Author Archives: ginny

The kindness of strangers

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Stylish souvenir tote

There’s nothing like a backless hospital gown to make you realize how vulnerable you really are.  I spent much of yesterday in one, so I know.

First of all, no one needs to worry; I was in the hospital for a planned surgical procedure, but the procedure was for something absolutely non-sinister.  I don’t want to get too personal about my medical history on a blog, but you can trust me that there is no reason for alarm.  If a raging hypochondriac like me says everything is fine, believe me, everything is fine.

But I will say that the entire experience made me realize just how much we – and  specifically I  – need other people.

“Hospitals are fascinating,” said Scott, who was there with me before the surgery and in the post-op room.  “They are like these little worlds.”  And really, they are: busy worlds with systems and customs and protocol and residents who work together to make people like me come out of everything okay.  In my brief time there, we interacted with at least five nurses, one guy who came to do the blood test, one guy who did the EKG, the guys who wheeled me to and from the OR, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the fleet of attending folk in the OR, the nurse in the recovery room, and the elderly auxiliary volunteer in the maroon blazer who pushed me in a wheelchair out to the car.

It seems like so much fuss for just one person and one issue, but I’m glad they were all there.  And nearly everyone was so kind.  It’s one thing to have medical knowledge, and another to have both medical knowledge and a warm, calming demeanor.

As much as the medical issue itself wasn’t a huge deal, I will admit that I was nervous about the procedure.  I felt vulnerable in ways I normally don’t.  It’s not fun to feel like a badly-wrapped Christmas package in a paper gown,  not a whole lot of fun to have a stranger slapping EKG stickers on your chest,  not a lot of fun to need help getting out of bed and to the bathroom.  And the knowledge that I’d be totally out for an hour was slightly unsettling.

So I’m grateful for everyone who helped make it all a little less scary.  It may be a job for them, the thing they do every day, but for the patients, it’s kind of a big deal.

And I felt God’s presence there, in the nurse who distracted me with talk about her favorite English teacher while she put the IV in my hand, and in the recovery room nurse who was so kind as I swam out of my anesthesia fog and tried to get my bearings and no doubt made little to no sense, and in the skill of the surgeon who took care of it all and sealed me up neatly with glue.  (Odd to think that I was closed up with staples after my C-sections, with glue after this procedure.  What’s next — packing tape?).

I’m far more lucid today than I was yesterday, hence this blog post, and though it’s hard to be housebound, there’s something good about it, too.  It’s a forced chance to slow down, to rely on my  husband to make dinner instead of doing it myself.  It’s a chance to baby myself, which I don’t do very often, and it has prompted lots of hugs from both boys as well as the gift of a sweet, abstract impressionist drawing from my younger son.

And most of all, it’s reminded me that  God’s goodness shows up in lots of disguises, including blue scrubs.

In all things: Lake days and Sriracha fries edition

St. Ignatius believed that you can find evidence of God in all things.  I believe it, too … and here’s how I’ve been finding God lately.

SEEING

We recently returned from visiting Scott’s family in upstate New York.   While there, we got to spend time at two lakes — Otsego Lake in Cooperstown:

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and Minerva Lake in the Adirondacks, where Scott’s cousin organized a family reunion.

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“Feast for the eyes” doesn’t begin to describe these two bodies of water.  Glorious.

RELAXING (kind of)

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I luxuriated in this hammock at Otsego Lake, rocking back and forth, gazing at the leafy sky above me and thinking all sorts of spiritual thoughts.  Then two small boys suddenly showed up and began swinging me wildly back and forth, giggling loudly, while I held on for dear life.  Such is life as a mother.  (I have to admit, I was laughing too — and I remembered that God is found in laughter as much as in silent meditation).

EATING

Scott and I slipped out for a lunchtime date, the boys securely in the care of his sister and parents.  We decided to try the Sriracha fries with green onion and cilantro, because we love spicy stuff.

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Let’s just say that if I didn’t already believe in God, these would seal the deal.  Holy cow, they were good.

VISITING

Seeing Scott’s parents and sister was a treat; we see them so rarely, being on the other side of the country, and I always wish we could change that.  But at least we can savor the time we do have.  And it was great to see Scott’s extended family at the reunion his cousin organized.  I met several of his cousins for the first time, and Scott got to see some of them for the first time in about twenty-five years, so it was a blessing for both of us.

PARENTING

Back home in CA, my older son was delighted to finally go get his very own library card.  Talk about a rite of passage!  As Rita Mae Brown said, “When I got my library card, that’s when my life began.”  It was exciting for him and for book-nerd Mom.  I snapped photos like it was prom day.

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CELEBRATING

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My mom has sheet music for every occasion.

Two days after returning home, Scott and I celebrated our twelfth anniversary.  We had a great dinner at one of our “special occasion restaurants” (otherwise known as a restaurant without a kids’ menu) where I ordered quail with truffle risotto (yum).  It must have been the quail that got me thinking of this, but I started quizzing him on his knowledge of CA lore, being that he’s a native New Yorker and all.  He got the state flower right, but he guessed that the CA state motto was “Duuuuude.”  No wonder I love the guy.

WRITING

The dotMagis blog is in the middle of its annual month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality, and they invited me to write about a time when I found God in an unexpected place.  My story involves my youngest son, a running leap, the edge of a bunk bed, and an ambulance.  You can read it all here.  Check out all the other posts, too — there’s a wealth of spiritual insight there, and there will be a new one every day of July.

Where have you found God lately?  

 

Twelve years since “I do”

The number twelve has many associations.  Twelve months in a year; twelve apostles of Jesus; twelve donuts in a dozen.

But as of today, it has a new significance for me.  Twelve years ago today, Scott and I said “I do.”

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So happy anniversary to my life partner, my in-home tech support, my coffee roaster extraordinaire, my first proofreader, my seatmate on the wild and wacky rollercoaster of parenting, my rock,  my sweetheart.  I love you forever.

Taking the longview in an instant-feedback world

Every blogger knows the experience of posting what you think is the best blogpost you have ever written, only to get exactly zero comments.

And every parent knows the experience of sharing something you adore with your kids and thinking it’ll transform their lives, only to be met with an utter lack of visible enthusiasm.

And every English teacher knows the experience of teaching that poem that you love with every cell of your being, only to look out at a sea of students who appear to be counting the seconds until lunchtime.

As a blogger, mom, and teacher, I’ve had all three experiences.  And while they are a bummer in the moment, I’ve learned that I have to take the longview.  Ideas are like seeds: they have to germinate, and they’re slow to sprout sometimes.  And sometimes what we put out there into the world touches people deeply without our knowing it.  There’s a form of trust that goes into all of these activities, I believe — trust that what we share will find a home, will reach the people who need it, even if we never ever hear about it.

Just the other day the boys and I were going through the huge overstuffed bookshelf in their room, weeding through the board books they no longer read and figuring out which to give away and which to keep (they have their mom’s inability to get rid of books, alas).  In the process of doing so, we came across a few treasures we haven’t seen for a while, including this book.  It was mine when I was a child (that dirt in the right-hand corner is about three decades old).

 

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I read through the book again, for the first time in a long time, and came across this poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It’s a gem, and  a potent reminder that we all need to keep on singing and taking the longview.

The Arrow and the Song

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

Amen to that.

The Book Pile: Jesus, “Fiddler on the Roof,” and three novels

So my last Book Pile post was in … January.  Oof.  I’ve been reading; I just haven’t been blogging about it.

Let’s fix that, shall we?

Here are some of the highlights of the last few months.

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The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

The Power and the Glory was – in a word – powerful.  It’s the story of a priest on the run in Mexico in the 1930s, a time and place when Catholicism was outlawed.  You know what’s coming as you read it — you know there’s no way the priest will avoid his persecutors forever — but it’s the journey that makes this book. It’s a journey not only through Mexico, but also into the heart of an all-too human priest who loathes himself for his flaws but still allows himself to be a conduit of grace to others. The tenacious, sacramental beauty of Catholicism is a big part of this book; faith isn’t an abstraction, but a concrete, and it is lived out in every one of the priest’s interactions with others.  I love it when a novel affirms my faith as powerfully as this one does.

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

This was a very readable coming-of-age novel about a somewhat awkward teenage girl whose beloved artist uncle dies of AIDS.  What I found striking is that the narrator is fourteen in 1987, and I was fourteen in 1987, so the book was an uncanny trip back into the past for me.  It made me remember that there was a time when you never heard the word “gay” in the media without hearing the word “AIDS” in the very next breath (so grateful that is no longer the case).  The book as a whole is a very poignant story about grief and friendship and the complexity of love, and a testament to the fact that some relationships can’t be neatly labeled or categorized.

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Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof by Alisa Solomon

“Fiddler on the Roof,” is near to my heart, in part because I was in a production of it  in high school.  Wonder of Wonders was a  fascinating and very thorough book about how Shalom Aleichem’s stories about Tevye the milkman turned into the Broadway musical we know and love.  What  I found most fascinating was the process by which the play took shape, such as how the song “Tradition” ended up being the thematic key that made everything else fall into place.   The composer and lyricist also ended up discarding a lot of songs, many of them probably very good, when it turned out that they didn’t fit with the overall tone and flow of the play … a good lesson for any writer  who really loves that paragraph she wrote but has to cut it out for the good of the chapter as a whole.

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The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

Saw this one at the library and picked it up on a whim.  Good call.  It’s historical fiction, about a young woman in England who ends up traveling to South Africa, where she finds herself acclimating both to a new marriage and to the brutal world of the diamond trade.   I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoilers, but  I think it’s a book that every young woman should read because it is a witness to the importance of sharpening your powers of perception when it comes to men.   The writing is excellent, too, walking that line between being believable for historical fiction yet still feeling modern.

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Under the Influence of Jesus: The Transforming Experience of Encountering Christ by Joe Paprocki

I’ve read other books by Joe Paprocki, and I love his  concrete, accessible way of approaching big concepts of faith.  He grabs you with engaging and funny anecdotes, and before you know it, you’re suddenly exploring the core ideas of Christianity.  This book is eminently enjoyable, but also challenging in all the right ways.  It offered some new angles for thinking about my relationship with Jesus, and I’ll be going back to certain passages for more reflection.  It’s really a book for every Christian who wants a spiritual shot in the arm.

Now it’s your turn!  What have you been reading (and enjoying) lately?