2008 Election Changed It All

In 2008 when Barak Obama was elected president, I was so frustrated. Not because he was a black, Democrat at all, but by the dialog I had witnessed throughout the election cycle from my own Republican party. Having dealt spent years dealing with a very unethical insurance company, healthcare reform was HUGE for me. I really wanted the Republicans to take up the fight because I wanted that perspective deeply in the mix when anything was to be done about it. I’d written to multiple Republicans with zero movement or even a decent response in return. The Nebraska senator I wrote to was much more concerned about overturning Nebraska’s helmet law that year than anything else. The ONLY ones validating my story and the need for reform were the liberal (demon) Democrats so I began to go where I could be heard.

I met very interesting and amazing people who were not at all the abortion on demand like a fast food restaurant kind of people, or eager to turn all of our children gay kind of people. For the most part they were just like me. They leaned left because their natural tendencies leaned left. Many of these new friends were as servant oriented and culture sensitive as anyone in my church. I learned so much from them while thinking I was maintaining my Conservative Republican status. The 2008 election changed it all for me.

What I realized that election cycle was that a very important piece of our democracy had been lost to all of us. As a Republican, with issues other than those in the party platform, I was given no voice.  My real life experiences meant absolutely nothing to those I’d elected to represent me in government.That realization led to an even more astonishing one and that was that the Republican Party had been so strongly influenced by the Evangelical Christian worldview that many of its members believed God was white, American and Evangelical and that this was the one and only worldview that would be acceptable in our country. These sincere people simply don’t realize that they have made God into THEIR OWN IMAGE and it reflects something very different from the image of the God one finds in the Old or New Testaments of the Bible.

Check out this list of the names of God found in the Bible. 

God is these things if you believe in a Christian God. God is not a Republican

The beauty of America is that here we are free to be whatever political persuasion we want to be. We are free to be whatever religion we want to be. I am free to be a Christian and a Liberal or a Conservative and  remain in complete connection with God Almighty. And though I do believe there is an all knowing God at the end of the day, it may all be nothing but my imagination. Belief is at its core faith in the unseen and we cannot make anyone have it let alone require it of government officials. When we do that, we get what has happened in this current situation. I say that because…God and Jesus aren’t running for President, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are. They are Americans. We as a nation chose them to run against each other. Consider this.

Jesus wasn’t an American winner.

Jesus wasn’t a capitalist.

Jesus wasn’t a communist.

Jesus wasn’t a socialist.

Jesus certain was NOT a dictator.

Jesus was a servant. He wasn’t head of a government. If the governments rest on his shoulders as the Bible says they do, then he gets to bear the burden of them all the world over. As well as the humans carrying them out and I wouldn’t want to be him for anything.

I think that the only way politics and faith can work together is if we take our faith seriously and allow that faith to lead us in voting for the best person to run the government…not our faith. Anyone who is elected needs to be able to support ALL Americans and allow them the freedom to believe. We are not America if we are only Christian.



Why Hillary?

As a teacher in an Evangelical Christian school, one of the beautiful things I got to teach my students was American History. The text I used was organized in chapters focused on early American heroes. There were few women in the mix but one of them stood out to me in a way I had never really appreciated before, Clara Barton. Clara was a nurse during the civil war who challenged male authority by going out into the battlefield to take care of soldiers rather than wait for them in the hospital as she had been instructed to do. For Clara the restriction of staying behind when her immediate interventions could save lives out in the middle of it all was ludicrous.  However, the only way she could be free to go was if a man gave her his permission.   Lives were literally lost because she wasn’t free to lead in the way her intellect, heart and profession demanded that she do so.

I’ve never forgotten that experience because from then on I have been a student of women’s rights, something one cannot study without discovering patterns of abuse, neglect, assault and domination at the hands of men. There are many, many Christian men who do not control their wives or do any of these things, and thankfully, I’m married to one. Our idea of a Christian marriage is one where both of us respect each other, both of us love each other and most of all both of us submit to one another as we go through our lives. Dean has never ever pulled rank in our relationship. Thirty three years and counting and though we’ve had lots of battles between us, I simply do not have one memory of such an event.

While keeping my observational mind engaged, I began to observe a interesting dynamic among many Christian women who claimed to believe in the literal mandate to submit to their husbands and male authority in the church. Sincere, devout women with leadership skills, creative minds, and incredible intelligence had developed cunning powers of manipulation and control behind the scenes. One primary way to win over a husbands gift of permission was to offer him the most highly sensual experiences one could muster in the privacy of the bedroom. As women, we all knew that our power rested in pleasing a man’s sexual appetite. We all knew that if we were good enough in the sack, exclusive enough in our looks so as to  please him, he would be willing to do whatever it was that we wanted. We just never said that out loud.

Much of the talk validating this reality took place between women over a cup of coffee or in a Christian counseling session. During one such session where Dean and I were seeking to better our marriage, the (male Christian elder) counselor from our church quoted a scripture telling me that my body actually belonged to Dean and if I could recognize that our marriage issues would be resolved. What this man didn’t know about me was that at 5 I was forced into a shed and molested by a 14 year old male in my “safe” neighborhood. He also didn’t know that an uncle had repeatedly sexually abused me.  I can tell you that it was incredibly devastating to hear the words that my body didn’t belong to me simply because I was married. It was even more disgusting to me that sex was brought up at all because our marriage had multiple facets to its beauty that needed to be addressed. Communication and values for one. Thankfully, both Dean and I were disgusted with that counsel and never went back. He has no desire to own my body.

In 2004 my daughter entered residential treatment for a life-threatening eating disorder. As our family entered counseling we discovered some very painful truth about our daughter’s reality. She was dealing with a very altered brain from a very traumatic birth and medical trauma. That in itself would be enough to devastate us but beyond that we learned that having taught her to obey authority without question, she had no way of communicating her pain to us. No way of communicating her confusion, her intense depression and anxiety over simple daily life experiences. The only way she found relief from the intense emotion was to binge and purge. When one binges chemicals are released in the brain that soothe us. When we throw up the very same chemicals are released. It is in this way that the eating disorder begins to take hold and control ones life. It is as  powerful as drug addiction.

As time went on I began to see learn about countless women dealing with bulimia. In numbers that would astonish anyone, I heard story after story after story of women who  had their bodies stolen from them as a child by an older, stronger male. Women who were bright, intelligent and strong, who were completely afraid of their own selves or unaware of their own selves apart from the thoughts and opinions of others. Not every person with an eating disorder has this as part of their story, but there are WAY too many who do.

Our experiences with H’s recovery brought us to a time when we found ourselves in Washington, D.C. in a room with a very conscientious senator who had altered her schedule to attend a briefing on eating disorders and their impact on our society. That senator was Hillary Rodham Clinton. Dean and I were still devout Republicans at the time and just the mention of her name made us shudder. We felt free to actually give her a hearing because none of our family members or friends from home were anywhere near us and this issue consumed us. Trust me, when someone you love has an eating disorder as severe as our daughter did, you have to rethink everything so for us being in the same room with Hillary made her just one more thing to reconsider.


Over the last decade I have become a student of this woman. Of course she is a politician and yet she is a woman in a world dominated by men. She’s been called everything imaginable by men – Dr. Dobson the founder of Focus on the Family made a statement recently saying that American has become too feminized and as a result she has to be stopped. What on earth could be so wrong with a country becoming more “feminized” unless one believes that the feminine is less than, evil etc.? So as a result of this, he has even endorsed Donald Trump who represents nothing good about morals or integrity but who has done what they wanted and “accepted Jesus” something that was of course seen as sincere regardless of his own quest for power and for the Evangelical vote.

Hillary is seen as a baby-killer without a heart because that is what Evangelical’s want her to be seen as. In reality she would like to make abortions rare but as women choose to end an unwanted pregnancy – say after a man like Donald Trump as raped them, she also wants them to have a safe procedure. I would never want to abort a baby for any reason but having never been raped and become pregnant, I have to understand that the choice is much more complicated than I would like to admit it to be for lots of women.  The real craziness is that Trump IS a pro-choice Republican! He has said that the abortion laws should remain the same! When it comes to the whole of life, Hillary is much more interested in it that he is by a long shot!

I am voting for Hillary because it’s time that patriarchy in American politics topples. I’m sick and tired of men armed with biblical passages determining the fate of women’s lives. I’m sick and tired of being treated differently because I have female anatomy. I respect the Bible as literature and the testimony of the authors encounters with God and how they chose to lead the church in ancient times. I don’t think God is male or female and I certainly don’t think he is anything like Donald Trump or the Evangelical leaders who have twisted their scriptures to validate their own ends.

I’m with her because she is one amazing woman in a man’s world who is standing tall after all of these years.

I’m with her because the lynch mobs in the House and Senate haven’t found a legal way to hang her.

I’m with her because there is zero hope for our country to be anything but a pawn in Trump’s hands for his own benefit. He doesn’t care about America. He cares about himself, his power, his control and that is really all. He makes it clear every time he opens his mouth.

I am with her.



Meeting new friends on a Monday…

I am so blown away how God blessed my lunch in the park today. Every Monday I have this ritual of eating a Chick-fa-la grilled chicken sandwich meal. It’s a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota and I thought it would be a good idea to grab my lunch and find a park to eat it in. I ended up at Coon Creek Park in Coon Rapids. I walked on the bridge over the creek and to the picnic tables. As I rounded the corner, I saw three Muslim women  sitting at tables under a canopy while a man cooked carp over the grill.  In what seemed automatic, I approached them and as I did, one of women said, “Do you want to sit?” Yes.I.did.

I sat down and they all smiled and said hello to me. Immediately the woman sitting across from me asked me if I would like to eat with them. Thankfully, for me, I was going to be well into my chicken sandwich long before the carp on the grill was finished cooking. With the exception of rainbow trout, I’m NOT a fish eater. Dean would certainly have taken her up on the offer. As we sat together I started asking questions and in her best broken English she tried to answer them.

Her name was Miriam, her sisters were Fatima and Zimzim. Her brother was Muhammed. They were refugees from Iraq who have been in Coon Rapids for about a year. Her heart is sad because her parents were sent to Turkey. The women do not work, I imagine that their faith doesn’t allow it but I’m not sure. Muhammed works at WalMart and another brother does as well. Somehow they manage to make life work here.

As one born with more empathy for others than is sometimes good for me, all I could think about was making sure that they knew that this American, this white 55 year old of German/English descent, valued their humanity. I wanted the forces of darkness in the world to know too. I wanted everyone who walked by to see us and recognize our shared humanness a bit more with me sitting at their table.

As I finished my lunch and got ready to go, Muhammed was eager to show me how he had cooked his fish and what parts of it they ate. He asked me what my husband did and where he worked and I tried to explain grain handling equipment to him.  He asked where I worked🙂.  He told me where I could go to buy fish like that if I wanted to and then he asked if I wanted to eat with them.

I started to leave  and say good bye but before I knew it, the three women were hugging me and telling me that they loved me. One even kissed my cheek as she hugged me. I know, lots of touchy feely emotion for us here in Minnesota!! I’m a hugger so it was just fine with me. As I left their presence and started to walk across the bridge and back to my car, I was in tears because I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what had just happened.

On a Monday when the news is so awful coming from St. Cloud and around the country, I sincerely wanted to push back against the darkness in anyway I could. I had no idea that God would be so eager to honor that desire and make this meeting take place. I am a blessed woman.


Me…Zumzum, Miriam and Fatima – new friends from Iraq


Muhammed cooks carp over an open fire

Getting Real…the Mayo Clinic

Ah, the Mayo Clinic…this Tuesday I will return to Rochester for an evaluation. This time it will be of my left thoracic region…aka my left chest and shoulder. I have had multiple visits to the Er in the last year with symptoms no one has been able to attach to a diagnosis and after a difficult PT experience last week, I went on a mission to find someone somewhere who can accurately diagnose what’s going on.

Last August I had a day where I woke up in the morning and couldn’t stand up because I’d slept on my left side and along with my arm being numb, so was my head. As I woke up and tried to move around I began to experience chest pains. My left arm was throbbing and in pain so I got Dean to come home and take me to the ER. It was an uneventful visit and after they ruled out a heart attack, they sent me home. It was late afternoon before I felt somewhat normal but there was no diagnosis beyond, “this is probably related to your thoracotomy so continue with physical therapy and stretching”.

As the summer wore on I figured out how not to sleep on my arm, we bought a bed that elevates each side and I continued doing exercises. After several other weird episodes and visits to doctors, MRI’s and X-rays taken, there was still no resolution. Medicine is so specialized that when one discipline finishes up with you they often just let you go. I know from a lifetime of experience that we are each our own best advocate.  

After working with the GI specialist and rheumatologist at Mayo, some of my symptoms were thought to be coming from Sjogren’s Syndrome. I began to take high powered meds to suppress my immune system. If you’ll recall, taking the third of those meds put me in the hospital fighting for my life. I’ve recovered well from that nightmare and have simply continued to try to do the exercises and work I can to make things better.

Last spring I began to have a sore throat that would not go away. I was tested for strep etc. but nothing showed up  but nothing showed up. Eventually I was sent to a ear, nose and throat doctor. After looking into my throat he discovered that my left vocal chords are paralyzed. No idea if that’s where my pain is coming from but it is likely.

Simultaneously I was seeing an orthopedic doctor to rule out a rotator cuff injury as cause for the pain in my shoulder. He said my shoulder blade was in the wrong place and ordered  yet more PT. I did really well with it and found a lot of relief. I was very optimistic. On the follow up visit, the doctor said my shoulder was in much better shape but the issues of numbness in my arm, pain in my chest and changes in my heart rate have been attributed to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He ordered more PT and last week during a PT appointment, the therapist began the process of lowering my left rib cage through intense and deep massage. I have a lot of scaring on that side and apparently the left rib is causing a lot of issues.  

The next morning I woke up with excruciating pain in my shoulder, my chest and my neck. It lasted for 3 days.  I realized then that I needed to find someone who specializes in this syndrome so that I actually have a clear diagnosis and plan for treating it.  After doing multiple Google searches, I discovered that the Mayo Clinic assesses it with their team approach, which I’m very familiar with, so I made an appointment there to get an evaluation. When I was making the appointment, the scheduler asked me if I felt symptoms in my face  in order to determine whether I would begin with neurology or cardiology first. I have brought this face pain to the attention of other doctors and it was either minimized or was thought to be coming from a disk injury in my neck. Two MRI’s on my neck proved that it wasn’t coming from that. I found it reassuring to know that this is a symptom of TOS and does have to do with cardiac issues even if the heart itself is in good shape. After that question, I know I’m heading in the right direction. 

I’m scheduled to see the cardiac thoracic specialists on Tuesday and will be back and forth until they figure out what my next steps are.  I sincerely hope there is something that can be done  because the condition continues to greatly alter my life. 

Please send your prayers or positive vibes my way next week. I’d really appreciate it.

33 years and counting….

WeddkingIn college I met this farm boy named Dean Wedekind. Farmers were everywhere in Nebraska so the odds were pretty good I’d end up with one. This one had a spirit of adventure. We were eager to bring love and light to the darkest parts of the world through our Christian faith. We were young, idealists with big dreams.

We finished school the year after we were married and couldn’t wait to become parents. Stephen arrived in March of 85 and Hannah followed in December of 86 (3 months early). Plans to become career missionaries somewhere in the world turned into being responsible parents in our home town. Our lives were full, a bit too full with so much activity that we nearly drowned.

In 1992 my body broke down and I became seriously ill. I went on disability for two years. We leaned into our lives and sought ways to live with my fragility. I recovered. We learned to set boundaries and limits and most of all to create margins of space in our lives for what we valued most. We became more thoughtful in our decisions to put our oars in but when we put them in we continued to navigate the waters of American life to the best of our ability.

Our kids have been our greatest teachers. They have both found their way to adult life with our support in the background. They have flown into their own best lives and we are very grateful for their tenacity to continue, to thrive and most of all for their sensitivity to the world around them.

Moving to Minnesota from Utah in 2010 was an enormous upheaval in our relationship. Back and forth for the first year, an extreme adjustment to climate and culture as well as my minor surgery that turned into a major nightmare in 2011 has taken us through life lived too close to the edge between this world and the next.

We sometimes wonder why we are still together. Is it because we started out as Evangelical Christians and that ensured our longevity as a couple? No.

Is it because we’re Nebraskan’s and as Paul Harvey told us in the 70’s and 80’s, Nebraska marriages last the longest? No.

I think it is because we both came at our relationship from the very beginning with the deeper sense of what we personally wanted in our lives. We had both dated people before we met and each time we’d reach this place where  we knew that if we married that person, our lives would go in a direction that we didn’t really want.

I personally loved Dean because he had a heart for mankind that was rare among the others I’d spent time with. Our first greatest moments come when we’re in the presence of someone not like us and we are seeking to get to know them. We’ve met amazing, amazing people along our marriage pathway and we’re incredibly better because of it. Our second greatest moments come from being out in the natural world together. We each experience it differently but the same.  We both feel the connection to the earth (and for Dean the cosmos🙂 very strongly.

I am thankful today, 33 years later, that though our relationship doesn’t really look a lot like it did back then…we’ve grown into better individuals because we’re married to each other. We lean into our lives whatever they are at present and for that, I’m so grateful.

Happy 33rd Anniversary, Dean Wedekind. I like being your wife.

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.



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….