup, the orthopedist told me to schedule a follow-up in two months, but only if I was having problems. And until last week, I was confident that I had no need of this follow-up. But last Wednesday afternoon, I started having a muscle spasm in my neck. My shoulders - both of them! - were sore. Not terrible, but sore and achey. Thursday, this was worse, and I stayed home to telecommute, take painkillers, and apply ice (to the shoulders) and heat (to the neck). Friday morning I had PT again, and I almost didn't say anything to my therapist, because I'd had a good night's sleep and was feeling less stiff and sore. But I did tell him about the neck muscle, and he said, "Good!"

Um, pardon me, but I just told you I'm in pain. WTF is this good nonsense?

He told me that he hadn't gotten to do a lot of work on me lately, so now I was giving him something to do. Yeah, that sounds good. So he worked on my trigger points, loosening everything up, and then put me on the hand bike. When I finished my six minutes, I was this close to tears. I bit them back, though. I don't like to show when I'm in pain. (I'm used to being mocked for being in pain, called a drama queen (!), told that I'm defective, or just told to suck it up and get back to whatever I'm supposed to be working on.) I pulled out my exercise sheet to see what I thought I could do, in this much pain, without hurting myself worse. I decided to try the ones where I hold a playground ball (you know - the ones they sell for $1.49 in the grocery store all summer) against the wall, lean against it, and make circles in both directions, then plus signs, and then Xs. With these, I could control how much weight I put on the ball as I leaned in, and perform small motions that didn't make me move too much. When I finished, I was in tears.

I went back over to the desk to look at my exercise sheet. Just then, one of the assistants came back into the gym area, took one look at me, and said, "What's wrong?" (Inside, I said to myself, it's so nice that they know me here!) I told her what was going on, and she said, just stop your exercises, and I'll go grab your therapist and be right back. So I waited, and he returned, looked at me, and said, "What did you do?"

Sheesh! I smiled and said, "Exactly what you told me to do!" He worked on the trigger points again, trying to release all the muscles, had me do one passive stretch, and then put me on the ice machine. He told me not to do anything this weekend - riiiiiiiiight! - and sent me home with two stretches to do a couple times a day, and orders to put ice on the shoulders and heat on the neck.

Now it's Tuesday. I had PT yesterday morning, and it was pretty awful. I haven't had PT be this painful since before I started working with this therapist. And I haven't had pain this consistently bad since before my surgery. I'm taking ultram, prescribed by my orthopedist after I complained about the percoset at my first follow-up, and it helps, but really just takes the edge off. And when I get to that four to six hour window after taking it, I am feeling it. The problem is, I don't like to take it in the morning before I go to work. And if I'm going to be out driving, I try to wait until I get home.

I have eight pills left (to be taken every four to six hours as needed for pain), and an appointment with my orthopedist on Friday. I expect to take two more today, and I guess I can take two each tomorrow and Thursday.

Meanwhile, I started having problems in both thumb joints in late September. I had one appointment with my orthopedist, who referred me to a hand specialist, but I haven't been able to see him yet. I fear that he will tell me I shouldn't play my flute any more. But that... that would be awful. It was so hard this summer to go so long without being able to play. At least I have my voice lessons and choir, so I'm still able to make music.

So the upshot is, I'm hurting. And I'm afraid. I'm afraid I'm going to need surgery on my left shoulder, too. I'm afraid my doctor and physical therapist are going to recommend the series of operations to help with the instability... in both shoulders. I'm afraid that I'll have to stop playing my flute. I'm afraid that there may be something bigger going on, affecting my body as a whole. I'm afraid I'll be in pain forever.

But the good news is, even though it doesn't sound like it here -- but remember, this was my designated whining post! -- I really am in pretty good spirits. My life is going well, and I know there are hiccups in any recovery, and I am enjoying who I am and what I am doing. So it's not all dark scary stuff.

Here ends the whining. :-)

Tuesday Poetry: Unforgettable

This week's writing prompt at writers island is unforgettable. And though I haven't read them yet - as I post this piece - I know that my fellow islanders have been writing unforgettable pieces of their own, and I hope that you'll go read them.

Before I share my piece, I have to tell you a little about what happened when I looked at this week's prompt. Usually, I take a look at the prompt when it is posted over the weekend, and I let it simmer in the back of my mind and heart until Monday night or Tuesday, when I sit down to write. And then, I write my piece in one pass, share it with my most trusted writing buddy for a initial review (basically: what does this do for you?), and then go back through a couple more times to tighten up word choice, rhythm, and the picture I'm trying to show. But most of the time, I try to muzzle my conscious, thinking, mind and let the images or emotions (or whatever!) flow freely from the deeper places within me. So my work tends to reflect the major themes running through my life at the time - and right now, that happens to be transformation and healing.

This week, I didn't look at the writing prompt until Tuesday morning. I saw it, and immediately heard the Unforgettable song, which is such a sweet love song. And I wanted to write a sweet love song of my own. But as I opened my editor to write, a love song is not quite what welled up from those deep places. At least, not a love song as we traditionally think of them. And this poem will sound a bit angry and hurting, but I really am well on the way to the healing and forgiveness at the end. As several of my poems this summer and fall have been, I do find that my life is shaped like the spiralling conch shells that litter the beach of our writers island here. And I have to pass the same place several times before I reach that deep center, where everything that is life-giving and holy and good and real can be found. So... enough babbling. On to the poem.


The words were unforgettable
razor sharp
now slicing precisely
now stabbing mercilessly

lazy, stupid
failure of a mother
failure of a wife
contrary bitch
slimy whore.
Words wielded as weapons
and you laughed
as you cut, beat, bludgeoned me
with your speech.
But they're just words,
you said,
as if words are empty
and have no power.

You were wrong.

Engraved on my heart
where they cannot be seen
are those unforgettable words
scars just as visible
as those I saw in the hospital
on the arm of a girl
who had slit her wrists
fat whore
incompetent bitch
I only married you
because I felt sorry for you.

I know I must forgive
not for you
but to reach peace for myself
and I struggle to find this
amidst the unforgettable words
I never knew what hatred meant
until I married you.
I still don't know what hatred means
but somehow
you will be released
and all those unforgettable words
the ones that scar my soul
you will find
that they have scarred yours as well
and I am sorry
oh, I am so sorry,
when you learn this.

I will forgive
and the unforgettable
will pass into the haze
of distant memory
But when you are confronted
with the unforgettable
will you be able to

Monday, November 5, 2007

Lectionary Thoughts: Resurrection

The readings in The Episcopal Church for this coming Sunday are:

The one theme that clearly sings out for me through these lections is resurrection. In this case, it's not The Resurrection of Jesus, but the promise of resurrection for every one of us. This is a powerful lesson to hear, right on the heels of the Feast of All Saints. We were just reminded this past Sunday of the amazing cloud of witness of the Communion of Saints - which includes all Christians, those who have gone before us, those who are alive now, and those who are yet to be born. And this coming Sunday, we will be reminded that the resurrection has been promised to us, because we believe in Jesus.

In the gospel lesson, the Good and Upright Citizens are playing a game of Stump-the-Prophet with Jesus. Those in power in his time had a great time challenging him with legalistic questions, trying to trip him up, often taking their questions and interpretations to places we might consider absurd in their quest to Stump the Prophet. And this one certainly is absurd - what woman would really allow herself to be married off to seven men in sequence in this way, much less seven brothers? And Jesus is awesome, because he refuses to play the game, at least by the rules of the League of Good and Upright Citizens. Instead, he turns their questions and challenges on their heads, and every single time, he brings them back to love. While his response in this passage does not explicitly use the word love, you can feel the tenderness, especially if you read it aloud to yourself. We will be like angels. We will be children of God. To God, we will always be alive. In this world, marriage is really about property, about assuring that one's belongings are retained within the family rather than being looted or stolen or taken by the government. But in God's kingdom, marriage is unnecessary. In God's kingdom, possessions are unimportant. We do not grasp for belongings, for stuff. We are loved infinitely. We are tenderly cared for. We are filled with everything we need - filled with the things that are real.

The psalm appointed for this week intrigued me at first, in conjunction with the gospel lesson. While Jesus reminds us that we will be resurrected to join God in God's kingdom, this psalm is a prayer asking God to remember us, a prayer for protection from our enemies - and from The Enemy. It contains one of the most beautiful passages from the service of Compline (Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings) and ends with a statement of confidence, that after we die and awake in God's kingdom, we will see God's face. So why do we need to pray this prayer? Just a couple weeks ago, we had a set of readings about persisting in prayer, even when there doesn't seem to be an answer from God. But we know that God does not need to be reminded of us. God knows every sparrow in the trees, every blade of grass in the fields, every hair on every head of every person who has ever lived. God knows we are here. God knows what is in our hearts. God loves us and aches for us to join God in eternal life. So what's the point of praying this prayer?

Okay, so I don't have a great answer to that question. But I do know that prayer opens us up, makes us vessels ready to receive God's grace. And I think that when we pray this prayer (Remember me, God, please. I am here, doing my best. And I believe in you. I trust you. I love you. I know you will bring me to live with you. Remember me, God, please.), we are open to assurances like the one in the reading from Job. We are open to the gift knowing, down to the deepest core of our being, that our Redeemer lives, that in our flesh we shall see God. And this is a grace, because it is completely unearned, completely undeserved. We cannot earn a place in God's kingdom - it is freely given to us by the God who loves us completely, profigately, scandalously.

Which brings me to the Thessalonians reading. It is a lovely prayer, a blessing on us, and another reminder of God's scandalous love. So this week, our readings are a love note to us from God.

My dearest children,

I am here. I am your Creator. I have known you and treasured you since the moment you were conceived. I will always be here to care for you, to protect you when you are in danger, to light your path when the way becomes dark. You are made in my image, and you are a unique and wonderful child. And though right now you live in a flawed world, where there are strife and wickedness and temptation, when you have come to the end, I will bring you to me. You will see my face. You will know, as you have never known before, how perfectly and completely you are loved. I will clothe you in shining robes and give you living water to drink. And you will live with me, in peace and love and harmony with the entire communion of saints, forever.

Your loving Father and Mother,

So my wish to you this week comes straight from our epistle: may your heart be comforted and strengthened in every good work and word, by the hope of the resurrection promised to us by the eternally and scandalously loving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Taking the Plunge

Gulp. I've thought about it for years. And a good friend of mine has tried it a few times. It's scary. It's audacious. But it may be the only way I ever get my butt in gear.

I just signed up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Yes, I'm going to try to write a novel this month. This is the first time I'd ever seriously considered it, because this is the first time I've had a story in me that I have been aching to tell but hadn't made time and space for yet.

Before I set up my account (I'm warriormare, by the way - so if you're giving it a try, feel free to drop me a mail or to set me as a contact), I was paralyzed by fears. Completely silly fears. And I'll put the main one in words here, to reveal how amazingly silly it was - but this is what we do to ourselves, and how we come to believe we're not creative people. I really want to tell this story, and tell it well. So my fear was that, if I try to tell this story through NaNoWriMo, and end up thinking that the writing sucks, I'll be so disappointed that I'll never go back and get the story finished. Pretty silly, huh? It's basically my inner critic trying to convince me not to bother, not to take the risk, not to even try. And this, what you see right now? It's me, telling my inner critic to suck it.

With a friend, I've been (very sporadically) working through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, trying to recapture and revitalize our creativity. Cameron talks a lot about what we do to sabotage ourselves, to convince ourselves that we're not creative, that when we try to be creative we're really lousy at it, that we shouldn't even bother to try any more. And she talks about how all of this is a load of hooey, but we buy into it because creativity is about dreaming dreams, taking risks, and making ourselves vulnerable - and this is scary stuff to responsible adults.

Perhaps the biggest part of leaving my very troubled marriage this year was my decision to no longer live in fear. I do not like to live in fear. I do not want to live in fear. And dammit, I'm going to live my life so that fear is not what motivates me. I'm going to take risks. I'm going to dream dreams. I'm going to put myself out there and make myself vulnerable. Because that's what this life is all about.

So what if my novel sucks? So what if I don't make it through the entire month, or don't reach 50,000 words? If I don't start, I stand no chance of finishing - sucky product or not. And if I do start... well, there's that glittering, golden chance that what I end up with is beautiful and wonderful. Fear, begone! Inner critic, shut the hell up!

And you there -- yeah, you. When you leave the room, can you stick that Do Not Disturb sign on the door for me, please? I'm writing my novel now.