Laughter, Friends, Celebrations and Good Food

Adventures and laughter – coupled with fun friends and good food – sure are balm for the heart.  Sometimes the curve balls of life make us so short-sighted that we forget about how good things are. Thankfully, some people and events refuse to be put off, and we get the gift of a refresher course.

Yesterday was just such a delicious gift.  My dear husband’s only sister and her husband had a spectacular event to celebrate. A once in a lifetime, outstanding festivity. A Fifty-Year-Golden-Anniversary-party.  Hot dawg! Shazam! Wowzers! Good golly!  They were just young things when they married – but oh what a grand celebration we had!

My husband and I are a bit out of practice at celebrating these days. The curve balls of life have kept our noses to the grindstone with festivities lamentably too few and far between.  It was fun getting ready for this one.  First, we had to blow the cobwebs off of our sweet selves and do some excavating in our closet to find some presentable party clothes. Primping with makeup and jewelry, and oh yes, that lovely extravagance – perfume.  Almost forgot about that! My phenomenal husband changed out of his daily uniform of jeans.  Oh, my.  Hot damn.  Sit down and fan myself.  He sure scrubs up well!

Then we drove, clear-the-heck-over to the other side of the universe, from our house out in the desert,  to the heart of Tuscon. Caruso’s, North Fourth Avenue and East Sixth Street, an extraordinarily grand old Italian restaurant run by four generations of the Zogona family since 1938.  It was a new adventure for me.  Finding a parking place was a tad bit of a challenge on a busy Saturday night, but even that had a jolly solution. We parked across the street from my sweet husband’s boyhood home on North 3rd Avenue, and we walked.

What is it about friends, family, excellent food, drink, and celebrating? Cobwebs and preoccupations go away. Smiles erupt. Stories get told. Laughter interrupts. Fun is had. Everything looks fresh and peachy again. Thank you two, Margo & Jim, for inviting us to share in your amazing celebration.  We love you, and we sure do think you have excellent taste in restaurants and friends!

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At Arm’s Length

Have you ever been worried sick about a friend or loved one suffering from some illness who keeps everyone at bay?   It can be a terrifying experience.  I have had both close friends and family who suffered from clinical depression. There were days when I despaired of ever being able to reach, love, hug, comfort, or talk with the person I loved because they would not let me in. It seemed the worst kind of torture. They had shut a door between us, and I felt powerless to get them to believe that I loved them and wanted to help.  All of my attempts to reach them kept the door more tightly guarded. Although I loved them and worried desperately about them, the darkness they fought seemed impenetrable. I had no idea how to help.

Over the years I’ve noticed similarities between what I have dealt with, and the experiences others write about who are in recovery from alcoholism, anorexia, physical & emotional abuse, as well as individuals who lost someone they loved to suicide.

My friend Les shared on the pages of my blog his own experiences with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.  Reading his words proved helpful to me — like a mirror to his life. I wish I had known some of the things he shared at earlier times in my life when it seemed as if all my attempts were futile and all of my assumptions wrong.  If you like, you can read Lester’s  post here:  An Insider’s View of Depression, Anxiety, Thoughts of Suicide, and Traveling the Road

Two other posts seemed helpful as I pondered how to write about this.  Kathy Tetlock’s blog, The Cedar Canoe: Life After Suicide, is a blog I read fairly often.  She wrote a post about her mother, which I found helpful: Is this going to get better?

Just recently I read an article from another blogger who writes a blog called Beauty Beyond Bones that talks about what was helpful to her when she was fighting anorexia.  It is almost the mirror image of what I am writing about.  The Problem with Tough Love in Eating Disorder Recovery 

When someone is struggling with depression or some other illness, those in proximity often get shut out. Family and friends rarely get roadmaps with directions on how to proceed. We walk on eggshells as best we can, trying not to push those we love further away. When people are concerned about us, about how we are holding up, it is often difficult to answer, as we may not feel at liberty to explain.  We may just be at a loss for words to explain grief too deep for describing.

Loving someone who suffers from severe depression, or other serious illnesses can cause crushing grief, worry, fear, and sorrow. I admit to shedding many tears over the years as I tried desperately to think of another angle to try, some gentle, non-threatening way to reach them, to convey compassion, love, willingness to listen or to help – if only.  If only the door were open a crack and I was given hints as to what might help or what I could do to improve the situation.

Truth be told I used to have lots of quiet conversations in the shower, hoping that the noise of the shower would drown out the noise of my sobbing.  I would beg and plead to the Lord for some insight into what might help.  I would sometimes talk to my dead father — asking him to say prayers on our behalf.

I often write about God but many of you don’t know me and may not always understand what I mean.  I am not a sweet-and-pious-me-&-Jesus person. Instead of describing myself as a religious person, I would say that I am bound to this concrete reality that is God. When I say that prayer helped me, I don’t mean that as some sweetly pious you-should-turn-it-over-to-the-Lord exercise, but as a rock solid there-is-no-place-else-to-turn reality.

Despite the darkness and the closed doors, I remember what my pastor once said in a sermon, “worry is the fear that God won’t get it right.”

Have no fear. Keep on keeping on. Keep the faith, keep on loving, keep on caring, do the best you can do and keep turning to the Lord in prayer.  The Lord triumphed over death and the grave.  Turn your worries and fears, your solitude and tears over to the Lord.  Let it be on his shoulders.  They are strong.

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Monastic Brothers and What Jesus Wrote

Do you love a good read? Have I got one for you! I discovered an excellent novel which I wholeheartedly recommend. Initially stalling on page one, I began again and this time infection struck, and I couldn’t put it down. I ended up shelving all other tasks and finished the story in four sittings. It is an amazingly well-written book, at times flowing with lyrical descriptions, at other times moving with the rough and tumble of a life lived in close quarters, and having for good measure, the occasional comic interlude.

The author, Christopher Osgood, writes a captivating tale called This Remigius, set in a Protestant Benedictine monastic house where Remigius lives as one of the brothers. The story depicts challenges of communal life complicated by some political interjections by the Bishop. The monastic life the author describes is no tame Sunday School stroll in the park. These brothers in Christ are dealing with many of the same issues faced by siblings in close quarters, complicated by the churchly and academic nature of their callings: rivalries, jealousies, and irritations that lead to flared tempers, thrown punches, and the occasional explosive expletive.

Yet Osgood manages to depict it artfully, doing honor to the brothers, while weaving into the mix a colorful homeless person who latches onto Remigius early in the story because she wants to talk and manages to make Remigius a subject of talk.  Yet none of the characters in this tale are caricatures but rather are drawn in the complicated ways that portray a life both very much in and of the world, yet set apart by their calling.  It is the reader’s privilege to be brought into that world, watching physical afflictions elevate the importance of what Remegius saw.

The author crafts an insider’s view of modern scriptural based signs and wonders soon to be unleashed at an upcoming conference of the academic academy. This Remigius, about whom talk is circulating, is preparing to present a major address at the annual meeting of the academy. The complaint of the Bishop and the ire of the academy are intensified because Remigius has had the audacity to prepare his paper, not standing on the shoulders of the academic giants already published in the field, but on his own reading of the text. This chutzpah creates uproar before the academy even convened.

According to a review on Amazon,

The author’s undergraduate degree in Animal Husbandry was followed much later in life by graduate degrees in Theology; the first from an Episcopal seminary, the second from a Jesuit seminary, both associated with the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. His spiritual advisor over the term of these studies was a protestant Benedictine monk. The author currently resides in Tucson with his wife, Jeanne. The revised Gold Metal edition may only be purchased as new.

I would urge you to take a look on Amazon as This Remigius would make the perfect gift for yourself and also for that bibliophile on your shopping list who is still capable of believing in miracles.

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Names and Life are Weird. So is the Author.

Since so few people read the  About the Author page I am going to pretend, just this once, that it is a regular blog post  — on the off-chance I can lure you to read about the author here.

Like many of us, I answer to a variety of names depending on who is calling:

  • My eldest brother has called me Hornet since I was a young girl and sported a sweatshirt with my elementary school mascot.
  • My Mom often called me Annabeth, which I loved from her but would not tolerate from anyone else. So don’t even think about it.
  • My Dad often called me Honey, but would immediately apologize if he slipped and called me Darling, the name he reserved for my dear Mother.
  • Two college roommates and one sister-in-law call me Annie.

Legally, I have had four names:

  • At birth, I was named Ann Elizabeth Rinderknecht which remained my name for one year and one month.
  • Succumbing to the insistent nagging of a Mother/Mother-in-law, my provoked parents went to court and legally change my name. [This parental provocation turned out to be based on a falsehood. Whether that was known or unknown is lost to history.] At 13 months of age, I became Ann Elizabeth Carolyn Rinderknecht – my initials AECR for the balance of my first 24 years.
  • For twenty-seven years I had a married name five names long, and my initials were AECRY. I was proud of that name and those initials, but ultimately I failed at that marriage. I have occasionally written about it in the pages of this blog.
  • Just shy of my fifty-first birthday I married for the second time, and my fourth legal name is Ann Elizabeth Carolyn Rinderknecht Miko. My initials, and my LLC, now read AECRM. I’m done. This is it. I have told my dear Ronnie that I expect him to live to be 100. He tells me that he is working on it. If he has the audacity to shuffle off this mortal coil before me, I am going to be really and truly, indeed royally, perturbed off. He has been warned.

Ron and I moved from South Carolina to Tucson, AZ in 2012. An Ohio girl, born and raised, Arizona has grown on me. I love the sunsets viewed from our patio, and the pomegranates ripening out our kitchen window. I love the endless sky and living in the shadow of mountains for the first time in my life. After 24 years of living in the rainforest that is South Carolina, I find myself living in the Sonoran Desert. Ron’s parents brought him to Tucson from Wilmington, Delaware, when he was five years old. Back in those days, this sprawling city boasted just 35,000 residents and many of our present six-lane-roads were dirt.

My parents were best friends, passionately in love, and married for 53 years; the best parents a girl could have. My three older brothers are very talented and oddly unique. Ron’s parents and mine had died before we were married, so neither of us got to meet our in-laws, but we both like the stories we have heard. Ron and his sister, along with my brothers and I, are now the oldest generation in our families. Our children, nieces, and nephews are scattered all over the country and busy with careers, projects, and in some cases, amazing children and stepchildren.

My years have been filled with all kinds of good things, including: friendly debate, theology, worship, politics, art, laughter, history, liturgy, craftsmanship, family meals and picnics, walks, bike riding, root beer, literature and poetry as well as doggerel and bad verse, travel, gardening, cross-stitch, music, sewing, genealogy, cats, woodworking, candle making, jewelry making, entrepreneurship, and thousands of books. I am proud to be the daughter of a WWII Army Veteran and the wife of a Viet Nam Navy Veteran. My husband and I are Christians and members of a Lutheran church not far from home. It is a small and friendly congregation that has been very welcoming to us. Our pastor’s sermons give us much to think about and, bless him, he actually preaches on the text of scripture and not on the news-du-jour. We love getting fed on Word and Sacraments.

Despite neither of us being spared trials, sin, hurt, failure, sorrow and loss in our lives, Ron and I have also been blessed abundantly, not least by the relationships with our very talented and remarkable friends and family. Life is good. Thanks be to God.

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Prayer is Needed

For weeks we have followed news reports of two massive hurricanes — Harvey and now Irma.  The projected pathways have modified, and reactions of those possibly in harm’s way have varied immensely.  Some seemed not much worried as they prepared their homes for hurricanes; they said that they have weathered storms before.  Some have even chosen to stay in their boats.  Having witnessed the destruction of Hurricane Hugo which hit South Carolina September 22, 1989, I cannot imagine such folly.  As Florida’s Governor Scott has repeatedly said:  things can be replaced, your lives cannot.

These two storms have been larger than many before.  While the people of Texas and Louisiana are still reeling from the damages in their states, a record number of people have been ordered to evacuate their homes in Florida.  At the time of this writing 6.3 million people were told to leave their Florida homes.  Governor Rick Scott in Florida and Governor  Nathan Deal of Georgia have issued mandatory evacuation orders, and in South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster ordered the mandatory evacuation of seven barrier islands.  Governor McMaster also issued a State of Emergency as a major strike on South Carolina would be the first in 28 years. Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama, also issued a State of Emergency before the arrival of Irma.

Lessons learned from previous storms have caused many changes that have helped with the preparation for these horrific storms.  In some places, changes in building codes have contributed to making stronger buildings.  Better knowledge of the needed number of volunteers as well as evacuation centers has allowed for advance preparation when storms were still far out to sea.  It has also allowed for earlier stockpiling of supplies including things needed to restore power.  Past experience has changed the policy of emergency centers so that now families are allowed to bring their domestic pets with them.  Early declarations by Governors of States of Emergency provided for more rapid Federal funding.  The National Guard has also been deployed from states far away — as when Indiana Governor Holcomb authorized the Indiana National Guard to assist in Florida.

All kinds of things are needed by those who are in harm’s way or who are picking up the pieces from what has already happened.  At the same time as these monster hurricanes, let’s also remember those in other parts of the country that are facing massive outbreaks of wild fires — including many of the western states: California, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Colorado.  Donations of money, supplies, blood continue to be needed.  Gifts of time are also critical from emergency trained volunteers and from those willing to be trained, in addition to those specialists who will tackle things medical, infrastructure, and the allocation of resources.  But something else is needed too.

Prayer is needed.  We need to join our voices with those of goodwill across this great land of ours.  I can think of a variety of things to pray for — perhaps you will think of more.  I believe that we should pray that this time of trial is brief.  I would ask that our divisions and hearts be healed as we offer help to those in need.  For those who have never before turned to God in prayer, or who have turned away from prayer over the years, I would ask that God be merciful and hear their prayers surrounding them with healing and forgiveness.  I believe that we also need to pray for our civic leaders including President Trump, our governors, and mayors, and all those working to get money, equipment, resources in place to help with the toll of these storms and fires.  I would pray for the safety of our first responders, for the smart science of our weather predictors, and for all those who have been able to help in the recovery.  If such prayers are too much for you, take courage in the book of Romans 8:26 which reads:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

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Encouragement

Whether from a cataclysmic event, war, or a bad choice; an unexpected disease or stupid car accident — all of us have suffered loss and had to pick ourselves up.  Some who had more dangerous missions had to be picked up by others and undergo lengthy medical treatments.

In these politically charged days littered with arguments and short fuses, there has seemed to be much that is nasty, hateful and perhaps even evil.  Friendships have broken up, fights have erupted, arguments have gotten heated, expletives and attacks have been vicious.

Then the floods came.  The category 4 hurricane winds and destruction, the stalling of Hurricane Harvey and the overwhelming amount of rain.  Hurricane force winds ripping houses to kindling.  Standing houses filling with rising flood waters.  All manner of thing in the rising waters: sewage, snakes, alligators, electrical charges, pets, livestock, wild animals, neighbors, and strangers, old and young.

But amid all of that destruction, there are hundreds of thousands of volunteers.  People working around the clock to rescue the stranded, to deliver food and supplies, to rescue people from roofs of houses, animals from the flood waters and reunite them with their families when possible.

Black and white, red and brown, people are just busy helping each other.  Young and old, wealthy or poor, people are doing what they can to rescue, carry, and help evacuate those in harm’s way.  A litmus test isn’t given first to see whether these are the right kind of people to help — people are just reaching out and coming together.

Now Hurricane Irma is bearing down after having intensified.  It may attack Florida and add that to the states already damaged by Harvey.  Our country came together after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 — our country knows how to be generous, to help others, to lay aside differences.

At the same time all of this is going on, other parts of the country are seeing a huge number of wild fires.  And then too there are just the usual blights — poverty, disease, sickness, hardship, suffering, loss, and grief.

Some peoples lives will never get back to the good they used to know.  Some people will just have to learn to deal with a new normal.  We may not be able to help that.  But there is much we can do.  Let’s do what we can to be the kind of people who offer a hand up, a hug, a meal, some understanding, who volunteer, deliver aid and comfort, who step up to the plate to encourage and bring hope.  Let’s be the kind of people who pray for our nation, for all in harm’s way, who pray for all who need encouragement, hope, healing, and perhaps who need a hand up.  We can do this.

 

 

 

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Wounds and Sin

Our bodies carry our wounds. Some of them are painful reminders of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or of taking our eyes off the road. Some are sacred wounds that remind us of a blessing that happened – perhaps a Cesarian that brought our precious son or daughter into the world. Some are caused by not concentrating on the job at hand; my youngest brother ran his fingers through a table saw.  Some are grateful reminders of being saved from death – I carry wounds from a car accident which might have proved fatal had it not been for the rain which created six inches of mud which stopped our car before it hit the wall. A friend of mine carries burn marks over large portions of his body because he went into a burning house to rescue a little child.

Some of the wounds we carry are internal wounds caused by hurt, grief, or sin. I’m talking about scars that grieve your heart and may haunt your dreams. Bad, faulty, or selfish decisions we made which caused fallout we cannot undo. Sometimes our hearts are burdened by the loss of someone very dear to us.  Sometimes our hearts are oppressed with guilt and shame because we allowed sin, temptation, fear or moral weakness to have control of us.  We might have been swayed to do something hurtful or sinful to others or ourselves.  The result: a baby’s life lost to abortion, too many drinks or drugs leading to alcoholism or drug abuse, a marriage destroyed, the loss of custody of children.  The list is long.

Some houses bear wounds too — caused from a fire, a terrible storm,  perhaps some horrible event that happened there. I once lived in the living room of a house that had been used as a hospital. It was located on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During the civil war, it was used as a hospital to tend to the wounded of both northern and southern armies. When I lived in that house, there was ugly linoleum on the floor. The living room was lovely with a beautiful fireplace, built in bookcases, and a pleasant view down the hill through the large bay windows. I asked once about that nasty institutional looking linoleum. I was told that at one time the house belonging to a faculty member of the school I was attending. The husband and wife liked to entertain guests, and she couldn’t deal with the floor. The floor was covered in blood. The maintenance crew tried to remove it by sanding it – but it couldn’t be done. There was too much blood, and it had soaked clear through the wood.

Sometimes the wounds we bear are all that we can bear. Sometimes just doing today is all that we can manage. Ultimately there is much about life that is beyond our ability to fix. That is one reason I choose to go to church and turn to God in prayer. I pray for my husband and our life together, for our families, our friends, for our country, for our perseverance, and for our delivery from all who mean us harm and who are working for our undoing. I usually end my prayers with these prayers written by Martin Luther that my grandmother taught me:

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