Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taking Part

In the New Testament Lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary for today (all you Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists will understand the jargon), says, "...I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others." In other words, what's your motivation? Are you there because it it where you want to be, or because you are afraid not to be there? The difference is subtle, but significant.

I've spent so many years taking an active part in the worship of my church, that being without that regular experience has left a noticeable void. It's where I really want to be. Now I am back into the rhythm of worship service, reading today at Holy Nativity for the first time since high school.

There are many very good readers at Holy Nativity, a much higher proportion than I am used to hearing. In California, I had a huge fan in Blake Beauchamp. No, Blake and I had a mutual admiration society. Blake and his dear wife, Catherine, were among Ray's and my mentors in the Cursillo movement in the San Joaquin Valley. We attended the annual lay reader conferences together. We visited regularly in their home. Blake almost unfailingly greeted me with a hug and asked, "How's the best lay reader in the diocese?" I always felt like Blake exaggerated. So I was very surprised when the visiting priest asked me this morning, "What were you in your former life? A teacher? I thought I could tell by your clear love of the words, your pacing and cadence ...." I was surprised by the number of strangers who commented on a "beautiful reading". It feels like an opening into the Holy Nativity family. I can make a small difference. It's a nice place to be.

Look for a way to touch someone's life. Even a smile makes a difference. Give thanks for small things. Don't forget to pray.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shopping at 95

When you are 95, the world whizzes along at top speed, while you struggle to keep up. We who once moved speedily through the day now move slowly, stopping to rest for longer periods and at more frequent intervals. Once easy tasks become a challenge. My mother cannot easily carry a pillow case half-full of dirty laundry the 75 or so feet from it's home near her bedroom door to the washing machine.

The grocery store is a challenge. Our neighborhood market (the real market, not the new Whole Foods outlet in the mall) is a small store with limited choices. But it is where she has shopped for more than 40 years, and where she is comfortable. Even five years ago she confidently walked all the aisles on a regular market day. Now I drop her at the front door where she grabs a cart and heads for the produce department. Then a quick turn through the meat department, and frequently a stop at the pharmacy in the middle of the store. Now she is tired. Bread is between the pharmacy and the registers. Occasionally she will drift over to the wine department two aisles away, looking for her favorite brands in the under $5 range. But the last 3 aisles -- the frozen food, dairy and deli sections, she has abandoned. She sends me to fetch.
"You get the milk. I like the 2%." My father would only accept whole milk.
"Margerine is on sale today for $1.00 Get 5 boxes, low fat if they have it." Don't even think about buying butter!
"Frozen potatoes. I like the Simply Shredded brand."

Today I took her to the Farmer's Market at Kapiolani Community College, between home and Waikiki. It is co-sponsored by the Food Services Department of the college and the Hawaii Farm Bureau, and happens every Saturday. It is also considered the premier Farmer's Market in Hawaii. Today they had lavender products from Maui, and fresh strawberries flown in from Waimea on the island of Hawaii. Ba-le Bakery is there every week; Whole Foods carries their specialty breads. So are several farms which sell to restaurants, not retail markets. There is sweet corn from Ewa, papaya from Kahuku. There are fresh greens from Waimanalo, even small boxes of edible flowers in brilliant purples, reds and yellows, adding color to a green salad. Sea asparagas, crunchy and salty with a definite after-taste. The green onions are 2' long, watercress about the same. An infinite variety of tomatoes looked wonderfully ripe, and the summer avocadoes are ready to eat. Gardenias are on 8" stems and so fragrant you can smell them as you approach the booth -- far larger and sweeter than any in California. Bunches of anthuriums in shades of green, pink, orange and red are displayed in 5-gallon buckets. Orchids in full bloom, purple, lavender, burgandy, white, green, lemon-yellow, brilliant gold, filled at least two booths.

Mother walked the whole thing -- except the small, back, side of one loop. I don't know whether she was tired, or thought she had already been there. Never mind. She walked, and she enjoyed herself. Exercise for the day. We will try to go at least once a month. Especially while tomatoes are in season!

Give thanks for the farmers who provide our food. Don't forget to pray!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Random Thoughts ....

Gee, I'm missing having teens in my life. I need their perspective on the world to keep me from thinking like at 95-year-old! Take my hanai granddaughter, Sarah. That's Sarah on the right, with a friend she hadn't seen for awhile. Look at the purple hair! Correction, fuchsia hair. At the risk of being politically incorrect, Po'tagee Pink hair. Once past the shock value, it's actually not bad. Oh, did Tutu say that???

And what do you do with a combative dementia patient? Once upon a time my dad was sweet, docile and obedient. He complained that he couldn't just do things on his own, but he didn't get belligerent. But that phase is apparently ending. When he sets his mind on something, he has begun striking out in anger against those who try to redirect him. After the CNA mentioned this new behavior to me, I talked to the Nursing Supervisor. He had only one report of "combative behavior" on my dad's part, but the CNA specifically mentioned three events. So staff will watch, investigate, and if appropriate, notify the doctor. Is this a part of dementia, or is there some paranoia going on?

I started taking a new medication the other day, an anti-depressant which I hoped would brighten up some of those dark corners and set me back into a more normal head space. OMG, it's not going to happen with THAT med! Two days of a very minimal dose left me with a racing heartbeat, continually drenched from uncontrollable sweats, and shaking with the worst case of 'coffee jangles' you can imagine -- times a very large number. After sleeping all day yesterday (the only way to control the jangles), I informed the doctor today that this was clearly not the drug of choice. He responded that those are very unusual reactions, but it may be an interaction with the one other prescription med I take regularly. But -- we'll let this med flush out, and try something else down the road.

Give thanks for reasonable doctors and outrageous granddaughters! Find something positive in your life today, and be thankful. Don't forget to pray!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recognizing Opportunity

My mother is a great cook. She taught food sciences at the University of Hawaii before I was born. But she makes terrible spaghetti sauce. I, on the other hand, learned about marinara sauces from the Italians in Tuolumne County. So when the jar of sauce turned up in the kitchen yesterday to thaw for diner, I asked if I could doctor it.

First, a healthy quantity of chopped onion. Consider this is all in proportion to the something under 2 cups of sauce in the jar. Saute that in olive oil (ooops, gotta' bring that to room temp first, doesn't pour straight out of the fridge!) with a finely chopped clove of garlic. What else from this non-Italian kitchen? Mexican oregano, ground, would just have to do. Fresh basil leaves, chopped, courtesy of a neighbor. A touch of sugar to cut acidity. I would have preferred grated carrot and some celery instead of the sugar, but there wasn't room in the pot. My brother would have added anchovies. I'm not a fan of anchovies, need to learn to use those little fishies. Add the now-thawed previously made sauce. Dump the whole mix into the mini-crockpot (capacity 14 oz.) purchased at a recent rummage sale. This house has never, to my knowledge, seen a crockpot before. Plug in and ignore.

I would have liked the whole thing to mull for a couple of days, adding red wine as the liquid evaporated. No time. 4 hours would have to do. It was just enough. Lo and behold, the Chief Chef liked it! She admitted that she never ate any spaghetti (let alone any other Italian foods) as she was growing up, so has no idea what it is supposed to taste like. Somehow she got the idea that she doesn't like Italian food. Surprise!!

Look for those small opportunities. Give thanks when you find them. Don't forget to pray.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On Death and Dying

What is this death-and-dying thing that's going on in my life? Is it a reflection on my own age? Verna. Fred. Bob. Two more with hospital time because of heart issues. Now this. All since March 18, all but one since mid-May.

My brother started a new, temporary job yesterday. In his blog,, he wrote:
Well, I’m going back to work, at least for a while. City Councilmember Duke Bainum called last week and asked if I would be interested in filling in temporarily for a staffer who has had to return to the mainland. I worked at the council as senior advisor to then-councilmember Neil Abercrombie from 1988-1990, so it’s been quite a while since I made Honolulu Hale my home-away-from-home. The chance to see how things have changed in the way the council does its business piqued my interest and so I said yes. And, after very quick preliminaries, I’m starting today.

This morning's new reported that Bainum died last night from complications of an aneurysm. Possibly -- and this is speculation -- one of those "balloons" on the aorta which several of my friends are monitoring closely, or for which they have had surgery. Whew. This definitely causes one to pause, even though, to me, Bainum is just a name appearing periodically in my brother's blog posts and local newspapers.

Please, kind readers, be good to yourselves. Tell someone else that you care. Choose someone with whom you have not communicated in a while. Send an e-hug. Make a phone call. Write a real letter. Send a photograph. Give thanks for something today.

Don't forget to pray.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Ray and I used to quote something we found on a button somewhere. "We don't believe in miracles. We depend on them."

I can assure you today that miracles do happen. By all rights, my friend in Idaho should have died in his kitchen. Failing that, he should have been a brain-dead body by the time he got to the hospital.

Here's the essence of the email that hit my inbox this morning: "J recognizes all of us - he called with our daughter (someone was with him all night in he hosp) & he told me he loved me, he doesn't know what happed, etc. Brain waves are pretty good. He is responding to commands well. There should be a plan sometime today as to what will be done & where. It will be a long haul, but that's okay - one day at a time with Jesus sitting by our sides...."

They must have an awesome cardiac care unit in Boise. My friend is working his guardian angel overtime.

Give thanks for the skilled medical personnel who respond to emergencies, large and small, all over the world.

Look for something that happened today that gives evidence of the Creator's work in your corner of the world. Stuck? The sun rose this morning. We woke up. Most of us got out of bed. That's a start.

Don't forget to pray.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Still Waiting, Still Praying

Today is Ray's birthday. He was born on the 6th day of the 6th month. He left on the 3rd day of the 3rd month. ...

Another dear friend is taking her turn in a hospital waiting room, waiting, praying, crying, praying more. Her husband,whom she married nearly 50 years ago when she was just 18, had a massive heart attack the other night. He was alive when he got to the hospital, but nobody was saying whether or not there was any brain activity. He was still in hospital this morning. That's good. Or maybe not so good, depending on what else is going on in his body and brain.

Pray for Alene and her family. Pray for Jerry.

The phone rang while I was writing this. A friend received an email from me this morning that started out, "It's a crappy day...." What a welcome treat that phone call was!

Reach out to a friend. Hug someone you love. Give thanks for at least one gift in your life today. Pray without ceasing.