Sunday, April 30, 2006
Monday, April 24, 2006
Until Next Time
This is a post about who Nikki is to me.
In the early summer of 2005, someone "new" commented on this blog. Her name was Sarah. She was witty, and opinionated and feisty. She signed her comment with "Shalom." I "ran" to see who she was. I felt an immediate connection, a quick and intense "blove" for this woman. I looked forward to getting to know her. But I wouldn't have much time. She was soon to go into the hospital for a bone marrow transplant. She'd be away from blogging for about 100 days. I was sad about that, but talked with her as much as I could, and looked forward to deepening our friendship when those 100 days were up. When she became too ill to blog, I communicated, via comments, with her sisters and her partner, Nikki.
While on vacation, I would scramble to get to an internet connection to check on her. I remember sitting in the lobby of a Hampton Inn, reading that Sarah wasn't doing well. Jif was watching me as I read, and he said, "Is your friend in trouble?"
I would imagine this is true for those of you reading, as it is for me: it is a relief to me, a gift to me, when someone like Jif understands that someone I never met is truly my friend. Within days of that vacation check-in, I learned that my friend, Sarah, had died.
I gave my email address to Sarah's family, and on the day after she died, I heard from Nikki. Over the next many months, Nikki and I exchanged dozens of emails. I got to know her as an intelligent, sensitive, generous, loving, altruistic, funny woman. And a woman with, as she said, "a hole in my heart," created by Sarah's absence. It is hard, too hard, I think, when you are someone who is so "all heart," to continue doing what you do, when that hole is there.
Interspersed through the posts here, are comments from Nikki. Loving, supportive, funny. Even one where she threatened to "throttle" me if I didn't take good care of myself with my European troubles. I used that line to tease her about unleashing her inner BADASS, which she protested wasn't really in there. I still think it was.
There is so much more in my heart than I can get to come out of my fingertips, coherently. Bear with me, friends. I am still struggling with all that has happened.
My first emails with Nikki were me trying to offer comfort. She read some books I recommended. She was so grateful for every kindness shown. And I began to really care for her. I began to experience her as yet another of Sarah's gifts. And I became very thankful for her friendship.
When I posted about my medical problems, Nikki was immediately on the case. I was reluctant to discuss details with her at first, not wanting to take advantage of the friendship. She adamantly dismissed my concerns about that. She became animated, excited, at the opportunity to help me:
"I love being a doctor, and it's the one constant in my life that keeps me going. The reason I have not to pull the sheet up over my head somedays. It's my 'high in life.'"
And she was a good doctor, to me. She gave me good advice. I started out with a real-life doctor who was not so good, and she helped me find one that is excellent. I was in pain, and frightened, and Nikki stepped up. And I remain thankful. Especially thankful, because I understand that she was taking a risk in doing so. It is, to put it gently, unwise (if not unethical and potentially illegal) for a licensed physician to give medical advice to a stranger on a blog. And she did it anyway, and I love her for that, among other things.
I also turned to her when I learned of another blogfriend who had a friend, who needed advice. Yes, a friend of a friend, for whom I turned to help from my friend, Nikki -- and I never met any of these people. Nikki said this, at that time:
"You know I would do anything as far as getting info for people. I think in your profession, you 'mental health folks' are much more anal about privacy . . . but having said such, since I write out of an email acct. with my name on it -- you know that I trust you. Again, if these people or anyone else needs help, you know I will be happy to do what I can."
I share these stories, just to say, Nikki was willing to take risks to help people. To share her gifts with someone who needed them. It was little more than a month after Sarah's death that we learned Nikki was going to Louisiana, to help Katrina victims. Then, just weeks ago, she told us she was going to Cambodia for a year as a medical volunteer. When I wished her well, I told her that I prayed her efforts would make a difference, to those she was helping, and to her own healing journey. And she wrote,
"I, too, hope my work will make a difference, and through such my heart will heal."
In the 10 days or so since I learned of Nikki's death, I have gone through a lot of changes. It may be my spiritual discipline, or it may be my crutch, depending upon your perspective, but when I am knocked down by life events such as this, my first response is to scramble to find that for which I can be thankful. First, I was thankful that my friend, Shari, told me the news. That I heard it from her sweet, gentle voice, rather than reading it. I will always remain grateful for that. And to those of you who received an email from me, I wish I could have done better, in that regard.
The next thing for which I am so very grateful -- and I have seen this as a miracle, really -- is that Nikki said goodbye. And those who love her said their goodbyes. Because she believed she was leaving for a year, we all got to say sweet things to her. To tell her how much she meant to us. We were given the gift of having no regrets, about loving words left unspoken. This is unheard of, in the case of a sudden, accidental death. And ask anyone who has been left behind, after a loved one has left in that way; they will tell you that not having had the opportunity to say those things is one of the most distressing aspects of their loss. Those who love Nikki were spared that distress. We got to say what we needed to say. I can't overstate how thankful I am for that.
What I did not say to Nikki, was "the G word." As I told her, I don't do goodbyes. I never have; just can't, when having to take a break, or "permanently" leave a loved one. Whether it's an extended vacation or an imminent death, I say, "I'll see you next time." And I have faith that there will be that next time. Except in Nikki's and my case, the actual meeting will be the first time. And that brings me back to the whole, "Are internet friends real friends?" Was Nikki real?
These last few days, I keep returning to a quote from my graduate school days, when I studied the psychological theories of Carl Jung. In addressing the question of whether to believe the sometimes unbelievable stories of clients, he said, and I love this SO much, he said, "Whatever acts is actual." If the belief, if the perception, acts upon our lives, our hearts, our minds, it is indeed, actual.
No doubt, then. Nikki is actually my friend. As is Sarah. I am a better person, with more possibilities in my life, for having had my path cross theirs, as we journeyed through this time and place.
Sarah's sister and Nikki's dear friend and sister-in-law, Shoshie, tells me that Nikki did not specify any particular charity, to which she would want donations made in her memory. What the family did discover, though, among Nikki's will and "final papers," was this request:
"My wish for memorials is for people to perform a kind act for someone in need, or to volunteer one hour at their favorite charity."
Nikki had, apparently, taken time to consider and articulate these wishes, in the aftermath of Sarah's death, as people were asking her what they could do to help. Of course, no one knew then how quickly people would be asking the family the same thing, regarding ways to honor Nikki's memory.
Anyone who encountered Nikki would not be surprised at her wish. Indeed, before Shoshie shared this with me, I had intended to tell you all, "Take a risk and make a difference. That will honor Nikki." That is what I intend to challenge myself to do, in her memory. In thanksgiving for having had her pass through my life. I think that is what she did, in a nutshell. For some of us, the risks taken may be big, like going to a strange country and culture to share our skills. For most of us, the risks will be smaller, though no less significant, like forgiving someone; like taking a moment to reach out to someone we don't know well. That's my challenge to myself, in Nikki's memory. Take a risk, make a difference. It really doesn't take much.
One of my first emails from Nikki was written just after she returned from Sarah's funeral service. If I insert Nikki's name in place of Sarah's, it expresses my regard for Nikki as I knew her. Nikki also expressed her gratitude for my role in her life at that point, and now I would say the same back to her. Nikki said,
"Sarah was the best of everything in a human. Smart, kind, witty, generous, loving. I am lost and still feel as if I am in a dream. Thank you again, for everything you did for us."
Until next time, Nikki.
And now, my dear friends who visit here. I need to say to you, too, "Until next time." Events of the last couple of weeks have affected me very deeply. You know that I have struggled with health problems for the last few months. I'm sorry (and pissed, and depressed, and confused) to say, there are more. I do not believe they are serious, but they are disruptive to my daily life, and they require more focused attention from me, in order to be properly diagnosed and treated. So, I need to take a break. I am thinking . . . weeks. Although I don't know for sure. My hope is to keep doing the Sunday Post, or maybe even ask some gracious blogfriend to cover that for me, once or twice. I am not ready to "pull the plug" here. And I hope it doesn't come to that. But I am being sent pretty clear messages, by my health, my life, and yes, my God, that I need to take a break from "What Was I Thinking?"
As I've said here many times before, I had no idea when I started, how absolutely delightful this experience would be. I can't thank you enough for being so welcoming to me, so very, very good to me. I won't go onandonandon. I am, as too often in recent weeks, under the influence of pain meds. I'll just say once more:
Thank you, from my truest heart parts.
God bless you.
I will see you next time.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Monday, April 17, 2006
We were a one-hat family this year. LG "represented" well.
Biscuit liked the green ones.
"I found one!"
Looks like a successful hunt.
And more Easter piggies.
Remember Cindy Lou Who from Thanksgiving? I detect a pattern of manic holiday dessert-eating, here.
Everyone took home a lily. I took home two :)
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Easter Sunday Post
I'm not putting words together so well this week, struggling with the loss of my friend, my SWLF sister. I want to write something about Nikki, but I cannot, yet. In a day or so.
These are just some random, scattered thoughts I've been thinking.
These are some verses, from the Gospel of John, chapters 14-16, that have been especially meaningful to me in recent days. Jesus is speaking, in each:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
This is my command: Love each other.
In a little while, you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.
You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. Now is your time of grief, but you will see me again, and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
One of the most powerful parts of the Easter story, to me, is in Luke's gospel when Jesus is betrayed. His friend, Peter, in an effort to protect Him, takes his sword and cuts off the ear of a Centurion, sent to apprehend Jesus. Jesus says, "No more of this!" and he touches the man's ear, and it is healed.
Luke's gospel is the only one in which this detail appears, I think. I never paid much attention to this vignette, until LG went to Sunday School, at age three, and her teacher emphasized it as an important part of the Easter story.
LG came home and said to me, "One thing I don't understand. Why did Jesus help that man, even though he knew that man wanted to hurt him?" While I tried to think of an answer that might be both accurate and understandable to a three-year-old, LG answered it herself. She said this as though it were the most obvious thing in the world: "I know! Because Jesus was being a Christian!"
I was speechless. I thought then, as I think now, "Kid, if you can get that, at age three, you're at a level of understanding that many adult Christians never reach." Most adults who profess Christianity can't seem to get that, I'm afraid. It is about loving, as God loves us. Even at our most unlovable. Perhaps especially at our most unlovable.
There is perhaps a better, more "proper" or at least different, Easter post here, from last year. In case you're not in the mood to go back there, I'll lift this from it, especially for my non-Christian friends here today:
" . . . if you're not celebrating the Resurrection, if you believe and think differently than I about this day, I especially want to say to you, I'm glad you're visiting, I'm thankful you've read this far. And even without the beliefs that accompany Easter, may you know the spirit of Easter -- love that comes to see about you; forgiveness that doesn't keep a record of your wrongs; a fresh start, a new beginning every morning; and a way to get home. Peace to you."
And for my Christian friends, some of you said last year that you didn't hear "it," and you didn't get to say "it," even though you went to church. This one's for you. You know what to do :)
HE IS RISEN.
You heard it here. Go tell it.
file under: &Sunday Post
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
White Women Can't Wear Hats
At my house, a few days ago . . .
Susie: I've been thinking of writing a post about hats. I don't quite know what I want to say, but I've been thinking about how white women can't wear hats, you know?
Jif: It's true.
Susie. You know what I mean? We don't wear them. Because we don't like them? Or because we just can't do it the way it should be done?
Jif: Can't. White women used to be able to wear hats. But then they lost the ability. It's a Darwinian thing.
LG (believing she has overheard the beginning of a fairy tale): Ooh! Tell me! What happened to the white, hat-wearing women of Darwinia?
This post may not be politically correct, but I believe it to be true. With the possible exception of those attending the Kentucky Derby, white women can't wear hats. We simply don't have the knack for it. This wasn't always the case. When I was very young, my mother wore a hat to church every Sunday. She had beautiful hats that matched her suits. (And her "bag" always matched her shoes, too.) She had hats with short, delicate veils in the front, and hats with peacock feathers on the side. She and Jackie Kennedy. And my mother-in-law, too, although I didn't know her back then. She told me that once, early in their marriage after she had quarreled with my father-in-law, she spent her entire paycheck on a hat. Hats used to mean something, to white women.
In this city, on any given Sunday, you can go into any church in the African-American community, and you can see you some hats. In any color and style you can imagine, and some that you can't. My church, like most churches, is only slightly racially integrated. So I go into the grocery store down the street from church on Sunday mornings after church, if I need a hat fix. And there are the lovely hat-wearing ladies, pushing carts, to pick up just a few forgotten items for Sunday dinner. And I love to compliment them, and they love to be complimented. And I covet their hats. Yes, I sin. I covet right there by the milk case.
In my church, there are about three ladies who will wear a hat on Easter Sunday. Four, if I join them, which I do on rare occasion. Easter seems to be the only time (other than Derby day) that white women even make the effort (except for sun protection at the beach or gardening, which, while wise, really doesn't count). A few years ago, we planned to spend Easter in the South, which I had not done in a couple of decades. I got it in my head that Southern women, of which I am one (when it suits my purposes ;) by blood and by relocation, would not have lost the ability to wear a pretty hat to church on Easter Sunday. So I went to a store in which I was by far the palest shopper, and I bought me a hat. My dress was a black, short-sleeved sheath style, with ivory tulips casually bordering the hem. My hat was black straw, with an ivory magnolia blossom on the side, and a loosely woven veil on the front, black veil with . . . ohmygosh, I swoon to think of it now . . . tiny ivory baby's breath blossoms strewn here and there.
I looked FINE.
I went off to the Y'all Come Baptist Church thinking that I would fit right in with the steel magnolias in the neighboring pews. Um . . . not so much. I was the only freakin' magnolia with a hat on my head, not to mention the only magnolia with a magnolia on the hat on my head. And everyone stared at me. And afterwards, people came up to me -- I was a "visitor," and Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, will always
grill greet a visitor. And after inquiring as to where the hell I came from, many speculated, "Y'all still wear hats to church up North? I wish we did . . . " Yea, yea, whatever.
Last year, LG and I decided that we would wear hats to church on Easter. Well, LG always does, so far, but I decided to join her. We went to a place that has a lot of hats. And we were not alone. If there is any public activity more fun than trying on Easter hats with your little girl and three strange, elderly black women, well I'm sure I don't know what it is. LG is still young enough not to be mortified by her mother striking up conversations with strangers in stores, and these ladies were nice enough to welcome us in to their hat party.
I started out by complimenting the one trying the lime-green silk with the polka-dot bow. "Oh, that one's nice."
Then it got a little more enthusiastic, with the compliments and the hats flying, "Oooh, chil'! That hat is YOU!"
Then it became almost frenzied, with all five of us trying, and posing, and passing, and praising, and I received perhaps the most memorable compliment of my life, and one I don't expect to top, no matter what hat I may end up wearing on any Easter for the rest of my life:
"Ooooh, girl! You show up in that one, Jesus ain't the only thing'll be resurrected!"
Monday, April 10, 2006
I shared these last year, but a little too late for you to make them. So here they are again, and you have time. They're fun, and sweet and easy.
1 1/2 cups melted chocolate chips, semi-sweet or milk
2 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
50-60 mini jelly beans
Makes 15 to 18 nests
Mix melted chocolate and coconut. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper. Make an indentation in center of each nest with a spoon (OK, that's so not true; you can drop with the spoon, but you really have to shape with your fingers, and make an indentation with your thumb). Press 2 or 3 jelly beans into each. Chill till set. (If you want more than 1 batch, make them separately, because the chocolate can begin to harden while you're making all those nests.)
Put them in pretty containers and give most of them away.
They are best enjoyed with some Hip Hop music. :)
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Friday, April 07, 2006
Biscuit Friday ~ Heathen Hound (encore presentation)
Since Palm Sunday is in a couple of days, I thought I'd recycle last year's Biscuit pix.
How a VBD Celebrates Palm Sunday:
He steals the palm from a church-going child...
...and he chews it up. Like a heathen.
Thank you all for checking in while I've been vegging out. I am doing very well, healthwise, I believe. Off to the doc today with new kidney xrays in hand, hopefully to be "released." I know some have been wondering where I've been. While I was out of it for such a long time, with my European issues, a lot of things IRL were neglected. Like work (especially paperwork), and family, and home, and me. So I've been playing catch-up. And I'm still doing that, but I hope to start posting more often next week.
Some of you have already received emails with the subject line, "I SUCK." More of you will. Because it's true. I have forgotten, and neglected and lost, a lot of emails, and I am sad and sorry for that. And I'm trying to do better. To suck a little less. It's not just emails; I've been dropping balls all over the place. And yes, I am aware of how entertained some of you are by the sucking and the balls and whatnot . . . but if I can't give you these little gifts, after all we've been through together, then *sniff* then, what good is blogging, anyway?
Even though I haven't been around much, I did have a most delightful surprise this week. If you look under my "Major Awards" heading on the sidebar -- that would be the heading where people who know me give me lovely awards because I ask them to, nicely :) and/or offer them treats -- you will see the coveted "Fruit Fly Award," created and bestowed by Jim. It is, he says, "an award given to a non-homo who exemplifies acceptance, tolerance and human kindness." As the famous people always say, "It was an honor just to be nominated." Well, duh. That's why I nominated myself.
Jim went on to say some very nice, and very undeserved, things about me. I wish I were as good a person, as good a Christian, as he said. It is interesting to me, has been interesting to me, here, how mostly it is the people who don't believe as I do, who acknowledge and affirm my beliefs. The people who would claim to share my core beliefs, pretty much packed up and headed for the hills back when I wrote a post about my ass. I actually received emails from the evangelicals who had been reading here, telling me how disappointed they were in me, and how disappointed God was in me. I should have expected it. I mean, everyone knows, evangelicals don't have asses. No, seriously, I have dear evangelical friends IRL. My beliefs are probably more like theirs than different, except on the whole gay thing. And that is a pretty significant difference. I don't speak here for any organized religious group. While I do belong to a particular denomination, my beliefs are not entirely theirs, nor theirs entirely mine.
And my beliefs are evolving all the time. But what stays the same is that God loves each of us, the same. And we are told to do likewise. I am proud of my Fruit Fly Award. Thank you, Jim.
And I also want to say here, that Jim is a man of the utmost integrity. A man who could never be bribed with the promise of rich, moist snack cakes delivered to his door by the UPS man, in shorts. Not even when those snack cakes are chocolate and filled with peanut butter cream, and dipped in more chocolate. And especially not when the name of those snack cakes includes "funny" and "bone." Puh-leeeese, what possible interest would Jim have in either "funny" or "bone"? He's not into those things. Not Jim.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Sunday Post ~ "The workings of the human heart are the profoundest mystery of the universe. One moment they make us despair of our kind, and the next we see in them the reflection of the divine image." -- Charles W. Chesnutt
A little more (3:06 p.m.):
You know I love it when y'all look up the scriptures. Karen did so, and her comment helped me realize that I'd made an error, put something in that I didn't intend, wasn't thinking about. So thank you for that, Karen. (It's fixed now.) Just a bit of elaboration on these verses, for me. I "pray" them rather frequently. That is, say them back to God. "Search me, o God, and know my heart . . . see if there is any offensive way in me . . . " It is easy for us to see what is "wrong" in others. And it is even easy for me to see what is "wrong" in me, much of the time. But there are also wrong things that I don't see, in myself. Things that have become so much a "part of the furniture" of my heart, that I don't notice them. Or in moments when I might notice them, I choose to look the other way, because I'm not ready to give them up. So these verses are a challenge to me; to not look at how someone else is messing up, but how I am. And to ask God to show me even more, so I can fix it. That usually goes something like, "Search me, o God..." And then God responds. (Do be careful what you ask God for ;) And then I say, "Oh, SHIT! Why did I ask to be shown that? I'm not ready to change THAT!" Something like that, anyway. And then, because I asked, and because I truly do, in my heart of hearts, want to be increasingly made more in God's image, and less in my own, I tryyyyyyyyyyyyyy to fix what I've been shown. Every day, hopefully that's what you'll find me up to: trying to do a little better to be who I was made to be.
End of sermonette.
Now, prayer time: Please remember Nikki as she leaves today for Cambodia, to share her love and her many gifts there. Please pray for Nikki, for those she is helping, and especially for the family and friends here who cannot begin to imagine what they will do without her for a year.
file under: &Sunday Post