Saturday, April 30, 2016

Loss, 7.66

Target. I am leaving for a weeklong training tomorrow.  I need cat litter, some snacks, some Advil.

I see a flowing summer dress and jacket that would look great on my girl ~ if she likes it ~  so I toss them into the cart.  One of maybe my top ten things, picking up gifts for her.  She doesn't always appreciate my taste, but I do it anyway.  Sometimes it works out.

I walk past the displays of summer stuff.  Brightly-colored noodles and beach towels, picnic chairs and coolers. 

We used to have the best times in the summer.  I loved summer SO much.  My daughter said the other day that among her best childhood memories are the days that a group of us, moms and kids, lazed away at a lake south of here.  Moms hauling out food and talking for hours on end, kids splashing off floating whales and turtles and racing to the playground during swim breaks, everyone trudging up to the parking lot as darkness finally fell. 

I look at the noodles and beach towels. 

I want my boy back.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Fifteen Years

I am pondering, these days, the next fifteen years of my life.

Surrounded as I am by friends whose parents are requiring a great deal of attention and care, with a mother-in-law and father each having surgery in the next few weeks, and with not a few health problems of my own, I am well aware that, by the time I am 80 (in only seventeen short years!) I will likely be much more limited in my capabilities and choices than I am now. 

My friend Rosa described yesterday the realities of her father's move, first into her home and, imminently, into one of his own, and the sad and stark realization that many of the things she and her husband have planned for these years may not come to pass.

My husband is trying to retire. He is down to 3.5 days a week (which, of course, really means five) and had hoped to sever the ties that bind him to his professional life at the end of June, but has been convinced to stay through the summer.  He wants to focus on his competitive running, his pottery, and his soccer coaching ~ all well-earned after forty years of grueling work weeks, many of them for many years away from home.

Two of our children seem to be settling nearby.  I had once thought that they would live all over the world and that we would have the pleasure of visiting them in . . . . France? London? locales more distant and exotic to us? But their brother's death has caused us all to converge upon our home like pigeons and, while we are travelling again, we seem unable to imagine a permanent departure.

I know that the next few years will be full . . .  work, home repairs, perhaps a wedding, and of course, the needs of our parents . . . . but if I could choose, with what would I fill them? And those, more open to possibilities, which follow? 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Houses (Friday Five)

Today's RevGals Friday Five from Monica is about houses, spurred by her first home purchase:

1. What is the most important room in your home? What requirements do you have of this room? (Sure, you can answer “bathroom,” but we can stipulate that as a reasonable assumption and you can pick the second most important room).

The living room, I suppose.  It's definitely where we spend the most time, since (a) the tv is in here (yes, at the moment we have only one tv) and (b) I do most of my work on the living room couch.  I love the natural light in the living room, and I like the feeling of being in the center of everything.

2. What is the least important room in your home? The one you use the least, or are not very picky about?

The kitchen is the most un-satisfying room, but I guess it's rather important.  It needs a complete overhaul, but the next owners will be in charge of that event.

3. Do you have preferences for your neighborhood? What are they?

I love love love my neighborhood.  Let me count the ways:

  • Wonderful neighbors.
  • My friends of 30 years are here.
  • One of the most diverse suburbs in the United States.
  • Walking distance to stores, restaurants, library, parks, and hiking trails.
  • Lots of variety in the apartments and homes, many of which are in the 90-100 year age range.
  • A short drive downtown.
I don't think I would be happy living in a non-walking neighborhood, be it city, suburb, or small town.

4. If your elementary aged offspring were to choose colors for their rooms, would any color be off limits?

No.  When they were in elementary school, their room were a rather astonishing array of colors.

5. What is your best piece of packing or moving advice?

I haven't moved since 1984.  I think it would be: Get someone else to do it.

Image: Not my house, though mine often feels like this, in Cedar Key FL.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lakefront Hike

Lake Erie Bluffs is a relatively new metropark in Lake County, about a 45-minute drive from our house.  Lovely Daughter and I headed there for the first time today, wanting to explore a bit and try out its three miles of hiking trails on this most spectacular of spring days.

We were well rewarded with an easy, paved trail north through fields and woods, clear views of the lake from the bluffs, the discovery of two well equipped and spectacularly located campsites ~ imagine watching the Pleiades meteorshowers over the lake in mid-August! ~ and a challenging hike back on the beach, where the water was high, the waves wind-blown, and the sand covered by driftwood.

Spring migrants included towhees, ruby-crowned kinglets, chipping and song sparrows, and red-breasted and common mergansers in front of of the lakeshore restaurant where we stopped for a late lunch.

We are planning a late summerbackpacking trip in North Carolina, so today's hike was a good baby practice.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Advocacy 101

With Ohio State Representative Anthony DiVitas

My son's death by suicide 7.5 years ago has made a mental health and suicide prevention advocate of me.  I've been to the Ohio Capitol in Columbus to testify in favor of legislation to require continuing education in suicide prevention for our public schools staff, and to Washington, D.C. twice to meet with federal legislators to discuss upcoming bills and prevention in general.  This week I was privileged to do the same thing in Ohio.

The first week in D.C, three years ago, I learned that this is a thing that people do:  They join groups and head to legislative offices to advocate for laws and funding.  Last year in Washington, we meet people from a pancreatic cancer group -- there were 900 of them! swarming all over the Hill -- and a car emissions group.  This week in Columbus, the anti-death penalty and the humane treatment for animals people were there.  And while I was in Columbus, my daughter was in Washington, doing the same thing on behalf of non-profit organizations!

Our task is fairly simple: meet for 15-20 minutes with a legislator and/or aide, tell a bit of our own story, and convey what we hope they will vote for on our behalf.  This year?  At least three legislators told me how much it means that we take the time to do this.  One shared related bills that he has introduced, pertaining to making assistance available to families in which school truancy is a problem.  My own state representative became genuinely excited about helping us with first responder training and about coming to speak at our local Out of the Darkness Walk in the fall. My state senator noted that we in our county have the highest number of people with mental health needs in Ohio, and the lowest per capita funding for same.

Seven years ago, I could never have imagined that I would find energy around the word suicide.  But's it's tremendously invigorating, to see and become part of government in action.   My inner lawyer emerged, I had a great time, and I hope we made a bit of a difference as well.

Unfinished Things

Julie's Friday Five for this week cuts close to home!

She says:

"This week I’ve been thinking about unfinished things. I have so many things started and not quite done just now. . . . 

What about you? Do you finish every task, on time, before it’s due? Do you start and put aside, or keep going? Do you need deadlines or do they freak you out?"

There are, indeed, certain things I finish before my self-imposed (early) deadlines, because they have public consequences, unless of course I completely forget or confuse the deadlines, which I did at least once this week:

1. Sermons and other presentations.

2. Tests and assignments for the class I teach (although just barely, as a rule).

3. Event planning tasks, which are things for which I try never ever ever to take responsibility, but sometimes they plop right into my lap.

4. I can't think of anything else, actually that I finish . . . .  Finish might be akin to a four-letter word for me.  There are not five such things.

There are things I work on but accept that they will be finished when they are finished.  Or not. Those mostly have to do with writing projects, and various church enterprises that will take however long they take.

And there are the big huge categories for which I have grand plans which are never realized.  Those mostly have to do with household organization:

1. The papers going back  . . .  well, literally a century or more, if you count my grandmother's. 

Letters, records, journals, essays.  BLANK journals, papers, notecards, notebooks. 

2. The photographs.  Approximately ten zillion, and that does not count the ones in the attic, which I pretend are not there.

3. The clothing.  Different sizes. Different degrees of sentimentality.  Different degrees of potential usefulness. 

4.  The books. Ohhhhh, the books. Do you need a Laura Ingalls Wilder book?  A deep theological tome or Biblical commentary?  A legal handbook complete with a full set of domestic relations forms, c. 1993?  Chaucer (in Middle English)?  Guidebooks to New Zealand (didn't make it), Italy (got there!), Norway (maybe next year).  Utterly frivolous and stupid novels?  Crime and Punishment?  Come and see me. 

5.  The yard and gardens.  Very small.  A capable person would have those whipped into shape in no time.  I am not such a person.

There are many more categories than five. 

Do not talk to me about Marie Kondo.  She has no idea. For one thing, she lives in Japan, where it is not physically possible to amass the stuff we do.  For another, she thinks that books have no sentimental value.  Also, she has finished her writing projects.  So she has no idea.

Now I will probably spend the rest of the day wondering whether "finish" is a concept I can get on board with. 

Much over-rated, I suspect.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

To Be Grateful, For This Life

As I look ahead, I see that this day looks to be filled with good things, with all the dimensions of life brimming with meaning for me . . .

A walk along a metropark path with some friends.  It's chilly and gray out there (because we live in Cleveland) and it might rain, but oh! to be out in nature! and with a few friends and acquaintances gathering under the name Cleveland Contemplative Walkers.  We don't even know what that means yet, but we will be outdoors, and we will walk, and we will read a few words from Thich Nhat Hanh.

A memorial service.  That may sound strange to others, but the work of a funeral or memorial service is work that I love.  To seek out and arrange the prayers, the music, the words.  To see the family and friends gathered, each in his or her own world of confusion and sadness, and yet connected by death, some glued fast to one another, and others clinging to the tangential lines cast out from one life.  To offer in words something of a person's life and a promise of hope.  

And then, tonight (I hope) the Cleveland Film Festival with at least some of my own family. I love the Cleveland Film Festival: the energy, the creativity, the artistry, the surprises.  If I had it all to do over again, I think I might be a filmmaker, trying to capture visually all that to which words are inadequate.  And the longer I preach, and the more I read, and the deeper I descend into this life, the more I come to recognize how utterly and extensively inadequate our proud little words are.