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Archive for August, 2016

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. (Jonathan Swift)

“How nice to see you, Terry,” A. says. “But she recognizes my voice as I talk to another Y member, not my short stature and senior version of what was once strawberry-blond hair. A. is blind.

I have met her several times. Each time I get to know her a tad better.

I call her later because I finally figured out the right date for a senior social event. Jay and I will be bringing her home. She expresses concern for the pain in my back.

When she says she will pray for me I believe her, and ask her to add someone else to her list, a young friend who lives out of state. S. will be having surgery at the end of September. I don’t give A. full details, only an overview of a nightmare that began with a bout of pancreatitis.

And I realize the larger story is stuck in the back of my throat, in a huge wad of emotion that won’t be swallowed. A. seems to understand. But I don’t know why this woman I barely know has brought this out in me. Through some intangible connection. Beyond the visual.

“Your husband refuses payment for the ride home,” she says.

“And so do I.”

“Maybe you can come to my house for dinner sometime.”

I pause before suggesting she come to my house instead, after I’ve finished physical therapy. And that will happen by the time of the social event. “I should be just fine by then. Besides, I love to cook.”

But, I think about how A. sees with her hearing and memory—and how I don’t. I have no clue how many steps there are from the table to the bathroom. There is a narrow space between the couch and the television. Jay and I leave our shoes in the middle of the floor. Sure, on that day we would be wearing them, but I take sight for granted.

“You can bring a friend,” I say, more for me than for her. Someone who already knows what she can maneuver on her own. And what she can’t.

She isn’t sure whether she can arrange an escort or not. She hasn’t read my mind. And that is probably a good thing. I will take the leap. Learn. Make a new friend, who will become more than an acquaintance with a keen sense of voice recognition.  Then perhaps, I shall see gifts, once invisible, yet present all along.

just once understand

 

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Making a living is nothing; the great difficulty is making a point, making a difference—with words.  (Elizabeth Hardwick )

A Monday morning toward the end of August. Rebe has said goodbye to braces. Her smile is free from metal. She is at the orthodontist now for the final X-rays. And big-sister Katie and I shop to prepare a special meal for her. Ravioli, her favorite. A dessert Rebe will help make since she will want to be in on the fun. And a carbonated beverage. Cola, a no-no for younger sister for the past two years. Katie and I find small fancy bottles. We choose to savor, not guzzle, since sweet colas and nutrition don’t have much in common.

I tell Katie about the wind and rain at the Hamilton County Fair last weekend. Mother Nature overdid the crowd control. Sure, I had fun and met a few new people. The day was wild. But wildly successful? Not exactly. I expect my granddaughter to go on to other topics: sports, friends, crafts.

Instead she asks, “So, what are you doing to let people know about your book?”

I hesitate. Katie is twelve-years old. My next event could come in a few months.

“What theme comes throughout the book frequently? Use that. In different ways… Make it stand out.”

We are outside a store as she asks. She grabs my heavy backpack and I carry the empty reusable bags for our purchases. I am aware of the disproportion. Not only in weight carried, but in information exchanged. I look at her and laugh.

“What is so funny?” she asks.

“You are. Because you are amazing. Tell me. How do you know all of this?”

“I go to book signings.”

She does. With her father. Gregory Petersen wrote Open Mike. He is working on other novels and has done standup comedy. Katie has made friends with writers. She has a superb imagination. In fact, she gave me an idea I used in my next book. I will give her an acknowledgment.

Not everyone has a twelve-year-old consultant. But then, she fits my audience. And I think about the typical preteen. The typical preteen who lives inside the average adult. In The Curse Under the Freckles Chase doesn’t have much self-confidence. He is surprised to get help from an inanimate thing, a tree, a Rainbow tree that offers magical gifts he could never expect.

The tree helps its Star League member with its multi-hued magic. It draws out the color inside the Star League student.

Since Katie has been helpful I tell her to get something for herself—she buys a present for her sister’s birthday instead. I don’t need to savor sweet cola. I have this precious time with my granddaughter before she starts seventh grade. My Rainbow-tree granddaughter. She brings out color inside me.

following dreams

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Intuition is seeing with the soul. (Dean Koontz )

As Jay drives to my ophthalmologist I sit in the backseat next to my granddaughter, Ella. Headlights from oncoming cars mildly bother me even though it’s daytime. Morning. No glare from dark to light contrasts. And discomfort from dilating drops hasn’t happened yet.

I am certain I need new glasses even though I got a stronger prescription last year. But am I a candidate for cataract surgery? Don’t know. Yet. Besides, the hot, polluted Midwestern air teases my lungs, constricted by asthma.

I sit next to Ella. By choice. At six she is old enough to entertain herself. We play games together. I look at a bright Ella instead of an outside sky I’m not ready to face even with sunglasses.

“Name an animal,” she says.

Mickey Mouse is also playing. I hold the toy and act as proxy. “Mouse,” Mickey answers.

Ella nixes that response. Mickey is a mouse. He needs to think outside his own species. At least I gather that from her head shake. And I smile.

“Monkey.”

Better.

She adds, “Moose.”

At the office Ella sits so close to me I have difficulty filling out the paperwork. She glides her hand down my arm and sticks her head into mine. “You be okay.”

I’m grateful Grandpa is taking her to the park. My sweet granddaughter doesn’t need to sit and recall her own surgeries. Including open heart. Twice. Although she couldn’t recall the first. She hadn’t been six-months old yet.

Ella's last day at Children's Hospital

“Fine. I will be just fine.” I bring my fill-in-the-blanks sheet back with me. Down the hall. Not far. But, my memory slips back to a day before Ella learned to walk. To the first time I realized Ella could connect with my spirit in an unexplained way.

I was sitting on the floor as she crawled across the floor. My husband was watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He saw fiction. I saw a scene. A girl who could not escape. And I heard her scream. A waste of breath. The sound reached into my gut and ripped out my own memories… a moment that had been bad enough. The degradation afterward worse. I gasped.

My granddaughter could not have understood what I saw. Or remembered. Or felt. But, she climbed onto my knee and interrupted the scene, her eyes wide. She did not have language yet. Nevertheless, her face said, Look at me, not at the television.

At that moment I lifted Ella into my arms and returned to the present. The beautiful and blessed present. The horrid rerun of the past disappeared instantly with the power of her remarkable, aware soul. She caught me before my thoughts became entangled in the ugly. We moved to another room, another scene. Into the moment.

Ella has Down Syndrome, a tripled-twenty first chromosome. And, most likely, a tripled intuitive sense, a gift that is uniquely hers.

She is also right about today’s visit: I am okay. I need a new prescription for glasses. No surprise there. But, no cataract surgery yet. My vision may be surreal for eight more hours. And eyes a tad more sensitive. But, I don’t need perfect sight to recognize love.

“Name an animal,” she says.

And the game continues.

Ella back view at Mt. Airy Park April 2015

 

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Never bear more than one trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds – all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have. (Edward Everett Hale)

I’m at the pool on a not-too-hot summer day. Jay and I are the only persons in the adults-only side of the deep end of the pool. A woman enters the water. Her expression shouts bad mood, but I swim a bit closer and say, “hello.”

She does not answer until a few minutes later when I try again. I don’t hear every word, but I do recognize her expression—and it isn’t nice-to-meet-you on any level.

“I’m sorry,” I respond in a pleasant tone. “I didn’t hear what you said.”

She shakes her head and turns around. I give her space. And say a silent prayer. For her. The water has pulled out all the pain in my back that has plagued me for the past month. And I am not going to let her misery destroy my healing.

I swim away and within a few minutes she exits the water.

Then a young girl takes a swim test in the lane next to the tread area. “Am I allowed to take breaths?” she asks.

I smile and so does the lifeguard giving her the test.

“Yes, you need to breathe,” the lifeguard answers, her amusement obvious. But she maintains respect for the young swimmer.

The girl has a silent cheering squad. I want her to make it. No, I will not interfere. This is not my test, and on some level I suspect I could be embarrassing her if I spoke. But, I want this young lady to win. To succeed.

When Jay and I leave the pool later I see the unhappy woman in a lounge chair. She seems to be looking around her, as if targeted by people who somehow want to get in her way. Silently cheering her on isn’t as easy as encouraging the innocent young swimmer.

But, I don’t know what this woman faces. If my hello intimidated her, I have no idea what she needs. Nor will I probably ever understand. Saving the world is not my job. Responding with peace instead of hate, is.

pic: Thich Nhat Hanh, walking on earth in peace

walking on earth is the real miracle

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It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story. (Native American proverb)

Last week I saw a woman I usually avoid. She’s one of those people who exudes know-it-all with every move. Advice spills out of her leaky-bag style. She is the extrovert and I am the introvert, the way fire is hot and ice is cold. But, she turned to me with a tight-lipped smile that leaked a hint of pain.

Within minutes of a hello we were honestly sharing. And I realized my first, second, and even third impressions aren’t always as accurate as I think they are. Sure, I try to accept each person as an individual. But I don’t have X-ray vision into the heart, mind, and spirit. This woman isn’t as high and mighty as I thought she was.

Two of my friends have husbands facing mental decline. I also know about a young man who was released from jail yesterday. He was convicted for a minor offense—the incident occurred at least a year ago. The young man was not permitted a cup for water. He dipped his curved hands under the faucet and caught what he could. The water dripped down his arms and tempted his thirst, but didn’t quench it. Prisoners needed to buy cups. But the young man had been brought inside the jail, shackled. All possessions forbidden. Someone had to mail money to him. He had a family who was permitted to send him what he needed—weeks later.

How does it feel to be on the inside of people in life-shattering or extremely difficult situations? On the inside of their minds and bodies. Day and night. Human beings need dignity to survive.

During the Midwest Writers Conference at Ball State University at the end of July, Kelsey Timmerman, best-selling author, offered an empathetic message. That message stayed with me the duration of the weekend. It stays with me now. He spoke about the Facing Project.

The program initiates people into the world of folk who live challenge. And then it allows volunteers to interview individuals and write about difficult experiences as if the volunteers had walked through homelessness, addiction, poverty, autism, trauma, unemployment. The list continues, and is available on the website.

These writers do not need to be published authors, journalism majors, or even freshman English students. They can be truck drivers, store clerks, or retired plumbers.

If I had actually met the young prisoner, perhaps I could assume his voice. For now, I repeat what I heard from his family. I would rather approach persons than issues. Issues are rarely one-size-fits-all.

I met Kelsey at a writers’ workshop when he wrote as a travel journalist. Then he took a major risk. He visited the countries where our clothes are made. But, he had no intention of penning an isn’t-this-a-beautiful-landscape travelogue.

He lived with the workers, earned their trust, and relayed their stories—no whitewash. And Where Am I Wearing was born. Kelsey did not end his quest with that success. He left the comforts of a loving family and went on the trail again. He met cocoa workers who worked as slaves. He talked to them, one on one. Kelsey even attempted to save a worker. He could not. The slave owner had too much power.

Where Am I Eating was born into the publishing world.

Kelsey extended his fervor for world change into the States. In 2015 he joined with J.R. Jamison to create the Facing Project.

I asked Kelsey Timmerman to explain the project. This is his answer: “Our goal is to get communities to think bigger about social justice issues—not only globally but also locally. The real question to ask should be about one: Do I know one person in my community facing poverty or hunger or a disability? And better yet, do I understand their story? The Facing Project provides the opportunity to create connections between community members, students, and organizations. It allows citizens to carry the weight of their neighbor’s story and stand with them, side-by-side, to create community change.”

The Facing Project takes desperation and morphs it into hope. The e-mail sign up is easy to find. May face-to-face efforts expand until understanding eventually becomes commonplace.

I think that notion is called world peace.

Picture: Co-founders J.R. Jamison and Kelsey Timmerman welcomed Jay Moorman, Ontario Systems’ Vice President of Client Services (chair), Stephanie Fisher, content manager SpinWeb Internet Media (vice chair), and James Mitchell, associate director of the career center at Ball State University (secretary and treasurer). Ro Selvey, Junior High Math Teacher at Southside Middle School (K-12 Outreach), came later as a founding board member.

Facing-Project-Board

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