Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Social Media to the Rescue

It’s true. I use ‘social media’ regularly, though I have yet to create a Twitter account.  When I do I won’t tell you my #name, but reserve the right to just creep on #others (don’t you love the phrases that are now part of our everyday vocabulary?!)

I know not everyone is enamored with Facebook and Reddit and Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest and whatevertheheck is out there I have yet to hear about. But, there are plenty of good sides and benefits to cyber connecting. The negatives abound, but I’m not choosing to focus on those here. There’s enough scary press and conniving advertisers and data hungry machines out there to make anyone want to become a hermit. The NSA might discover that you eat dark chocolate, drink craft brew, like searching for Petoskey stones and listen to The Rabid Raccoons, but life is a risk and often, risks are worth taking.

This week my favorite stomping grounds were devastated by water and mud. The epic Colorado floods have damaged dreams and taken out lives and property. I don’t  live nearby, but I have family and friends who do, so I am watching closely. When cell phones and landlines and other services were down, towns and businesses and resorts took to Twitter and Facebook to notify thousands! Kids on field trips in the mountains were safe, but stranded, and FB came to the rescue to notify parents that pizza and charades were happening. FB shared times for community meetings and road closures and helped relatives to know that family was safe. This was good. Very good.

I can’t use the phone. I’m trying with this CI now, but not successfully yet. For years I haven’t been very good at ‘lunch dates’ or ‘parties’ or ‘coffee shops’ or pretty much any other venue where live people tend to congregate. Social networking is a way for me to not feel quite so isolated in my silent little world. I’m grateful. FB and texting and email are how people know to reach me and until I learn to use the telephone again (or IF), it’s still important for me to have these technologies to simply communicate.

Happily, sometimes, personal connections come FROM cyber space. I love that! I had girlfriends show up at my house for several days because we met again on FB. What a blast that was! I stayed with a friend in England because we met again on FB.  I’m getting wise advise from other CI users all over the world because we have a group on FB. I post my digital art for feedback and offer it to others via social networking.  I found my childhood BFF on FB! The list goes on and on…

Encouragement. Growth. Face to face connections. Keeping up with far flung family and friends. Sharing photos and opinions and memories. It’s all out there.  Your list would be different, of course. But I’m grateful for the positives. This week I am trying to find a college sorority sister so I can meet her in Chicago next week. I think I found her daughter on Facebook, so I’m hopeful that will lead to brunch. Just sayin’.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Her Light Still Shines...

I did not know her personally.  She was a trainer at the gym where I work out when I heard the news that leukemia had come. Occasionally there would be photos posted and I recall an event or two to help the family. When I’d see pictures of her, I would offer prayers for healing for this mom of three little girls. 

She’s gone now. I saw Facebook posts yesterday which led to her blog where her gracious, loving, articulate husband was brave enough to post her passing, right after she left us. I see now that many, many people (a lot I know) were following her story as it unfolded. She wrote words of encouragement and strength even as hers faded.  The fact that I am writing about her death doesn’t seem ‘fair’ since I didn’t know her or follow her journey in life. But then again, she was a light and like a star whose light continues on for what seems to be forever, I am only now being touched by it… and thus will you be too.

We weep when a mom of little girls leaves them. No matter how old we are, if we are parents, we feel that loss ourselves and it is unspeakably difficult. Our tears do the speaking for us. So many people have followed her journey, not only because they loved her, but also because it represents our common human journey and an end that we must all eventually face. I took the time to read a little of her blog. I see that she faced it with honesty, hope and graciousness. Her bedrock was faith in Christ. This Christ who conquered death… the death we will face. Likely you’ve heard that before “Christ conquered death.” If you are familiar with the Christian faith, you know what that means. If you are unfamiliar with Christianity, the phrase is odd, but still matters because well, we all will die. And some, like this young mom, earlier than she was ‘supposed to.’

Before I continue, I offer a speedy theological primer from one who believes that God created the universe, sustains it now and is Good:  God made everything and decided it was good. When He created humans, we were given a ‘mind of our own’ (don’t we know it!!). Using this mind we made choices that dissed God and therefore paid the consequences, which is where death came in. It wasn’t supposed to be this way! Right away this good, grieving God came up with a plan that both honored our ‘minds of our own’ and gave us a way to still be in relationship with him, forever. That’s where Jesus comes in. He was in the story way back before creation, but one quick blog post isn’t the place to wax on about all of this. Eventually, Jesus showed up in human form, destined to die like any of us. He did, but that wasn’t the end of the story. He actually was bodily resurrected and then headed up to heaven in what’s called “the Ascension”… and even now, He is sitting with God the Father and able to hang out with us and love us and comfort us too in the form of the Holy Spirit. So, as I was saying, “Christ conquered death.”

This is where theology intersects with life, is it not?  When an athletic, beautiful wife and mother must painfully endure her life being taken away. Reading bits of her story I saw that while the journey was hers, she was not alone, AT ALL.  Within sixteen hours of her death, 170+ people have responded with words of sorrow and comfort after her husband told of her passing. That doesn’t include the countless prayers and personal sorrow felt by the likes of strangers like me. She was definitely a light in the midst of darkness.  People have noted what a hands-on daddy the girls have. I have no doubt that family and women in the community will continue to act as surrogate moms… painting finger nails and making dolls dresses which will eventually morph into shopping for prom formals. The Body of Christ (what Christians are called since the only ‘hands’ of Jesus here now are those of his followers) will be there, making meals, cleaning carpets, picking up the girls from school and soccer practice, taking them to birthday parties, folding laundry, helping with homework, coming around Dad and his daughters as they grieve.

Was God was able to swoop down and work a miracle of healing in her? Sure. He still does healing miracles all the time, but these are mostly seen in the non-western world where people are more open to His big acts. We in the west are fond of rationally trying to box in the God of the Universe instead of being open to the Mystery that He is. Her healing didn’t come on earth, though in heaven she is able to dance again. In the Bible, Hebrews 11:1 says:  Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is followed by a huge list of humans who lived by faith and what that meant…

Allie lived by faith. She longed for healing so she could continue being a mom and wife and friend and athlete and… But when healing here and now didn’t come, she also died by faith. I hope that no one tells her girls nasty little phrases meant to ‘comfort’ like: “Jesus needed your mommy in heaven…” which is a crock. Jesus doesn’t need us in heaven. Her girls need her here and at their sorrowful cores, they know that full well. The miracle will be that Jesus is with them in their grief, tears, anger and questions. The miracle is that his closeness and unsearchable love for us all is near. He will be with them. He will also come in the form of others who give to this family what they need and more… That is the miracle in a loss so big that even strangers grieve.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bionic Travels: In the Kitchen

I love to cook and I love to eat. I also love the custom kitchen we created and have enjoyed for two years. We chose wood flooring and wood cabinets and large windows and high ceilings and granite counter tops. It’s really lovely, but a large room filled with hard surfaces is also a massive challenge for the hearing impaired. Hearing aids don’t compensate for all the sound literally bouncing off the walls!

Having friends over for meals (sometimes really large groups of friends!) is something we enjoy. For the past two years, however, I learned to be content to create a warm inviting context for others to come and connect around the table. I simply could not fully participate in conversations. That was really OK with my introvert side, as everyone else was plenty interesting and I did not need to contribute. I really wanted to ask questions of others, however, and resisted it most of the time because it was too trying to hear the responses. I didn’t feel it was fair for me to ask a question and then have to ask the responder to repeat everything two or three times. I learned to keep my curiosity to myself. This has been disappointing because people are interesting and to ask questions of others is one small way of honoring them. We all have stories to tell and the ability to listen to others’ stories is a great gift.

In my kitchen I have missed far too many of the stories that have been told. I’ve missed all the jokes that have been told. I’ve missed the snide comments of my children one to another and to me, spoken just softly enough for my ears to not be able to detect them. But, times they are a changing!

In my kitchen today I heard the timer on the stove. I jumped it was so loud. Even with my hearing aids in, when standing right AT the stove, I could not hear the timer when it went off.  Since I have been blessed with the gift of multi-tasking, I would often get involved in a new task while I had something baking in the oven. If no one else was in the house (two floors above me!) to tell me the timer was going off, I’d discover food well done. This has been the norm. Fortunately I haven’t had to thrown out more than a few cookies, but my new way of hearing means I will be a better cook!

I have also been able to join in conversations around the wooden table, surrounded by large windows, under the high ceiling. Since my implant, we have yet to have more than five around the table and I’m sure when everyone talks at once I will retreat. But, being able to carry on conversations when it’s just three of us is wonderful. The fact that I can now hear people eating--chewing and crunching--not so much… but I’ll take it, yes I will.

Finally, in the kitchen, I have discovered that different dishes have different tonal chimes. Did you know this? I’m guessing it’s one of those sounds your brain has long shoved out of awareness. But, I’m hearing all manner of clinks and chimes when I cook and load the dishwasher. I also hear silverware scraping on plates and bowls. It is indeed, kitchen music to my ears.  


It runs in families. I first noticed symptoms in my children when they wanted the air conditioning on when it was only 65 degrees out but humid. Soon they refused outdoor activities due to moisture. It went downhill from there. The malady needed a name, so I came up with “Humidiphobia.” I’m also a victim and clearly the reason my children suffer so. It wasn’t always this way.

I grew up on the Ohio River. If you are unfamiliar with summers in the Ohio River valley, they aren’t pretty. Well, I suppose they are ‘pretty,’ but only because the humidity hovers around the 87%- 97% mark for months on end and foliage loves that. In those days not every house had air conditioning. Actually, It didn’t matter much to me because I spent all my summers at camp.

Yep, at camp!! I was not shipped off by busy parents where I could remain occupied while school wasn’t in session. I wanted to go!! For as long as possible!! During my teen years I managed to stay up to five weeks at summer camp and loved every minute of it. We had cold showers, latrines (which means non-flushing toilets,) a twenty-minute hike down hill and back up again to and from every meal. Tell that to kids these days….

We swam in a lake and had ‘jungle breakfasts’ where the kitchen staff woke up early and hung our breakfast from the trees outside our canvas platform tents. Hot at night? Roll up the side flaps and let the breeze and the bugs fly right on through. I still remember the smell of the creosote in the dining hall. All the words to all the songs we’d sing after all the meals are imbedded in my brain. There was a paper mill on the river upwind from camp and the moisture in the air transported the manufacturing odors right to camp. If you’ve not had the privilege of smelling paper mill waste, you really haven’t lived. You could buzz down to the local sewage treatment plant on a nice, hot, steamy day and take a long whiff. Ah! You will have lived then!!

I remember the scenery and the friends and the songs and the crafts and the swimsuit I was wearing the day I jumped off the diving board and broke my toe. But, the humidity? Nadda. I was immune. It might have been a gift of childhood or a gift from the sixities when air conditioning was scarce.  I’m not sure. I also didn’t know any better. I moved from Washington DC to the Ohio River Valley. Both are full of humidity survivors and I was one of them.

Humidiphobia came on quickly one college summer when I moved to Colorado. Cold air in the summer?! Clear blue skies?! Blankets?! Hiking without dripping in sweat after ten steps?!  I was smitten. My life changed dramatically once I knew there was life beyond humidity.

I live in a northern climate now.  We have these nasty stretches of hot humid weather, but we also know they will end and not hang around for months on end. I’ve raised kids here and they aren’t immune to hot, nasty weather. When they were little and we did not have air conditioning, we had to play all the games families do to avoid summer misery:  go to the library, go to the museum, get invited to someone else’s house, place fans strategically, close off rooms, shut windows early in the day, etc… Those days must have scarred them and woken up the Humidiphobia gene. On the list when we chose our current home: Central Air Conditioning. I have never looked back. We don’t use it all summer because we are blessed with many gorgeous, sunny, dry days. I’m sorry to say I don’t feel global warming guilt on days like today when I keep the AC running. I’m a weather wimp and do confess I have passed that onto the next generation. I don’t want to go back to summer camp either.