Sunday, March 22, 2009

Idolatry in a chair or a lamp

Letting go
of things
is not letting go
of people
or memories
or love...

yet each item
I shed
takes a piece of me
away

I have held it for so long
it seems to have grown roots
burrowing deep
tendrils,
weaving through my heart
my mind~
curling about my lungs
rising and falling
with each breath

Still it is only
stuff~
atoms arranged
in formation
non living matter
material possessions
that don't feel
that don't reflect back
love.

Idols and images
that I have somehow
connected to
living
breathing
sentient
beings
that I love
deeply

By letting go of things
it feels as if
I am breaking
threads
connections
to those people.

I can name this.

Misbelief.
Magical thinking.
Nonsense.

My mind knows this
but my heart grieves
and my soul mourns
the loss.

Things and stuff

Today I spent and hour or so tossing stuff...
I went into our falling down, collapsing garage and pulled out 4 kitchen chairs, 2 office chairs, 2 floor lamps, an over head lamp, a bunch of rain soaked, ruined books, moldy video tapes, a rusted plant stand and placed them all on the curb.

I took a break, took Jake over for a romp with Jocko the 8 month old pit bull next door who is his new best friend, came back and blogged a bit and am now heading for the basement.

There will soon be more stuff on the curb. Its just stuff. Its just things. Its just clutter in my life that weighs me down. I am tired of it and it must go...

Reconnections continued

Facebook is not just for the young. I have joined the cultish following and initially just communicated with nieces and nephews then more family and then friends and now it has become this amazing tool to find long lost friends.

Among them I found (or maybe she found me) Tami. We went to school together at WKU. We both were in the theater department and were backstage more than onstage.
Tami it seemed actually had a major in something else, probably practical and started out as a theater groupie but became a vital part of our little department.

I have only good memories of her, which is rare I think for most people. All of us remember an argument or a bad time, but when I think of Tami all I remember is fun and good times...

Tami was known as "Space" back then, I don't exactly remember why except she had a high energy level and was a bit ditzy. She was fun though and very lovable. I absolutely could not remain in a bad mood while with her.

Tami was loyal and hardworking. Back then I was one of the scene shop crew. Not only did I design lights for lots of shows, but I was one of three students responsible for running the scene shop, executing and building scenery, rounding up students to volunteer, making sure deadlines were met and shows opened. I remember countless late nights w/ Tami at my side, doing anything and everything to help. It was one of these nights she saved my life. Literally.
I don't know if she even remembers the night or if I ever even told her or said thanks...

At one point in my college career I had a stalker. Some guy started calling me and breathing on my dorm phone. It soon progressed to him telling me he liked my outfit he saw me wearing. He would then describe what I had worn, where I had been. It got creepy but in my naive mind I figured he was a harmless kook.

Then late one night over spring break I think, Tami had stayed behind to help me paint scenery or hang lights or something else until the wee late hours. Being exhausted we decided to crash in my dorm room since my roommate had gone home and it was closer to the theater than her apartment. I drove us there and decided since it was the weekend and campus was deserted to park in the dorm lot mainly used for short term (i.e. 30 minute) parking. We parked, staggered in and fell face down on the twin beds. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, the phone rang. I answered and it was Campus Police telling me to move my car as it was illegally parked. I tried to reason with him that it was 4 am on a holiday weekend, the lot was empty except for my car and couldn't I just leave it until morning? But no the cop was insistent, move it or it would be towed, and I would be fined $200. I woke Tami to say I had to move my car. I started out the door, and she stopped me. "Wait" she said, "Its late and dark, I'll go with you." And together we went out to the empty dark lot where the cop had already left and we moved my car to the street and walked back through the poorly lit quad to the dorm.
The next day we both packed up and headed home for the short break. The more I thought about the incident the more angry I became. Why had the stupid cop made me move my car? It made no sense. When I returned to campus I went straight to the police department office to complain. There was no record of such a call. The campus police started questioning me. What was the officer's name? Well, he didn't give it. What exactly did he say? He said he was campus police. Wrong! They always identify themselves by Officer So and So, Campus SECURITY. They asked if I had any unusual phone calls lately. Well, yeah some kook calling almost daily...
Seems there was a stalker focusing on women in the theater/dance department. There had already been one rape and a couple of thwarted rape attempts. They were trying to find the guy but had been unsuccessful. They were afraid he would escalate and get violent. For the rest of the semester I had to be escorted after dark. Either by security or by a trusted approved male in the department. I also couldn't talk about it in case the person was in the theater department...
Tami you probably saved me from some horrible fate that night. By deciding to forgo your comfort and sleep and stagger out once more into the dark and cold you prevented God knows what happening to me. For that alone I will forever love you and be grateful. How can I ever repay that debt?

I owe this woman so much. Her steadfast friendship, working beside me, never complaining, always helpful and eager, bringing me joy and laughter was just the tip of the iceberg. But to have intervened at such a crucial time, even unwittingly, shows me that God put her in my life for a reason. By helping me at that time, Tami is now helping every single kid I help. By being with me in the dark, by walking by my side in the darkest night, I can walk by others during theirs. And because of her love and friendship, I can show others what that looks like.
Tami brought healing to the earth.

It is so true, we never know how much our life touches others... but sometimes we get a glimpse. I hope Tami knows that her life has and is still touching so many others. That her light is shining like a beacon. Maybe that is why her nickname was Space, because her influence could not be contained by earthly limits, her love, light and hope is so all encompassing, her heart so huge, that any other nickname would have been too small...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reconnections


"Old friends mean so much more to me than new friends
Cause they know who you are and they know where you've been...
"
Harry Chapin



Eric is an old stagehand buddy of mine. He knew me back in career number one (when I was a stagehand in NYC). Eric and I worked together off Broadway, at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Lincoln Center Out of Doors, The Spoleto Festival in Charleston SC...
I remember running miles of cable, hauling tons of lights, hours of programming cues with Eric. I also remember sitting quietly, exhausted, riding home on the subway, comfortable in the silence that only true friends can share; shoulder to shoulder, toolbags at our feet, lost in our thoughts, occasionally breaking the silence w/ a comment or "hey we need to remember to do this..."
Lots of spaces, lots of times. He was one of the best electricians I have ever known. He taught me a lot. He was not one of the braggarts who was all mouth and bluster. He was the guy who actually knew his stuff. He never had to boast and brag because he just did his job. In many ways he was my role model: Calm, unassuming, professional and dedicated. I have many fond memories of working and hanging out w/ Eric.
Luckily he still pops up now and then. In career #2, (vet assistant) I got to meet his girlfriend and their amazing touring cat Sophie. Eric still tours and just recently was in Lexington w/ Mamma Mia. So once again I got to see him and had the hubster take a pic of us together. Eric is one of those rare people who have been my friend longer than 20 years and seen me through many changes and 3 careers. I look forward to his yearly Christmas letter even though I still can't seem to get it together to get out cards, I know that one will arrive from him at some point. Their are friends who are touchstones in our lives. People who despite time and distance are just as immediate and there, people who don't leave our hearts. Its nice to see them face to face again though...

Sundays

I woke up late but managed to get it together enough to arrive only 10 minutes late for church.

I remember as a child hearing the church bells tolling in my small town signaling time to hurry, wish I had those now...

I have recently switched churches. Again. I now go to a small, mission church where some of my dearest friends landed when my old home church shattered and splintered for reasons that are still inexplicable to me. I know it involved politics and ego and money and lot of pain. It just seemed to steamroll and either crush, flatten or knock us all for a loop.

But I digress.

I have been dropping in, on this small congregation, because first it was closer than the church I was hanging out at in Cynthiana, but then it grew on me. I loved seeing familiar faces. I loved feeling those hugs again. I liked worshiping with friends. It felt like home.

Today was healing Sunday. Usually a team of 2 people go to the chapel and wait for people to come in after receiving communion to pray for specific requests. Today I went to ask for healing for grief. Not just mine but for a friend also, who has experienced several losses recently, a brother and an uncle. One friend placed her hand on my heart and wrapped her other arm around me, the other friend wrapped his arm around me and we became a closed circle of faith. The intimacy of prayer is healing, the sharing of tears is holy, the love shared between friends is essential. This is why I need Sundays.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Moments of grief, moments of grace.

In the last few weeks I have lost 2 pets, Dennis the remarkable Beta and Sniffy Pie our sweetest cat ever. I am grieving my loss, celebrating their lives and the joy they added to my life.

Dennis, I have blogged about before. It seems unlikely one can get attached to a fish. One cannot pet or cuddle a fish, but there is something about a blue and red flash that greets you each morning and evening, that responds to your finger tap on the glass that makes a connection in your heart. I miss my colorful greeting...

And Sniffypie; what joy she added to our lives. Rescued 5 years ago from being euthanized because she was mucous filled and sneezing on furniture she melded into our family seamlessly. She was the hubster's girl. She curled beneath his beard and napped for hours, purring gently and calmly, soothing away his bad days, adding to his good days. She often gave me the first kiss of the morning, crawling into bed, licking my nose signaling it was time to feed everyone. Sniffypie loved to sleep in sunbeams and under lamps, on humans and curled next to Mo and Buddy. She sought warmth and light and reminded me it could be found even in the darkest times. She taught me hope and gentleness in spite of the horror and reality of life. Sniffy was about faith. Believing to trust humans again, believing there is a second chance, believing that there are people who care. Sniffy brought out the best in me.
I regret I didn't catch the signs or symptoms of her illness sooner. That will always haunt me. I knew her kidneys were not the greatest and planned to get her checked but she was always the first to eat, wasn't acting sick, was active and curious. Until that Wednesday when I came home to a suddenly old cat. It seemed to have happened overnight. Now I know it didn't, it never does. 12 years at a vet clinic has taught me that cats are stoic, more so than any other animal and hide their illnesses. I saw many cats crash suddenly who could not be saved. I know vets who had the same experience. Yet I somehow feel that I should have known, I should have saved her. Like I should save the kids I work with. I think that is what is most frustrating that I feel so helpless and humbled. That I can't do enough. That I can't save them all.
So I have started to look for the grace in small things. That I gave Dennis 2 years, and Sniffy a second chance, a happy home for 5 years. That I can't save every kid I work with but I can for one hour a week give them safety and a chance to tell their story. A chance to say what is their heart with no fear of judgment or reprisal.
This week ended with a few parents thanking me for helping their kids, telling me I am the first social worker their child has trusted, that I am the first person who has ever helped them. Which amazes me because I feel like I have done so little, really no more than listen, but maybe that was enough.

Also I have had friends who have reached out and supported me during this time. Who have contacted me via phone, email and facebook. Friends who have reconnected from a span of 20 years and thousands of miles. Friends who knew me when and love me now.

I have family who are rock solid. Who are there at the drop of a hat, who laugh, cry and pray with me. I am so blessed to have my family.
Especially the hubster. My dearest dear. He is the one who sees me at my very, very worst, who lives with the monster and the myth that is me. And the reality. And loves this complicated, aggravating person. He dries the tears, cleans up the messes, fixes my computer, brings me coffee and starts my car. He is my Hoke. (He knows what I mean! Private joke)
So the darkness is lifting, I am grieving my missing pets, but I am also remembering them, all the moments, all the love and laughter.
And I am sure that I will see them again. If there is a Heaven, and I see my family, I will find my mama holding all my cats...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In Memory of Sniffy Pie Parks Johnson Age 13




Goodbye Sniffy Pie



Once again I have had to let go of a beloved pet.
Sniffypie was running around sniffing and stealing pizza rolls a week ago tonight. Wednesday night I noticed she looked suddenly old and was acting lethargic and strange. I checked her hydration and she was horribly dehydrated. I took her to vet first thing; her blood work was awful, her body temp low but they treated her and released her back to me. I was home the next 2 days sick myself but it gave me a chance to stay w/ Sniffy.
She and I cuddled together deriving comfort from one another. I would get up and give her treatments, take my meds and go back to bed. And cry. I knew in my heart she was dying. On Sat I took her to Molly's vet and he confirmed the worst. Her temp was even lower, a sign that I knew meant her body was shutting down. The hubster and I exchanged a glance and both of us knew it would not be fair to try all the tubes, pills, pokes and extreme measures that would maybe buy a day or two; a day or two of not so good quality life spent among strangers. The hubster had held her all morning. She was his cat really. She loved him from the moment she entered our lives, her favorite spot nestled under his chin purring and sleeping. So with heavy hearts we again made the decision to spare one of our pets pain and suffering.
It is one of the hardest decisions to make.
I can't believe how many times the human heart can break...