Robin is putting together a Wednesday Festival at RevGals and wonders what's new with folks. Soo:
This is an exciting week for me, because my EFM program group is starting tomorrow! We take the summers off. I've completed one year of this four-year program, and I wrote about it here, in April. I love the program because of relationships we form...the learning and reading and study are important, too, but the relationships are the key.
Also new: I'm doing a weekly study of Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking with a dear friend.
And, I've joined a Mastermind group that meets for accountability once a month and shares goals, ideas, and support. :) Great fun. Helping me get on track to get healthier!!!
Coming attractions: new episodes of TV shows I love, including Mom and The Middle.
My parish has a search committee looking for a new rector and that person will hopefully be called soon. Our interim time has been fruitful and we are ready to move forward.
I have a new old car! It's a 2000 Buick Park Avenue and it's been greatly improved by a car wizard friend.
Okay, and finally: my granddaughter, Nash, is still really new (4.5 months), and I'm never going to miss an opportunity to show you a photo of her:
My next-older sister has bipolar disorder. She was diagnosed with it in her late 20's, but it first manifested in adolescence. It was a long and terrible stretch of years in which awful and impossible things happened. Clearly, the lion's share of the awfulness was hers, and that is her story; but it affected all of us in the nuclear and extended family. Today, things would have happened differently, because today she would have received a diagnosis earlier and been treated earlier, too.
As it turned out, she beat the odds and, once she found a doc she trusted, never went off her medicine. She had a wildly successful career as a kindergarten teacher and retired a few years ago to enjoy her animals and garden.
This spring, my friend and hero Joani started writing about mental illness at her blog, Unorthodox and Unhinged: Tales of a Manic Christian, I was delighted and horrified. Delighted to know a smart, funny Episcopal priest writing honestly about her bipolar condition and how it's affected her life, and also horrified at the fear it brought up in me. I thought, "Joani! you can't tell that! you'll get in trouble!"
Well, no. She won't. (She's a grownup, you know.) And my fear is a symptom of the unwillingness to talk about it that is a huge part of the problem in our society. We don't talk about mental illness, about suicide, any of that, because it seems shameful, selfish, maybe they are just a bad person, etc. I know better, of course, but the discomfort was still there, and it shocked me how much fear I had about my own family story. It goes back to my grandmother's dictate that you can go to a counselor, but don't TELL them anything. (!)
Because...at the time I was worrying about Joan, I was already fretting because I had agreed to join my mom and my sister in giving a talk about living with bipolar disorder to my mom's local chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Several months ago, mom had proposed that as a family we would present the program in September.
During the process of talking with the two about them about the event, what would be said, I became aware of how uncomfortable I was feeling. There was a lot of pain that we had not dealt with, and I didn't realize it. (I've had a LOT of counseling...you'd think I'd be all done by now.)
Long story short, we did it on Thursday. It went well. We were graciously received by the group, some of whom had mental illness diagnoses and some of whom were there for support to deal with family members who do. It started with a support group meeting and continued with our presentation.
I'm so grateful that those folks were willing to open their circle and let us join, to listen to a bit of our stories. All three of us lived it differently, of course, and we learned from the opportunity to talk about it. It was stressful but it was healing.
So, over at RevGals we are having a blogging party/contest!
I've slacked off blogging in the last few years, as have many others. Just like "video killed the radio star," Facebook sort of killed blogging as it was when the first RevGals and Pals found each other online and began the community of support that has nourished and sustained so many since 2005. I'm glad to have a gentle push to go back and write on this topic: "a woman who has been a positive influence on your ministry (whether or not she is/was a pastor)."
(Here are my dad and mom at their church in 2011)
My mother made me the person I am in many ways. She was raised at St. John's Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, taking herself there when her parents stopped going. She did a lot of searching when I was very small, and had a conversion experience that sent her out (in addition to the Episcopal Church of our family) to Assemblies of God and other locations that offered vigorous worship and Bible teaching. My love of ecumenism came early. We always attended and worked in our own Episcopal parish, and in lots of other places, too. In the early 1970's, this included the Church of the Redeemer's Friday night services. Along with others from across the region who wanted to transfer there, Mom & Dad were told to stay in their own parish and share there what they had learned, and they did. They brought Faith Alive to the parish and it became a vibrant and growing place. All four of us played the guitar in monthly parish Folk Masses.
Mom was the first female layreader in our parish, and she had to push for it. I was the first female acolyte, she made sure of it. Mom was also the Sunday School superintendent for forever, I think. Perhaps most formative for me, she ran a group for girls from elementary through junior high (basically the ages my sister and I were) called God's Children. We learned, did crafts and activities, sang as a children's choir and put on musicals. Nobody else was offering this type of activity for kids, and she wanted it for us.
(my Daughters of the King cross and the God's Children emblem, both made by James Avery)
As I look back, I think she'd have made an excellent priest, but that was never in the cards. She worked as a speech pathologist and helped support our family throughout the years. Besides, women weren't regularly ordained in our church until 1977, by which time she had made an ineluctable place for herself in the life and work of our church. I learned from her, along with a family full of churchmen and women, that most of us are called to ministry as laity. The church has to have strong, committed laypersons with the experience and courage to lead in partnernship with ordained people. Laity are not second class; we make it happen.
Houston Post HQ - Houston Chronicle Plant - photo from Wikipedia, in the public domain
I grew up in Houston, in a suburb called Spring Branch/Memorial. I lived in our house there from the time I was 18 months old until I left for college at 18...so it's the only childhood home I remember.
My Gramma Beth and Aunt Etta Jane lived near downtown, in a up/down brick duplex in an area called Montrose. It was definitely on the other side of town, so we didn't go there VERY often, but when we did we took the Southwest Freeway and we passed this big building. When Nancy and I were very little we would always shout toward the building, "Hello, Bill Cosby and Andy Williams!"
Why we decided those two folks lived in the Houston Post building (as it was then), I have no idea.
Heard today that Andy Williams had died, and this was the first thing I thought of: "Bill Cosby is gonna be lonely in that big place by himself."
Following that trip down memory lane, I did a Google Images search for my Gramma's house, which was sold after my aunt's death in the nineties to a couple who were opening a gallery in the downstairs and planning to live upstairs. 307 Sul Ross Street; we called it "307."
I found this tiny picture of it:
It is now a very upscale hair salon called Touch of Red. Interstingly, in a CBS news piece from Oct. 2011 about the salon, the building was described as an "old-school-house-turned-business."
Schoolhouse!? I called my dad to check this, and he said, no way. He told me that my great-grandfather bought it in about 1918 and lived there until his death in 1933; my great-grandmother continued to live there until she became bedridden and went to live with my grandmother at 1110 Marshall, a few blocks away. Later, my grandmother and aunt moved to 307. They lived upstairs and my aunt had an accounting firm downstairs...later my dad had a contracting business in that space with her. Both Gramma Beth and Aunt Etta Jane lived there until they died.
By that time, what had been a very prosperous Houston neighborhood was filled with crack houses and prostitutes...thus the big iron fence. It was NOT a good neighborhood then.
Here's a photo from the salon website. This is inside the downstairs (I presume), looking from the front door toward the sunporch.
I'd know that fireplace anywhere...
Okay, time to stop going down rabbit trails. Bill Cosby...you take care.
Come one, come all! Whether you are a style blogger or a food
blogger, a Republican or a Democrat, a mommy blogger or a tech blogger
or none of the above or all of the above, this blog hop is meant for
you. Yes, YOU. Perfect Moment Monday,
a bloghop that began in 2008, is about noticing a perfect moment rather
than creating one. On the last Monday of each month we engage in
mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is
welcome to join.
Ken and I went to visit my parents this weekend. We ended the trip with a Sunday lunch at Rosa's Cafe in San Angelo, where I used my phone to take some photos of the folks.
It was my dad's 87th birthday...a cause for celebration all by itself! Here he is with sister Nancy.
What a gift to have both of my parents able to go out to lunch with us.
Here are Ken and Scooter, Nancy's husband. Not a good picture, but a great conversation.
Nancy and Mom
Me and my Mallory
Everyone together! Saxon is the tall (TALL) young man and Spencer is by his dad.
When I saw this prompt, I thought that lunch had to be the perfect moment for this month. A good meal, this part of the family together, everyone well and happy and friends. I am grateful for much.
Sally set this Friday Five at RevGals, but I wasn't able to do it then. Taking a quick minute to look within and see:
This week, what has
Encouraged you? The messages of support, particularly when we were stuck in the Tallahassee airport for 6+ hours on Thursday. Those are times when you need to feel less alone and the Facebookies came through for me!!!
Inspired you? The staff of the Tallahassee airport who went above and beyond to make us feel as comfortable as possible during the long wait. They brought out airport cookies, bottled water and ice...but also several boxes of Girl Scout cookies that I am certain were personally owned by one of them. They carried cookies around to the passengers in serving trays made of coffee filters. :) The airport kept the snack bar open for an extra 2 hours so we could get dinner, and the staff there could not have been more cheerful and helpful, given the unanticipated Friday night overtime.
Challenged you? Helping my mom get (as smoothly as possible) to the funeral of her sister, where there was significant potential for very nasty conflict, and staying centered and NOT in a place of fear. It all turned out well. God is gracious and oh, people are generally so gracious too.
Made you smile? Spending time with a cousin that I have never known well and finding a real kindred spirit. She is the daughter of my mother's favorite cousin. Wonderful symmetry.
Brought a lump in your throat or a tear to your eye in a good way? Seeing my only maternal first cousins (Aunt Nancy's children) again...it has been many years, at least 20. Hearing Mother Terri say those words at the graveside: "We are all dust, and to dust we shall return; but even as we go down to the grave we make our song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
There's a symbol in hobo language that means: "A kind-hearted woman lives here."
According to Kind Hearted Woman Gifts, "A century ago hobos traveled the land using a system of pictures to communicate with each other. These pictures would be carved on trees, fence posts or buildings or chalked on pavement near homes. The symbol of a smiling cat meant a 'kind hearted woman lives here.' Someone who would likely extend kindness and hospitality."
My mother has said that my grandmother probably had one of those signs up near her house, because often and often a tramp would come to the back door (always the back) and ask to work for food. She always gave them work (giving out work was a specialty of hers), and then she always gave them a plate piled high with food, that they sat on the back steps to eat.
My husband's office is in our home, so if people come to the door during the day, he's the one to answer it. He has, over the years, hired many people for similar sorts of labor, folks who were down on their luck.
Today I was reading and heard a knock at the door. It was a man who said he was homeless and wanted to work - but for food, not for money. I told him I'd ask Ken if he needed any help.
Ken declined, so I went back out and told the man I'd be glad to make him some sandwiches but we didn't need any work done. He declined, even when I tried to insist.
I'm sorry about that. But I'm glad that if there's a word on the street, it says that a kind-hearted person lives here.
For those of you who did not have a good relationship with your mother, or whose mother has died or ...well... for those of you who do not have happy associations with the topic of Mother's Day...
then please take this not as a Mother's Day post, but as my tribute to a really amazing woman who is my mother, on a day that is near the one about mothers.
My mother is a great gift to me. She knows me in ways I don't know myself. She is a place of tremendous comfort and security and peace.
I read yesterday that mothers were the scrapbook keepers of our lives. I also read, long ago, a statement that "after my mother died, no one else ever listened to me with such perfect attention." That's always resounded for me. I could read the phone book and my mom would think it was amazing. She is convinced that one day I will write books, although I cannot imagine this as I have nothing to say in book form at present. But she is usually right, so we'll wait to see on that one.
When I was little, my mom was able to stay home with us, and then she started back to practicing speech pathology at the preschool where we went. We couldn't have afforded the tuition there without her salary, I'm sure. I remember one day I fell down and bumped my head. The substitute teacher was taking me back to the nurse's office and instead I headed for the door where I knew my mom's classroom was. The teacher was very confused! I opened the door and sure enough, there was my mom, with a student. She comforted me and took me home. That's what it feels like to go to my mom: she is always present.
Things weren't easy for her. She had 6 kids, 2 of them stepkids (really great stepkids!) and at one point our ages ranged from preschool to law school. She was Girl Scout cookie chairman for many years. She ran the junior choir and a kids' group at our church for several years that gave us wonderful opportunities to put on musicals, go camping, etc.
When I was little, she was the funnest and coolest mom of all the moms. She had this awesome face she used to make upon request and we would all shriek and scream with delight. But, she could only make it once a day! Way to keep your audience wanting more!
Last time I visited, I went to wake her up for church, and I sat on the edge of the bed and said, "Mommy, mommy, it's time to wake up!" She BOLTED upright (at eighty she doesn't usually move that fast!) - I think I must have caught her completely off guard, because I haven't called her anything but Mom or Mother for years.
She always worked; when I was in elementary school & junior high, it was in in a back bedroom in our house; when I went to college, she got an office in a steel & glass building on Westheimer. I was amazed the first time I visited her there and realized she was a professional. Oh, yes, she was, and she had been all along. I just didn't know it.
She has a lot of physical problems, but she has more enthusiasm for life than any other dozen folks you meet in a day. She was looking for a piece of jewelry to show to me last weekend and was frustrated that she couldn't find it. Right before I left, she spied it hanging on a jewelry display and LURCHED toward it. This caused her to almost fall over, but I caught her! But, she was so excited to find it, that she forgot to remember that she can't be leaping around like she used to.
She blogs, at West Texas Weaver Woman. She is on Facebook. The other day I checked in on Facebook as being at Spa Pedicures, and she commented, "You go, girl!"
This is the hard part to write. Because my mother and I are so deeply connected, and because she worries so much when I am in pain, the last year has been very hard. I have been putting all my emotional energy into caring and being present for my husband during his illness, and I was not only physically unable to visit every month, as usual, but emotionally I did not have the capacity to be open to her. I am not sure I can explain that. But I am grateful that it is over, and I want to apologize to her for the pain I know it caused.
I love you, Mom. Thank you for always supporting and loving me, even when I have not responded in the ways I wanted to.
My Aunt Betty died yesterday. Her death had been imminent in the weeks prior. She was 91 and most ready to go; at her 90th birthday she told us she was wearing the outfit she planned to be cremated in, and that she'd had a photo made for her obituary in that outfit. (She was beautiful!) This is her at her birthday party, saying that the thing she had learned in life was that you just have to laugh at yourself and other people, or otherwise you'll cry. Words to the wise.
She remained vigorous all her life, riding horses on dude ranches into her 80's. She traveled widely, hiked everywhere, and stayed in shape with Weight Watchers.
She was the first woman I ever saw to make a home on her own. After my uncle died, Aunt Betty sold her house in Houston, where she had been a teacher & principal for many many years, and moved to Colorado to be near her son and daughter-in-law. She and Rosetta opened a preschool in her basement and taught and loved and played with little children there for years. They also camped, fished, and enjoyed the beauty of Fort Collins.
My family went to visit one summer, and I was about 13. I remember looking at her beautiful, airy, clean little home with a view of the mountains, and thinking, "no one else told her where to put these things! she did this all herself!" It was revolutionary for me.
Later, she moved to Boise, Idaho, and then back to Lake Jackson, Texas. She lived near her sister, my Aunt Emily, in Lake Jackson for several years, enjoying contact with her and Uncle Oliver and their families. She had the best attitude of anyone I have ever known...despite a large share of the sorrow of life.
She was also one of the most talented crafters I have ever known. Needlepoint, cross-stitch, ceramics; there was nothing she couldn't do. At every family gathering she made handmade items for everyone, usually personalized. The year after Aunt Etta Jane died (EJ was famous for wearing a Christmas bow on the top of her head while we opened presents), Aunt Betty made tiny Christmas bow earrings for all the women.
Primarily, she was the most engaged person I have ever met. No one who encountered her didn't feel that Aunt Betty was genuinely interested in them and glad to see them. As my sister Barbara said, "Aunt Betty made everyone feel special."