Category Archives: Uncategorized

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migrated to a new server, testing functionality

Thinking

I have been thinking, which is, actually, a good thing. It was one of the reasons I realized it was time for a break. When you’re too busy to think, you really are too busy.

I think about life, because life means something different to so many different people, depending on the time and place, the culture and the societal positioning. What people accept is largely based off of what they expect.

I am poor, but I am not poor. I am lonely, but not lonely. I care a lot about taking care of others, but I’m deeply self-absorbed. It all depends where along the sliding scale you put me. I see or hear people who pack up everything and move, and I think, I have too much stuff. But I worry about my stuff. About the noise my car is making and about my laptop dying. But does it matter at all? There’s always the third-world argument. Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder what I’d be like if all my “stuff” was stripped away. Would I be less anxious, if I didn’t think I ought to expect the perfect solution? If I realized that eating and sleeping were already two of the biggest gifts a person could have?

I tell myself it doesn’t really matter, because I am here, so here is where I am. But somehow it does matter, because God is everywhere, and where God is truly is important. Not the bubble of me. How do you get outside of the bubble of you, when you are wherever you go?

Part of what I struggle with is the understanding and belief that God is using me, and will use me. This sounds silly, maybe, given how when I just recently quit my job I had patients and past patients tearing up and telling me resolutely that they were happy for me. But it is true; vanities of vanities tends to catch up to me. It’s too hard, often, for me to remember that if God is everywhere, that includes right here. Even when that bubble seems to envelope me, and I can’t seem to hear anything but my own pulse throbbing in my ears–God is still there, working. Working, and using me, even when I don’t realize I’m being used as a vessel of His grace. He doesn’t let us know ahead of time–“OK, get ready now, because I’m just about ready to use you!” It’s frequently in the subtle things that we don’t even realize we’re doing: the smiles to random strangers, the “just doing my job” times, the listening when someone speaks.

Be we–or at the very least, I–are results driven. Okay, there, I did that. What did that accomplish? What happened because of what I did? Was it worth it? Should I do it again? Was it all a mistake? Did any good come out of that? Even results-driven in terms of planning. What is the point of that? What will it accomplish? Will the benefits outweigh the costs?

But I wonder if that really a valuable metric. If so often we can’t see the benefits of what we’ve done or where we’ve been, is attempting to measure the benefits any use at all? The obvious statement would be that there is no metric, but this feels too vague and undefined. Maybe there is some other metric with which to measure the worth of your decisions and life. But every metric I’ve seen is equally unsatisfying. They’re missing the point. What is the point?

Walking with God.

Where is God?

So I see myself subconsciously trying to make God more tangible. If the important thing is being with God, then let’s make God easier to hang on to, so we don’t get so easily side-tracked. It makes me realize how false religions are so easily started, because it can be so hard to hold on to something that isn’t tangible. I’m a hands-on learner. How am I supposed to learn about something, some One, I can’t put my hands on? You’re supposed to walk with God and talk with God, but you can’t see Him and can’t hear Him.

I complain, but I already know. How many times has God told us, again and again, to seek Him? That’s active, and that’s intense. It isn’t usually, “Look, admit it! I’m standing in front of you with a big, flaming sword. Helloooo? I’m right here!!!” Instead it is–Seek Me. Find Me. Search. Look. Ask. Be persistent. That always gets me. For some reason it really bugs me that God basically says, “Look, you have to nag. Don’t ask just once. Be like the widow. Pound on the door like the guy at midnight.” I mean, it’s encouraging that I’m not doing something wrong when I don’t get an answer as soon as I ask. But it’s really frustrating all the same. Can’t we just, you know, deal with it like adults? Talk it over, agree on a course of action and move on? What’s up with all this pounding on the door stuff?

Here’s the thing. Sometimes people like to get together a monastery so they can better devote their time to concentrating on the God-ness. That’s faith, right? But God is all about loving people, so you go out into the world to love people. (That’s works, right?) But now there’s all that hustle and bustle and cares of this world, and sometimes it’s hard not to lose your steadfast gaze on God, and then everything falls to pieces. And we know we need both–faith and works, or faith showing itself by works–but it’s so hard not to try to find some kind of formula that will keep you on the straight and narrow. If you could just nail the right proportion of withdrawing quietly before God and going out into the world to be His ambassador, you could keep a razor-sharp focus on Him always. Right?

I know there is no formula, the same way I know I need this time of quiet. I only find myself looking for it because everything is so much easier if you can keep your eyes on God “with childlike simplicity.” When you’re busy marching around Jericho blowing on the horns, you can either stand there thinking to yourself, “What I am doing? Seriously, stomping around in a circle and making noise? Who am I kidding? Maybe I need a new plan. Maybe I need to be blowing harder. I guess maybe if there were enough of us stomping hard enough at one time, maybe it would cause a mini-earthquake. Let’s see, how many people would we need to get that going? If each footfall is approximately 80 pounds of force. . .”

Or you can say, “Dude! God has this under control, and I’m just here for the party. Let’s stomp around and make noise!”

I want to do the latter, but I’m nearly always doing the former. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s probably something more important to be done then stomping around and make noise (results-oriented, remember?) or else that I’m not stomping and making noise good enough, and that probably I should be doing it better. But other times, I get this other feeling. One that says I’m trying too hard, and I should just show up for the party. I should stand and watch God work, the way I used to watch adults working. Sometimes you could go and fetch them something, but mostly you just watched in fascination and tried figure out what was going on and how it was all going to work together and be amazed as everything came together. It was cool. It was kind of relaxing, sometimes. You felt like you were learning, but the world didn’t depend on you.

Sometimes I think we wish we had more of a bird’s eye view of what the heck was going on. But I think we imagine that angels have more of a bird’s eye view, and then it says the angels are busy watching us to learn what God is up to. So maybe the bird’s eye view is over-rated. I think maybe it is more in the attitude, as much as a results-oriented person finds that annoying. You can say, “Oh, God, please show me what You are doing and how you want me to be a part of it!” all angst-ridden. Or you can search out what God is doing just to enjoy what God is doing, without being worried that you’re going to screw-up God’s symphony by playing your triangle half a beat late.

I am finding that dwelling on the smallness of me and my reasons and my resources is getting me nowhere. God made me, He already knows my smallness and weakness, and that’s not the point. The point is His greatness and His reasons and His resources, and that they are to be sought and enjoyed. Both, together.

My patients would sometimes complain to me, “This isn’t easy!”

“No, of course not!” I would laugh back. “If everything was easy for you, you wouldn’t need my help and you wouldn’t be here!”

Sometimes I think we get mad that it’s so hard to seek God, but I don’t think He is under any impression that it would be easy for us. That’s why He tells us over and over again to do so; if it were easy, He wouldn’t have to encourage us to do it. The same with being thankful, or being joyful, or being still. God, why is it so hard to be still? But if it were easy for us to be still, He wouldn’t have to tell us. If it were easy to know that God was with us, He wouldn’t have to tell us, over and over and over again. We feel like we’ve failed when we can’t do those things, but we’re right where God knows we’re at. Yes, it is hard for you to be still. Let’s practice it. It will bear fruit. Yes, it is scary for you to trust Me. This is how you’ll learn that I love you, and I want you to learn how much I love you. So it is time to do scary things, and My love will drive out your fear.

I want to know what we’re doing, but what we’re doing is learning about God’s love. I want Him to make me into a better and better Martha (poor Martha; and if I held to patron saints, she’d likely be mine), and what He is saying is, “Honey, you’ve got it all wrong. I came here to do the work. You’re here to benefit from it. Come sit down and learn how much I love you, and stop trying so hard to impress me. I already know you; you need to come know Me.”

I’m climbing over the edge of the boat, but there’s an awful lot of wind and waves. Hold out Your hand, and keep saying my name over and over. . .and over. . .

REBOOT

How often do you re-boot your computer? If you are energy conscious and dutiful, maybe you are one of those people who shuts off your computer at the end of every day, and re-boots it the next morning. If you are like the rest of us dreadful people, you run the thing into the ground as it becomes progressively more buggy and finally crashes, ceasing to function. Then you re-boot, and start it all over again.

I think I’m currently in the process of re-booting my life. I am hoping (ever the optimist) we are past the crashing and the blue-screens of death, but the re-loading appears to be taking sometime. De-fragging may be necessary. Cupcakes may be called for.

If all else fails, I expect I may need to jerry-rig a household vacuum cleaner to blow all the static out of the lines.

Word

God spoke the Word and the world was made, in it’s entirety and complexity and confounditity.

Ever since, man has been speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking, somehow thinking that if the could just speak enough, they could box creation and contain it. Maybe even they think that if they can learn to speak well enough, they to can create by speaking.

But it’s horribly, terribly tedious, and frequently a dreadful waste of words and time and effort.

I’m sure that’s wickedly unscientific of me, but really. It’s as impossible as trying to pick up a wiggling piglet made of red-jello. You can’t put God in a box, and He marks His creation with the same attribute. You can’t explain the human condition with words, no matter how large your book or how many initials you put behind your name.

Observe it? Possibly, parts of it.

Confine it, define it, and make tidy little rules? Ha. Have fun. I’d rather make cookies; among other things, I’ll be more successful than you.

Most tedious of all is the arrogance of assuming man-made rules can contain a God-made universe.

Sat. Eve. Blog Post

A blog I follow does things thing called the Saturday Evening Blog post. . .she invites her readers to leave a link to their favorite blog post of the last month (that is, their favorite post they have written). I like the challenge to at least write one post per month that is good enough you would like to broadcast it to the world. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I can do that.

This month was a double feature, and I actually felt like I had two posts I could offer up, so I did–Where Are You from July, and Pandora’s Box from August.

(Part of the SEBP deal is to link back to the place where all the links are gathered so more people can get in on the fun, hence this post.)

You know your population is aging when Physical Therapy is the new Town Hall.

“. . .and it hasn’t gotten better, I can tell you that. I had more fun back in the Great Depression than I do now!” His statement was emphatic, but more surprising was the unexpected, vigorous “That’s right!” from across the room.

Every clinic has elderly patients coming in, and in every clinic patients invariably share notes, get friendly, and start chatting. This being a rural clinic, topics tend to take a different slant than more urban locations. Still, in the midst of the repeated implications from the media that The Great Depression is the sort of thing to be spoken about in hushed tones and avoided no matter what the cost, it is extremely striking to have a handful of people who lived through the Great Depression saying “It wasn’t as bad as all that–in fact, it was better than this mess!”

Don’t get me wrong, some of that, I’m sure, has to do with what rural people find a hardship. Being told what to do with your property, your money, your life–those are hardships. Being poor is just a way of life. More urban areas, it would seem, consider being poor a terrible, horrible, unmitigatable disaster–but having everything dictated to you, down to what type of bed sheets and lightbulbs you can use, is just a way of life.

But part of me can’t help but wonder. . .what was the Great Depression like? The reason I say that is because it seems that anyone who dares, dares to say that it wasn’t the most horrible thing that ever befell us is dismissed as not knowing what they’re talking about. There is, I know, a certain part of us that likes to see the years of our youth in a golden light. . .but they were there. And various talking heads have summarized what they have decided has happened, and have proceeded to shove it all at us obvious fact.

And I know that the Great Depression affected different people in different ways, depending on a multitude of factors. That sorta is my point. To take one period of history, declare it horror, and apply it to all locations and all classes and all lives–is just plain silly. With the terror the Great Depression is painted with, no one, any where, should possibly be able to be discussing it in more flowery terms than the present.

For some peculiar reason, though, I’m extremely reluctant to dismiss first hand accounts.

Hometown

Caleb took a shot of this house while I was driving, and it reminded me of “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed in the wee early hours of the morning, and drove off toward Town. It was light as though the sun were up, but it was such a hazy, cloudy, dense morning that you could hardly call it bright. The thickness of the weather would soon result in rain, but as of yet there wasn’t even a breeze. Everything just hung closely to the ground and staid put.

I rounded one of our large, sprawling hills, and the view opened up into the valley that contains Town. Most fittingly, there before me was a scene that made me think quite strongly of the Twilight Zone. I don’t have a picture for you, because I was on my way to take my boards examination, and quite honestly the last thing on my mind under those circumstances (weighty exam, early hours, etc) was the thought of taking along my camera in case there was something noteworthy (in the testing center. Where they make you strip off every shred of electronics, including your analog watch, and lock it away, lest somehow technology give you the answers to the universe).

Embedded in that thick haze were several of these mysterious orbs, all blue-green-grey. They weren’t moving there; they were just dispersed over the city, hanging there oppressively, waiting, watching.

After doing a few double takes, I finally realized what I was seeing. The local festival had launched it’s hot-air balloons–yes, even at such an absurdly early hour. The humid haze was muting all of their bright colors to the point they all looked something the color of little army men or split pea soup. When they lit their fires, the bright flash of light seemed no less ominous. They weren’t moving because there was no wind. So 8 or so of these balloons, strung out over the valley and looming over the city, were deprived of every ounce of festivity and instead equipped with a very foreboding the-mothership-is-here sort of feeling.

They were so low, and so still, whatever doom they were bringing seemed to be quite near. They were so much so the color of the weather, it seemed as though they were the ones responsible, settling this obscuring cover over all of the closest thing this area can call civilization. It was horribly eerie, and you couldn’t get away from it. Every time you rounded another corner, they were still there, but now even closer.

Fortunately, the rest of society was oblivious to their danger, and so we escaped without harm. Riots, hysterical screaming, looting and military crack-down were all avoided.

Probably the Town didn’t notice their impending danger because they weren’t looking at the sky, and they probably weren’t looking at the sky because it was absurdly early on a Saturday morning.

Which just goes to show you that one can avoid a lot of horrible fates if one just has the sense and good fortune to stay in bed, particularly on Saturday mornings.

ta-da!

um, hi. Did you notice we were re-wall-papering? Special thanks to my brothers for indulging me!!

Licky’s preferred way of fishing. . .

They say this is in a “flooded drainage ditch”. I almost think that’s the most amazing part. . .

Learning Difficulties

This is a re-post of something I wrote about 2 years ago. It was brought to my mind this morning, so I thought I’d re-post it.

As an Aide, I don’t really get to participate in any of the treatments. You have to pay for a couple years of school for the privilege, which I haven’t done yet. I bring the patients back for their treatment. And yes, I can watch. And I am often the one who removes the heat packs or cold packs or the stim machines. But I rarely get involved in any of the actual treatment.

One of the rare exceptions happened a few weeks ago.

I was standing in the hall vaguely watching an exercise treatment in the hall and waiting for the next patient to arrive or for a mat to need to be cleaned. In the background, I could hear things going on in the “gym” where most Physical Therapy takes place. Suddenly, I focused in on one sound.

“Okay, Now Roll Back On The Ball.” Like that. Not quite loud, but certainly not quite patient either.

“Oh, okay.” Softly. Quietly.

“This Isn’t Difficult, Just Roll Back On The Ball, Like This.”

“Like this?” Timidly.

“No, Roll Back.”

It was obviously a nightmare, both for the patient and the Therapist Assistant. The patient was very soft-spoken, shy, and clearly of a different nationality. Which one, I didn’t know, and didn’t care, as people are all people. But she was obviously feeling embarrassed, confused and doing her very best to cooperate. The assistant was also doing her best, as she was trying to use multiple ways of explaining things—visually and verbally—but obviously did not have the mental flexibility to understand where the difficulty was. Although she was trying to be clear by speaking distinctly, it was only causing the patient to feel flustered. The assistant’s own frustration was also beginning to show, which only added to the patient’s discomfort. And all we really had here was a crisis of communication.

She was listening hard, she was trying to follow directions of the therapist assistant. But speaking more clearly doesn’t help people who don’t understand what the words are trying to communicate. Understanding the words is one thing; understanding syntax is another. The assistant was using almost slang syntax—to “roll back on the ball” meant to roll the ball forward while you laid back onto the ball. The patient was rolling the ball back, literally, which was what the assistant was saying, but was not what she meant.

Almost before I even knew it, I was down the hall and on the floor beside her, explaining the instructions with different words, guiding the ball with my hands, and speaking calmly and cheerfully. She responded instantly, and began to do much better. For the rest of the session, I “translated” the assistant for her, and everything went smoothly. Both the assistant and the patient seemed glad for the help.

For the last part of the session, she was to have heat treatment. I went to get her hot pack. She passed me on a trip to the restroom and thanked me profusely for my help. I said I was glad to; I could see both she and the therapist were having a difficult time.

I stepped into the hall, and the therapist approached me. She expressed her frustration at the patients inability to grasp it, how she needed constant cues, how she would tell her, over and over and over. Yes, I could see both of you where having a difficult time, I said. Yes, she agreed, we think she may have learning disabilities.

I don’t have a poker face, and I’m sure she saw my eyebrow shoot up. I don’t know if she knew what I was thinking, which was vaguely along the lines of “You’ve got to be kidding me. If she has learning difficulties than 98% of the people on the planet have learning difficulties. If the only people you count as normal are the ones who don’t need to be taught, maybe it’s a teaching disability.”

See, it’s kind of a pet issue of mine. It’s nothing personal against the assistant, who I know was doing her very best. It’s my own personal rebellion against The System that says all people can be taught the same. All people can’t be taught the same. People simply think in different methods and manners. I’ve seen it again and again throughout my life. Some people learn best by methods convoluted and incomprehensible to me; and some people I’ve been able to explain things to with the first words that pop out of my mouth. The insinuation that it’s always the student’s fault when The System doesn’t work leaves me indignant.

Teaching is truly a skill, and those that excel at it leave me in awe. It’s the hugely talented teachers who can get inside the head of seemingly any student and open up the doors. But why is it the student found lacking when “it doesn’t work”? Why not simply, “This isn’t a good match”? Or “I have difficulty understanding this student’s thought process”?

But I’m aware this is my own personal vendetta against the world at large, so I try to keep my indignant (and unhelpful) out-bursts to myself. I didn’t say anything, regardless of what my face said. The patient came back from the restroom. We went back to the booth, so we could set the patient up with a hot pack for her back.

“Do you want to lay on your back or your belly?” the therapist asked.

You could see the look of panic on the patient’s face as she tried to internally parse this. Do I want the heat on my back or my belly? Does lay on my back mean my back is facing up or down? What is she trying to ask me?

“Do You Want To Lay On Your Back Or Your Belly?” You could see the therapist thinking, c’mon, how how hard can this be? It’s just a simple question!

I rephrased it for her.

“Would you like to lay so that your back is facing the ceiling or so that your stomach is facing the ceiling?”

“So my stomach is facing the ceiling!” Her relief was evident, and her answer instantaneous, if still very soft spoken.

That simple change, that small clarification, was enough. She’s not stupid. She is just having difficulties communicating, difficulty understanding. I’ve heard people explain what goes through their heads when faced with seemingly simple questions. I’ve felt my face flush as people continue to repeat, over and over, the same instructions that I still don’t understand. I realize that if she doesn’t understand it the way it was phrased the first time, she needs to hear it a different way.

When her timer went off, I went to collect the hot pack and let her know she could go home. She thanked me again for helping. I’m sure I said you’re welcome; I know I mentioned I could see the therapist was having trouble explaining it. I asked her when her next appointment was. She said Monday, and I said that was too bad, I wouldn’t be there, because I worked at a different location on Mondays. She asked me if I did the same work there, or something different. We chatted a bit as I walked her out of the gym.

I did miss her next appointment. I hoped they had been patient, I hoped they had explained themselves well. I know it can be difficult, but I wanted things to go well for her.

When I saw her name in the appointment book a week or so later, I know my face lit up. I kept my eye out for her, but I was busy when she showed up. Her Physical Therapist took her back, so I didn’t get to talk to her then. I was pleased to see that her therapist was the most soft-spoken of them all, and perhaps the most patient, though I couldn’t help but wonder how well she can explain.

But I couldn’t keep half on eye on them to make sure everything was okay, because the therapist pulled the curtain. She knew the patient was shy and self-conscious, and felt it would be better if the patient wasn’t feeling exposed, and that was probably a good thing.

She again went to the restroom right before her heat treatment (it’s a good idea; nothing like laying there with a full bladder wondering how long until your time is up. It’s kind of the opposite of relaxing). I talked to the therapist; how was it going? I don’t know; she hardly said a word the whole time. She needs constant cues; she just doesn’t get it.

I am confounded. Why do people harp on the constant part of constant cues? Maybe they’re simply be the WRONG cues, in which case it doesn’t matter how constantly you give them. And I can hardly be surprised that she clams right up. You feel so dumb when everyone acts like something should be obvious and you don’t understand what they are trying to say. I didn’t think this was hard to relate to; I didn’t think this was hard to understand. Why are they having such difficulties working with her?

I again got to talk to her when I took her off heat treatment. I asked her how it was going. She said she wasn’t having much luck, and it was still hurting her just the same. It made it hard for her to do things. Physical therapy didn’t seem to be helping. She talked easily; there was no fear or confusion.

I felt so bad for her. I wanted to help her, I wanted her to keep coming so I could explain it to her; I wanted it to work for her, wanted her to stop hurting. Whether her therapist or therapist assistant knew it or not, she was my patient now. I was going to take care of her.

This morning I found out she was shot and killed last Friday while studying to be a U.S. citizen.

Do you know horror? I don’t know horror very well. I didn’t know horror last Friday, when I knew it was happening. It was no one I knew, in a part of town I didn’t know. I couldn’t relate to the horror of the other people in the hospital, when we knew it was going on. Not that I didn’t understand it. I just didn’t feel it.

I felt it now, and on top of that I felt the horror of my own words, “It’s just doesn’t feel that personal to me. It might as well be happening in Australia.” That horror spread and stayed with me as I read a piece in the paper on one of the victims. In it, it said “The point is, she was real and not some strange-looking letters on a list that are difficult to relate to.” And I had thought last Friday, “Why is our hospital refusing to let it’s staff go home? It’s only a few casualties, only a dozen dead.”

Only?

“I can still see her pull her braid down and shake her beautiful hair loose and smile, with those shining eyes. I can hear that infectious laughter. . .” the article said. Me, too. Kind of. I never saw my patient pull her hair loose, I never heard her laugh—but I saw her smile and her shining eyes. I can see my patient as clearly in my mind now as that author could see her friend. She was small—as short as me, but much more frail and delicate. She was the kind of person who should be kept some place safe–not some place dangerous, where she could get hurt. But she had been some place safe. It was supposed to be safe.

When did I last see her? The day before? The morning of? I can’t remember. But she wasn’t supposed to be dead, she was supposed to be coming back. So I could help her, so she could get better, not get dead.

She wasn’t sick. She didn’t have a car accident. She didn’t linger, and give us all some warning she wasn’t going to be hanging around. She was murdered while minding her own business in a civics class.

I’m not confused by it, and I wasn’t on Friday, either. I understand, to some measure. I knew it was a horrible thing last Friday, and I knew that people died last Friday. But last Friday I wasn’t really horrified.

Today I’m horrified.

At my patient being killed. And at myself, for not being horrified last Friday.

I only saw her twice, I didn’t really know her. So I should have been just as horrified at the other 13, because I didn’t know them either. I should have been horrified last Friday, before I knew she had died. They were all important people, even if I didn’t know them. And you can’t really use the word “only” in the same sentence with the word “died”.

I shouldn’t have said it might as well be in Australia. My patient would have been my patient if she was right next to me or if she was in Antarctica. I shouldn’t have laughed, in my mind, at the people who said “This never happens around here!” On Friday I thought, “What is so special about here? Human nature is the same wherever you go!” Today I find myself wondering, “How about that patient? Is he coming back in here alive?” Or considering that if this was “some place else”, this wouldn’t have been the first time someone I “knew” had just been murdered. Would it be happening more often? Just because it wasn’t that way “before” doesn’t mean it will stay that way.

I was happier when they were just numbers. I was happier when there wasn’t names. But it is better for me that there is at least one face, one name, one person in the midst of all of these blathering reports. One thing that makes it real, not a story. One thing that makes me care, makes me want to cry. There are people out there crying right now, and I shouldn’t be able to dismiss them out of my mind by telling myself it was only about a dozen people and really not that big of a deal. It should be a big deal when someone dies, and I shouldn’t be so calloused I can’t feel it when they do.

Sometimes you just wonder why it’s so hard to learn.