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Resurrection Day, 2016

 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commoms

 

I wanted a flashy day with loud music, confetti, and line dancing but God said No. Resurrection is a process.

I wanted a forgettable day with daffodils, blinding sunbeams, and enough perspiration bleeding through my t-shirt to prove that Winter had come to an end. God provided a pale day and a chastening spirit which chilled the bones of the beeches and chattered the ghosts which clung to their outstretched arms.

I zipped my jacket and kept hiking. Hints of redbud pink rewarded my perseverance.

Today I sit behind my desk and discover that I have one delicious hour more than I had expected. I have forgotten my utensils and, in the privacy of my office, peel and eat a sweet potato like an ice cream cone while typing these words with sticky fingers. Ideas rattle in my own skull, crowding one another and asking for safe passage onto paper. I choose to bring this one to Life:

God has provided another perfect day.

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Candy from a Stranger

Indonesian Food

I was told never to take candy from strangers.

So I didn’t.

I took a whole lunch, and I ate every bite.

I’ve written once before about my love for the community in which I work. Today reminded me again that I have landed in the right place.

I had just returned to my somewhat rundown host church after stepping across the parking lot for coffee and was about to close my office door behind me when I heard a tentative, “Ma’am?”

I turned and saw a tiny woman I did not recognize.

“Ma’am, have you had any lunch today?”

She turned and gestured toward the battered desk which serves as the church’s Sunday reception area. There rested a half-empty platter covered with plastic.

“Would you like to try some Indonesian food? I made it for a prayer breakfast but others also brought food, and the turnout was small.”

The woman brought the plate to my door, where I still stood. This was unexpected. She appeared to mistake my hesitation.

“These are made from sticky rice and coconut milk. The dark one is sweet and has brown sugar. The other isn’t sweet, and it has tuna in it.” Almost apologetically, she added, “I come from an island. We learned to use what we had.”

The lovely, moist rectangles were plated on banana leaves.

I was overwhelmed by her simple kindness. I hurried to get a tissue to use as a plate. A tissue? Well, I am a therapist, after all.

I thanked her profusely.

“Let me think if I have something I can give you,” I said stupidly.

“Oh no,” she said. “You don’t need to give me anything for them. Please—take as many as you want.”

I hadn’t been thinking to pay her, only to share a part of my self in return. I had been visualizing my sandwich, orange, and hardboiled egg. Who would want those? It’s ridiculous, I know. But that was what popped into my mind as I scanned my brain for a gesture of communion.

I ate the rice cakes at the desk where I am now writing. The savory one was a type of tuna sandwich which hinted of ginger. The sweet one was a gooey delight. Without the banana leaf beneath them, the fragrant cakes had become hopelessly grafted to the tissue. I ate them paper and all.

Rita is no longer a stranger.

A Sip of Heaven and a Nibble of Bliss: A Postscript

Ira Rott Koala hat image copy.jpg

Image and hat design by Ira Rott*

This is part of The Story of Hanna. Please see the tab of the same name for the story in its entirety. The prior post can be found here.

January 6, 2016

The past few months have been a real grind. Today started as a grainy blur. But it got better.

I heard from Torsten today. He is Hanna’s brother. He is a brother of my heart, if not of my blood.

It’s been nearly five years now, and I’ve had not a word from Hanna. Her family has heard little more than I.

Torsten wished me a Happy New Year. He wanted me to know that he and Sophia are expecting a baby girl in May.

He still loves me, and he’s glad I’m in his life.

As I nudged down the road this evening, on the way to my daughter’s orchestra practice, I was suffused with joy, traffic be damned. In the car with me were two of my best girls. I sipped my milky-sweet Earl Grey and savored a cookie baked by my mother’s aging hands. A handmade scarf, the Christmas creation of a beloved niece, encircled me with love.

All will come right. In time. In mysterious unfolding. In winding wending waiting. All is coming right.

I’m going to be an auntie. Or maybe a grandma.

I hope I still remember how to crochet animal hats.

*Ira Rott’s patterns are awesome. Please visit her page here.

90837

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

I have known Avril for precisely 203 hours. I have known Avril for 8 days and 11 hours.

I have known Avril one hour at a time for 6 years and 8 days. She was barely out of childhood when we started our secret meetings. She had to sneak around so that her grandma wouldn’t learn about me and kick her out of the house. Now she is a career woman, a single parent, and a home owner. I am her therapist.

Today when Avril left my office, I dashed for the ladies room in the darkened part of the building. My swollen heart was near bursting. I drew a few quaking breaths, grabbed it in both hands, and wrung. When just enough of it had squeezed out my eyes to ensure that it would fit back into my chest until lunch, I allowed myself one luxurious minute more. Maybe two. Another client was on her way. I dabbed my kohl and returned to my post.

I was not sad. The culprit was gratitude. It had been welling and swelling all morning, and Avril’s face had set me off.

Four weeks ago, Avril had returned after a six-month break. She was aware she was starting to falter. I had held up the mirror and shown her how far she had come. She had curled into herself:

“Stop!” she had cried, “Stop it now!”

Two weeks ago, she knew was flirting with disaster. She was scared because she had stopped feeling scared. Would she grasp for the help she needed before she was all used up? Avril had been taught that depression is not real, that medication is an affront to Jesus. She had gutted it out before–but the stakes had seemed smaller back then.

Avril was but a nub that day. Her face was stony, her voice a near monotone. I thought I spied a spark of “Fuck You” simmering behind her eyes but I couldn’t be sure. It both reassured and alarmed me. The starving, the cutting, all those games.…These had been her tools, both comforting and despised, to secure her care. They had been friends once upon a time. Now they fit her like a too-small skin. Weary from trying so hard to embrace her new size, she sought solace in the familiar. She panicked when she realized she couldn’t go back, and this made her strain even harder. In trying to force matters, she had nearly done herself harm.

She had not yet become small enough for me to intervene. I was worried but I would not mother her. Avril had become a woman, and she had to choose for herself.

Today, Avril arrived with a gaunt face, a giant mug of tea, and no hello. She started talking and left me to fill in the blanks:

“The medication is making me really tired. But I stopped trying to avoid food. I know my appetite will come back if I wait.”

Her face was soft and almost shy.

90837 is the billing code for a therapy session lasting 53-60 minutes.

Chocolate

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

2013

Writing seems to be at least as good as drugs. I went to sleep after finishing my essay on becoming invisible and had the oddest dream:

The weather was chilly. I stood just outside (Irish Name) Hall, an academic building on the (Jesuit) University campus. A man smiled and hurried by on my left as he made for the door. I didn’t take too close a look. Why would I? I was accustomed to the rhythms of student life, and I no longer noticed their comforting background hum.

I can’t recall his face other than to say that he was youthful looking and without facial hair. I assumed he was a fellow student. He had brown skin, and his dark hair hung about to his shoulders. My peripheral vision told me that he wore jeans and a dark leather jacket. Something flashed bright red—a knit cap or a winter scarf?  In passing, he held out his left hand as if in greeting. Without thinking–and perhaps in recognition of some unspoken solidarity among those who labor for knowledge–I held out my left hand in return. We briefly clasped hands.

I felt an immediate, sharp pain.

Stunned, I opened my fingers to find that his touch had transferred a loosely-crumpled wad of wood shavings. I soon discovered the source of my discomfort. In the ball were hidden four nails: two small wire brads and two larger wood nails. His grip had driven the larger nails into the bottom of my palm and the smaller ones into my wrist directly below. I spun around, confused. But he was already gone.

I brushed away the nails. Their tips had become embedded just deeply enough to draw a trickle of blood. I felt piqued and violated. He had smiled even while planning to harm me, and I had held out my hand in welcome. But what was to be done? Finding no recourse, I went about my business.

I opened the door and entered the building. There I found myself standing in some sort of dimly lit café or general store. To my right stood Rodger, a former professor turned colleague. Rodger’s class and way of being had been a great help to me as I was coming to the end of a long and exhausting spiritual slog. He continues to be a wise and helpful presence though we rarely interact.

Rodger stood at the end of a long wooden table which reached nearly to his chest. In the low light, I could make out a wall of shelves behind him. He was preparing to take orders, to serve people. He looked worn out.

Still startled from my encounter a moment before, I unclenched my fist to share with him the story of what had happened. The dripping blood had formed a jelly-like blob of crimson where it had congealed in the center of my palm. I wiped it away and showed Rodger my hand. He told me he was sorry about what had happened to me. I shrugged it off.

I asked how he was doing, and Rodger confirmed that he was weary. I thought some refreshment might help, and I asked him why he didn’t fix himself some tea. I remembered he was not a coffee drinker. Rodger replied that the tea had run out.

I wanted to find some way to help but couldn’t, at first, think how. I thought about my habit of carrying a bit of dark chocolate in my purse for just such emergencies as these. Rodger said he would be glad to have it.

I felt pleased to know I had something to offer and pleased that Rodger would accept it. I hoped it wouldn’t be covered in lint.

As I began to dig around in my purse, the room filled with people. They lined up along the sides of the table facing Rodger and waited to place orders for hot drinks and make requests for foods and dry goods. As the crowd grew, I was pushed farther and farther down the table and away from Rodger. For some reason, I remember that the woman who stood directly in front of me, near the back of what had become a throng, was wearing a beige overcoat.

Once I extricated myself from the tangle, I returned my attention to the excavation of my purse. To my surprise, I found two large, unopened bars of chocolate! Their labels promised a delicious treat.

I tried to recall buying these bars but I was unable to account for their presence in my bag. I realized they must have been in the bottom of my purse for some time because I could feel that they had they had begun to break along their fault lines into smaller squares. Finally, I came upon the single dark square I had originally sought. I was delighted! Not only could I serve Rodger; I could even offer him choices. I had more than enough to share.

My alarm went off. I got out of bed and pushed the dream to the back of my mind. Later as I sat in church, I woke up with a jolt: Nails. Palm. OH.

I recounted last night’s dream to my husband as we took a long walk together. He immediately saw what I had completely missed. And now, as I sit here finishing this account, I begin to wonder about something else. I had assumed the man had intended malice.

What if this was not the case?

Because of the timing and context in which I dreamed and recorded this dream, I have decided that it belongs to The Story of Hanna. For the prior installment, click here. For the next installment, click here.

Creative Blogger Award, Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me, and I Am a Shameless Cheater

I

I “borrowed” this from this blogger. I hope that is ok. If not, please let me know and I will take it down. You see, I AM really a cheater!

I stole this one from another blog. Sue me. No, no! Don't! Just ask me to remove it.

I stole this one from another blog. Sue me.
No, no! Don’t! Just ask me to remove it.

I want to thank my peers for the attention they have given to my blog this week! I both love and hate you.

I am ever so stoked about the kind words and the traffic on my site. At the same time, I think the excitement is making me a bit weird. I’m an introvert who needs a lot of solitude in order to be worth knowing. All those pings and dings rocked my world until I started to become overstimulated.

I realized I was in trouble when I woke up last night to use the bathroom and interrupted myself in the middle of a dream about a conspiracy by Canadian pennies to ruin the U.S. economy.

They were sneaking over the border unnoticed the way ants reconnoiter a kitchen. The idea was for the scouts to infiltrate and for all the other pennies to follow in a steady trail until Canadian pennies spilled out of every unsuspecting purse and gummed up every vending machine, thereby causing the U.S. financial system to collapse.

What might be even more concerning is the fact that I was so worried I would forget this dream that I grabbed the only writing implement handy (my kohl pencil) and jotted a short note on the only available surface (my dental floss container). To tell the whole truth, I wanted to write on the mirror, but my husband Henry would have noticed for sure and questioned my sanity.

I had to write it twice. I was so tired the first attempt came out looking like

I had to write it twice. I was so tired that my first attempt came out looking like “Prunies,” and I was afraid I would wake up the next morning with no idea what that meant.

Because of my limited bandwidth, I have decided 1. to respond to both of these nominations in one post, 2. take a break from accepting awards and nominations, and 3. save time by making up my own rules so that I don’t have to quit my day job to work on my blog. (I am grossly exaggerating for effect. Did you like it? I really have only 85 followers.)

Without further delay….

Many thanks to Mogromo for nominating me for the Creative Blogger Award. If you are reading this, I hope you will visit her blog! She’s not just another pretty face. Mogromo will take you on a tour of Frankfurt, complete with quality photos and personal observations. It’s the next best thing to being there. You will be in good hands as she enjoys researching her subjects and sharing her learning. Mogromo’s blog also assuages some of my homesickness for a city I love but have not been able to visit since 2004. I am pretty sure she will be taking us to Amsterdam at some point (Mogromo, is this so?), so don’t miss the adventure!

The award calls for 5 random facts about me. Here they are–except they are actually three truths and two lies. Can you spot the lies? Make your guess and I will answer in a couple of days. (as of 8/11/15, answers are at the bottom)

  1. I wear glasses.
  2. I wear Birkenstocks.
  3. I wear decals on my nails.
  4. I wear out a lot of can openers (strong hands!)
  5. I wear a bikini.

Here are the original rules:

* Display the Creative Blogger Award logo on your blog.
* Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify all nominees via their social media/blogs.
* Thank and post the link of the blog that nominated you.
* Share 5 random facts about yourself to your readers.
* Pass these rules on to them.

I nominate the following blogs/bloggers for this award. They may choose to follow the rules. Or not!

  1. Moylom Enterprises (a single mother and a woman of faith who also blogs for self therapy)
  2. Erich Michaels  (interesting and sometimes disturbing stories)
  3. Melanie Griffin (very authentic writing on spirituality, grief, social issues, and more)
  4. These Wings are Made to Fly (a newly-minted au pair from Europe heads off to her first job in Dallas)
  5. Shirley’s Heaven (the daughter of a mentally ill mother writes memoir pieces mixed with everyday reflections)

I would also like to thank Bumbi’s Mom for nominating me for the Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me Challenge. I’m just getting to know her blog, in which she shares amusing parenting stories and some helpful tips. I hope you will pop over and have a look. Ahhh, I remember those sweet and sticky days of young children….I suspect the next time I have those experiences will be with grandchildren. (Note to my daughters: No rush, ok?)

Here are the rules she provided:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you and answer their 10 questions.
  • Add the badge to your post.
  • Write your own 10 questions and tag 10 bloggers to do the same.

Again, I’m going to cheat and just answer her even numbered questions. You’ll be annoyed in short order because a one-word answer feels too limiting.

2. Favorite genre of music? My tastes are eclectic. For example, I like baroque music, some classical, The B52s, The Pretenders, bhangra, some Christian worship songs. I try different things just because I’m curious. Even if I’m not a total fan, I like to know what’s out there. I have told you that I am easily overstimulated. Since I work full time and live in a lively household, I often prefer silence when it is an option.

4. First concert you ever went to? I went to many classical music concerts as a child, but I don’t think that is what Bumbi’s Mom meant. I think my first concert as a teen was Amy Grant.

6. If you could have any job in the world, what would you want to do? I’m doing it: Wife, Mother, Therapist. I hope one day to have an essay or a short something published–at least once–so I can add Writer 🙂

8. Mountains or beach? If I can’t be back on the shores of Madeline Island prior to the 1990’s, then it would have to be the mountains.

10. Train, plane, or automobile? First choice: my own two feet. Second would be train. Third would be plane. Fourth would be automobile. I life in an area of the country vying for the title of Worst Traffic Nightmare, so I’d love to spend fewer hours behind the wheel of my car.

I hereby nominate the following bloggers to answer 10 questions (or however many they would like) if they choose to participate.

  1. Elan Mudrow (a mysterious! poet)
  2. Sober Living in Med City (honest pieces about recovery)
  3. Pint Size Fiction (short stories reminiscent of Dr. Who or The Twilight Zone)
  4. Lynette Davis at Memoir Notes (an information hub for all things related to memoir writing, plus great pieces on Black history)
  5. Nicholas Rossis (a welcoming author who is quick to support his fellow writers and who posts publishing tips, book reviews, and more)

Here are the questions:

  1. What drink are you most likely to order when going out?
  2. What is your favorite writing spot?
  3. What books are next to your bed?
  4. What is in your purse/pockets right now?
  5. Where did you go on your last road trip?
  6. If you could turn back time, what mistake would you avoid?
  7. What made you laugh today?
  8. Which movie would you like to live inside for a week (if you knew you’d make it out alive)?
  9. What question would you ask God if you were face to face?
  10. If I were meeting you for lunch for the first time, what description would you give me so I would recognize you?

Thanks for reading! I’ll talk to you soon!

Answers to Three Truths and Two Lies:
1. True: I do wear glasses.
2. True: I wear green paisley Birkenstocks.
3. False: I do not wear nail decals. I rarely even file or paint my nails. Clipper are fine with me. I am clearly missing some sort of womanly gene in the area of grooming.
4. True: I break can openers by squeezing them too hard.
5. False: NO. I do not wear a bikini. Do you know how much therapy people would need if I did that??!!

Mommy

Photo credit here.

Photo credit here.

Last month, I was more than usually harried as I worked to close up my therapy practice for a few days of fun and rest. I had upped my caseload a few weeks earlier when I realized I was going to come very close to qualifying for an end-of-year-bonus. I knew I would be very upset to miss it by a few client-hours.

Some of my best gals and I were going to the shore for a long weekend. We had planned it many months in advance. I wanted to return rested to a clean desk so I was busy catching up. Plus, being the mom at my house, I felt that instinctual tug to clean up a bit and stock the kitchen. It is the fear of mothers everywhere that a few days away will cause the family to starve or the earth to stop rotating on its axis. I used to cook their meals in advance. My family felt cared for and I felt less guilty at abandoning them so callously.  This also made it less likely they would spend two weeks of my grocery budget on one weekend of eating out. Oh look! I am both grandiose and controlling.

Ha! But this time they had to fend for themselves. This particular week so hectic that I bought two cases of Udon and some fresh produce at the Korean grocery and left them to their own devices. Perhaps a future post should be devoted to Mom Guilt but it won’t be this one.

My dear Mom reached me in the car on my way to the office. Hearing the urgency and fatigue in my voice, she wished me a good trip and said she wouldn’t keep me. She sounded concerned.

I checked my phone as I left the office to run errands at lunch. I felt worried when I saw two missed calls from my mother. She is not one to blow up my phone. I went through my messages and found one from her. She had decided that if she couldn’t lighten my load, she could at least make me Princess For A Day.

My mother starts every message the same way. If I I saved them all and played the tracks simultaneously, we’d have a well-tuned choir: “Hi, Jane! It’s Mom!” She asked for my account number at the credit union we share. She had thought and prayed it through and wanted to give me some money to go out and by myself “something pretty” while I was at the beach.

I don’t do “pretty” very well. In fact, I struggle to maintain an appropriate selection of clothing for work. After my husband and I tied the knot, he groaned when he realized his bride’s wardrobe did actually consist of jeans and a collection of fraying road-race tees. Then he threatened to make them disappear. He didn’t follow through; and here we are, three kids and 27 years later.

I called back and got her voice mail.

“My Mommy!” I blurted without even thinking. Where had that come from? I am 51 years old. I haven’t called her Mommy since I was very young.

My mother is slowing down. I fear she is turning into a little old lady. She carries a cell phone but doesn’t turn it on. She is afraid of it but won’t admit it. She regularly forwards me emails which would make Snopes cry. She is starting to become cute, and we all know what that means: I’ve started to feel tender and sentimental. And protective. Do not ever mess with her. Ever.

No way was I going to let my mother spend her money on me! If anything, it should be the other way around. I was moved by her offer but this was not happening.

“Mommy, I love you so much! You are so, so sweet to me. But I am not taking your money!” I hung up and chuckled, a little dewy eyed. That was that.

When I finished work that day and went through my messages, there was a second message.

“Hi, Jane! It’s Mom. Take the money. I’m not taking no for an answer. Give me that account number or else. And I mean it, buster!”

She got the account number, and I got a succulent scallop dinner at the shore. They were very pretty scallops.

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