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Friday, December 23, 2011

Reflecting on loss

Many people build up Christmas with some kind of false hope of magical but shallow happiness.  They have expectations that for one single day their husbands/kids/wives/the world in general will be kinder to them; that addictions and issues will disappear and they will be able to relate in an ideal manner. Every year, many people suffer loss near the holidays.  For me, I have had lots of loss in the past year and a half.  Three family members, a singing buddy, a coffee shop buddy, and a childhood friend have passed away in that short time span.  The truth is that we can't control living or dying.  We can't control someone else's joy, rage, resentment, or their responses.  We can impact our own responses to disappointment and dynamics.  For me, when I'm disappointed, I have to stay away from the black hole.  It is a swirl of negative emotions surrounded by a cloud of overwhelming sorrow.  Thinking of climbing out of the black hole is consequence enough to stay out of there.

When Hal passed, before I heard the news, I remember thinking of him and wondering why I hadn't seen or heard from him. It hit like a flash when I heard that news. Since Uncle Ron has passed, I have dreamed about him three times.  In the dream, there are always lots of family members present, and we're talking about something serious.He wants to participate in the discussion, but I'm the only one who can see or hear him.  So, my dream gets loud, but I can't ever remember what we talked about, exactly, when I wake up.  When I think of Michelle, I always see her, in my mind's eye, as when we were in fourth grade.  My friends and I were imaginative children, so, I think about her freedom from her sick body.  I imagine her zipping from place to place and asking me to play hide and seek with her.  At this point, she would have the unfair advantage, but nonetheless, thinking of us as children playing a game makes me smile, usually.  When I think of Art, I think of him singing, I bought me a cat, and it absolutely makes me smile.  Uncle Roy had the most infectious laughter on the planet.  I remember him having a light-hearted perspective on most things. The last time I saw Aunt Vicki, she fluttered her eyes and tried to open them when she heard my voice.  Later, Uncle Dan said she woke up and asked if I was still here.

Because of time, distance, or different life paths, I didn't see or talk to these people daily, but I miss them.  Maybe in my brain, I thought the loss would be less painful because our contact was sparse, but it isn't true. I was just caught off guard. There is an intrinsic knowing that someone is missing that almost defies description.  Ron, Roy, Vicki, Michelle, Hal, and Art, I miss you all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Transcendent Christmas Story


 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 
9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John chapter 1, New King James)



In the Christian world, we are pretty hooked on Santa and commercial Christmas. In researching for substance to support the thoughts I have for this article, I realize that from the beginning, Jesus' birth as a physical human being has been fraught with politics, and later, attempts to make a "new" Christian religion to replace pagan traditions.  Orthodox Christianity has been imitating pagan religions ever since it became an "organized" religion


The transcendent Christmas story is that Jesus was, is, and always will be.  When he made his entrance in the flesh isn't the greatest part of the story.  That he made his entrance is much more profound.  Better still is that if we pay attention to his presence and welcome (or receive) him, "the Word who was with God and was God," is with us today.  The Psalmist says:   
  
If I ascend to the heaven, you are there
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there.
 If I take the wings of the dawn,
         If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,    
Even there Your hand will lead me,
         And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
         And the light around me will be night,
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
         And the night is as bright as the day.
         Darkness and light are alike to You.

May your Christmas be more about the transcendence of "the Word" than sensory overload, and the meltdown thereafter.  


Monday, December 5, 2011

The van Gogh Letters


"No matter how distant a trauma is, somehow, there are times when something pops up to remind one that it did happen." (I quote myself from yesterday's post).  Receiving information about my sweet, now 91 pound, puppy was disturbing.  The package in which the news came, was equally unsettling.  No matter how much better my life is as the result of being a divorced woman, I'm not happy that I had to make that choice.  With all these thoughts in mind, let's just say that I suffered from some "melancholy" yesterday. 

 Also, yesterday, one of the blogs I follow included a link to the letters of van Gogh to his brother, Theo.  I started reading through them with some interest.  Although he suffered from mental illness (maybe syphilis psychosis?), he had moments of lucidity that offer great insights about a woman who is loved and well cared for. I will post the excerpts here.  Enjoy, feel free to comment.  

The first quote is from a letter he wrote to his brother, Theo, while he was in Paris.

"‎'Il n'y a pas de vielle femme!'[There are no old women.] (That does not mean that there are no old women, only that a woman does not grow old as long as she loves and is loved.)"

These highlighted quotes are about a woman called Sien, for whom he cared.  She was hospitalized and gave birth to a child, but was still not in good health due to her previous circumstances.

 "If some of this is to my credit, and that through your help, of course much more is due to the professor who treated her. But what the professor has less to do with is the effect on her of the strong attachment between us two. A woman changes when she loves and is loved; when nobody cares for her, she loses her spirits and the charm is gone. Love draws out what is in her, and her development definitely depends on it. Nature must have its free course, must go its normal way; what a woman wants is to be with one man, and with him forever. This is not always possible, but any other way is against nature. So she now has quite another expression than last winter, and her eyes look different; her glance is calm and quiet, and there is an expression of happiness on her face, of peace and quiet, the more touching because she is of course still suffering."

These are Sien's instructions upon discharge from the hospital:

"Before she left the hospital, the professor - who felt real sympathy for her, as he had known her before, and treated her with special care this time and examined her thoroughly at her request (because I had made her promise to ask this before she went) - took the trouble to speak with her at length and in detail about what she should and should not do to keep well.
  1. Being with one man - seeing that everything in her constitution and temperament makes her fit for domestic life, and decidedly unfit for the sort of life misery had forced her to lead in the past.
  2. That she should be out of doors as much as possible, and as soon as she has regained her strength, she should take many walks - inhale lots of fresh air.
  3. As to food, he told her what she should have and what would be harmful.
  4. She should often wash with cold water and alcohol, and take a hot bath once every week.
  5. She ought to avoid emotions that make her nervous - for instance, anxiety, tension, disquiet.
  6. She must not scrub floors or do other kinds of really hard work which would force her to keep her head down, like cleaning the passage, for instance, and particularly, should not lift heavy things."
He defended his relationship with Sien (to his brother) after being tersely talked to by their family friend,  Teersteg.  In everyone else's opinion, Vincent should not have been with Sien because she wasn't the right kind of woman for a man of his family background.

"I believe he would look on quite cold-bloodedly while Sien was drowning or some such thing, not lifting a finger, and say it was beneficial to civilized society.
As long as I drown at the same time, I don't care. But we felt distinctly enough that her life and my life are as one, when we met again in that hospital by the side of the baby's little cradle....
There is love between her and me, and there are promises of mutual faithfulness between her and me.
This is a thing, Theo, people ought not to meddle with, for it is the most sacred thing in life."

Alas, ultimately, this relationship did not work out to be permanent, either.  Nonetheless, there is much truth in the words he wrote in these excerpts.  One of my major goals in life is to learn to love the same way my Golden Retrievers do: UNCONDITIONALLY.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baby Rupert

No matter how distant a trauma is, somehow, there are times when something pops up to remind one that it did happen.  Today, I got a note from my ex-husband telling me that my love, Rupert, a now eight year old Golden Retriever is dying of intestinal cancer and a pericardial effusion. 
 I remember when I went to get him as a puppy,  he was gigantic, even for a large breed puppy.  He was a sweet dog, and like most dogs, gave unconditional love. It took me back to the time when marriage was difficult, and there was no human help or cooperation to try to make it better.  The dogs gave me some temporary relief of the anguish my soul was feeling.  As things deteriorated and I left, I was unable to keep two Golden Retrievers, I said good bye to Rupert when I said good bye to Rob.  I am grateful for his short stay in my life.  Maybe someday I will learn to love as much as Rupert and Ruby (Slippers) loved me.  Below are pictures of Ruby with Zach and baby Rupert.


  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crazy Christmas

The last few days, I have been thinking about the blog and what I should write about next.  No ideas really came to my head, but I usually don't need anything more than the blank "page" in front of me to write.  I'm not overly busy.  I'm not allowed overtime.  I have done a very small amount of shopping, and I plan to do another wee bit of shopping so that my nieces and nephews have something to open from me on Christmas.  The truth is that I have been reading the past two weeks.  I have two novels and an autobiography under my belt since I last communicated via blog.  I have been to lunch with a friend, and otherwise been lost in my own thoughts.  As Christmas gets closer, I realize why I hate it so much.

When I was a child, I used to "need" Christmas presents.  I have a very generous aunt and uncle who used to make sure my siblings and I  had something for the holidays.  There was always a sweater or sweatshirt and pants.  They were much nicer than the ones that we would have been able to buy.  Often, those were the clothes we wore through the winter every year.  They also sent some other nice things such as the precious moments dolls that my sister and I collected. (Mine now belong to my nieces.)  We had so much less then, but made do with what we had, and it was ok. I'm not really sorry that my jacket wasn't a REAL member's only.  It was purple on the outside with a green lining. I thought it was perfect.  There were times when I had holes in my jeans and in one pair of canvas tennis shoes I had.  I thought I would die of embarrassment.  I don't have bad memories caused by the lack of stuff.  I probably wouldn't have recognized that lack so much because there were lots of kids who, like us, didn't have much. However, teachers used to have us tell about our holidays and what we got for Christmas.  That's when it was a bigger deal.  How do you say to your class, " I hate Christmas because I spent three days throwing up then had to go to the ER and be poked and prodded everywhere?"  That happened year after year, probably until high school.

Now, if we celebrated Christmas the way we do Thanksgiving or with more Advent services and fewer shopping trips, I probably would not hate it.  No longer is Christmas about Jesus' birthday (which was decided by a pope to coincide with the pagan yule celebrations) or even trees, lights, and a feast.  It is about pure, unadulterated greed.  Is there something we need that we have to carry weapons to a store and fight people for?  I haven't ever heard of two women fighting over a turkey, let me just say.  Since April, I have lived with less than I have had in several years: Fewer clothes, fewer possessions, and less money than I had before. It has taken lots of adjusting, but I am grateful for the simpler life. This year, my wish for Christmas was to not spend it alone.  One of my cousins is coming to spend it with me.  It will be a very nontraditional holiday without the trimmings and I'm sure there will be a road trip and lots of ruins to visit.  That suits me just fine.

Whether you are Christian or not, do you ever wonder what Jesus would think of our "Christmas" celebration?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Holiday Blues

The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! We build them up to such wonder, then crashing disappointment inevitably comes.  Somehow instead of being on our best behavior, the worst manages to come.  Unresolved issues from holidays past; loved ones who have passed, and unrealistic expectations set us up for a fall.

Instead of the usual miserable holiday rut that many have gotten into, can't we look, with fresh eyes, at what holidays were meant to be? Holidays were once Holy Days, not just a fancy, British word for vacation.  For those missing loved ones, how painful is that loss? Can we see our loved ones through different eyes?  Can we ask ourselves, how would he/she have wanted to celebrate this year?  Can we make new traditions in the loved one's name? Then remember with more gladness than sorrow, the one missing at the table this year?

Family drama, politics, pecking order, what ever you want to call it, we all have it.  It isn't worth getting upset over.  Why let your judgmental, know-it-all, aunt's opinion keep you awake at night?  In reality, it only matters if you let it.  If you don't have people on this planet that know you outside of that "pecking order," you need to get out more often and make some new friends that don't know the whole tribe.  Knowing yourself apart from your tribe is as important as knowing who you are in it.

Spending the holidays alone.  That's tough for anyone, especially for one that's used to being part of a "tribe."   Spending the day at work is ok if you have someone to go home to at night.  The most miserable of holidays I have ever spent (in my adult life) are those I have worked and not had holiday time with family or friends at all.  This year, I'm facing that again, and looking for the positive spin on it all.  I do love New Mexico, and I'd much rather be here than in Baltimore, so, I will have to re-negotiate my attitude about the holidays this year.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This is one of my favorite bits of literature. I just wrote a comparison of this work with Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. I would love to post that in the future, but I am collecting bits of stuff I have written as well as photos to publish a book. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Adventures: Exciting can be Lonely

When I decided to pack up my house, sell my stuff, and leave for this great adventure, I weighed the cost of failure vs. success, but I didn't factor in the that the road less traveled is not usually the one populated by a social butterfly.  The landscape and transit systems in Austria are more fantastic than I have superlatives to describe them, but that I have neither friends nor family with whom to travel, is a hard adjustment to make.  Also, traveling in the US has been challenging.  My friends and family still are not with me to offer that support as I wander from the East coast to the desert.  Fortunately, Albuquerque is an easy city to get around, and the natives seem to be just naturally friendly.  That bit of grace keeps things from being too difficult.  In realizing that the road less traveled is also a harder path to take, I plan to continue this path.  This afternoon, as the sun was setting, the beautiful full moon rose in the sky.  It was so close to the mountain that I thought they would collide.  Alas, they did not.  They both seemed so near as I was watching them in the Eastern sky.  It was almost as if God himself came down to show me around his beautiful creation.  This makes the lonely moments bearable and peaceful.  Everything feels as if it has purpose, order, and time.  The desert being nearly bare helps  these truths (of purpose, of order, and of time) to be more evident.  When there are trees, lush greenery, and beautiful flowers present, it makes me realize that I really don't see the forest for the trees.  This perspective feels like as taking a step back and looking at things from heaven.  Heaven seems so close.  I wonder if it really is that far away, or if something has always been blocking my view.


Monday, November 7, 2011

The hills are alive

Every day I go out, the mountain looks a little different.  Today, it was less dusty, and it felt so close, as if someone used a camera lens to zoom in on the mountain and away from the sky (it is all so amazing).  It is easy to have an other-worldly perspective and think about eternity  in this scenery. The landscape feels alive, as if it holds secrets to life that it will share only with those who ask. I understand more about why the indigenous people believed that everything "has a life, has a spirit, has a name."

 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Being Honest



Someone wrote a kind post on my facebook page thanking me for being positive with the stuff I post there and for my blog.  I have had several comments about my positive spin on the way I see things.  In all honesty, I write this way because it helps me to get a different perspective than just the feelings swirling inside my own heart and head.  The truth is that although Maryland offered some very beautiful scenery, I had difficulty appreciating it because I hated the assignment there. The truth is that from the first minute I went to work there, people were extremely rude, unhelpful, and backbiting.  I couldn't fully appreciate the mountains, hills, and trees because I couldn't wait to get out of there.  The truth is that I left Maryland with exactly the friends I had from there. Those are established friendships from my childhood and college days. How I appreciated seeing my old friends!  They were a blessing in the midst of turmoil.

The truth is that I am enjoying New Mexico.  Even with the dry weather and ragweed, I look out my window every day and see the "dusty" mountain.  To me, it is beautiful. The day I arrived here, I wasn't able to rent a car because all the car rental places were closed on Sunday.  One of the young ladies that works at the Extended Stay America (my temporary home) took me to the store so I could get my groceries.  It was kindness that extended far beyond her call of duty.  Also, when I got to work, I found people to be kind as well as helpful in making my transition as easy as possible. There have been many other acts of kindness shown to me in the 10 or so days I have been here.  Therefore, it is easy for me to look the desert and see beauty rather than a barren, tree-less wasteland. I'm welcome here.

When I have bad experiences, I tend to wax philosophical and try to see the lesson learned.  In times of failure, I tend to remind myself to be grateful for the experience because many people I know are unable to go where I go and do what I do.  I remember that I can't fail if I don't try.  It helps for a bit to prop up my ego, but I really do believe that. I also believe that people who have never failed at anything aren't the great thinkers, entrepreneurs, inventors, or really great at much of anything. Mostly, they're the armchair quarterback (or know-it-all) types who think they know what others should do with their lives. My heroes aren't the people who were born knowing what to do and living life logically; they're the ones who didn't know what to do and figured it out.  I'm inspired with success when it is earned through self-improvement. I hope to have THAT story to tell someday.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Promised photos

 I went for a drive on my day off, and I took my camera with me.  I wish the photos could capture what I actually saw.  The desert is so beautiful and peaceful.

I could almost hear this "roadrunner" say, "MEEP MEEP!"













Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Mexico, Week 1

Today was the day for my computer class at work.  At the end of the training, I started talking to the young lady who had been sitting next to me.  Like me, she has interests in music.  She plays several instruments, and would like to connect with people of similar interests.  The instructor of the class gave her a website to check out, and it fueled a conversation between the two of us. We talked about our lives, a bit.  At 28, she is going through some of the same things I went through several years ago.  We talked about our reasons for coming to NM, and about looking forward to plugging in to the community.  When I think about the difference between my experience today, after one day at work, and the weeks I spent in Maryland working, I can't help but notice the stark difference.  My friends in Maryland aren't the people I met at work.  Those are long established friendships.  Here in New Mexico, I don't know anyone, but I have already met several friendly people.  The girl at work today is someone who will probably be a friend.

When I was in Vienna, someone said to me that they thought I was there to heal.  Today, Stephanie and I talked about New Mexico and its healing environment; acknowledging that we are probably here to heal.  I started seriously pondering that today.  It is true, but more true than most would imagine.  When I was born, I was a sick baby.  Most of my life has been spent "healing," "getting well," and "getting over" something.  Maybe this whole life is supposed to be a healing journey.  In my life, that is glaringly, obviously true.  When healing is complete, a new journey will begin.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Packing Music

Classical music makes my soul happy. Purcell, Grieg, Ravel, I have heard and loved you all today as I have been packing!  I can't sleep to an orchestra.  What if I miss something?  What if there's a lovely voice singing I haven't heard before??  Maybe someone is playing with their opera and making a duet out of a solo piece, just think!!  What a perspective would be opened that I hadn't thought of before!  I also was listening to singers and swing. It was nice.  I could listen to hits from the 80s that would make me nostalgic for simpler times. However, ever since playing the overture to  La Traviata in high school band, I have loved opera, descant lines, and weirdly intricate harmonies that have just enough dissonance to keep them interesting.  I just flipped to the "light classical" station.  It is described as having a "tasteful" mix of classical music.  It makes me wonder if they have filtered all the overtones out and made elevator music out of great classics. How outrageous! Elevator music is any genre of  "real music" that has been spayed or neutered in the most cruel and unusual way.

The composers who wrote the music were passionate, mad, creative individuals, even in the 1600s.  I wonder why our society treats the music of Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, and Puccini (the list could go on) and all the music that is the cultural foundation of all their favorite artists as if it isn't worth knowing. People who loved watching Bugs Bunny's versions of the great masterpieces find no joy in the inspiration for the cartoon version of the Barber of Seville (or many other works adapted for cartoon land ).  In fact, I once had a friend tell me that he learned all he needed to know about classical music from Bugs Bunny.  I have been to the opera and laughed at the funny parts as well as cried at the sad parts and been amazed at the music, the voices, and the energy of the live performance. Maybe I felt more excited, educated, or enlightened after attending one of those events, but never more reserved, quiet, or reverent.  I realize that we all have different tastes, and I don't say that everyone should LOVE or have the same attitude as I do about the great masters of the past, but I think it would give some depth of appreciation to understand where our favorite music came from, and that what is now seen as "stuffy" or "churchy" was once seen as maybe mad, risque, and not appropriate for all ages (I would dare say, it's still not necessarily appropriate for all ages.  After all, most opera plots surround themes of sex and death).

I'm always inspired by complexity in my music, my literature, and in my food.  This is a post I could write a myriad of opinions, experiences, and reasons why one should know his/her music.  For me, all music is spiritual and it somehow brings me closer to God.  It is one of those wonderful gifts that allows us to pour out all of our thoughts, feelings, situations and desperation to God while he can use that same music to apply balm to a wound, express great love, and give people the resolve to do or be better than they are right now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Increasing Lifes Expressions: The Best Thing You Can Do to Protect Your Health a...

In my life (and in the lives of many women I know), I have been encouraged to be nice rather than tell the truth. It seems that keeping the appearance of the situation from the outside is more important than working to improve it from the inside. In the British comedy, Keeping Up Appearances, the main character, Hyacinth, is an extreme example of self dishonesty. When I see the show, I think it is funny, a parody of our everyday ways of "saving face." What isn't funny is the cost of that behavior: physical ailments such as high blood pressure and ulcers as well as a web of unhealthy behaviors that are maintained to keep up the facade. I believe that we would love and support each other through life much more if we could be more honest with ourselves and each other. I included a link to another blog post dealing with this subject. Dear Christian brothers and sisters, please substitute the "meditation" for prayer. Otherwise, eat the hay and spit out the sticks. I have found the information in this blog helpful, and I hope you do too.

Increasing Lifes Expressions: The Best Thing You Can Do to Protect Your Health a...: Truth Expresses Feelings That Become Healing The best thing you can do to protect your health and happiness is to tell the truth .

Friday, October 14, 2011

Watching Oprah

I've been watching an episode of Oprah's Lifeclass as I'm writing.  She is reviewing her season 19, in the year 2004.  This show is about joy rising.  It was the time she gave away cars to her audience, and she brought out the Wildest Dreams bus in the subsequent episodes.  Besides the stuff she gave people, she opened opportunities for people that they wouldn't have otherwise had.  One guy had bombarded her with emails, and the other lady hadn't asked for anything, but what she got was more than she had even imagined.  As cool as it would be to take a ride in the Wildest Dream bus, I wish I had the bus and could make that kind of change in someone's life.  Just a thought...

Up Next

My contract in Baltimore has come to an end, and it is time to  move on.  Today, I had to choose between going to an ocean town in Connecticut and Albuquerque, NM.  Most of my friends being Texans and Southerners thought that NM was the "no brainer" choice.  It would be easier to drive to Connecticut from here, and I would love to see the water; but when I did a Google search on both towns, I knew that Albuquerque would be the best fit for me.  The locals have a reputation for being friendly, and there are TONS of fun things to do there.  I will miss that I didn't spend any time at the beach, but the Connecticut town has nothing else of interest to someone who needs more fun than refresher in US history. I'm anticipating that this assignment will unhinge even more opportunity for creativity. (The photo is one of Wien. Dear Wien, I miss you!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Project

This is a departure from most of my blog posts in that it doesn't have to do with an external event or lesson in my life.  I started working on a project that I hope to develop into a book.  I have lots of photos from Europe, and I have started writing poetry (in addition to the bit of blogging I do).  My idea is to make a picture book laced with poetry and other work to express thoughts inspired by the photos and life lessons.  Currently, I have about thirteen rough entries that seem random, rather like my blog.  I am hoping for a unifying theme to help me pull all this together and to come up with a meaningful work to be used for some inspiration and reflection.
 Over a year ago, I saw a picture/article book by Laura Contreras Rowe.  She intended to be an inspiration to Hispanic women, but I found that the work transcends her focus group.  I, a woman not of Hispanic origin, was wonderfully inspired by her work. Her book is inspirational for any person whose family struggled during childhood years. If you would like to know more about her book or work, I will forward any inquiries to Laura.  As for my project, I welcome your ideas.  What inspires you?

Love to all,

Rhonda




Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love notes

The last trip I made to my mom's house, I read a book she had lying on her kitchen table called Heaven is for Real.  It was about a little boy's near death experience, and in that he said he saw heaven.  The book had some fantastic descriptions about what heaven looks like and people who are there (from the great Bible  characters to family members), but the message that sticks with me the most is LOVE.  The four year old's vocabulary didn't have Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words to explain the type of love that God has for us, but I got the impression that it was vast, all-encompassing, and more than we could possibly imagine while we're here in this human experience.  Unconditional love is something that is difficult to give or receive here and now.  Families get caught up in feuds and in politics about things that don't really matter.  Many people have friends that they love dearly, but time and life have taken the friends in different directions.  At work, we have our own agendas and get caught up in the flurry of activity there and forget to show love.  When all else fails, there remains faith, hope, and love. Faith and hope have been my constant companions, but, to quote the Bible, "the greatest of these is love."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life's Teachers

In reflecting on my last post, it is more apparent to me than ever that sometimes our best teachers in life are those that seem to be the most unlikely.  Some of the most beloved characters from my childhood are my uncles that are still "hippies."  From them, I learned not to do drugs.  They were worried about their potential bad influence on me when I was a child, and they talked to me about not doing drugs.  That conversation is still memorable to me, but it was in the power of observation that I learned that drugs were bad for me.

Also, from my family, I learned the value of education.  Again, it isn't that I come from a long line of PhDs, but growing up with a household income below the poverty level, I knew that the way to helping myself along a different path was in education. Education gave me skills to earn more than I could have otherwise earned, and it increased my powers of observation and my ability to think for myself.  

The same two "hippie" uncles also taught me to be true to myself.  For better or for worse, the path I walk needs to be an honest one, and it needs to be my path rather than one someone else wants me to walk.  I am a person always seeking to change and improve myself, but I have also learned that any change needs to come from within myself, not another person's good idea to change the things they don't like about me.  To the great teachers, I love you both (and also to all the "band of brothers.").

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good Grief


The past 15 months, our family has had to say goodbye to three beloved members.  First,  Aunt Vicki, passed away after a lengthy illness. Next, after not such a lengthy illness, Uncle Roy passed away from lung cancer. Most recently, Uncle Ron passed away suddenly.  He hurt his back, fell, and then died of a heart attack.  All of these people were marvelous characters who left their distinct imprints on my life. It is just starting to catch up with me that the people who have always been part of my life won't always be there.  It is different than just being far away and just keeping in touch through other family members.  With these people gone, there are three distinctly individual holes in this family.  Sometimes it takes some soul searching to realize the amount of loss.  The loss of three family members, a trip to Europe that didn't work out as hoped, and some more basic hopes that remain unrealized sometimes seems too much to bear.  It is easier to laugh than to allow myself to cry over MY problems (Never mind how many sappy but happy ending blogs I read that have brought me to tears). To process and recognize my own losses seems really to be a journey all its own.  I read today a blog where someone quoted Psalm 13.  It seemed appropriate for how I was feeling today:  
                    O LORD, how long will you forget me?  Forever?
                    How long will you look the other way?  
                    How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul? 
                    With sorrow in my heart every day?...
                    
Also, I found a website that talks about the topic of grief.  It is a bit dry and clinical, but nonetheless, helpful. .http://helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thoughts about Art





"...Martin Heidegger’s view: art discloses truth.  Art cuts through our socialized, lazy, comfortable, distracted ways of seeing the world, and shows us truths that we often forget or want to forget or perhaps have never known before.
 "  The blog author from whom I borrowed the previous idea, also purports that while enjoyment of art is now seen as a secular pursuit, historically, it is the church who has commissioned the most sculpture, painting, and music (My photos from Europe also appear to bear this out).  If art discloses truth, why do we then not believe what is true?  If art challenges us, why are we still complacent?  For me, art is a source of inspiration, and when there is a lack of art, beauty, and nature where I am, it feels like "something" is missing.  (something= inspiration, purpose, passion for).  

As humans, we all have the same need for purpose, inspiration, and passion for things in our lives, but somehow, in hard economic times, art is shoved to the back corner as if it isn't important to our existence at all.  Art nurtures our spirits. It helps us find purpose as well and helps us to find inspiration for our daily lives.  Sometimes the ethereal is actually essential and practical.  As for believing truth and overcoming complacency, it seems to be a work in progress for all who care to live better, more honest lives.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Vocabulary!

Tonight, I spent some time working on Wagner's Dich Teure Halle as well as Allm├Ącht'ge Jungfrau from the same opera. Later, I was planning my outing for tomorrow, trying to get the best bike route to my destinations while half-watching the FOOD Network show Chopped.  As the first contestant was about to be chopped, Ted Allen wondered aloud whose plate was under the cloche.  From the usage, I knew that he was talking about the cover over the plate, but I looked up the word  anyway.  To my delight, I found two more uses for this word. It is also a woman's bell-shaped hat or a bell jar used to protect plants from freezing.


I have been laughing at myself about being so excited about my new vocabulary word.  The two German arias yielded a few words with which I was unfamiliar, but figuring out the German didn't give me nearly the pleasure that hearing a word I have never seen, heard, or used and understanding the meaning from the context of its usage. Some of my co-workers are adrenaline junkies, but learning a new word or a new tidbit of useful information is almost as good to me as chocolate.  


My sister has clown characters AJ and Sassafrass.  If she needs another character, I have a perfect picture in my head for Chloe Cloche.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blogs and more blogs...

When I was in Vienna, it occurred to me to write a blog.  Before I started writing this blog, I wasn't really interested in being a habitual blog reader.  Now, things are different.  I like reading blogs about money, theology, and blogs where people share their lives with their friends and the rest of the world. Today, I found a couple of posts that are worth sharing.The first is from the dumb little man and is about beliefs that keep people limited. I limit myself by believing that I'm not good enough to accomplish the things I want to do.  The next is one that one of my nurse friends posted on facebook.  The blog is written by a Filipino nurse.  The part about wearing a cap and all white as well as a few other things aren't reflective of American nursing, but the sentiments are those that we all feel sometimes.

At work this week, I had a clash with a doctor regarding a patient. The doctor is much more educated than I am, but she is also much younger than I am.  In front of a room full of people, she condescendingly criticized my decision to call a rapid response.  By far, it isn't the first time someone has treated me badly and been wrong in their criticism (The patient ended up going to ICU two hours later), but it is what fuels the fire of my discontent. In this instance, the work I did added value to the workplace and to the patient's life by intervening quickly.  The hospital has a better reputation when right actions are taken, and the patient's wife was grateful.  She came back to report that although he is still in ICU, he is doing much better.  When I go back to work Monday morning, that won't make much difference. Last week will have just been another week, and last week's successes won't matter any more.  If there had been as serious a failure, it wouldn't be so easily forgotten.  It is so much easier to be mediocre than it is to stand out of the pack.  I would like to believe that better is achievable, but so far, that excellence has been completely elusive to me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

St.Stephens and the Woman Praying


I have this photo at least three places on my computer.  It is the most inspirational of all my Vienna photos.  I have spent way too much time thinking about this place, this woman, and her prayers.  This photo was taken in a spontaneous moment that could not be staged, nor can it be re-created. Thoughts of God reaching out to humanity in art and light are pervasive, and they run the gamut from deep wonder to the ethereal. This photo embodies the surreal experience of God meeting humanity. Although, St. Stephens is a special place for me, I am grateful that wherever I am, I can experience God (so can you). 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Now Where?

I have been back in the US from Europe about three weeks now.  I landed in Cleveland, Ohio, but this weekend I drove to Baltimore to start a job tomorrow.  There is so much change happening to me, in me, beside me, and around me that I feel as if my head is spinning sometimes.  I got to Baltimore late Friday afternoon, and just barely was able to get my apartment key and move in.  Yesterday was my first full grocery shopping ordeal American style.  Of course, I took the car and got way more than I could carry in one trip through the door. I don't think I would have made it through this landscape, flowing with hills, on my bicycle with 100 pounds of grocery items in the baskets. 

Also, after being here less than 24 hours, I was asked the Baltimore version of, "You ain't from around here, are you?"  My accent had the clerk at Best Buy stumped. Ask any European; they have the most accurate description of this accent:  American.  The years in Texas, Georgia, and Ohio have all left their imprint, and I am quite happy to leave the people in Baltimore stumped about my origins.  Meanwhile, I am looking forward to having friends visit and take in the sights here as well as Washington, DC.

About Vienna: I miss the sights, sounds, and the people (not necessarily in that order)! 




Saturday, July 16, 2011

I took the dare, and it is such a fantastic idea!

My dear friend Brenda lives in Texas.  When we met last summer, she told me that we could be sisters, and indeed, this is true.  Now, I'm in Ohio with my family, and I met two of Brenda's sisters yesterday (her family of origin is also from Ohio).  When I met Melissa and Mary, one of the first things they said to me is, "We could be sisters!" We laughed.  We went to eat at Hartville Kitchen, and had so much fun just hanging out, laughing, and getting to know each other.  Several people there would have known me if I were with my mom, but they could not  quite place me when I was with these other two redheads. Then, it happened.  Melissa dared me...right at the checkout at the restaurant...to sing the ALW Pie Jesu, and she sweetened the dare with $20, as I didn't immediately take her up on it.  Those of you who know me know the outcome.  Of course I did it.  Even after a huge dinner, I did it. Never mind that it wasn't up to my usual standards. It seems that I couldn't seem to resist a dare.  After they brought me back to Mom's house, we cracked open the music books and sang for Mom as well as the neighborhood (Mom opened the glass door to the patio to share with everyone).  Of course, it just isn't fair that Brenda isn't in Ohio to share the fun, so, we called her via Skype.  It was like a scene from childhood.  Loud singing, a dare, and more giggling than I have done in a long time.

There is a building for sale in the "downtown" area of the Village of Hartville. It has been inhabited by lots of different people/businesses over the years and looks to be well maintained.  I saw it and thought that it would be the perfect place for an art gallery, performance venue for vocal and instrumental recitals, dance recitals, and a place where people can gather for a little culture.  A few people love my idea, but for this to work in Hartville, it would have to be a place that artists and art students from the local universities would have to be willing to hang some art, and also, there would have to be sufficient support from local musicians and music students from those same universities.  The people of the village would not initially be the ones supportive of this type of endeavor based on the past history of music and art failures in that same location.  I would love to bring a little art and culture from Europe back home.  Before writing this blog post, I told four people about this idea.  They all thought it was a fantastic idea.  Now, if the four could be 400, I might be able to create a fantastic venue for local and regional people to display their artistic and musical talents. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sail and Rail

Tomorrow, I leave Ireland for England, and by Thursday, I will be back in the US for four months.  The adventure, at this point is less intrepid, but is far from over.  I remember that my boss at MCA said that he thought I would be back within a year asking for my job back. (He told me I could have it back, by the way).  I remember those who were nervous about my decision to pack it up and travel to Europe.  For those who were genuinely concerned, thank you.  For those who were or are just looking for an opportunity to say, "I told you so," here is a clue:  The adventure isn't over until I'm dead. I had a dream once that I lived happily until I was 65 then died.  If that turns out to be true, I still have lots more adventure and multiple thousands of blog posts to write.

In Ireland, I did a day trip to the Cliffs of Mohr and saw some of the Irish countryside.  It is beautiful, to be sure.  I am not enjoying Ireland as much as I thought I would.  Dublin feels depressed.  People joke about how much the Irish drink, and it is true.  There are many more pubs than coffee shops here. People seem to be lacking in lots of ways.  Their unemployment is high, and tourism is integral for many Irish livelihoods.  I have learned a bit of the history of the "Fighting Irish," and it seems that they have lost most of their population to America. I heard a figure that about seven million Americans are entitled to Irish passports.  Although abortion is illegal here, the population hasn't recovered from the time of the famine.  Death and emigration took its toll on this place.  On my tour, I also saw places that used to be churches, but they have since been converted into other things because the churches themselves closed down.  It seems that Americans are much more optimistic than the rest of the world about life and the ability of circumstances to change and improve than the rest of the world.  When someone tells an American that something is impossible, the American views it as a challenge to make it happen, but to most Europeans, it means defeat (unless they are in a position of privilege and have good connections).  In America, I am not one of the privileged. I have worked my entire life for everything, but even so, when I see how much less that other people need to survive, it changes my perspective.  I am more privileged at home than many people are here.  Also, I realize how much I don't need.  I am glad I have seen life from another perspective, and I plan to continue living the "less is more" philosophy.  Having more is not more important than the feeling of being unencumbered by stuff.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Good Night But Not Goodbye

This is my last night in Vienna until my return after Thanksgiving. I am sad to be leaving.  There were days that I hated spending so much time alone.  There were days that I missed my friends terribly, but between Starbucks and church, I found people that I enjoyed  spending time with.  I feel as if I finally started to find my "niche" here; as if I could do what it takes to make a nice life, and now, it is time to go. It reminds me of the feeling of the last show I was in.  On closing night, I finally felt as if I did my part the best I had ever done it.  It made me sad to see the show close, and I really hate having my European adventure interrupted. Many people have been kind to me and made me feel very welcome in a city not known for its hospitality. Thank you Daniela Sechel and Dora Gerlach for your friendship and hospitality.  Thank you, Slawomir Wierzbowski for storing some of my things so that I didn't have to figure out how to lug more baggage than I could possibly handle all over the city for the last few days of my stay.  Thanks to all the people at Four Corners Church for welcoming a stranger with an odd story of a Vienna adventure. Thanks to my family and friends for being supportive of me doing the craziest thing I have ever done in buying a plane ticket, packing up, and going half way across the world.(I just re-read that paragraph. Sorry for the overkill.  I know I didn't just win a Grammy, but I am very grateful and sometimes it is helpful to say to whom and for what).

On the bright side, however, tomorrow will be my first glimpse of Ireland. There it will just be a matter of understanding the accent instead of comprehending a whole new language.  It will be an adventure within an adventure there.  More photos will be forthcoming.

Ohio peeps, I will see you soon!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Small world

 Today started off as most days do, with me checking email and facebook to see what happened at home overnight.  By early afternoon, I got dressed and went to Bobby's to see what was on the menu.  There, I ran into someone I know from Texas. I didn't realize that she was still here, and she had no clue I had come.  She asked my favorite things about Vienna.  Stephansdom, the Graben, and this little shop were on my list.  Although I am not looking forward to leaving my favorite things, I look forward to returning here.  Who knows who I might meet here next time.  It seems that it is a small world after all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Things That Make You Say Hmmmm

I just ran into an American who works freelance here.  He told me how he does that.  It gives me another plan of how to successfully re-group when I come back.  It is exciting to think about living some of my dreams because I am all too familiar with dreams that die. I had enough courage and craziness to get myself to Austria.  I need a map and an instruction book for the rest.  I am willing to do the work needed; sometimes, I just don't know exactly what needs to be done.

This is my last week in Vienna for this trip.  I have such mixed emotions about leaving. When I worked at the hospital, we used to always talk about "feeling human again" after having had a few days off. It has taken quite a while for me to feel more like a human and less like a machine. Also, I'm not excited about the possibility of putting myself back in the position of becoming a work machine again.  I am not nearly the "hot mess" I was for the first year after my divorce, but a burned out nurse is not a pretty thing.

I was about to share some of my "dreamier" thoughts that I think sometimes. On the other hand, I think that is for another blog and another audience.

Thanks for being so supportive thus far.  It will be exciting to see how the rest of this adventure unfolds!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vienna, Vienna, Vienna




Because I must leave the area of the Schengen agreement soon, plan B is underway.  I have completed an application and will have documents to fill out and fax back.  In the meantime, I am hoping for a different kind of opportunity to pop up that has nothing to do with wearing scrubs.  The most enjoyable years I had in the nursing profession were my years at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.  It is the closest to “missing” a nursing job I will ever get.  I plan to continue the singing path and have considered exploring other, related professional avenues for money.  I think it would be much more fun to record a children’s "book on tape" than it would be for me to have them see me in scrubs. 

The first month in Vienna was about exploring and figuring out just how to be here.  Vienna is beautiful, wonderful, and almost perfect.  My two biggest complaints are the cigarette smoke and the elitism seen here. After that first month, I had encountered enough elitism in my travels about the city; I decided I needed a “taste” of home. Finally, I broke down and visited Starbucks.  I’m so glad I did. Stephan told me tonight that he thinks Starbucks is my real home. As time allows, the baristas and I help each other with language practice.  Some of them have spent their breaktime or some time after shift with me for some conversation.  It makes a stranger feel at home. Although I am aware of lots of stereotypical Viennese prejudice, racism, and self-limiting ideas, I don't really want to leave this beautiful, perplexing place.  

Also, I have to say that being here has renewed my faith.  I have been to almost every kind of Christian church on the planet over the years, and it is in Vienna, where churches are plenty and atheists are even greater in number that I find the gospel is simple, and love is great.  It is a place in which the free churches (those not subject to Hitler's church tax) believe in more supernatural things than most New Age followers I know.  The guest speaker described miracles and the awareness of the angelic realm "like quantum physics on steroids." It piqued my interest and made me want to know more. 

The rest of this week will be busy with a conference and packing.  I have to leave the flat a week earlier than I had planned, so the transition to get to Ireland, England, and Cleveland is more tedious that I would have liked.  On the other hand, maybe more answers to the mystery of the call of Austria in my ears will be solved.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Having "Plan B"

While I have had an offer from Berlitz, and it seems that nachhilfe (tutoring) opportunities abound, the Magistrat will not give visas for such jobs.  As yet, I haven't been offered what they consider to be a "real" job.  My Starbucks friends tell me I should just get married to an Austrian, and although they still wouldn't allow me to work, I could at least stay.  Since the Austrian men I know are either young students or married men, that doesn't seem to be a possibility within the next four weeks. So, I started working on an online application for "Plan B."  That application does not like to save information and continue very well, so I will have to try again later. Maybe I shouldn't be so anxious to go to "Plan B," but I need just a small amount of stability in my life right now.

It is strange that as I get ready to do my part for "Plan B," I have found a more open, welcoming environment here.  This morning, I met Trudy.  She is a 64 year old native Viennese woman with a sister-in-law who lives in Dallas.  She was concerned about the wind being cold on my bare arms, and I showed her my pullover.  She was satisfied that I could warm up if I got cold.  She told me that she doesn't speak any English because they didn't teach English when she was in school. I told her about my brother, my sister, and my BEAUTIFUL nieces and nephews.  I told her about how my sister's children have her big, beautiful eyes, and about my sister-in-law's beautiful blue eyes and blond hair.  She knows that my brother is tall and slim and that my mother has six grandchildren.  I told Trudy that I hoped to find a job so that I could stay.  She told me that it is difficult here.  I said yes, but it is so beautiful.  She agreed with me. She was going somewhere to meet her friends, so at my stop, we said "wiedersehen."  My German is not so fluid, but I was able to communicate with Trudy and connect with her on a friendly level.  I'm including the story here because the whole encounter was completely amazing!  For someone born and raised in Vienna to be as friendly as an American from the South or Midwest is extremely unusual. It is one of those things that makes me feel very welcome here. It gives me hope that things will come together this month.  Having a "Plan B" doesn't negate my hope of having things work out this month.  It doesn't take away my hope of singing or of continuing with this radical life change.  It just makes me more determined.  If I must go back to the US in a few weeks, I will get some contract work and just come back as soon as I am allowed to do so.  I will continue to study German and voice. The possibility of hope deferred is not a happy place to be, but I am not entirely without hope.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The seat of the voice

Although the CV is complete, submitted, and I have a potential offer, I still don't have a work or residence permit.  The teaching job is here in Austria, but it was much easier for me to find the German residence permit files online.  Tomorrow I have some work to do to get that squared away.  I pray I can soon be finished with all of these things.

Today, I had a good voice lesson.  Finding that the voice should actually be "seated" where the diaphragm sits under the ribs is an interesting thought to me.  In terms of chakras, it is the self esteem center.  While it is not the center of gravity for anyone, it is approximately in the middle of the body.  It is connected to the rib muscles, back muscles, abdominal muscles, pelvic muscles, and your legs and feet.  Being grounded while singing provides the connection to the support to allow the sound to come out.  To those of you who are not singers, you may find this technical boring, and dry, but to me it is exciting.  Finally having a physiologic understanding; muscle memory, to help me sing a legato line is perfectly exciting to me! 

So, what does all that mean?  I'm making progress.  The vocalise exercises are making a difference.  I absolutely should not give up now.  I'm close to attaining my present goal. Next, I would like to record some music and put my name and my voice out there.  Right now, my biggest fans are the baristas at Starbucks.  They loved hearing my rendition of the Pie Jesu the other day, and maybe I just need to trust this voice that drives me.  It is the expression of  my innate need to sing.  For me, singing isn't something I want to do, it is something I must do or I will burst.  It drives me forward, always.  If I am unhappy, the physical act of singing always makes things better, and if I can't sing because I am sick, tired, or in the past, when I worked too many days in a row, it left me miserable and all those around me suffering. If the twenty-somethings liked what they heard, it encourages me to know that there is an audience for what I bring to the art.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is Hard

I have sent inquiries to Berlitz and to the Cambridge Institute about teaching English.  I know, it isn't what I came to Austria for, exactly.  Nevertheless, I am here, and something must be done to fill up the bank.  Almost immediately, I got a response back from Berlitz.  I have a contact person, the proper email address, and a request for a CV.  Now, of course, I have heard of a CV, but I have NEVER written one.  In my haste, before I left, I didn't rewrite my resume, either.  I lost my old one when my hard drive burned out. CV, or curriculum vitae, literally means life story.  They want my life story on a page.  Who cares about the job I had in 1992? I probably had two or three concurrent jobs that year, I don't exactly remember. I was busy surviving, socializing, and generally wasting my time, except that I remember going back to school that year for nursing.  I am not so sure I want the planet to know and remember all the time I wasted. It certainly isn't something I'm proud of. So, I distill from all the years of my life and all of my educational experiences a few marketable skills.  I am proficient at reading and writing in the English language.  I have created tools and educational materials to use in the workplace to make things more efficient.  I have been a team leader and a team player.  I have provided and received all manner of customer service.  Outside the realm of counting heart rates, drops of urine, starting IVs, and resuscitating people and being a public health educator for the last decade and a half of my life, what do I have to I have to offer people who aren't sick or needy?  It is quite thought provoking.

 Nursing was something I liked reasonably well, on the occasional good day, but at the end of my last day, I couldn't hit the exit door fast enough.  I remember it well.  Near the end of the shift, we received a patient from HVC (heart and vascular center) who was dying and afraid.  He had a Do Not Resuscitate order in place, but someone asked him again what should we do if there is an emergency.  He said he wanted the staff to try to save him.  So, the nurse told us that he rescinded his DNR (although there was no accompanying physician order on the chart to make him a "full code"). The nephrologist had signed off this guy's case, so he wouldn't be getting any more dialysis.  His death was certain to come in a short time whether or not we made efforts to resuscitate him. The primary nurse was not able to get a clear order from the hospitalist about whether or not to resuscitate.  The cardiologist was angry and refused to give orders for additional vasopressors.  The nurse was stuck in the middle of this mess.  Then, it happened. Shift change arrived, and so did this patient's time to expire.  The nurse called the doctor again to see what he wanted us to do.  He gave this lame order: call a code and have the ER doctor intubate this patient.  Intubation was not going to save a man with no kidney function, and very little heart function.  When I left that night, the ER doc was putting in the ET tube.  I was never more disgusted about the treatment of a patient.  I was never more ashamed of the doctors, my facility, and my profession.  In how many things must one participate in that violate professional ethics and human rights, not to mention COMMON SENSE? I threw away the scrubs I was wearing and changed into "street" clothes before I left that night.

As horrible as that experience was, and as much as I never want to do it again, it would have been much easier to stay where I was.  It would have been more convenient to go back to work after a day or two off than it would be to change my life.  Life change is hard, and it takes work and determination, much like this CV I am about to tackle.  I pray that the CV shows my skills, talents, abilities and turns out to be a wonderful marketing tool for me.  How do you put that kind of experience into a CV?  I have lots of it. On the other hand, maybe this is hard because I am not proud of the education that I should have gotten for myself and did not.  Whatever the case, I have to write a CV between now and tomorrow afternoon (and a Mozart/Strauss concert to see tonight).  Please feel free to share your thoughts.