Am I Racist?

With all of the talk about racism at present, I have to ask, as should you, “Am I racist?” I don’t think it’s helpful to ask myself if I actually am I racist because being a racist implies that it is what I am in an all encompassing way. I know for sure that I am not of the opinion that being a white caucasian of European dissent translates into my superiority as a human being. That said, being white from birth on I find that whether intended or not, I want to believe that my race is the superior race. It’s not a conscious desire, in fact I am very intentional in my actions and way of life to make sure that anyone different from myself knows that I accept that first and foremost they are human beings of value.

In the 60’s, I grew up as a white child in a low income and very diverse community in the Midwest. I have come to understand that the time I spent living there shaped my worldview in ways that many growing up in predominantly all white European communities honestly don’t understand. The interesting thing is that a large part of the minority group in my life at that time where the Sioux Native Americans – Native…meaning they were the first ones on the ground I walked on everyday. I didn’t know them as natives then, they were just Indians. Indians with lice and alcoholic parents at home where the floors were dirt (literally). And every Saturday morning Bugs Bunny and other cartoons reinforced the prevailing worldview that Indians were once the enemies of Americans (aka white people) and killing them was just part of our Nebraska history. It was what had to be done because they were dangerous with their bows, arrows and tomahawks.  It was an interesting childhood because at school and in my neighborhood Native American children were my peers but in the world at large they were  definitely in a different place though I didn’t really understand that place at all.

This summer several new homes went up in our development on the north edge of the Twin Cities. Three different black families purchased homes among them. Dean and I eagerly went over and met each one. Among them we met some who were born here and some who were not. One of the Cameroon who moved here as a child whose spouse is from Kenya. They met in college in Mankato. Intelligent professionals with a lovely son. Another family moved in from St. Paul. We were just so happy to find diversity moving into our neighborhood. At the same time, on one random day I was driving home and as I drove down our street, a thought came into my mind, saying, “I wonder if our home value will go down now that we have more black people in the neighborhood.” It stopped me cold. “Where the hell did THAT come from?” was my next thought! It really unsettled me for awhile. It’s even difficult now to actually see it on the screen in front of me.

If you know me well, you know that I have been always been a passionate advocate for racial justice. My book shelves in the family room are lined with books full of stories from around the globe of injustice implemented simply because someone’s skin was black. I’m a global citizen and have been since being exposed to foreign missions in college. Then the impetus was to reach the world for Jesus and as I sought to do that, met dozens of people from all over the place. I taught students, the children of visiting missionaries, from several other countries and I specifically taught that just as there is one God, even though expressed in the Trinity for us Christians, there is one thing that makes us God’s children, being human. So, again, in my mortified state, I continued to ask myself “Where the hell did I get the thought that these all black families who moved into my neighborhood could bring our property value down?” It wasn’t long before I had an answer.

I believe this thought came from a place in myself that I was completely unaware of. I now understand it to be a message recorded so firmly into my subconscious that when circumstances aligned the way they did, there it was. In every way I don’t feel that this is actually true, and if it were, then so be it! These dear people are equal to me and deserve to live wherever they want to. I truly believe that.

Today I am so grateful for the lesson that came to me in this weird experience. I always knew roots of white supremacy were imbedded in my genetic history. As a result, I have purposely challenged myself on multiple occasions to seek to understand what it is my darker-skinned fellow humans are saying. Clearly, it is going to be a lifetime pursuit but one that I plan to continue to embrace.

 

 

The World Where I Belong

Scan 2016-7-28 12.18.57

I read this amazing poem by David Whyte and felt as if God dropped it right out of heaven. I especially felt drawn to the line,

“Give up all the other worlds except to the one to which you belong.”

It’s no secret to anyone that in 2010 when we uprooted from Logan, Utah, and came to Minnesota for Dean’s new job, it was only a matter of time before I felt completely lost to myself. I didn’t understand how to adjust to the layers of culture here in a way that allowed me to feel as if I belonged anywhere. These layers include:

  • Small town culture but a small town on the far edge of the Twin Cities with access to plays, music, sports, parks and all kinds of activity if you just hop in the car and drive an hour or so.
  • Scandinavian culture where the concept of  “Minnesota Nice” comes from. The hardest part of this was the aversion to eye contact and not greeting people when you pass them in a hallway. Well, not really, the most difficult part was the passive aggression that is honestly just normal here and people don’t let it bother them too much. Everyone participates in passive aggression to some degree but Minnesota’s version is often very hard on outsiders unfamiliar to it.
  • The Lake Culture: This means you live in a neighborhood that empties out most weekends throughout the summer. Few fireworks explode on your street over the 4th of July.
  • The Commuting Culture: This means that people go to bed very early because they get up very early. I’m used to it now but at first I could hardly believe how many people drove anywhere from 20 minutes to almost 2 hours to work and back every day. Having only done that once and when we lived in Utah, my commute was shear beauty for me. I drove straight toward the Wellsville Mountains and was always treated to whatever nature had to share with me. It was more spiritual than drudgery so the idea of driving through traffic like they do here almost made me feel sick. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about the fossil fuel consumption, the air pollution etc. No longer something I think too much about because it is just life here and I’d have gone completely crazy if I’d of not adjusted.

In addition to these adjustments I was also going through the acclimation process one’s body goes through moving 3 degrees north in latitude from where one has lived most of her life. The seasons are incredibly distinct here and almost totally follow the equinox for each one. Winter is utterly brutal and unrelenting. There are more cloudy days here than I ever imagined possible except for Seattle or Portland. And the trees…omg…the trees. We lived in a forest and even though we removed half the trees on our property, every summer when the trees would leaf out our entire house was as dark as if it were a winter day. This wide open spaces woman began to feel caved in. Moving into a newer development with small trees has made a big difference for me in that our house faces south which means that we get whatever sun is out there streaming in our windows all year. So, after 6.5 years I am finally feeling more acclimated but the winter remains a challenge for me.

Health problems and a forced retirement were pretty much the last straw for me where this move was concerned. I would say that in every way, I have struggled to belong here and I think that is the reason why David Whyte’s words stood out to me so much. It would be utterly impossible to completely “give up the worlds where I don’t belong” here in Minnesota because trust me when I say, Minnesota is a thick culture and the people here love being Minnesotan more than just about anything else. I have been here long enough to have seen below the surface and I do genuinely love many people and much about their lives here. Adjusting to so many changes at once though has made it very difficult for me to remain centered and able to participate in the worlds where I know I actually belong. After reading this line from David’s poem and not being able to stop thinking about it, I sat down and wrote the following gems that have come out of the last several years of refinement in my life from the many things I’ve been through. I’ve learned SO much that it was time to get the lessons out there for myself. The experience proved to be very clarifying and reorienting so I just wanted to share them in writing for those who’ve walked with me as I’ve gone through this season. I’m sure you know who you are.

The World Where I Belong

The world where I belong is any world where I’m communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.

The world where I belong processes past, present and future simultaneously and understands that really everything belongs.

The world where I belong is one that does not control the life on another, it allows the other to exist as they are while encouraging grace, growth and personal responsibility so the other can flourish as they choose to, with or without me.

The world where I belong creates beauty and prepares places for myself and others to enjoy.

The world where I belong values life from conception to the grave, the life under every color of skin, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity in every place, at all times.

The world where I belong enlarges the spaces for others to do what THEY are uniquely called and gifted to do.

The world where I belong loves others but does not succumb to their trauma manifested in abuse of any kind or in anyone’s attempt to control me in any way.

The world where I belong to is beautiful, full and meaningful. It sees hope in the future because youth are always able to change the world.

The world where I belong is an abundant and generous place where light overcomes darkness.

The world where I belong finds me at home with the poor, the middle and the wealthy because I accept capitalism’s strength and weaknesses while at the same time do my best to level the playing field where I can.

The world where I belong loves the earth, the sun, the galaxies and is committed to learning new ways to take care of it because I am in constant awe of it all.

The world where I belong is full of rich, heart connected friendships with people of all ages.

The world where I belong is with my husband and children as healthy adults doing their best in the world. It is with aging parents offering supportive care as I am able.

This is the world where I belong.

A Journey Through ICU

Wow, how things can change in an instant. Honestly, there we were just sitting on the patio shooting the breeze after Dean got home from work and I said, “I’m going in to lay down for awhile, I think this medicine is already making me sick.”

I made it to the bedroom and my body seemed to begin going into hysterics without me. Flu like symptoms, heart racing, dizzy and utterly wasted with no energy to hardly stand up. It hit so intensely that I told Dean he was going to need to take me to the hospital. We got out to the car and I said, “You need to call and ambulance. I can’t even get into the car.”

The rest is a bit of blur after that…I’m on the floor at the top of the stairs, he’s on the phone, I hear our address spoken, two guys in brown shirts sporting sheriff’s badges are coming up my stairs with an oxygen tank. One says my name and I respond. Before long there are more guys in the house and one wants me to sit up which I can’t even begin to do and before I know it, I’m being carried down my stairs on a sheet, placed on a cart and whisked away to the hospital.

The entire ride was hell. I’m losing my bodily fluids by a stranger, I can’t feel my hands or feet and am told I’m hyperventilating. “Count to five when you breathe in and exhale slowly” How is it that I remember that part? Because every freakin person I saw until they put me into lala land kept admonishing me to do just that. I could hardly think let alone count to five. I arrived at the hospital a total mess in every possible way.  I’m whisked into a room and they start asking question, after question, after question. This spunky little nurse says, “Jane, you are going to have to answer my questions”

“Oh, am I?” said I to myself. I didn’t.

It was just minutes and I was surrounded by strangers (who do this every day for a living, thank God!) and was told that I had lost too much fluid and was becoming hypovolemic which can apparently lead to organ failure because the electrolytes get all out of whack etc. Well, what does one need in such situations? IV’s lots of them and then out of the blue this man shows up and tells me he’s from respiratory therapy. I soon learned that it meant that he was going to be the one intubating me so they could get a central line IV in and put me in the ICU.

The next morning I woke up to Dean on one side of me, Hannah on the other and this ginormous thing in my mouth. As I slowly come back to the land of the living, they began to fill me in on just what happened to me. Dean told me the ICU doctor told him, “My job is to keep her alive tonight”.  OMG…I still can’t believe it.

I came home yesterday (Saturday 7/2) around 1. As we drove into the neighborhood I asked Dean if there had been anyone outside when they picked me up. He said, “Yes, everyone was outside – after work etc.”.  He went on to say that kids grow up and see things like this and it’s just part of real life. He’s right, but does it have to be MY real life?

It would appear that the medication I took to suppress my immune system in order to control the auto-immune flare up I’ve been dealing with was what my body reacted to according to one doctor, the other thinks I had an infection (he was a GI specialist rather miffed that I was seeing doctors at Mayo – seriously?!) Dean and I are attributing it to the medication because I took the drug for 3 months in the early 90’s and developed liver toxicity to it back then. Though I never became this sick from it, it seems too coincidental for us to think otherwise. My doctor’s rationale for using it, his preliminary tests and method of delivery were all  sound and based on good science but nonetheless, my body said, “No”.

I have so much to learn. My therapist and I have been talking about listening to my body for the past 5 years but in a world of rational western medicine that sounds almost crazy. That vein of thought says objective evidence rules the day. One GI doctor told me, stress doesn’t make us sick. It’s just what doctor’s say when they don’t know what’s really wrong. In the ER no one was asking my body any questions in the ethereal sense but instead they were looking at the evidence in front of them, making their best decisions for my welfare. Those decisions were based on years of scientific research and study that didn’t even originate with them but as discoveries were made, more questions were asked, new insights gained etc. Realizing that my muscles were cramping, my extremities turning color and my consciousness slipping away, they acted in seconds and saved my life as a result. I cannot discount any of it. But how do I process the reality that I took a medication that had already proven itself toxic to my body and that as a result I ended up in Intensive Care fighting for my life? How do I process that without feeling totally responsible? I can hear a family member who hates western medicine in all its forms almost gleefully saying, “I told you so.”

I often feel as if I’m a person caught in this swirling vortex with stuff from the western and eastern medicinal worlds whirling into my life at such breakneck speed that I cannot even begin to make the best decisions for myself. I do the best I can to be rational and sound-minded but it is less than easy most of the time. In our modern world once you get an illness of any kind, the information flood that comes your way can be as unhealthy for you as the illness itself and of course, it all comes at you when you already feel like crap.

Living in this vortex for so very long and navigating my way through so much information over the years makes me somewhat guarded when sharing about the details of my journey. I honestly used to just live my life as a wide open book, even for Nebraska standards, but the years have taught me that when you open your life up to people, you are instantly vulnerable.  And yet, it’s not the vulnerability to more pain and confusion that I fear, though that is there too, what I dreaded most when Dean told me he had let our friends know via Facebook was the exposure that I’d made a really stupid decision to try a medication that had been toxic to me before and ended up in the hospital fighting for my life as a result.  Seriously, each time I check FB I hope I don’t get some kind of message reminding me how terrible western medicine is with suggestions of the latest oil, herb or flower to try.

I’m sharing this because I do feel vulnerable. I feel vulnerable because I have a disease that has lurked in the shadows of my life since I saw my first rheumatologist at 16, woke up from its sleep after I had my first baby and very likely contributed to my second baby’s prematurity. This disease is emotional, spiritual, physical, mental and any other thing that we humans have going on in and about us. I need to say for my own well being that I am doing the very best that I know how, that I do not want to be sick and cause my family and friends to worry. Everyone I personally know who lives with a chronic illness is living life in this vortex and we give thanks for anyone who just lets us deal with it the best way we know how and loves us as we are.

I want to live and enjoy my healthy daughter and taste her joy as she cares for the elderly.

I want to hike up Logan Canyon, around Tony Grove Lake and sit on the shores of Bear Lake with my life partner …every day. one of these. for the rest of our life, would suit just fine🙂

I want to go to a live show in Austin with Stephen and Theresa and eat at Torchie’s Tacos on a Sunday morning for breakfast.

I want to hold baby Ava Sue Dinkel and play with Stinky Jones and Stinky Pete then take big sis Lexie out for ice cream. I want to fly in my brother’s plane.

I want to live and

I will say when this journey is done…auto-immune disease or not…

“I lived”.

Thanks for being there for me, for us.

 

Meet My Phlebotomist

Today I went to the Mayo Clinic for some blood tests. The man who drew my blood is a stellar professional when it comes to getting blood from my tiny veins. Second time in a row he nailed it with the first poke. It’s rare that you ever get the same phlebotomist at The Mayo so it felt a bit serendipitous to meet up with this guy again. I don’t remember his name but both the first and last ones were clearly Muslim-like so, I just looked up at him and said, “With a name like yours are you Muslim?” He said he was and we had a fantastic discussion about being Muslim in Rochester, Minnesota.

 
I learned from this man that as much as non-Muslim Americans fear the radical arm of Islam, this husband and father fears it even more. He feels safe in Rochester but keeps a strict eye on his children and makes certain that he knows every person in his faith community that has contact with his children. He is very involved in actively teaching his children what the heart of his faith is and that killing people to go to heaven for 70 virgins isn’t it.  This man simply wants to care for his wife and children and live in peace. He came to the US from Somalia when he was five years old and is very happy to be here.

IMG_1114One of the reasons I love going to Rochester is because there are people there from all over the world but more importantly because the community itself strives hard to be an inclusive community. This sign greets you as you come into the downtown area.   One of the most interesting things about going                   to the Mayo Clinic itself, however, is that almost any time I sit in the lobby or in a coffee shop, I will overhear a conversation from someone about “those” people.  Once, when a Saudi man walked by me and this obviously wealthy Texan couple, the man looked at me and said, “I can’t believe how many of them are here. It’s just disgusting how they treat their women!” Without even knowing what I thought about it, the woman went on to tell me about a Bible study she was in that exposed what they really believe and how horrible it was. All the while they were talking and expecting my “amen”, I just grew more and more uncomfortable with the conversation and did my best to change the subject and treat them well as their humanness deserved.  I was so caught off guard that I really didn’t know what to say.

I often wonder what these people would have said to the man I met today were he needed to withdraw blood from either of them. Hopefully not one thing but, thank you!  I honestly don’t understand why one would travel all the way to Rochester with such strong feelings about Muslims when the odds are pretty good you just might be seen by a Muslim physician? I guess the docs are rarely seen sporting the Muslim headdress so maybe that makes them less of a threat, I’m not sure.   I do realize that neither of these people saw their views as ones of hatred. They simply saw their perspective as gospel truth that gave them the right to pass sentence.  It’s a very common worldview here in America that too many of us have had for a very long time. It is the worldview that is taught in many congregations and from many pulpits. I think it’s time we challenge ourselves because many of these people live among us and more importantly, THEY are human beings just like us who deserve respect just like we do.

I have a feeling that the next time I’m in a position to respond in a conversation like this, I’m going to handle it a bit differently. It’s time to stop this nonsense and realize America isn’t a white, Christian country anymore and possibly never has been one.  We’re all human beings and we have got to figure out how to see those unlike us in a way that builds bridges rather than fuels the fires that in the end cause all of us a great deal of harm.

Just sayin…

 

Getting Real…A Kayak Journey

Sitting down at my computer and thinking about how I want to update you, my caring community (which I’m beyond thankful for), I realized that I no longer want to use the word “sick” to define my present journey.

 

kayak

Instead,  I want you to picture me kayaking through the canyons of autoimmune national park. In my mind I’m in this canyon in southern Utah on the Colorado River. I’m in a brand spankin new kayak with an umbrella to shield me from direct sunlight when the water is smooth. The umbrella will be stowed inside somewhere in rough water and I’ll have a wet suit on or something. Whatever.  The main thing is that I will be in the adorable little boat, moving through whatever is to come.

At present the river in front of me is uncharted. I went through the bile acid malabsorption stretch with a very smart guide who gave me a tool to fix that and I am happy to say it’s been resolved, sort of. No one really knows why I am not absorbing bile but it is presumed to be because of the departure of my gall bladder. There is this little bit of information in the background that my small bowel isn’t absorbing multiple things and as the list grows, so does the inquiry.

I have successfully navigated the section of the river that put the last nail in my thyroid’s coffin and found a new medication called tyrocint that absorbs before the small bowel so that I am now sporting lab numbers that make sense. My body is very happy about that.

As I mentioned before, I had hoped to be floating along enjoying the scenery a bit more by this time but oddly, several symptoms have appeared and increased in intensity to the point that I’m parking my kayak on the side of the river for awhile. As the other two issues have stabilized, multiple neurological issues continue to be present and contribute to keeping me in bed or on the sofa about half the time. I do find my way out to the patio swing where I can lay down and listen to the fountain and multiple birds who drop by. Yesterday and today the sound of a pay loader going forward and backing up with its beep, beep, beep nonsense has interrupted my zen but soon the lawns will be in across the street and that nasty little machine will be long gone.

I will head to Mayo again in 3 weeks to see the GI doctor for swallowing and esophagus testing and then see the rheumatologist again to see if it’s time for an immunosuppressant medication and whether it is possible for me as I once took one and experienced liver toxicity after two months of it.

The most difficult aspect of this journey is the way this stuff is messing with my cognitive ability and muscle coordination. The nature of autoimmune diseases is that they flare up and die down. I went all out over the weekend energy wise and participated in life with Dean. We attended a graduation in Cambridge on Sunday and enjoyed seeing Hannah. Yesterday, I could hardly function. On a walk with the dogs I dropped the leash and as I chased after it, I had one of those kind of  drop falls. The kind where you just hit the ground and when your there wonder how the hell that happened. Not only that, but when the neighbor started to talk to me, my words weren’t coming like normal and that was particularly frustrating. So, yesterday while still in my kayak, I hit some rocks and determined to beach it for awhile.

Today is better. My thoughts are organized enough to write this update and I haven’t been down once since I woke up. My goal is simply to be fully present. I’m also constantly singing the new GooGooDolls song I’m So Alive. It was so thoughtful of them to do that just for me….

Getting Real…Being Sick

A few months ago, I found myself just wasted and sick in a hotel room in Phoenix. I was on my way home from Yuma where I’d spent the previous two weeks wading through the healthcare system and waiting for results of a PET scan to determine whether or not my dad had lung cancer. I was very relieved to know that he didn’t and simply attributed my fatigue to the stress of it all. I’d also been dealing with some GI problems and thought I was sick due to that with the full expectation of being just fine once I got home.

A week later, I went to an appointment with a GI specialist at the Mayo Clinic. He’s a great doctor who consulted with us when Hannah was in the hospital in 2014. He’d ordered several tests ahead of our visit including a blood test that told me that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was if full swing.  My TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was also very high.  As for the GI symptoms, I was diagnosed with a condition called BAM (Bile Acid Malabsorption) due to having had my gall bladder removed in 2012. I’ll spare you the details and just say it’s no fun to live with at all. I left his office armed with new prescriptions for a medication for that and and a higher dose of thyroid medication. I came home and expected to get my life back on track. Expectations can be such a set up.

After a few weeks I find myself relieved of the BAM and for that am totally grateful, but I continued to feel pretty wasted and sick most of the time. I returned for a follow up appointment two months later and discovered that my TSH level didn’t drop at all but instead increased. It’s not supposed to do that so I was referred to Endocrinology. They were able to see me the next day.

The endocrinologist determined that my small bowel wasn’t able to absorb regular thyroid medication so I would have to take it in a gel capsule that would dissolve in my stomach. (The copay is $90!) I went home and planned to feel better but instead that happening I actually felt worse. A few days later I woke up  with a lovely bright red butterfly shaped rash on my face which is a classic sign of Lupus. After consulting with the GI doc again,, I was off to see a rheumatologist, a speciality I’m already very familiar with.

This is where things began to take on a whole new level of real for me. I’ve dealt with the reality that I have had autoimmune issues since high school, for over 45 years. I was first tested for Lupus in 1977. I’ve now seen a total of seven rheumatologists and each one has given me a different diagnosis each time.  Based on symptoms and blood tests, I was officially diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 1992 just prior to a diagnosis of Lupus. All of it has been a long journey of frustration at times because without warning it just hits, the rug is pulled out from under me and I’m in bed for anywhere to a day or several weeks. In light of the last few years (five surgeries in 9 months in 2011-12 and a nasty recovery from a thoracotomy), I honestly thought these drastic autoimmune hits were behind me. After the rheumatology appointment however, it became crystal clear that they are not.

I’m back on the drug plaquenil, have taken a course of prednisone and if all of this fails the rheumatologist is suggesting Imuran, a nasty chemotherapy drug that made my liver go toxic a very long time ago. It sucks. There is just no other way to say it.  To say the least this has really been a blow for me at the beginning of summer, especially the instruction to stay out of the sunshine!

As I have been thinking about this, it came to me tonight that this journey, this roller coaster of a ride through life has taught me a great deal and for that I could be grateful. I’m flexible, patient and don’t get too shaken up when a crisis occurs. I’ve accepted that crisis are just a part of life for the most part. However, in recent days, dealing with the reality that my autoimmune diseases are no longer quiet (they really weren’t…it’s called denial), and that I must deal with them, first pissed me off but as time goes by continues to sincerely humble me. I have come to realize that because I was in remission for quite awhile and because I’ve overcome a lot of traumatic things in my life without the auto-immune thing seeming to even enter the picture, I’d inadvertently reached a point where I honestly thought that I had figured it out in some special kind of way.

I have been rather proud of myself for surviving and attempting to thrive no matter what. My therapist says I’m a badass student of myself and psychologically very healthy, one of her hardest working clients ever. I’ve done a lot of therapy – physical and psychological, I’ve read countless books on healing and made continual life style changes as a result but dammit to hell, I’m still a human being and I don’t really want to be one all that much right now. It unnerves me that  I still need the patience of my husband and children, my friends and extended family,t hat I have to pace myself and that doing laundry is a huge undertaking. I cannot work for my keep or to achieve something profound and that really pisses me off. I just have to live in this beautiful house and have all of my needs met by my generous husband every.single.day…”I am woman hear me roar,” anyone?

I know, seriously?

Tonight, I honestly do want to be grateful.

I want to be aware of the great gift life has been for me in spite of this craziness.

But tonight, I also just feel smashed to the ground and broken.

But tonight there is a new wind blowing, a gentle breeze that says it’s okay to be broken. I am reminding myself that in the past, seasons of brokenness there has always been this place where God shows up, where miracles happen and life begins to make sense. It is rarely a place where I will go willingly. As I enter the outer edges of that place again, I know that I will find my selfish ambitions dust and my proud opinions hallow. But I also know that in that sweet place, a soft light inhabits the space about me, a soft rain drops on me when I’m thirsty and a gentle sun shares its warmth with me and I am just fine. It’s the getting there that is just excruciating.

Since moving to Minnesota in 2005, I’ve been shattered multiple times by one thing or another. Some having to do with the move and some simply with the age and season of life I’m in. The deal is that I reached a point where I had determined that I’d had enough of life’s pain and began to harden myself to it. I haven’t let my heart break open because I’ve been so angry. The deal is that I cannot move forward when I’m angry…I can wrestle and determine that I will be positive and that I will keep moving but all I end up doing is just that, moving, just going  forward.

I don’t want to just go forward anymore. It’s taken this reality of my body fighting the war within itself to wake me up and remind me that with the humble there is wisdom.  I genuinely want to be a wise person. So tonight, I open my heart a little bit more and with that opening attempt to make room for the brokenness that opens up the deep in life that I know is there for me.

If you’ve read this far, bless you.

 

Sarah Palin…Oy Vey

Well…Sarah Palin will be busy by her husband’s side while he recovers from a serious accident with a snow machine. I’m not sure if that’s a snow mobile or a literal make snow type of machine but that’s irrelevant to this post and I don’t really care. I would like to care. I would like to like her. I.just.do.not.get.her…or maybe I do and that is why it’s so hard.

I pretty much said, “Good-bye” to the Republican party in 2008 when Barak Obama was elected. I was so conflicted in my soul that year that I didn’t even bother to vote. The hot button issue for me was healthcare. Dean and I had borrowed money up to our ears and liquidated our assets in order to put our daughter through life-saving eating disorder treatment. Five years later and by unbelievable good favor of a lawyer in Salt Lake City who was insanely patient, we won our case against United Healthcare and were able to rebound.  The nightmare we lived through those five years was insane. I’m sure it took years off of our lives because dealing with an insurance company whose CEO at the time made $125,000,000 per year in salary and benefits (who was eventually fired for misconduct and is now the owner of a professional soccer team in the Twin Cities) really sucked. In addition we were dealing with an insurance company whose staff was trained to lie, trained to mislead clients and trained to deny claims. So, I guess you could say, Healthcare was a big issue for us in that election.

Facebook was also new to me that year. Remember the days when there were just a few pleasantly placed ads on your newsfeed and most of what you saw were posts from your friends? Well, that was the year when I reconnected with multiple Evangelical friends from home. We’d moved to another state three years before that and had chosen to attend a mainline Presbyterian church by then but friends are friends, right? So…I began to share my thoughts on why the issue of healthcare MUST be dealt with at the government level. At the time, I wanted the REPUBLICANS to tackle it because hey, we all know liberals can’t be trusted to do things in government, right?

As I shared my story, several of my CHRISTIAN Republican friends came unglued, unhinged or just totally lost it with me. It was really unbelievable that they heard so many things that I did not say simply because healthcare legislation was seen as an issue exclusive to Democrats. I had just one friend who actually thought about what I was saying and responded accordingly. We have been really good friends since! When she and I hash out an issue it is a blast because we can get emotional and agree or disagree and go on with life. Such was not the case with multiple people. The concept of being de-friended was strongly attached to my having been influenced by satan (no joke) in light of my liberal politics. It became utterly clear to me that my friends believed that God was a Republican.

Sarah Palin believes that too and as a result she is ooed and awed over by masses of Christian women around the country but all I can conclude is that these same women (and I’m sorry it has to hurt when I step on your toes) like her not based on the total substance of her platform but simply  because she is a Christian. That. is. all. When you talk about the substance of who she is and what she says…they have little or no idea. They know she likes guns. They know she fears God. They know she’s very rich. They know she is pro-life and supports abstinence based sex education… and that is all that is necessary for them.

Seriously, I don’t care what political party you are a part of,  if you are going to run for President of the United States of America, you need to know a whole lot more about a whole lot more. The Republicans I went to college with were really smart people. They were their parents children and they shaped by their Midwestern worldview but they fully engaged their brains when it came to discussing politics. What we are witnessing in the Republican political world is nothing like the party I grew up in. I still hate big government but I hate crooks even more and I especially hate crooks who make 9 digit salaries on the backs of those they insure by denying them coverage when they clearly should pay for it.

Sarah Palin was never meant to be in politics any more than Donald T is. In addition to that, her Christianity is not enough for me. In the mist of fame and fortune, she’s scattered all over the place. She rarely owns her real stuff like admitting that she just doesn’t understand some things very well, and she certainly knows very little about governing. She is on Donald Trump’s platform form as a Christian woman support person. It blows my mind that she, a mother with a special needs child would approve of a man who mocks a disabled reporter in a public forum let alone does all of the things he’s done and says all the things he’s said. The only thing that I can conclude is that she is grossly unaware of the things Jesus really said because I cannot possibly imagine he’s all that excited about what he’s witnessing these days as this election unfolds here in America.

And…God is not a white, male, American Republican…really.

 

Trump’s Gospel

As I approach my 55th birthday, I hope that it can be said of me that I’ve grown wiser, that more and more of who I am in my core self reflects the Christian truths of what modeled my life for over 30 years.  Though my beliefs are much more universal and I no longer see the Bible as I once did, these principles are a part of my soul’s internal compass.

Galatians chapter 5…

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

…the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…

Christian or not, it is my observation that each of us has a mix of light and dark and wrestling with the two is the hallmark of most of our lives. In the Christian worldview “Spirit and flesh” form our moral framework. I quote these verses, primarily because THIS morning, I watched Mr. Trump express that he thinks he is being audited because he’s such a good Christian. Head spinning, heart spinning,  I wondered to myself, why I even gave his words precious time from my day.  Of course it is because during an election year, here in America, we would have to dig a very deep hole, set up residence in it and cover it with concrete in order to miss him.  I also genuinely care about the politics of this country and am genuinely interested in the elections even if I’ve tried to tune out the hype machine that precedes our actual vote.

When I heard Donald Trump utter the words, “I am such a strong Christian” in an instant I realized that the American gospel has little or nothing to do with the sandal-clad man from Galilee anymore. The American gospel is not about choosing to wrestle with your shadow by self reflection upon verses like one finds in Galatians 5 anymore, it is now about being exclusively right and prosperous as evidence of God’s blessing on your life. In a nutshell it is about money and power. Donald Trump utters such nonsense because he is sending a message to Evangelicals that assures them he is in their tribe simply because he says he is. Let me explain.

I tried in vain to remain faithful to my own Evangelical Christian faith and participate in its organized religion for almost 30 years. As life blessed me with problems too big to solve on my own, my church and its people charged with bringing life in the Spirit to the earth, in large part refused my reality. My daughter being diagnosed with an eating disorder AS A CHRISTIAN did not compute to many of them. I was broken, I was devastated and all the while assured that my daughter was inhabited by Satan, spoiled and rebellious and if she would just stop believing the lies she would be healed. Thank God that there is a higher voice in the universe and as I wrestled with it all, clarity came to me and she is alive and living WITH mental illness brought on largely by a stress-filled pregnancy and early childhood trauma. Her brain didn’t develop like it would have and it set her up for all kinds of “deeds of the flesh”. Which by the way, they are not necessarily evil as much as they are from our shadow-self that doesn’t magically disappear by making the decision to be born again.

Donald Trump’s Christianity is what the post-modern, Americanized, empire building people have turned it into but it is NOT the faith I learned from a lifetime devoted to God through Jesus Christ. The American gospel assumes that most important thing is that America is this kind of a Christian nation, where even faith has been reduced to making the sale, the transaction and owning the purchased item.

The kind of Christian nation too many of us want is one where the most important thing is that one is either baptized, prays to receive Christ, does both, joins a church, adopts the Bible as inerrant and faultless and then seeks to bring others into the fold. What is apparently neglected, if not completely forgotten, is that life in the Christian sense is supposed to be about personal faith that transforms one’s heart so that it continually resembles a life of Spirit as mentioned above.

Look hard at the two lists from Galatians and tell me, based on his own words that he is a Christian, where Donald Trump gets the idea that his life reflects the kind of life Jesus and his early followers knew. At the very least one would expect a wolf in sheep’s clothing to pretend these qualities to be true of him in his public discourse but he makes no attempt whatsoever. So, how does he get a buy in from the Evangelicals? By simply proclaiming to have made the transaction and being devoted to the American empirical hi-jacked gospel. That is how it is done and that is a real tragedy.

Meet Kathy

I came here to Yuma, AZ, to be with my parents as they deal with health problems. On a Southwest flight heading to Phoenix from Minneapolis, I’m one of the last to board the plane and find a seat. Middle seats are sure to be all that remain open and I know the odds of being near the front of the plane are near zero so I prepare myself to carry my little dog to the back of the plane and find a seat. To my surprise the second row from the front has an open middle seat next to a VERY odd shaped woman with long wavy gray hair, glasses and sporting a new pair of Keds on her very small feet that dangle next to where my knees will be. She fills half of the seat with her head resting just above where my waist will be should I choose the seat next to her which I do.

As Elsa and I had been waiting at the gate, Kathy’s wheelchair had come up right beside us. She greets us with a big smile, as just about everyone does when they see Elsa’s little face and experience her wagging tail as they make eye contact with her. She gave Elsa the reward of a head scratch and we both smiled. As she wasn’t sure how she was going to board with the wheelchair she said she would need to see the agent and told us goodbye. Off she flew in the slick little electric wheelchair that has become commonplace at airports to get her place in the line.

My arrival on the plane was a real boost for me because there was a front seat open and Elsa and I wouldn’t have to navigate to the back with her kennel and my backpack in tow but equally because I thought I would enjoy visiting with Kathy. I knew instantly why the seat was open and I’ll bet you did too. Kathy was different. Her spirit encased in an odd little body meant that the average person would want to avoid her. The man who had taken the window seat certainly had no interest in even looking at her, let alone talking to her. Yet she smiled.

After getting Elsa relatively settled on the floor in her kennel, Kathy and I began to talk to each other. The man on my right talked to me too. Not once did he acknowledge Kathy in our conversation though she had many interesting things to add to it. I feel sorry for him because he missed SO MUCH. Kathy was 65 years old and was born with spina bifida. Her and gainfully employed doing HR work for a company from her house. She was a life-long south Minneapolis resident with a lot to say. She was going to Phoenix to visit a good friend who had found out that she had terminal cancer and had decided to rent a place there for one of her last winters. She was checking things off her bucket list and wintering in AZ was one of those things so every week or two a new friend from up north would join her. This was Kathy’s week. As our plane landed, we wished each other well and departed both lives having been made richer by sitting next to each other on a 3 hour flight.

I share this with you because you may be like the man on my right and all of those other passengers who left her seat open for me. I don’t think anyone purposed to be mean to Kathy. I simply think that even as far as we have come in accepting people with disabilities and empowering them to live their own best lives, for the most part we generally have no idea how to acknowledge their existence with ease.

The fact that Kathy chooses to thrive living in her body shatters the perfect life we see portrayed in the magazine in the seat pocket in front of us. Grandparents with their kids at Disneyland, young beautiful couples taking exotic honeymoon vacations, ads for artificial hair replacement and the nations best dermatologists must be damned if we open our hearts to her, so we just don’t.

The beautiful thing is that life, real honest to God life, breathes more of itself into each one of us if we find the courage to enter into the odd, the unusual and different from ourselves.  Kathy enriched my life yesterday. I enriched hers. Please think about us the next time you see someone like Kathy. If all you can do is establish eye contact and say hello , you will be well on your way to finding the water of life that truly quenches your thirst.

 

 

Dear Friends from the “Ivory Towers”

I’m writing this to you tonight because it’s taken me a very long time to realize that you have lived most of your lives in a world, that for a great deal of my life, I knew nothing about.  I only know you because I found myself in desperate need of a perspective outside of my own personal familial tribe about 15 years ago when one of my children was diagnosed with severe mental illness. Staying within my tribe proved to be a lesson in futility very quickly because in my world mental illness was either from Satanic forces or poor choices, both of which were predicated on my husband’s and or my own poor parenting skills. It was a really difficult time for me but one that has utterly changed my life.

As I searched outside of my own culture’s boxes, I met gifted others who could accurately assess my child and intervene in a way that eventually led to much healing and restoration in our family.  Ironically, this was the very thing that my life as an Evangelical Christian was devoted to but had proven unsuccessful in this situation. These insightful authors, teachers and professionals had one thing in common that I would have never imagined myself in need of, a very liberal worldview. But oh, how I did need it and how I need it now. That said, as I attempt to weave my way throughout the whole of my life, it has become clear to me that there is a great deal about the  Midwest, Conservative, Republican, Evangelical side of my life, that those of you living outside of that world, are so far removed from, that I now understand why my peeps hate you so much. In essence, I finally get why you are seen as living in an ivory tower.

“From the 19th century, it has been used to designate an environment of intellectual pursuit disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life.” (from the Wikipedia link above)

I AM now seen as living in that tower with you and yet I know that there is much about me that separates me from you. Let me share some of that with you.

First off, I was blessed to be able to go to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and get a BS in Elementary Education. I was the first person on both sides of my family to get a degree. I was very pleased with myself but I had no illusions about my academic prowess. I got through with a 3.0 GPA but here’s the deal. I have not one memory growing up being assisted in anyway by my parents where homework, support in athletics or music is concerned. They tried very much to be there for me but we were lower middle class, if not poor, for the first decade of my life. I went to five different schools from 4th -7th grades because my dad’s job demanded it. We didn’t have the luxury to stay in one place and keep our roots down in the ground very long. It took every ounce of determination I could muster to get through college and the one and only reason I made it through was that I promised myself that if I started it, I WOULD finish it.

My brother, who is a very wealthy businessman, got there with no college whatsoever. He was mentored by my father whose education had come from his time in the U.S. Air Force and from taking correspondence courses in engineering through the mail. To this day my dad would say that the time in the military saved his life. My brother is incredibly intelligent but he has never had a single class in a liberal arts or any other college. He presently manages several companies and farms corn and soybeans for a hobby.

I am incredibly proud of my family. I am equally proud of my own education and further educational pursuits in another university. I am a voracious reader, love to write and I am fascinated by those other than myself. I love all of this about me and my life but there is an incredible tension that exists in-between these two realities of my existence. So many times when I read the posts from you, my mentors in social justice, the environment and spiritual practices, I am in awe. At the same time, I catch myself saying all too often,

“Do you even realize what it is like to be so obsessed with putting food on your table that you can’t find 20 minutes to read to your child?”

or

“How on earth can you expect me to go green when I can’t even figure out how to pay for the mountain of medical bills from having a sick child -and yes, I have health insurance that I pay for.”

or

“How the hell do you expect me to grow and then cook all of my own food, when I can barely find the energy to clean my own toilet?”

or

“Africa, Ethiopia, Myanmar, sex-trafficking, racial justice, LGBT justice, elder abuse, black lives matter, the family of the cop that just got killed by a psychotic criminal…and the damn list goes on and on.”

The reality that you do not have any idea that as a result of my father and brother’s hard work, well over 100 people have jobs, have food for their children, have clothes for them to wear and might even have some money for retirement when they are old, really hurts me. It all seems lost to you as if you do in fact live in ivory towers so far away from the lives of real people.

This is my real life. It’s not what I read in the papers or see displayed on Fox News. Yes, my Midwestern, Conservative, Evangelical world drives me crazy but it is not made up of heartless savages. Many of my people in that world give thousands of dollars to their churches, to World Vision, to Feed the Hungry, to causes that would astonish you. They don’t expect the government to support those things, they do! They also go dig wells and build houses for the poor and provide medical care for those who have none otherwise. THEY ARE AS CARING AS YOU ARE!

Okay, now with that said, stay tuned because there will be another blog coming that will be written in your defense too. I have no idea what to do with my life where there is much love for both sides but I do think it has come to me for a reason and only time will reveal what those reasons are.

We are so blessed to be free and to be able to live and do as we want to with most of our lives…somehow we just have to find a way forward through the mist…more to come.