Old Vets

We-Honor-VeteransBig plans for Veteran’s Day in a few weeks. I was called up and will be working with hospice staff and chaplains at two of our local facilities – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – to “pin veterans.” This is part of a national effort called We Honor Veterans. Our hospice coordinates pinning at many local facilities with our staff on Veteran’s Day and it’s neat to help out.

I did this last year and it was nice for the patients – many of who, sadly, don’t remember their service. But it’s okay. We have some nice pins to stick on their lapels and and we’re able to serve some drink and punch. Usually the vets are all brought into a common area where we call out their names, tell the service they served in and the years of their service, and thank them for their service. We then walk over to each person, shake their hand, pin their ribbon – and give them their cake.

Lots of good war stories from some of the people. These are WWII and Korean vets, of course, but last year, there was a Viet Nam vet, too. And there was one interesting person – he was a vet of both the Army and Navy. Not sure how he did that but he was proud of both and had stories from both.

And of course, the old Marines are all ooo-rah the whole time. They are funny.

Some of the patients are unable to make it to the common area so we visit them in their rooms. I remember one gentleman who was asleep – not to wake up – but we pinned his pillow and thanked him. Stuff like that is special to me.

They are all good people and I am glad we can spend a few minutes with them. I look forward to Nov 11.

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Cleansing Dirt

MushAs I write this, I am grimy, sweaty, and mostly filthy. Want to come join me? Figured not. No one does. Oh well. Thought I would ask.

Of all the things to cleanse the soul, though, dirt is the best. It’s about the most honest remedy for fixing a hurt, smoothing over difficulties, and making things feel not quite as bad as they seem to be. Mix in some sweat and aching muscles and now you have a cocktail that heals almost anything. The perfect solution. The absolute pill. The best remedy.

Hard, honest work is what can keep a person headed in the right direction. Lazing around, nomming on frou-frou delicacies, being glued to a TV or phone screen, and interacting with the world in 140 or 160 bursts of words is a recipe for physical, mental, and spiritual disaster.

I think it has something to do with focus. Working requires focus – all your senses work together to accomplish something. Hands, eyes, brain, ears, breath, and everything else is working together to make it happen. There’s unison, harmony, and rhythm. It works and feels good when it is over – something has been accomplished.

On the other hand, sitting around is all about not having any focus. Eat this, think that, text this, feel that, watch this, listen to that, and so forth. Bumming around certainly doesn’t take any physical effort so your body is being wasted. Thinking isn’t required. Some call it multitasking – I call it being a mushroom.

Liven up! Instead of wallowing in your pity and angst, try putting on some healing dirt and sweat.

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Winterized Gardens

I prepared our box gardens for winter yesterday. In the process, I harvested what little we were able to produce. I’m glad that my garden survived – somehow.

Lessons Learned

1. Deer are ravenous around fresh gardens. Our gardens that didn’t have deer nets were destroyed by the friendly but pesky neighborhood deer.
2. Half way through the summer, our water source failed. Unfortunately, melons and tomatoes really need water to survive. Didn’t happen this year.
3. Probably the biggest thing (we knew this going in) is that we planted around Jun 1 instead of around Apr 1. With this, we lost two months of vital growing time. This being the case, the melons and tomatoes that did survive the deer and lack of water were quite small and didn’t get the time they needed to mature. They looked good but were just real small.
4. The square gardens didn’t need much attention. What a benefit. Some occasional TLC was all they needed.

I hope to make the gardens next year and will definitely protect from deer, make sure the water supply is reliable, and plant early. Thanks to all the other gardeners and hands that made this interesting, fun, and very much a learning experience this year. We will do much better next year.

(Click on the photos to enlarge.)

· 1 Comment. Posted in daily goings on.

New Opportunities

newopSitting recently with a friend and hearing things that would shock most people, I struggle with what to say and do. It’s easy for me to give advice – which I don’t do very often now anyway – but I’d rather listen. The problem is that advice doesn’t fix deep, serious, systemic problems in a person and most of my advice has gone out the window anyway. Instead and over some coffee and eggs, I listen and wonder and pray and listen some more. How can things get this hard for my friend? Why have people abandoned my friend? Why isn’t there a community of people my friend can identify with to find some comfort and understanding? How come it hurts so bad that even the tears have dried up?

As I sit and write this, I wonder what is going to happen. I’m glad we were able to talk for a long time but I am also at an end to figure out how to help. This is deep, dark, and difficult stuff that sources from multiple places – physical, spiritual, mental, relational, sexual, psychological.

My point in mentioning this is that I have been getting into these kinds of conversations lately with different and separate people in unexpected ways. In feeling helpless, I am also taken that I am somehow being given opportunities in confidences with things that I would have thought unimaginable a few years ago. It is daunting but also something that I now am more than willing to deal with.

I feel like a little dog paddling in an ocean.

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It Hurts

changeThank you, Rob, for your words yesterday from the Book of Job. And I 100%, unequivocally, absolutely, and emphatically agree with your thoughts on dealing with grief. Fact is, and as you said, hurt is hurt and there are not words or actions that will ever adequately fill the void left by loss. Even faith and Scripture doesn’t fix things, as some would like to think and often attempt to patronizingly and pedantically vocalize. Rather, these things are meaningful and healthy methods given to us by God that can and should be used to help us cope with wounds over time. Understand, however, that pain and scars will never go away completely, fully, and totally in this life as if they had never existed.

Because of your words, several people spoke with me yesterday about dealing with grief. One individual observed with me that we like to talk about, prepare, discuss ad nauseam (his words) and have parties for babies but we go out of our way to not discuss the process of dying and death.  I assured him that having babies is a fine thing and that we shouldn’t be too hard on anyone but, yes, we view the transition from eternity into life as a time of human celebration but we view the transition from human life back into eternity as a time of human loss. But then, it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? We like it here (it’s okay – it’s nice here!) so coming in is a good thing but we sure get hung up on leaving, don’t we?

In times of grief, there is nothing better a caregiver can do than to listen (if anything is even being said) and be present. After awhile, something will need to be discussed but dying is one ailment that does not have a quick-fix in this life so it takes time to process. Death should be grieved because it is a curse, it hurts, and it destroys. Death – in any way one tries to spin it – is a horrible thing.

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I Think

rultyTo me, it’s not an issue of there being a God or not as much as it is a matter of choosing to believe in one thing or another. Let me try to explain.

To believe in something suggests that, for one reason or another, I agree to adhere to a set of concepts and expectations of whatever the belief system expects of me. Perhaps I believe in myself as the core truth of the universe. To do so and in this belief system, I acknowledge that my opinion is the centerpiece of my existence, that my motivation is driven almost exclusively by what I think, and that I see others and their actions through my own self-described filters.

Likewise, if I believe in, for example, science as being the core truth of the universe, I will assume that all and everything in me and around me can be answered by science somehow. My decisions can and will be greatly influenced by the sciences – logic, cause and effect, evolution, etc. My worldview will be filtered through what I believe are the laws of science.

And finally, if I, for example, hold to a political or social movement’s set of tenets, I will depend on the principles of the movement to shape my take on the world, people, and social interaction. Everything I see, say, or do will be motivated by and filtered through my belief in the movement’s propositions.

Bottom line – any and every idea about anything and everything is dependent on a belief and faith system. Regardless of what we adhere to as our personal set of defining core principles, we are all faithful believers in one sense or another. In a technical sense, there is not such a thing as a non-believer.

Oddly or not, we are all creatures of belief and faith.

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Maize Maze

maze2014How hard can it be to get through a corn maze? In the dark? With drizzle? In 50 deg weather? (Click on the photo to the right to see an enlarged photo of the actual maze. But don’t cheat if you plan to go through!)

Well, actually, pretty hard. This year’s version of the Maize Maze at Belvedere Plantation was awesome in that it was tough tough tough. Getting through Phase 1 was no problem – it’s meant for little guys. Phase 2 took an hour or two. And Phase 3?  Couldn’t do it! After being wet for several hours with the rain picking up in the dark and going around in circles for what seemed like forever, that was it. It will take another trip back out to Belvedere to complete Phase 3. But oh so cool to wander around trying all the different options and trying to remember which paths had already been tried and which ones hadn’t.

Seriously, walking in is easy and how can this be hard? But literally after 20 min or so, reason and logic goes out the window. It is the most amazing feel to actually feel lost in what otherwise looks like a simple and easy exercise. You can see across the maze, there are some spotlights shining to help out, there are several large bridges in the maze that can be used as markers, and it simply can’t be as hard as this! But after wandering and testing and trying over and over and over…it actually gets maddeningly frustrating. It really is a test of stamina and sticking to it, for sure. But how cool is that?

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Lazy Isolation

isolationI read Kafka’s The Castle years ago. The isolation I felt for the character K. (the main character in The Castle, as in Araby by Joyce, isn’t given a name) is the same as what I feel for the character in Araby and for Prufrock from Eliot’s story.

The thing about isolation is that it is selfish and it really is lazy. It takes little or no effort to be isolated. On the other hand, caring for others and being in community takes effort and self-will. This is, if we are talking about truth and morality, what is different between isolation and community. It is a conscious choice to desire and will to be either selfish or selfless.

Deciding to be and act like a noble hero of ancient literature or a self-absorbed nobody of modern literature is a conscientious and deliberate decision. In large part, our decision has to do with whether we chose to believe and have faith in a Creator who instills beauty and grace in an otherwise broken universe, or we chose to believe and have faith in ourselves with a hope that we can find happiness and contentment in our own minds and hearts.

In my faith, I believe that we find beauty and grace in a community of faith in God. It can take some effort and it can be difficult, but when I compare it to the desolation and isolation of those who attempt to find happiness in themselves, I see no comparison.

Of course, we all were once desolate and isolated, yes? But God in Christ gave us direction on how to escape the loneliness of self by learning, in faith, to be invested in others. Jesus is our example.

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Fall Begins

2014-10-08 14.30.38-1

Autumn Movement
Carl Sandburg

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman,

       the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things

       come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go,

       not one lasts.

· 1 Comment. Posted in daily goings on.

More Endings

Space warp travel trough universeIn wrapping up another session of school this week, I reflect on just what I am attempting to do with all of this education. It takes lots of time, it’s expensive, it takes work, and it is sometimes hard to do. Several ask why I do this. I think my best answers are that I want and need to be busy with something that might matter, I think I might want to actually get back in the work-force somewhere at some point (but on my terms!), and I think I crave for information that seems to be something that I can use to help others either professionally or just as an individual.

This has been a long session. Not so much because of the literal classes but because of a number of things that have happened during this session. I’ve had to do a lot of reflection, re-prioritizing, meditating, and wondering what next. I’ve been able to keep my studies up but my personal life has gotten a bit more challenging and the challenge leaks over into my study life. Maybe I’m just normal again. Is that possible? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m glad that things are finishing up. The classes were a handful but, thankfully, the professors were here to help and I managed to get through them with flying colors. As each class finishes, I can taste the end more and more. But is it also some kind of countdown to who knows what? That is what kind of makes me wonder.

Where is this going?

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