29 December 2011

Dona Nobis Pacem

Lost in thought today I found myself humming a song I learned in 7th grade. Ms Renfro taught chorus and she was an amazing woman- a renaissance hippie of sorts- way ahead of her time. She had long hair that she would grab quickly into a pony tail, twist and put up with one of those leather hair holders that had a stick run through it. The end of her pony would flop into a fan above her head. It was some twenty-five years later that I noticed women wearing their hair that way on purpose. Ms. Renfro simply wanted hers out of her way. When she put it up like that she reminded me of the NBC peacock. She was young and wore eyeliner. Until her class I had teachers who were gray haired and named Hazel Pickard and Miss Irwin. They wore my grandmother's glasses. Ms Refro wore big sun glasses pushed up on her head when she was inside. She was beautiful in an earthy sort of a way. She taught us Dona Nobis Pacem. We sang it a cappella and when we did all the parts the acoustics in the chorus room made my ears and skin tingle.

Were you fortunate enough to have a teacher who actually liked students and teaching? Ms Renfro obviously did. She sang and played her guitar for us. Mostly folk songs, which was really pretty normative in the 70s, but instead of singing songs like Blowing in the Wind, she sang us Appalachian folk songs and songs full of history. I know that now that now that I live in the Appalachians and not the coastal hills of California. She captivated my imagination. We learned all the music from My Fair Lady and Hair. Somehow she got us to like both equally. As she would direct us she would close her eyes and get completely lost in the music we were singing. It was either that or she couldn't bear to both see and hear us while we were butchering the songs she loved so well.

Here I sit more than four decades later humming a tune with Latin words. I am pensive. Lost in a sort of kaleidoscopic contemplation. Considering the events of this year and the years of my life. Trying to make sense of the nonsense and looking for patterns and codes as though I believed everything written in a Dan Brown novel to be true. Each time I think I have the images figured out they change. I am watching the news, playing Words With Friends, thinking deep thoughts and writing this all at once. Multitasking limits intentionality and focus. So does aging.

I am old enough to have grown up when having a television was a novelty. Getting a color television meant your family had means, sort of like having braces meant you were well to do. Did I ever really envy kids with braces? You bet. What a curse to be born with straight teeth! How things have changed. There was a chair next to telephone table in every home. We dialed numbers on rotary phones. Telephone numbers were different then. Beacon 7-1482 and Union 9-2622 are the numbers I grew up with. One place I lived you only had to dial the last four digits of a phone number to reach the person you wanted and frugal folks could still have party lines. It all seems positively medieval now that I can watch TV on my cellular phone.

News travels at the speed of light now. We know too much too soon, in my opinion. We are inundated and react before the dust settles which sort of ensures the dust never will settle. Things that would have a way of working themselves out get made bigger than life and things we ought to pay attention to get buried beneath Kim Kardashian's 72 day marriage and Charlie Sheen's #winning!

Today on the news I heard Iran is threatening to shut down shipping lanes and the US threatening to retaliate if they do. Veiled threats of course. Iran says one of our aircraft carriers is there to intimidate/provoke them. We say it's there as support for the war in Afghanistan. Both are probably true.

Oh and Beyoncé's baby is due any day. I wish Beyoncé and her husband well as they start their family but really- why do I have to know their business?

God save us. Dona nobis pacem. Grant us peace.

27 December 2011

Small Moments

Here's the thing. Sometimes, in an effort to convince myself that I am spiritually sound and full of faith, I ignore things that bother me. Do I think it's a good idea? No. Do I think that I am fooling people? Some of them, yeah I am. Do I think that God is unaware? In the moments that precede my doubting His existence I am certain of it.

Today life is crashing around me. Today I have no more internal space on my hard drive to archive the emotions. They are spilling down my cheeks and calling audible plays in my sobs. I am cuss out loud miserable.

No freakin' answers from me. No comforting verses. Today I don't even want a do over. I just want out. Sad part is I have no where to go. So I will shed some more tears, drink some more coffee and try to put one foot in front of the other as I pace the confines of my home and hope for reason to prevail.

The trouble with being single is not having someone to tell that you're on the edge. The trouble with blogging about it? There is no one to slap the histrionics out of you and tell you to get over yourself or hold you and tell you it's all going to be OK. The good part about being real in a blog is that somewhere there is a Christian who may stumble upon this and recognize a piece of their puzzle and not feel alone. The only thing worse than feeling this way is believing that no other Christian ever has been so miserable. Certainly to feel this destitute you have be a complete failure in your faith.

Yeah, even people trained in biblical counseling have moments of spiritual poverty. Poverty? Make that bankruptcy. Good thing my salvation doesn't draw from my personal account. Wait, I wasn't going to give answers was I? See that? I can't even feel sorry for myself correctly.

I feel better already.

23 December 2011

Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Uhny-Uftz!

There are stories that when told lose something in the telling. Those same stories when written can become larger than life. I am fairly certain that Harper Lee could verbally tell a great story about growing up with Truman Capote, but her written story in To Kill a Mockingbird became much more than a few moments entertainment. It became a catalyst for social-cultural change. It grew so large and so noteworthy that she never published another novel. How could she compete with what had become the perfect novel at the perfect time to expose the imperfections of southern sensibilities?

The inter-net is chock-a-block full of examples to disprove my theory. If Ivory soap is still considered 99 & 44/100% pure in a way that defines pure as good, the content of the inter-net is probably the polar opposite with 99 & 44/100% of it what is written being purely horrible. Most of it is not worth the powder it would take to blow it to hell. I cannot say that my blog is a rare exception. I have written fewer things that are worthy of reading than I would like to admit.

Today in my favorite theology chat folks were discussing the various greetings you are likely to receive this time of year. I found myself saying something that convicted me. I hate it when that happens. I don't really understand why Christians get irritated when folks wish them Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings. "I think if Christians want to police things they ought to start by policing what comes out of their own mouths that is an offense to God and then worry about the unbelievers." Yeah, like I do a good job of policing myself.

The great thing about being a Christian is that you can have a small moment when you don't measure up to your own expectations, let alone God's, repent and then go about your business. You don't have to sit and wallow in self-pity and castigate yourself. You dust yourself off and pray you'll be more mindful of your words.

As I started on my daily chores I found myself thinking of my favorite Christmas moments. That lead me down my childhood memory lane. One of my all time favorite shows when I growing up was the Dick Van Dyke Show . That link should take you to Hulu and one of my favorite episodes.

04 December 2011

Rockie, Aunt Curtis and Being Winsome

Families share a secret language and often use nicknames as terms of endearment. I have had several. Rosemarie is not the easiest name for children to learn and some of the more clever variations have stayed with me. Rosarie, Rockarie, Rockie, Ro, Curtis and Luigi. Ro is the one that got the best use. I know, Curtis and Luigi are a bit odd but in their context they make perfect sense.

I lived in an area that at one time was used by the Oakland Raiders for summer training. My brother had a friend who played for them and he could never remember my name. One day we were all on the river enjoying a day in the sun and my brother's friend said, "You have an unusual name but I can't remember it." My response? "I know that it would be difficult for someone with a football mentality to remember. It's two whole letters. Ro.
R O- take notes if you can't keep up." He laughed and said he would do his best to remember. I saw him several months later and he smiled and said, "Don't tell me. You made an impression on me the last time. I'll remember, just give me a minute." Much to my surprise he blurted out, "CURTIS! Curtis Rowe! See? I remembered!" From that day on my brother has called me Curtis. His son calls me Aunt Curtis. I get introduced to people as Curtis which leads to the inevitable "That's an unusual name for a woman, how do you spell it?" Imagine their surprise when I say, "R O."

Luigi was my name before I was born. My mother had been married before she met my father and had three children. My sibling's names all begin with the letter "L" and my mom wanted to do that with me. My father announced my name would be Rosemarie if I was a girl and if I was a boy she could name me any "L" name she wanted just as long as it was Italian. Really? An Italian L name? Mom called me Luigi. My Christmas presents and birthday presents were addressed to Luigi. I'd give a million dollars to hear her say one more time, "Hey, Luigi!" with her flawless Italian accent and her green Irish eyes twinkling while she did.

Today I was contacted by someone I haven't seen in probably 32-33 years. She was a teenager and the daughter of my sister's boyfriend. We met briefly as my sister introduced her boyfriend's family to her family. My sister and her father didn't stay together that long. My sister always called me Rockie which she derived from Rockarie which may have preceded Rosarie, I am not too sure which of those came first. The young woman that contacted me called me Rockie and told me that she had been impacted by knowing me. She remembered I was an EMT and that had really impressed her because EMT's save people's lives. She lamented the fact that parents introduce kids to people they fall in love with and then never think twice when they part ways. I was humbled and convicted.

First of all, I hated being an EMT. I was a volunteer firefighter and EMT as a means to an end. I wanted to work in public safety as a dispatcher for the sheriff's office. The few runs I went on as an EMT were horrible. Why? Because I did what they had trained me to do and the people still died. OK, not everyone I treated died- but the first call I ever went on that man died. He did not play by the rules as laid out in the text and training. He did not keep his end of the bargain. I avoided going on calls after that unless I was certain of the patient's ability to play fair and stay alive. I am glad I was an EMT and I am glad I have the knowledge base, but I despised the work. I had to find ways to quit asking myself, "Did you do something wrong? Did you cause them to die? Did you not do enough to save them?"

Second thing that bothers me is that I knew this young woman for a split second on the time line of my life. Truth is I have wondered about her and her brother for years. I remember being nice to her. I think generally I was a nicer person then. But I am sorely convicted that had I tried to be winsome throughout my life, I might have really influenced some young woman when it mattered. It didn't take much to impress her. I assure you, I have never been a super-hero, I'm more of a super zero.

That's the point I want to drive home for you, my three readers. Being winsome doesn't cost much but the payoffs could be eternal. I am sort of glad to have the chance to reconnect with this young woman and maybe it's not too late to teach Aunt Curtis how to get along with others.

01 December 2011

Flying Dreams and Hannah Moments

I miss the flying dreams of my youth. When I was young I had great flying dreams. If I could climb on something a few feet off the ground, I could push off it, stretch my arms out and be soaring. If I saw something interesting, I had to evaluate if there was something I could use to take off from again before setting down to have a look. It was exhilarating! When I went to bed I always hoped I would have a flying dream.

As I got older the flying dreams became more difficult. I had to be able to jump up high enough to pull myself into a cannonball shape, arms tucked tightly around my knees. If I could do that before I began to fall, I would be encased in a clear bubble and I could stay aloft. I would be able to hover in that protection until it dissolved and then gravity would take over. I would fall to the ground softly most of the time. Sometimes I would crash land, falling into places that were scary and always far from home.

I don't have flying dreams any more. Why is that? Is it because I am old and fat? Is it because I have lost the ability to believe in dreams or in flying? Or is it hope that eludes me.

Today I am unbelievably sad and I want to fly away. I feel the heaviness of life in a fallen world. I am overwhelmed by the smallest things. I woke up feeling this way and had a dental appointment to get my teeth cleaned. Bad combination. There are several areas in my mouth that the doctor is watching. "You'll eventually need a new crown or just lose the tooth, but it's not an issue we need to deal with now." The idea that I have decay occurring under a crown creeps me out. Not enough that I said let's make an appointment and deal with it right now! Still, it feels like a betrayal. They hygienist must have sensed my emotions and said, "Rosemarie, you have great oral health. It's not that you don't take care of them, it's that God gave you bad teeth." If you'll pardon the pun that hit a nerve with me. I couldn't leave the office quickly enough so I could be alone and cry.

I read an excellent post here on Healing for the Holidays. Good as it is, it has stirred up a hornet's nest of emotion for me. I hate being emotional. In my last post I admitted to feeling strongly both ways about Christmas. I love it, it reminds me of my salvation. I hate it, it makes me sad. Part of my sadness stems from missing so many I love and have loved, which is always intensified during holidays. I wanted a normal family growing up, I want a normal family now. Kellemen's article encourages believers like me who stuff their emotions to give their sorrows words. I don't want to. I want to tuck myself into a tight cannonball and float away.

For me before the words can come the tears have to come. I need a Hannah moment before God.