Saturday, April 30, 2011

Going green...

I am looking for a way to dye my hair green.  If you know how or can find someone to point me in the right direction, please let me know.

All my life, I have heard what thick hair I had.  To me, it has been somewhat of the bane of my existence, since all my life, I have wanted curly hair...or at least a poof on top of my head, swoops to the side, anything but the heavy weight that flattened my hair against the top and upper sides of my head before fanning out a bit.  Triangle head.  That's really the best way to describe it.  Short or long, but most especially long, the weight of my hair always foiled any real attempt to get some height to balance the fact that my head is proportionally smaller than my body.

I don't have to worry about that anymore.  In fact, day after day, I find that I am having another good hair day.  That is because shower after shower, I am leaving clumps of my hair behind.  With so little hair at this point, I can poof or swoop to my heart's content.

This started two years ago and then stopped once the nausea problem was resolved six or seven months.  However, my hair did not grow back as I was assured would happen.  I lost two, rather full, gallon-sized ziploc bags (at least what I caught from going down the drain) of hair before it stopped.  Over the course of the next year, I kept hoping to see small wispy growth, but it never began.  I resigned myself to no longer have think ropes as braids and was thankful I still had fairly good coverage.  A few months ago, last Fall, really, it started again.

Inexorably, I am losing my hair.  Something in me believes that it will not stop again.  Maybe for a time, but overall I will lose my hair for good far, far sooner than I would like. 

It is not just the hair on my head, which is strange beyond words.  For my driver's license photo, I wore make-up, which for the first time in my adult life I have not been wearing of late.  I was surprised to note that, relatively speaking, there are very few bottom eyelashes left on which to apply mascara.  Peering into the mirror (something I simply no longer do), I also saw that my "Brooke Shields" eyebrows, which I have long disliked, are no longer a problem.  Other parts of me are actually quite bald.

I, who cannot stand for her hair to be anything but freshly cleaned, have taken to washing my hair just twice a week.  I have to work up my courage to step into the shower and oft torrents of tears mingle with the bath water as I run a large comb through my hair to catch as much as possible to avoid clogging the drain. Or rather there used to be tears.  Now, there is mostly this deafening silence as the world around me recedes and I stare at what is strung across my fingers. 

Tonight, I wept again.

Tonight, I stood with the water pouring over my head and noticed that there is no longer enough hair to keep it a solid wall or sheet of hair hanging down each side of my face.  I am not sure how to describe it, but there were sort of wet spikes hanging down on either side, with gaping holes between them instead of two unbroken walls of hair. 

Will it last another year?  At this rate...perhaps.  Perhaps it will ease again and I will have far more time than I think. 

I have long said that I will not be one of those women hanging on to each and every lock, so that when there was not enough left to really look like a head of hair, out would come the razor.  Of course, I would need help with that.  I am not a very brave person.

I have also said that I wish to dye my hair green before that time comes.  If I am going to be bald, I ought to have a bit of fun at the end, eh?

Words have never come to truly explain what my hair means to me, though I have tried to write of it to others before.  It is a covering for my shame.  It is femininity.  It is the one positive attribute ever really noted.  It is me, the one with the long hair, especially since I frankly care not that my hair style is a couple centuries out of date.

I want a reason.  I do not have cancer.  There is no evil drug ravaging my body to fight a foe.  I mean, I am sure there is a reason, but it has yet to be identified. 

The first time round, the best answer was that another medication was blocking my thyroid medication and the slight change was enough to trigger the loss.  Another guess was stress, but, really, I've had many times great stress in my life before and never lost a lock.  Plus, during the time the losing eased, I would argue some of the most stressful days ever passed.  It could be the nutrition, but for all the weight I have lost and the relatively little I eat, my nutritional blood work has been okay, in large part because of the snail's pace metabolism I have now.  Could it be tied to my lowered heart rate and blood pressure?  Well, I cannot imagine that would be the case at all save for the fact that the theophylline is not really working anymore.  Or...perhaps it is better to say it is not working as effectively as has been the case in the past.  Whatever the reason, I need a lesson on how to dye my hair green. 

I do know that many women would be happy with the hair I have left.  They would find me quite churlish for even writing a single word about the sorrow filling my heart over the strings that now pass as braids.  Several people have tried to cheer me up by suggesting I get wigs of many colors so that I could be blond one day and red the next. Of course, being the utter coward I am, someone else is going to have to fetch those wigs.  Oh, how will I ever face that?

I doubt it would be any easier were this the only loss in my life.  But the fact that it is simply another loss, in a long line of losses dating back, really, the past three years, but primarily the past two, makes this burden heavier.  I have gained much, but I have lost much.  What I have gained, the sweet, sweet Gospel and deepening and new friendships, outweighs all the losses, but the gains do not change them or mitigate them or make them moot.  They still exist.

I do not want to lose my hair.  Mostly, I do not try to speak of it to anyone any more.  But tonight...seeing my hair separate into small sections instead of remaining a wide sheet...I could not turn away from how much this hurts and how hard it is to me.

I am weary of loss. 
This is a cruel world in the smallest of ways at times.
I am weary and I am weak.

Lord, I am Yours.  Save me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Attempt No. 3...

I have been giving Amos haircuts.  I read up on the matter and chose the path of scissors.  Hmm...what can I say?  Well, he is a wiggly puppy dog.

Still, I have persevered.  Because of his curls, if they get long, he can develop matting, so I have chosen to keep his wonderfully soft fur on the shorter side, even though he is adorable as a fluff ball.  Anyway, tonight, I braved his ears.  Mostly, I did so because his ears kept getting wet when he drank...along with his whole face.

When I was a little girl, my mom often got my bangs a bit crooked.  That phenomenon holds true with puppy dog ears.  I do not believe I shall photograph this attempt for future generations.

What to know today's Amos laugh?

He likes to steal food off the table I have adjacent to the couch where I set my dishes for my own meals (Who needs a table?).  I have been working at setting a boundary for him to stay on his side of the couch when am eating.  Well, the other side of the couch since he has claimed all parts of his for his naps.

So earlier, he tried sneaking his way to the table, where the remnants of my eggs and asparagus were  sitting.  First, he tucked his head in my right elbow.  Then, he draped himself across my lap.  Next, he transitioned to the pillow between me and the arm of the couch.  After, after biding his time, he made his move.  At my first holler of AMOS!, he quickly put his chin down on the edge of the table, like he was aiming for that all along...just another place to sleep!  He pretended to sleep for a while and then moved back on the other side of me where he tucked his head back into the crook of my arm.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God ~ Rev. Kenneth F. Korby

Behold! The Lamb of God

Abraham was right.  That faithful old man, the “father of believers,” was caught in the deepest anguish of his faith when God stuck him on the spear-point of his order to sacrifice his son.  Laden with wood on his back, the boy asked, “Father, where is the lamb?”  With fire in his box - and in his own heart - and with the knife in his hand, Abraham was faithful.

Behold the Passover

God provided the Lamb for the burnt offering.  And so that you and I and the rest of the world might not miss the Lamb or get muddled with the claims of a thousand and one other messiahs who promote themselves - willing to make us sacrifices to their ideologies and dreams - God took the pains to send John the Baptizer to point to Christ.  John, that bony, strange, and brave man, was sent for your service.  Let him do his divine service for you as you listen with due attention to his speech: “BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD wo takes away the sin world.”  Follow the direction of his bony finger when he points to that burnt-offering sacrifice on the cross.

Contemplate that Lamb on the cross, the sacrifice offered once and for all time for our redemption.  The fire of God’s wrath, fanned by his mercy and passionate love to be our God, roasts this Lamb.  Stretched out on the cross, this Lamb is God’s embrace of the world of his enemies: He is our peace.  Like a magnet drawing filings itself, this Lamb, when he is lifted up, “draws all men” to himself.  Into himself this Lamb draws the poison of our death: his death is ours.  When he dies, we all died.

The curse of death is everywhere in the world.  It is in us too.  The slavery of death causes us terror in our loneliness, fear in our boredom, anger and grief in our loss.  That curse lives us not rest, no Sabbath.  It hunts us down, drags us out of hiding, and snatches us away from all we love.  Death and its curse dog our days mercilessly and mock our deceits of culture, religion, and civilization to escape them.

Contemplate the wounds

And yet Israel lived safely in its houses when death passed over the land.  Hiding behind the blood of the Lamb, they could eat, talk to each other, and rise up to walk to the land promise to them.  So you too hide yourselves in these sweet and glorious wounds of Christ.  Look on the Lamb of God and consider.

On the head of the Lamb are the wounds that heal your minds in the heavenly joy of repentance.  Learn to think with a new mind about God and yourself by contemplating the wounds of his head.

In those hands are the wounds that heal the works of your hands, making them fruitful again in the service of God and your fellows.
In those dear feet are the wounds that heal your straying feet so that you may walk with your Lord on the way of your Lord.

On that back are the wounds of stripes that heal all your wounds of self-inflicted flagellation or the blows you receive from the hostility of your fellow victims.  Your backs are healed to stoop down and pick up on your shoulders the lost and the straying and the bruised among your fellows.

And from the side of the Lamb, where the spear of our curiosity about death, where the hatred and the violence of our hearts, are rammed deeply into his heart, there flows  the mystery of the love of God.  There flows the holy church, the mystery of the unity with God as she is bound together in cleansing and forgiving.  Water from his death cleanses you in the baptismal washing and cools down the feverish conscience.  Blood fills the chalice you drink that your mortal and condemned body, riddled with disorder, might be ordered sweetly again with God in forgiveness of sins that is lively and salvific.  In those wounds you may hide safely from the curse and sin and death.  From those wounds flows to you the life that is full of blessing, fidelity, and vitality.


Behold and listen

And now, look at those parched, chapped lips.  No chap-stick of mortals can heal or soothe them, for in his mouth he suffers the cost of the scorn, the lies, and the blasphemous abuse of his Name.  The healing comes rather from his mouth.  He utters through those cracked lips the words that heal you - at cost to himself.  He is the Author of those gracious words.  Therefore, those words have authority - authority to heal you in and with and through those words.  He heals not himself but you.

The first word

His first and last words are addressed to his Father and ours.  First:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He does not scorn us in contempt for our ignorance and willfulness.  He does not wither us with words of disgust and revulsion.  He does not drive back into our souls resentment, the bitter hatred we pour out on him.  He embraces it all - and us - to himself, into his body to carry it all to the grave and bury it.  The lethal, murderous hatchet is buried.  It sinks deeply into his soul and by him the sin is extracted from our soul.  We are delivered.

In his body - the body of Mary, of the Tree, of the Table - he carries the sin.  But out of that body’s mouth he speaks the word of the forgiveness of sins, the word which creates his body, the church.  And by that word he fills the church chock full of forgiveness of sins.   Into that body, the church, created by his word of the forgiveness of sins, you have been placed for the daily and generous forgiveness of sin so that you may as freely forgive as you have been forgiven.  As the forgiveness springs from the heart of God, you can freely and heartily forgive those who sin against you.

His first word opens the door to life forever.  That word, hot with the fire and passion of God, welds us to the faithfulness of the Speaker, creating the faith that embraces him.  That union of his mercy and our trust heals us forever in the eternal redemption.

and the last

And his last word, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit,”  finishes what he began.  At the end of his life and work he prays the prayer of his boyhood, the prayer he learned from the lips and laps of his parents.  It was his  “Now -I-lay-me-down-to-sleep”  prayer.  Having gathered us together in himself he lifts us up into the Father’s hands as he returns whence he came.  With a loud voice he roars into our confused ears and minds what our end is.  These words tell us where we are going.  He carries us with himself.  As he offers himself on the cross, he takes us along that where he is there we may be also.  Without ceasing day and night, he who alone can condemn you rather prays for you.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and hear the words of his prayer.  His first word is your beginning, your origin, your creation anew in righteousness.  His last word is the way you are finished out in perfection.  It is the word of your destiny, the word that teaches you to die well, to end your life where it has begun: in him with the Father.  Hold that cross before your closing eyes.  By faith enfold in your heat this One who has enfolded you in his.  Who dies thus dies well.

“Today you shall be with me in paradise.”

In between the first and last word of Jesus, those gracious lips of the suffering Lamb nurture our life for living.  To the thief on his right Jesus speaks the word that gives courage to suffer with patience and with hope the rewards we receive for our wrong doing.  This is no superficial smile, condescendingly turned to look at a wasted life, botched opportunities, and broken hearts.  Here is no look of regret at a life that is full of plain evil and harm unleashed on others.  Here is no sentimental muttering about the evil of the system as the painful, shameful verdict falls on the perpetrator of evil.  Here is the deep and terrible truth about us who are the proper targets of God’s infallible detection system.

But the deep and terrible truth is caught up in a deeper truth and the terrible good.  “Remember me, Lord,”  is the cry of faith in the midst of pain - pain justly deserved and suffered.  And we, with nothing else than death on our hands, are taught by our Lord’s words how to pray to and how to confess the truth.  From our cross we learn to pray to him on his cross:  “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus, our Priest, says the AMEN:  “Truly (Amen), today you shall be with me in paradise.”  For his shame there is the gracious look, the beauteous word that covers the thief with glory.  For despair and anger there is the life-giving promise.  For the empty sorrow of regrets there is the vivifying hope, the root of courage.

BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD that you may be filled with patience, courage, and hope.

“I thirst!”

Do not trick yourself, or deceive yourself, or deprive yourself of the benefits of this Lamb by imagining that his pain and sorrow were somehow not real, as if God’s only-begotten Son would not (surely) feel the brute pain as you do.  His is real pain - as real as his real death.  He hurt.  He died.  And for hours, now, he had been, mocked and scorned.  He was the Victim of coarse injustice.  Physically he had been knocked around, whipped, and slapped.  Now he is thirst:y:  plain, burning, parching, painful thirst.  Indeed, he thirsts for you salvation, too.  We heard him say in last night’s Gospel (Luke 22) how he longed and thirsted to eat this passover meal (the Lord’s Supper) with his disciples.  But his thirst is also plain thirst.  Don’ t by-pass this plain pain.  The recollection of it will sustain you at times when you are in plain pain.  Remember his thirst so that you may know the thirst for the Holy Supper when you are in pain and the help offered to you seems as cynical and manipulative as the vinegar he received when he wanted a drink of cool water.  Recall his pain with yours so that you may also learn to have pity on those of your fellows who are hungry and thirsty.  In them, Christ, incognito, still cries out. “ I thirst”;  he still waits for you to care for him in his pain with something other than vinegar.

BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD so that in your pain you may have the companionship of him who feeds you and the comfort of him who knows real and inescapable pain.

“Woman, see you son; son, your mother.”

However, the pain goes deeper than the body.  Loneliness and lostness, division and separation, loss and rejection, conflict within the circle of family, friends, and loved ones are aches of the heart and soul, too.  Mary was a Jewish mother.  Can you imagine the confusion that could beset the mind of this pious and God-fearing mother when her son has been tried, deemed worthy of death by God’s law as a blasphemer, despised, and now killed on this instrument of damnation and curse?  Her son had been generous and faithful, good and true.  He had borne the stamp of divine pleasure in his conception, birth and baptism,.  And now she watches this scene.  What would you women think if this were your son?  Would that now be the cause of confusion compounded?  Would you not wonder:  “What on earth is God doing?”

And then think of John, Jesus’ special friend.  What do you do when you stand by and see a friend abused?  How desolate John and Mary must have been.  They are impotent sufferers, and silent.  But in their confusion grieved by the loss of their love, they receive the look of tender love from his eyes.  With the gracious look of the face of God who sets the solitary in families, who wraps in the care of his arms those devastated by death, he says, “Woman, see your son; son, your mother.”  the separation in his death is the death to our separation; he gives us to each other as mother  and son in the company of the holy church.

A pledge of peace from God I see
When thy pure eyes are turned to me
To show me thy good pleasure.
Jesus, thy spirit and thy word,
Thy body and thy blood, afford
My soul its dearest treasure.
Keep me Kindly
In thy favor, O my Savior!
Thou wilt cheer me;
Thy word calls me to draw near thou.
("How Lovely Shines the Morning Star," stanza 4)

BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD and from his gracious look and gracious words, receive “your mother” and “your son” in your family and in your church.

Look at him too when he must go alone, even though our closet attention to him cannot enter he terrible God-forsakenness.  The depth of the abyss of hell and damnation, the wretched loss of God himself, is beyond our knowledge and experience.  He alone goes to that far country.  He has come from the secret heart of God.  Now he opens up that secret.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Angels sang at His birth.  Angels came to serve Him in the wilderness of temptation.  Angels came to comfort Him in His Gethsemanic sweat.  But now there are no angels.  Ten thousand times ten thousand of powerful shining spirits, faces ablaze with indignation, swords drawn and singing, mounted on steeds chomping at the bit and pawing the sky for release, would have swooped to work a rescue that would have made the most powerful cavalry charge seem like a twitch of the nose.  But God looks down on this Man of Sorrows, Grief, and Death, and says to the angels who love to do His will:  "Stand back.  Do not raise a finger to help.  Verily, do not raise an eyelash."

And God Himself turned away.
The burden is the burden of the Lamb alone.

We are that terrible and lonely burden.  He is the God who comes to us in our loneliness, forsakenness, and curse.  Lost in the "non-place" of our aloneness, He comes to be our place.  We cannot go to Him.  He comes to us.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Caught in the enchantment of our self-love, bound in the enslavement of our own sin, strapped down by the Law's verdict of condemnation, and writhing in our shameful servitude, this Lamb comes to us.  Well do we sing, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord!  Hosanna - please save us.” 

Enough of this religious prattle that speaks of our doing this and deciding that.  First He comes to us.  He helps us, not by stepping on us, and not by shouting out commands for self-improvement at us, but by coming, by stooping down even under us to lift us up on His neck.  He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death -  even death by the cross.  We are His burden.


“It is finished”

He isn’t finished.  You are not yet finished.  But the work is finished; redemption is perfected and completed for you.  The price has been paid, in full.  Redemption by  the Lamb has no missing pieces that you must full in.  It is perfected in order to perfect you.  By his cross he has brought joy to the whole earth; he is out to perfect you in that joy.  He who won the prize and paid the cost through suffering and death speaks the word of the perfected redemption to you so that you may know what you will be like when he is finished with you.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Adore him.  Adore his cross.  In him on that cross the perfection of heaven, with pure joy, is given to you.  He was put to death that he might vivify his people.

MERCIFUL JESUS. LAMB OF GOD, look on us that we may cling to you, and in your mercy have our peace forever.  Amen!

The Rev. Kenneth F. Korby

[Special thanks to Pastor Cwirla for posting this on Facebook.  Pastor Korby is the one who taught the continuing education seminar on Confession and Absolution that was given to me as one of the best birthday presents ever.]

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hermits are us...

The joy of my Good Shepherd is that two folks here who I think really want to be friends are quite game for their new friend to be a hermit.  I have been reading Alcott lately, since I got all these books free for the Kindle I was given.  Her words would probably would read: 

"Perhaps you will make being a hermit fashionable!"  
"I need at least one eccentric friend, so you will fit the bill splendidly!"  

In any case, I was quite humbled today because one of those folk texted me since she knew today would be a hard day and asked if I wanted company.  She had asked me a while ago what I needed and I told her that on hard days I long to not be alone, even if the one with me leaves me alone.  I am not sure what I expected, but we had a long lovely visit! 

I was crying when she came, but I was also on the phone with Pizza Man, who was encouraging me right and left.  I greatly miss the gentle, frank, open welcome of he and his lovely bride.  God has just blessed them with the most beautiful baby girl in the entire world at the moment and things are quite hectic.  Plus, during Holy Week, my old parish meets at their home.  Even though they were about to be inundated with church folk, he was genuinely glad to hear my voice on the other end of the call, ignored my tears, and gave copious amounts of encouragement and a bit of sage advice.  Gosh, I miss them.  I miss V and her unbelievably generous and accepting spirit.  She is the kind of woman I wish I could grow up to be at times. 

But someone wrote a hurtful thing that is untrue and when I ask about it will probably hear that it was harmful.  So I was crying.  Sometimes I call Pizza Man Johnny-on-the-spot, but really it is the two of them who encompass that.  Either he or V or many times the two of them together will be grace and mercy and forgiveness personified.  God did a magnificent work in making them husband and my opinion.

Anyway, my new friend didn't mind that I was crying and hanging up and holding Amos because he needed to go outside.  I beckoned her in and she followed me outside and I wept on the steps while Amos was busy. 

Amos, with whom my beloved realtor has to re-make friends much of the time, took to my new friend immediately and the darned puppy dog was very shortly jumping and leaping with all his might.  I had to tell her he was trying to get into her arms.  She is a cat person and was grateful for the pointer.  Once she bent over a bit, he achieved his goal and spent much of the visit loving on her and snuggling with her. 

Now, she has had some very trying times of late.  Perhaps that is why she did not mind my tears, but mostly I think it is because of the beauty of her heart.  In any case, if I had any doubts about Amos being sent straight from my Good Shepherd or the most amazing puppy on the planet, they were all washed away.  He knew she was in need of great comfort even though she had come to be of comfort to me and set about giving her all she could want.  [Am I insane to be proud of a puppy dog?]  God is the Creator of the universe.  He created Amos.  Could it be that He created him to be a comfort to hurting people?

Could it be?  Did you hear the story of the cat in the nursing home who went to lie with people about to die?  I wonder if Amos is here to give comfort to those who are weary or hurting and need some very soft, very cuddly puppy dog time.  If you live in Fort Wayne and are in need of comfort, let me know and I will have you over.  You don't have to even talk.  I will just plop Amos in your lap after you settle yourself into the GREEN chair (the world's most fashionable and yet comfortable recliner) and go back to reading some Alcott.  Or MacDonald.  Or Stratton-Porter.  Or Montgomery.  Or Austin.

I am such a dense, dense person that my new friend, who has welcomed my photos of my fires, had to wait far longer than I care to admit before I thought to lite a fire, having been out earlier and thus not had one all day.  Yes, I was proudly pleased to light the fire from coals banked 17 hours earlier.  There is this moment when I despair of having to use a match or lighter because all I have is smoke, smoke,  and more smoke.  Then, just when I am ready to give up, whoosh!  The flames spring up and spread across the junk mail or Dr Pepper box I have torn into pieces and placed atop the coals.  I then stick what I term "stringy" logs (ones from the interior of a tree and thus have bits sticking out) criss-crossed by twos, three piles high.  Voila, a fire!

A fire.  Company.  Being accepted as a hermit.  Priceless!

I will say that we did end up talking more than I thought, for I am serious that silent company would be just not be alone...and...yes...oh... my...I got to talk about literacy and explain some teaching techniques.  SIGH.  I miss that...being Dr. Myrtle.  I do hope that some time, some day, I might get back to some of the seminars I used to give, three in particular do I enjoy:  college prep for juniors/seniors (time management, note taking, and dealing with an advisor); found poetry (all grades or teachers); and multicultural literature (teachers).

For now, on a hard day, during which I encountered an additional hurtful thing, my Good Shepherd sent me company and then showed me that even in my distress He could comfort the visitor in this home because He is the one who accomplished good things in this world through many and varied means.

Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I do not do well with disappointment.  In fact, it is my worst failing, I think.  Please do not say you will do something and then do not it and do not even call/text/email to cancel.  Rather, not mention anything at all, and if you can do something, let it be a surprise.

Mr. Firewood did not show up yesterday afternoon.  Sadness.

The worst of me is that I cannot shake the social lessons I learned so early...many of which centered around that pair of Guess jeans I did not own until it was too late.

The girl who never had her locker decorated or got a spirit carnation or a silly valentine gram or an invitation to girls' choice dances or birthday parties or any such thing.

At two different churches, women lamented, in a way, of how much work they had to do with mailings and bulletins and such.  I offer again and again to help, but my help is not needed, even when they are drowning in paper.  They have families and lives they could get back to if only I were allowed to help.  But my help is not wanted.  What is wrong with my help?  What is wrong with me?

I had someone who told me she was coming over to retrieve some things 5 times.  Five times she did not show, nor did she call/text/email.  She is busy, but why say she was coming, why check to see what was a good time for her to come?

Trying to get to know someone, I asked her and her family over to supper four times, for we had someone in common.  Four times the response was Yes, how kind, I will call and let you know a good time.  No call, no text, no email.  No greeting even in church.  

Someone I know decided knowing me was a mistake and even deleted photos of me off of Facebook, erased me so to speak.

Someone I know has two pastors visiting her, on their own initiative, offering help and welcome.  I ask a pastor to help me and his was response, in part, was that he would need to decide if it would be worth the investment.  It wasn't.

Hermit: 1. A person who has withdrawn from society and lives a solitary existence; a recluse.
2. A spiced cookie made with molasses, raisins, and nuts.
Which am I officially declaring myself to be?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Log by log...

Tonight's fire left me slightly singed.  A log I had just placed shifted off my beautifully stacked pile, so I reached in to set it back into place.  Perhaps I should have considered the flames that had already flickered up and down the length of the log before I picked it up?

Tomorrow, the third load of wood will be delivered.  I agonized over buying the second, wondering if there was enough cold weather left.  Now, I care not if but a single week remains.  My app tells me at least seven more days will pass with legitimately cold nights.  That is enough for me.

It is amazing to me how my life has become defined by fires, bound by fires, contained by fires.

This second load of wood has been smokier.  The first was primarily mulberry.  While I am not sure which kind of wood this second load was, many of the pieces are twisted and have knot holes in them.  Since the smoke does not bother my asthma in the least, I am actually rather partial to it.  Even when I am in the kitchen, I can smell the fire though I cannot hear it.

This wood also pops, crackles, hisses, and sparks more.  Sometimes, a loud pop will happen and it is as if small fireworks wend their way up the chimney.  While the birds and Amos are not exactly welcoming of the sudden loud noise, I dare say they are becoming accustomed to it.   Sometimes I sit as close as possible, setting the screen aside, and stare at the burning coals and flickering flames.  I try to soak in as much warmth as possible before that tipping point of growing too warm.

To think, after tomorrow, I will have moved three entire truck beds of wood.  Well, after many tomorrows.

That, too, has been a lesson of sorts for me.  Each pile has been moved one armload at a time, slowly but inexorably transformed from an overwhelming mess taking up the bulk of the garage floor to an orderly stack that would make any homeowner proud.  Pretty good for someone who is so exhausted that she barely makes it through the days, eh?  The way I see it, Amos has to go out to do his business.  While he accomplishes his, I do mine.  After a few days of letting him out in the yard, the pile is conquered...eventually!

I have been so frustrated, all I can really do is stick the next log on the fire.  When home, one is burning if it can even possibly be termed even moderately cool outside.  I have become quite adept at tending the fire (with the exception of this evening) using the metal stick I found in the basement and then more recently my trowel.  A trowel is a rather exceptional tool for banking coals.  In fact, I think some trowel company ought to investigate a dual marketing campaign.  I mean, with rising costs across the living expenses spectrum, perhaps more people might develop the art of banking coals.  Thus far, I have managed to bank coals up to 18 hours.  I wonder what the limit is?

I have been frustrated because it appears the theophylline is no longer doing the trick where my heart rate is concerned.  For a while, I did not put two and two together.  Even though I had been eating more and better able to handle my still uncooperative innards, a deep fatigue began pulling at me.  While at the doctor a while ago, even though I was nervous and shaking and even crying, my heart rate was only 76.  My blood pressure was low as well.  I dug out my pulseoximeter and sure enough, I am primarily in the mid 50s while resting, even dipping in the upper 40s while reading.  The fainting has returned and equally distressing the near fainting.  I have consumed immense quantities of sodium and caffeine in the past week to no avail.  Well, other than to wreak such havoc with my insides I am back to eggs only.

The doctor was appalled that my innards are still distressed, but she was not surprised when she heard the restaurant at which I consumed that wretched meal.  From my stomach to the end of my bowels, I have roiling that is so loud she quickly pulled the stethoscope away from her ears when an unexpected gurgle filled the room.  For me, it feels like I have foam in my gut.  Other than the stomach cramps, that is how I primarily feel.  The roiling is so loud, Amos has been awaken abruptly on many an occasion.  I was very reckless and ate a cake (yes, all but one slice), but other than that I have had only small things for "dessert," with Dr Pepper serving in that function most often.  I am wondering if I went to an all liquid diet, say with ensure, if I might knock this out.

She prescribed probiotics, but they have had the absolute opposite effect.  I quite taking them after 10 days because I could not bear the side effects any longer.  I see the doctor again in a few weeks, so I shall see what she says.  Part of me, however, doesn't care anymore.  Me, Myrtle, no longer cares about food.  Some times, a craving will come over me, but for the most part I am not interested in eating and dread the act of doing so.

Couple that with how exhausted I am and the distressing tendency for the world to shift on its axis, turn black, or simply fade away, and I wonder why I even bother getting out of bed.  Since she wants to concentrate on one problem at a time, the doctor has my heart rate on the back burner.  Somehow, food is supposed to be more important than overwhelming fatigue and the fainting.

Last week I did force myself to tackle the solarium.  Having decided that it is foolish to spend any money painting and foolish for me to paint, I quite obviously choose the cheaper foolish action.

The best part about the paint job is that six of the windows are actually a long bank that spans across two walls.  With wood between them, that means that I only had to paint above and below them.  I am also deeply in love with this edging tool I first used doing all that painting for my ex-boss.  Would you believe I painted this entire room without a single strip of blue masking tape? prep at all.  I simply moved the furniture to the center of the room, stuck Amos on one of the beds, dropped the cloth on the floor, and set to work.  I also accomplished this miracle without a ladder!  For nearly the entire room, the beds sufficed.  Along the wall common with the guest suite, I simply used the chair I set in the corner of the wall.  What do you think of my accomplishment?

The color is not quite what I thought it would be.  In fact, I have never been as "off" in color as this and highly suspect the Lowe's employee slipped a digit.  However, it is interesting that the color matches the yellow in the scene on the antique lamp perfectly.  Mostly, the room just glows.  Sometimes, Amos and I hang out in there for a while just soaking up the cheeriness the way I soak up the soothing comfort of a fire.

The next project would be the hallway.  Had I had a single clue as to the cost of paint before I asked them to mix it up, I NEVER would have purchased it.  Now that I did, I would like for it to be used rather than take up space in the basement.

The problem with the hallway is that there are a gazillion sections in the walls.  The landing area in front of the storage closet and two of the bedrooms has six sections alone and the entire hall as eight doors, not including the two doorways leading to the two staircases.  Alas, that is a LOT of working around wood trimming.

The second problem will be that there is carpet upstairs, with the exception of the solarium and the bathroom.  On wood floors, if paint spills, you can simply wipe it up.  On carpet, that is really not an option.  I do have a really great drop cloth that a painter left behind in my house years and years ago, but it is small (10'x10', I think).

I do think the project, not including the stairwells, would have to be two days.  One coat a day.  The thought of having two days of clean up, though, is distressingly exhausting.  I wish that I were more of a disposable person and I could just discard the roller and trimming pad and paint brushes (two I used for edges).  Alas, though I am one of those wretched people who still use paper towels, I recycle or re-purpose as much as possible and cannot bring myself to throw it out.  For example, those 98 cent liners for paint pans...well...I kept the one for each color I have used.  So, since the parlor paint is going in the hallway, I have a liner and even a roller all ready for the job.  Of course, perhaps I am spending more in water than I would in purchasing new supplies...but you also have to factor in the waste from the manufacture and transportation of those goods, so perhaps I am still coming out ahead.

In any case, you might read about my demise in the obituaries:  "Woman found dead with a paint roller in hand.  The walls looked great, though."

Perhaps the painting is just really another distraction for how poorly I feel and how frightened I am at the changes in my body and the absolute wretched state of my innards.  Sometimes, all the distractions...Amos...the house...the fires...the wind chimes...the fountain...photographing the flowering yard...the painting...the volunteer communications work for the mission...are not enough.  Sometimes, I find myself utterly broken, curling in a ball clutching my puppy dog hot tears streaming down my cheeks.

I am extraordinarily embarrassed at how I fell apart over the upstairs toilet breaking Friday night.  I do not yet have sheets for the sofa bed and it is necessary for me to have a toilet near me during the night.  When I realized water was leaking out from the back of the base of the toilet--thanks to Amos thoughtfully licking it up--I burst into tears and did not stop crying even when I first called the plumber and learned he was booked through Thursday, then called my realtor, who brought over a handyman yesterday afternoon.

It's just a toilet, she crooned.  I couldn't even bring myself to thank the man, though I sniffled something.

The new tile floor that the previous owner set over the wood (NOT a choice I would have made) was laid crooked.  The tub needs to be shimmed and when the toilet was pulled, you could clearly see that the wax on the back of the ring was at least a quarter inch lower than the front.  The handy man pulled the flange out from the old ring and used that wax to build up the back before setting the new ring in place and putting the toilet back in place.

The woman who owned the house only did so for about 9 months.  She certainly did a lot of cosmetic work on this old house, but so very much of what she did was shoddy work, stuff that looks good in the short term but not enduring in the least.  Even the tub was not set back properly...besides the fact that it rocks, the hot water was connected back without a shut-off valve!  The toilet was also set wrong, with the valve so close to the floor that you cannot spin it on or off.  Instead, you have to pull off the handle and use a wrench.  And every time the electrician is here, he spots another issue.  [Argh!]  Two he has repaired at no charge, but I do not wish for him to do so.  He should be paid for his work.

He keeps telling me what a great house this is and what a wonderful investment it is.  In fact, an offer on a similar house that is not even in as good condition on the next block over that is $18,000 more than what I paid.  My realtor drove a hard bargain and that silly bathroom in the middle of the parlor, which I have primarily resolved, kept so many from even considering the home.  My realtor has been amazed at the transformation I have made and talks about how it shows extremely well right now even with the white walls in the hallway and the older kitchen!  Still, I am wearying of electrical things that were supposed to be repaired popping up as still not fixed.

That stupid toilet.  I am bigger than a toilet.  I am.  Only right now a toilet is enough to send me over the edge, tumbling about the raging waters of hurt and confusion and illness.

I think I would be lost without the world's greatest realtor, the world's most affectionate puppy dog, and most especially my fires.  One log at a time the latter has kept me from drowning.  Whatever will I do when the weather finally turns for good?  As much as I might long for the Creator to stop the world wending its way about the sun, I know Spring is just around the corner. 

Whatever will I do? 

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sunday's best...

The women at the church where I have been attending wear hats on Easter.  It is sort of a big thing.  I have known of this for a while now and wonder where else I might go that day.  I do not wish to wear a hat, and I will feel even more the outsider, more the interloper than I already do.

Pastor Weedon has completely opened my eyes about tending to God's house, filling it with first fruits and the beauty He has given to this world.  That I can understand and savor more the incredible craftsmanship that permeates this parish.  Sitting in those pews is truly an awesome experience, and nearly every time I have walked through the doors, at least part of the service has spent gazing upon the magnificent Good Shepherd stained glass window and dwelling upon the wonder of His care for me.

But Sunday's finest?  How is it honoring God to wear the best clothing, to drape the trappings of the world about our bodies?  If clothing is clean and tended and modest, is that not all that should matter?  After all, I am a beggar, one who is crawling before the King for mercy.  What beggar wears finery?  Would that not be a false representation of his station?  The robes the King drapes about me are not of cloth, but rather woven of grace and mercy and forgiveness.  Silk and brocade are mere dregs beside them.

I am fairly confident that the pastor and the women would say that the wearing of hats would fall beneath the freedom of the Gospel.  But when most everyone is doing it, when fanfare is made of it, what freedom is there really?  I feel like I am back in high school, knowing that if I didn't figure out a way to wear Guess jeans, I would never fit in.  [Incidentally, by the time I managed to get those Guess jeans, it was too late.]

Too, what bothers me is that the focus on hats seems to take away from the focus of Christ's rising from the grave.  If head covering is the issue, why not cover them every Lord's Day?  And why covering of heads and not the eschewing of jewelry and make-up and dyes?  If a woman's hair is her glory and a covering, why not have a movement to grow hair long for Easter?  And why hats?  The covering of the early church surely wasn't hats.  Would it not have been a scarf or some other kind of cloth?  If covering is the focus, why not have many types of covering?  And if part of the focus is choosing a hat that reflects your personality, your style, how does that point back to the headship representation behind women having their heads covered and men not?

I find the whole thing confusing.  But I also feel pressure to conform, to be out scrounging around for the perfect hat.  Well, I do have a hat.  It is my floppy gardening hat, stained and bent and frayed a bit.  Actually, would such a hat not be a perfect fit to represent my self?  However, with no ribbons or bows or feathers or trimmings, so plain and dirty, surly such a hat would be an affront to the adding beauty to the day that also seems to be a focus of sorts. 

And I do not wish to focus on my self, my personality, my individuality.  Not on Easter. Not on any day I spend even a moment in God's house.  There is already too much me in my poor understanding of faith, too much focus on the self to grasp hold of the sweet, sweet Gospel for any length of time.

This troubles me.  I know that just about everything troubles me these days, but this does as well.  Back at my last parish, one of the days of Easter, one of the services, most people wore black.  I cannot remember which one it was, but I do remember how conspicuous I felt in my red silk jacket, how I was confused and spent far too much time feeling like an outlier and wondering what it meant that I didn't wear black. 

Someone warned me about the hats.  She warned me so I wouldn't feel left out, which was kind of her.  Only if she had to warn me does that not say something about the wearing of hats?  If I go to the church where I have been going, I feel as if I have to wear a hat.  I do not have an acceptable hat to wear.  I do not wish to spend money on such a hat.  I do not wish to go looking for such a hat.  And I do not wish to have a single moment of that day be about how I look, how I will be received, how I will fit in....

I am confused.  I feel pressured.  And I am worried that either way I will do the wrong thing...once again.

Do you think those who filled the early churches, who hungered after the sweet, sweet Gospel that had been given to them, searched their closets (or rather wherever they kept their clothing) for Sunday's finest?  I wonder when that came into fashion.

I do not wish to be home on any day I am able to get myself to the Lord's House.  I do not wish to miss any opportunity for the Lord's Supper that need not be missed.  And I do not know how well I will be then.  However, this weary heart of mine does not feel up to navigating the social waters of hats.  I am already floundering enough.

Oh, how weak I am.  Oh, what a miserable excuse for a child of God am I.  Oh, how I wish I could walk in the boldness of my baptism...the forgiveness...the freedom.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Mercy personified...

My realtor is simply mercy personified.  She has poured out such care and compassion and patience, seeing me only as a child of God and not a person who is wearyingly wounded.  I continued to be amazed at the mercy she shows me and awed that my Good Shepherd would love me so blatantly when my heart is hurting so very much.  She has noted how much stronger I am, mentally and physically, and has celebrated the gains I have made.

She popped by a while ago, waking me from nap No. 6 this day.  Amos is quite dear to her, even though he becomes afraid of her in her absence (as he does with all those he's met) and she has to work to make friends with him again each time she visits.   She admired my fire, commented on how lovely the rooms look now that the curtains are a proper length, and pronounced me a master painter for the work in the parlor.  And then she helped me choose the new paint color for the living room.

That alone was such mercy as my heart is truly overwhelmed.

A second painter told me that the primer for the basement ceiling is unnecessary and would only make for too much paint on all the things running through the eves.  I did not know that you could return primer, but he assured me Lowe's would take it back.  The price difference between him and the first painter is quite close if you factor in that $109 return.  However, I now think I should wait to paint the ceiling until I know someone is coming to live there.

When I made the return, I chose some paint chips for the living room and was hoping someone would come over to help me with the decision.  Decisions still overwhelm me, though I am getting better at navigating them.

I am not one of those people who vacillates forever on choosing colors and such. I can be quite decisive, but I do prefer a sounding board.  These days, I really need someone to walk me through the decision-making process, hold my hand (and heart) so to speak.

I had chosen 10 sets of color chips, 30 colors in all.  Most of them are National Trust for Historic Preservation colors.  All of them are green.  While I did toy with the idea of a rich mushroom or a fantastic mustard or delicious dirty pumpkin, I came to the conclusion that I would be stupid if I chose any other color than green for the room where I spend the majority of my waking hours whilst in my home.

One by one, we held the paint samples upon the parlor wall, to match the paint there (which will eventually be in the parlor, stairwell, and upstairs hallway) and to see it against the woodwork.  One by one, colors were eliminated as not complementary to either the parlor wall or the woodwork.  In the end, we narrowed the choices down to two colors.  Then we made a trip to the living room and held both colors up against the wall behind one of the lamps.  That final act showed a clear winner:  Homestead Resort Pale Olive.

I am unsure how many gallons of paint I will need.  I am thinking, perhaps, I will need three of them.  I wish I could get away with two, but the room is large, even with two windows, a set of French doors, and a fireplace taking up space along the walls.

Of course, I am sure you can see the wheels spinning in my head and rightly surmise that I am trying to decide if I might be able to paint the room myself since the parlor work took a total of five days, whereas this would be just one. 

I would be remiss if I did not also point out the other mercy my realtor showed me.  Two ways, really.  She almost always comes bearing a small gift--mostly, things with sodium in them.  Today's offering is a bag of rather tasty cheddar cheese rice chips.  A single serving has 410 mg of sodium.  I do best if I can get in over a 1,000 mg per meal, but this is a great option for me.  That she is thinking about my problems with food and tries to find solutions for me tells me that she cares for me, really cares for me, reminding me that we share a Good Shepherd who knows full well how large doses of sodium can make better days for me.

The second thing is hard to speak, for I have been hurt by those who do not understand this.  Right now, I cannot bear to be touched.  Even though hugs are few and far between in my life and I crave that sort of kindness, most of the time I cannot bear it.  She is a hugger.  By far, she would come over and hug me every morning on her way to work and hug me every evening on the way home were I to give her the go ahead.  Even so, she does not hold it against me that I do not wish to be touched.  She does not think me wrong or unloving or crazy or any such thing. 

When she comes and when she leaves, it seems to me she purposely stands a bit farther off from me than while she is visiting.  When we are playing on the floor with Amos, she sits close to me.  I like that she does so, that she positions herself so that I can have the comfort of her presence.  But she is careful to show me that she understands my needs and that who I am and where I am is perfectly fine to her.

I think that is why she is such a big Amos fan.  My little puppydog is probably the most cuddly dog on the entire plant, most likely the cuddliest dog God ever created.  He does not scare me or make me feel uncomfortable when he is draped about me the way that having people touch me these days does.  He curls up beside me, behind me, in my lap, on my shoulder...any way you can imagine.  If he is beside me, he prefers to have a paw resting on my leg or arm.  He follows me everywhere and will rest his head on my feet when I am working on dishes or laundry.  He will leap up into my arms, getting farther off the ground every day.  While I am holding him, he will rest his head on my shoulder and sigh with deep, deep contentment.  Truly, not a day has gone by where I have not been on my knees in thankfulness that my Good Shepherd brought Amos into my life at this time.  I know that my realtor also gives Him thanks and praise for the wonder of the nature of my puppydog.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.