Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ben's Quilt

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of some blocks I was making for a swap. The swap was completed, and today the top was completed! I'm so excited -- I don't believe I've ever finished a top from a swap yield this quickly! When the blocks came in, they were just beautiful. I wanted one of every single set!
. . . .
Two of them were baskets, so I decided to see how the blocks would look set on point. I liked. I thought it would work well to have baskets in each corner, so I organized a side swap with Bonnie; we each made a pair of baskets and traded one. Inspiration struck about how to handle the alternate blocks: I was convinced that a miniature sawtooth star to echo the major sawteeth (?!) was the way to go. I think I was right.
. . . .
I don't generally photograph my quilts until they are quilted and bound, but this won't happen until late in the summer for this one, and I just couldn't wait to show it off!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Virginia Tech Quilt Blocks


The following was lifted without permission from Desertsky's Blog. I doubt she'll mind; in fact, I think she'll rejoice.


We are asking quilters who have been moved by this recent tragedy to join us by making a quilt block 12-1/2" square (unfinished size) in the colors of Virginia Tech--maroon and orange. We will assemble your blocks into quilts. Finished quilts will be sent to Virginia Tech as an offering to all who have been affected by recent events.Make your quilt block in the colors of Virginia Tech--maroon and orange. Please do not introduce other colors into the color scheme as this is a school spirit quilt. Add only maroon, orange and neutrals (white, black, gray, off white) to your quilt block. Once you have finished your block, mail to Grandma's Attic, 167 S.W. Court Street, Dallas, Oregon USA 97338. Please note: in order to be included in the project, quilt blocks need to be returned to us by June 2, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wonderful Accident

It was a wonderful accident, the way we met. Not that we met, for surely God had a hand in it. I think the way it happened was that Sharon sent out an email to a great long list of people from her address book, and Frank -- god bless him -- hit "reply to all" instead of "reply" when he sent Sharon that first poem. At least that is the way I remember it. He may remember it differently.
. . . .
So anyway, I opened this email from an unfamiliar address. And there was this poem. I've written before that I don't appreciate poetry. Perhaps it is a character weakness; maybe just a matter of personal taste. Don't appreciate opera either. Or scotch. Or pumpkin pie. But back to Frank.
. . . .
The poem was unexpected. It was simple. It was beautiful. And I had no idea why this stranger was sending it to me. I looked through the long list of recipients for a clue and finally found Sharon's email. So I inquired.
. . . .
"He's harmless," she replied. (Oh, he'd be SO offended!) He had been a member of the congregation she had previously served. So I wrote back to tell him how much I liked the poem. And he send me another. And another. And I wrote to tell him what I was quilting. And one day he and his wife came to lunch. And we all got along.
. . . .
I don't know how many years it has been. Six or seven, anyway. Every once in a random while, the flag in my mailbox will bear his name, and I'll know there is another gem for me to read. I've shared them with friends. With family. And it is still about the only poetry that I like.
. . . .
Last summer, after I became a blogger, it occurred to me that this treasure should be shared! So I propositioned my friend, and he agreed -- we'd start a blog together! I never knew whether he really wanted to blog or was just delighted to have been propositioned. Anyway, he'd provide the poems and I'd find illustrations and post them. We've had a wonderful time. I still have a file of poems to post; it is, of course, a matter of finding the time.
. . . .
How do you tell someone that he has touched your life? That wasn't hard to figure out. The Bento Box quilt, from the time I started it, seemed destined for him. It is a simple pattern, like his simple poems. It is the right size to go over a lap in a wheel chair, or to take a nap under on a couch. I used Marsha's X-knot technique to tie it.
. . . .
I sent it to him on Saturday. And now it is his turn to find something unexpected in his mailbox.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Jesus Camp"

Shelina recently had a post that was titled, "Can we talk about religion?" I wonder if she was reading my mind!
. . . .
On Saturday, Joe and I watched a documentary film called "Jesus Camp." I can't get it out of my mind.
. . . .
It featured a youth pastor from the religious right and most of the film was set in a camp she runs in the summer time. It was about brainwashing. It was about mistreating children -- these kids had the "message" drilled into them, playing with their emotions and their minds, until some of them were reduced to sobbing, to writhing on the floor. And when this happened -- was there mercy? Were there hugs? Was there support? No.
. . . .
This is a religious movement that I have a hunch would be the first to decry our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers for "praying to statues," but they had at one point a bigger-than-life-size cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush, and were asking these children to talk to it, to pledge their support, to issue their supplications. It was horrifying.
. . . .
There were also scenes of homeschooling, which apparently is encouraged by this movement. Kids were taught not only that creationism is right and evolution is wrong, but also that global warming isn't a problem -- continuing the way we are will bring about the rapture!
. . . .
I kept thinking of Jim Jones. And Kool Aid.

My New Heart Throb!


There's a new man in my life! Met him on Sunday. More later!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech, Chez, and Paul

Chez had already started me thinking this morning. I had read his post and felt "normal" for the first time since Monday.

You can find his writing here:

http://deusexmalcontent.blogspot.com/2007/04/and-all-that-could-have-been.html

Here's what I wrote to Chez today:

Thanks, friend. When tragedy struck an Amish schoolhouse not terribly far from Near Philadelphia, I was almost frozen with the sadness, the horror, the absolute awfulness of it. I wrote, I donated, I prayed.

When Virginia Tech happened earlier this week, I was appalled more at my own reaction than at the event itself: I had no feelings at all. I said to myself something like, "Oh, another school shooting." All week this has bothered me -- my lack of humanity.

Last night I had the courage to mention it to my sister, who confessed to the same response.Neither of us liked to think that we had become inured to the absolute shit that some people are capable of doling out.

And so I sit here at my desk this morning, reading your post, so beautifully done, with the tears rolling down the cheeks, amidst a potpourri of feelings: profound sadness at the loss of this lovely young life with all of its potential, thankfulness to you for your gifted writing, and relief that indeed, I've not become dull to pain and horror but rather that there is so much of it that it takes time to process it.

A couple of hours later, I heard from Paul who was struggling with different questions. He wrote:

Am I the only one who feels this way?

The Virginia Tech incident is a great tragedy, and deserves our prayers, but:

1- why is all the attention on the shooter and not the victims?

2- Don't 32 people a day or more die by violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, etc? Where's the prayer vigils for them?

Paul's questions are important ones. And they aren't rhetorical. For Paul isn't burdened by artifice. I don't have answers for those questions. I don't think anyone does, really. I can only use them as a start for reflection.

I was relieved, throughout the day, as I checked the CNN website to find they were showing pictures of the Virginia Tech victims, thankful that the focus was at last on them, and I hope that Paul will read Chez's piece.

I went back in time, way back, to Kent State, too. Joe had been a student there and when the shootings occurred he was on a four-year leave of absence from his studies, serving in the U.S. Navy. I remember being glued to the television, in disbelief.

I remember back at the time of 9/11, sitting for hours in front of the television, sobbing, but unable to pull myself away. The numbers were too large to grasp, but from time to time, there would be a portrait -- pictorial and verbal -- of one of the lives lost on that day, and hearing the details was wrenching. I feel a little bit that way today.

As to question two, there are two things that come to mind:

a. On the old Aaron Brown 10 o'clock news, midway through the program, silently would come across the screen the names and photographs of those United States military heroes who had died that day, that week Hearing the numbers has become meaningless, but the particularity, the names, the faces, makes it real.

and

b. Paul, if you want to start one, I'll join you.

Serendipity Quilt

A few years ago, when I went away to the Lancaster show, Bonnie Hunter was staying at the BYB and during show and tell, she shared a darling quilt she'd made using alternating 16-patch blocks and pinwheel blocks. Her blocks were 9 inches finished. I was intrigued by the secondary pattern they made, and couldn't wait to try it myself!
. . . .
When I got home, I pulled out my hand dyed fabrics and got to work. I made my blocks half the size of Bonnie's. I only had one piece of fabric large enough for the border, so I used it. When the top was all pieced, I hand quilted it, and I had a piece of a different fabric that was just big enough to get the binding out of. I had no idea what I was going to do with it. But I loved it.
. . . .
I brought it to school to show my friend Carol. She said, right away, "Is that to hang in your new office?" I didn't know what she meant. Construction for the new library building had been going on for the better part of a year, and the Head of School and I were to be housed in it. But I hadn't been down to the construction area in weeks. Carol explained, "The days that you were out, the workmen got the painting done in your office and the carpet was laid yesterday. Didn't you know?" I didn't. I went down to see, and was amazed to find that the color scheme for the office perfectly matched the little quilt. I'd always proclaimed, "I don't make wall hangings! I want my quilts to be used -- you can sleep under them, or make love on them, or use them as tablecloths! But don't hang them on the wall!"
. . . .
I ate my words. My first wall hanging is on my wall still. And I love it even more.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Daffodils

I've made a little more progress with the wool flowers applique project. Daffodil is finished. The photo is disappointing in that the flash from the camera detracts from the visibility of the accent embroidery stitching. Perhaps clicking on the photo will make it large enough to see the detail.
. . . .
The next block to work on is Thistle which is lots of embroidery stitches on the blooms themselves. That is the last one that I have prepared as a little kit for myself. Next week I'll try to get some more ready.
. . . .
Meanwhile, the Bento Box quilt is finished and Joe will help me hang and photograph it before the week is over, he says. Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to try to make the sandwich for one of the two prayer shawls so that I can have it to tie in front of the television at night.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A New Project

About a year ago, I was asked to serve on a new team at church, the Natural Church Development team. The purpose of NCD is to help a healthy church become healthier by identifying its weakest area and spending a year to a year and a half deliberately strengthening that area. The NCD website is here: http://www.ncd-international.org/public/
. . . .
Like most Lutheran churches, our weakest area is Passionate Spirituality. The team has worked diligently, brainstorming and implementing ideas and plans. A responsibility I agreed to take on was to start a blog which would serve as a daily devotional area for church members and anyone else who happened across that blog. The initial plan was to have individually written devotional pieces, first weekly and ultimately daily.
. . . .
What seemed to be -- and actually is -- a splendid idea has become entangled in the web of time available. I've not had time to write one piece myself, much less explain the plan and recruit others. I felt as though I was letting my team mates down. And then it dawned on me: Just because I'm unable at present to get the ideal blog going, that doesn't mean I shouldn't start with something and hope to ultimately get the project into the form we had hoped.
. . . .
Harking back to Ezekiel who called forth bare bones and entrusted God to put flesh on them, our project has begun with a blog that shows the daily lectionary readings. Readers can share in the comments section ways that the particular readings speak to them. If you are so inclined, you can visit this blog here: http://lectionaryreading.blogspot.com/

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Love, Laughter, and Attention in Abundance

When I served as a hospital chaplain, after a death had occurred and the prayers had been said and the family ministered to and escorted to their cars, I used to go up to the Nursery. I needed to see -- and sometimes hold -- a baby. Occasionally I was fortunate enough to be in the Birthing Area and hear the first cry of a new life coming into the world.
. . . .
And so it was today. The rain Near Philadelphia is torrential, and there are gloomy forecasts of floods in the area. With the funeral of Friday still in my soul, I was not to be deterred from attending the Naming Ceremony for a new baby girl. Russell is a coworker; his wife Shira will graduate from the Rabbinical Seminary next month. This baby is their third child.
. . . .
Natalia Abigail was born on what would have been her maternal grandfather's sixty-second birthday. Her name is in his honor and memory. Natalia means "God has planted for me," and Ned's firm belief that "Love, laughter and attention are not finite goods -- the more you give, the more there is to give" was invoked upon her today. Abigail means "my father's joy." Surely this little girl will bring much joy to her parents, and in their home she will never lack for love, laughter, or attention.
. . . .
The ceremony was conducted by Shira's colleagues, and was very moving. The singing was in Hebrew and the words "Adonai (Lord)" and "Elohim (God)" were recognizable to me from my brief study of Hebrew. The celebrant blessed Natalia with water -- remembering a story from Scripture that living waters hold a promise of life -- and her grandmothers and great-grandmother washed her feet as part of the recognition and awakening of all of her senses. I thought of how water plays an important role in Christian Baptism, and realized yet again the deep connections we have with our Jewish sisters and brothers.
. . . .
I brought the quilt I had made for Natalia to the ceremony, and was so happy to note that the colors of the napkins and plates were those I had used in the quilt. It was a joy and a blessing to have been able to be a part of this gathering.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Starry, Starry Night

I run a swap list for a small community of quilters. Some are local women that I see at church and elsewhere in the neighborhood. Some are internet friends that I've met in person, and others are friends I've not met yet. A couple of them live as far away as Great Britain. All of them make beautiful blocks.
. . . .
A couple of months ago Carolyn proposed that we make 12" sawtooth stars using batiks on blacks, with the center of the sawtooth being an interesting 6" block instead of a solid square. People liked it! Bags of blocks have been arriving here over the past couple of weeks, and there isn't an unlikeable block in the bunch.
. . . .
The design wall shows part of my progress. The mailing date is Monday. One of the really good things about running a swap is that one doesn't have to make one's blocks until the very last minute. One of the really bad things about running a swap is that one has a tendency not to make one's blocks until the very last minute.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Daisy for Laura

When my dad died, I was fifteen years old, and his was the first funeral I'd ever attended. At the very end, when we were ready to leave the cemetery, his friend Les went over to the flowers and picked out a big red rose and put it in his buttonhole. Obviously, I never have forgotten.
. . . .
When I go to a funeral or help with one at church, I generally take a flower out of one of the arrangements at the very end. I bring it home and put it on my kitchen counter for as long as it lasts.
. . . .
Today was the memorial service for Laura, a wonderful woman from our church who has struggled with breast cancer for sixteen years. Her mother is a member of my circle and of my hand-quilting group; she has been a friend for twenty-five years.
. . . .
I think I mentioned before that our pastor of 31 years left our congregation this winter to accept a call to another church. I think I also mentioned before how highly I regard the woman who is serving as our interim pastor. By the time she came on board, the speech center of Laura's brain had been taken over by metastasized tumors. Pastor has been so faithful in her care of this family, but when Laura passed away on Tuesday, they asked if the sermon could be given by someone who had really known her. She graciously agreed, and my name was proposed.
. . . .
The service was very beautiful. Laura's niece, who has a charming voice, sang, and other members of the family handled the readings and the eulogy. I was surprisingly comfortable this morning, before and during the service. I felt good about the sermon, and was able to deliver it without a voice crack until very close to the end.
. . . .
While her life was cut way too short -- she was 46 years old -- her suffering went on far too long. There is some comfort in knowing that she is at peace. There's a bit of an air of defiance about this Gerber daisy that will this week remind me of a brave and kind and lovely woman, one who was determined that cancer not get the best of her.

Lancaster Quilt Show, 2007

Bonnie and I drove out to Lancaster on Wednesday night to stay at White Oak for the one night. We were the only guests, and had some lovely time with Rob and Carol, and thoroughly enjoyed a delicious breakfast on Thursday morning. We got to the show just around the time that it opened. We had a lovely day, meeting up with some others for lunch. I saw a lot of pretty quilts -- there were more "real" quilts this year than there have been in previous years. I have nothing against art quilts, but I guess I wish they had separate shows for art quilts and bed quilts.
. . . .
There was quite a crowd gathered around a quilt from Quilt National; the main fabric was smiling bright pink condoms! I only took one picture, and it wasn't of that. It was of this sweet bowtie quilt. I loved the buttons on the blue to look like shirt fronts, and the strips of sport coats and labels as the border. I just liked it.

. . . .
As far as retail therapy, I bought a kit! I never buy kits. This was the first time I ever saw a quilt and wanted to duplicate it. The quilt is called Tribeca and I think it is going to be a lot of fun to put together! It wasn't that expensive, either.
. . . .
I also got to Kim and Milly Churbuck's stand; Milly more or less retired from her hand-dying business a couple of years ago, but there were odds and ends of fabric yardage and a couple of packs of FQs and I bought some of each. Also bought a nice new quilty mousepad and a print of a nice little boy in overalls standing in front of a Overall Sam quilt. Wonder who that is for!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award?

A couple of weeks ago, I first saw the icon for the Thinking Blogger Award appear on a blog that I read. I thought it was kind of a nifty thing: That some committee or some authority was trolling the blogosphere and selecting those worthy of an award. "Way cool," I thought. Then, in the past several days, the TBA is showing up everywhere. (You can see what comes next. I know you can.)
. . . .
Today it showed up in my mailbox. Someone said that my blog makes her think.
. . . .
The receipt of the award made me think. Of course, I was utterly dazzled that my blog makes at least one person think! Wow! Once the flush of pride diminished, I began to think. I have to write very carefully here, for the person who awarded this to me -- while our acquaintance is relatively new -- is someone who commands my respect, my interest, and my affection. And I would not want to offend her. But I'd begun to feel a bit uneasy, and couldn't pinpoint why.
. . . .
So I researched the award and found that it was created precisely two months ago by someone called Ilker Yoldas, a fairly obvious pseudonym. I didn't feel inclined to work out the anagram possibilities, but someone else might. Though he (or she) says his purpose is to recognize blogs that make people think, the award thing-y apparently links right back to his site, so it is more likely a traffic generator for himself. I haven't bothered to look into what his money-making racket on his site is. A perusal of the site/blog reveals someone who (a) has way too much time on his hands, (b) and has a mighty sense of self importance.
. . . .
Besides, the whole thing has a chain-letter feel to it.
. . . .
So I'm not going to feed Ilker's ego by posting his little logo-link.
. . . .
The idea of recognizing blogs that make me think, however, is a splendid one. The blogs I read regularly are listed in my sidebar, and providing links here would be a redundancy. I will mention a few that make me think, though, and in no particular order. If they pique your interest, go to the links in the sidebar.

The first blog I read every day without fail is Mrs. Goodneedle's. Her tagline "Life is Good!" is something I need daily. Some days I'm less aware of this than others, and on those days, Mz. G gives me the boost I need. She writes simply, concisely, and her blog is smart and attractive.

Chez might be viewed as the antithesis of Mz. G. In sum, he's one of the most brilliant writers I've ever stumbled across, and his sentiments more often than not mirror mine (though in far more colorful language!). I'd prefer not to think of how he'd respond to being tagged!

Laurie has been quiet of late. But she's an excellent writer, too, and speaks openly and thoughtfully about day-to-day occurrences in a way that make me think. The soccer thing, well, everyone's entitled to an oddity or two. She makes great quilts and invented the Seattle Streets pattern that is on my to-do list.

If Mrs. Goodneedle reminds me that Life Is Good, Nicole reminds me that Life Is Beautiful. Her blog is nothing short of lovely, and reading it and looking at her photographs always has a calming, slow-down-Nancy kind of effect

And then there's Greg. He writes primarily about two subjects close to my heart -- gay rights and disrespect by the church. He's young, and in time will broaden his focus, but for now I read his pain and hope he finds peace.

Tanya writes of a life that in so many ways is vastly different from my own, and underneath there are the same values, the same themes. She makes me think about choices we make and the implications of those choices.

Frank makes me think most of all. A cyberfriend with a beautiful soul, he sends me his poetry hot off the press, and I find a picture and post it on "our blog."
. . . .
All this thinking about blogs that make me think has me plumb worn out. Think about it, though, which blogs make you think?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

No, But You Are Close

This report isn't funny at all. But the situation sure had me giggling uncontrollably.
. . . .
I think I need to start with the context. Yes, it is only Wednesday and there is quite a bit of this week yet to go. But so far it has been a difficult week as we are at the peak of the resume season here at school (with thirteen -- count 'em -- thirteen vacancies to fill for the coming year so far). So each day's mail bring beaucoups more resumes, mostly from grossly underqualified applicants, all of which must be logged in, acknowledged, distributed rather than tossed.
. . . .
On top of that is anticipation. The Lancaster quilt show opens tomorrow and Bonnie and I have planned to drive out tonight, sleep over at White Oak, and be there bright and early tomorrow. I'd registered for a Vacation Day months ago. I knew I'd need it after the hecticness of Easter: shopping, cooking, houseguests, church church church. Plus the resumes, the candidates, the hiring (or non-hiring).
. . . .
So I'm a tad frayed. Trying to get things under reasonable control before taking off for now two days (a Personal Day for a funeral the following day) instead of one at a frantic time. Just a tad frayed. Was looking for some possible comic relief in today's batch of resumes; hence, the following email exchange with my buddy:


Nancy to Polly: Just received a resume from someone with an email address of bjpumpkin@xxxx.com and her last name is not Pumpkin.
Polly back to Nancy: Is it Frog?
Nancy replies: No, but you are close. It is McInerney.
. . . .
Told you it wasn't funny. But in my present condition, I was absolutely howling. And hoping no one would walk in.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Images of Easter

In our family, kids don't generally get bears as their primary stuffed animals. We tend to go in for bunnies, usually given on the first or second Easter. Tom had White Bunny; Sherry had Brown Bunny; and Andrew had Fast Bunny. Last year, Sam was only a couple of months old, and determined not ready for a bunny. This year I found the most incredibly soft bunny for him. He took to it right away, and even let it share his mid-day nap.
. . . .
It was gratifying to see him loving it -- Sherry had said earlier that he hadn't had much use for stuffed animals. Prolly it was because they weren't bunnies . . . .
. . . .

At some point last winter, Tom expressed a desire to learn to play the accordion. I told him that our friend Bill had several and I thought that I had heard that he was looking to sell one (or perhaps that was an expression of wishful thinking on the part of his wife, Linda!). Tom phoned Bill immediately, and within an hour he and Anastasia had gone to visit and Bill had given him one of his accordions! I told Tom of the necessity of learning "Lady of Spain," and was very surprised that he had never heard it! Well, of course, he did not grow up watching "Ed Sullivan" and the "Ted Mack Amateur Hour." When we visited T&A last, Tom was proud to play "Happy Birthday to You" and had begun work on "LOS." He had perfected it by this weekend, and was proud to share it with us as part of his Easter performance! He has several selections in his repertoire by now, all self taught.
. . . .
Sam had been lively and all over the place most of the day. When the accordion came out, however, he sat perfectly still on Sherry's lap. We couldn't determine whether the look on his face was utter fascination or terror!
. . . .
After a bit he climbed down and picked up a toy of his own that has a tiny three-key keyboard, and brought it back to his Mom. In time, he approached Uncle Tom and struck some of the keys himself!




. . .




Dinner was roast lamb, parslied potatoes, baby vegetables. Sherry had brought some ravioli for Sam as she didn't think he'd care for the lamb. He did like the ravioli; what he didn't eat he used as tray and self decoration. He was such a good boy for the entire day!
. . . .

I had finished his quilt the night before. I wanted to tie it, but didn't want the ends of the knots on top. I'd tied another quilt earlier in the week with the knots underneath; when I told Marsha about it, she shared a technique where the tying threads on the top were tiny X's and the knots and loose ends were on the underside. I tried this technique with Sam's quilt and was delighted with the results! The blocks were from a swap from a few years back. It was called "It's A Jungle Out There," and featured Laurel Burch's Jungle Songs fabrics on Kona black. I have a lot of blocks from this swap; this is the first project from them.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter, 2007

"You have turned my mourning into dancing."
Psalm 30: 11

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Guilt Quilt, Anyone?

Russell and Shira's third child was born yesterday, and this got me to worrying about their second child. The first, a boy, was expected late in 2001. When 9/11 occurred, the anticipation of this child was what helped me to recover. His mother was a rabbinical student, and all I could think of was how much this new baby needed God's blessing in such a time of terror. I made him a quilt of Old Testament stories, and will post a picture as soon as I can find one! I don't usually make quilts for second babies, and when their daughter was born, I bought a sweet outfit for her. I don't know why I felt compelled to make a quilt for this third baby, but I did, and it is finished, and will be photographed tomorrow.
. . . .
But back to Maia, the source of my worry. Not only is she losing her place as the only daughter in the household, but is now stuck in the dreaded position of middle child. "Time for a guilt quilt," said Honna. And she is right. I believe that Maia's third birthday is sometime in the next couple of months, and if she is anything like most 3-year-old girls, pink is preferred. I'm going to make her a pinwheel quilt and hope to have it ready for her birthday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Just a Piece

Children who are abused can recover. Therapy, other loving and supportive adults, relationships with understanding friends and family, a consciousness that what happened to them was wrong – all of these are factors that may contribute to the child’s growing up to an adulthood that is about as healthy as anyone else’s. Everyone has issues. Most people come to terms with them and function just fine; the issues lurk deep inside and are unidentifiable by the rest of the world, most of the time.
. . . .
Some abused children, though, don’t recover very much. Some grow up to partner with abusers. Some have children of their own whom they abuse – sometimes because they have no other model, sometimes because they feel entitled.
. . . .
I am one of the fortunate ones. An understanding, supportive and outraged sister, a wonderful close friend, and a therapist or two somewhere along the way, nurtured me and helped me to see that what happened to me wasn’t normal and wasn’t right. I married a gentle, rational, loving man, and I like to believe that I wasn’t any worse of a mother than most. Yes, I’m an adult from an abused childhood, but this is not my sole identity; rather, it is just a piece – and I hope just a tiny piece – of who I am.
. . . .
There remains for the recovered adult of child abuse a vulnerable spot that can be hooked by circumstances or individuals reminiscent of the original abuser.
. . . .
It has been nearly ten years now since I was abused by the henchmen of a woman of the church who had acquired too much power. I was a seminary graduate, working on a second master’s degree, and was seeking to enter the diaconate, to serve the church as a hospital chaplain. That day of cold, insensitive rejection was the worst day of my life and I dealt with the fall-out of post traumatic stress for a very long time afterwards. In many ways, I am able to identify with our Roman Catholic brothers who suffered a different kind of abuse at the hands of the church.
. . . .
There is a new administration in my denomination now. And certain changes in my home congregation have led me in recent months to cautiously visit the idea of trying again.
. . . .
Recently I had dinner with a person connected with that new administration. I spoke of what had happened to me. My listener did a good job. She said how sorry she was that this had happened to me. She spoke of the downfall of the abuser who is not only no longer in a position of any power at all, but actually put out to pasture. She talked about how wrong it had been that this woman had been allowed to do what she did to me and to others. This was all good.
. . . .
She then asked why I did not fight back. She does not know of the child abuse history, and I couldn’t tell her at that moment. She suggested a weakness – a weakness that is perhaps fatal to diaconal candidacy – evidenced in my failure to fight back. She doesn’t know, I think, that many people with my history are not capable of fighting those who abuse them. Which, I think, is an entirely separate issue from being able to fight those who abuse others – this I can do and have done.
. . . .
If I were to re-enter the candidacy process, she assured me that I would be questioned as to why I didn’t fight back. It made me wonder why so much emphasis would be placed on this issue, this very small piece of who I am. Like most other people, I will never be whole but I am comfortable with the progress I have made, and with the many other pieces of who I am. I have come to a point where the old wounds have been opened and explored and reopened enough times that I can live with what little bit remains untreated. If every eight or ten years the abused child within me is briefly hooked by an abusive woman, so be it. If the church does not accept this, so be that as well.
. . . .
It is ironic that my mother frequently quoted a tombstone epitaph that struck her fancy: “She has done all she could.”
. . . .
In dealing with having been abused as a child and the vestiges of that which remain, I have, in fact and by choice, done all I could.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"What If I Scream?" "Don't Worry, You Won't."


I spent the day at the Seminary on Saturday, attending a health ministry conference about Fear. My hope was to learn something I could use to develop a continuing education unit for my Stephen Ministers. It was a long day, and it was amazingly rich. The presenter, a pastor, therapist, and educator, has his own set of fears and phobias, about which he is remarkably open. His admission adds to his credibility.
. . . .
A considerable amout of time was spent on a discussion of our mental defenses, as originally outlined by Freud. We learned or relearned about three tiers of defenses: Immature (Denial, Projection, Regression); Neurotic (Repression, Displacement, Isolation/Intellectualization, Reaction Formation, and Rationalization); and Mature (Suppression, Anticipation, Humor, Sublimation, and Altruism), and I believe this will be the focus of the presentation I develop for my students. We learned how to try to lead a fear-filled person out of the lower level defenses into the use of the higher ones. Of course it is far more comfortable to look at these defenses in the context of another person (!), and I thought about someone I know who is going through a very bad time right now, and was able to identify instances where she has used defenses at all three levels. I noticed that when she uses the mature level of defenses, she is easier to be around than when she uses the immature or even the neurotic.
. . . .
The format of the day was three sets of alternating presentation/small group discussion periods. In the small group we identified some of the big fears that we have trouble managing. I owned up to two: Fear of getting Alzheimer's dementia, and an irrational fear of traffic on long interstate trips when my husband is the driver, not I. The Alzheimer's fear is so huge that I was unable to more than speak it; I could not even look at the defenses I use in dealing with it. For the "panicked passenger" syndrome, I felt mildly proud of identifying the use of some of the mature defenses -- anticipation, humor, and sublimation. I spoke of my husband's amazing tolerance and patience for this problem of mine, which surely must be very difficult for him as the driver. I told of the creative ways he distracts me out of the low level responses to the higher: setting up a counting competition where one of us counts cows and the other roadkill to see who wins, handing me the map and having me look up an obscure route or two, and most imaginative, having me keep a record of the serial numbers of Walmart trucks and the precise mile-post where they are sighted. This is a man who has never attended a seminar on dealing with fear!
. . . .
At one point during the presentation, our lecturer made reference to a new book by Allen Shawn, Wish I Could Be There http://www.amazon.com/Wish-Could-Be-There-Phobic/dp/0670038423/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-7418495-3423851?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1175560320&sr=8-1 . Mr. Shawn is an agoraphobic and I thought his book might be interesting, so during the lunch break I purchased a copy. My closest friend suffers from this disorder, and I hoped to gain some insights. I admit that over the years I have been less than totally compassionate about her condition, honestly believing that "mind over matter" was the key to resolving these "imagined" panic attacks. What I failed to take into account was the fact that the mind is where the problem originates. Many the time she has phoned to make sure I was going to be home so if she got into a panic on the road, she could call for reassurance, for help. How frequently when we planned to go to a concert, a show, to church together, she would say to me, "What if I scream?" "Don't worry," I'd tell her. "You won't." And I'm always right (she said smugly).
. . . .
I'm barely thirty pages into Mr. Shawn's book, and it is some of the most powerful writing I've ever encountered. I am able to understand from this author what I have not been able in more than thirty years to totally understand from my friend -- the person I love the most outside of my own family -- the reality of what happens to him -- and to her -- during a panic attack. And I am filled with remorse for my limited compassion.
. . . .
Our speaker said, "When people are afraid, what they need most immediately and for a long time -- they do not need to be judged, do not reason with them, they do not need us to interpret and play psychologist -- what they need is to be held emotionally and sometimes physically in attention, in compassion, and empathy. Our capacity to do what is right," he adds, "depends on skill, but also on our own self-awareness."
. . . .
I am so thankful that I attended this conference. Indeed, I gleaned enough material to develop one or perhaps even two meaningful units for my Stephen Ministers. But, more important, I learned how to be a better friend.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Holy Week, 2007

Today our pastor suggested we might want to put out some reminders of Holy Week in our homes. Among the items suggested were stone, bread, perfume bottle, wooden cross, nails, thorns, vinegar, pieces of silver. There were others, too. I thought this to be an excellent idea, and the shelf below my seasons of the liturgy wall hanging space seemed to be just the right place. Joe thought so, too, and he helped to gather and arrange the things we wanted to put out. This hanging-and-shelf area is right in our front foyer, so we will are reminded as we come into the house and go out.