Sunday, June 30, 2013

Shattered

I "like" Kay Redfield Jamison on Facebook. If you don't know, she is a renowned professor at Johns Hopkins in psychiatry and mood disorders. She has also written extensively (with enlightenment from personal experience with her own Bipolar disorder) on mood disorders, as well as on suicide, which is one of my personal research interests. Her books are fascinating. I don't see many updates on Facebook from her page, but tonight there was one, featuring artwork by Jessica Kizorek. Kizorek was inspired by Jamison's book An Unquiet Mind and made this (click on the link above to find out more about the piece):


The featured quote from Jamison's book is this:
"So why would I want anything to do with this illness? Because I honestly feel that as a result of it I have felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters; worn death close, appreciated it and life more. I have seen the breadth and depth and width of my mind and heart and how frail they both are; and how ultimately unknowable they both are... Depressed I have crawled on my hands and knees. Manic, I have run faster, thought faster, and loved faster than anyone I know... much of this related to my illness. Strangely enough, I think I would choose to have it."

Seeing this on my newsfeed, it just struck me as a very accurate and powerful depiction of mental illness, and not only Bipolar. Some people have illnesses inflicted on them by trauma and/or abuse...they have been so broken that they now view life through something like a shattered mirror perspective, all the while trying to make a cohesive whole out of their experience.

By making this idea into a piece of art, Kizorek demonstrates well that the contributions "shattered" people make to human understanding are not something to be perceived as ugly or unvaluable. In fact, it enriches us.

I wish the terms "abuse" and "trauma" had never needed to be coined...I wish no one had ever had to experience them. I wish no one had ever been broken by another.

But "broken" is not synonymous with "bad".

Take a look at the beautiful things artists have rendered out of (or as inspired by) broken mirrors! Here are a few I found in a very brief search:




I would say that integration of shattered experiences into mainstream life is a form of redemption.

If we can correlate all the broken glimpses of life into a meaningful whole, our perspective should be much more rich and complete.


To summarize...I found Kizorek's work quite inspiring!! :)

Jesus and the Midnight Toker [Nicodemus Remix]

Do you know what I get from the account in John 3 of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night to inquire about salvation?

Not all things that are done in secret are bad!

I've always been told Nicodemus came at night to talk to Jesus because he was afraid of being "caught" by the rest of the Sanhedrin (of which he was a member). This might be so. It also might be the only time of the day he had free to come, after he got off work. Or maybe he was home thinking about some things and just decided he couldn't wait until morning to go talk to this Jesus guy and ask some questions. It doesn't really matter. The point is, he came to Jesus. He sought out the truth. Whether it was a public proclamation for him (as it was later when he placed Jesus' crucified body in his own personal tomb) or a discreet matter of personal spirituality (if he was "sneaking" to ask Jesus questions), it just really doesn't matter. He followed his heart...and possibly his intellect regarding the Jewish Scriptures.

Questioning is not a bad thing. The bad thing - the thing that doesn't help anyone - is finding unsatisfactory "answers".

"People keep talkin' about me, Baby,
Say I'm doing you wrong.
Well don't you worry, don't worry, no don't worry, Mama,
'Cause I'm right here at home."
And the Steve Miller Band (in the song "The Joker") goes on to assure "Baby/Mama" that he's definitely still into her.
The moral? Sometimes people misinterpret things. But not God. He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).

I'm not really all that familiar with the song, but the term "midnight toker" has always stood out to me for its originality. The music originated in a time of popular drug culture, but "toking" was still illegal, so it wasn't (and isn't) something people did out on the street. They did (do) it "under cover," so as not to get busted. The "midnight" part implies secrecy...darkness...hiding what one does not want to have discovered.

One of my undergraduate professors used to tell us his Christian grandmother would never eat in a dimly-lit restaurant because she believed people who liked doing things in anything less than brightness had something to hide.

I think that is an interesting thought, and maybe there is even a little bit of truth to it...but not always. Some things have more value when they are done in the dark - things like guarding one's integrity (just read about Joseph in Genesis 37 through 50), or surviving an enemy (see Gideon's defeat of the Midianite army in Judges 7).

Not only did Jesus welcome Nicodemus and his nighttime questions, but He also affirmed giving and praying "under cover". This does not mean you shouldn't ever tell anyone you've been praying for them ;). It doesn't mean that if someone asks you if you've been praying or fasting, or if a gift came from you, you should quickly change the subject so you don't "lose your blessing" if they find you out! (Yep, I've encountered a lot of twisted theology in my time....) But Jesus taught in Matthew 6:1-6 (part of the Sermon on the Mount) that when you give or pray in secret (without broadcasting it), God still notices and you will not go unrewarded for it. It will pay off without you having to boast to everyone about your righteousness!

(Also, just for the record, it is okay to pray openly as well, as Daniel exemplifies for us. I think the difference is, again, one's intent - Daniel gave an example of faithfulness even when it was forbidden/frowned upon; the Pharisees Jesus referenced only cared that everyone knew how holy they were.)

God did not only make the day; He also made the night. He is not only Lord over the day, but also over the night. Not only do loud, thunderous billows of flame announce His presence (Exodus 19:10-19), but so does the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). He is present where two or three (or many) are gathered, but also when we find ourselves all alone.

David had something to say on this subject:

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Friday, June 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - dead things, discontinued things, and deworming things

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

---1---
My garden is not growing as well as I had hoped. In fact, at least half of it is dead. BUT, my one lonely tomato is hanging in there;


the broccoli and Brussels sprouts plants are still alive, even if they aren't growing (today, Thursday, I replanted one of them in an actual pot to see if that helps); and Sunday morning I discovered a new surprise to add to the success of my tomato:
(Hey - I just posted a pic of a pepper...sounds like a bit of poetry-in-the-making to me!) O.o

---2---
While tending my tomato plant today (Thursday) I discovered something interesting. It was indeed mostly dead, but the tomato was continuing to ripen, and even new branches were growing that were not dead. 


The vine itself is still vibrant. It reminded me of John 15 when Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (verse 5, NIV). I also took a hint from verse 2 and went ahead and pruned off the dead branches.

The problem - the reason the plant is in bad shape - is that I forgot to put holes in the bottom of the container I planted it in. I fixed that today, added some more potting soil and water, and here's hoping maybe I'll get more than one tomato out of it ;). If not, I'm still counting it a success!!
 

---3---
I was doing very important stuff on Pinterest this week when I came across an idea for a penny-decorated vase. Through the link I discovered that last year Canada discontinued their penny! I had no idea. I'm sure it will work out and all, but I just never expected it, so it was a little bit of a shock. Then a friend informed me the United States might follow suit! Mind blown.
So, anyway...I have collected a few coins that have come my way through the years, just because they did happen to come my way. (I doubt any of them are truly valuable; they are just fun to collect.) Also, my grandpa loved collecting things, coins among those things. I consequently received a few from him as well. And because I lived the first half of my life in northern Ohio, there are a few Canadian pieces in the mix. Here are my old Canadian pennies:
L to R: 1940, 1943, 1946, 1953, 1957, 1962, 1964, a centennial penny (1867-1967), and a 1940 nickel.
Here are the fronts of those same coins, in the same order:
L to R: first three pennies feature Georgius VI; the next 5, Elizabeth II; and the nickel, Georgius VI.
I also have a small collection of United States wheat pennies, the oldest one bearing the date of 1910. My oldest coin is a United States dime from 1899, graced by the bonnetted silhouette of a lady.
I wonder if the young ladies ever referred to George as "Gorgeous Georgius"? Or maybe he was ugly. Who knows?
---4---
Turns out, Google knows. And what do you know - old Georgie wasn't half bad-looking!

Oh ho ho HO! Upon further digging, I just discovered this is the George about whom the movie The King's Speech was made! (Good movie, I thought, by the way.)
---5---
Last week I decided to get creative and join the ranks of praxis-prone Pinteresters. That's right. A neighbor gave me a couple of framed inspirational quotes she had on her wall (she was moving). I'm not really a cutesy-picture kind of person, so I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them. So I decided to sand them down, repaint them, and glue on some palm tree bark from a recent trip to South Padre Island, and voila! Behold my very own Pinterest-worthy project-in-the-books:




(The top photo features my niece and nephew; and the bottom, my late Ohio pastor's family,
with whom I lived for a couple of years and so they are like my own family.)
---5---
Some VERY misguided spider decided to take up residence in my mailbox last week. I noticed him after I removed the contents of the box and he was just sitting there looking at me. So he lived to be a threat another few days, until I checked my box again today (I'm not always punctual about checking my mail). And there he was again. Same spot. Challenging me to take out an envelope. Ready to leap and split my jugular with his protruding fangs.... 


But I showed him. I went upstairs and got the "Wasp and Hornet Killer." That's right. I had the advantage of space and spray. He put up a fight, and I had to spray a lot, but spray I did. And in the end, I won. Sure, I now have insecticide all over my mail, but that's way better than having a spider in my mailbox. 

---6---
I had a job interview today! It went really well. It was for a bus driving position with the local school district. I've done it before and really enjoyed it. It's only a few hours a day (though the split shift can sometimes be bothersome), and, well, driving big stuff is fun! I have to wait for a second interview now. I hope to hear back from them by the end of next week. 

I also applied for a job at a local newspaper. I do not have a journalism degree, but have been published several times and have several years' worth of professional editorial experience. I sent them some clips of my work today (including a few of my posts from this blog!). We'll see. I would love to give it a try - I think it would be a very interesting job, and I love being "in the know" about my community. 
---7---
This week I got to learn about deworming a cat. I'm hoping my dog is worm-free, but am thinking about worming him, too, just to make sure. So gross!! 

Early this morning I looked over from the bed and caught the two little boogers getting along quietly (which rarely happens). Here's a picture so you can enjoy the moment, too. :) Makes Mama proud! 


For more Quick Takes, check out Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

S2: Innovation

A few years ago I left a bookstore with Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City. An entrancing read, it made me want to read more of his works, and I soon ordered Thunderstruck on paperbackswap.com. I never got around to reading it, though, and so I finally started it yesterday. It segues nicely into the next story post I wanted to write - more from my friend Millie - about work ethic and innovation in entrepreneurship.

Larson's habit is to weave two dissimilar lives together in a sort of double biography that no one would ever think to thrust together. For example, in Devil in the White City he tells the story of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the phenomenal structures of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, as intertwined with the tale of another inhabitant of Chicago at the same time, serial killer H. H. Holmes. Thunderstruck mingles the paths of Guglielmo Marconi, discoverer of wireless telegraphy (the precursor to radio and telephone technology), and Hawley Harvey Crippen, a doctor attempting to run away with his lover after murdering his wife in a scandal that rocked London.

Near the beginning of the book, Larson describes Marconi's experiments with electromagnetic waves in his attic laboratory at his parents' house in Bologna (which I, as I read, for fun like to pronounce "baloney"), Italy in late 1894:
"He knew that if his telegraphy without wires was ever to become a viable means of communication, he would need to be able to send signals hundreds of miles. ...[But] established theory held that transmitting over truly long distances, over the horizon, simply was not possible. The true scholar-physicists...had concluded that waves must travel in the same manner as light, meaning that even if signals could be propelled for hundreds of miles, they would continue in a straight line at the speed of light and abandon the curving surface of the earth.
"Another man might have decided the physicists were right - that long-range communication was impossible. But Marconi saw no limits. ...He bought or scavenged metals of all kinds and used a chisel to scrape loose filings of differing sizes, then picked through the filings to achieve uniformity. He tried nickel, copper, silver, iron, brass, and zinc, in different amounts and combinations. He inserted each new mixture into a fragile glass tube, added a plug of silver at each end, then sealed the apparatus and placed it within his receiving circuit.
"...He tried as many as four hundred variations before settling on what he believed to be the best possible combination for his coherer. ...He tried shrinking the size of the tube. He emptied thermometers, heated the glass, and shaped it. He moved the silver plugs within the tube closer and closer together to reduce the expanse of filings through which the current would have to flow, until the entire coherer was about an inch and a half long and the width of a tenpenny nail. He once stated that it took him a thousand hours to build a single coherer. As a future colleague would put it, he possessed 'the power of continuous work.'
"...As he worked, a fear grew within him, almost a terror, that one day he would awaken to discover that someone else had achieved his goal first. ...And in fact he was right to be concerned. Scientists around the world were conducting experiments with electromagnetic waves, though they still focused on their optical qualities." [Larson, pp. 25-26]
 
That last line especially paints a picture for me of people all over the globe holed up in their own cluttered little workspaces, meticulously poring over physics books and using scrap metal and other odds and ends to perform experiments and build contraptions like those in the movies Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Back to the Future and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. And I love the coworker's description that he had "the power of continuous work". I would describe it as a different understanding of the word work...to me, it seems this was more play for Marconi...not whimsical or juvenile play, but rather a passionate hobby...an inner compulsion to discover for the thrill of that first glimpse of something no one in the world has ever seen before. I could be wrong, but I somehow doubt Marconi was nearly as concerned with getting his name in history books as with satisfying his own insatiable desire to figure out how to make his idea a reality.

Thus it has been with innovative entrepreneurs all along. I once read that Leonardo da Vinci was not merely the superb artist who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, but in his journals were posthumously discovered drawings and formulas for all sorts of scientific contraptions including transportational devices, such as a helicopter, an automobile powered by a spring, and a military tank.

My friend Millie shared with me that it was much the same in Joplin, Missouri, after life began to get back to "normal" following World War II. Her husband Woody had worked in Kansas City in his young adult years for a fellow with a publishing company, so he knew the ins and outs of operating the machinery and filling the orders. So he went about acquiring the presses needed and a space to put them, and because he was a friendly person with a lot of connections around town, he began to get business from a number of local businesses. Millie would always say, "We started Dixie Printing on a shoestring." They were amateurs, and the funding for the endeavor came out of their own pockets, which were not plush. But because they worked hard and canvassed for business and went the extra mile with delivering orders through Joplin and nearby communities, their company grew into a success that still serves Joplin today on the corner of 15th and Main.

She said when they were first starting their business, other friends and neighbors were attempting their own ventures as well. A neighbor a few blocks down built a printing press for legal pads in his garage. She described it as having a bar with evenly spaced strings hanging down to print the inked lines on the pages, and I believe she said the man's family participated in the binding of the reams. [It is presently in a museum or printing shop in the town, but I was unable to locate where in a precursory web search for this post.]

Even a few decades before that, when one of Millie's or Woody's grandmothers immigrated to the United States from Ireland or Scotland, she earned money by sewing hats with earflaps for the military. Her small children would help by threading needles and having them ready in the pincussion next to her when she needed to move on to the next.

Creativity. Invention. Optimism. ...And a willingness to work hard, and experience trial and error in order to see things accomplished. I imagine Steve Jobs knew this process well. And the scientists who hope to make other planets habitable. And those attempting to procure remedies for cancer. Perhaps optimism is one of the more important components of the formula here. As Dale Carnegie would say, "Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes furthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father to the Fatherless

This morning, early, I updated my status on Facebook as follows: "If I never have children, I can live with that just fine...but one of my regrets about it will be that I never got the chance to love someone so unconditionally just because it was a 'reflex,' almost, to do so. I think I would understand God's love much better with that experience. However, on the other hand, because God's love IS like that, I understand the Scriptures that assure us He is the Father of the fatherless. God's love is so beautiful." It struck me after the fact that it was an appropriate posting for Father's Day.

At the end of my Quick Takes post on Friday, I included a couple videos of the song "All My Tears." One of the lines in it says, "...I will not be ashamed, for my Savior knows my name." The old TV show Cheers had a themesong, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name...and they're always glad you came." The country group Alabama has an old song called "Down Home...where they know you by name and treat you like family."

Where I work, I conduct a census each night of the residents on campus. I call five of the other six cottages and get their head count, and find out who is on pass, etc. I have worked in the other cottages enough that despite frequent changeover, I know a lot of the kids by name. Also, when a coworker answers the phone, I know who it is because I recognize their voice.

We all have a longing to belong...to know and be known. We need family. Some of us have not been fortunate enough to have families with whom we have amicable relationships...some of us don't belong. Too many of us know the pain of isolation...the double standard of people who claim to love openly and unconditionally, but when it comes down to it, they always choose their "own" when they have to choose between people. And quite frankly, it sucks being alone like that.

But that is one of the things I find most wonderful about the Christian message. God doesn't just want us to be His servants, nor even merely His friends. He desires to embrace us as His own children. He sets the solitary in families and truly is a Father to the fatherless.

Psalm 68:5, 6 says,
"A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God makes a home for the lonely..." (NIV).

There have been times in my life when I felt more at home in the family of God than with those to whom I was related by blood. There have been times my Church family have been my only family, and so many times when they were my lifeline. And even when the Church has failed me, because it is comprised of imperfect humans who have human limitations, God's love has sustained me in my loneliest hours (not that those hours are ever easy, don't get me wrong).

My dad is no longer alive. But this Father's Day I am not fatherless. I have a wonderful Paternal relationship that is definitely worth celebrating!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - on selling my body, monkey business, and a coffee recommendation

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

---1---
On selling my body.... As I've mentioned before, I'm looking for a second job since school is out. Until I find one, I decided maybe I would try donating plasma...and I did in fact try, last Friday. My brother was horrified. "You've sunken to selling your body?!" he exclaimed. "Well, yes...I guess you could look at it that way," I replied humorously. I was surprised that it did not hurt. The needle going in the arm was just a slight stick, and then it was relatively painless. However, I failed to hydrate as well as I should have, and since I work third shift and went to the place not long after I woke up Friday around noon, all I ate beforehand was a granola bar, and that only because the instructions say to eat well before you donate. Well, I learned they tell you that for a reason. I passed out after they had only drawn what looked to me like maybe 6 or 7 ounces of plasma. I still got the full payment, which I thought was generous, and the nursing staff there are so great. I highly recommend CSL Plasma. I'm going tomorrow to try again :). I will be drinking a lot of water tonight (and have been all week) and will eat plenty of healthy food before I go!

---2---
On selling my body more literally.... A couple of years ago at Christmastime I took care of a home health patient who was dying of a particularly aggressive form of cancer. He decided to donate his body to science - I think I even got a glimpse of the paperwork for it. The idea was that with medical research, maybe someone in the future could be saved, even though he couldn't. I thought it was rather heroic. I have had discussions with other people about the subject of donating one's body to science after death, too. One of them told me some organizations will pay you tens of thousands of dollars to do it. I thought that was interesting, especially since the body must be given appropriate treatment in a very short time after death in order to be usable...there must be a way to ensure it will be usable if that much money is paid out in advance.... I will have to look that up.
 
In high school I went to the cadaver lab at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, with my Anatomy and Physiology class. It was a strange experience to me at the time - the thing I remember most about it was the strong smell of the preservatives, and the campus was mulching its landscaping, so now everytime I smell mulch I think of that field trip. I was fairly grossed out by it. But I also remember how much respect was shown to the bodies. Their "identifying" parts were kept covered - hands, faces, genitalia, etc., unless that is the portion of the body under immediate observation. Also, they keep every part of the body (skin included - I'm sorry if that is too much information, but it's true) and return it all to the family for proper burial or other closure. I think it is a very respectful process that can lead to a lot of good for medical discovery. I am totally considering it.

---3---

And the "monkey business".... This portion of "Quick Takes" is brought to you by my propensity for dreaming crazy dreams. I had the last couple of nights off, and this was one of those weeks where I caught up on a lot of sleep over my "weekend". I think I dreamed of every person I ever knew, from family to friends and coworkers and people I went to school and church with in various places...and their dogs...and a monkey. Yep, someone in my dream this afternoon even had a pet monkey. I did not recognize the person in the dream, but upon waking I realized that my grandma used to tell me about someone we knew who had pet monkeys at some point. So I called her to solve the mystery.
 
(This is the kind of monkey that was in my dream...until it
turned into some sort of strange cross between a monkey and
a dog.... When I looked up the picture just now, it was captioned "organ
grinder," and that clicked with a street-art picture I saw earlier today on facebook,
so I guess that's why I was dreaming about a monkey. Hmm.)
It was my great-grandparents, her in-laws (my mom's dad's parents). My educated guess for the time frame of this adventure was the late 1960s or early '70s. They started out with one monkey, with a really long tail, and named it Dopey. From what my grandma tells me, Dopey had a strange diet. Among these items were raw onions and hard boiled eggs. When he would get an onion, before he ate it he would rub it all over his body - I guess he liked the smell (I would NOT have liked that monkey; the smell of onions disgusts me). When he would get an egg, he would crack it over his head, peel, and eat. And because he ate hard-boiled eggs and also had a propensity for getting out of his cage when my great-grandparents weren't home, they often arrived home to find egg all over the place where he had mistakenly cracked a raw egg over his head instead of a hard-boiled one. When my mom and her brother would go to visit their grandparents, Dopey had a habit of sticking his tail out of his cage and using it to steal any food they happened to have, too.
 
Later, they got two more monkeys, newborn, named Danny and Debby. These had clipped tails (you know how that's the style for some dog breeds? Well, apparently it is for some monkey breeds, too). My great-grandma used newborn diapers for them. My grandma was telling me about it and she said, "Bobby [her third child, born in '65 or '66] was the only one of my kids that they had made disposable diapers by the time he came along, and she [my great-grandma] told me I was too lazy to wash real diapers for him...and then she went and bought them for her monkeys!"
 
They had the monkeys for a couple of years and then donated them to the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo. I guess they got to be too much to take care of...apparently there is a good reason you don't know too many people who keep monkeys as pets.
 
---4---
And other strange pet news...mine are trying to kill me. A few weeks ago I started finding multi-colored push-pins (like you use on a bulletin board) on the floor every now and then. I looked all over my apartment and could not figure out where they were coming from. Earlier this week I moved a small desk out of the living room into my office to use until I bring up my larger office desk from my friends' garage in Joplin, and there beside it was the box of push-pins which the cat had evidently knocked off at some point and the dog was dragging out little by little. So I picked them all up...or so I thought. Since then I have found two or three clear ones by "surprise." By "surprise" I mean very unpleasant surprise...with my bare feet.

---5---
Last night (Wednesday night) I visited a friend's church in Marshfield (about half an hour from my house). It was a small group Bible study setting. They are in the Minor Prophets, and the subject was Nahum. After spending the last 11 years of my life in school studying the Bible, I did not know Nahum is about Ninevah and is a sort of sequel to Jonah, and Jonah is one of my favorites. So there - you can learn something new every day, even about subjects people think you already know very well! ;) Also, the pastor made the comment that the words "jealous" and "zealous" come from the same root word. My friend whispered jokingly "-eal?" (It was funny - you just had to be there.) Now I really want to know that root word! (Awesome church, by the way!)

---6---
For my 30th birthday (about a year and a half ago) several of my friends gave me Starbucks gift certificates, and I still had a couple of them left, so this week I bought a new flavor of coffee from there with one of my certificates. It was the 3-Region Blend. I highly recommend it - so good!! It comes in a pretty bag, too :).


---7---
And here I was going to rant about the online job application process...which is sometimes extremely frustrating...but instead, I will spare you and just post a couple of videos of a song and its remake that I really like both of. "All My Tears" - I believe the writer of the song was Buddy Miller.
 
First as performed by the writer's sister, Julie Miller (I couldn't find one of her performing or without someone else's video in it, but here ya go):
 
 
And remade more recently by Jars of Clay:
 
  
For more great Quick Takes, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

S1: War Stories and Celebration

My life hasn't been interesting enough this last week to do a Quick Takes post, so I thought I would go ahead and begin my story posts instead.

Since returning from vacation I have spent the majority of my time holed up in my apartment avoiding the outside world. I've done a lot more reading than I have in a long time! First, I read The Pianist by Wladislaw Szpilman, and the other day I started Bess W. Truman by Margaret Truman (I am about a third of the way into it). The first was (as most of you know) a memoir about a Polish Jew's survival in Warsaw during WWII. The second covered a little about WWI, especially as it affected Kansas City, Missouri, and now I am into the portion on the Great Depression.

All of these subjects remind me of my friend Millie, another great storyteller in my life whom I forgot to mention in my post on storytelling. I met Millie several years ago in Joplin...I believe she was 93 at the time. She passed away in April 2011 at the age of 97. I thought of her when I read this paragraph in Bess about celebrating the end of WWI in Kansas City:
"Suddenly, incredibly, it was over. At 219 North Delaware [Bess's address in Independence, MO, a suburb of KC], everyone was awakened about 4 a.m. on November 11 by the sound of clanging church bells. As dawn broke, people took to the streets for the wildest celebration in the history of Independence. Bells rang, fire engines sounded their sirens, factories blew whistles, automobiles blared horns continually for the next twelve hours. Bess and her friends joined the exultant crowds in Jackson Square. It was all marvelously joyous and goodnatured. Not a single person was injured, and the only reported property damage occurred when some celebrator fired off a gun and the bullet went through a window."
 
This was a week after my friend Millie turned 5 years old. She lived in Kansas City, too, at the time, and she once mentioned this celebration to me. She said her mother sent her and her little brother down to the dump at the end of the street they lived on to find some pots or other things to make noise with. They brought back what they found and joined all their neighbors lining the street and clanging away on anything they could find.

I asked her about her experiences during the Great Depression. She replied that her family had chickens, so it wasn't as hard on them as it was on others. She also mentioned the sad prevalence of desperate men taking their own lives during this time because of financial failure. But she also shared some less dreary memories from the era. Her mother would make rice in the mornings for breakfast, throwing in some raisins to make it sweet. She would then leave the leftovers on the table for a snack for Millie and her brother when they returned home from school in the afternoon. Millie said one of their favorite things to do to entertain themselves after school was to roll up the carpet in the living room and play some records and dance.

Millie married her husband during the Depression, too. To save on expenses, they married on Easter Sunday so the church would already be decorated with flowers. Some friends took them out for hamburgers afterwards, and the happy couple ended up with 60 cents after their big day. One of the quarters was lost somewhere along the way, but the other quarter and dime were still glued to the back of the frame with their wedding picture when I would visit Millie just a couple of years ago. In her Bible she kept the old newspaper clipping that told of their wedding. It was a lot more detailed than wedding announcements now - I particularly remember that it told what her dress looked like (which she made herself, and it was very fashionable), as well as her bridesmaids' dresses.

Millie's husband was a soldier during WWII, and stationed for a while at Fort Crowder down near Joplin (which is when and why they moved to that part of the state). Millie, too, worked on the base in the offices. She told me of dances the military personnel held on the weekends on the top floor of the old Connor Hotel (which later burned down), or out at McClelland Park, where they would line the edge of the pavillion with piles of records. Her husband was deployed at some point, and when the war ended, she met him in Washington DC. When she finally spotted him in the crowd the lower half of his face was covered in lipstick; all the young ladies were kissing every soldier they met on the street in thanks for their service and in celebration that the war was over. It reminded me of this famous scene:


They soon received a letter from Millie's father back in Kansas City. Her parents had turned the radio off early and gone to bed the evening the end of the war was announced. So the next day he got up and around for work as usual, but no one was out and about on the streets. He walked toward his dry cleaning business a few streets away, finally coming upon someone before he got there. He said, "Why are the streets so empty?" The man replied, "Man, haven't you heard? The war's over! Today is a holiday!" That was how he received the wonderful news, and how the city once again celebrated the end of a difficult era.

Lately I have been interested in theologies of play and celebration. I think they are important and intrinsic to our humanity. I have done brief Internet searches on both - I don't know that there is prolific literature on either subject, but there is some. I plan to look into it.

I will also share a few more of Millie's stories later on. She had a lot to say on the subject of a good work ethic.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Storytelling

Last week I watched the movie Big Fish for the first time. It reminded me how much I LOVE meeting someone with the ability to tell a great story. I don't have it! I can write a decent story...or I can tell one if I know it really well or have practiced it a whole lot ahead of time. But to just speak with creativity and hold others spellbound as a natural talent? Nope.

The person who comes to mind as the best storyteller I ever knew was one of my high school science teachers, my very favorite teacher of my pre-college education days, named Mr. (Phil) Nave. First, he was a phenomenal teacher - he made science interesting. He even took my Anatomy & Physiology class on a trip to a nearby university's cadaver lab. Second, he studied philosophy in school and was a person in search of truth, much as I consider myself to be; and when I was in high school I used to carry my Bible through school with me every day, and so Mr. Nave and I used to have a lot of philosophical discussions. He listened to what I had to say and asked questions, even though I was a teenager and, looking back, I really didn't know too much about anything (though I no doubt thought otherwise)! Third, almost every day he would tell us stories. They just came pouring out of him.

One time someone made the comment that they were never quite sure which of Mr. Nave's stories were true and which ones were made up. I guess I have always been gullible and believed anything was possible, because their comment completely shocked me. "What do you mean 'made up'?" I asked. "Aren't they all true?!" My friend looked at me strange. As I recalled that conversation last week, I finally realized why. Some of Mr. Nave's stories were about elves that lived in the woods behind his house. He was just so believable and his stories so flawless and unhalting that it never even dawned on me there really weren't elves in the woods behind his house!! This realization so recently gave me quite a laugh at my younger, wide-eyed, story-believing self.

And I still love a good story.

My dad always used to tell stories. His weren't made up; they were recollections; but still, he could tell them so easily and they were always interesting! I know I have had some interesting experiences myself, but to tell them to you presents me with quite a challenge! Even to remember the details is sometimes hard. Not for Dad.

My grandma is the same way. Before work tonight I called her and asked her to tell me some stories. I have been wanting to write them down or record them in some way for a while now, so I will have them after she is no longer around (not to be morbid or anything). I will be writing some "story" posts in the upcoming weeks...I will record the things she has told me, and probably reflect a little in the posts, too. I may share some of my dad's, too, but for them I will be going on memory.

Have you known any great storytellers in your time?