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Enough

I had left the phone at one of the hospice sites the other day and one of my favorite nurses grabbed it for me.  I felt somewhat liberated without the phone for 48 hours and then somewhat giddy when I got it back in one piece. Instant connection is something I have gotten used to, like too much caffeine.   We were busy getting to where we were going and getting ready to see who we needed to see, so seeing that the battery had gone down to 2% I left it alone until I got a break between seeing patient number three and an upcoming meeting.  With a few quiet moments to myself I checked what I had missed. It was 11:30   my time.

32 minutes prior a text was sent to me and to her Dad.  Lulu writes “You will hear this on the news I’m sure. School shooting going on at the high school in Aztec.Currently my class is in lock down and we are safe”.  

Then a few texts out to her from her Dad and a second text at 11:29 that she was ok.   I left a message on her phone and was able to talk to her a few hours later.  “The kids have all been evacuated, but we just went back into lockdown because there were more shots fired in the park down the road.”  She started to tell me what it was like for her and then “Mom, gotta go, they are evacuating us.”  There were reports going around that were later corrected, but in the moment, it was confusing and sacary for both of us.

My words to her, “Call me when you get home, I love you.”

6:09  my time she texted, “Home”. 

Lulu is a first grade teacher in one of the grade schools in Aztec. She has 20 little lambs to teach and to shepherd over.  The town of Aztec is pretty small, around 6500, so basically everybody knows everybody. In the top North East corner of New Mexico, it is close enough for her and a couple of other district teachers to commute to and from Durango. Aztec is as much her community as Durango and I am glad she has her carpool buddies. She will need them.

A couple of weeks ago there was a teacher’s meeting where the issue of having a plan for an active shooter came up.  There wasn’t a plan.  The principal of the school and the teachers put one in place.  She practiced it with her class on Monday.  MONDAY.   

She had just started her class and over the emergency system came the message that there was an active shooter.   She did was she was trained to do and locked the door, gathered the students, pushed the kids cubbies loaded with stuff against the door.  She flipped the tables and arranged them as a barricade in the corner away from the windows and kept the children quiet and calm for 2 and half hours while clutching a pair of scissors in her hand for just in case.

She knew the protocol to unlock the door for the principal when she got the signal and she got the children to the spot where they could be picked up. She said “Mom, I could see what was going on outside and hear all the cop cars and helicopters going by and I knew kids were killed over at the high school. I could see people outside the window and I knew what was going on, but I haven’t stopped shaking. ”  

Did the kids know? I asked.

“No, they knew it was a real and not a drill, but they didn’t know it was a shooting.  They can learn that from their parents” she replied.

We have spoken a few times over the past 48 hours.  She knew one of the victims Casey Marquez, not the other, but knew that his nickname was Paco.

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She also said that the shooter was the uncle of one of her students from last year.  That he had gone to the high school to kill some kids before he killed himself.  She knows a couple of teachers who were in the High School that day.  Undoubtably her students will return to school next week and she will be processing this whole thing for weeks to come.

Even though the shooting was at a different school, her students are effected, she is effected and I by proxy as her mother, am effected. She and another teaching buddy were out yesterday at a cafe and a stranger who had overheard them talking about the shooting came up to them, bought them lunch and thanked them for keeping the kids safe.    They had heard about the shooting on the news the day before and they were effected.   We should all be effected.

Here is the thing.  Lulu is a teacher,  not a trained combat soldier  She is a first grade teacher who, not knowing if the shooting was in her school or not, responded by making sure that the 20 little souls in her care were as safe as possible and she armed herself. Not only with a pair of scissors, but more importantly with the courage and conviction to keep the children safe and did so with the confidence from training for an event such as this,  just three days prior.  The kids knew what to do and 20 First Graders were in lockdown for over 2 hours without a meltdown.

I didn’t see the shooting on the news Thursday night.  I was able to get on-line and get bits from new releases, but I didn’t see a story.  It felt odd, then I was enraged that a school shooting didn’t make the national news, as if we have gotten so used to hearing about mass violence, that three dead is not considered national news.

The President didn’t make a comment about it, not one tweet.  Just let that sink in for a moment.  The President has tweeted about his support for this guy. imgres.jpg

And he twitted about fake news, but he didn’t say anything about the lives lost. Or the teachers that responded, or about a community that is hurting.  Nothing. Perhaps it is better that way.  What can he say at this point?

There has now been some national coverage, and some friends who had heard the story from me told me they have heard about it on the radio or saw a quick bit on the cable news.  New Mexico is seen as a strong Republican State and the NRA is popular in New Mexico, I wonder if there is a correlation between those two things and lack of media coverage?  Lulu said that at a candlelit vigil the night of the shooting there were people with vile signs that said “Arm the teachers”.   Is this the new response, ignore or incite?

I just can’t.  I had felt liberated by being disconnected for a short time and now reunited with my phone and thus connected to my child by text and calls, I feel better.  But I don’t feel better about where we are as a nation. I want to disconnect from all of the stuff that is going on, as if somehow by disconnecting the idiocy, it will go away.  Well is hasn’t and it won’t if I avoid it. I must continue to face it and by doing such be moved to action where I become part of the change, not a part of the problem.

Under the Apple Tree

20170418_173453The house is too still.  Her non-stop action was just what I looked forward to at the end of the day.  And on her last day she had helped me wake by moving from a spot by my knees to lying on my pillow with her paws over my chin and her face on my face.  We would do the routine: get up, go to the kitchen, put on the tea kettle, open a can of cat food, and look out the window to assess the day.  I would head to the bathroom, she would use her cat door and go outside.  I would make the tea and bring it back on my tray to savor the first moments of peace.  She would bounce back in and join me on the bed, licking her paws and cleaning her face, she would then sit in my lap for the obligatory pet and purr.

At the end of the day she would be on the counter, across from the kitchen door, or sometimes come out the cat door to greet me.  On her last day, she was in the kitchen picture window watching me in the car making that last call.  I was tardy and so she left the window, went around to the study and her door, bounced out and when I opened my car door, she jumped right in.  Up on the dashboard, waiting for a drive, or just announcing that she was in my space, she was my companion.

Mum had returned from her trip to Spain and she had been greeted and loved by Mouse. I gave her the update of all the shenanigans and adventures she had the week before.  Dinner was made, mouse served first, and I was off to a meeting. Long day with Hospice and tomorrow was going to be long as well.  I needed balance.

I returned home to Mum’s bedroom light on. That was strange. Her goal was to stay up till 7:30. It was later than that. The kitchen light was on, she was sitting at the table, TV on but muted.

What’s wrong Mum?  She couldn’t speak, then she whispered, “I have bad news.  Mouse is wrapped in a towel in the garage.”

I retrieved the bundle, and unwrapped her to see her limp and lifeless, a bit of blood out of her ear stained the towel.  No broken bones, no gaping wounds, she was still a bit warm and listened for a purr as she was in the morning.  Her eyes were open but it was clear that she was gone.  I brought her back into the kitchen so that Mum could say goodby and I dug a grave under the apple tree.  I laid her down, curled up as she was with me, looking peaceful and said goodbye.  Gently covering her up I gave thanks, checked back in with Mum and bid her goodnight.

She had gone out on her own accord and had been under the lilac bush.  She had been hunting bumblebees and flying bugs as of late and I imagine that she had darted out in full chase and unaware of the car.  The driver didn’t stop and I hope didn’t know.  The next driver saw her on the side of the road, stopped and looked for the owner.   Mum wouldn’t go to the door when they came knocking because she didn’t know them, but our neighbor stepped up, and brought the news to the door.

Fast and lethal.  I knew it was a risk to have and inside outside cat.  I knew that she might live a long and fun packed life. I balanced that with the knowledge that she might be hit by a car, taken by a coyote or otherwise killed.  I took the risk because I needed to have life and non-stop-action to balance my work.  Life is a risk.  I got her at the shelter and gave her the best life I could in the short time we had. No regrets there.  But I have learned a huge lesson.

We are all created in nature and in nature we should live.  I just don’t live in a place where she had a fair chance. And I am guilty for thinking that getting clipped by a car was a smaller risk. I felt she was smart enough to learn fear of cars.  I didn’t count on her natural predatory instincts over-riding that awareness.

I yearn to be where I can walk a dirt road, be in nature, and have a pet.  This week was full of patient deaths.  It was full of tending to those who are grieving.  I found myself tearing up in a staff meeting and coming home bawling as I park next to the apple tree. I found myself lost in the vastness of the silence and rethinking the cost of living off the farm.

I want to float, not dive

7239cf715db990fa2babb5c00ec962e1.b2c7dcabcd02d6b1a207e0dffe7b5242.jpgNot quite ready for the day.

I have my tea and mouse is keeping me company.  I kinda want to be all on top of it and hit the ground running, but today I just want to ease into it.  Like when you are going swimming in the early morning and you slip slowly into the still waters, trying not to make a ripple.  You are one temperature and the water another and the change from one state to another can be a welcome shock, but not first thing in the morning.  Late in the afternoon, in the heat of the summer, you welcome it, along with the other swimmers. But early in the morning, you move slowly into the depths.

And today I have patients to see and meetings to attend and driving to do between one place and another,  all within certain times, all seemingly crowded together. There are notes too. Notes to say what I did and how I met the goals already written.  “Patient will transition through the end of life process with peace and serenity.”  ” Patient received pastoral presence and silent prayer.”  Today is like most days, but today I want to slip into it slowly and purposefully, not reactively. I want to slip into the sacred and let it support me as I go,  I want to float, not dive.

 

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

Sometimes I wonder why I say yes.

Melanie our Priest at St. Paul’s asked me the  week before last if I would read some of Jesus’s last words for Good Friday service and pontificate about it for 5-6 minutes.  She didn’t actually say pontificate, she said “meditate” , but that is my feeling about talking in the pulpit sometimes.

I got the phrase that I can’t pronounce.  My God, my God why have you forsaken me? is the general translation.  Some translations say, abandon.  All are based on the 22nd psalm.

1.My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2.O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 

And the psalmist continues describing his anguish and ends with a prophecy of the coming of the Lord.  Next up, psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd reminding us that,

6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. 

So that is my mini- exegisis and I can connect the dots to the scripture in Mathew pretty darn easily.  Jesus is on the cross, but we know the end of the story and his is raised, salvation all around. Easter lilies and chocolate bunnies for the rest of us.

This universal condition of feeling completely abandoned is a familiar one.  I see it with patients in their own dark hour.  Chaplain shop talk calls it “the dark night of the soul”. Alcoholics call it “hitting their bottom”. In depression, it is that point before you step off into the abyss of absolute aloneness because you can not bare the feeling or weight of it any more.

But here is the thing.  Hang on.   We know the end of the story.  We know that we will have Easter.  The tough thing is leaning into the depths of abandonment. Forsakenness. The psalmist says that he is lower than a worm, not even human.  Who hasn’t felt that before?

I certainly have. And I have wondered if there really is a God and I hit my bottom, I couldn’t see, or feel or even know that my God was there the whole time.

And yet, here I am.  Last night I was a guest lecturer at Emmanual College teaching a master’s level class of Nursing students, of all things.  The class is Spirituality and Ethics in Nursing,  and I got to teach on spiritual assessments.  Today I got one of the most  heart warming letters from the professor who said loads of good things about the class and my teaching.

Monday I brought a palm to a patient who was experiencing  their own dark night and “I said, you are not alone, I will be here with you” .  Monday night in the halls I heard the same thing from folks that have been sober for a while to the newcomers who are so very lonely and feeling  so very forsaken.  “You are not alone. Welcome”.

God never promises us that it will be easy.  In fact, there are tons of stories in every major faith that tell us the opposite.  Things are gonna get bad, but hold on.

Easter is coming.  I have meditated on it.  Might actually get up the moxie and just read the blog post  vs. cleaning it up for prime time.  At this point, I am gonna leave it alone and just stay fluid through the unknown.

 

 

 

Mouse Is In The Garage

I had a heavy week.  I thought I would get ahead of it by doing a spiritual assessment on a new admission Sunday afternoon and while I was at the facility, I would check in with another couple of patients.  I have a flexible schedule like that. However I also had a bunch visits that needed to be done, a week of lousy, rainy and otherwise dank weather, a memorial service and an online class.  Come Friday I was a bit fried.

Balance is the key and so knowing that, I got a kitten and named it Mouse. img_0788

I figured having something very alive was a good balance to being with those who are dying.

But after a long week, I figured I needed something else. Teary eyed and exhausted. I finished up work and even Mouse could not help lift the weight, so I headed down to the village, and I decided to go and get that bike that I have been wanting for a good long while.  I had been down to the Dedham Bike Shop at least a couple of times over the last few years and even bought a bike for my buddy Bea’s birthday. But didn’t get around to getting one for me.

I stopped riding a bicycle about 18 years ago when I was diagnosed with IC and was told that I had to change a whole lot of things in my life to reduce the pain and disabling effects of the illness.  Riding a bike was one of those things. Plus I was either a student or an unemployed CPE intern or simply unemployed, so a fun thing like a bike was out.

imagesYesterday I threw  caution to the wind and decided to go look at bikes and found one that seemed like a good fit. I put a deposit down on it with the plan to go ahead and pick it up this morning.   I felt like I was 5 again.  My first bike was red Schwinn Pixie but with a white seat and it came from the Dedham Bike Shop. I picked a purple one and got a purple helmet to match.  I felt like the kid at Christmas who peaked and saw a bike with their name on it.

It was a good thing too. When I returned home after a meeting last night I was called in to work to help the family of that new patient I had been with last Sunday.  The patient had put themselves on hospice and the family was not ready.  The Patient was ready for death and had said so to me, but the family wasn’t on the same page.  And despite the protests against the illness, the patient passed away.   I got the call and within 15 minutes was on site, but the family had left and so I did what I was called to do.

Went down the hall, entered the room and then spent then next little while with the deceased.  I had found the TV on, the bathroom door open with light streaming out, full light in the room and the sheets of the deceased all askew.  I turned things off, pull the covers up over her feet, shut the door and began to pray.  They had said to me last Sunday that they had forgotten their prayers, so I pulled out a Rosary and said it for them, as I laid the pink plastic cross down.  Returning home I took some time to decompress and thought about that bike.  I went to bed singing “Bicycle race ”

This morning I went down to the village and rode it home, singing.   These same streets that I rode my first little red bike on and all of those feelings of being free came back. Just like when I first learned to ride and go faster than on foot.  And getting the bike gave me some energy to do the chores and put the cat window in for Mouse. She learned to use it and has some freedom now herself.

In her new freedom she disappeared for a while and gave us a scare.  Turns out she went into the neighbor’s garage and before they went out for the night, the door was closed with her locked inside.  They are still out and she is still locked in, but at least I know where she is and eventually they will come home, see my note pinned to their door and I can go fetch her.

And here is where the balance pays off.  Mum was tired at the end of the day and when Mouse didn’t show up, Mum was upset.  Afraid of all the things that could go wrong.  On the other hand, I had an awesome day riding my bike and singing Queen songs.  I figured Mouse would either show up or she wouldn’t.  Either she lives a free life going out and coming, sometimes getting stuck and needing to be found, or she doesn’t.  I choose the former too.   And like Mouse I choose to play when I can.

 

Jonah and The Divine Deep Knowing

Penned by Tori Jamison

Many call to ministry stories begin with a deep knowing or a dramatic moment of realization, followed in quick succession with the knower running fleeing church life to pursue careers in business or as far from the church as possible, diving into family or art or literally anything else, until they can’t anymore – and then they show up at seminary. My story isn’t that at all.  I heard the voice, I felt the deep knowing and my community acknowledged that they also knew I had the knowing and so off I went, confident. I graduated seminary by the skin of my teeth and running as fast as I could get from the institutional church.

images.jpgAnd I’ve been thinking about a lot about Jonah, of “gets swallowed by a whale and is still a punk while sitting in digestive juices for three days and gets his own book in the Hebrew bible” fame. See, Jonah gets this call from God to do a thing (go preach repentance to Nineveh) and he runs. Lots of commentators make a big deal out of him running the opposite direction from where he was told to go, but what I find interesting about Jonah is his confident swagger. He runs but gets on a ship and when the sea gets rough, they draw lots and blame Jonah, who asserts with no nuance who he is and the name of his god, and that they are welcome to solve the problem by throwing him into the sea. The sailors oblige, and into the sea goes Jonah… only to get swallowed by a fish. He skulks and mutters for a while, covered in digestive juices in the dark, and then the text says that he petitions his god with a prayer that amounts to “God has to save me because I have work to do that God gave me to do so get on with it, God!”

I also ran with reasons aplenty from the institutional church but not ministry. I’ve taken all kinds of jobs and calls since graduating, and have met some incredible people, been a witness to the miraculous and the mundane. I’ve seen a baby born and held hands with the dying and everything in between, and yet, l

Like Jonah, I thought that shouting my call while going my own ways was enough.

It isn’t, and I’m worn down by running- the moving every few months to this or that pulls me farther and farther away from the divine deep knowing. What I’ve been doing is in the name of the good work and justice (mental health first responder! Care for the youngest! Communities of belonging and safety for everyone! Farm and feed the world!) but I am increasingly more disconnected from a call to contextualize sacred service in a community.

I haven’t been running from everything in life and I’ve certainly grown and learned.  I came out as queer last year as undramatically as I could conjure simply by putting on Facebook that I was in a relationship with a same gender partner.

Spoiler alert -if an ancient book can be spoiled –

Jonah gets out of the fish but his swagger continues. He preaches to Nineveh and then informs God that God should make good on God’s promise to smite them. God does not, and gives a shade tree to Jonah. When the tree dies, the last words of Jonah in his book are informing God that the tree ought to still be alive, and that Jonah himself is right to be angry, even to death.

I too had my very good reasons for running, but now that I am a distance away by time, geography and circumstance, perhaps now I can reconsider a retooled return. Like Jonah, I have never doubted the deep knowing, but unlike Jonah, I do not wish to end up under a tree angry that it is not enough.

March 31

March 31st is the day I picked Trump to “resign” as president.   I circled the date on the calendar about 3 weeks ago.  The 31st of March is the last day of the first financial quarter of the year.

Here is my theory.  Trump can’t help being himself. Which means a couple of things. He loves to win, loves a deal, and generally blames everyone else.  Trump is a business man, first and foremost.  He has been asked to be financially transparent and put his interests in a blind trust, but his kids are running his business and participating actively in his inner circle as “advisors”and if the pattern holds, nothing is going to change in the Trump chain of businesses.

The history of his business also includes settlement vs. trial for cases against him.  He works the system well, evaluating what the cost of doing business is, knowing what his bottom line is, what his loss tolerance is and going right up to it.  If he settles a case against him, he is not “guilty” he is just doing business.  His style is a winner/looser equation.  If he bankrupts, it is simply the cost of business, regardless of those who are not paid fairly.  That is how bankruptcy works.  Your debts are paid off.  He boasts that his style of business, this giving a shaft to your obligations is winning.

His past business practices are indicators of how his presidency will unravel.

He has already begun a negative branding campaign, fashioned after the Birther Movement.  And this is what a bully does.  By putting it out there, the story that Obama wire taped him at the Trump towers, then that story will get legs.  People hating Obama or what his Presidency stood for, will buy onto the “wiretap” story and will perpetuate it, even if it isn’t true.  A bully will say something nasty, not because it is true, but because the shear outrageousness will give the story a life of its own.  Trump and Bannon, through the Alt-right Breitbart media have tried this game out before and since it has worked in the past, it will be used again.

So Trump is planting the seeds to be able to say that it was not him, it was someone else who said it and he was just reacting to it.  He is planting the seeds to do a Trumpesque exit.  It aint about Russia, it is about doing global business and like the days of old school empires, Trump has been acting much in the same way.  Russia just happens to be one of the oligarchies at the table.

Here is the Tie in to the March 31st timetable.  It is the end of the first financial quarter. And something has to be reported and made public.  Better to get ahead of it then watch it all burn down.

Trump loves money and feeling like he is rich. The stock market has gone into overdrive and if I had a ton of assets in various markets, I would be selling stocks now and positioning myself to get ready for the bottom to drop out.   If you have a sense when this is going to be, then you would position yourself for the swing and when it happens, take advantage.  In farming, you store up extra hay, and grain especially if you know there will be a drought.  Once everyone else runs out of hay and grain, you can share what you have with those that ran out or sell yours at a higher price. Trump understands commodities and my guess is that he would not help out his neighbors, he would buy low and sell high.

So when the political heat gets too high, when he comes too close to the edge of losing his financial holdings through his companies, then he will walk rather than be forced into impeachment and potentially losing his companies.  It might be because of some wrong Russian chit-chat before the actually presidency, or it might be some illegal financial hood-winking that we don’t know about yet.  I tend to believe the latter. I think that there are some shady business and government crisscrossing going on and his children are in the middle of it.  He will be offered or will see an easy way to settle without looking guilt.

Then he will blame it on the media, on the democrats, on the system, on everyone but himself.  He will try and spin it that his hands are tied and for the benefit of the country, (because he is such a patriot) he needs to step down and “let” Pence take over.  He will walk with all of his holdings.

He just can’t help being himself.