Sunday, August 31, 2014

Observations on the last day of August, last day of "summer"

I know that the official last day of summer, the autumnal equinox, is September 21, but we all feel like it is Labor Day, which is as early as it can get this year.  So I offer these . . .

Why do these news outlets think we care about Joan Rivers' medical condition? 

What do you do about a "friend" on Facebook who posts one week that our redemption draws nigh because of the situation in the middle east and this week that she is thankful for margaritas and for not being a redneck?  You confront personally, not there.

Dealing with someone estate is far more work than people think.

As mentioned elsewhere, I wrote a play that is going to be produced at my college.  I am excited about that.  I attended auditions this week, which was fun, but after a meeting to do a read through, I will leave all to the director because (a) I'm getting nothing out of this deal and (b) it's her job and she does it quite well without me, thank you very much.  But she chose it with a committee and someone has given me back comments and edits and suggestions.  I want to be humble (can you want to be humble?) and open-minded and will spend the afternoon making some of them, but . . .. I also want to say, "If you don't like my play, go write your own."  Critics have their place, but so few who are critics are creators.

Our pastor spoke on homosexuality this morning.  I think he did a good job on a hard topic.  That's all I'll say about that.

We listened to a Beth Moore tape this morning in Sunday School (which is not called that anymore).  She was silly and her hair was a distraction.  However, I read her take on James 3:1-3 and it was brilliant; I wish I could post it here but of course can't.

Another Facebook friend posted a tape of Joel Osteen's wife saying that God wants us to be happy and it's all about us and it was taken down.  I wrote that it was scarier that all those people in the audience sat there and ate it up.  Gullibility reigns in the Christian church.

My main comment of the day is our absolute apathy and ignorance about the Christians in Iraq and Syria.  We should be on our knees every day for them.  God help us.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mercy Triumphs

This is the title of Beth Moore's study on James, and I am finding it quite good.   The question of "faith vs. works" is a hard one for some people.  It's not one I struggle with--living what you believe makes perfect sense to me--so I am trying to figure out why others do.  I think it has to do with the question, OK, how much is enough, and the fact that "enough" may lead to human sanctions, i.e., legalistic obligations and expectations.  Logical obedience and rational consistency between the truths of the gospel and how we live can escalate into pushes from others about what that logical obedience and rational consistency should look like.  Since Christians (and Christian women) can be gullible and not able to stand up to the opinions of others, we get trapped.  Been there, done that.  I've thrown away the t-shirt.  I try hard not to put my expectations on others (despite some of these posts) and I try even harder not to let theirs affect me.  Easier said than done.  We have to balance living in community with following the Spirit for ourselves.

Example: the other day at BCM, students who have nothing to do with BCM started coming in to get pizza because they heard there was free food.  I fussed.  I wasn't very nice, but we are not there to feed the whole campus; if someone wants to come to our meeting and be there, that's fine, regardless of their beliefs, but they can't just come in, grab three pieces of pizza, cut out, eat half of it and throw half out, and not stick around.  Of course, Jesus fed people who probably didn't stick around .... (we know he did).  But Jesus had unlimited resources.  I can't buy 20 pizzas every week out of our budget, and no other RSO would do that.  I don't know why the "Christian club" should be held to a different standard, even if our founder multiplied loaves and fishes and feed 5,000 plus!

But. . . I have felt bad about it since.  I am such a fusser, such a curmudgeon.  Or am I just being realistic?  Did I run off people who are interested in BCM, or just the freeloaders (of which there are many on campus; it's a long-standing problem that students freeload food).  We just don't have the money.  One student wanted to serve juice and fruit at Coffeehouse; it's not a breakfast bar. 

Where is leadership?

As I have written before, there was a popular bumper sticker (on the left) during the Bush administration:  Are you appalled yet?

Are we appalled yet by Obama?  ISIS is a direct result of his policies, inaction, hubris, ideology.  The influx of young immigrants is a direct result of his illegal, unconstitutional actions.  Those are just two examples.  If he weren't so activist, so bent on reforming America his way, where would we be?  He has tampered with the system.

Don't say, "But Bush ...."  That is just not relevant anymore.  We are seeing direct results of  his policies.  He can go out and make a speech somewhere but not deal with his actual job. 

I don't like to quote this source, but this says it all:

So what about Ferguson.  Well, it's a state and local matter.  I just don't know.  Too many people are too quick to make too many opinions.  In time we will know how hair-trigger the police officer might have been (I'm not immune to thinking some police officers go too far with their authority, to put it mildly) or if the officer was trying to defend himself.  I wasn't there.  But what it is causing me to do is examine my own views of how some African Americans feel.  Like most white people, and some black, I mumble under my breath, why do these people loot and burn their own neighborhoods as a protest?  What gives them the right to destroy others' property, and what good does it do?  Yet, beyond those vandalizers, I think we do have to examine the question some things; I am not entirely sure what.  While I don't like "white privilege" as a knee-jerk term, I think it's more like "white visual impairment" of what most of the world goes through.

Well, I just can't . . .

By now almost everyone has heard of the ice bucket challenge.  Two days ago it reached the staff and faculty on our campus on my Facebook feed, and of course last night I was challenged.  The context:  A dear friend of mine died of ALS in 2006, after about three years of debilitation from it.  I essentially "got her job" when she had to retire.  So another professor challenged me and two other communication teachers.  She doused herself (as did her husband) and posted it.

Well, I don't have time today to douse myself, film it, and put in on Facebook, although it's so hot outside that the idea of being drenched in cold water is pretty good.  In these weeks after my mom's passing, I just have limited emotional energy, and I have certain commitments this weekend that are calling my name.  So I posted that I would make a donation.  But I didn't say to what.

I have always been a little iffy about disease organizations.  I've been reading posts about how ALSA does embryonic stem cell research (and therefore kills babies, which makes for a startling headline), and I'm not entirely comfortable with that, to say the least.  Secondly, I work hard for the money and I don't know what ALSA's track record is (how much on actual help versus "overhead"), so just handing them $100 is a stretch.  I am more inclined to give it directly to a person with ALS or their caregivers to pay medical bills, which can be overwhelming.  I saw what Karen went through.

I also don't think a lot of these people (especially kids) who are dumping ice water on themselves know anything about the disease.  It's a fad, one that seems like it is helping people.  This is not true of many, I know.  I am not trying to justify my lack of desire to be doused; my being cold just won't help anyone.

In a related way, I noticed that a fellow Christian recently posted about her yoga class.  I cringed.  This person is very public about her service, her mission trips, her family, her "self."  I am perplexed why Christians get "into" yoga.  Yoga instructors, real ones, know that it is a Hindu worship form.  Anyone with an open heart and mind who researches this will have to see the truth.  I would love to get some good stretches in for my sciatica, but I am not putting myself under the teaching of a person who denies, directly or indirectly, my world view and Christian theology.  Of course, I teach in a public college and some would say I support that system.  Maybe. I am even more appalled by churches that have yoga classes.  No wonder we are powerless.

As diatribic as it sounds, I believe we are being judged as a nation for a variety of sins, and no, not same sex marriage (that is a symptom, not a cause).  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Grief: My Journey

This is not the most structured narrative.  I am writing about my mother and her death because it is time, and a way to deal with grief and loss, and as therapy.  She died two weeks ago last Tuesday.  This is the story.

I have not cried yet.  This is not good, nor normal.  I may still be in a level of shock, and can’t get past the guilt or fear that I did something wrong, that she would have been here longer, that Donald could have at least seen her and spoken to her.  I don’t think she wanted to die, in the sense that she decided she was ready and went.  That is often claimed, but I don’t believe it.  Whatever was killing her, taking all her strength, finally took the last bit needed to breathe and beat the heart.  Her blood pressure was 80 over 40s that morning, and pulse 113. 

The CNA came at 9:30, and we had been up.  I was trying to get fluids into her, and a little food, and she was still swallowing, but at one point she told me to get away and another that she was fine.  Only four words that morning, it took all she could do to get those out.  Mostly it was groans, grunts, garbled words.  I would put her oxygen in her nose and she kept pushing it out until I finally let her keep it on her head.  I stroked her forehead, spooned water into her mouth, kissed her head, told her to “let go” of the railing of the bed, rubbed lotion on her legs, said I love you, we love you.  And I went to make some lunch and set it on the table and went back in to check on her and something was wrong.  Her mouth was awry and open, her color strange.  I lifted her hand and it fell, I made noises, ringing her bell and yelling her name, and nothing happened,   I saw no chest rising and felt not air from the nose.  So I called the hospice nurse, then David, then Paul, then Mary, who came and confirmed it. At a little after 1:00 the nurse showed up and put her death down as 1:10 but that was not right—it was 12:15 or 12:20. 

I spent today cleaning her house, which will take many weeks. It would take a month if I worked 40 hours a week on it.  She had so much stuff.  So much. 68 years of keeping house and raising kids.  The stuff we spend money on.

Everyone has been great.  I have good people around me.  Two other teachers lost their mothers in the last week or so; I will reach out to them.  I find myself staring.  Everything will be different now.  We have her little dog; he is adjusting to us.    

I recently read that when your parents die, you lose your past, when a spouse dies, you lose the present, and when a child dies, you lose the future.  Well, OK.  I don’t agree, but it’s glib.  I do not feel my past is gone, only a person with whom I had the closest of relationships, who knew me better than I wanted to admit, but who was very unlike me in a lot of ways.  We didn’t look all that much alike, not like some moms and daughters.  I was blonde most of my life, and blue eyed, and five inches taller; she was 5’1” in her heyday and brunette with brown eyes.  She had better teeth and was generally prettier than me; I look like my father’s people.  We were both always heavy but in different ways; apple vs. pear.  Mostly, I like to think I am an academic and public and an extrovert.  She was a homemaker and caregiver, the best of the best, and introverted and private.  I fear she sometimes thought I was fake because I could and did talk with anyone about anything.  She thought I worked too hard, put up with too much from some people, allowed myself to get too busy, and didn’t take care of myself. 

This journey started in Spring of 2012, when heavy bleeding meant a trip back to the oncologist who did her hysterectomy in November of 2010.  He prescribed chemo and radiation.  She believed unnecessary radiation contributed to my brother’s death (she sometimes had irrational ideas) but she agreed to chemo after I encouraged it.  She took it for nine months, and seemed in remission.  That lasted until March or April, and the doctor said she could get more chemo or go into hospice care.  She did not want more treatment, and it is doubtful it would have done anything but made her even weaker.

She wasn’t eating well, and stayed in bed a lot, until June 10 when a fall that wasn’t really that serious meant a trip to the emergency room.  She went home under hospice care; ironically I was going to start interviewing hospice agencies that week, so the decision was taken out of my hands.  I moved in with her for 50 days and only left to teach a class, for two quick trips to Atlanta for doctoral classes, and to run errands. 

Every week some ability or desire went away; in the last week of her life something left every day.  I finally, in the last eleven days, made funeral arrangements; I also started reading on the dying process, thinking it would be a while.  The hospice doctor said October; I made arrangements for a sitter when I was at work and for family leave time.  I will not need either now; I think the sitter, with lots of hospice experience, knew when she met Mom that her services wouldn’t really be needed.  People visited, and that perked her up, even when she would say to me that she didn’t want to see them. 


Two days after her burial, I got up and went out to finish pulling up the bean vines from my little garden and to prune back tomatoes.  I did four loads of laundry, tried to get the house into a semblance of order, made vegetable soup out of my tomatoes and a peach cobbler.  Then I was tired and lay, not wanting to get up for two hours.  I just stared.  This is my grief.  I can do, do, do, and then feel motionless, unable to even speak.  Something else has to jar me out of it.  I am trying to write thank you notes, and I am not ready to think about teaching classes or going back to dissertation writing this next week.  This is my grief. 

My husband and I laugh about funny things in this time, he is sweet about it, and helped a lot. She told me I didn’t know to make oatmeal; my husband thinks that is funny (she wanted it very creamy, I like chunky things).  When I couldn’t figure out a soft-boiled egg (I can’t abide running yellows) she said, “I thought I taught you how to cook.”  I annoyed her with my fastidiousness about washing my hands, but I didn’t want to get sick; I was also obsessed with clean sheets, but she didn’t want me to worry about them.  When she rang the bell or called at 2, then 4, then 6, I said, “I’ll be there, but don’t expect sparkling conversation.”  I do not have a sense of smell, so cleaning up after her was not a problem.  The first time I did the most personal of personal of care I winced, but got over it quickly.  Latex gloves are wonderful, as are baby wipes and pull up pants. I cooked more cream of wheat than I have in my entire life.  I will always associate it with cancer, which is unfortunate because it’s a good cereal.

Loyalty, Critical Thinking, and Ann Coulter

I often read Ann Coulter’s weekly essays, which come to my yahoo box.  My general view is that I think her outrageousness is funny.  I agree with a lot of what she says, although these celebrity conservatives do not speak for me.  But lately she’s just been shrill, and now mean. 

Her most recent rant is that Samaritan’s Purse should not have sent American missionary doctors to Liberia or the third world period because Ken Brantley and another needed to be rescued, flown home, and treated for Ebola and it cost 2 million dollars.  She went on and on about how stupid that was to send medical help over there, and how the American poor need medical care in destitute communities.

First, I hardly think she has a good perspective on the missionary world.  Second, it’s none of her business how much Samaritan’s Purse spends—she doesn’t donate to them.  Third, since when does she care about the poor in the U.S. ? 

But the comment section is what always gets me.  Her acolytes got all huffy about defending her.  The indefensibility of her position doesn’t matter; they have to be loyal and this loyalty comes at the price of logic or good sense.  I did not know that loyalty was about one’s self-esteem and self-defense.  I thought it was about the other person. 

It is possible to expose oneself to the views of a writer or source and not drink his/her koolaid.  It’s called critical thinking, which is in short supply on both sides of the aisle.  If we have to agree wholeheartedly, in lock step with one side on all issues, all the time, we are in big trouble and no compromise and therefore no progress is possible.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Just wondering

I wonder a lot about evangelicalism.  The excesses of it make my head spin.  This summer my SS class is listening to tapes of well known women speakers.  It amazes me how they talk about their families.  Might their children and husbands want a little privacy?  One was especially shocking about how she talked about her family.  This woman has a high profile “ministry” and I believe she has impacted many people for good.  I can only say that God uses us in spite of our flaws, not because of our gifts.  Perhaps I am too analytical and look for flaws, but my training is to look at all sides of something, not just the surface.

I am often shocked by evangelical gullibility, how small our world is, and narcissism.  There is so much evil in the world, so much persecution against our brothers.  Do the average Christians in the US even know about these things? 

These are rants.  I don’t know what good it does to talk about these things here.  Thank God for quiet, faithful nursery workers and Sunday School teachers and sound engineers and musicians and custodians who don’t have to be in the public eye, who don’t crave that.  

Public Speaking Online: Part III

This is a continuation of articles below on speaking for webinars, etc.  Experts give a few other preparation tips...